Time does not in fact heal all wounds, Aaron Hotchner will discover tonight on Criminal Minds (CBS, 9/8c).
As the hour opens, Hotch is “working long hours, like he always does, and presenting a case when he collapses” in front of his colleagues, Thomas Gibson tells TVLine. The cause: Internal bleeding from the scar tissue of the stabbings he suffered years ago at the hand of The Reaper aka George Foyet.
During surgery, Hotch experiences vivid visions of two important people from his past: his wife Haley (played again by Meredith Monroe), who was a Reaper victims, and Foyet himself (C. Thomas Howell). Here, Gibson previews the introspective storyline and the sobering lesson Hotch still has to learn.
TVLINE | What was your reaction when you heard the show would again revisit this painful, formative part of Hotch’s past?
I thought it was great because, yes, it’s a painful, formative time, but it’s also something that you as an actor would like to deal with again. When [showrunner] Erica [Messer] said, “Hey, we want to revisit Hotch and Haley,” I said, “How do we do it?” And [writer/co-exec producer] Virgil [Williams] pitched this story that was really fantastic. We really had a good time, within the structure of that dream, to kind of go through it all again, in a concentrated way but no less of a horrifying way.
TVLINE | What role do the two visions play? What is their message for Hotch?
In terms of dream function, I would say that Foyet might be the superego, while Haley basically says to him, “Hey, you haven’t dealt with this. And I know that you’re trying, but you really do need to move on.” He tells her how hard it is — and then Foyet walks into the middle of it and shoots her all over again! And they’re kind of laughing about it. It’s insane, but kind of great. Basically the whole thing is, “Get your ass in gear and try to move on with your life,” which is a cool and creative way of taking stock with a character that doesn’t give away very much.
TVLINE | But did you ever consciously play that, that Hotch wasn’t ever quite moving on, even in the occasional relationship scenes with Beth (Bellamy Young)?
I think that he is not in touch with his subconscious – as none of us are, fully. I think that he struggles with it, as [his son] Jack struggles with it. They try to talk about it, but I know that Hotch feels responsible for Haley’s death still. I think he thinks he has moved on, or he is trying to, but it’s very difficult for a whole lot of reasons, some of which bubble up to the surface this week.
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TVLINE | What was it like doing scenes again with Meredith Monroe? Are there waves of nostalgia, the sense of, “We were just ‘kids’ when we first worked together”?
[Laughs] We were! [Criminal Minds‘ longevity] is something we talk about on a frequent basis on the show. I mean, who knew? A new show always has issues and we had our share…. Matthew [Gray Gubler] and I talk about how we thought we were going to be six [episodes] and done. There were enough challenges – [abruptly exited cast member] Mandy [Patinkin] was a challenge and all that — so it was difficult. But with Ed Bernero as our [original] showrunner and a great writing staff, we found an audience. Meredith and I, yeah, we’re old friends, so we fell right back into it. And Tommy [Howell] is just fantastic, as sweet of a villain as you could ever find.
TVLINE | Looking beyond this week’s storyline: Does Hotch have any take on the new unit chief, Mateo Cruz?
Everybody’s a little leery at first about who this new guy is — Rossi is sort of like, “We’ll circle the wagons and let him pass through us” — but he turns out to be more engaged than we initially gave him credit for, and he turns out to be a good agent. I’ve known Esai [Morales] since we were 19 or 20, when we first met in New York, and he’s just one of the great guys in the business. And he’s just as much of a goofball as everybody else on our show!
TVLINE | JJ is playing her cards close to vest thus far. Is her unsaid connection to Cruz anything the team members will pick up on?
As far as Hotch is concerned, there’s too much work to do to worry about anything like that. The only time he would entertain any thoughts of it would be if it kept either one from performing their job. He’s pragmatic that way.
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TVLINE | Erica Messer told me there’ll be an episode that flashes back to when Garcia and Hotch first met….
Yes. It’s a little bit father down the road. It should be fun because they’ve got an interesting relationship — I think he really, really likes her and thinks she’s obviously very good at her job, but she’s such a good person as well. It’ll be cool to see where the roots of all of that are.
TVLINE | When I reported on that episode, our readers got excited to see that hole filled in.
Oh, yeah. Some of them wonder, and then you want to see how your perception of things differs from what really happened. Garcia was a hacker, a hacker turned good, so we’ll deal with all that as well.
TVLINE | What else are you excited for this season? You’re directing again, I know.
I’m directing in a couple of episodes, and it’s a great, kind of terrible story about an abduction that [technical adviser] Jim Clemente actually worked on himself during his last year with the BAU. It’s a really interesting story, a pure profiling story, where it was behavior that told them who was responsible. And there are a couple of other things we’re going to deal with that are ripped from not the headlines, but what’s not making headlines but should be. We’re shooting that right after Christmas.