Criminal Minds ended Season 12 with a major car crash cliffhanger, but "who survived?" isn't the only burning question on fans' minds.
That's because Damon Gupton was let go over the summer after less than a full season and was replaced by Daniel Henney, who is moving to the mothership series in the wake of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders' cancellation. It's enough to make you forget that, oh yeah, Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) was also released from prison in the finale.
So how will all this be handled next in Season 13 — or "our lucky 13," as executive producer Erica Messer has dubs it? Here's what you can expect.
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Who survives? Mr. Scratch's (Bodhi Elfman) trap ensnared SUVs carrying Prentiss (Paget Brewster), Alvez (Adam Rodriguez), Walker (Gupton), Rossi (Joe Mantegna), JJ (A.J. Cook) and Lewis (Aisha Tyler). The Season 13 premiere will pick up in the immediate aftermath and reveal the extent of everyone's injuries. Not only that, one of them is MIA. Taken by Scratch perhaps?
Simmons arrives: Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) calls in reinforcements — aka Simmons (Henney) — to help find the missing BAU member because it turns out Beyond Borders' IRT is kaput. While Vansgness teased that a "scandal" took down the IRT, Messer tells TV Guide that the writers have yet to decide on a reason for its demise yet (a scandal is one of the ideas tossed around), but they might address it in the back half of the season.
"Simmons, when we see him in the premiere, we know that he doesn't really have an assignment right now. He's still working out of Quantico, but he's not getting on the big Betsy Ross jet and heading off to different countries," Messer says. "He's working out of the office and Garcia calls him and he becomes a huge part of our premiere and helping us right all of the wrongs in the premiere. By the end of the it, it's 'Maybe we should talk about you coming here full time.'"
Walker's exit: Messer is keeping tight-lipped on exactly how Walker bids adieu, but it will definitely be addressed in the premiere. As far as how the "difficult" casting swap went down, you can read about it here.
Mr. Scratch's fate: Messer told us in May that she was toying with the idea of having Mr. Scratch stay at large until Episode 300 — which would be the premiere of the yet-to-be-ordered Season 14, but they ultimately decided "not to drag it out," she says. So how and when will the super-unsub be caught? Rodriguez teased last month that the team will "get our hands on Mr. Scratch," to which Brewster said, "In a couple of months, you'll see that was a great pun."
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There will be a time jump: Just a mini one. The show will jump ahead a few weeks in between the first and second episodes to allow the events of the premiere, which Messer describes as a "freight train," to breathe. "The story just — once it starts, you're along for this crazy ride. But at the end, we have to slow down, take a breath, re-adjust," she says. "We do a discussion at the end of the premiere saying, 'We've been asked to take some time off to heal,' and that's emotionally and physically for those that were in the car accident. So when we come back in the second episode, which will be the following week ... story-wise, weeks have passed."
There's also another, more cosmetic reason for the flash-forward. "People's stitches will have healed and their bruises are healed and nobody's walking with a limp or anything like that."
Reid's reinstatement: Now that he's out of prison, Reid will be a full-fledged agent again — with some conditions, since he did go to Mexico without disclosing it. "There's a little bit of 'You're back, but we need you to do some other work,'" Messer says.
Diana might be back: Reid reunited with his Alzheimer's-stricken mom in the finale, but there are currently no plans for Jane Lynch to reprise her role yet. "We haven't really reached out to her yet," Messer reveals. "I think we knew she was busy doing other projects. It's such a bonus if we get her, so it might be something we can talk to her about again."
For her part, Lynch, who returned last season for the first time in almost eight years, says she's down to come back. "I would love to come back," she told TV Guide last month. "She's in a very interesting place right now. She's suffering from Alzheimer's but she has moments of perfect clarity. She and Matthew Gubler's character have a very interesting, very complicated but very loving relationship. It'd be great to dive in to that again."
Morgan might also be back: Shemar Moore is also down to return and Messer confirms there have been discussions about it. But if it happens, don't expect a lot of face time with your baby boy. "Realistically he's a very busy guy on a new show [S.W.A.T.], so I wouldn't expect a whole heck of a lot," she says. "Our finale last year had him probably more than we'd give him this year just for logistical purposes."
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Jamie Kennedy will be back: The show is continuing its relatively new tradition of bringing back old unsubs. Kennedy's cannibal serial killer Floyd Feylinn Ferrell will return in the sixth episode, 10 years after his first appearance in the Season 3 episode "Lucky." "We went back and looked at that episode and really studied exactly what was he charged with, do we want to say he stood trial or he was not mentally able to stand trial?" Messer says. "We got to write the sequel to 'Lucky' in a lot of ways."
"Lucky" was also the episode in which Garcia was shot, which will trigger some PTSD. "Garcia's like, 'Just to see this guy's handiwork reminds me of the case when I was shot,'" Messer says.
As for other old faces returning this season, "there are so many cool characters that are still out there and it'd be fun for us to explore what happened to them," Messer says.
The write stuff: For the fourth straight year, Messer and Vangsness are co-writing an episode together. Unlike the previous three, this one, the 11th episode of the season, won't be a major turning point concerning a team member. (If you recall, their Season 10 episode was Gideon's [Mandy Patinkin] death, Season 11 was Morgan's departure and Season 12 was Reid's arrest.) "This year we're just telling a straight-up scary story. It's slightly different than a typical episode. We're really tackling the opioid epidemic in Anytown, America," Messer shares. "It's more of a murder-mystery whodunit, but when you sort of peel back everything, you can blame the opioid. The real serial killer is the little pills."
Season 13 of Criminal Minds premieres Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 10/9c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS.)