Doctor Spencer Reid Biography.
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
He holds B.A.s in Psychology, Sociology, and Philosophy.
He also has Ph.D.s in Chemistry, Engineering, and Mathematics, obtained
When he was four years old, Spencer was aproached by a man, Gary
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
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
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.
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 leavig.
Spencer tried to convince him to stay
by using a statistic that children of parents who remain together receive
This angered William: “We’re not statistics.”
Reid states that one way he gets back at his father is to collect more
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 school and tells Hotch, “you kick like a nine-
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
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
Currently, Reid resides in an apartment in the District of Columbia, possibly
near the Van Ness-UDC Metro stop. Personality.
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 the new 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 the character 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 the Season 1 episode
“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 9mm Glock 26 pistol and kills Dowd with a headshot.
He admits to Hotchner afterward that he had been aiming for the unsub’s
leg, and Hotchner returns Reid’s weapon and considers him to have
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.
Behavioral Analysis Unit.
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”, he did struggle with the more physical aspects of training, and ultimately received waivers for those requirements.
Evenafter a year in the field, Reid still struggles to pass his gun qualifications.
Thisdoes 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.8
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 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.
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.
Prentiss is the only one who has beat Reid at poker, even correcting his statistic about her particular poker move.
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.
In the same episode, Reid bonds with a young autistic boy, Sammy Sparks.
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
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’.
At the end of the episode, the team throw him a mini birthday party. Drug
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 show, Reid shows a lack of interest when interacting with
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.
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 aind
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
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
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
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
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
Reid is 23 years old in the pilot episode.
Hisfellow 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.
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