Warning: Spoilers ahead from Wednesday’s premiere of Criminal Minds.
If you were wondering how Criminal Minds would address Thomas Gibson’s eventual exit, there certainly wasn’t any hint of it in the season 12 premiere.
CBS’ long-running crime procedural kicked off its new season on Wednesday, picking up right where the finale left off, with the Behavioral Unit Team (otherwise known as the BAU) aggressively searching for the remaining serial killers on the loose.
It was business as usual, with Gibson’s character, BAU Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner, leading the team like it was an ordinary day at the office and without any foreshadowing of what is to come.
Ironically, in one of the premiere’s final scenes, Hotchner welcomes Adam Rodriguez’s FBI Fugitive Task Force Agent Luke Alvez to the BAU team as a full-time member -- filling the void left by Shemar Moore, who departed the show last season.
Gibson was also included in the Criminal Minds opening credits, though the preview for next Wednesday’s episode -- his last on the show -- failed to offer any hints as to how Hotchner would be written off or whether or not he would be definitively killed off.
Gibson was fired from Criminal Minds in August after he allegedly kicked writer-producer Virgil Williams during an on-set altercation. The 54-year-old actor, who has been with the crime drama since its 2005 debut, claimed in a September interview that he actually “tapped” Williams on the leg as he was “coming towards” him.
"We were shooting a scene late one night when I went to Virgil and told him there was a line that I thought contradicted an earlier line," Gibson told People. "He said, 'Sorry, it's necessary, and I absolutely have to have it.'"
"As he brushed past me, my foot came up and tapped him on the leg," he continued. "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."
"I feel like it took years to make a good reputation and a minute to damage it," the former Dharma and Greg star added.
Gibson also expressed his unhappiness over how the show is handling his exit this season. ABC Studios and CBS Television Studios said in a joint statement announcing Gibson’s firing in August that “creative details for how the character’s exit will be addressed in the show” would come “at a later date.”
“It seems like they’re trying to erase me from the show. That hurts,” he said. “But I’m using this time to be with my kids, and I look forward to what’s next.”
Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.