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How Criminal Minds' Paget Brewster Reacted To That Emily Prentiss Fake-Out Death

Continuity in crime procedurals is undoubtedly messy, and no one knows that better than Paget Brewster. With seasons upon seasons of content to keep straight, some discrepancies are likely to be made from time to time. But Paget Brewster's "Criminal Minds" character Emily Prentiss has ups and downs so severe it could cause whiplash. After being a mainstay in the series since Season 2, Brewster was fired from "Criminal Minds" and her character was killed off. Not only did this rile fans up into a frenzy, but it also put a pretty definitive end to Emily in the series. Or did it?

Brewster's final episode of Season 6 was Episode 18, "Lauren," where we see her past finally catch up with her. After forming a relationship with arms dealer Ian Doyle in the past (Timothy V. Murphy), he returns in the present because he blames her for his son's death. After learning that Emily only faked the child's death, she and Doyle get into a violent struggle. Doyle mortally wounds her with a table leg, leading most of the BAU team to believe that she has died. But though they hold a funeral for Emily, it isn't long before she resurfaces.

Emily's death was just vague enough to work

Being skewered by a rickety piece of wood is no way to go. The heartbreaking final scenes of the episode end with Derek (Shemar Moore) holding her hand and begging her to stay, making her situation seem dire. We think that she's died, but after her funeral, the coda of the episode implies otherwise. In a cafe in Paris, JJ (AJ Cook) gives someone with bitten-down fingernails a file. As the secret woman walks off into the distance, the monologue waxes poetically about how some big lies are easy to sell. And even though the viewers never see the woman's face, it's clear that Emily could come back.

As Paget explained to Assignment X, she told the show's team, "You're not showing my face. You fired me, so they've written that I died, I died — I'll shoot a scene, but I won't show my face." She continued: "I had to reach out and take a file, so now Emily's alive. Of course, now, thank God, I'm so happy that that happened, I'm glad I didn't die. I'm fortunate enough to have returned to a show with writers good enough to make that make sense." 

After all, no one actually seems to have seen Emily's death; in the scene with Derek, he is holding her and she continues to respond. But this additional and lasting image of Emily walking through Paris portends her compelling spy-esque arc later on, which Brewster could not have been happier with.

Internal conflict led Brewster back to full-time

Paget Brewster confirmed how elated she was that her character wasn't killed off. But that still left much more room for off-screen drama. The actor maintains that the reason she and AJ Cook were let go was because of prejudice at the network (via A.V. Club). Her role following Season 6 was only as a guest star. It was only in Season 12 that Brewster agreed to return in a full-time capacity.

"Having her back on set has been great," showrunner Erica Messer told Variety, "it's like she never left." CBS put on a good face, but Brewster was open about the exact circumstances that resulted in her return. At the time, a very public conflict occurred when Thomas Gibson, who played Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner, was fired for a physical altercation with a producer. Because of his absence, "Criminal Minds" needed something for the fans to hold onto.

"I came back and guest-starred twice, and [in 2016], they came to me and said, 'Will you guest-star again?' I said, 'Sure, I'll do six throughout the year.' And then the dust-up that happened with Mr. Gibson, and they said, 'Please stay, because losing him is going to hurt us,'" Brewster told Assignment X candidly. "And I understood that, and they're all my friends, and I'd already shot three episodes as a guest, and I was having a great time, so I said, 'All right.'"