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One Of The Most Unrealistic Criminal Minds Episodes, According To Fans

Although the revival of "Criminal Minds" on Paramount+ is imminent, the hit CBS crime procedural concluded its original run in February 2020, leaving fans with a temporary void that can only be filled by rewatching old episodes and speculating on the show's future. This year-and-a-half-long break has also been an opportunity to evaluate the successes and failures of the series over the course of its whopping 15 seasons and 323 episodes, and trust us when we say fans have jumped on this opportunity. (Would one be a fan if one wasn't simultaneously protective and critical of their beloved show? No, one would not.)

So when "Criminal Minds" fans took to Reddit to discuss how unrealistic Communications Liaison Jennifer "JJ" Jareau's (A.J. Cook) job at the Pentagon was, it was bound to be a hot topic. This one requires a bit of backstory, but don't worry — we've got you covered. Here's all you need to know for things to make sense.

JJ left Criminal Minds in Season 6 but returned the next season

Before we can get into the debate on JJ's Pentagon job, we have to understand how A.J. Cook's job acting in "Criminal Minds" influenced her character's story.

The Season 6 episode "JJ" opens with a behind-closed-blinds meeting between JJ, Unit Chief Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson), and Section Chief Erin Strauss (Jayne Atkinson), wherein Strauss tries to convince JJ to accept a job as the communications liaison for the Department of Defense — a promotion that she has turned down not once, but twice. Although she is firm in her decision, things seem up in the air for the entirety of the episode, until at the end, Hotch approaches JJ with an "Exit Interview" document and informs her that she leaves the BAU in one week. (When she protests, he tells her that the Pentagon wanted her to start the next day!) After completing her writeup, JJ meets with her team — who has been waiting after hours at the office to see what's going on with her — and tells them that it was "above [Hotch's] pay grade — Strauss', too."

It's an abrupt end to JJ's character arc — and one that can only make sense with behind-the-scenes knowledge of "Criminal Minds." In reality, Cook's departure was the result of her and Paget Brewster (who plays Agent Emily Prentiss) being fired at the start of Season 6 because, according to Brewster, CBS wanted "new women" on the show — a decision that Brewster said was part of a larger culture of sexism at the network. Ultimately, both actresses would return after fans got wind of this (with JJ returning in Season 7), and the show's writers decided to turn the fan-nominated worst character exit in "Criminal Minds" history into a juicy Season 9 storyline.

Revelations from Season 9 make JJ's career trajectory even more unlikely

When JJ and BAU Section Chief Mateo Cruz (Esai Morales) get abducted in the Season 9 episode "200," the BAU searches through JJ's old office, meets with the head of the U.S. State Department, and even hacks into the State Department's computer files in an attempt to identify their captor, Tivon Askari. In the process, they stumble upon a huge secret from JJ's past. Remember back in Season 6 when she left to work at the Pentagon? Yeah, that was a cover. She was actually working in Afghanistan for the State Department mission to find Osama bin Laden. Here's where things get unreasonable for some fans.

u/cgio52 kicked off the Reddit thread by saying that JJ's transfer was unrealistic: "She's the press liaison, [with] no real background in profiling, and somehow out of everyone on the team SHE'S the one the Pentagon wants and then sends her on a covert mission to Afghanistan? " they wrote. "I understand this being the case for someone like Morgan [Shemar Moore] or Hotch, but how realistic is it for JJ?" u/mccabeabe took a separate but related issue with her being poached by the Pentagon, noting, "They want a communications 'expert'... then send someone who knows the language. No need to put at least two people in the situation where one would have done." 

A communications liaison JJ might be — but an English-speaking communications liaison. To top it all off, u/mccabeabe added, "She's pregnant... There's no way she should have been in that dangerous location when it's more than her own life at stake." (Fun fact: JJ's kids in "Criminal Minds" were actually played by A.J. Cook's own children!)

Some Criminal Minds aren't bothered by JJ's work in Afghanistan

As with anything "Criminal Minds," fans were far from unanimous on the issue of JJ's work for the Afghanistan-based mission to find Osama bin Laden. u/IolaBoylen countered the majority opinion, writing in defense of the storyline, "I think [the Pentagon] poached her for her communication skills to work with the female hostages. I don't think she was there for profiling." The evidence to back this claim up comes from the flashbacks in "200" to JJ comforting an Afghan woman who is being held by U.S. troops, although it is important to remember that JJ returned to the BAU in Season 7 as a profiler, a fact that casts doubt on this reading of the episode.

A few objections aside, the majority of fans agreed that this JJ storyline was far from the best, full of unrealistic elements haphazardly assembled in an attempt to inject some nuance into her character arc — and cover up the producers' original mistake of firing her. u/CMStan1313 bluntly summed things up, remarking that it "was always such a dumb way to explain AJ Cook leaving."