|“||I don't make deals, I'm the guy who hunts guys like you.||”|
— Hotch in "Omnivore"
Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner is the former unit chief of Quantico's Behavioral Analysis Unit, the direct superior of all special agents, and the team's Media Liaison Officer since Jennifer Jareau's promotion to Supervisory Special Agent; the latter was a job that he shared with Penelope Garcia. He officially resigned from both positions in Season Twelve after being put into witness protection due to his son, Jack Hotchner being actively stalked by Peter Lewis, aka, Mr. Scratch.
At his suggestion, his position was taken over by his friend and former colleague Emily Prentiss. After the death of Scratch in Season Thirteen, they left witness protection but Hotch opted not to return to the BAU in order to be a full-time father.
Hotch was born on November 2, 1970. His mother was originally from Manassas, Virginia, and went to Mary Baldwin College. Hotch was a former profiler in the FBI's field office in Seattle, Washington, before transferring to Quantico. Before that, he was a prosecutor after earning his degree of Juris Doctor at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 1992. Hotch stated that his reason for joining the BAU was because he felt that, as a prosecutor, it was too late for him to do anything, but by joining the BAU, he has a chance to stop killers sooner. His struggles to maintain his family life have been an ongoing theme of the show. In the episode "Natural Born Killer", Vincent Perotta questions Hotch as to the meaning of "some people [from extremely abusive and violent households] grow up to become killers." Responding, Hotch says, "And some people grow up to catch them." This hints that Hotch might have been abused as a child, but the subject was never further elaborated on. In the episode "Ashes and Dust", Hotch's father was revealed to have died from lung cancer, though an earlier episode, "The Tribe", states that he died of a heart attack at the age of 47.
Hotch's personality has changed very little over the course of the show. He has always been extremely serious, determined, and focused on his leadership of the team, never seeming to waver or lose sight of the task ahead, barely allowing his dry wit and humor to appear. However, the events surrounding George Foyet's final appearance did cause him to become temporarily single-minded and obsessive to the point where he would appoint Morgan as Unit Chief for a short period of time. He was especially grim and didn't smile at all during this time.
Outside of work, especially while interacting with his loved ones, his seriousness abates and the more carefree, good-natured, and good-humored side of his personality shows up, transforming his countenance to a point that people who know him little get a hefty surprise.
On the Job
"I catch killers. I save lives. I'm a hero until my key hits my front door, and then I'm just the father and the husband who's never there."
In the pilot episode "Extreme Aggressor", Jason Gideon returns to the team after a six-month sick leave and takes over Hotch's job as team leader. Hotch is tasked with the job of evaluating him and, after Gideon is able to save a girl from being killed by the episode's unsub, Tim Vogel, he believes that Gideon is well enough to rejoin the team. Gideon, however, takes the role of Senior Agent while Hotch regains the title as the team's leader.
In "Compulsion", Hotch and his team search for a serial arsonist who has been terrorizing a college campus. Since most of the evidence from the crime scenes are burned beyond recognition, the team is forced to rely on psychological analysis to identify the unsub. Eventually, they discover that the unsub suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder called scrupulosity focused on number three. Hotch remembers that a girl named Clara Hayes who repeated one word three different times kept turning her ring around in intervals of three and was one of the students working on the three-body problem. While searching for Clara, Reid remembers that the third floor of the science building was under construction and Hotch heads there. When Hotch arrives, he finds Clara holding a lit flare and getting ready to throw it in a stuck elevator containing three students. He tells Clara that she needs to resist her compulsions, but when she states that she cannot and prepares to throw the flare, Hotch shoots her in the leg, stopping her from killing the students.
In "L.D.S.K.", Hotch coaches Reid in firing a handgun (a Glock 26), since Reid was barely able to pass his last firearms qualification test. He teaches Reid three steps that he learned with SWAT: front site, controlled trigger-press, and follow through. He then demonstrates the three steps by putting a bullet in the head of the human-outline sheet. Reid ends up failing his test. Later, the BAU is tasked with finding a sniper who has shot six people (one of them fatally) in three events occurring in a three-week span. Hotch, Morgan, Reid, and Detective Shea Calvin determine that a large handicapped space in a parking lot close to where the third shooting occurred is suspicious since it is freshly painted and is a very long distance from the park building entrance. Hotch deduces that the sniper painted the handicapped space. After a fourth shooting occurs, the BAU deliver the profile. Hotch then asks Sergeant Weigart's permission to reenact the parks shootings to better understand the shooters M.O. During the reenactment, an officer suspected of being the unsub is shot and killed by the true sniper. The team later realizes that the unsub may be a surgeon with a "Hero Syndrome" mentality. Hotch and Reid realize that their unsub is an ER official and, after talking with a nurse, is told that Phillip Dowd is the unsub. Dowd is able to take a security guard as a shield and holds several people in a waiting room hostage, including Hotch and Reid. Hotch asks Dowd for one favor before the SWAT bursts in and more than likely kill everyone inside: to attack Reid for getting him into the situation. Dowd approves and Hotch repeatedly kicks Reid until Reid grabs his leg: he had grabbed a gun that Hotch carried in his ankle. Reid promptly shoots Dowd in the head, just as Hotch had planned all along. Afterward, Hotch explains his actions and apologizes to Reid, to which the younger agent responds that he understands. Hotch allows Reid to keep the gun, stating that as far as he was concerned, Reid had passed his evaluation.
In "Blood Hungry", Hotch and the BAU investigate two connected murders in Tennessee. The team is forced to investigate the murder without Gideon, who is on crutches due to a skydiving incident. At the funeral of the second victim, a local woman, Mary Mays, tells Hotch that she knows a man that fits the profile, named Oley Maynor. However, Oley is exonerated after being interrogated by Morgan and Elle. After an elderly woman is killed and her grandson goes missing, Morgan and Elle quickly arrest a suspect, Mary's son Eddie, afterward when he is identified. Hotch questions Eddie but is unable to get the boy's location from him. After realizing the control Mary had over Eddie's life, Hotch has Morgan and Elle investigate her house, and they find traces of blood and bleach. Discovering that Mary had stopped at one spot in town more than six times in one hour, Hotch decides to drive Mary to the location and engages her in a personal conversation to distract her. When they arrive, Hotch is able to convince her to show them where she was hiding the boy.
In "The Tribe", Hotch's younger brother Sean shows up at the BAU headquarters to inform him of his plans to drop out of law school and become a fry cook. Hotch is unsatisfied by the announcement, and he and Sean get into an argument over it until Sean leaves. Later, the team is called in to investigate the murders of five teenagers and the abduction of their friend. When the team arrives, they notice that the perpetrators used Indian rituals, and later discover that the massacre took place on land that was recently taken from the local Indian reservation. Later, it is determined that the unsubs are a racist cult determined to frame Native Americans for the crimes and start a war between them and Caucasians. The team also learned that the cult's latest plan is to attack a school on the reservation. Hotch and the reservation's Sheriff, John Blackwolf, arrive at the school first, and Hotch is advised by Blackwolf to use his baton and not his gun. They are successful in knocking out three of the attackers, killing another two, and forcing the final one to surrender. After returning home, Hotch visits Sean at the diner he works at and reconciles with him.
In "The Fisher King, Part 2", Hotch, along with the rest of the team discovers that Elle Greenaway has been shot in her own home by the unsub after Anderson dropped her off. By the episode's end, while Elle recovers in the hospital, he wipes off the 'rules' message that was written in her blood.
In "The Last Word", Hotch and Gideon are taken by surprise by the arrival of Emily Prentiss. Despite his wariness, he allows Prentiss into the team on a probationary basis.
In "Sex, Birth, Death", Hotch is forced to play politics when a congresswoman threatens to take a case away from the BAU. He accuses Prentiss of leaking information, which Prentiss firmly denies. Nevertheless, he has the congresswoman lead them to the unsub.
In "Revelations", while Reid is being held by Tobias Hankel, Reid is asked to choose with member of the BAU is to be killed. Reid says "I choose Aaron Hotchner. He's a classic narcissist. He thinks he's better than everyone else on the team. Genesis 23:4. 'Let him not deceive himself and trust in emptiness, vanity, falseness and futility, for these shall be his recompense.'" Hotch is visibly upset about being called a narcissist and says he's not one. Hotch then asks everyone on the team to tell him what they think his worst quality is. He starts by saying he was no sense of humour. Jennifer Jareau says he's a bully. Morgan says he can be a drill sergeant sometimes. Prentiss jumps in to say that he doesn't trust women as much as men. Hotch then says "Okay, good. I'm all of these things, but non of you said that I ever put myself above the team, because I don't, ever."
In "No Way Out II: The Evilution of Frank", Hotch's leadership comes under scrutiny from the BAU Section Chief, Erin Strauss. He's seen in her office in the aftermath of a serial killer's return. He does a quick profile of herself, her office, and her family before profiling his team. Unbeknownst to him, Strauss reveals to Prentiss that she has enlisted her to find any information to end Hotch's career.
In the episode "In Name and Blood", after having been suspended from the BAU for two weeks due to wrongfully releasing a spree killer, resulting in a murder-suicide, Hotch decides to transfer to another unit so he can be home more with Haley and Jack. However, he is conflicted with doing a job he is good at and being a husband and father. Hotch's transfer is later stalled in the system by Garcia, who then gets him brought back into the current case. After receiving a call at home, Hotch and Haley argue about his two commitments. Later, Hotch makes the decision to join the team in their case as it was pointed out to him that his transfer isn't in the system yet and he is still bound to the BAU. Along with Prentiss, who resigned, he rejoins the rest of the team, minus Gideon, in Milwaukee to solve the case. Hotch ends up being the one to disarm the unsub's son, who had gotten a hold of Morgan's gun from Prentiss. He later tells Strauss that the team needs to be left intact and that what makes her think he would ever consider leaving the BAU. Upon returning home, Hotch discovers Haley has left him and taken Jack with her.
In "Birthright", he was served with divorce papers as he was leaving the office; he is seen signing them in a later episode.
In "Doubt", it was revealed that Hotch had previously worked as a prosecutor.
In "Tabula Rasa", while Hotch is testifying against a serial killer, the unsub's defense attorney tries to discredit him by questioning the legitimacy of profiling with previous cases in which profiles that were incorrect. However, Hotch instead proves its accuracy by profiling the attorney and his gambling habits exactly in front of the entire courtroom.
His hearing had been damaged as a result of a car explosion at the beginning of Season Four. The doctor warns him that if he isn't careful, he will go deaf, but instead, he goes along with the rest of the team to investigate a case. When a Sheriff fires his gun near Hotch's ear in order to kill the unsub, it nearly causes him to lose his hearing permanently.
In "Pleasure Is My Business", a female unsub develops respect for Hotch for trying to be a good father to his son and for not abandoning his family, despite his divorce, unlike the unsub's father. He stays with her during her final moments and covertly exposes her father, as well as the others who have abandoned their families.
In "Omnivore," Hotch travels to South Boston to visit an old colleague, Tom Shaunessy, who is dying from an unspecified disease. Upon arrival, Shaunessy informs him that he made a deal with an uncaught serial killer called the Reaper, whom they both pursued eleven years ago. The deal was that if Shaunessy stopped hunting for the Reaper, he, in turn, would stop hunting victims. However, the contract will expire when Shaunessy dies. Immediately after Shaunessy's death, the Reaper reappears, murdering a young couple. When Hotch and his team arrived at the crime scene, Sergeant Mike O'Mara informs them his belief that the unsub is a copycat killer, but Hotch notices that the young male victim is wearing glasses that belonged to the only man who survived an attack by the Reaper, George Foyet.
After the Reaper kills another couple, Hotch admits that he has been profiling the case alone for the last ten years. The rest of the BAU listen to the profile and decide to release it. When Garcia tells Hotch that she cannot track Foyet, he gets a journalist named Roy Colson to give him Foyet's location, since he had previously interviewed Foyet for a book about the Reaper. When Hotch and Rossi visit Foyet, they tell him that the killer isn't a copycat, which Foyet claimed he already knew. Foyet then refuses to accept police protection, citing that nobody can protect him. Later, Hotch receives a call from the Reaper, who offers Hotch the same deal that he offered Shaunessy, but Hotch refuses to accept. In response, the Reaper boards a city bus and murders everyone on-board.
When Hotch and Rossi arrive at the scene, they find a series of numbers written in blood on the bus windows as well as the words "No deal", causing Hotch to believe the massacre was his fault. After the BAU realized that the numbers left behind matched the apartment numbers of Foyet's addresses. A search of all three residences leaves O'Mara dead and Morgan wounded after an attack by the Reaper, as well as the discovery of huge amounts of blood belonging to Foyet. However, Garcia finds that one of the aliases Foyet used held a charge for sexual harassment, from which Hotch deduces that Foyet was the Reaper, then remembers that Roy was going to see Foyet. Tracking both down, Hotch and the others hold Foyet at gunpoint as he holds Roy hostage. Foyet is eventually goaded into lowering his gun and is taken into custody. However, by the end of the episode, Foyet escapes from prison. When Garcia asked if the police are going to find Foyet, he replies, "No, they're not."
In "To Hell and Back, part 2", Hotch comes home to find that Foyet is in his apartment, waiting for him. Foyet, dressed in full regalia, points his revolver at Hotch stating, "You should have made the deal". The episode ends with the sound of a gunshot.
In the premiere, "Nameless, Faceless", Hotch is found at a nearby hospital, bloodied and unconscious, but alive. He had been held captive by Foyet and tortured for several hours. Foyet had stabbed him nine times and dumped him off at a local hospital with Morgan's credentials.
It had become clear in "Haunted" that Hotch was obsessed with capturing Foyet, an obsession which had his teammates concerned with his sanity and work conduct.
In "Cradle to Grave," Hotch had come under fire from his superiors, who were now requiring him to justify all of his tactical decisions. This has caused him to put pressure on his subordinates, which is gradually creating tension among the team members. At the end of the episode, Hotch announces that he is stepping down as Unit Chief and promoting Morgan to temporarily take his place.
In "The Eyes Have It", Hotch oversees Morgan's performance during his first case. Hotch is pleased with Derek's abilities to lead. Rossi offers the hypothetical question as to whether Morgan will be willing to step down if asked. While Derek is shown to his new office, Hotch is seen mulling over Foyet's criminal file.
In "Outfoxed", Hotch and Prentiss visit Karl Arnold in prison to ask for his input on a current case. After the interrogation, Karl reveals that he has received communications from Foyet and that he is planning to return to make a final stand against Hotch. Karl reveals several notes featuring Foyet's signature symbol, The Eye of Providence.
In "100", Hotch and the BAU concentrate all of their efforts on catching Foyet after getting a break in the case. During a stakeout at Foyet's apartment, the team realizes that Foyet had already fled and is after Sam Kassmeyer, the U.S. Marshal protecting Haley and Jack. The BAU go to Kassmeyer's house and find him critically wounded. Kassmeyer reveals that Foyet ambushed him and demanded to know the location of Hotch's family. Though Kassmeyer refused to talk, Foyet spotted his cell phone, which contained Haley's number. Reaching her, Foyet was able to convince Haley that he was another U.S. Marshal and that she should meet him at an unknown location. Kassmeyer apologized to Hotch for failing him before dying of his wounds. Garcia manages to get into Kassmeyer's cellphone, and Foyet answers Hotch's call to it; he reveals that he is watching Haley and Jack, then hangs up.
The BAU later realize that Foyet, Haley, and Jack are all at the original Hotch residence. Then, Haley calls Hotch's cellphone and quickly realizes that Foyet tricked her. Hotch attempts to calm her down, but Foyet continues his taunts and reminds Hotch that if he had taken his deal, none of this would be happening. As Hotch apologizes for everything, Foyet kills Haley, but not before Jack is instructed by Hotch to "work the case with him", which gets him to leave the room. Hotch pulls up to the house and charges inside, gun drawn. He follows bloodstains upstairs and discovers Haley's corpse. Hotch then notices a shape behind a curtain and shoots at it repeatedly. Foyet falls forward, apparently dead, but Hotch realizes he is wearing a bulletproof vest. The two engage in a fistfight, which eventually ends when Hotch violently beats Foyet to death in sheer rage as the rest of his team arrives, witnessing him pummeling an already dead body. Hotch then runs into his office, where he finds Jack hiding. After the event, Strauss interviews the entire team to see if Hotch's actions were justified. When Strauss asks him why he killed Foyet, Hotch replies, "I know that he would have tried to kill my son, too." Strauss then decides that this reasoning was good enough.
He had (spiritually) told Haley that he would come back to the BAU, and when Rossi asks him if he "told her yet", Hotch replied, "I don't have to. She already knows.", referring to the fact that Haley had always known deep down that he wouldn't stop his work. Hotch says that he has known all along that he will never give up and his place is "fighting the bad guys."
In "Retaliation", he returned to duty, his former sister-in-law, Jessica Brooks, taking care of Jack while he's away. Towards the end of the episode, Hotch approaches Morgan at his desk and lets him know he appreciated what he did for the team as Acting Unit Chief, complimenting his natural leadership and initiative. Morgan finishes his paperwork for Hotch, letting him know that he knows how precious time a child needs with a single parent.
In "The Uncanny Valley", Hotch is seen giving the orders to the team while on board the teams plane, signifying his return as Unit Chief.
In "J.J.", Hotch is unable to stop JJ's transfer to the Pentagon, due to Strauss' authority, thus forcing her to take the job and leave the team.
In "Compromising Positions", Garcia wants to take on JJ's liaison job. Though Hotch is reluctant at first, he agrees but on a trial run. He sees the toll of taking on the job is causing Garcia stress. At the end of the episode, Garcia agrees with Hotch's proposal that she should only take on the part of JJ's job that she can do from BAU headquarters while remaining as the Technical Analyst.
In "25 to Life", Hotch does not appear in the episode and is taking some time off. According to Rossi and Strauss, he sounds like he hadn't slept and Jack's having some problems due to the anniversary of Haley's death in the hands of Foyet.
In "Lauren", after Prentiss goes missing to confront her old Interpol nemesis, international criminal Ian Doyle, Hotch contacts JJ from the State Department to find Prentiss and capture Doyle. When it's announced that Prentiss has died at the hands of Doyle, Hotch is one of the few people aware that Prentiss' death was faked, glazing at JJ at the hospital and at Prentiss' funeral.
In "Supply and Demand", before discussing the case, Hotch announces that the Bureau will be facing a lot of changes, potentially the unit as well, and the team will be asked if they would like to stay with the unit.
In "It Takes a Village", it was revealed that Hotch was assigned to temporary duty with an investigative task force in Pakistan during the period between Season Six and Season Seven. He returns to the team in order to help them investigate a case.
In "Painless", Hotch finds out that Jack is having trouble with a classmate from his teacher and after asking him, he learns how Jack is trying to solve it by himself.
In "The Bittersweet Science", Hotch meets a woman named Beth Clemmons while training for a triathlon and they start a conversation. She then invites him to go on a bike ride with her. However, Hotch is conflicted. Although he likes Beth, he believes it is too soon after Haley's death. However, Rossi eventually convinces him to go.
In "Closing Time", Hotch and Beth are still training together for the triathlon and, during their last training session, Hotch finally asks her out. When they return from the case, Hotch is told by Morgan that it was Valentine's day and went to Beth's house with flowers to ask her out that day. She accepts and kisses him to "get it out of the way" before things got awkward. The last scene shows them walking away holding hands.
In "A Family Affair", Hotch eats with Beth at a café and tells her that he'd like her to meet Jack. At the episode's conclusion, he completes his triathlon and meets up with Jack and the rest of the team. Beth later approaches him and Jack and he formally introduces her to his son. Jack and Beth take a liking to one another and Hotch escorts them away.
In "Through the Looking Glass", Beth tells Hotch that she got a job offer in New York. He not only encourages her to go there but also suggests to a long-distance relationship and visit her when having the chance to.
In "The Replicator", Strauss dies in Hotch's arms after she is found wandering around the streets of New York City after her abduction and drugging by the unsub. After returning home, he enlist Senator Cramer's help of people who have viewed the team's case files for the past year. He disarms a delusional Rossi after he is poisoned and finding him holding Morgan at gunpoint. He and the rest of the team later attend a dinner honoring Strauss's memory.
In "The Inspiration", it is revealed that Hotch had been offered the position of BAU Section Chief, which had been left vacant after the death of Erin Strauss at the hands of John Curtis. Hotch mentioned it to his team and also stated that he was still unsure of what his decision would be. In the following episode, after Hotch and the BAU were able to conclude the current case, the Attorney General and his staff were so impressed that Hotch's name was pulled from the list of BAU Section Chief candidates so that he could remain with his team, much to his delight.
In "Route 66", a teenage girl named Samantha Wilcox was abducted by her father, ex-convict Eddie Lee Wilcox, with the BAU being called in to assist in the case due to Eddie's criminal history. Hotch was reviewing the case with the team when he began to feel unwell and eventually passed out. While in the ambulance, Rossi learns that Hotch was suffering from internal bleeding from the stab wounds he sustained at the hands of Foyet, and must have surgery. Rossi takes over the investigation, while Garcia stays at the hospital with Hotch. During surgery, the anesthesia causes Hotch to see Haley, who gives him advice on their son and encourages him to move on with his life.
In "Gabby", after a four-year-old girl named Gabby Hoffer is abducted while under the watch of a relative, Sue Walsh, Garcia discovers that Sue made multiple calls to Ian Little, a suspect arrested in the case. Sue tells Hotch that she and Ian were dating, but she wouldn't let Kate, her cousin and Gabby's mother, know since she hated Ian. Hotch, unconvinced by Sue's story, interrogates Ian and manages to get him to admit that he saw Sue kill Doug. He then talks to Sue again and challenges her, provoking her into attacking him and confirming his suspicions that she is a sociopath. The team is eventually able to find and rescue Gabby.
In "Blood Relations", Hotch and his team are asked by the Wheeling Police Department to investigate the murders of two men. During the investigation, Hotch is told by JJ that Cissy Howard, the mother of the second victim Clark Howard, would talk to them only if Malachi Lee, the father of the first victim Mathias Lee, wasn't around. Knowing about Mathias and Clark's conflicts with one another, Hotch makes the decision to have the interviews set up so that they would run into each other. When Cissy and Malachi "bump" into each other in the elevator, a tense discussion ensues. When Cissy is abducted by the unsub and is found to be Malachi's long-lost sister, Hotch brings him in and asks why Cissy was kicked out of the family. Malachi eventually states that he and Cissy were in an incestuous relationship as teenagers and he accidentally got Cissy pregnant, leading the team to realize that the unsub is their child.
In "Boxed In", Hotch purchases an authentic studio Darth Vader costume for Jack to wear during his school's Halloween event. Later on, he gets involved in a case in which boys were being abducted in southern California during Halloween and held captive for almost exactly one year. He gives a televised speech to the public, giving them a description of the unsub and warning boys to be vigilant during the upcoming Halloween. Following another abduction, Hotch is approached by a woman who claims her brother is the unsub. After the suspect's background is looked into and clues point to him truly being the unsub, Hotch and the others find his hideout and interrogate him about the location of the latest victim. In order to get him to open up, Hotch fills the role of the man's abusive father, berating and insulting him. He then allows the man's mother to come in and apologize to him for what she had done. This gets the unsub to reveal the boy's location. By the end of the day, he returns home to find Jack sleeping on the couch, still wearing the Darth Vader costume.
In "Amelia Porter", Beth had gotten a job position in Hong Kong, resulting in his relationship with her ending. Hotch informs Rossi of this, and after the BAU concludes a manhunt, both go to a bar, where they are met by two women, Celine Destin and Audrey Hansen. Both women show an interest in Rossi and Hotch, respectively, and moments later, Rossi and Celine leave Hotch and Audrey alone. Both deduce that the meeting was arranged and that they were being hooked up. However, they agree to go on a date later on, with Hotch offering to show her around, as Audrey recently moved from San Diego.
In "Nelson's Sparrow," much like the rest of the team, Hotch is devastated by the loss of Gideon at the hands of the unsub from one of their first cases. He and the team look back at that case and Rossi avenges Gideon as well as his victims by shooting him.
In "A Place at the Table," Hotch struggles to make peace with his ex-father-in-law, after discovering he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a week prior and it appears to be worsening. It is revealed that Roy Brooks, Haley's father, has refused to forgive and blames him for her death at the hands of George Foyet.
In "Mr. Scratch", Hotch and the rest of the team connected three seemingly unrelated murders in different parts of the U.S., after two of the perpetrators claimed a "clawed shadow monster" attacked them when each crime occurred. From these claims, along with the fact that all three killers were otherwise average citizens with spotless records and never knew each other, the BAU launches another investigation into the murders. After another attack occurs, the BAU find that the victims were all hypnotized using a sophisticated dissociative drug cocktail. After looking into the killers' backgrounds, the BAU realizes that all three of them were adopted and previously stayed at the same group home. Hotch interviews the third murderer, who had been in a catatonic state after committing her crime, and gets her to respond by bringing her back to the time she had originally been interviewed by police during the scandal. At the same time, a hacker launches a cyber-attack against the BAU headquarters, causing a widespread blackout in the process. Hotch and the team find that the hacker was targeting the FBI's witness protection database, and Reid deduces that the hacker is a Harvard alumnus employed by the NSA.
Appealing to Tony Axelrod, an NSA employee, Hotch identifies the hacker as Peter Lewis. Looking into Peter's background, they find that his father, the co-owner of the group home, was suspected of sexual abuse during the day-care sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980s and early 1990s. Though he was innocent of any wrongdoing, he was wrongfully convicted through the machinations of a psychologist, Doctor Susannah Regan, and later stabbed to death in prison. Hotch then realizes that Peter is after Regan, who had been put into witness protection after her work during the sex-abuse hysteria was debunked. He rushes to the house where Regan is staying at, only to witness Regan commit suicide while drugged. He is then ambushed by Peter, who sprays the drug in his face and incapacitates him. Regaining consciousness, Hotch finds himself being held captive by Peter in Regan's house; Peter mocks Regan and inadvertently reveals that he had been forced by her to testify against his father. When Hotch points it out, Peter is initially enraged, but then takes it as a challenge to get into Hotch's head. At that moment, Rossi, Morgan, Reid, and JJ breach the house. Peter, armed with a gun, manages to kill Reid and then Rossi before he is shot twice and killed by Morgan. Morgan then tries to untie Hotch, but Peter suddenly reappears and kills Morgan, boasting that he now knows what scares Hotch.
Sometime later, Hotch then regains consciousness, realizing that the entire breach was a hallucination induced by Peter. Moments later, the real BAU arrive; Peter hands Hotch his own gun and tries to convince him to shoot Rossi and Reid, claiming they were him out to get Hotch. Hotch nearly complies, but manages to override Peter's order and shoot at him. Dodging the bullet, Peter flees, while Hotch urgently hands Rossi his gun, telling him that Peter "made [him] see things". Later, he learns from Reid that Peter was arrested by Morgan and JJ, having surrendered without resistance. Shocked and confused by Peter's sudden surrender, Hotch goes outside and watches Peter being taken away by Morgan and JJ. Before he is put into a police car, Peter turns around and spots Hotch, who continues to watch him in confusion. Tauntingly, Peter taps his temple and smiles at him. At the end of the episode, Hotch is inspected at an ambulance, after which he is approached by Rossi, who asks him to share his experience while the memory was still fresh. Hotch replies that parts of the drugging episode didn't make sense, implying he had seen more than just Peter killing his team. When Rossi asks him what he could remember, Hotch is on the verge of tears and closes his eyes in fear. Then, after Rossi gets his attention, he puts up his usual calm demeanor and says, "This is what happened." The episode then abruptly ends before he could continue.
In "The Storm", Hotch is suddenly arrested by a SWAT team in his home in the middle of the morning, with Jack, JJ, and Henry LaMontagne bearing witness. He is taken to an interrogation room at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he is accused by Timothy Ritchie of planning a terrorist attack on the BAU headquarters. As proof, he shows him an audio recording of a 911 call purportedly made by Hotch; and a paper with copies of receipts detailing Hotch's apparent purchases of nitromethane, diesel fuel, and blasting caps. This causes Hotch to deduce that the Justice Department had been watching him, which Ritchie later confirms. Hotch demands to know who gave the Justice Department the permission to put him under surveillance. Ritchie initially refuses to answer until Hotch threatens to get a lawyer. He tells him that the Justice Department got a convincing tip from a source. Hotch believes it was Antonia Slade, who he had recently investigated. Instead, Ritchie shows him a video recording of Peter Lewis testifying against Hotch about his experience with him during the events of Mr. Scratch, during which he claimed seeing him laugh after hallucinating the deaths of his team, which alarmed him. Afterwards, Ritchie explains that the tip got the Justice Department to seriously dig into Hotch after they realized his wife was murdered as a result of his job. He then tells Hotch that after the murder, he began dismissing standard FBI procedure in a few high-profile cases.
Hotch defends his actions as justifiable judgment calls. Though Ritchie admits that he could be able to justify them, he tells Hotch about one last, completely inexcusable judgment call: his drugging at Peter's hands, and his decision to not include, in his Bureau psychological evaluation, the fact that the powerful drug Peter used easily induced psychotic breaks in other victims. At first, Hotch doesn't answer, but he finally explains that he did not mention the drug's potency because someone from the Justice Department would misinterpret it and someone else would use it to their advantage. However, Ritchie is unconvinced, and leaves Hotch alone in the interrogation room. Later, the people responsible for the 911 call, a group of anarchists and homegrown terrorists, attack Virginia Supermax Prison with the intention of breaking out their leader Eric Rawdon (who Hotch wrote a scathing profile on). As a result, Ritchie returns to the interrogation room and asks Hotch about his connection with Rawdon, believing the two of them to be partners. Hotch denies this and tells Ritchie his realization that the Justice Department plans to keep him in interrogation to later use him as a scapegoat in case they were unable to prevent Rawdon from committing a terrorist attack. He then convinces Ritchie to release him.
Immediately after his release, Hotch leads another SWAT team into Virginia Supermax, where Rawdon and the other anarchists have already taken control. As the anarchists kill several police officers and pin JJ and Reid down with gunfire, Hotch and his team confront the gunmen from behind. Hotch shoots and incapacitates Rawdon, causing him to drop a flashbang grenade that unintentionally incapacitates the other anarchists. Hotch then confronts Rawdon and demands him to reveal the location of a bomb the anarchists intend to use in an attack, but Rawdon smugly tells him that they will never stop it in time. However, he deduces that the bomb is at the Ivory Tower, a safehouse for fundamentalist groups. He leads the rest of the BAU to the Ivory Tower, where they and a SWAT team find other anarchists preparing to transport the bomb via helicopter. The anarchists shoot at them, and they kill several while the helicopter takes off. The BAU and SWAT shoot at the helicopter, managing to hit the bomb inside and detonating it, destroying the helicopter and thwarting the attack. By the end of the episode, the BAU celebrate the closure of the case with a party at Rossi's estate. However, the party is interrupted when Hotch and Garcia receive word that the anarchists managed to orchestrate other prison breaks in three different states. Though they were mostly defused by police, thirteen serial killers managed to escape in the chaos and Peter is one of them. Hotch tells the rest of the team that they must recapture all of them.
In "Taboo", Hotch was said to be on a special assignment by Rossi.
Later in "Elliott's Pond", Rossi and Prentiss reveal that he left his team due to the escaped Peter Lewis stalking Jack. Due to his concern for both of their protection, he gives his title of BAU Unit Chief to Prentiss while he and Jack enter the Witness Protection Program.
In "Wheels Up", Hotch left the Witness Protection Program following Peter Lewis's death and chose not to return to the BAU, so he could continue raising Jack as a full-time father.
- His sidearm is a Glock 17, with a 26 backup on a hidden ankle holster.
- Hotch met his wife, Haley, at a theater group, which he joined in order to get close to her ("The Fisher King, Part 1]]").
- He is left-handed, a trait that he shares with Penelope Garcia.
- Despite this, however, he carries his sidearm and backup with his right hand.
- He used to collect old coins in his youth ("Won't Get Fooled Again").
- He was once part of a SWAT team ("L.D.S.K.").
- He became a lawyer, following in his father's footsteps ("The Tribe").
- He teaches crisis negotiation and co-wrote the textbook for it ("Children of the Dark").
- His first case as the lead profiler in the BAU was that of the Boston Reaper in 1998 ("Omnivore").
- His favorite thing to listen to is the Beatles' White Album, once stating, "Just because Manson hijacked it doesn't mean it has to be ruined for the rest of us." ("The Performer")
- The character was named after A. E. Hotchner, an American novelist, biographer, and editor who, like Hotch, also went to law school.
- The surname of Hotchner is of Old Dutch or Low German in origin; its meaning translates to "fair judge" or "objective one".
- He has coached Jack's soccer team, with assistance from Rossi ("Out of the Light").
- He appears to have intimate knowledge of several biblical texts ("The Caller", "Blood Relations", "Angels").
- He has killed three unsubs with his bare hands (George Foyet in "100", James Heathridge in "Heathridge Manor", and Owen McGregor in "Demons").
- His blood type is O negative ("Route 66").
- He has demonstrated skill with a sniper rifle, having been able to shoot an unsub in the head before he could kill his target victim ("Final Shot").
- He has a brother who he is estranged from, named Sean ("The Tribe" and "Brothers Hotchner"). It was revealed that they interacted very little as children, since he went to boarding school when Sean was entering first grade.
- He carpooled with JJ ("The Storm").
- He has appeared in 255 episodes, with "Sick Day" being his last. This marks the most amount of episodes a former main character has been in.
- His mother apparently made him oatmeal and orange juice ("The Company").
- Foyet had previously told Hotch over the phone that he would stop hunting "them" if the FBI would stop hunting him.