|“||I find that I do some of my best work under intense terror.||”|
— Reid in "Damaged"
Dr. Spencer "Spence" Reid is a Supervisory Special Agent with the BAU. He is hailed as a genius and an autodidact.
Spencer Reid was born on October 12, 1981 to William Reid and Diana Reid. He graduated from high school at the age of twelve. In his youth, his father left him and his mother as he could no longer deal with her paranoid schizophrenia, among other things. Reid once mentioned that he was a victim of bullying in school where he was stripped naked and tied to a goalpost in front of other students. After waiting for all the other teenagers to leave, he walked home, only to find that his mother had not noticed he was so late to return because she had been having one of her schizophrenic episodes ("Elephant's Memory"). Reid grew up learning nearly everything he knows from books, with his mother (a college professor of 15th-century literature) often reading to him. Still, Reid knew that the way his mother was living wasn't healthy.
When he was eighteen, he had Diana placed in a mental institution. Until Season Twelve, she resided in that same mental institution and Reid had stated that he sent letters to Diana every day because of the guilt he felt for not visiting her. Reid is also worried about the fact that his mother's illness can be passed on genetically; he once told Morgan that "I know what it's like to be afraid of your own mind".
Reid has an eidetic memory, meaning that he can remember an exceedingly large amount of information with extraordinary detail. This, however, only definitely applies to information gathered visually (especially things he's read, as implied with the word eidetic). However, his ability to retain auditory information has been rather inconsistent, as evident when he once noted he could not remember Garcia's name ("Tabula Rasa"). Despite that, he has been able to perfectly recite speech he hears, even when it was in a completely different language of which he didn't speak a word ("Corazón").
Reid is noted for his social awkwardness and prodigal brilliance, which draws on his analytical way of thinking and establishes him as the encyclopedic brainiac of the group. He has an affinity for words - from reading and scrutinizing texts at an astounding 20,000 words per minute (an average American adult reads text at 200–300 words per minute) and his rambling of long explanations and tangents (prompting Morgan and other team members to have to tell him to be quiet). He tends to miss social cues at times (for example, unknowingly changing the subject of a conversation).
Reid also had a hard time feeling empathy, among other emotions, until after the events of season two, stating that he could understand what the victims felt before they died to Morgan in "Fear and Loathing". Matthew Gray Gubler has also commented on the differences between Reid and similarly odd character 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." Reid is a technophobe and does not use either email or the new iPads. Gubler tweeted that Reid is also germaphobic.
On par with bring an eccentric genius with trouble at conforming to social behavior, the show has hinted at symptoms correlated with schizophrenia, (minor) autism, and Asperger's Syndrome, as evident by his bursts of long-winded commentary, his impressive academic history (three PhDs in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering) in a short amount of time, and 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 Morgan slightly moves an item in the home of Marcus Talbot (who suffers from it), and Reid immediately places it back to its previous spot. Despite his odd demeanor, and his family's history of mental illness, he has never been diagnosed with an official condition.
Reid turned 24 in the episode "Plain Sight". He also asked JJ out on a date, after being handed tickets to a football game by Gideon, who tells Reid that JJ is a big fan of football. In the next episode, Reid only said that the date was "top secret" and it was never mentioned again, until "300", when JJ says that not knowing it was supposed to be a date, she brought Garcia along as a way of getting to know the younger team members.
In "L.D.S.K.", despite failing his gun qualification, Reid still manages to deliver a fatal shot to the head of Phillip Dowd (with Hotch's backup weapon, a Glock 26); thus saving himself, Hotch, and a room full of hostages. He later joked that he was "aiming for his leg". Hotch is so proud of Reid he lets him keep the gun. It is not clear whether or not he kept the weapon as he is never seen using it again.
In "The Popular Kids", Reid admits to Morgan that he's been having nightmares. He's livid to find out that Morgan not only told Hotch but also Gideon. He understands more of where Morgan coming from as he told Reid his share of nightmares. During the case, he's held hostage by the unsub and is saved by Morgan. On the ride home in the jet, Gideon has a talk with Reid about his nightmares.
In "Derailed", Reid reveals that he is capable of impressive sleight-of-hand magic tricks, which he uses to trick Ted Bryar. He then shows remarkable insight into the mind of the delusional man, successfully distracting him to protect the hostages. After Elle Greenaway admits that Reid saved her life, she asks about how he gained such insight, implying that Reid may have some personal experience with mental illness. Reid explains that he was just pretending, pats Elle on the knee, and walks away; leaving Elle and the audience wondering if he is hiding something.
In "Somebody's Watching", Reid garnered the affection of Hollywood starlet Lila Archer, who was being stalked by Maggie Lowe, who killed people to further Lila's career. Lila gives Reid what may have been his first kiss. It is unclear whether Reid tried to pursue the relationship further, but JJ teased him about it briefly in the Season Five episode "The Performer", asking if he still talked to Lila. Reid declined to answer and quickly changed the subject back to Gina King (the episode's unsub).
In "The Fisher King, Part 2", Reid reveals to the rest of the team that his mother is "a paranoid schizophrenic who wouldn't remember to eat without being properly medicated and supervised". He mentions to Garcia that schizophrenia is passed on genetically, something he is evidently worried about.
In "Aftermath", Reid seems to be the only team member who notices Elle's odd behavior, and confronts her; he gets her to open up to him but it does not stop her from spiraling out of control. Reid later blames himself for not having done more to help her.
While being held hostage by serial killer Tobias Hankel, Reid was repeatedly tortured and forcibly injected with Dilaudid, which caused hallucinations of his past and resulted in his addiction. He had a near death experience when he went into a seizure where he saw shadowy figures and a bright light (and, as he later pointed out to Morgan, it couldn't be like other cases where these visions are just doctors in the emergency room). Reid was forced to kill for a second time using the revolver that his captor used to torment him. Reid's addiction was noticed by Hotch and Gideon over time, as well as an old friend of Reid's in New Orleans ("Jones"). He has since become clean; in "Elephant's Memory", he attended a support group called The Beltway Clean Cops meeting for addicts in law enforcement. He said he'd been experiencing cravings recently and spoke of Ryan Phillips (who got shot in front of him in "3rd Life") before being interrupted by multiple calls summoning him to work. He was surprised to find one of his superiors attending the same meeting. The older agent, named "John", loaned Reid his one-year sobriety coin, making Reid promise that he would return once he earned his own. He is still very particular about staying clean, as seen in "Amplification" when he strictly refused to take any narcotic painkillers after Chad Brown infected him with Anthrax.
When Gideon does not show up at work and fails to answer phone calls ("In Name and Blood"), Reid drives out to Gideon's cabin in his own car. Upon arrival, he finds a note addressed only to him explaining why Gideon chose to leave the BAU. Later, Reid explains to Prentiss that his father did the same thing when he abandoned Reid and Diana. Prentiss later replies to Reid that there was a reason that he left the note only to Reid to find and not anyone else on the team.
In the episode "Damaged", he managed to save himself and Hotch from Chester Hardwick (who intended to kill them as a way to evade the execution of his death sentence) by giving a thirteen minute lecture on the medical explanations for Chester's condition and behavior. When the situation had been diffused, he stated that he didn't know if the profile was accurate, thus revealing it had been improvised on the spot using his encyclopedic knowledge. He also stated that he does some of his best work when under 'intense terror'.
In the episode "Elephant's Memory", Spencer received a medallion from another superior agent only named John as his previous addiction to Dilaudid was giving him cravings since his previous witness to the murder of Ryan Phillips by the hands of Jack Vaughn, encouraging Spencer to strengthen his resolve and return the medallion once he had reached the one year mark. Later in the same episode, Spencer lets some aloud some outbursts towards Morgan and a Texas PD officer handling the case in somewhat of a defense towards Owen Savage. It's revealed in a later scene that he identified with Owen, and was also bullied in high school by being lured towards the football field and forced to strip naked and tied to the football pole. Morgan is the only person he told this story to.
In the Season Four episode "Minimal Loss", Prentiss and Reid went undercover as "child interview specialists" to determine if Benjamin Cyrus, the polygamist cult leader, was sexually abusing young girls. Prentiss took a severe beating in order to protect Reid, causing him to feel guilty about her having to protect him. In "The Instincts", Claire Bates abducts a boy named Michael Bridges, and it leads Reid to some questions about his own past. He visits his mother, who inadvertently helps him solve the case.
In "Memoriam", Reid reunites with his estranged father, William Reid, whom he hasn't seen in 17 years. It is not a happy reunion, as Reid is still very angry and suspects his father of being responsible for the murder of Riley Jenkins (who's real killer was Gary Michaels). However, William is eventually cleared of any suspicion. At the end of the episode, Reid meets JJ's newborn son, Henry, and JJ asks him to be Henry's godfather.
In "Conflicted", Reid correctly profiles the victim/murderer, Adam Jackson/Amanda, and successfully talks him down from murdering his abuser, his step-father. Later he is seen reflecting on his actions as Morgan confronts him, prompting Reid to correlate Adam's relationship with dissociative personality with that of his previous kidnapper Tobias Hankel. Reid doubts his abilities, prompting Morgan to tell him that sometimes they can't save everyone.
In "52 Pickup", Reid impressed a female bartender named Austin while investigating the murders of Robert Parker. On Morgan's advice (who told him "chicks dig magic"), he performed an impressive illusion with a pen and a flier showing a police sketch of the unsub. When she asked for his number, he told her she already had it behind her barrette, which she pulled out of her hair. The bartender would later call him and ask him out, though nothing appears to have come of it.
In "Amplification", Reid and Morgan go to Dr. Nichols' lab, believing that he is the unsub. They discover Dr. Nichols' corpse and a broken container of anthrax. Reid locks Morgan outside of the lab as to not infect him. Once the team arrests Chad Brown for the attacks, they discover a hidden cure for that specific strain of anthrax in his inhaler, and Reid is cured along with the 4 surviving victims of the attack at the park.
In "Nameless, Faceless", Reid is shot in the leg by Patrick Meyers while protecting Tom Barton whom the killer had targeted. It is a non-life-threatening wound, and Reid tells the doctor to treat the unsub instead of him. In the next episode, "Haunted", he carried crutches and because of his injury, Reid stayed and worked from Quantico with Garcia in "Reckoner". Later in the season, he moved on to use a cane and continued doing so until the episode "The Uncanny Valley".
In "100", Reid manages to figure out that George Foyet is using the alias "Peter Rhea," which is an anagram of "The Reaper". The team finds out Rhea's address and storms his apartment, only to find that Foyet had posted an Internet alert on the name Peter Rhea (to alert him if the name was ever investigated) and has disappeared.
In "The Uncanny Valley", Reid returns to the public park where he used to play chess with the locals. A boy that knows Reid mentions that he used to come more often. Reid says that he used to play with an old friend who quit, Gideon, though he doesn't mention his name, just that he knows why he did quit. He was doing the same theme over and over and expecting a different outcome, yet it was all the same, the same definition of insanity. Spencer later deduces that the unsub, Samantha Malcolm, had been the subject of sexual abuse and electroshock therapy, trapping her mind in a broken childlike state at the hands of her father, Dr. Arthur Malcolm. He finds Samantha amongst three victims and manages to talk her down and cooperate with authorities without any violence.
In "Risky Business", Prentiss shows Reid a star puzzle set that she proclaimed impossible to piece back together. Reid then placed it together within seconds, prompting her to exclaim jokingly that there's a lot to hate about Reid, Morgan, Rossi, and Garcia then chimed in to throw their opinions never to play Chess, Poker, or Go with Spencer.
In "...A Thousand Words", Reid is tasked to originally work on the tattoos of the unsub and decipher its meaning but ends up working the journals as he can read much much faster than the rest of the team. Towards the end of the episode, Prentiss is seen beating him in poker.
In "J.J.", Reid takes antacids from Prentiss's desk, something that she notices; she asks, "Again with the dairy?" Reid replies with, "I can't help it, I love dairy". This implies that he is lactose-intolerant but, in retrospect, could have been a cover for his headaches that were revealed later. On the jet, he is later shown to be feeling sick and went into the bathroom. When he comes out, he is wiping his mouth as if he had been vomiting.
In "25 to Life", Reid appears to be rather disheveled. His shirt is partially un-tucked, his hair was unkempt, he reads very slowly, and he is much quieter and more subdued than he had been in the past seasons. The rest of the team seems oblivious to these signs.
In "Corazón", Reid is revealed to be suffering from intense headaches, and possibly hallucinatory episodes, while working the case. Throughout the episode, Julio Ruiz, a religious leader, tells Reid that he's carrying the deaths and souls of people along with him and that they're still with him and is affecting his own soul. In the end of the episode, he goes to see a doctor, who finds nothing physically wrong with him, suggesting it may be a psychosomatic disorder. Terrified of having inherited his mother's schizophrenia, he vehemently denies this and storms out of the office. Prior to this episode, Reid exhibited multiple signs of being in pain, such as gripping and rubbing his leg, rocking in his chair, cringing in pain while in the background, putting a hand over his stomach as if he felt ill, and sensitivity to light.
He appears to be well in the following episodes, though in "Coda", he is seen carrying a book about migraines. In "With Friends Like These...", Reid confides in Morgan about his problems, remarking that he only read five books the previous week. Previously in "Valhalla", Reid had told 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 make him "feel like a baby".
In "Lauren", it is Reid and Garcia who react strongest to the news of Prentiss' supposed death at the hands of Ian Doyle when he's told, he tries to run out of the room and winds up sobbing on JJ's shoulder after telling her that he "never got a chance to say goodbye".
When Hotch and JJ told the team they'd faked Prentiss's death in "Proof", Reid became very upset with JJ. He told her he felt betrayed because he "came to her house for ten weeks, crying" and she didn't say anything. He also mentions that he considered taking Dilaudid again after Prentiss "died". Reid also angrily referred to JJ as Jennifer, something he had never done before. After this, he says, "What if I started taking Dilaudid again, would you have let me?", which makes JJ upset, and after another passive-aggressive comment, Reid storms off. He later made amends with both Prentiss and JJ.
In "Painless", Morgan plays a practical joke on Reid by giving his phone number to the press after Reid hustled him at a basketball game. The nonstop calls irritated Reid to the point he yelled into his phone, but from Morgan's reactions to the calls, Reid realized what he'd done and declared revenge. On the plane, Morgan's music is interrupted by a recording from Reid, which warned him against entering a prank war with an MIT graduate, followed by Reid screaming. Reid smiles as Morgan's phone rings, apparently a call from Garcia. Morgan answers but is greeted with a response of more of Reid's screaming. Morgan then declared "it's on".
In "Epilogue", Spencer reveals that he had an experience with seeing the afterlife when he died and revived by Tobias Hankel, one where he felt warmth and the light. He then follows it up with that he's a man of science and that he didn't know how to deal with it, which is why he never revealed it to his teammates. That there was no quantifiable evidence that God exists and yet in that moment he was faced with something that he can't explain.
For the second time since the start of the series, he celebrates his birthday during an episode, this time his 30th during "True Genius", with the team. He relates to Prentiss that he feels that he hasn't lived up to expectations.
In "God Complex", Reid makes a series of phone calls via payphone to Maeve Donovan. It is revealed that she viewed the MRI scans of his brain and has suggested a course of treatment for his headaches. He also appears to suffer from sleep deprivation. It is later suggested that perhaps the woman is possibly a geneticist. Reid behaves rather strangely when he needs to speak to the woman during the cause of John Nelson, causing Blake to come back and confront him after she dropped him off at a payphone. Reid does not want the rest of the team to know about his mystery woman. It also appears that the woman is in some sort of danger and she fears that Diane Turner does not know about her relationship with Reid and she fears that "he" will hurt Reid. Morgan worries that Reid is suffering from migraines, but Reid has not been having them for awhile. He and his mystery woman have been in contact for six months and only on Sundays up until this point. Reid wants to have more frequent conversations and possibly meet her, but the mystery woman is afraid for his safety. She does say "love you" before hanging up, leaving Reid in awe.
In "The Good Earth", JJ lets the team know that her son Henry is afraid of trick or treating, saying that his friend told him that it's the one night of the year that real monsters can blend in with the children disguised as monsters. Later in the episode, he summons the courage to go trick or treating by stating that he will try to find out which monsters are the real ones and dressed up as his favorite profiler, Reid.
In "The Apprenticeship", Morgan takes Reid out to practice hitting a baseball as his team is in need of another substitute player. After the case is finished up, Reid goes to watch Morgan's game and is drafted to play second base for the Bureau's softball team against the Secret Service. At the bottom of the ninth, with the FBI team trailing by 1 point and Spencer up to bat, Morgan gives him a little pep talk and tells him to get out of his head and just play by feel as well as a chance to erase all his bad childhood athletic sports memories. With two strikes, Reid hits and makes a double play with Morgan, winning the game for the FBI.
In "The Lesson", Reid takes time to call the mysterious woman he admires several times throughout the case to get some insight. Towards the end of the episode, she tells Spencer that she's ready to meet in person and that she thinks it's safe enough. Reid and the mysterious woman both show signs of nervousness and anxiousness, mirroring each other simultaneously at their respective homes. Spencer shows up slightly before her with a book "The Narrative of John Smith" wrapped as a present. Spencer sees a man look over a few times and has a hunch that this man might be the stalker that his friend is so afraid of. He calls her to not come in and leave right away and goes to confront him, only to find out that it's the wrong person. He returns to his table disappointed and finds that his friend left him the same exact book as a present.
In "Zugzwang", Reid receives a collect call from "Adam Worth" at a payphone, only to hear the term Zugzwang, which is a chess term that describes the point in a game when a player realizes he'll inevitably be checkmated, and thus he has the decision whether or not to resign or play the game through to the end. This, coupled with the fact that they both use pseudonyms to disguise their letters, Spencer addressing himself as Dr. Joseph Bell and that the caller addressed himself as Adam Worth, whom was the American criminal that Arthur Conan Doyle based the character of Moriarty on, prompted Reid to seek the help of Hotchner, and through him the BAU. Visibly distressed, Reid pleads his case to his teammates, though Hotch reminds them that they're likely not to receive the case through the BAU, meaning that they'd strictly be using their private off time to work the case, everyone stays to help. The mysterious woman, identified as Maeve Donovan, is abducted by her stalker, also identified as Diane Turner, and despite his efforts to rescue her, he watches in horror as Diane simultaneously kills herself and Maeve with a single .45-caliber bullet at the end of the episode. He breaks down into sobs of grief.
Maeve's death left a lasting impact on Reid for the rest of the season. In "Magnum Opus", he is allowed to stay behind while the team investigates Bryan Hughes. During that time, Reid barely left his apartment and therefore never saw any of the gifts the rest of the team left behind by his door as condolences. However, Reid finally decides to catch up with the rest of the team but stays behind when the team identifies the unsub and discerns that the delusion that is fueling his killings will motivate him to commit suicide or suicide by cop. Indeed, the unsub is shot and killed by Hotch when he tries to kill another victim. In "The Gathering", Reid tries to reason with Peter Harper (who was subsequently bent on suicide), but he is unsuccessful and the man slashes his own throat with a knife. This visibly upsets Reid afterward.
In "Alchemy", Reid, still haunted by Maeve's death, tries to remedy this failure by personally tracking down any potential cases and finds the one of Raoul Whalen and Tess Mynock. Throughout the entire case, he is consoled by Rossi and opens up to him about the fact that he never saw her personally prior to her death and that he never even touched her once. Reid also cites that he has barely slept, fearing that he will dream about her. When the case is concluded, Rossi successfully gets Reid to finally move on. Reid falls asleep on the jet and dreams about Maeve, whom he shares a dance with.
In "Persuasion", when Cesar Jones' case came up in his hometown of Las Vegas, Reid calls his mother at Bennington, intending to visit her. He is surprised to learn that her mental condition was beginning to improve, as she wasn't signed into Bennington as frequently and was actually allowed to have a supervised vacation to the Grand Canyon simultaneous to the investigation. When asked about it, Reid stated that he was overjoyed to learn about this, although he also expresses his belief that his mother might have actually forgotten about him, since they barely kept in touch. By the end of the episode, Reid receives a number of postcards and a golden collectible miniature of the Grand Canyon from Diana. These gifts please him, as that meant his mother still thought about him.
In "Angels", Reid was shot in the neck by Justin Mills while trying to protect Blake. He appeared to be critically wounded. In "Demons", the follow-up to "Angels", it was revealed that the bullet barely missed his carotid artery and he underwent surgery. He spent most of the episode in the hospital, where Greg Baylor, who was posing as a nurse, attempted to kill him by injecting carbenicillin into his IV. When Baylor, whose true identity had not been exposed yet, ignored his objections, Reid slapped the syringe out of his hand. Baylor then pulled out a gun from his satchel, but Garcia shot him with Reid's own gun, wounding him. Reid was then escorted home by Blake, who opened up to him about her deceased son Ethan before leaving. Reid said goodbye and then found that she had left him her badge and ID.
Reid was the team member who was the most upset when Gideon was murdered by Donnie Mallick in "Nelson's Sparrow", even storming out of the crime scene in tears after Gideon's identity was confirmed to him. In the following episode "Hero Worship", Reid struggled to cope with the loss of Gideon. He began playing the chess game that Gideon had been playing prior to his murder in the hopes of keeping it going and thus keep part of him alive. Rossi later joined in the game to help him finish it.
In "Rock Creek Park", he asks Agent Dorian Loker for coffee after spending the following day doing surveillance together.
In "Target Rich", Reid mentions to JJ that his mother wasn't doing so well with her current medications. As a result, he takes a sabbatical for a few following episodes so he can visit her.
In "Entropy", Reid returned to assist the team in taking down the Hitman Network tracking down Garcia. During an undercover operation to capture its last two members: Cat Adams and Sharon Mayford, he indirectly reveals to the team that his mother was recently suffering from dementia, which he later confirmed directly afterward. He also expressed his fears that he will contract dementia as well since he missed the genetic schizophrenia marker when he turned 30.
In "Keeper", Reid reveals to Rossi that his mother was accepted as a participant in a groundbreaking study on Alzheimer's, titled Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Reid is excited by the news, as earlier tests had found ways to not only slow the disease but actually reverse it. Later, during the case of Cormac Burton, he learned that his mother was found wandering around a casino, confused and not knowing who she was. She was safely taken in by police and has since recovered, but was embarrassed by the situation. By the end of the episode, it was revealed that his mother was one of the several participants who had to be cut out of the study due to unexpected budget restraints. This disappoints Reid, and he tries to find another study that his mother could participate in.
He eventually finds one in Houston, Texas, before the events of "Surface Tension", but later decides to take his mother out of it and bring her home with him so he could take care of her. After several unsuccessful attempts, he hires a caretaker named Cassie Campbell to assist him. However, Reid is forced to deal with the combination of his mother's schizophrenic episodes and lapses in memory.
At some point, in Houston, Reid met a woman calling herself Rosa Medina, a doctor who wrote an article on Alzheimer's. Between November 2016 and January 2017, Reid traveled to and from Mexico three separate times, all without notifying the FBI about his movements. In "A Good Husband", following the conclusion of a case, he informs Prentiss that he has some unfinished business to do in Houston. However, in "Spencer", he was arrested in Mexico on suspicion of drug possession with the intent to distribute, and the murder of Rosa, who was actually named Nadie Ramos, and who was found in a hotel room Reid was also at. He was nearly transferred to a maximum-security Mexican prison for Nadie's murder, but it was stopped when it was revealed that Nadie has dual American-Mexican citizenship, and he was extradited back to the U.S. However, the federal government refused to provide legal assistance for Reid, because he entered Mexico without informing the Bureau, which broke protocol.
In "Collision Course", Prentiss hired a lawyer, Fiona Duncan, for him. The prosecutor, A.U.S.A. Manny Martinez, offers a deal in which Reid pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of two to five years in prison. After Reid turns down the offer, the knife used to kill Nadie is found in the Mexican desert, leading to another plea bargain of five to ten years in prison. Reid turns down this offer too, and later, he is denied bail by Judge Willa Frost, despite Fiona's best efforts, who believes Reid is flight-risk due to his behavior when he fled the crime scene in Mexico.
In "Alpha Male", Reid is sent to Millburn Correctional Facility instead of protective custody due to overcrowding. There, he meets Officer Lionel Wilkins and inmates Luis Delgado, Milos, and Milos' gang Hicks, Dwayne, and Little T. He is nearly killed by Milos and his gang for taking back his belongings (which they had earlier stolen), but is saved by another inmate named Calvin Shaw, a former FBI agent imprisoned for killing Elena Olegnova. As a result, Reid befriends Shaw, who is also proficient in reading and chess, and who gives him tips to survive in prison.
In "Assistance Is Futile", Reid befriends Luis, going as far as reporting his assault by inmates Frazier and Duerson to Officer Peters. However, Frazier and Duerson brutally beat him in retaliation. Later, in "In the Dark", Frazier and Duerson attempt to recruit Reid and Delgado into helping them smuggle drugs into the prison. When Reid refuses, Frazier and Duerson later attack him and Luis in the prison laundry room, with Frazier slashing Luis's throat with a shiv and killing him. As a result, in "Hell's Kitchen", he agrees to help them. Meanwhile, Reid realizes Shaw has an extraordinary amount of influence within the prison general population, as Shaw had arranged for him to have another acquaintance in the form of Malcolm. Eventually, in an act of desperation, Reid poisons the drugs he receives, hoping to kill Frazier and Duerson. However, the two distribute the drugs throughout the prison, leading to five poisonings (including that of Shaw) that horrifies Reid.
In "True North", the prison is put on lockdown because of Reid's actions. This gives Lewis an opportunity to visit Reid and act as his personal psychiatrist since she has a Ph.D. Lewis gives Reid a cognitive interview; it is during that interview when Reid reveals he stabbed Nadie to death. However, she later tells Prentiss that she believes he manufactured the memory in a desperate attempt to find an answer to his circumstances. She resumes the interview on the next day, and Reid seems to remember the murder a little more clearly, recalling someone spraying a fine mist in his face during the attack in the hotel. This matched the M.O. of Peter Lewis, a serial killer by proxy who had been taunting the BAU since his escape from prison in "The Storm", and who was the BAU's prime suspect in Nadie's murder. However, when Lewis presses further, Reid remembers that the person who was with him and Nadie in the hotel was not Peter, but a woman. This woman was later revealed as Lindsey Vaughn in "Unforgettable".
In "Unforgettable", Fiona informs Reid that his trial was postponed, causing him to worry about his chances of survival in prison. Later on, Diana unexpectedly visits him, and they spend the remainder of the episode discussing it. During the conversation, Diana reveals that she threw Cassie out and hired a new nurse. At the end of the episode, the nurse comes to retrieve Diana. Upon spotting her, Reid remembers the woman as Lindsey Vaughn, whom he met a decade ago (in "3rd Life") when he tried to stop Jack Vaughn from killing Ryan Phillips but failed, but the nurse denies being Lindsey before leaving with Diana. However, her words trigger another memory in Reid: she was the woman inside the motel room who drugged him and made him believe he killed Nadie Ramos. As he realizes this, the nurse looks back at him tauntingly, confirming her true identity. Reid tries to alert the Butler and yell at his mother but is unable to stop the two from leaving.
In "Green Light", Reid alerts the team and has them check his apartment, but they find her missing and Cassie dead, nearly pushing him over the edge. Later, Shaw and the other inmates Reid accidentally poisoned are released from the infirmary. Shaw, knowing it was Reid who caused the poisonings, targets him by revealing his status as a federal agent to the other inmates. Shaw later tauntingly tells Reid that he won't see another attack coming, but Reid isolates himself in solitary confinement by stabbing himself in the thigh and pinning it on Shaw. Reid later gets released from prison after the BAU manages to prove his innocence. The BAU later realizes that Reid was framed by Lindsey Vaughn, who in ten years became part of an international drug cartel, and Cat Adams, a hitwoman who Reid directly captured in "Entropy". At the end of the episode, Reid and JJ go to the prison where Cat has been incarcerated in solitary confinement for six months, with Reid preparing to face her again. The episode ends with Reid entering the interrogation room to confront her and Cat calling him "Spencie".
In "Red Light" Reid and Adams play another game, in which Cat Adams reveals she is pregnant, and tries to convince Reid that he is the father. After she makes a nasty comment about Reid's mother, he pushes her against a wall and starts to violently strangle her in an attempt to kill her, but JJ stops him, reminding him that she's pregnant. This leaves Reid extremely worried about his well being. Before Reid leaves, Cat says, "Once you crossed that line, you can't ever go back." Reid took his watch from her that she had been using as a timer, and replied, "Watch me." Reid's mother is rescued towards the end of the episode, and she and Spencer reunite.
In "Wheels Up", Reid expresses concern in his ability to process information, explaining that he spent, "...sixty minutes doing something that normally would have taken me sixty seconds." He also explains to Luke Alvez that he can't arrest Mr. Scratch, or Peter Lewis because Reid seriously wanted to kill Lewis for what he had done to Agent Prentiss. Alvez later helps him decipher some of his symptoms, leading to Reid realizing he has PTSD, or PTSS as Alvez explains corrects him, from the time Reid spent in prison in season twelve.
In "To A Better Place", Reid is officially reinstated as an agent under the condition that for every 100 days he spends on the job, he takes thirty days off. Prentiss arranges for him to teach seminars to new agents during his time off. Reid is shown to be considerably more aggressive on the job to the point where he obliterates a target during a training exercise and is more willing to use lethal force against Billy Lynch.
At the end of "Believer", Reid is faced with the choice of helping a double agent inside the FBI break her cult leader out of custody or letting them kill Penelope Garcia.
In "300", the first episode of the season, Reid and Garcia are kidnapped by the cult the Believers, who have connections to a cult they dismantled led by Benjamin Cyrus in "Minimal Loss". Reid is beaten, and though Garcia isn't physically injured, she is far more affected by the experience than Reid is. Reid gives Garcia instructions on how to escape moments before he's dragged away and transported with the rest of the cult to Kentucky, where they set up a new base. The Believers had serious intentions to sacrifice Reid as their 300th victim for his supposed "bravery" in his choice to stay in the compound in season four. A cult member asked Reid how he felt about dying, and he said he felt peace. The team rescues Reid moments before they murder him at the end of the episode, and he is rather quiet on the plane ride home.
Reid is officially a full member of the team again in "Night Lights" after taking a sabbatical in which he completed his teaching.
In "Hamelin", Reid uses force on a suspect when he pushes Tara Lewis. When Rossi learns he is surprised and impressed.
In "Truth or Dare", the team learns Reid passed his gun qualification with flying colors, earning a perfect 100. During the episode in a hostage situation, JJ confesses to Reid, admitting that she has always loved him when a serial killer who was holding the two as hostages, forces her to tell her darkest secrets. Reid cuts the duct tape binds around his wrists with a shard of glass and manages to shoot him moments before the unsub could kill anyone. At Rossi and Krystall's wedding, he asked if she meant it, but decides not to dwell on it for the sake of their friendship.
In "Under the Skin and "Awakening", things have been tense and awkward between Reid and JJ since what happened in the previous episode. Reid finds JJ bleeding but survives from a gunshot to the abdomen by Grace Lynch after she and her father, Everett Lynch, escape from federal custody. She tells Reid that she also loves her boys and Will and doesn't want to ruin her family but he was her first love and hold a part of her heart, which Reid understands and agrees to keep it between them and be friends again. A conversation with his mother gets him to move on from it.
In "Face Off", following an explosion at the house of an unsub, Reid realizes that the unsub is still alive when he arrives home but faints immediately afterward as a result of a brain injury sustained in the explosion.
In "And in the End...", Reid hallucinates several people from his past as he suffers from intracranial bleeding, including Maeve. He is found by JJ and Garcia after they are sent to check in on him and suffers several seizures as he is sent to the hospital. He eventually becomes stable and regains consciousness, making a full recovery.
On the Job
Reid joined the BAU at age 22 (stated in an article on his father's computer in "Memoriam"). One of his first cases was that of Brian Matloff ("Tabula Rasa"). Though he went to the FBI academy, he had trouble with just about everything that wasn't book-related, including marksmanship, physical training, and obstacle courses. In the end, they had to make special exceptions to get him into the field ("What Happens at Home").
- It is unknown if Reid has epilepsy, as the subject was never brought up by any doctor or team member. Though he had at least 3 seizures, they stemmed from the trauma he sustained with the explosion and being tortured. Based on the later episodes, Reid does not seem to suffer any after-effects.
- His sidearm was a Glock 17. Since "The Angel Maker", however, he carries a Smith & Wesson Model 65 revolver with a three-inch barrel and wood-colored grips. He keeps his sidearm in an unusual appendix-carry, which was noted by a militia member, who said that the way Reid was carrying the gun, he was "just begging someone to take it off him" ("Identity").
- However, in "Penelope", he is briefly seen with his Glock holstered in the standard hip style, rather than his usual frontal appendix holster, despite being seen using the latter style holster earlier in the episode.
- "Truth or Dare" reveals he carries an ankle-holstered backup, a Smith & Wesson Model 10-5 M&P snub-nosed revolver, and has done so since the events of Season Twelve. Aside from the aforementioned trait, this gun appears to share similar traits to his S&W 65.
- He has also used revolvers taken from two unsubs: He took Maggie Lowe's Harrington & Richardson Model 929 and held her at gunpoint with it in "Somebody's Watching". And he later killed Tobias Hankel with his own Smith & Wesson Military & Police revolver in "Revelations".
- In "Masterpiece", it is revealed that he holds PhDs in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Engineering and BAs in Psychology and Sociology. He was working on receiving a BA in Philosophy and may have gotten it by now. In "Big Sea", he also displays expert knowledge of forensic anthropology, being able to determine the sex and race of the skeletal remains. He showed knowledge of skeletal remains as early as Season One when he was able to identify the gender of a body based on the pelvic structure in "The Popular Kids".
- He considered studying the classics (literature) but had previously read all of the course material so he opted to go to Caltech and study Mathematics instead (according to an article on William Reid's computer in "Memoriam"). In "Painless", he also mentions graduating from MIT.
- Reid has an IQ of 187, an eidetic memory, and can read 20,000 words per minute. ("Extreme Aggressor")
- He is an expert on historical serial killers, statistics, geographic profiling, graphology, and body language. He also seems to display fast counting skills, possibly related to his card counting skills, both of which skills have been observed in multiple occasions.
- Despite not being able to pronounce Spanish words in "Machismo" and showing no knowledge of the Russian language in "Honor Among Thieves", it seems he is able to read in some foreign languages (although they were never specified). Over the years, he improved his Russian comprehensive skills and understands it well enough to watch a five-hour movie in the language and can speak it. ("Sense Memory", "Fate", "Rock Creek Park") He is also capable of reading in Russian now. ("Fatal")
- In "Rock Creek Park" says to get by with Yoruba (A language spoken in West Africa and most prominently Southwestern Nigeria). He understands what a woman is saying in this language.
- Like many "brainiac" types, Reid tends to ramble on when the conversation leads to a subject with which he is very familiar. This tendency is somewhat annoying to his peers and they often verbally shush him or respond to him with blank stares. This is also a trait of autism called information dumping or info dumping.
- He is the only main character to appear in the opening sequence of every episode.
- He went to public school in Las Vegas and was frequently bullied. In one incident, he was ambushed by the entire football team; they stripped him naked, tied him to a goalpost, and tormented him in front of half the school until they grew bored and left. He never spoke of it until he told Morgan in "Elephant's Memory".
- It was implied that he may have asked for extra-credit work and offered to clean classrooms for teachers (being on extra good behavior) to compensate for his father's absence and mother's mental instability. ("In Name and Blood")
- His mother was a professor of 15th-century literature and read many things to him, including some of the earliest Valentine's poems (Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, mentioned in "The Fisher King, Part 1"). Garcia's response upon hearing this was: "Hello therapy."
- His father is an attorney who works longer hours than the BAU team and has "a very sick cat".
- Reid claimed to have improved his social status in school by "coaching" the basketball team. He used mathematics to figure out plays and advise the team, which led to them winning more. ("Painless")
- He had an uncle named Daniel, who died when Reid was young. ("Memoriam") He also has an uncle named Gordon who lives in Las Vegas. ("Surface Tension") In addition, he has/had an uncle who used to take testosterone; it is unknown if it was Daniel, Gordon, or a different uncle. ("Strange Fruit")
- He has an aunt named Ethel, who thinks his hair is too long. ("The Lesson")
- Yale was his backup school.
- He is an avid Star Trek, Star Wars, and Doctor Who fan.
- He dressed as the Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who while going to a convention with Garcia. He knitted his own scarf for the costume. ("Hit")
- He likes soap operas ("P911").
- He is a skilled illusionist ("Derailed", "52 Pickup", "Run", "The Storm", "Saturday").
- In Season Two, his car appeared to be a horizon blue Volvo Amazon P130 122S circa 1965 with D.C. license plate WG S654. However, in Season Ten, the car resembled a pearl-white version of the same model circa 1966 with Virginia license plate 478 591.
- He dislikes creamed spinach but likes Indian food (in one of the episodes, he tried to invite his team members to try a new Indian restaurant he found; he also invites them to an Indian restaurant in "Supply and Demand," stating that the restaurant is out of the way but has very good chicken tandoori).
- He is an avid coffee drinker. His mother thinks that is why he is so skinny. In "A Rite of Passage", he stated that if the coffee was to be cut, he'd quit the BAU (Rossi claimed, possibly jokingly, he spends at least $50 a week on it). In Season Six, he seemed to drink less coffee and instead was seen drinking green tea, likely in response to his headaches. He may have continued drinking it even after his headaches subsided since, during a personal crisis, he brought a cup of green tea to Morgan instead of coffee so it wouldn't "make him as jittery". However, by Season Twelve, he had started drinking coffee regularly again.
- He has trouble using chopsticks and says using them is like trying to forage for food with a pair of number two pencils. ("A Real Rain")
- He is good at playing cards and won over $2,000 while playing on a machine in Las Vegas, but he let a "hooker" keep his winnings. ("Memoriam")
- He is the godfather to JJ's sons Henry and Michael.
- Morgan partially named his son Hank after Reid, giving him the name "Hank Spencer Morgan" and is also his godfather.
- Reid's leg injury sustained in "Nameless, Faceless" was originally unplanned but had to be written in because of Matthew Gray Gubler's real-life severe knee injury which left him unable to walk for over four months. After the third surgery in September, Gubler started using a cane but was unable to walk normally for the next five months. As of December 2009, Gubler was once again able to walk unassisted.
- After being on crutches since the second episode of Season Five, Reid was only using one crutch in "Outfoxed" and then switched to a cane in the next episode. He continued to use it through episode "100".
- He appeared without cane or crutches in the Season Five episode "The Uncanny Valley" and again in "Risky Business".
- He has killed eight unsubs in his career: Phillip Dowd (using Hotch's Glock 26), Tobias Hankel (using Tobias's own gun after managing to steal it), Chloe Donaghy, Daniel Milworth, one member of Michael Hastings' terrorist group (with the help of Rossi and Blake), Andrew Meeks, John Bradley, and Casey Allen Pinker.
- At of the end of Season Five, Reid cut his hair, which drew initial sarcastic remarks from the other team members. ("The Internet Is Forever")
- In "The Internet Is Forever", Reid claims not to have email, although it was shown in "Cradle to Grave" that he does. Although, he may only have it at his work and not at home.
- He is afraid of the dark "because of the inherent absence of light". ("The Boogeyman")
- He loves Halloween. ("About Face" and "Devil's Night")
- He began suffering from "intense headaches" in Season Six but the headaches were not evident after Corazón and only seemed to be mentioned a few times when he told Prentiss ("Valhalla") and Morgan ("With Friends Like These..."). The doctor suggested the headaches were psychosomatic.
- He takes equal doses of Riboflavin and Magnesium, in addition to sporadic shots of B2 to prevent his headaches. This is interesting as Riboflavin is B2. ("God Complex")
- Reid's dissertation from Caltech's Department of Engineering was titled Identifying non-obvious relationship factors using cluster weighted modeling and geographic regression. ("Memoriam")
- Despite being skilled with playing the piano, he has never played it before, citing to Rossi that "it's essentially all math". ("Coda")
- He appears to live near the Van Ness Metro station in the District of Columbia.
- Despite claims that he was able to drive at age 14, he rode a bicycle around while in college because the government would not issue him a driver's license. ("The Stranger")
- Reid is banned from several casinos in Las Vegas, Laughlin, and Pahrump because of his card-counting abilities. ("Snake Eyes")
- Reid does not like the beach. ("The Good Earth")
- He has eye cataract in the initial stage. ("The Lesson")
- Reid can understand and speak Korean. ("The Road Home")
- He knows how to unclog a toilet. ("Mr. & Mrs. Anderson")
- He hates hospitals due to their bright lighting. ("Rabid")
- Reid lives on the second floor in Apartment #23 of Capital Plaza Apartments. ("Magnum Opus" and "Demons").
- His favorite kind of donut has chocolate frosting and sprinkles. ("Taboo")
- He has been shot three times on screen. The first shot was to the left knee while protecting a would-be victim from a budding spree killer in "Nameless, Faceless". The second shot was in the left arm while trying to rescue his girlfriend from her captor in "Zugzwang". The third shot was to the neck while protecting Blake during a shootout with a suspect in "Angels".
- Reid has a known "bad reaction" to carbenicillin, an antibiotic in the carboxypenicillin subgroup of the penicillins. (Demons)
- He can understand German. ("Devil's Backbone")
- Reid wears mismatched socks. This characteristic was implemented by Matthew Gray Gubler, whose grandmother told him mismatched socks bring good luck.
- According to Morgan, after he had learned that US troops had encountered white phospherous in Iraq, Reid took it upon himself to search for a cure, talking extensively about copper sulphate. Morgan would later use this knowledge to crudely treat burn wounds inflicted during his torture on the orders of a deceased unsub's vengeful father. ("Derek")
- He used to bump into things as a child, prompting his mother to nickname him "Crash". ("Surface Tension")
- He once wanted to be a tightrope-walker when he was very young, after seeing a circus performance with his mother. ("Surface Tension")
- His favorite childhood movie is Babar: King of the Elephants. ("Seven Seconds")
- If Reid wasn't an FBI agent, he would be a cowboy. ("Rusty")
- He was supposed to be bisexual but the production dropped the idea by episode four with his crush on J.J.
- The pseudonym used by him and Maeve in their letters in "Zugzwang"
- "The Crimson King"
- (note that Asperger's is contentious as a term and diagnosis as the label itself has Nazi ties and has largely been labeled simply as autism or ASD in the autism community. It has been removed from the DSM-5 since 2013)
- Gubler has speculated that Reid is autistic on social media. It is worth noting that his behavior and personality are all considered to be autistically coded.
- At substance abuse meetings, fellow addicts simply refer to each other by their first names; a way to ensure anonymity and equality.