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|Criminal Minds character|
Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia
|First appearance||"Extreme Aggressor"
1x01, September 22, 2005
(on Criminal Minds)
"Two of a Kind"
1x01, February 16, 2011
(on Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior)
1x03, March 30, 2016
(on Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders)
|Last appearance||"Death by a Thousand Cuts"
1x13, May 25, 2011
(on Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior)
|Created by||Jeff Davis|
|Portrayed by||Kirsten Vangsness|
|Other appearances||Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
|Nickname(s)||Baby Girl, Doll Face, Sweetness, Mama
FBI Technical Analyst
|Family||4 Unnamed brothers, Unnamed mother
(godson, via JJ)
|Significant other(s)||Kevin Lynch (ex-boyfriend)|
Penelope Garcia is a fictional character on the CBS crime dramas Criminal Minds and its short-lived spin-off Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, portrayed by Kirsten Vangsness. She is the technical analyst of the Behavioral Analysis Unit that is the center of both shows. She also made a guest appearance during season 1 of Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, making her the only character in the franchise to appear in all three series in the franchise.
Life before the BAU
Garcia is from San Francisco. A drunk driver killed her parents in a car accident when she was eighteen, and she now helps counsel the families of murder victims in her spare time. Garcia has stated that after her parents died, she dropped out of Caltech and went "underground" but continued to teach herself computer coding. She had been placed on one of the FBI's hacker lists (she was one of a small handful of extremely useful or dangerous hackers in the world), and they recruited her from there. It has also been mentioned, when she was not allowed to travel with the team to Langley, that she was on the CIA's "lists" as well. JJ joked that Garcia belonged to that list when she (unsuccessfully) tried to hack the CIA for information (namely, Prince William's phone number) and information on Diana, Princess of Wales' death and other government conspiracies.
Penelope is into online games, specifically MMOGs, as she was once seen playing a game about Camelot on the BAU network, constantly virtually meeting with "Sir Kneighf", an online alter ego who turns out to be Randall Garner, who is keeping a young woman prisoner while sending the team several clues that, with tremendous help from Reid, they use to catch him and save the woman. Garner hacked into Garcia's computer and accessed files about the BAU, then used the personal information to find out their whereabouts so he could send the clues there. Hotch states at one point that when Garcia applied for her position, she submitted her resume on "pink, homemade stationery."
She is flamboyant, fun-loving, and provides the rest of the team with comic relief. She is very confident in her ability to find answers, and often answers her office phone with a know-it-all, yet joking, attitude (e.g. 'The Office of Unmitigated Superiority', 'Penelope's house of "how may I save your ass today?"', 'Fount of all knowledge, check my flow!', or similar). This self-confidence is fed by Morgan, who often initiates flirtatious banter, including calling her 'Baby Girl', which Garcia seems to enjoy. However, this banter has placed her in some awkward situations, such as when she opens up a phone conversation with a funny inappropriate comment, thinking it's Morgan, and it turns out to be a superior on speakerphone. Although they haven't pursued a romantic relationship, Garcia has shown mild jealousy, e.g. at Morgan dancing with other women. She has cried twice when she thought Morgan was dead, and he has in turn had strong reactions when Garcia is in harm's way.
Garcia is unabashedly emotional, which sometimes makes her job with the BAU more difficult. She has broken down, crying several times while listening to and watching terrifying things in her office as she analyzes them for the team. However, according to Agent Hotchner, she "fills her office with figurines and color to remind herself to smile as the horror fills her screens." Garcia is, on the whole, an optimist. She has managed to remain so, even though the job occasionally requires her to dig into people's secret lives, to "find the god-awful thing that happened to them that made them do the god-awful thing to someone else." Many team members have commented in various ways, that her optimism is an aid to them, that (as Hotch said) they would never want her to change. He once commented to Reid and JJ, after contacting Garcia during a case, "Remind me to have her drug tested," indicating her optimism could even be too much at times. Garcia was once shot by a man with whom she had just gone on a date, but survived when the bullet missed her heart and ricocheted into her abdomen. The attacker (who turned out to be a type of serial killer known as a 'hero homicide') was later killed. After this incident, Morgan insisted she keep a gun; however, it is never shown whether she took this advice. She was romantically involved with fellow FBI Technical Analyst Kevin Lynch (played by Nicholas Brendon).
Garcia seems to have been the one most hurt by JJ transferring out of the Behavioral Analysis Unit, and in "Compromising Positions", Garcia opted to replace JJ as their new Media Liaison.
She was also emotional in the episode "Lauren" when Prentiss is stabbed by her nemesis, Ian Doyle. JJ joins the team waiting in the hospital lounge for results to inform them that Prentiss "never made it off the table." We see that Garcia can tell the news is not good by the look on JJ's face. In "Hanley Waters", she is interviewed by Hotch about Prentiss' "apparent death" and says she wants to talk about the times when Prentiss made her happy instead of about her being gone.
Garcia is extremely and emotionally excited when she learns that Prentiss is alive and shocked when she returns. She's also quick to forgive her, JJ, and Hotch for the deception. It is also revealed that she has been taking care of Emily's cat, Sergio, and when Emily inquires about him, Garcia promptly demands visitation rights.
Garcia is afraid of losing a partner, as she risked her career by taking down a federal website to stop her boyfriend, Kevin Lynch, from being transferred out of country for a job, though after she accidentally let a detail slip while talking to him, he was annoyed slightly, but happy for the action on her part.
Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior
Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders
The character of Garcia also appeared in the spin-off Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Her first appearance was in season one in a scene with Russ "Monty" Montgomery, where Monty hides Garcia's octopus mug and claims not to have it. In July 2016, it was announced that Garcia would make several appearances in season 2.
- "The Instincts", season 4, episode 6
- "Hit", season 7, episode 23
- Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders Sneak Peek: Penelope Garcia Grills Monty!
- "Penelope". Criminal Mind. Season 3. Episode 9. November 21, 2007. CBS.
- "Secrets and Lies". Criminal Mind. Season 1. Episode 21. May 3, 2006. CBS.
- "The Fisher King, Part 1". Criminal Mind. Season 1. Episode 22. May 10, 2006. CBS.
- "House on Fire". Criminal Mind. Season 4. Episode 19. March 25, 2009. CBS.
- "Lucky". Criminal Mind. Season 3. Episode 8. November 14, 2007. CBS.
- "Compromising Positions". Criminal Mind. Season 6. Episode 4. October 13, 2010. CBS.
- "Lauren". Criminal Mind. Season 6. Episode 18. March 16, 2011. CBS.
- "Hanley Waters". Criminal Mind. Season 6. Episode 20. April 6, 2011. CBS.
- "It Takes a Village". Criminal Mind. Season 7. Episode 1. September 21, 2011. CBS.
- "Criminal Minds' Kirsten Vangsness Joins Spin-Off as a Series Regular". TVGuide.com.
- "Denial". Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Season 1. Episode 3. March 30, 2016. CBS.
- Feed, Criminal Minds (July 19, 2016). "criminalmindsbb_cbs: We have some very exciting news! @kirstenvangsness is guest starring on #CMBB this season! It's true ✔️ @crimmindscbs #CriminalMinds". Tumblr. Retrieved July 19, 2016.