By Ken Tucker
Updated March 16, 2011 at 12:00 PM EDT

Paget Brewster’s Emily Prentiss exited Criminal Minds on Wednesday night, in an episode that made me feel sorry for Prentiss but kinda relieved for Brewster’s creative life.

The episode titled “Lauren” followed up on Prentiss’ relationship with Timothy V. Murphy’s Ian Doyle, the IRA member with whom she has had an undercover past. There were flashbacks, scenes of florid violence (when was the last time you saw someone other than a vampire impaled by a wooden stake?), and numerous close-ups of Kirsten Vangsness’ Garcia doing what the rest of the cast of Minds is mostly forbidden to do — that is, show emotion. The hour was efficiently directed by Matthew Gray Gubler, a.k.a. Spencer Reid. A.J. Cook, who had left Minds late last year, returned as JJ.

In her time on Minds, Brewster brought a sensible realism — a crisp, straightforward acting style — to the show, a tone that contrasted with much of the rest of this often pompous series. Brewster made sure that Prentiss avoided a lot of Minds‘ most excessive melodrama, and like a number of actors on this show, she was frequently better than the material she was given.

It’s been reported that Brewster has been cast in an NBC pilot, My Life as an Experiment, based on the exploits of Esquire editor and former Entertainment Weekly writer A.J. Jacobs. It’s a comedy, something at which Brewster excels, as she’s proven many times on series including Andy Richter Controls the Universe.

At the end of the episode, the Prentiss we had been led to believe had died was shown only from the rear, at an outdoor cafe in Paris. It looks as though Prentiss has lived to fight another day, although whether that means she’ll someday return to Criminal Minds remains to be seen.

What do you think of Prentiss’ departure?

Twitter: @kentucker