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After Thomas Gibson’s Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner appeared in his last Criminal Minds episode on Oct. 5, many fans were left wondering how the original cast member would be written out of the show. In last night’s episode, fans finally got their answer.
Warning, this article does contain spoilers from the Criminal Minds episode that aired on Nov. 16.
TVLine reported that the reason that viewers will no longer see Hotch on their screens anymore isn’t because of the reason that viewers were originally led to believe. In the third episode, it was said that Hotch was working on a special assignment and wouldn’t be able to work on the team anymore.
But in Wednesday’s episode, Rossi (Joe Mantegna) revealed that Hotch hadn’t been on special assignment. Instead, an investigation had been started on Peter Lewis/Mr. Scratch, the villain from season 10 who escaped from prison in the season 11 finale, when he started stalking Hotch’s son, Jack.
Because of that, Hotch and his son entered the witness protection program and he resigned from the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI.
Apparently, Hotch had made one last request before leaving the BAU, and that request was that Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) be the one to replace him. After considering taking the job, with prodding from JJ (AJ Cook) and Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler, who directed the episode), Prentiss made a decision to stay with the team permanently, which coincides with Brewster rejoining the cast as a series regular, which was announced in August just a few weeks after Gibson had been fired.
Last night’s episode was watched by 7.56 million people and garnered a 1.4 rating in the key 18 to 49 demographic, according to TV by the Numbers. The episode’s rating ticked up 0.1 from last week when the show’s hit a series low. In general, the ratings for the season have been down from last season, either from the firing of Gibson over summer, the departure of Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan) in March of this year or just because of how long the show has been on, as Criminal Minds is currently airing its 12th season.
Criminal Minds airs Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. on CBS.