Paget Brewster, Criminal Minds

Paget Brewster is already bracing for the fan reaction.

"There's a nice little moment between Prentiss and Hotch in the episode," she tells TVGuide.com of Criminal Minds' 150th installment airing Wednesday. "I know the fans who want Hotch and Prentiss together are going to go nuts! They're totally gonna lose it. I can already picture it. People really want them to date for some reason and I think this will just add to that."

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Unfortunately for Hotch (Thomas Gibson) and Prentiss (Brewster) 'shippers, a romance is unlikely — for now at least, especially with his budding relationship with Beth (Bellamy Young) — but that doesn't make the duo's moment any less significant. In fact, it's a major turning point in Prentiss' life as she finally processes coming back from the "dead" after Hotch and JJ (A.J. Cook) faked her death to evade her IRA nemesis Ian Doyle (Timothy V. Murphy) last season.

"When she returned this year, she just got right back into working, and Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Morgan (Shemar Moore) were angry about being lied to [about her death], so that was a concern for her," Brewster says. "She hasn't had time to really address Doyle stabbing her and being 'dead.'" Until now. When Hotch receives her final report from her mandated therapist, who cleared Prentiss, he knows not all is well. "He sees the inconsistencies and lies in them. He's like, 'You're not dealing it, but someday you will, so let me know.'"

That day comes when the BAU heads to Houston to pursue "The Piano Man," a rapist who is attacking his previous victims. One of those victims, Regina Lampert (Dina Meyer), tries to turn the tables on him. "She ends up defending herself to Prentiss and Prentiss is sort of faced with [Regina saying], 'Oh, you've been attacked?'" Brewster says. "And it comes from a stranger. I think that's sort of how things work. You ever notice that when you're upset about something or you break up with someone, you keep it inside and someone you don't even know says, 'Hey, are you OK?' and you completely lose it? You try to stay on top of it and keep it hidden. That's the dynamic here. Then Prentiss opens up to Hotch that she's not OK. That's a big deal for her. It did profoundly affect her and she was trying to not deal with it."
 
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How Hotch will help Prentiss come to terms with her trauma — lest we forget, he was attacked by The Reaper in the Season 4 finale — will play out for the rest of the season. But it will be strictly on professional and platonic levels. And Brewster hopes it remains that way.

"I think [the show] would jump the shark [if they got together]," she says. "In the real world, where you have 24 hours in a day and not 44 minutes to tell a story, I think people at work hook up. Thomas and I joke about it all the time, but if you have to capture serial killers, when are you making out? And how is that appropriate? ... I think the writers and producers and the actors are so aware of the real Behavioral Analysis Unit that we wouldn't want to be untrue to them. I love people hooking up in, like, a hospital drama, but it doesn't really work for our tone. I do love the little moments we get though where you see us all bonding or doing something other than work and get a peek into our lives."

Prentiss' moment with Hotch, of course, wouldn't be possible if not for the Doyle arc, which was only concocted after CBS demoted Brewster before Season 6. The network also let Cook go, but rehired both full time for this year. Brewster asked the writers to kill her off then, which they did but amended last-minute.

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"My last scene where I was in Paris was a surprise to me. They were like, 'We might want you to come back.' I said, 'All right, I'll shoot it, but I'm not showing my face.' I felt like if you want me off the show, kill me, but if you want a cliff-hanger, OK, I'll do that. I shot a pilot and it didn't go, and then they said, 'You're back!' I had another year on my contract that I didn't know about, so I had to come back! I said, 'Hey, I kinda want an apology and maybe a raise.' And they were like, 'No, we'll sue you!'" Brewster says with a laugh. "The whole thing was, unfortunately, a mess. It was dumb. They thought they would save money by getting rid of us ... and in the end got both of us back. But I loved the Doyle story line. Timothy Murphy is such a great actor and so much fun. The writers got to do something different, and I got to do something different."

Though her contract dictated her return, Brewster wants to make it clear that she's happy to be back with her work family of the past six years, and she's forever grateful to the fans who petitioned for her and Cook's rehirings. "It wasn't like they cut my arm off making me come back," she says. "I get to go to work every day with people I really like. That crew is so funny. It is genuinely a family there, which is good and bad. Sometimes you want to f---ing kill them! But in a great way. And the nicest thing was the fans coming up to me the whole time. That was the best."

With her contract up this year, would she consider coming back for Season 8? "If it works out, yeah," Brewster says. "I love everyone here and it's just nice to have a job. The only reason we have [season finale] cliff-hangers is because of our contracts, so maybe [Prentiss will be in jeopardy this year]. I just kind of have to wait and see. They already fired me once!"

Besides, if she doesn't come back, "the Hotch and Prentiss dream would die — I can't let that happen again!"

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.