|“||One of the last things I said before he shot me was everything happens for a reason. Derek, if I lose faith in that then nothing in my life makes sense.||”|
— Garcia in "Penelope"
Penelope Grace Garcia is the BAU's former Technical Analyst and also the team's Media Liaison Officer since Jennifer Jareau's promotion to Supervisory Special Agent; the latter is a job that she formerly shared with Aaron Hotchner before his departure from the BAU and shared the position with Emily Prentiss prior to her own departure in the show's series finale "And in the End..." in Season Fifteen.
Born sometime in 1977, Garcia's parents died in a car accident caused by a drunk driver when she was eighteen. They were out looking for her, as she still hadn't come home by her curfew. She has stated that after her parents died, she dropped out of the California Institute of Technology, went "underground" but continued to teach herself computer coding to keep herself together, and became a Goth. She had been placed on one of the FBI's lists that concerned a small handful of extremely talented yet dangerous hackers in the world, and the FBI recruited her from there ("Penelope"). Prior to her recruitment, she was a vigilante hacker mentored by Shane Wyeth, who would hack into companies and other businesses whom she felt were engaged in criminal activities, which attracted the attention of the FBI. Her hacker nickname was "The Black Queen", likely due to her habit of dressing in black, Gothic clothing and makeup. She was arrested by the BAU in 2004 while they were investigating the case of John Nichols and Sam Russell, and she was given a choice to either work for them as their Technical Analyst (as Hotch deduced a kind and loving nature from her cyber-protests) or serve jail time; she decided to accept the job. According to Shane, she did so because she wanted to do something more useful and noble than violating and vandalizing websites.
On Criminal Minds
In the episode "Sex, Birth, Death", she showed a fondness for Reid, offering to take him out on the town to distance himself from Nathan Harris (the main suspect in the murders committed by Ronald Weems). However, this was interrupted by the subject's attempted suicide.
In the episode "Penelope", Garcia is rushed to the hospital after the gunshot. She quickly recovers but is attacked again after she is released from the hospital. The aggressor targeting her is revealed to be Jason with a "hero homicide complex", putting people in danger in order to save them for his own glory. She recovers from her attack and helps JJ kill Jason while he held Adam Fuchs hostage.
In the episode "100", Garcia is instrumental in narrowing down George Foyet's location, with the help of Kevin Lynch. She cross-referenced all of the medications that Foyet required and found out that he was back in the D.C. area. Reid would later discover his alias (Peter Rhea).
In the episode "The Eyes Have it" Garcia gets a request from JJ to help Derek, who is temporarily the team's Acting Unit Chief, get established in an office of his own.
In "Exit Wounds", Derek and Penelope shared a room when the team had to double up due to lack of rooms, prompting Penelope to call dibs with Morgan. Her boyfriend Kevin quickly became jealous, calling him a "Muscle-Bound Modern-Day 007", Penelope quickly retorting that he's more of a Jason Bourne. After she witnessed a murder, she ran towards the victim causing Morgan to be mad at her, commenting on that behavior as reckless. Then Morgan wanted to conduct a cognitive interview which made Penelope angry. Towards the end of the episode Penelope comments on her change of behavior towards seeing blood. This prompted Morgan to comment that she's changing into someone stronger than she realizes, that she cared enough to risk her life to save someone else's. She then revealed that she's scared she's changing into someone she's not just so she can do the job. Derek then tells her that she sees the beauty in everything and everyone wherever she goes and that he'll keep protecting her so that she won't change.
In the episode "Compromising Positions", she wishes to take on JJ's old job. Although Hotch is reluctant at first, he agrees. She changes her appearance in the process to look more professional. However, the pressure brought from juggling between the two jobs in the wake of the case of James Thomas takes a toll on her mind, and she begins to stress out. At the end of the episode, Garcia agrees with Hotch's proposal that she should only take on the part of JJ's job that she can do from BAU headquarters, while remaining as Technical Analyst.
In "The Black Queen", Garcia is forced to revisit her old past as a hacker after the BAU revisits an old case on request by Shane Wyeth and his hacker group Star Chamber. As a result, she visits Shane at the Star Chamber headquarters, appealing to him by dressing up in her old clothing. He is able to give her some information but winds up arguing with her and stating his disapproval of her new life. Later, Garcia confronts Shane online, where he reveals that he had been following her life ever since she joined up the BAU, consequently misinterpreting her relationship with Morgan as an actual romantic relationship. After Shane survives a near-fatal attack by the unsub, Garcia approaches him and reconciles with him.
In the episode "200", she assisted in the search for JJ (who was abducted by the Regime Squad), by hacking into a database containing information relating to JJ's time at the U.S. State Department. Garcia also manages to deduce JJ's location after receiving a distress alarm triggered by JJ.
In the episode "Demons", she shot Greg Baylor after he tried to kill Reid while he was recovering in a Texas hospital after being shot in the neck by Justin Mills. During the shooting, she used Reid's own gun, which she quickly grabbed from an items bag.
In the episode "Burn", however, Garcia has been shown to be traumatized by her shooting Baylor. To get over her fears, she goes to visit him in Texas before he is about to be executed by the state for his crimes. However, before she leaves, Garcia gets into an argument with Morgan over the point of the trip. Upon visiting the convict, she learns he has no one who would watch his execution and still support him, then is requested by him to be the one to do so. After thinking it over, she does so and is forced to watch as he is executed.
In Season Eleven, it is revealed that Garcia was listed as a target by a network of hitmen after she began investigating them in the deep web during the case of Giuseppe Montolo. Her identity was unknown to the network, so they dubbed her as "The Dirty Dozen". This was unknown to the BAU until the events of "Target Rich," where she realized that she inadvertently uses a dozen servers to bounce her signal while working. As a result, she was relocated to an old room in the BAU headquarters for her living quarters, but she continued her normal operations in assisting the BAU in cases. Garcia was finally able to come out of hiding when the BAU tracked down all of the members of the network and dismantled the organization in "Entropy".
Garcia serves as Technical Analyst for Sam Cooper's team at the same time as for Hotch's.
On the Job
Garcia seems to share a playful, flirtatious relationship with Derek Morgan. When working together, they refer to each other by such names as "sweet cheeks" or "baby girl" (later revealed because the first day on the job, Morgan couldn't remember her name and shouted "baby girl" to get her attention). There hasn't been an actual romantic relationship, though Morgan seemed a little jealous when Garcia told him about Jason Clark Battle. Garcia has also acted jealous, such as when Morgan decided to grab a drink with Tamara Barnes. It is clear that the two of them care very deeply for each other.
Some cases seem to eat away at Garcia, as she often gets nervous or upset when analyzing video or sound recordings of murders or other serious crimes. Often, she has to listen to and watch them over and over again.
"I'm not good at this part. Every time you guys go away, I know you're in all kinds of ginormous danger, and all I can do is sit here in my bubble, and I hope, and I pray and I will my babies to come back to me. I try to stay positive, but I don't know how to do this."
It has been mentioned that when Garcia was not allowed to travel with the team to Langley, she was on the CIA's "lists" as well ("Secrets and Lies"). JJ joked that Garcia belonged to that list when she unsuccessfully tried to hack the CIA for information on Princess Diana's death and other alleged government conspiracies (namely, she found Prince William's phone number, but couldn't find a pen to write it down before the CIA killed her access).
Garcia is into online games, specifically MMORPGs, 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 ("The Fisher King, Part 1"). 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".
At the beginning of Season Three, she meets Kevin Lynch and eventually becomes romantically involved with him. In Season Seven, Kevin tried to propose to Garcia but didn't get the chance to do so. Garcia later figured it out by hacking into his computer and finding out that he was looking for rings. As a result, she turns him down, and their relationship appears to have ended ("I Love You, Tommy Brown"). Garcia eventually becomes involved with an old flame, Sam.
- She is from San Francisco, California, and that she is a dropout from Caltech, a school Reid also went to. ("Penelope")
- She refers to a public restroom as a loo. ("Lucky")
- She exclusively uses a Linux based operating system on her computers.
- She likes to "remove herself" from the images she sees on her computer screens, which is why she has toys and other items she likes around her in her office.
- She doesn't speak Spanish even though her last name is Spanish. She mentions in "Machismo" that it is the surname of her stepfather, who is Hispanic.
- She can speak French ("Empty Planet") and is seen trying to learn Italian. ("In Heat")
- She maintains a strict adherence to "The Hacker Code" of conduct.
- Prentiss refers to Garcia as "the world's sexiest hacker". ("The Performer")
- She suffers from coulrophobia, a fear of clowns. This stemmed from an incident that occurred when she was twelve; a clown at a birthday party grabbed her breast and made a honking sound. She has been afraid of clowns ever since, commenting, "Apparently making it funny makes it okay."
- Her name, Penelope, is actually an homage to Moneypenny (from the Bond films). She is seen as Morgan's Moneypenny.
- Garcia became a goth after her parents' deaths. She reveals this to Chris, a Gothic boy in "Risky Business".
- At the end of "Memoriam", JJ names her godmother of her recently born son Henry.
- She buys many gifts for her godson Henry, claiming that it is her rightful duty as a godmother since he is at the age to properly enjoy the act of opening gifts.
- She rarely travels with the team, but when she does, she tends to express her love for the jet accommodations.
- She applied for her job at the BAU with a resumé written on pink homemade stationary paper.
- JJ and Morgan are her best friends.
- Her car is named Esther.
- Her hobbies include knitting and making soup (Suspect Behavior episode "Lonely Heart").
- She is a fan of the book The Emerald Sea of Dreams ("3rd Life") and apparently also of the graphic novel Ghost World ("Penelope")
- She has a lamp with a Dawna Markova quote hand-painted on it; it reads: "I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me, to make me less afraid, more accessible; to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise. I choose to risk my significance, to live so that which came to me as seed goes to the next as blossom, and that which came to me as blossom, goes on as fruit." ("Penelope")
- Her favorite author is mythologist Joseph Campbell. ("Hope")
- She is a fan of sci-fi sitcom Small Wonder. ("Roadkill")
- She is a vegetarian. ("Proof", "Bully")
- She is a fan of movies by Federico Fellini. ("Proof")
- She is in a survivors' support group, though after her run-in with Bill Rogers in the episode, it has since disbanded. ("Hope")
- She initially blamed herself for the death of her parents because they were out looking for her after she had broken her curfew. ("Hope")
- She called Hotch by his first name during "Charm and Harm", but in the other episodes, she calls him "sir".
- She had dyed her hair red before ("The Uncanny Valley") and wore a blonde wig during ("Reflection of Desire") for a press conference. Returned to her red hair again and kept it like that until ("Today I Do") where she dyed it back to blonde, her original hair color, which she has kept to this day.
- She has a philosophy that "the world is just teeming with awesome people". ("House on Fire")
- She likes conspiracy theories, which likely stems from her previous activities as an anti-government hacker. ("Final Shot")
- She is left-handed.
- She was mistakenly referred to as "SSA Garcia" by a police sergeant who wrote her an email giving verification of a suspect's alibi. ("Final Shot")
- Her stepfather took Day of the Dead celebrations very seriously, which rubbed off on her in her adult years. ("In The Blood")
- She owned a cat called "Simba", who passed away. ("In The Blood")
- She labels Hotch as "Sir Hotch" on her cellphone. ("The Black Queen")
- She has held a gun (not hers) twice in her career with the BAU (despite not believing in them). The first incident was the second attempt on her life by Jason Clark Battle in "Penelope" (in which Morgan equips her with his backup Glock 26 while he wards off Battle). The second was during an attempt on Reid's life by Greg Baylor in "Demons" (in which she quickly grabs Reid's Smith & Wesson revolver).
- During the second example, she has also used the gun to shoot someone for the first time in her life (the undercover nurse trying to kill Reid).
- She is nearsighted. ("Scream")
- She once followed a boy across the entire length of a beach because he was holding a kite. ("Seven Seconds")
- She takes care of Sergio, Prentiss' old cat, presumably since Prentiss left for London. ("Awake")
- She is the first and only character to appear in all three series of the Criminal Minds universe: she was a series regular in both the main series and its first spin-off Suspect Behavior, and she guest-starred in two episodes of the second spin-off Beyond Borders.
- Her FBI badge number is 0019er-0. ("Wheels Up")
- She bought Rossi a cigar case that also doubles as a Faraday cage. ("Wheels Up")
- She may have a tattoo saying "Baby Girl", Morgan's frequently used pet name for her. ("Dust and Bones")
- She was a fan of Jonny McHale's comics. But after she found out that Jonny is a psychotic serial killer, she likely isn't anymore. ("True Night")
Behind the Scenes
In the "Making Of" documentary for Season Three, Vangsness stated that Garcia's bullet injury was moved from her chest to her stomach between the episodes "Lucky" and "Penelope" since a chest injury would mean there would be a large scar on her chest for several following episodes that would require makeup and also meant that Garcia wouldn't be able to show any cleavage.