Criminal Minds has become a staple of American television over the years, and one of the most successful crime series ever. Its original cast was composed of Mandy Patinkin as Jason Gideon, the best profiler in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner, the Unit Chief of the BAU, Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, Matthew Gray Gubler as the genius Dr. Spencer Reid, A. J. Cook as JJ, and Kirsten Vangsness as the computer wizard Penelope Garcia.
The lineup changed unexpectedly after season 2, however – when Patinkin exited the show. As the protagonist, the Tony-award-winning actor’s absence left a big gap on Criminal Minds as the writers scrambled to find a plausible in-story explanation.
Was Mandy Patinkin fired from Criminal Minds or did he quit?
Everything points toward the decision to leave coming from Mandy Patinkin himself. It’s reported that the actor quit Criminal Minds because of “creative differences,” which he would later expound on. At the time, in 2007, a statement by CBS and ABC said Patinkin asked to be “released from his role,” and that the move had nothing to do with “contract renegotiations or salary issues.”
Later on, in 2012, Patinkin spoke to New York Magazine about the events, saying that doing the show was “the biggest public mistake” of his career. He explained that when he signed on to play Jason Gideon, he didn’t expect Criminal Minds to feature as much violence as it did.
“I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year.”
Patinkin called the experience “destructive to [his] soul and [his] personality,” and confessed to fearing his quitting would damage his television career permanently. That didn’t happen, as the actor went on to make other shows like Homeland and The Good Fight.
How did the Criminal Minds writers explain Gideon’s sudden exit?
Fittingly, the reasons for Gideon’s exit mirrored Patinkin’s own predicament to an extent. From the onset, Gideon was written as a dedicated FBI agent who took his job incredibly seriously. At the start of the first season, he comes back from medical leave after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder from a mission gone wrong – he felt responsible for sending six men into a warehouse containing a bomb that would go on to kill them all.
Throughout Gideon’s run on the show, he dealt with similar experiences where he would blame himself for the terrible things that happened to his colleagues and the people in his life. In the end, the death of his new girlfriend Sarah at the hands of serial killer Frank Breitkopf proved to be too much for Gideon and pushed him out of the profession for good.
Mandy Patinkin returned to film a final scene for the 2nd episode of the 3rd season. Reid — who was like Gideon’s protégé — looks for him in his cabin but all he finds is a letter, a gun, and a badge. In the letter he explains he is leaving to search for a new meaning to his life, “the belief [he] had back in college, the belief [he] had when [he] first met Sarah and it all seemed so right. The belief in happy endings.”
In his final scene, Gideon is leaving a Nevada diner when the waitress asks where he’s headed to. He replies by saying “Nowhere in particular.” In the 13th episode of season 10 of Criminal Minds, Gideon is murdered off-screen by serial killer Donnie Mallick, whom he had investigated 30 years prior with his partner David Rossi (played by Joe Mantegna from season 3). The episode also features flashbacks to his time in the BAU in 1978, where the character is played by Ben Savage.