Emily Prentiss

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Emily Prentiss
Criminal Minds character
First appearance "The Last Word"
2x09, November 15, 2006
Created by Edward Allen Bernero
Portrayed by Paget Brewster
Aliases Lauren Reynolds
Occupation Chief of the London Interpol Office (Former)
Title FBI BAU Supervisory Special Agent
FBI BAU Unit Chief
Family Unnamed father
Elizabeth Prentiss
Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13

Emily Prentiss is a fictional character on the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, portrayed by Paget Brewster. Prentiss first appeared in "The Last Word" (episode nine of season two), replacing Agent Elle Greenaway, who had quit in "The Boogeyman". Her role in the show's sixth season was reduced,[1] for what Brewster believed to be financial reasons.[2] However, reports on May 28, 2011 at Deadline confirmed that Brewster would be returning to her role for the show's seventh season.[3]

On February 15, 2012, Brewster revealed in a statement that the seventh season would be her final season on the show.[citation needed] Brewster's final episode as a main cast member on the show was on the May 16, 2012 episode "Run". Brewster reprised the role again in 2014 for the 200th episode.

On February 10, 2016, it was announced that Brewster would be returning as Prentiss for one episode during the spring of Season 11.[citation needed] On March 30, 2016, she returned following the departure of Shemar Moore for the episode "Tribute".

On July 21, 2016 at San Diego Comic-Con International, it was announced that Brewster will be returning in season 12 in a recurring role.[4] On August 30, 2016, it was confirmed that Brewster would once again be a series regular for the 12th season.[5] She was re-hired soon after Thomas Gibson had been dismissed from the show.


Prentiss was born to her unnamed father and Elizabeth, a US Ambassador.[6] Due to her mother's job postings, Prentiss spent her childhood in numerous places, including Ukraine, France, Italy, and various countries in the Middle East. Her father has never been referred to in any way.

She graduated from Yale before joining the FBI, and had worked for ten years before coming to the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU). Prentiss is extremely well travelled due to her upbringing as an ambassador's daughter and her previous assignments while at Interpol. She is fluent in Arabic,[7] Spanish, French,[8] Italian,[9] Russian, and Greek.[10]

Prentiss first appeared in the season two episode "The Last Word". Her appearance surprised both SSA Aaron Hotchner and Jason Gideon, as neither supervisor had signed off on the transfer. Hotchner was immediately suspicious of the new agent, but Prentiss, insisting that her mother had not pulled any strings for her to get the assignment, convinced him to let her join the team on a probationary basis, and eventually proved her competence and gained the team's trust.

Prentiss confided to David Rossi that during her mother's diplomatic posting in Italy, she got pregnant at 15 and had an abortion. Though Prentiss does not explicitly state whether she struggled with her decision afterwards, she expressed a lot of grief and sorrow when recounting the past events. She also states that the friend who accompanied her to the clinic "saved [her] life".[9]

Relationships with colleagues[edit]

Paget Brewster (third from the right) filming in 2010

Initially upon joining the BAU, Prentiss feels like an outsider and often worries that people doubt her ability as a profiler. Over time, Prentiss proves herself through her sharp profiling skills, competence, and dedication to the work, gradually earning the trust and respect of her fellow BAU team members.

Prentiss has a good relationship with her supervisor Aaron Hotchner and establishes herself as one of the most reliable and capable agents on the BAU. Hotchner had previously worked as the Head of Security for Prentiss's Ambassador mother, Elizabeth Prentiss, but did not cross paths with Prentiss, because she was off to Yale. When she joins the BAU, they get off to a rocky start, but after a confrontation in his office about her feelings and opinions regarding politics and after she resigns instead of secretly feeding reports to Section Chief Erin Strauss, Hotchner begins to understand Prentiss and trust her more. Before leaving to be with the BAU on a case despite his suspension from the field, Hotchner stops by Prentiss's apartment to convince her to get on the plane with him to help their team catch the UNSUB.

In "52 Pickup", Hotchner is seen asking Prentiss for advice on how to deal with JJ's temporary substitute, Agent Jordan Todd, and acts on her suggestions, even giving Agent Todd another chance to prove herself.

For the most part, Prentiss has also developed friendly relationships with the other members of the BAU team.

Prentiss immediately bonds with Agent Derek Morgan due to their mutual love of Kurt Vonnegut books and they develop a close relationship. Their strong bond is most evident in the episodes leading up to and after Prentiss's death. Morgan is able to detect that Prentiss is worried about something and tries to get her to tell him what is bothering her. He also feels betrayed when Prentiss does not reveal the extent of her involvement with Doyle and the case and assumes she does not trust him enough. Rossi later tries to reason with him that Prentiss is merely trying to protect the BAU team. Morgan is also with Prentiss, holding her, when she is dying after being seriously injured by Doyle, and tells her that he understands what she did, and that she is brave, and he is proud of her. When he believes she has died, Morgan takes her death quite hard and expresses anger toward Doyle. When Emily returns to the BAU in season 7, Morgan shows concern for her safety and ability to protect herself in the field by making her sign up for re-certification.

Over time, she also forms a close relationship with Agent Jennifer "JJ" Jareau, especially when they are the only two female agents in the BAU in the field for several seasons. When Prentiss has to fake her death for the team's safety, JJ is the only one (aside from Hotchner) who knows the truth. JJ also flies to Paris and is involved in getting fake passports and setting up bank accounts for Prentiss to stay incognito. JJ expresses the most happiness when Prentiss came back from the dead and tells Prentiss how much she has missed her while she was gone. Prentiss later mentions to Hotchner that while she was away from the BAU and work, she played a lot of online Scrabble with someone with the online moniker "cheetobreath", implying it was JJ keeping her company. In the rare moments outside work, JJ and Prentiss have been seen having conversations about children and the men, or lack thereof, in Prentiss's life. Prentiss was also the first to congratulate JJ when she revealed she was pregnant with Henry.

After Spencer Reid returns to work following his abduction by serial killer Tobias Hankel, Prentiss experiences a falling out with the young agent due to his harsh behavior toward her (a function of the irritability resulting from Reid's use of narcotics to cope with his recent trauma). However, the agents eventually gain a mutual respect and even share light-hearted moments. Prentiss sometimes joins in with Morgan in good-natured teasing of Reid's genius. She also amazes Reid when she beats him at poker even though he is from Las Vegas and never loses. Another turning point in their relationship is when Prentiss and Reid are held captive by a cult group and Prentiss admits she is the FBI agent, causing her to suffer a beating from the cult leader. As a result, Reid feels guilty, but Prentiss reassures him everything is all right and that is not his fault. Prentiss is also the only one Reid tells about his recurring headaches. Reid is one of the most affected by Prentiss's death, sobbing on JJ's shoulder because he never got to say goodbye, and even thought about giving up since he felt the BAU had failed at protecting a member of their team. Later, when Prentiss comes back, Reid feels betrayed by Prentiss for not telling him the truth, but Prentiss confronts him and they eventually reconcile.

Prentiss is often seen hanging out with Jareau and Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia outside of work. Garcia looks up to Prentiss and never fails to vocalize her admiration, whether it is for Prentiss's fluency in Arabic, wit or the fact she took up salsa dancing classes. Garcia also notes that after four years with the team, Prentiss is a part of the “BAU family;” they hold a close friendship.

On the job[edit]

Prentiss is shown to be an extremely competent, level-headed agent. She is not as affected by the nightmares that come with the job and manages to keep her cool in hostile confrontations. She is also shown to put herself in the line of fire, for example, volunteering to enter into the unsub's house to rescue his young boy, and sacrifice herself for her teammates, as she did for Spencer Reid once in the season 4 episode, "Minimal Loss". She does not act rashly and there was only one rare occasion where she allowed her personal feelings interfere with investigations.[9] It has been mentioned by Morgan that she has problems trusting others, preferring to handle things independently instead of asking others to help, but it was revealed that this reluctance is due to her long background as an undercover agent.

Ian Doyle and "Death"[edit]

In the sixth season, Agent Prentiss is notified by her former superiors at Interpol that a man named Ian Doyle has escaped from prison in North Korea. Later, after returning home from work, Prentiss receives several hang-up calls on her home phone from an unknown caller. Upon her return home on a subsequent night, she finds an anonymous gift on her doorstep, containing a single purple flower. She experiences a flashback to a past undercover job in Italy, during which she was acting as his girlfriend and surveiling Doyle. Recognizing that the gift of the purple flower means Doyle knows where she lives, Prentiss flees. In "Coda", Prentiss enlists two former Interpol colleagues in hunting Doyle. Tsia Mosely, one of her Interpol colleagues, gets shot in the head by Doyle while visiting someone.[11] At the end of that episode, Prentiss sneaks out of a meeting in order to save her BAU colleagues from Doyle.

At the beginning of "Lauren", it is revealed that Prentiss had been a spy eight years previously, on a task force profiling terrorists; while undercover, she met Ian Doyle (an arms dealer) and became his lover. Her betrayal of Doyle led to his arrest and subsequent imprisonment, including time in a North Korean prison. Prentiss tracks down Doyle in Boston and tries to kill him, but he takes her hostage. Later, Rossi realized that she left their team meeting suddenly in order to protect them from Doyle as it was Prentiss that Doyle was after. Hotch says they will treat Doyle as an unsub and Prentiss as his victim, and profile them just as they would in any other case.

They eventually track them down to an abandoned building in Boston and arrive with a SWAT team. Prentiss reveals to Doyle that his son, whom Doyle believed had been killed, is actually alive, and that she staged photos of executing the boy in order to get Doyle to break under interrogation in North Korea. After an intense fight, Doyle manages to stab Prentiss in the abdomen with a broken table leg. Even though she is dying, she refuses to tell him where his son is hiding, and Doyle escapes shortly before Morgan reaches her. In the hospital, the BAU team is notified that Prentiss has died. They are seen attending her funeral. The last scene, however, reveals she is alive and in Paris, where JJ meets her and gives her an envelope with "passports from three different countries, and a bank account in each one to keep [her] comfortable".

Returning to the BAU[edit]

In the season seven premiere, Morgan captures Doyle and Emily returns to the BAU to assist the team in finding who kidnapped Doyle's son.[12] The team comes under fire from the judiciary panel for their retaliatory actions to avenge Prentiss's death, but everyone stands their ground to protect the team. Section Chief Erin Strauss later reveals to them that the committee was persuaded by Prentiss' defense and eventually decided to lift the BAU's suspensions although they will still be "keeping a close eye" on the members. Reid, who is still angry over her 'death' refuses to speak to her or JJ or even look them in the eye. At the end of "Proof", Prentiss talks it through with him and they make amends.[13] In the premiere it is also revealed that Garcia has been taking care of her cat, Sergio, and when she inquires about him, Garcia jokingly states that she wants visitation rights.

In the season seven finale, Prentiss receives an offer to run Interpol's London office. While still pondering her decision on the offer, Prentiss decides to leave the BAU. In the season eight premiere, Morgan and Garcia mention seeing her while they were in London and that Emily is doing fine.

Brewster returned for guest appearances in the season 9 episode, 200 in 2014 and the season 11 episode Tribute in early 2016 before returning as a regular cast member in the season 12 episode Taboo later in the year.[14]

She is now the Unit Chief of the BAU, following the departure of Aaron Hotchner.[15]


  1. ^ Ausiello, Michael (June 14, 2010). "Breaking: 'Criminal Minds' drops A.J. Cook". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Archived from the original on June 16, 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2010. 
  2. ^ Wightman, Catriona (June 17, 2010). "'Criminal Minds' stars slam AJ Cook axe". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 17, 2010. 
  3. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (May 2011). "Paget Brewster Returning To 'Criminal Minds' Next Season, Rachel Nichols Leaving". Deadline. Retrieved 2016-03-12. 
  4. ^ "Look Who's Back! Paget Brewster Returning to Criminal Minds". eonline.com. Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Ausiello, Michael; Ausiello, Michael (30 August 2016). "Criminal Minds: Paget Brewster Upped to Series Regular in Season 12 Following Thomas Gibson's Firing". tvline.com. Retrieved 31 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Cold Comfort", Season 4 Episode 14
  7. ^ "Lessons Learned", Season 2 Episode 10
  8. ^ "Lauren" Season 6 Episode 18
  9. ^ a b c "Demonology", Season 4 Episode 17
  10. ^ "Honor Among Thieves", Season 2 Episode 20
  11. ^ "Valhalla", Season 6 Episode 17
  12. ^ "It Takes a Village", Season 7 Episode 1
  13. ^ "Proof", Season 7 Episode 2
  14. ^ "Taboo", Season 11, Episode 3
  15. ^ "The Crimson King", Season 12, Episode 1

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