Dr. Spencer Reid
Criminal Minds
File:Spencer Reid.jpg
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(s) Doc, Kid, Genius, Spence, Pretty Boy (by Morgan), Dr. Joseph Bell (Pseudonym by Maeve)
Occupation FBI Special Agent
Title FBI BAU Supervisory Special Agent
Family Diana Reid (mother)
William Reid (father)
Ethel (aunt)
Daniel (uncle, deceased)
Henry LaMontagne (godson, via JJ)[1]
Significant other(s) Maeve Donovan (girlfriend, deceased)
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Dr. Spencer Reid is a fictional character from the CBS crime drama Criminal Minds, portrayed by Matthew Gray Gubler. Reid is a genius with an IQ of 187 and an eidetic memory. He is the youngest member of the elite Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI who holds numerous degrees, and specializes in statistics and geographic profiling.


Reid was born in 1982 and is a genius and autodidact who graduated from a Las Vegas public high school at age 12. He has an IQ of 187,[2] an eidetic memory, and can read 20,000 words per minute[2] (an average American adult reads prose text at 250 to 300 words per minute). He holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Caltech,[3] in addition to a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Engineering, as well as B.A.s in Psychology and Sociology.

Reid is 23 in the pilot episode,[4] having joined the unit when he was 22.[5][6] His fellow team members almost always introduce him as Dr. Reid. Hotch revealed in the first season that Gideon insisted on introducing him as Dr. Reid because Gideon feared that, because of his age, Reid would not be taken seriously as an FBI agent.[2] 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,[7] with at least three more years to obtain Supervisory Special Agent status, and appointments to the BAU usually not occurring until after at least eight to ten years in the FBI.[8] Also, while filming the pilot, the show's FBI consultant informed Matthew Gray Gubler there was nothing realistic about his character.[9]

Before Gubler was cast in the role, the character was originally 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.[10]

During October 2012, series creator Jeff Davis tweeted Reid was originally envisioned to be bisexual, but the network shut the idea down by the fourth episode where Reid develops a crush on his colleague, Jennifer "JJ" Jareau.[11]


As is characteristic of people with Asperger's Syndrome, Reid is socially awkward. 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 in "Broken Mirror"[12] noted this, and 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. Reid is 24, 25 years old with three Ph.D.s and one can not usually achieve that without some form of autism."[13] Writer Sharon Lee Watson stated in a twitter chat Reid's Asperger traits makes the character more lovable.[14]

Gubler has also commented on the differences between Reid and similarly odd character Penelope Garcia: "She represents everything he is not, she is very tech oriented and I would like to imagine he is more like 1920s smart, books and reading etc". Kirsten Vangsness agreed, adding Garcia is more extroverted and available emotionally, whereas Reid struggles with his emotions.[9] Reid is a technophobe, and does not use either email or the new iPads. Gubler tweeted that Reid is also germaphobic.[15] In general, Reid dislikes shaking hands,[16] and shows adverse reactions when touched by strangers.[17] It is speculated the character may also have slight obsessive compulsive disorder, particularly from a scene in "Out of the Light"[18] where Derek Morgan slightly moves an item in an OCD unknown subject's home, and Reid immediately places it back to its previous spot.

Reid is a good map-reader, 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 in to 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". Nearly always he is seen as the backseat passenger during car scenes, and he commutes to work using the Metro,[19] and presumably the VRE.



Spencer Reid was born in Las Vegas, Nevada to his parents William Reid, a lawyer, and Diana Reid, a former professor of 15th Century Literature. Diana is also a paranoid schizophrenic, who went off her medication during her pregnancy.[3] Reid and his mother have a very close relationship, despite her condition.

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 since he had a criminal history as a sexual predator, the police didn't look very hard into the case.[3]

Years later, however, Reid started having nightmares about the incident, initially leading him to believe his own father was Riley's killer. Rossi and Morgan helped him investigate. After undergoing hypnosis to recover his memories, Reid mistakenly believed he saw his father burning Riley's clothes, not Diana's. He pursued his father as a suspect, even after it became clear Michaels was the more likely perpetrator. Michaels' body was found, and DNA confirmed his killer was Lou Jenkins, who was arrested. While Reid was interviewing Jenkins, demanding to know how his father was involved, his parents interrupted and confessed to their son the whole story.[3]

At age ten,[20] his 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.[21] He moved ten miles away, and never contacted his son. Reid found out his father's address from Lou Jenkins seventeen years later, as well as the fact his father never changed jobs. William later stated 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.[3] When his father was leaving, young Spencer tried to convince him to stay with a statistic that children of parents who remain together receive more education. This angered William: "We're not statistics."[21] Reid has stated one way he gets back at his father is to collect more educational degrees.[22]

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 had been a child prodigy in a Las Vegas school and that he (Hotch) "kicked 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.[23]

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.[3] It has also been stated he attended MIT, but episode writer Breen Frazier admitted the MIT line was a mistake,[24] 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 he 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.[21] Diana still resides in the same institution, and Reid has stated that he sends her letters every day, in part because of the guilt he feels for not visiting her.[25] He worries about the fact that his mother's illness can be passed on genetically; he once told Morgan: "I know what it's like to be afraid of your own mind".[19]

Currently, Reid resides in an apartment[26] in the District of Columbia, possibly near the Van Ness-UDC Metro stop.[27]

Behavioral Analysis UnitEdit

Reid joined the FBI at either the age 21 or 22, depending upon what age he entered the FBI Academy. While there was "no psychological exam or test the FBI could put in front of him he could not ace inside of an hour",[28] he did struggle with the more physical aspects of training, and ultimately received waivers for those requirements.[29] Even after a year in the field, Reid still struggled to pass his gun qualifications.[30] He is often left behind during takedowns, has never given chase, and has joked it's Morgan's job to kick down the doors.[31] This has not bothered 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.[32] 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.[6]

Gideon was his closest confidante on the team during the first two seasons, and often served as a mentor to Reid. Gideon's departure affected Reid deeply. He tried playing all possible chess moves in order to understand.[33]

Reid is closest to JJ, Morgan, and Emily Prentiss. JJ asked him to be godfather of her new born 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 prodded 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 7x14 (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. He 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 occasionally confides in him with his secrets. 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 in which Reid identifies with, Reid trusts Prentiss with his gun and trusts her enough to back him up and not shoot at Owen, as he tries talking down Owen. Although not shown, it is implied they spend time outside of work heavily, along with riding the train home together whenever they return from cases. On one occasion, with the Ian Doyle situation Prentiss was facing, as Ian Doyle was listing off the names of Prentiss's team members, he only refers to Reid as 'Dr. Reid' while the others he referred to by their first names. Plus he added Reid had 'some quirks' at which at that point, Prentiss snaps and threatens Ian. Prentiss is the only one that has beat Reid at poker, even correcting his statistic about her particular poker move.

Reid and Prentiss were once held hostage by a cult led by Benjamin Cyrus (portrayed by Luke Perry). Though he was not injured, Reid struggled with guilt over "allowing" Prentiss's beating at the hands of Cyrus in "Minimal Loss". Reid also contracted anthrax during an outbreak in Maryland,[34] and was later shot in the leg protecting a doctor whose life was being threatened.[35]

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 that there is no physical cause for his headaches, and that they may be psychosomatic. Reid refuses to believe this, afraid that he may be suffering from the same illness as his mother.[36] 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.[37] A cut line from the episode has Rossi stating Sammy and Reid are two of the most fascinating minds he's ever encountered.[38] In the episode "Valhalla", Reid tells Prentiss about his headaches. By then, Reid had 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 "treat him like a baby."[39]

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 ends up sobbing into JJ's shoulder telling her that he "never got a chance to say goodbye."[40]

In season seven, when Emily returns and Reid discovers Hotch and JJ faked her death, Reid is upset, especially with JJ. He tells her he felt 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 didn't say anything. He also mentions that he considered taking Dilaudid again after Emily "died.".[41]

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 had missed his 30th birthday. At the end of the episode the team threw him a mini birthday party.

Drug addictionEdit

After being kidnapped by a serial killer with multiple personalities, Tobias Hankel (portrayed by James Vanderbeek), Reid was tortured and drugged over the course of two days in "Revelations". This led him to develop an addiction to the narcotic painkiller Dilaudid. While the BAU team members had their suspicions about Spencer's addiction, none of them confronted him about it. An old friend of Reid's in New Orleans is also aware that Reid suffers from 'problems' in "Jones".

Reid has become clean since then and has attended a support group meeting for addicts in law enforcement in "Elephant's Memory", at which he admitted struggling with cravings as well as with traumatic memories, including a young adult suspect's shooting death in his presence. Also when he contracts anthrax in "Amplifications", he does not want to take any pain medication. Memories of his torture under Hankel also allowed him to empathize with other victims.

Personal lifeEdit

Throughout the show, Reid has shown a lack of interest when interacting with women. The only three exceptions are Lila Archer, a young actress he was assigned to protect; Austin, a bartender he wooed with magic tricks while showing her a sketch of a potential suspect, or "UnSub" (Unknown Subject); and Maeve, a geneticist he first met 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 yet 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 out 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 and his progress with his headaches and sleep deprivation. It also reveals that she is in danger and doesn't want someone to know about her and Reid. While he was on a case in New Mexico, Alex Blake drops Reid off at a phone booth, unaware that he was going to call the mystery woman, she comes back to question his motives. The two agents are in a heated discussion and he tell her about the mystery woman is a geneticist whom he contact about his headaches during season six, and believes she can help on the case. Thanks to her they were 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 didn't want him to hurt Reid. She end the phone call by telling him that she loved him. Left shocked and speechless, he starts walking to his left but than turned around and walk to his right.

Sometime after "The Lesson", Reid continues calling his mystery woman, which is reveal 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 once again 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 is afraid that she won't like him because of his looks. Blake encourages him to meet her to make the relationship better. After Reid gets back from the case, they planned to meet at a fancy restaurant until Reid saw a man gazing over at him. Thinking 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 had already left. Disappointed about not meeting Maeve, the hostess gave him a bag that was a woman 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 was a quote she wrote 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 "Zugzwang", Reid discovers that Maeve was kidnapped by her stalker. In the investigation, he meets Maeve's former fiancee, who was the man he believed to be her stalker. Reid becomes more and more distressed by the situation and discovers that it was not her ex-fiancee, but the man's girlfriend. Reid searches excessively to find her, and even offers to take her place. Reid 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. 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 spent two weeks alone in his apartment after Maeve's death after making a complete mess of everything. The team constantly try to help him, but he refuses to answer the door. While Reid remained at home, the team traveled to another case. They call up 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 wakes up before he can answer. By the end of "Alchemy", Reid is able to complete the dream by accepting Maeve's request to dance with her.

Showrunner Erica Messer confirmed that there will be no romantic relationships for Reid in Season Nine, stating that "He feels like he's still with Maeve and that would feel like a betrayal to Maeve, so we're not going to there this year."

References Edit

  1. "The Instincts", season 4, episode 6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Extreme Aggressor", season 1, episode 1
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Memoriam", season 4, episode 7
  4. "Plain Sight", season 1, episode 4
  5. "Memorium", season 4, episode 7
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Tabula Rasa", season 3, episode 19
  7. "Working for the FBI". 
  10. Gardner, Jessica (March 16, 2011). "'Criminal Minds' Star Matthew Gray Gubler on Directing". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  11. "'Criminal Minds' Creator: Reid Was to be Bi-Sexual". Retrieved 2012-10-26. 
  12. "Broken Mirror", season 1, episode 5
  13. "An Interview with Matthew Gray Gubler (Dr. Spencer Reid, Criminal Minds)". Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  14. "Full Transcript - Live Chat with Writer, Sharon Lee Watson and Line Producer, Harry Bring". Retrieved 2012-10-22. 
  15. "GUBLERNATION Aug 3 2009". 
  16. "CM_SetReport Chat Transcript for Executive Producer Janine Sherman Barrois and Matthew Gray Gubler 12/15/2011". 
  17. "Pleasure Is My Business", season 4, episode 16
  18. "Out of the Light", season 6, episode 22
  19. 19.0 19.1 "Sex, Birth, Death", season 2, episode 11
  20. "Scared to Death", season 3, episode 3
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Revelations", season 2, episode 15
  22. "Public Enemy", season 5, episode 15
  23. "Painless", season 7, episode 4
  24. "CM_SetReport Chat Transcript for Breen Frazier 10-13-11". 
  25. "Fisher King (Part 1)", season 1, episode 22
  26. "Magnum Opus", season 8, episode 13
  27. "Coda", season 6, episode 22
  28. "Memoriam", season 4, episode 7; from a news article on Garcia's computer screen.
  29. "What Happens At Home", season 6, episode 10
  30. "LDSK", season 1, episode 6
  31. "Nameless, Faceless", season 5, episode 1
  32. "Jones", season 2, episode 18
  33. "Uncanny Valley", season 5, episode 12
  34. "Amplification", season 4, episode 24
  35. "Nameless, Faceless", season 5, episode 1; the shooting was written in to explain actor Matthew Gray Gubler's crutches following knee surgery after an injury from a dance-off with several co-stars from the film 500 Days of Summer.
  36. "Corazon" Season 6, Episode 12
  37. "Coda" Season 6, Episode 16
  38. "Criminal Minds 6x16 Coda EXTENDED promo". 
  39. "Valhalla" Season 6, Episode 17
  40. "Lauren" Season 6, Episode 18
  41. "Proof" Season 7, Episode 2

External links Edit

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