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|Special Agent Dr. Spencer Reid|
|Criminal Minds character|
Matthew Gray Gubler as Dr. Spencer Reid
|First appearance||"Extreme Aggressor"|
1x01, September 22, 2005
|Created by||Jeff Davis|
|Portrayed by||Matthew Gray Gubler|
|Nickname||Doc, Kid, Pretty Boy (by Morgan), Genius, Junior-G-Man, Boy Wonder, 187(by Garcia), Spence (by JJ and Prentiss), Dr. Joseph Bell (by Maeve), Crash (by his mother), Spencie (by Cat Adams)|
|Title||FBI BAU Supervisory Special Agent|
|Occupation||FBI Special Agent |
|Seasons||1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14|
Spencer Reid is a fictional character on the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, portrayed by Matthew Gray Gubler. Reid is a genius with an IQ of 187 and can read 20,000 words per minute with an eidetic memory. He is the youngest member of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), has three BAs and three PhDs (in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering), and specializes in statistics and geographic profiling.
Spencer Walter Reid was born on October 28, 1981 in Las Vegas to William Reid (Taylor Nichols), a lawyer, and Diana Reid (Jane Lynch), a former professor of 15th century literature. Diana also has paranoid schizophrenia, and went off her medication during her pregnancy with Spencer. Reid and his mother have a very close relationship despite her condition.
Reid is a genius and autodidact. He has an IQ of 187, an eidetic memory, and can read 20,000 words per minute (an average American adult reads prose text at 200–300 words per minute). He holds B.A.s in Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy. He also has Ph.D.s in Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics, obtained from MIT.
At age four, Spencer was approached by a man, Gary Michaels, while playing chess at a local park. Although Spencer was unharmed, Diana insisted the family move because she believed her son was in danger. Shortly thereafter, Spencer's six-year-old neighbor, Riley Jenkins, was sexually abused and murdered. Diana told Lou Jenkins, Riley's father, about the park incident. Diana then followed Jenkins and witnessed him beat Michaels to death with a baseball bat, getting blood on her clothes in the process. In order to protect his wife, William burned Diana's clothes, which Spencer inadvertently witnessed. Jenkins avoided arrest because Michaels "disappeared", and as he had a criminal history as a sexual predator, the police didn't look very hard into the case. Years later, Reid starts having nightmares about the incident, initially leading him to believe his own father was Riley's killer. Rossi and Morgan help him investigate. After undergoing hypnotherapy to recover his memories, Reid mistakenly believes he saw his father burning Riley's clothes, not Diana's. He pursues his father as a suspect, even after it becomes clear that Michaels is the more likely perpetrator. Michaels' body is found, and DNA confirms his killer was Lou Jenkins, who is arrested. While Reid is interviewing Jenkins, demanding to know how his father was involved, his parents interrupt and confess to their son the whole story.
At ten years old, Reid's father abandoned the family. The Michaels incident had already started the rift, and as Diana's mental state continued to deteriorate due to her paranoid schizophrenia, William left, refusing to take Spencer with him. He moved ten miles away, and never contacted his son. Reid finds out his father's address from Lou Jenkins seventeen years later, as well as the fact that his father never changed jobs. William later states that the reason he never returned was because he was too ashamed, and felt too much time had passed for him to re-enter Reid's life, although he did keep electronic tabs on his son. When his father was leaving, young Spencer tried to convince him to stay by using a statistic that children of parents who remain together receive more education. This angered William: "We're not statistics." Reid states that one way he gets back at his father is to collect more educational degrees.
Due to his young age and genius IQ, Reid was a victim of severe bullying in high school. In "Elephant's Memory", he recounts one instance where he was stripped naked and tied to a goalpost in front of other students, remaining there for hours. In "L.D.S.K.", Hotchner is forced to kick Reid in order to allow him access to a gun in order to shoot a suspect. When Hotch says he is sorry if he hurt him, Reid points out that he was a child prodigy in a Las Vegas public school and tells Hotch, "you kick like a nine-year-old girl". Reid's social standing as a child increased when he started winning games as the coach of his high school's basketball team, using statistics to break down the opposing teams' shooting strategies.
At age twelve, Reid graduated from high school. He attended Caltech, where he rode his bike to classes. He finished his undergraduate degree at sixteen, and received his first doctorate (in Mathematics) the following year. It has also been stated that he attended MIT, but episode writer Breen Frazier admitted the MIT line was a mistake, although it has not yet been corrected onscreen. Yale University was Reid's "safety school". Between the ages of 17 and 21, he completed two more doctorates (Chemistry and Engineering), and two more Bachelor's degrees (psychology and sociology).
When Reid was eighteen, he realized his mother's condition had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer take care of herself and had her committed involuntarily to a psychiatric institution, Bennington Sanitarium. Diana still resides in the same institution, and Reid says that he sends her letters every day, in part because of the guilt he feels for not visiting her. He worries about the fact that his mother's illness can be passed on genetically; telling Morgan: "I know what it's like to be afraid of your own mind".
As a common characteristic of people with Asperger's syndrome, Reid is socially awkward. Reid has a hard time dealing with his emotions. He often fixates on things (prompting Morgan and other team members to have to tell him to be quiet), and misses social cues at times (for example, unknowingly changing the subject of a conversation). The Unknown Subject ("Unsub") in (Season 1, Episode 5) "Broken Mirror" notes this. Reid is 24 years old with three Ph.D.s and one cannot usually achieve that without some form of autism.
Reid is a technophobe, using neither email nor iPads. Gubler tweeted that Reid is also germaphobic. In general, Reid dislikes shaking hands, and shows adverse reactions when touched by strangers. It is speculated that he may also have slight Obsessive–compulsive disorder, particularly from a scene in "Out of the Light" where Derek Morgan slightly moves an item in the home of an unsub afflicted with OCD, and Reid immediately places it back to its previous spot.
Reid is a poor shot with his service pistol, as seen in "L.D.S.K." Upon failing his annual firearms qualification despite Hotchner's efforts to tutor him, he is relieved of his weapon and has to work unarmed during the team's newest case. Later, while being held at gunpoint by the unsub, Phillip Dowd, Reid grabs Hotch's backup Glock 47 pistol and kills Dowd with a headshot. He jokes to Hotchner afterward that he had been aiming for the unsub's leg, and Hotchner returns Reid's weapon and considers him to have qualified.
Reid is good at map reading, and therefore does the geographic profiling and map-related activities for the team. He also has a talent with words, and is the team's go-to linguistic profiler, as well as their unofficial discourse analyst. He is rarely seen behind the wheel – one time when Morgan hands him the keys, JJ and Emily exchange horrified expressions – but in "Lo-Fi" he is seen getting into the driver's side of a vehicle and even driving that same vehicle in one scene, as well as driving to Gideon's cabin in "In Name and Blood", and in "Nelson's Sparrow". However, he is usually seen as a backseat passenger during car scenes, and he commutes to work using the Metro, and presumably the VRE.
Behavioral Analysis Unit
Reid joined the FBI when he was 22 years old. While there was "no psychological exam or test the FBI could put in front of him he could not ace inside of an hour", he did struggle with the more physical aspects of training, and ultimately received waivers for those requirements. Even after a year in the field, Reid still struggles to pass his gun qualifications. He is often left behind during takedowns, has never given chase, and jokes that it's Morgan's job to kick down the doors. This does not bother the team, because while he has shown an ability to physically disarm unsubs, his true talent is psychologically disarming them, as well as his abilities to solve the cases behind the scenes.
Profiling is the only profession Reid considered, and he was groomed specifically for the BAU. Upon graduation from the Academy, he was placed in the BAU at age 22, and given the title Supervisory Special Agent. His first case in the field was the Blue Ridge Strangler.
Gideon is Reid's closest confidante on the team during the first two seasons, and often serves as a mentor to Reid. Gideon's departure affects Reid deeply. He tries playing all possible chess moves in order to understand.
Reid is close to JJ, Morgan, and Emily Prentiss. JJ asks him to be godfather to her newborn son Henry, and is the only one on the team who calls him "Spence." It is implied in "Plain Sight" that Reid may have a slight crush on JJ, and Gideon even prods him to ask out JJ after giving him Washington Redskins football tickets for his birthday, but nothing comes from it, and they continue with their brother-sister relationship. However, Reid is very protective of her, and often blames himself if she is injured; even if there was nothing he could have done to prevent it. In "Closing Time", after she arrests an unsub, but gets hurt in the process, Spencer is seen counting her injuries as she sits in the ambulance and tells the paramedic that she should be going to get a CAT scan. Reid also shares a brotherly friendship with Derek Morgan. In season seven, he is comfortable enough to start a joke war with him, something that he probably would never do with anyone else, and he occasionally confides his secrets to Morgan. It is suggested in the episode "Epilogue" that Reid told Derek details about what Tobias Hankel did to him when he makes a remark about seeing the afterlife before Tobias saved him. Morgan looks surprised and says "You never told me that." In the episode "Elephant's Memory", when approached by a fully armed Owen Savage, the unsub whom Reid identifies with, Reid gives Prentiss his gun and trusts her enough to back him up and not shoot at Owen as he tries talking Owen down. Although not shown, it is implied Reid and Prentiss spend time together outside of work heavily, along with riding the train home together when they return from cases. Prentiss is the only one who has beat Reid at poker, even correcting his statistic about her particular poker move. Reid and Prentiss are held hostage by a cult led by Benjamin Cyrus (portrayed by Luke Perry). Though he is not injured, Reid struggles with guilt over "allowing" Prentiss's beating at the hands of Cyrus in "Minimal Loss". Reid later becomes close to Alex Blake, whose forensic linguistics class he guest lectures in. Blake serves as a maternal figure within the BAU.
During "Corazon", Reid begins to suffer from severe headaches and hallucinations. He goes to see a doctor in order to find out the source of his headaches, but the doctor says there is no physical cause for his headaches, and they may be psychosomatic. Reid refuses to believe this, afraid that he may be suffering from the same illness as his mother. It is not mentioned again until "Coda", when he is seen once again wearing sunglasses and is carrying a book on migraines. In the same episode, Reid bonds with a young autistic boy, Sammy Sparks. A cut line from the episode has Rossi stating that Sammy and Reid are two of the most fascinating minds he's ever encountered. In the episode "Valhalla", Reid tells Prentiss about his headaches. By then, Reid has gone to several doctors, but no one has been able to diagnose what is wrong with him. He tells Prentiss that he has not told any of the team members because he is afraid that they will "make him feel like a baby."
In "Lauren", it is Reid and Garcia who react most strongly to the news of Emily's death. Reid's reaction is to run out of the room, and he ends up sobbing into JJ's shoulder telling her that he "never got a chance to say goodbye." In season seven, when Emily returns and Reid discovers Hotch and JJ faked her death, he is upset, especially with JJ. He tells her he feels betrayed because he came to her house "for 10 weeks in a row, crying over losing a friend" and "not once did you have the decency to tell me the truth." She doesn't say anything. He asks J.J. "what if" he had started using Dilaudid again after Emily "died."
In "True Genius", Reid doubts his reasons for being in the BAU and wonders if he should be doing more with his 'genius'. This is caused by the unsub sending him taunting messages and challenging Reid to find him. In this episode, he also reveals that the team missed his 30th birthday. At the end of the episode, the team throw him a mini birthday party.
After being kidnapped by a serial killer with multiple personalities, Tobias Hankel (James Van Der Beek), Reid is tortured and drugged over the course of two days in (Season 2, Episode 15) "Revelations". This leads him to develop an addiction to the narcotic painkiller Dilaudid. While the BAU team members have their suspicions about Spencer's addiction, none of them confront him about it. An old friend of Reid's in New Orleans is also aware that Reid suffers from "problems" in (Season 2, Episode 18) "Jones".
Reid gets clean and attends a support group meeting for addicts in law enforcement in (Season 3, Episode 16) "Elephant's Memory", at which he admits struggling with cravings as well as with traumatic memories, including a young adult suspect's shooting death in his presence. When he contracts anthrax in "Amplification", he strictly refused to take any narcotic painkillers in an attempt to remain clean. Memories of his torture under Hankel later allow him to empathize with other victims.
Throughout the series, Reid shows a lack of interest when interacting with women. The only three exceptions are Lila Archer, a young actress he is assigned to protect; Austin (Courtney Ford), a bartender he "woos" with magic tricks while showing her a sketch of a potential suspect; and Maeve, a geneticist he first meets through correspondence, then later weekly phone calls. In "Memoriam", a prostitute hits on Reid in a Las Vegas casino, but he is oblivious to her intentions.
In "Somebody's Watching", with the team on a case to protect a TV starlet, Reid saves Lila Archer (Amber Heard) from being harmed by a serial killer. Reid and Lila kindle a short-lived romance, beginning when Lila pulls Reid, fully clothed, into her pool for a kiss. At the end of the episode, they go their separate ways, and Lila is not seen in further episodes.
In another episode, Reid and Morgan are in a nightclub trying to find a serial murderer who picks up women in nightclubs. Reid is having trouble talking to the women in these clubs, especially since he is spouting facts about club-related deaths, but Morgan helps him out. Reid starts a conversation with the female bartender, and proceeds to do a magic trick in which he appears to jab a pen through the eye of a police sketch, but pulls it through, leaving the paper unscathed. She expresses interest in him, and he gives her his business card in case she hears something about the killer. Later, she sees the killer with another potential victim and intentionally spills her drink on the lady, pulling her away. The killer seems to disappear, and while the bartender goes outside to phone Reid, he grabs her. The team responds quickly and saves her before she is harmed. At the end of the episode, she and Reid are talking over the phone, and he opens a package at his desk that contains the card that he gave her—with a lipstick kiss on the back.
In "God Complex", Reid begins calling a mystery woman on a pay phone and they talk about his progress with his headaches and sleep deprivation. It is revealed that she is in danger and doesn't want someone to know about her and Reid. While on a case in New Mexico, Alex Blake drops Reid off at a phone booth, unaware that he is going to call the mystery woman. Blake later returns and questions his motives. The two agents have a heated discussion, and he tells her the mystery woman is a geneticist he contacted about his headaches during season six, whom he believes can help on the case. Thanks to her, they are able to find the unsub and save his latest victim. At the end of the episode, Reid thanks her for her help and tells her that he and the BAU can help her in her situation. However, she refuses because she doesn't want him to hurt Reid. She ends the phone call by telling him that she loves him. Left shocked and speechless, he starts walking to his left but then turns around and walks to his right. Sometime after "The Lesson", Reid continues calling his mystery woman, and it is revealed that her name is Maeve (portrayed by Beth Riesgraf). She tells Reid that her stalker might be gone and because of this, she wants to meet him. During a case in Arizona, Blake confronts him about "phone booth girl". Reid tells Blake that he's nervous to meet her because he already believes she's the most beautiful girl in the world, and he is afraid that she won't like him because of his looks. Blake encourages him to meet her. After Reid gets back from the case, they plan to meet at a fancy restaurant until Reid sees a man gazing over at him. Thinking him to be Maeve's stalker, Reid calls her to cancel while she is right outside. Spencer realizes that the man is not the stalker, and Maeve has already left. The hostess gives him a bag that she left for him. It turns out to be the very same book he was going to give to her by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Inside, she has written a quote by Thomas Merton; "Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone. We find it with another."
In (Season 8, Episode 12) "Zugzwang", Reid discovers that Maeve has been kidnapped by her stalker. In the investigation, he meets Maeve's former fiance, the man he believed to be her stalker. Reid becomes more and more distressed by the situation and discovers that her kidnapper is not her ex-fiance, but the man's girlfriend. Reid searches excessively to find her, and even offers to take her place. He discovers that the stalker wants attention from him and to be seen as an equal. He gets a clue from the stalker leading him to her location, where he tricks the unsub into believing that he is in love with her. Reid finally meets Maeve face-to-face during the situation and is able to briefly subdue the stalker, only to have her hold Maeve at gunpoint. He once again offers to take Maeve's place, but the unsub kills herself and Maeve in one shot.
Reid spends two weeks alone in his apartment after Maeve's death. The team constantly tries to help him, but he refuses to answer the door. While Reid remains at home, the team travel to another case. They call him for help a few times before he joins the team in person. Once the case is complete, Reid asks Morgan, Penelope, and JJ to help clean up his apartment. He picks up The Narrative of John Smith (given to him by Maeve) with the Thomas Merton quote and places it on the bookshelf.
In the months following, Reid throws himself into his work when he is not able to sleep because of a recurring dream where Maeve asks him to dance with her, but forces himself to wake up before he answers. By the end of "Alchemy", Reid is able to complete the dream by accepting Maeve's request to dance with her. In "The Inspiration", Reid admits that, had Maeve not died, he might have had kids. In the season nine finale, it is revealed that he still carries a copy of The Narrative of John Smith in his bag.
In the season 14 finale, JJ reveals during a hostage situation in which the unsub forces her to expose a secret that she loved Spencer and admitted that she was too afraid to say anything and that things had now become too complicated. Later on during Rossi’s wedding, Spencer asks JJ if she meant it to which she replies with silence and a glance to which Spencer replies with “everything’s ok”.
Reid is 23 years old in the pilot episode, having joined the unit when he was 22. His fellow team members almost always introduce him as Dr. Reid. Hotch reveals in the first season that Gideon insists on introducing him as Dr. Reid because Gideon fears that, because of his age, Reid will not be taken seriously as an FBI agent. This was a genuine concern, both for in-universe and for audience acceptance, since in real life the minimum age to become an FBI Special Agent is 23, with at least three more years to obtain Supervisory Special Agent status, and appointments to the BAU do not usually occur until after at least eight to ten years in the FBI. While filming the pilot, the show's FBI consultant informed Matthew Gray Gubler that there was nothing realistic about his character.
Before Gubler was cast in the role, the character was envisioned as more like Data from Star Trek. However, the producers liked Gubler's softer interpretation, despite telling the actor he was wrong for the part. After several callbacks, he was hired.
Gubler stated in an interview in the show's second season "[Reid]'s an eccentric genius, with hints of schizophrenia and minor autism, Asperger's syndrome." Writer Sharon Lee Watson stated in a Twitter chat that Reid's Asperger traits make the character more lovable.
Gubler has commented on the differences between Reid and similarly odd character Penelope Garcia: "She represents everything he's not, she's very tech oriented and I would like to imagine he is more like 1920s smart, books and reading etc". Kirsten Vangsness agreed, adding that Garcia is more extroverted and available emotionally, whereas Reid struggles with his emotions.
During October 2012, series creator Jeff Davis tweeted that Reid was originally envisioned to be bisexual, but the network shut the idea down by the fourth episode when Reid develops a crush on his colleague, Jennifer "JJ" Jareau.
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- "Tabula Rasa", season 3, episode 19
- "Uncanny Valley", season 5, episode 12
- "Amplification", season 4, episode 24
- "Corazon", season 6, episode 12
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- "Proof", season 7, episode 2
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- Willis, Jackie (October 26, 2012). "'Criminal Minds' Creator: Reid Was to be Bi-Sexual". ETonline. Archived from the original on October 28, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2015.