- Thomas Gibson was fired from Criminal Minds in 2016.
- His character, Hotch, has not appeared on the show since season 12—but it’s possible he could return for the season 15 finale.
Actor Thomas Gibson starred as Aaron “Hotch” Hotchner on Criminal Minds since the show’s inception in 2005. Fans of the crime drama will remember him as the former unit chief of Quantico’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, the supervisor of all special agents, and the team’s Media Liaison Officer. However, after 11 seasons, his character disappeared.
Hotch appeared in two episodes of season 12 before vanishing on a “special assignment.” Later in the season, it was revealed that he was put into witness protection following his son’s involvement in a number of stalking incidents. Because of this, Hotch officially resigned from the BAU and shifted his focus to being a full-time father.
The longtime agent’s exit seemed abrupt to some viewers—so what really happened?
Thomas Gibson faced trouble on set.
In 2016, the actor who played Hotch was fired from Criminal Minds after a two-week suspension because of an alleged physical altercation that took place between him and writer-producer, Virgil Williams. The incident occurred during filming for season 12, according to Entertainment Weekly. ABC Studios reportedly conducted an internal review and concluded Thomas would not return.
Soon after his firing, Thomas issued a statement of his own that expressed his appreciation for the show and its fans:
“I love ‘Criminal Minds’ and have put my heart and soul into it for the last twelve years. I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and, most importantly, the best fans that a show could ever hope to have.”
The TV veteran later opened up about his dismissal to People, sharing his side of the story.
“I feel like it took years to make a good reputation and a minute to damage it,” Thomas told the publication. He explained that they were “shooting a scene late one night” when he expressed to the producer that his character had a few contradictory lines that didn’t add up. “[Virgil] said, ‘Sorry, it’s necessary, and I absolutely have to have it.'”
Thomas was frustrated, and claims he returned back to set and was recounting what happened to some other castmates when Virgil appeared.
“He came into that room and started coming towards me. As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg,” Thomas explained. “If I hadn’t moved, he would have run into me. We had some choice words, for which I apologized the next day, and that was it. It was over. We shot the scene, I went home—and I never got to go back.”
Is Hotch coming back to Criminal Minds?
After the CBS procedural announced it’s ending after season 15, fans began to wonder whether Hotch would return to the show for the finale. In an interview with TV Line, showrunner Erica Messer vaguely addressed the question on everyone’s mind.
“What I’d love to do is honor the history of the series in some way that is satisfying for all of us, and I don’t know exactly what that will be,” she said. “As we’re closing a chapter on the series, I want to be sure that we’re honoring all of those people who were here and the lives that we’ve all been invested in for so long.”
So, Hotch’s return has not been confirmed—but it hasn’t been entirely ruled out, either.