‘Criminal Minds: Evolution’ Stars on Tara’s Relationship, Garcia’s Decision & Threats to the BAU

Aisha Tyler, AJ Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, Adam Rodriguez, Paget Brewster, and Joe Mantegna in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Spoiler Alert
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the first two episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution, “Just Getting Started” and “Sicarius.”]

The first two episodes of Criminal Minds: Evolution — it’s so good to have the BAU back! — give us chills and set up what’s sure to be a season that has viewers on the edges of their seats.

After all, there’s the new UnSub (Zach Gilford’s Elias Voit), who seemingly has complete control over a network of serial killers. There’s the concern that the BAU could get shut down if Deputy Director Bailey (Nicholas D’Agosto) gets his way. But by the end of these two episodes, we also have Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) back at the FBI (she really is their secret weapon) and David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), who’s still grieving after losing his wife, looking much more like the man we were used to for 15 seasons. Plus, Dr. Tara Lewis (Aisha Tyler) is in a new relationship!

TV Insider spoke with Mantegna, Vangsness, Tyler, and Gilford to get the scoop on the burning questions we have for the rest of the season. Scroll down for their teases.

Criminal Minds: Evolution, Thursdays, Paramount+

Joe Mantegna in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

Is Rossi Getting Back to the Old Rossi?

After starting off Evolution living out of a hotel, Rossi checks out and looks much more like himself by the end of “Sicarius.” Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) even remarks she’s glad he’s back. He’s still grieving (and using gallows humor), but what’s Rossi like moving forward? A mix of the old and new David?

“I think so, and that’s true about anybody in their life, especially when having to go through some traumatic episodes. I don’t think anybody can say they’re exactly the same as they were after having to go through some certain kinds of, especially personal, trauma in their life,” Mantegna says. “You have two choices in life: You stop or you go forward. And my feeling is no Rossi’s not about to stop.”

You can also expect to see more of the Rossi-Garcia dynamic from the past rather than the tension between them to start off the season after he snapped at her. “Those who’ve seen the show from the beginning, they can remember that our first getting together was very cantankerous, kind of adversarial,” Mantegna recalls.

“But [they] do have a special kind of relationship, mainly because it was forged in fire, from a tough spot to where there’s a mutual respect,” he continued. “There’ll always gonna be this little kind of something that they have, this electricity. But over the years we’ve established this cool, very strong emotional love. I really embrace the relationship that Rossi has with Penelope.”

Nicholas D'Agosto in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

Will the BAU Be Shut Down?

As Tara’s girlfriend, Rebecca (Nicole Pacent), from the Department of Justice, reveals, Bailey’s skill set is knowing where a department’s focus is and funding follows focus. A proposal calls for the BAU to be folded under domestic terrorism, and the agents would be reassigned (Tara, AJ Cook’s JJ, Adam Rodriguez’s Luke), replaced (Prentiss), or retired (Rossi).

“The whole team is worried about the future of the BAU considering that there are forces in the government that are trying to isolate and potentially eliminate the BAU. But I think one thing that the team of profilers know is that this work is critical and it cannot be done by anybody else. It is a very specific skill set developed by very specific people,” Tyler noted. “They’re not worried about it going away because they know they’re gonna fight tooth and nail to keep it alive. But what it might look like at the end is anybody’s guess.”

Aisha Tyler in Criminal Minds: Evolution
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

Will Tara's Relationship Suffer the Same Fate as Other Profilers'?

As the others learn, Tara’s been dating Rebecca for a couple months. It’s not her first time dating a woman, but it is her first time being this happy, she admits to Prentiss. So, of course, we’re worried considering how other relationships have ended on Criminal Minds — mainly, tragically. In death.

“Rebecca’s amazing, incredibly smart, competent. She’s a total badass. She’s exactly the kind of person that Tara should be with. But this is very difficult work. It is all consuming work,” Tyler shared.

“You’re perceptive, looking back at how relationships have been able to weather the BAU,” she continued. “They’re the sin-eaters of the world and they take on the darkness that other people can’t tolerate. And it’s very hard to do that and also stay in a relationship when your partner’s like, ‘Hey, can you just put your phone down? Can you just knock off for the weekend?’ You can’t ignore your phone because you don’t know when a critical piece of information’s gonna come through or something is about to happen that requires your attention because lives are at stake.”

So expect to “see that tension” for Tara’s relationship with Rebecca. Sure, it’s “the best one she’s ever been in, but her primary relationship is to her work and how is she gonna figure out how to navigate those two things?” Still, “they’re gonna fight for that relationship and we’re gonna see if they’re successful.”

Zach Gilford in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

What Will It Take to Catch Voit?

Gilford is absolutely terrifying in these first two episodes in the role of Voit, something we’re not used to seeing from him. (He’s Matt Saracen!) Not only has he racked up quite a body count, but he has a network of killers under him who follow his rules and are willing to take their own lives rather than be caught.

“The kind of guy who could persuade a lot of other people to do work on his behalf, manipulate them, control them, deputize them to essentially be proxies for his own serial killing impulses, that is a very specific kind of personality, one who has incredible psychological discipline and control and is able to exercise that control over other people,” according to Tyler. “Our core instinct is self-preservation. How do you get someone who’s a killer — so they obviously prize their life over others — to agree to take their own life under pressure? It’s a very special kind of mind.”

Those aforementioned rules are why he has yet to get caught and “even his followers fall within his rules and he’ll only take on a follower if he knows that he can have something over them that would drive them to take their own life if they’re close to getting caught,” Gilford explained. “He’s just so two steps ahead of everyone at every time.” And he’s willing to sacrifice any of his followers — an “escape network,” he called them — and make it look like that person is Sicarius.

Episode 3 will see him killing and “that event when it happens is really interesting and you get a bigger glimpse into his rules and then they start to make more sense,” he added.

Zach Gilford and Kiele Sanchez in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

How Far Will Voit Go?

In the second episode, Voit receives some disturbing photos from his network of their victims. “I don’t believe he has a limit when it comes to what his killers do,” Gilford said. “He’s just fascinated by death and all the different ways that it can be inflicted upon someone. He’s never done the same thing twice. And I don’t think there’s anything that’s too far for him. We see him do some bad stuff.” Like killing the dog, as he did? “That was actually the hardest part for me,” he admitted.

Voit does have a line he won’t cross, like killing a child. “That’s because as we get into his human life I like to call it, there’s things we learn about him,” Gilford previewed. “You see him struggle with certain things. He’s evolving as well. He’s had these rules and gone about it for so long, it’s all starting to bleed into itself. He’s becoming more of a human than he thought he would but he can’t shake this monster part of him and those two things can’t coexist. And so what does he do with that?”

Speaking of his “human life,” Voit is a husband and father. “That’s what I think is gonna be really fun for the audience is he’s just this nice good dad. He’s just a great guy. And I think that’s where you’ll kind of get lost in feeling like you’re watching Leave it to Beaver,” according to Gilford. “And then you see him doing some nefarious stuff. You’re like, ‘Wait, what? I was just smiling at how cute he was with his daughters or whatever.’ It’s such a genius way that the writers have created this character because the audience is gonna constantly be changing their mind about him.”

Kirsten Vangsness in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

What Did Garcia's Note Say?

When Garcia left the FBI at the end of the original series’ run, she left a note behind in her office. Well, she finds that note when she returns to work in Evolution. Before, Vangsness and showrunner Erica Messer wouldn’t reveal what it said. What about now?

“I know what it says and this is what I need you to know: When we did all the takes of that note, 90 percent of the pens in that room are powered by imagination, which means there’s no ink in them. And so every time I would write down a Post-it, no ink would come out, but I would come up with something that would affect me so that I would have that experience,” Vangsness shared.

“I know what’s on the Post-it and I will tell you right now what’s on the post-it: what you need to be on that Post-it. And every time you watch that episode or you think about it, you think, ‘What do I need that Post-it to say right now?’ And that’s what it says.”

Garcia is back at the BAU, but she was doing so well being away from the darkness of the job. Even her home is bright in the revival!

“She’s become just more at peace,” according to Vangsness, who can relate after the pandemic changed her life like the time away did Garcia’s. “When the show was happening, I was happy and Garcia was happy. She was plugging along and she thought, ‘OK, this is what it is.’ Then the pandemic happens, and in my life, just everything changed. I’m still me, but I’m different. I feel so much safer in my own body. I’ve got my own back so much more. And I think that she has that, too.”

But she’d decided she’d never return to her old work, and now that she has, she’s thinking about the “cost.” As Vangsness explains, “it brings up this, am I doing the same thing? Am I just going back to the same thing? Because that can feel really gross to any of us when we go to a job that we said we were never going to go back to or a relationship or whatever. But then when she’s in it, it’s different because she’s different. She’s gotta figure out a way to do this thing and really, to care for the people she loves, do the things she has to.” Now, rather than serve everyone, “she only serves when it brings her pleasure and it’s a really cool adjustment that I find myself having to keep adjusting.”

Aisha Tyler, AJ Cook, Kirsten Vangsness, Adam Rodriguez, Paget Brewster, and Joe Mantegna in 'Criminal Minds: Evolution'
Michael Yarish /Paramount+

Where Are Reid & Simmons?

Not everyone who was with the BAU at the end of CBS’ run returned. Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Special Agent Matt Simmons (Daniel Henney) are MIA and we’ve only gotten a couple mentions of them so far. “I’m not at liberty to discuss their assignments. If and when they return is entirely up to them. Sadly, we don’t have a say,” Bailey says. And Rossi comments that he misses them.

With Garcia returning to the FBI, it does feel like getting the entire team back together could come up.

“We try to make sure we nod to them as much as possible,” Vangsness said. “Because their desks are there, we didn’t touch that. Them as actors are off making magic and there’s always an open door and we all want them here, so we wanna keep that energy.”

But they’re not keeping placeholders for them. “It’s not like you’re sitting there going, ‘I miss them.’ We’re also acknowledging them, which is important, and come back whenever. So it’s both acknowledging but also giving them a healthy case of FOMO so that they will come back,” she continued.