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Why Criminal Minds used Shemar Moore in the finale

‘It felt like now or never.’

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Warning: This story contains spoilers about Criminal Minds. Read at your own risk!

He was definitely a sight for sore eyes!

In Wednesday’s season finale of Criminal Minds, Shemar Moore – who left the CBS show during its 11th season – reprised his role as Derek “Chocolate Thunder” Morgan in the final moments of the episode. But his character rejoined his BAU colleagues as a civilian, not an FBI agent. Sadder still, Moore’s appearance was a one-off because he’s already lined up a new gig on a reboot of S.W.A.T. for CBS. Though CBS has yet to announce what it will pick up for the fall, the project from Shawn Ryan (The Shield), Justin Lin, and Neal Moritz is expected to get a series pickup before next week’s upfront presentation in New York.

“Shemar’s appearance was a sort of a dual purpose,” explains Executive Producer Erica Messer to EW. “Fans have been missing him, obviously. And we had such a big story line with Dr. Reid all year that would have been great to have him a part of. “

In fact, Messer admits how the final moments of the episode – when most of the team is involved in a devastating car accident that was instigated by Mr. Scratch – appears to open the possibility of a Morgan return to possibly save the day. But that wasn’t Messer’s intent; she knew all along that Moore’s time with the BAU was limited. “He got cast in this S.W.A.T. pilot, and we knew if it went to series – and all signs point to yes – we would never to get to use him again. So it felt like now or never.”

Ironically, Moore’s departure from the show – along with the high-profile firing of Thomas Gibson as Aaron Hotchner earlier this year – was what prompted Messer to end Wednesday’s episode with a rare cliffhanger. Was Mr. Scratch driving that truck that crashed into the cars? Does anyone die? Will Baby Girl Garcia be the only survivor?

“We haven’t done a cliffhanger in so long,” admits Messer. “We had so many curve balls in season 12, this seemed very fitting because it’s something you don’t see coming.”

Though Messer won’t return to the writers’ room with her staff until early June, she expects the action will resume in season 13 shortly after the accident. And get ready to see and hear lots more from Mr. Scratch. After all, they have to prepare for one helluva milestone!

“We kept open the possibility of catching him by the end of the year, but we got a season 13 pickup that would take us to 299 episodes,” Messer said. “He would be a great enemy to have in the 300th episodes, so I’m more inclined to keep him alive throughout season 13.”

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