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What You Never Noticed About Rossi's First Scene In Criminal Minds

It's always hard to let go of someone who's moved on, so the third season of Criminal Minds gave fans a few episodes to mourn the loss of Jason Gideon — after Mandy Patinkin abruptly left the show — before resoundingly declaring that he was not coming back. Only, the announcement was in the form of a metaphor when his successor first came on the scene — a metaphor that probably went unnoticed by most people.

David Rossi (Joe Mantegna), now a mainstay of the series, comes to the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit as a replacement for Gideon, the team's senior profiler. The cast change sparked a long debate among fans about which founding BAU agent is better, but from his very first scene, Rossi aims to put those comparisons to rest. In his debut episode, "About Face," he's seen hunting ducks in Virginia with his dog. He shoots one of the birds before taking a call from Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson) and heading to Quantico to rejoin the BAU. It's a simple introduction that, at first glance, shows how he's been enjoying retirement, but when connected back to Gideon, takes on new meaning.

On Criminal Minds, Gideon was an avid bird watcher

While Gideon is only around for two full seasons, the character was well known as an avid bird watcher by the time of his departure. So as Rossi shoots the duck, it should be clear that the series is moving on from the once-pivotal character of Gideon, who hated hunting and loved birds. There was likely some uncertainty surrounding Patinkin's exit, for both fans and the creators, but Mantegna came in guns blazing to unequivocally prove that the show could live on without him. 

Interestingly, as different as the Rossi and Gideon characters are, they're both partially based on a real founding member of the FBI's behavioral unit. In fact, a much later episode explores their history together while simultaneously showing where Gideon's interest in birds began. When the BAU investigates Gideon's murder in the season 10 episode, "Nelson's Sparrow," the team deduces that he used his final moments to shoot a painting of a bird on his wall. This becomes the biggest clue to the identity of his killer, as it's a callback to one of Rossi and Gideon's early, unsolved cases; that particular assignment involved a murderer who left small, brown birds in the hands of his victims. Through flashbacks of them working on the case, Gideon shows a blossoming interest in birds, which have interesting patterns of behavior but are nowhere near as dangerous as serial killers. While Gideon would never have hunted living birds, like Rossi does, his shot at the painting becomes the key to catching his murderer and bringing his story to a close once more.