'Criminal Minds': Joe Mantegna on Rossi's Military Past, Teases Season Mystery

Criminal Minds The Fallen Mantegna - H 2012

Criminal Minds The Fallen Mantegna - H 2012

The past comes back in a big way on Criminal Minds.

In the latest episode of the CBS drama, Rossi (Joe Mantegna) reconnects with his former Marine sergeant Harrison Scott (guest star Meshach Taylor) from Vietnam who he discovers is homeless and living on the street in Los Angeles' Skid Row. Entitled "The Fallen," the episode delves deep into Rossi's military background.

For Mantegna, the hour was "one that I had been championing for a long time," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "A couple of years now I've been wanting to shoot an episode like this and I'm really thrilled with it."

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Years removed from active duty, the episode asks the question: "What happened to this individual who had such an impact on Rossi's life?" Mantegna said. "It gives us an opportunity to explore that." There was much more meaning behind the story. Mantegna has known Taylor for decades, as they've appeared in several plays together, but this is first time they've ever shared the small screen together.

Rossi seeing his military counterpart reminds him of the possibility that the same thing could have happened to him. "It puts a spotlight on the kinds of things that can and does happen to a lot of veterans, regardless if it's the Vietnam era or today," Mantegna said. "We've got people coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan facing some very troubling circumstances. They've been out of the loop."

Rossi's initial meeting with Harrison isn't so much traumatic, as it is surprising. "[Seeing] someone who has had an impact on your life and [after] you lose track of them for more than 30 years, all of a sudden you're confronted with them in a situation that you didn't expect," he said.

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That's where flashbacks during their time together come into play, to fill in the holes. "We're going to take a trip back to the early '70s in Vietnam and that's pretty effective," Mantegna said. "People who watch our show will be surprised and intrigued."

The seeds have already been planted for the larger mystery for the season, which involves someone tracking every movement made by the BAU. "You see these moments of people taking photos of us. Somebody is -- in a way -- spying on us; we're being stalked. For what reason, we don't know but it's going to become apparent," Mantegna teased.

Criminal Minds airs 9 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS.

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