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The One Rossi Detail That Criminal Minds Fans Can't Stand

One of the elements that helped propel CBS' crime procedural "Criminal Minds" to its impressive 15-season run was the draw of its main characters. Certainly, some people tune in for the twisted unsubs, but the members of the series' Behavioral Analysis Unit were the strong foundation upon which the show built its widespread acclaim.

Some of the best episodes are those that reveal insights into the main characters as they developed criminal profiles and worked a case to its conclusion. In many ways, such episodes allowed viewers to create profiles of the BAU members, just as the BAU created profiles of its unsubs. Seeing the past traumas of both Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) and Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) helped viewers better understand their respective motivations. Unfortunately, as noted by Redditor "thatweirdoritethere," when viewers got a peek into a specific moment in David Rossi's (Joe Mantegna) history, their opinions on the character soured.

One aspect of Rossi's past left viewers upset

David Rossi joined the BAU in Season 3, after the abrupt departure of Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). The Italian-American from New York had a fairly smooth transition as he took over from Gideon as the unit's head agent. Unlike his predecessor, Rossi brought considerable warmth and camaraderie to the team. His investigation style also differed from Gideon's, who was significantly more rigid and less open to criticism and correction.

As episodes began to flesh out his character, viewers learned that Rossi earned a Purple Heart while serving in Vietnam, was divorced three times (though he later reconnects with his third wife), and has a lucrative "side job" as a true crime writer. Later in the series, both Rossi and viewers were surprised to learn that he has an adult daughter from his second marriage. Overall, there was little fault to find with Rossi. That is until Season 9, Episode 9, "Strange Fruit."

Rossi's revelation comes during a racially tense case

In "Strange Fruit," the BAU is dispatched to a Virginia home after two female skeletons are discovered in the yard. The homeowners, Charles and Tina Johnson (Glynn Turman and L. Scott Caldwell, respectively), and their son Lyle (Seth Gilliam), are brought in for questioning. The episode breaks from the show's typical format in that the investigation revolves mostly around the separate interrogations of Charles and his son, whose aggressive behavior sends up some red flags. While Hotch (Thomas Gibson) works Lyle, Rossi continues to press Charles.

As the interrogation of the Johnsons proceeds, forensic testing discovers that one set of remains belongs to Mary Ann Beck, whom Lyle previously dated and who has been considered missing for 10 years. Though the discovery seems to implicate Lyle, the unearthing of two more skeletons, buried for decades on the Johnsons' property, shifts the focus to Charles.

In the end, Charles, a Black man, is proven to be the killer of all four victims. The older two skeletons belonged to a pair of Klansmen who had beaten and castrated Charles when he was a teen. Decades later, Charles killed Mary Ann and the other girl because they were both daughters of other Klansmen who had participated in the 1970s' assault on Charles.

Rossi's horrific act has viewers divided

During Rossi's interrogation of Charles, the BAU agent claims that he understands Charles' anger over America's history of mistreating Black people because his best friend is Black, as was his second wife. As most should know, having Black friends or relatives is no substitute for actually living the Black experience in America. That said, it's Rossi's next revelation that really burned some bridges.

When Charles asks Rossi if he has ever shown bias or bigotry toward a Black person, Rossi recounts an event from ninth grade when he played for his school's baseball team. Also on the team was a small Black student, whom the rest of the team targeted for harassment. Rossi, who at the time was nearly as small as the Black teammate, was pressured by his team to push the kid into a locker and lock him in overnight. Rossi, fearing that he'd be their target if he didn't follow their direction, locked the boy in the locker, called him names and slurs, and urinated on him.

On Reddit, there are multiple threads discussing the episode, and specifically Rossi's revelation. For some commenters, Rossi's past racism is unforgivable. Others wished the show had delved deeper into that moment in Rossi's youth, perhaps to better frame the disturbing event. Another user wondered if perhaps Rossi exaggerated in his retelling of the incident in order to get under Charles' skin. However, many of the comments note that while Rossi certainly committed a horrific act as a teen, there's been nothing in the 50 years since that indicates he harbors any racist sentiments.