The actor was already serving a two-episode suspension for an on-set altercation with a writer/producer when he was ultimately let go for the incident in August. That technically means Hotch's story isn't done yet, but he won't be around to see it through.
Criminal Minds Season 12: Everything you need to know
It truly won't be the same without our favorite unit chief, who's been there since the beginning. But instead of getting hung up on his abrupt departure, let's look back at his most memorable moments in the BAU.
16. Underwater agent
After unsub Robert Bremmer (Jeffrey Meek) drives into a lake to evade the police in Season 6's "Out of the Light," Morgan (Shemar Moore) immediately dives in too. While he rescues the victim, Hotch appears out of nowhere in the water and shoots Bremmer right in the forehead. Putting the "hot" in "hot shot" right here. Or should we say "Hotch shot"?
15. Dat deadpan
Hotch's tightly wound no-nonsense-ness makes his rare drier-than-gin deadpans all the more special. They're like the Olympics -- they come once every four years, but when they do, you know you're getting GREATNESS. In Season 1's "Derailed," everyone frets about neophyte Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) entering a train solo to negotiate with the unsub, which prompts him to ask, "Could at least one of you look like you're going to see me again?" Hotch's response and delivery = 100.
14. "Happiness is a choice. So choose."
Hotch gets some closure on his wife Haley's (Meredith Monroe) death in Season 9's "Route 66," when he sees visions of her and The Reaper (C. Thomas Howell) while undergoing surgery. Seeing a puppy dog-like Hotch begging Dream Haley not to go is bittersweet, as is her telling Mr. Why So, Serious? to choose happiness. Too bad Hotch and Beth (Bellamy Young) didn't last. (You can blame Scandal for that.)
13. Sympathy for the call girl
Every once in a while, Hotch displayed true compassion for an unsub -- quite a hard line to walk when you're, you know, trying to catch them. In Season 4's "Pleasure Is My Business," he calmly, sweetly appeals to Megan Kane (Brianna Brown) -- whose two-timing father led her to killing wealthy men who stepped out on their significant others with call girls -- by letting her know that he's a single father whose wife left him. When she poisons herself at the end, Hotch promises to expose the client list and stays with Megan as she dies. "How could your wife have ever left someone like you?" she says. "You're the first man I've met who didn't let me down." (We'd totally 'ship them if it weren't for the fact that she's a serial killer and, well, dead.)
12. Out, damned spot
If you've been shot, the first thing you want to see when you come home probably isn't the word your attacker has written on your wall with your blood. Hotch spares Elle (Lola Glaudini) that experience at the end of Season 2's "The Fisher King, Part 2," going to her home to wash the titular unsub's "Rules" message off her wall.
11. A good kick (and shot) in the head
One of the best parts of the early years of Criminal Minds was Hotch and Reid's mentor/mentee relationship. Season 1's "L.D.S.K." starts with Hotch training Reid for his firearm qualifications, which he fails. Turns out he just needs some real-world experience. While being held hostage, Hotch feigns disgust with Reid and asks the unsub for permission to "kick the snot out of the kid." It's all part of his master plan for Reid to grab Hotch's ankle gun and shoot the unsub point blank in the forehead. "As far as I'm concerned, you passed your qualification," Hotch tells him afterward. The biggest revelation though? Hotch kicks like a 9-year-old girl.
10. Family matters
Ed Asner put his curmudgeonly charms to great use in Season 10's "A Place at the Table," playing Hotch's father-in-law Roy, who has Alzheimer's. Roy still blames Hotch for Haley's murder and lays into Hotch, who can't do anything but stand there and take it. And Roy's final strike cuts deep into Hotch's soul.
9. Hotch's past
During a lengthy interrogation of Vincent Perotta (Patrick Kilpatrick) in Season 1's "Natural Born Killer," Hotch tells the unsub that some - not all - people who were abused as children become killers. When Perotta asks what he means by "some people," Hotch replies, "Some people grow up to catch them," hinting that he, too, was abused. The show never shed light on that remark or Hotch's childhood, for that matter, again, but the heavy implication colors a lot of Hotch's buttoned-up personality -- the ambiguity of which was deftly handled by Gibson.
8. Boy band burn
This is the kind of thing you expect to come out of Morgan's or Rossi's (Joe Mantegna) mouth. When Reid debuts his new 'do in Season 5's "The Internet Is Forever," everyone is rendered speechless, except for Hotch, who comes through with this awesome, straight-faced quip: "What, did you join a boy band?" (For the record, we support Reid in any boy band.)
7. "I'm good at my job!"
Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) had it out for Hotch in the early days, hiring Prentiss (Paget Brewster) to spy on the BAU, which totally backfired and really just gave us #squadgoals. Strauss suspends Hotch for two weeks in Season 2's "No Way Out, Part II: The Evilution of Frank," but not before he reads her to filth -- profiling that she favors her son and keeps a bonsai as "compensation for feelings of failure as a mother." When she questions his "ability to lead your team," Hotch proves how well he knows -- and is protective of -- his crew by profiling each of them, before executing the ultimate mic drop: "How do I know you favor your son? I'm good at my job!"
6. "Parts of it don't make sense to me"
Arguably one of the most chilling moments in recent years is after Mr. Scratch (Bodhi Elfman) tortures Hotch in Season 10's "Mr. Scratch." Hotch has no recollection of exactly what happened and struggles to make sense of it, let alone articulate it, as the camera hauntingly zooms in on his face.
5. "What were you thinking?"
If you want proof of Hotch's great leadership abilities and how much he looks out for his team (ahem, Strauss), look no further than Season 3's "Elephant's Memory." After Reid put everyone in danger by talking down assault rifle-bearing unsub Owen Savage (Cody Kasch) unarmed and unprotected, Hotch tells Reid he should fire him. But it's less a harsh tongue-lashing from a boss and more of a stern but empathetic talk from a father (figure) imparting wisdom. And because Hotch is omniscient, he lets Reid, who has secretly been in NA for his Dilaudid addiction, know that he should "catch the rest of that movie."
4. Just can't quit the BAU
probably definitely wished her hubby could quit the BAU for her and their son Jack. And he was so close too. During his suspension, Hotch put in for a transfer in Season 3's "In Name and Blood," but before the paperwork went through, he convinced Prentiss, who had chosen to resign rather than be Strauss' mole, to help the team on one last case. After saving the day, they both know they can't stay away. Come for Hotch's "Why would I ever want to leave the BAU?", stay for the Lifehouse-backed montage of him discovering that Haley and Jack had left him.
3. "Charcoal gray"
We can't blame legal eagle Lester Sterling (Steven Culp) for trying to discredit the BAU to defend his client, Brian Matloff (Eric Lange), an unsub who had woken up from a coma with retrograde amnesia, in Season 3's "Tabula Rasa." He's just doing his job after all. But if you come at the king, you best not miss. While cross-examining Hotch, Sterling calls profiling "intellectual guesswork" and muses that Hotch can't guess the color of his socks "with any greater accuracy than a carnival psychic." Challenge accepted. Hotch completely owns Sterling, coolly stating the color of his socks ("charcoal gray"), before giving us the 411 on the lawyer's financial woes, compensation for said financial woes and his vice (betting on horseracing). And right on cue, Sterling gets the latest race results on his Blackberry. Bet he didn't see that coming.
2. Guilt trip
Rarely do you see a kink in Hotch's even-keeled, resilient armor, but he cracks slightly in Season 4's "Omnivore," aka the beginning of the Reaper arc. After The Reaper kills a busload of people, Hotch blames himself for it because he had refused The Reaper's deal to stop the investigation in exchange for The Reaper to stop killing -- the same deal Shaunessy took 11 years earlier, when Hotch first worked the case. Rossi has to pull a Robin Williams on him, but it's the first time we see Hotch so vulnerable when it came to a case, and you kind of wonder/admire how he doesn't crumble under pressure more often.
1. RIP Haley
Lbr, what else could be No. 1? Nothing is more heartbreaking/intense/badass than Season 5's "100. " If you want a good cry, just watch Hotch and Haley's teary goodbye over the phone -- wonderfully acted by both Gibson and Monroe -- before The Reaper shoots her dead. Hotch then goes HAM on The Reaper, basically punching him into the floorboards, and shatters our hearts all over again when he collapses into Morgan's arms, crying those brutal silent sobs. It's Hotch at his worst and his best.
What are your favorite Hotch moments?
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.
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