It’s Official: Ex-‘Criminal Minds’ Star A.J. Cook Returns

Actress A.J. Cook (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Actress A.J. Cook (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Criminal Minds” is welcoming back a familiar face, as it says good-bye to another off-camera.

Former co-star A.J. Cook, whose character J.J. left the Behavioral Analysis Unit last season for a job in the Pentagon, has signed a two-year deal to return next fall as a series regular, Deadline reports. She’ll also appear on the sixth-season finale on May 18.

Cook left the CBS crime drama when her option wasn’t picked up, but came back for the first two episodes this season and again last month for the last of co-star Paget Brewster (Emily Prentiss) – who might also be back if her NBC comedy pilot isn’t picked up.

Meanwhile, executive producer Ed Bernero, who has been the serial-killer-of-the-week series’ showrunner from its debut in 2005, is leaving the show at the end of this season. His script “Partners” was picked up to pilot at ABC in January. Executive Producer Erica Messer will remain on “Minds” as sole showrunner.

Cook’s departure was unpopular with fans, and her potential return could mean bad news for new series regular Rachel Nichols, who joined when Cook left.

Thomas Gibson (Aaron Hotchner) and Shemar Moore (Derek Morgan) are in talks for next season, but are not yet signed.

“Criminal Minds” was No. 7 last week in viewers 18 to 49 and No. 8 overall with 14 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. It airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m./EST on CBS.

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