With the news that Thomas Gibson has been fired from Criminal Minds following an on-set altercation comes the question of how Aaron Hotchner will be leaving the team on screen — especially since however it happens, it’s going to have to be off-screen because he won’t be returning to film those scenes.

Here are 10 ways the CBS drama could write out Hotch.

Thomas Gibson Fired from Criminal Minds>>>

That Temporary Special Assignment Becomes Not So Temporary

According to TVLine, the plan had been to have Hotch “on temporary duty doing something that the Director tapped him to do” when Paget Brewster returns as Prentiss for temporary duty of her own with the team, beginning with the third episode.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do is to have that “temporary duty” extended indefinitely.

Hotch Is Killed

First of all, it would have to happen off-screen (or they could use a convincing body double and perhaps have it all shown from the back) and we’d never see his body. (That’s not exactly new for the series; remember Gideon’s death in “Nelson’s Sparrow?”)

And if that’s the way Criminal Minds chooses to go, they have options. He could be killed by the now-free Mr. Scratch, who Kirsten Vangsness thought would be “messing some things up” when BuddyTV talked to her this summer at Comic-Con. After all, Mr. Scratch did make things very difficult for Hotch as recently as the season 11 finale. What if he decides to take it one step further?

Or he could be killed by another escaped serial killer or just be the catalyst for the team’s next case. Maybe there could be a combination Hotch on his new assignment/then killed.

Hotch Is Fired

Going back to the season 11 finale investigation by the DOJ, maybe something else comes up to put him in another interrogation room or before a Senate Committee (like in “It Takes a Village”) and the only possible outcome (all off-screen) is that his position with the BAU is terminated.

Hotch Chooses to Leave the FBI

Maybe after everything that has happened, Hotch realizes the job is too dangerous and he chooses to leave before it costs Jack both his parents. He didn’t before, even after Haley’s death, but maybe seeing Morgan able to do just that prompts him to do the same.

Hotch is Promoted Within the FBI

Maybe the FBI decides to promote Hotch to another position somewhere else and he’ll never been seen onscreen or heard of again. (Remember Seaver?)

Hotch Chooses to Leave the BAU but Stay in the FBI

In sort of a combination of the above two possibilities, Hotch decides that he’s ready to leave the traveling that comes with being part of the BAU behind but he doesn’t want to leave the FBI, so he moves to another division that allows him to stay close to home.

Hotch Enters Witness Protection

With Mr. Scratch now free, Hotch decides that the risk to Jack is too great, so he decides to take measures to protect his family. Yes, this would be a bit similar to Haley and Jack from back when Foyet was out there, but that could be why he does it (only much more successfully, though they could always kill him off-screen somewhere down the line in this scenario).

Mr. Scratch Gets to Hotch Again — and This Time He Can’t Escape His Control

Maybe this is the kind of idea that only watching 11 seasons of Criminal Minds can produce, but what if Mr. Scratch manages to get to Hotch and doses him again? Only this time, Hotch can’t fight off his control and what happens next leads to Hotch being locked up, whether it’s in prison or perhaps a mental institution. It would be crazy, but what if …?

Or maybe Mr. Scratch doses Hotch again, Hotch doesn’t do anything that would warrant him being locked up, but after it happening twice, the FBI can’t have him working for them anymore so he’s forced into early retirement.

Hotch Pulls an Elle

Remember Elle Greenaway? What if Hotch, worried about Mr. Scratch being free and his fixation on him, goes rogue from the BAU — maybe everyone thinks he’s on some temporary assignment but he’s really not? — and kills Mr. Scratch?

Hotch Loses It

“To Hell … and Back” ended with Hotch’s voiceover of, “What about my team? How many more times will they be able to look into the abyss? How many more times before they won’t ever recover the pieces of themselves this job takes?” What if the job has finally taken too much from Hotch?

The job gets to be too much for him, he snaps, and the team finds out during the course of an investigation. Since Gibson won’t be back to film the scenes, maybe Hotch flees the country or he’s caught in another state, but the resolution of it all comes via a phone call or report. 

What do you think is the best way to write Hotch out of Criminal Minds? Let us know in the comments below. 

Criminal Minds season 12 premieres Wednesday, September 28 at 9pm on CBS.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.