FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit Supervisory Special Agent/Unit Chief Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner is played by Thomas Gibson.
Hotchner is the head of the BAU team. Hotchner was a prosecutor for a time, although it is not stated specifically where, his experience in prosecution helps his team to craft tight cases, it also allows him to judge when (and how) it may be necessary to skirt the law to successfully capture and prosecute an UNSUB (unknown subject). He is often a hostage negotiator and has been for over a decade he states that he wrote a book on it. He is often referred to as a drill sergeant, rarely smiles and it is a common joke that he doesn't blink. He usually speaks in an almost monotone voice and is extremely stoic, he is somewhat demonstrative and emotional in the opening of the show but later grows even more withdrawn and seemingly cold. At one point when listing his worst qualities he says that he has no sense of humor, he doesn't trust women as much as men, and he is a bully. He is extremely loyal and protective of his team whom he allows to call him 'Hotch'.
Initially Hotchner shared leadership and mentoring of the team with Special Agent Jason Gideon. It is heavily implied that he was abused as a child although he has never confirmed it. In 2X19 (Ashes and Dust)
he states that his father died when he was young. Hotchner's hearing was damaged in an explosion in 3X20 (Lo-Fi)
the after effects lingered for some time preventing him from traveling by air and rendering him hyper-sensitive to loud or high pitched noises. He married Haley (Meredith Monroe), his best friend and high school sweetheart. Haley grew increasingly unhappy with the impact of Hotchner's work on him and their family and eventually left him. The two remained close and the divorce appeared amicable as both still cared deeply for the other. He has one son with Haley named Jack. Hotchner became Jack's sole parent after an UNSUB murdered Jack's mother. Jessica, Haley's sister, assists Hotchner in caring for Jack when Hotchner is called out of town for work.
********************SPOILERS*** Career with the BAU ***SPOILERS********************
In 1X01 (Extreme Aggressor)
Hotchner is shown at home with Haley, they are going through baby names while Hotchner works on a crib. Hotchner is later ordered by the brass to evaluate Agent Jason Gideon as he is returning from medical leave due to an incident where six agents were killed. The team works a series of murders in Seattle, while introducing the team to the Seattle field office Hotchner smiles and says he hopes the Seattle agents remember him as he worked there for two years. (While, this is notable in that Hotchner almost never smiles, he does exhibit more emotive behavior early in the series than is standard later). While speaking to a victim's family a dog begins to bark at Reid, Hotchner explains it is the Reid effect and it happens with children too.1X02 (Compulsion)
Hotchner specifically calls the BAU team into the conference room implying the bullpen and surrounding offices are used by agents who are not members of the BAU. Later he asks Reid to address several college students as part of their investigation, he mistakenly assumes the students will relate to Reid better due to Reid's age, after Reid stutters and nervously wanders off on a tangent Hotchner gently takes over the briefing.1X03 (Won't Get Fooled Again)
Hotch admits that he was a bit of a nerd as a child and spent a great deal of time searching for a 1944 penny. (A 1944 penny would not necessarily be worth much, a 1943 copper penny would be worth a great deal and a steel penny from 1943 or 1944 could be worth quite a bit).1X05 (Broken Mirror)
Hotchner speaks with Haley over the phone as she is on mandatory bed rest for her pregnancy due to test results indicating she may be at risk for preeclampsia.1X06 (L.D.S.K.)
Hotchner assists Reid in practicing with his weapon in an attempt to pass his firearms qualification test (it can be roughly assumed that this is Reid's annual test as he mentions barely passing his last test), during this scene Hotchner mentions that he was on SWAT, whether he is referring to the FBI equivalent or time on an actual police SWAT team is not made clear (Hotchner specifically says, 'on SWAT we'). Hotchner also makes a joke when Reid inadvertently shoots a silhouette target in the crotch.
Later in the episode as part of a ruse to overcome the UNSUB Hotchner mentions working with Reid for three years, then insults and beats Reid, Reid later tells Hotchner that he kicks like a nine year old girl. (The truth of Hotchner's claim of working with Reid for three years is debatable. Morgan appears to have worked with the BAU longer and tends to treat Reid like a green agent, it could be that Hotchner lied to the UNSUB or that Reid and Morgan simply did not enjoy a particularly close relationship at the time).1X07 (The Fox)
Hotchner shows off his new son to the team with Haley.1X08 (Natural Born Killer)
after Hotchner is nearly garroted by an UNSUB Gideon loosens his collar telling him to, 'take your tie of for once'. Later in the episode Hotchner speaks with the UNSUB, he states that the UNSUB was made by his environment - an extremely violent and abusive home. The UNSUB challenges Hotchner's choice of words and Hotchner's reply strongly implies that Hotchner grew up in a similar situation.1X10 (The Popular Kids)
Reid is struggling with a recurrence of nightmares he has had for years that have been aggravated by his BAU work. Hotchner quietly approaches Reid, and offers to talk about the dreams if Reid needs to, Hotchner even goes so far as to comfortingly touch Reid's arm.1X11 (Blood Hungry)
While speaking with the mother of an UNSUB Hotchner mentions his mother was from Manassas, Virginia and attended Mary Baldwin College (an elite university with a severely limited enrollment number of less than 3,000 students). Later when Garcia is upset because Gideon trashed her office Hotchner promises to take care of it and speaks to Gideon about sending a thank you gift.1X12 (What Fresh Hell)
Gideon is annoyed that Hotchner sent flowers to Garcia on his behalf as he had already sent Garcia an MP3 player since Garcia is a tech junky and an MP3 player would last longer than flowers. Gideon muses aloud that Garcia may think he is sweet on her, the rest of the BAU team laughs at this extremely slim possibility.1X13 (Poison)
Hotchner states he prosecuted dozens of murder cases and always felt by the time they reached him it was too late, wanted to stop them from occurring so he joined the BAU. J.J. points out that his response to her question as to why he joined the BAU isn't really an answer. He agrees but doesn't elaborate further. This isn't to indicate any secrecy or prevarication on Hotchner's part he simply doesn't have a better answer.1X14 (Riding the Lightning)
the team is attempting to elicit an admission from a death row murderer as to the number of his victims before he is executed. Among his presumed victims is the killer's young son, his spouse is also on death row for her part in his crimes. Later Hotchner reveals that the killer's son is alive then declares that the killer has lost.1X15 (Unfinished Business)
Hotchner finds a woman bound in plastic, gagged, and hidden under the bed of a would-be killer while in pursuit of the main UNSUB. Greenaway asks Hotchner how he manages to have a family and work at the BAU, Hotchner replies that he gives his full attention and focus to the team when he is with them and his family when he is with them.1X16 (The Tribe)
Hotchner's brother Sean stops by the BAU to see Hotchner (much to the joy and surprise of Garcia and J.J. who are startled that Hotch not only has a brother but that Sean is extremely attractive and at first glance very different from Hotchner). Sean was slated to go to Georgetown law and follow in their father's footsteps. Instead he tells Hotchner that he is going to work in a restaurant in New York under a prestigious chef. Hotchner assumes Sean is being youthful and impetuous and tries to talk him out of the job, Sean leaves and angrily shouts at Hotchner not to profile him. At the end of the episode Hotchner meets Sean and gives him contact information for a friendly agent in New York as an apology. He tells Sean that it is important that Sean choose for himself. During the original argument Sean mentions that their father died of a heart attack at 47.
Sean is never seen or mentioned again, this is especially bizarre and notable considering later tragic events in Hotchner's life. Regarding Hotchner's father, in episode 2X19 Ashes and Dust, Hotchner is speaking with a suspect and says that his father had lung cancer, this discrepancy has yet to be addressed. It could be that he did, in fact, have lung cancer but succumbed to a heart attack, alternately, it may be that the manner of Hotch's father's death is also an oversight on the part of the writers, a third very unlikely possibility is that Hotch deliberately lies to the suspect
In 1X22 (The Fisher King Part 01)
Haley delivers an envelope to Hotchner, she says a man gave it to her to pass on to Hotchner as 'a young girl's life depended on it' the man came to their home to deliver the envelope. Hotchner is clearly bothered by the implied threat to Haley and Jack's safety. In the same episode he orders Greenaway to go home to rest as she hasn't slept for 36 hours. The episode closes with the UNSUB shooting Agent Elle Greenaway.
In 2X01 (The Fisher King Part 02)
Hotchner asks Agent Anderson where Greenaway is, Anderson explains that he left her at her home half an hour before. Hotchner orders him to return, Anderson finds Elle as she is being successfully resuscitated by EMTs (evidently Greenaway managed to dial 911 before succumbing to blood loss, the responding EMTs and officers did not realize she was an FBI agent until Anderson arrived as the UNSUB stole her credentials and weapon).
In 2X06 (The Boogeyman)
Elle shoots an UNSUB after she openly blames Hotchner for her near death at the hands of the Fisher King.
In 2X12 (Profiler, Profiled)
Reid is making miniature rockets out of film canisters in the office to entertain J.J., Prentiss, and Garcia and nearly strikes Hotchner with one. Reid apologizes and Hotchner mildly chastises Reid and then comments that Reid is really starting to get some distance with them. Prentiss observes that Hotchner has a sense of humor after all, Reid replies, 'sometimes'.
In 2X22 (Legacy)
Section Chief Erin Strauss makes it clear to Hotchner that she wants him removed from his position and possibly from the FBI as well. Ostensibly her reasoning is that Hotchner is no longer effective in his post, he counters her accusation by profiling her. Strauss then turns it into a question of his leadership skills; he again shoots down her argument, this time by giving her a specific rundown on each of the members of his team.
After unsuccessfully confronting Hotchner Strauss approaches Prentiss and attempts to force her into providing evidence of Hotchner's incompetence or face reassignment from the BAU. Prentiss chooses to resign rather than become a mole for Strauss.
While not explicitly stated it is implied that Strauss sees Hotchner as a political threat, that said, she does have a good argument regarding his potential incompetence as the BAU's leader. He is the lead agent when Greenaway shoots a suspect in cold blood and while Reid becomes addicted to narcotics and eventually drags himself into sobriety. The fact that Greenaway's shooting was deemed a 'good shoot' and Reid's addiction never made it into any official reports works in Hotch's favor in both cases.
At the end of 3X01 (Doubt)
Hotchner is suspended for allowing a serial murder suspect and a disturbed armed college student to interact, ultimately resulting in the deaths of both. The suspension while arguably valid is largely another move by Strauss to remove Hotchner.
In 3X02 (Name and Blood)
Hotchner's two-week suspension is completed, he requests a transfer Strauss suggests white collar crimes unit due to his background as a prosecutor. This makes Haley happy as Hotchner originally joined the Bureau with the intention of climbing the ranks and his work with the BAU has changed his personality while forcing him to leave Haley and Jack alone quite often.
However, Morgan asks Hotchner to help with their current case as Strauss is currently filling Hotchner's role with disastrous results (she has never been in the field and manages to insult the local cops and severely lose her composure at a crime scene). Hotchner assists on the case and by the end decides to stay with the BAU, although he tells Morgan that he will have to talk to Haley about it (Prentiss also assists, in fact, her status as a civilian helps them save the UNSUB's next victim). At the successful conclusion of the case Strauss tells Hotchner that none of the BAU team will move up the ranks, Hotchner replies with, 'why would I ever want to leave the BAU?' When Hotchner returns home after the case he finds Haley and Jack are gone. Later, he is served divorce papers, which he signs.
Hotchner is able to stay with the BAU in 3X02 because Garcia put a hold on his paperwork along with Prentiss' resignation. Hotchner actually thanks Garcia for placing the holds and then tells her to release the paperwork. After the conclusion of the case in 3X02 Reid discovers Gideon's goodbye letter, Gideon's departure leaves Hotchner as the most senior profiler and the sole leader of the team. (Agent Rossi likely has more experience than Hotchner but he does not join the team until several episodes later, even then he has been away from the Bureau for a significant amount of time (about ten years) so it is possible that both men have equivalent levels though not types of experience.)
In 3X20 (Lo-Fi)
the team travels to New York city to investigate an UNSUB who is randomly gunning down persons at subway stops. Once there it is revealed that the lead agent, Kate Joyner, had a relationship of some kind with Hotchner in the past. It is never stated whether was professional, an actual friendship or more, although J.J. and Prentiss quietly comment on Joyner's similar appearance to Haley. Joyner holds dual citizenship, she was formerly with Scotland Yard (this is a curious fact as an oath of loyalty is required to serve in most federal positions and such an oath generally violates dual citizenship and results in the person reverting to the citizenship for which he/she has sworn). Joyner is hostile to Morgan as he has been tapped by the brass to replace her should she fail to successfully conclude the case. This is in opposition to Strauss's dire prediction of the fate of the BAU team members. It is eventually revealed that the killings are a clever ruse to test response times by first responders to enable a coordinated bombing or similar attack in the city. At the end of the episode an unidentified government SUV is blown up.4X01 (Mayhem)
concludes the New York case. Kate's SUV is blown up severely injuring her Hotchner suffers superficial cuts and bruises and an apparent blown eardrum. The team races to get Kate to the hospital in an attempt to save her only realizing belatedly that the ambulance is, in fact, a bomb and they've unwittingly assisted in an attempted assassination of a high level government official. They manage to stop the UNSUB and save the target although Kate dies in the O.R. Hotchner's ear injury lingers for several subsequent episodes.
During 4x04 (Paradise)
Hotchner interviews a suspect who turns out to be the UNSUB he only realizes his error in retrospect after more evidence points back to the the same man. The team still manages to save the UNSUB's next victims, nonetheless, Hotchner begins to doubt himself.
In 4X18 (Omnivore)
Hotchner returns to Boston after ten years absence. Previously he had been there with the BAU to profile an UNSUB known as the Boston Reaper. The detective that originally invited the BAU into the case rescinded the invitation with no explanation at the time. Now, ten years later, the detective is dying, he confesses to Hotchner that the reason he dismissed the BAU was because he made a deal with the Reaper. If he stopped hunting the Reaper the Reaper would stop killing. Hotchner and the team return to Boston after the detective's death when the Reaper kills again as promised. The Reaper contacts Hotchner and offers him the same deal he offered the original detective, Hotchner hangs up on him and the Reaper slaughters a bus full of people. Later the Reaper attacks Agent Derek Morgan and steals his credentials. Once the Reaper has been captured he tells Hotchner and the team that he will be more famous than they know. As the episode ends it is revealed that the Reaper has escaped custody by faking a fit.
At the end of 4X25/6 (To Hell...And Back)
The episode concludes with the Reaper breaking into Hotchner's apartment and shooting him.5X01 (Faceless, Nameless)
reveals the team leaving on another assignment almost immediately after returning from the grueling case in Canada. They attempt to reach Hotchner, when he doesn't respond they assume he is resting and they deploy for a local case.
As the rest of the team is thoroughly caught up in profiling and apprehending a man threatening to kill the son of a D.C. trauma surgeon Prentiss decides to stop by Hotchner's apartment to check on him. She breaks into the apartment and discovers signs of a struggle and blood. She immediately contacts Garcia and requests a forensics team to Hotchner's apartment. Garcia and Prentiss discover that a John Doe matching Hotchner's description was dropped at a local E.R. by a man claiming to be Federal Agent Derek Morgan, they correctly surmise that 'Agent Derek Morgan' was actually the Reaper using Derek's stolen credentials. In addition to shooting Hotchner the Reaper stabbed him in a particular manner to mimic the Reaper's own self-inflicted stab wounds from 11 years previously . The Reaper also stole contact information for Haley. Haley and Jack are placed into witness protection, Hotchner says goodbye. He does not know where they will be moved to and will be unable to see Jack until the Reaper is apprehended.
In 5X02 (Haunted)
Hotchner rejoins the team after recovering from his injuries. They are in pursuit of a man named Darrin Call who is suffering from a psychotic break after being taken off his almost lifelong antipsychotics. The locals are out to bring Call down when the team first arrives. Hotchner is demonstrably short and edgy with his team, uncharacteristically he shouts at Garcia and insults the local cops. The team assumes this is due to Hotchner's grief and personal distress over the actions of the Reaper. They apprehend Call after realizing he is one of two survivors of a serial killer called the Hollow Creek Killer that kidnapped and dismembered young boys in the 1970s. The other survivor admits that when he ran he left six-year old Call behind because Call begged him to run, the agents realize that Call's father was the killer.
Hotchner walks into Call's father's house unarmed and without a vest to attempt to talk Call out of the house after Call takes a young boy hostage confusing the boy for Tommy from years ago as Call confronts his father. Hotchner deliberately positions himself to block a sniper's bullet while trying to talk Call down. Hotchner tries to elicit a confession or response from Call's father by profiling him and pointing out to Call that his father lives next to a school to be near children. He then tells Call he has no options and needs to stand down.
Call becomes agitated and upset and tells Hotchner not to tell him what to do. Call kills his father and releases his hostage. Hotchner safely takes Call into custody. The other survivor, Tommy, apologizes Call for leaving him behind, Call tells Tommy that he was the one he'd been waiting for all that time that Tommy saved him. At the end of the episode Rossi tells Morgan to back off and not worry about Hotchner. Morgan tells Rossi that he won't stand by and let Hotchner get himself killed. Prentiss drives Hotchner home, they have a conversation about Call's experience and possible future that is also a conversation about Hotchner's healing and family.
In 5X04 (Hopeless)
The team is deployed on a case, the increasingly difficult and uncooperative local police force repeatedly interferes with or denies the BAU's profile. In the end when they profile that the three UNSUBS will choose suicide by cop and the locals seem to like that outcome Hotchner and the team walk away and allow the UNSUBs to be gunned down. Morgan objects to Rossi before the team walks but Rossi points out that the situation is unavoidable and the outcome will be the same regardless of what the BAU agents do.
At the end of 5X05 (Cradle to Grave)
Hotchner stands down as the BAU leader, he stays with the BAU and moves Morgan in to replace him as Unit Chief. Morgan is extremely resistant, Hotchner argues that Strauss has it in for him anyway and if Morgan steps up they can keep the team intact. It is later revealed that Hotchner deliberately stepped down in order to convince the Reaper that he was breaking down under the strain of the Reaper's threats just like the breakdown of the Boston detective the Reaper had originally made his deal with.
The fact that this decision was deliberate throws some of Hotchner's previous actions into question such as his behavior in Hopeless - if the situation were unavoidable then choosing to walk away may have been another decision calculated to maintain the appearance of his breakdown in the face of the Reaper's machinations, his behavior in Haunted is somewhat less cut and dried; while none of his actions were truly sabotage they were out of character and to a point counter productive.
In 5X08 (Outfoxed)
the Reaper makes contact again via a serial family annihilator known as the Fox who is in prison thanks to the BAU.5X09 (100)
unfolds via interviews with each member of the BAU conducted by section chief Erin Strauss, initially it appears that Strauss intends to finally remove Hotchner from his position to suit her political agenda. As the interviews unfold it is revealed that the team was closing in on the Reaper primarily by searching for a combination of medications that he is dependent upon (While it is established that the Reaper's self-inflicted injuries necessitate these medications it is not stated as to whether or not Hotchner also requires them after being similarly stabbed by the Reaper).
While the Reaper escapes Garcia manages to hack his laptop and discovers that he has been following the Marshall assigned to protect Haley and Jack. They race to intercept the Reaper but arrive to find the Marshall clinging to life and the Reaper gone. Hotchner separates from the team to ride with the Marshal to the hospital to find out more information. The Marshall manages to tell Hotchner that the Reaper stole his phone and contacted Haley. Garcia tracks the phone to a handful of cell towers revealing the Reaper is still somewhere local.
Hotchner calls the Reaper and, in an attempt to stall the Reaper, reveals what he knows about the Reaper's childhood and past, then flatters the Reaper in a futile attempt to convince him to back down and leave Haley and Jack alone. The Reaper hangs up on Hotchner and meets Haley and Jack at the home they used to share with Hotchner. Hotchner races to the home while the team scramble a tactical team and attempt to get there themselves. The Reaper calls Hotchner and puts Haley on the line. Haley immediately realizes that the 'Marshall' is the Reaper. Hotchner tells Haley to be strong and not show fear and insists she tell Jack to 'work the case'. Haley puts Jack on the phone with Hotchner, then she says goodbye to Jack. Unaware of the full extent of the danger Jack happily runs off to 'work the case'. The team is now listening in on the call. Hotchner has a tearful moment with Haley as they say their goodbyes and the Reaper shoots Haley. Hotchner keeps driving hoping to save his son. Once at the house Hotchner manages to save Jack and kill the Reaper.
Strauss finishes her interview with Hotchner. She loses her composure while attempting to tell Hotchner that Haley died quickly. She asks Hotchner what he thought would have happened if Hotchner had not killed the Reaper, Hotchner immediately and confidently replies that the Reaper would have tried to kill Jack. Strauss dismisses the inquiry. She seems to have changed her mind about removing Hotchner for political purposes.
In 5X10 (Slave of Duty)
Hotchner buries Haley, the BAU team act as pallbearers, during the eulogy Hotchner's composure breaks as he speaks of Haley's love for family. Hotchner is offered early retirement by Strauss, she argues that it is a way for him to stay with Jack full time. It seems to be a genuine offer and not just another attempt to remove him from his position. Haley's sister Jessica is staying with Hotchner and Jack, Hotchner tells her about the offer. She points out that his job is important and offers to stay with Jack when Hotchner is away. Hotchner is sitting at Haley's grave when Rossi approaches, Rossi asks Hotchner if he has told Haley that he's coming back yet. Hotchner replies that she already knows.
In 5X11 (Retaliation)
Hotchner is back on duty and seems to be coping well. He takes a moment to tell Morgan that he exceeded all expectations and he is grateful to Morgan for his performance. Morgan appreciates the gratitude and then tells Hotchner that the reason Hotchner came back is because he's his son's hero and catching bad guys is his job. Morgan offers to help Hotchner with his paperwork to insure Hotchner gets more time at home with Jack. Morgan says that he knows what it's like to be raised by a single parent and every minute counts.
In 6X02 (JJ)
Strauss comes down hard on both Hotchner and J.J. Apparently J.J. has been contacted twice by the Pentagon to serve as a media liaison. Twice she has turned them down as she is utterly loyal to the BAU and has no intention of leaving. Strauss points out that she would have more time at home with Henry. (It is not clearly stated that she is married to William at this point but the two are seen together with Henry early in 5X09. Interestingly this promotion simultaneously affirms and denies Strauss's previous prediction about the fate of the BAU team, as J.J. *is* being promoted but outside of the FBI). Strauss then says that the issue is above her pay grade and the executive branch (I.E. the President or his staff) want J.J. at the pentagon.
The team successfully completes an assignment in Florida resulting in the capture of an UNSUB and the successful return of his to-date only victim.
Upon their return Hotchner enters the briefing room where J.J. is collecting files. Without facing him she asks when she will be leaving. He tells her the end of the week, she demands more time citing the need to train a replacement. Hotchner tells her he is not hiring a replacement and as she protests that he can't take on more responsibilities he explains that he hopes to get her back. He states that he was hoping he could do something about the situation and apologizes that he was unable to. She asks him how she is supposed to tell the team goodbye when she doesn't want to go. Hotchner replies 'the brass is really really good at taking power away, it makes them feel like they're in charge.' He tells her he will miss her, shakes her hand and leaves.
At this point we see the rest of the team in the bullpen below the briefing room and Hotchner's office, staring up at J.J.. She fills out her exit interview and says goodbye to most of the team, Reid is especially hard hit. She pauses to say goodbye to Garcia on her way out and as J.J. walks away Garcia bursts into tears. The episode closes with a montage of scenes with J.J. and a voice over about her time with the BAU.6X03 (Remembrance of Things Past)
The team is investigating an UNSUB that bares striking similarities to a case Rossi investigated years before. Hotchner insists on presenting a fresh profile developed by the team that indicates the assumed sole UNSUB is in fact a team copy catting the original killer. It is finally revealed that both Rossi and Hotchner were correct, the original UNSUB was suffering from Alzheimer's and had enlisted the assistance of his emotionally damaged son in his latest killings (it is also strongly indicated that the son inadvertently assisted in the murder of his mother when he was ten).6X04 (Compromising Positions)
The team is investigating the strange killings of married couples in Ohio. With J.J.'s departure the team has been working without a media liaison. Garcia attempts to fill the role with Hotchner's help. She makes a good case and is allowed to fill J.J.'s role as a trial. The attempt melts down as Garcia is swamped with both narrowing information on the UNSUB and having to do JJ's difficult job. Hotchner steps in to lighten her burden and Morgan convinces Garcia to be herself and do what she does so well. It is implied that Garcia will take over some of J.J.'s duties but Hotchner will handle the press etc until a more permanent solution is arrived at.6X05 (Safe Haven)
Hotchner has a brief conversation with Morgan about the choices parents make after the child of an officer killed during a previous case shows up at the BAU.6X06 (Devil's Night)
Hotchner confronts and talks down an UNSUB that has been burning people alive out of a deluded sense of vengeance.6X10 (What Happens at Home)
Rossi and Hotchner bring in an FBI cadet to assist on a case where the profilers are having difficulty narrowing down suspects due to the homogeneous nature of the suspect pool. The cadet, Ashley Seaver nee Beauchamp, is revealed to be the daughter of a serial killer responsible for at least 25 murders (Charles Beauchamp the Redmond Ripper). Hotchner and Rossi believe she will have specific insight that can help them narrow down the suspects.
Seaver inadvertently ends up under the control of the UNSUB after coming to his home to apologize for the loss of his wife, she feels compelled to do so since she never had the chance to apologize to the families of her father's victims. Once inside the home she realizes the grieving father/husband is, in fact, the UNSUB. Because she is a cadet / agent-trainee she is unarmed, Seaver keeps her cool when Hotchner calls her cell and manages to tip him off to where she is and that the UNSUB is present. She talks to the UNSUB, stalling him until the team arrives and Hotchner is forced to gun him down. Seaver is severely reprimanded by both Hotchner and Rossi, when she apologizes and says she won't do it again Hotchner responds with, 'No you won't' strongly implying she will not be presented with another opportunity to do so.
Seaver is available due to recovering from a concussion received during hand to hand training, Reid reveals that he was remediated for most of the combative/law enforcement portions of his training as well, although more due to his own incompetence and value in other ways than due to injury. It is unclear how a cadet remediated from training due to a head injury is allowed to enter the field.6X11 (25 to Life)
Hotchner is absent, the episode opens with Rossi speaking with Hotchner over the phone. Strauss and Rossi discuss Hotchner and it is revealed that it has been a year since Haley's death. Rossi mentions that Hotch is having some trouble with Jack and comments that Hotch sounds tired. Prentiss brings Seaver back in promising to supervise her. Rossi reluctantly agrees, Seaver manages to perform well and continues to work with the team through the close of the season.6X16 (Coda)
The episode opening shows Hotchner and Jack's morning as they both get ready for their days. Later when Morgan is confused by a young witness's drawing Hotchner identifies it as a dog. When Morgan questions how he knows what it is Hotchner replies, 'I don't know, maybe a Dad knows' then correctly identifies one of the boy's favored items. At the close of the episode Hotch is shown entering a sleeping Jack's room and kissing his son's head while most of the rest of the team are shown enjoying themselves either together or singly. Garcia and Morgan share popcorn and a movie, Seaver and Rossi play a video game, and Reid purchases a keyboard having tried out a piano earlier in the episode.6X17 (Valhalla)
The team is deployed to hunt someone slaughtering families and disguising the crimes as murder suicides followed by arson, Hotchner realizes that the victims are associated with a highly classified private contractor, the company admits that the targeted persons were associated with cases protected by multinational security agreements. Hotchner applies enough pressure coupled with the team's incomplete profile to pry minimal information from the contractors regarding an operation targeting an ex-IRA arms dealer, Ian Doyle.
Meanwhile Prentiss has been dodging and hunting Doyle as she and her former Interpol team have been targeted by Doyle for vengeance. As Hotchner is briefing the BAU, additional agents, and local police officers about Doyle and the situation regarding his most recent crimes Prentiss slips away.6X18 (Lauren)
The team almost immediately realizes that Prentiss was part of the team that captured Doyle. They discover her credentials and weapon left behind in her desk. Rossi declares that she slipped away to protect the team from Doyle as she is not close to her parents and has no children or spouse for Doyle to target. They realize they're facing an uphill battle as Prentiss is a trained spy trying to avoid them. Hotchner announces that he has brought in a specialist from the State Department who is familiar with Prentiss' past, revealing J.J. has temporarily returned to assist them.
The team diligently pursue Doyle and Prentiss, realizing that Doyle is hunting Prentiss because she was his lover and betrayed him but also because he believes she orchestrated the murder of his secret son. As Prentiss and Doyle battle Prentiss reveals that she faked the boy's death to keep him from Doyle. Doyle manages to stab her in the gut with a broken length of wood. The team arrives to find her mortally wounded and Doyle gone, Morgan tells Prentiss that he loves her and is proud of her because he knows what she did and she's his team mate (he had previously condemned her decision to sleep with Doyle but comes around to her side after realizing she saved Doyle's son Declan).
At the hospital J.J. tearfully informs the team that Emily never made it off the operating table. The team act as pallbearers and lay flowers on Prentiss' coffin at her funeral. The episode closes with J.J. meeting Prentiss - she has shorter hair and sports damaged fingers from Doyle's torture but her voice is the same - at a cafe in Paris. J.J. gives her a packet containing IDs and money to assist in her flight from or hunt for Doyle.6X19 (With Friends Like These)
Still reeling form the death of Prentiss the team pick up the pieces and continue their work. Hotchner and Rossi discuss the state of the team and Strauss' apparent disinterest or incompetence in that she seems to think the newly graduated Seaver can fill both Prentiss and J.J.'s roles.6X20 (Hanley Waters)
Hotchner assesses his team's reactions and coping skills regarding the death of Prentiss.
Hotch actually smiles slightly as Garcia complains about having to do the assessment, she then insists on talking about how Prentiss made her smile rather than how she died.
Morgan admits that he's angry, he says that sometimes he wants to quit his job and spend his time hunting Doyle. He complains that he feels guilty and if he'd been sixty seconds faster he might have saved Prentiss. Then he turns his anger once again toward Doyle. He asks Hotch what he's supposed to do asks Hotchner who he is talking to and where he is. Hotch deflects saying he is in the same place as Morgan, wishing Prentiss were there.
Reid mentions the last time he was on a couch talking about his feelings was after his father left, he complains that it is unfair that Prentiss is gone and states, 'if we can't keep each other safe then why are we even doing this?' he then says he sometimes thinks Gideon was right.
Rossi and Hotchner meet after hours, Rossi half teases Hotch about his decision to conduct the interview himself rather than allow Strauss to hurt the team with her officious efforts. Rossi confesses he's always had difficulty letting people in but admits that he is more married to the BAU team than he was to his three ex-wives. Hotchner says that it has been a hard year but they'll get through it, the interview closes with Rossi offering a toast to Emily and Haley.
Most of the team challenge Hotch as to who will be assessing him particularly Rossi and Morgan.
During pursuit of the episode's UNSUB Hotchner makes a TV appearance and directly appeals to the UNSUB - a bereaved woman suffering from a psychotic break on the anniversary of her young son's death. He later speaks with her directly after she takes her ex-husband and a restaurant full of children and families hostage. He manages to talk her down and take her into custody without further loss of life. Hotchner speaks about how the people that failed to save the UNSUB's son will remember that day as the day they failed, the day they weren't fast enough, as he speaks we see the team outside the restaurant waiting, clearly a reference to Prentiss's death and their reaction to it.6X21 The Stranger
Strauss grills Hotch over the team's assessments and tells him there will be a field review of the team. Hotchner manages to deflect her most insistent efforts for the time being. Later Strauss orders Hotch to undergo a review like his team.
As the episode closes Strauss tells Hotchner that she may be unavailable for a few months. Hotchner asks if she'd like to talk about it, she shoots back with a challenge saying, 'so you can assess me?' when Hotchner doesn't reply she says, 'I don't do that either' implying that Hotch will not need to undergo an assessment as he will be assisting Strauss during her time of need.
Strauss' semi-departure leaves Hotch handling the public portion of J.J's duties, his own duties (though with Morgan and Rossi's help) and the team still down two full Agents as Seaver is fresh out of the academy and still a probationary agent as well as potentially taking on portions of Strauss' duties.
Fan speculation suggests that Strauss has breast cancer or a similar ailment and is taking time off to receive treatment and recover. It is also possible that her missteps with Hotchner et al or her public performance issues (rare though they were) have resulted in action above her pay scale.6X22 Out of the Light
Rossi and Hotchner discuss Jack's soccer team, Hotchner has been asked by the other parents to take over coaching. Rossi cracks that Hotch doesn't exactly have the time. Apparently the other parents are more interested in their phones than the children's skill or abilities hence their request for Hotchner to coach. At the close of the episode Rossi presents Hotchner with some soccer formation schematics, Hotchner laughs and suggests Rossi become his assistant coach. Rossi agrees and the final scene shows Jack shooting a goal while Rossi and Hotchner laugh and cheer him from the sidelines.6X23 Big Sea
The team deploys to Jacksonville after a dredging barge doing beach repairs unearths a skeleton, by the time the team arrives nine sets of remains have been found with three more discovered shortly after their arrival. One of the sets of remains roughly matches that of Morgan's missing cousin Cindy (Cindy went missing years previously after fleeing a stalker, the stalker committed suicide two weeks after her disappearance). When the case goes public Morgan's aunt contacts him desperate to know if her daughter has been found at last. After the UNSUB is captured, although it is clear he is lying when he claims Cindy among his victims, Morgan tells his aunt that the man picked out Cindy's picture to give the distraught woman some kind of peace. Rossi witnesses the exchange and nods understandingly at Morgan.
This development is somewhat out of the blue especially considering the previous case in 3X18 The Crossing wherein J.J. strongly advocates that the team take on a case where a woman is being stalked and the stalker is escalating. The team is somewhat resistant and baffled by J.J.'s insistence. It is implied that Morgan's cousin went missing sometime in the early 2000s, logically Morgan would likely have sided with J.J. and the team would not have been as resistant to J.J.'s desires during that case if Morgan's cousin's situation were well known among them.
It is possible that Morgan, being hugely private and slow to trust, hadn't shared that aspect of his past with the team.Considering the implied period of her disappearance it could be that Cindy went missing before Morgan was an active member of the BAU and the situation is one he was not comfortable sharing. Only Rossi and Hotchner seem fully aware of the situation. It is also possible the situation was a late addendum by the writing staff hence the slight inconsistencies with past episodes.6X24 Supply and Demand
The team is called in very early for a meeting with Hotchner. Hotch explains that the Bureau is facing major changes and it is possible that the team will be offered other opportunities and the BAU may be restructured. He requests that the team members carefully consider the opportunities but let him know if they've been contacted by any other divisions. The meeting is interrupted and the team deploys to investigate a human trafficking ring after one of the participants is in a fatal car accident with the corpses of two victims of the traffickers in the car.
Reid teases Morgan after Morgan is worked over by a massive member of the trafficking ring. Hotchner then sends the team home, Garcia comments on how unusual it is for Hotchner to leave before the rest of the team. She watches him leave. Meanwhile Rossi returns to his office and meets a woman sitting in the dark waiting for him. He is unsurprised to see her and mentions that its two am we then see that the woman is J.J. It is revealed that Rossi has spoken to her at some point and unable to sleep because of his unknown offer she has come to the BAU to accept it and return to the team.