'Criminal Minds' season 12 spoilers: Showrunner maps out how Thomas Gibson will be written out of the series

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Despite having its season 12 premiere earlier this week, tension still surrounds “Criminal Minds.” Even though the upcoming installment will not have a spectacular narrative, it will be the last time Hotch (Thomas Gibson) will be seen in the show, at least thus far.

This year’s premiere still heavily involved Hotch leading the team and more specifically, briefing newcomer Luke Alvez (Adam Rodriguez) as an agent in training for the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). But in an unusual turn of events, the unit chief will be absent in the next couple of episodes leading up to his eventual exit from the show.

“He’s going to be struggling a little bit with things that are going on at home,” showrunner Erica Messer spilled to TV Guide as to how they mapped out the veteran BAU leader’s exit for good. “Ed Asner’s [character is] not doing too great and Jack’s [Cade Owen] definitely affected by that. Losing one more person in his life is a big deal, so he’ll definitely have to focus on that.”

Messer was referring to Hotch’s father-in-law, Roy (Asner) who is apparently suffering from Alzheimer’s and whose condition has taken a turn for the worst. Chalking it up to that predicament and son Jack’s struggle in coping with losing someone in the family again, Hotch is presumably going to be letting go of the mantle he has held for the last 11 seasons of “Criminal Minds.”

However, the upcoming episode will not focus on his permanent leave from the scene as Messer shared that Hotch would initially turn to a different assignment prior to his eventual decision to not return to the BAU. This paves the way for Emily Prentiss (Paget Brewster) to come back and ultimately stay with the team after her stint with Interpol.

Obviously, off camera, the situation is fairly different as it was not Gibson’s choice to vacate his post on the show. Following an on-set altercation with a writer for the police procedural, what was originally a two-episode suspension ended up with the actor being fired and many of the “Criminal Minds” fans dumbfounded. This development also effectively vacated the BAU unit’s head office with Hotch’s replacement yet to be publicly disclosed.

The upcoming episode titled “Sick Day” mainly puts JJ (A.J. Cook) in the limelight as she struggles to cope after taking a case involving two abducted kids.

“Criminal Minds” season 12 airs every Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET on CBS.