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Why Criminal Minds Fans Are Hung Up On Garcia's Parents

As a member of the "Criminal Minds" FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, one thing you'd definitely want from your technical analyst is consistency, being reliable and accountable to your team. This is where the character of Penelope Garcia (the multi-talented Kirsten Vangsness) has fallen short at times, but not so much in how her character's personality is written or portrayed. Although she appeared in every "Criminal Minds" episode but one — pretty darn consistent — Penelope was only intended to appear in the first episode, so there have been some issues with the gradual development of her character over the course of the show's 15 seasons. For a couple of examples, her first appearance on "Criminal Minds" has her wearing this bland argyle sweater vest that fans couldn't possibly imagine their fave character wearing, and her hair even randomly turned red in the middle of Season 5 — then back to blonde again halfway through Season 6.

More important than these aesthetic hiccups, however, are the inconsistencies in her backstory. And that's been the focus of a number of "Criminal Minds" fans in a recent discussion on Reddit. Here's what they took issue with.

Penelope Garcia's parents come back from the dead

One of the first insights into Penelope Garcia's backstory that viewers get is in the Season 1 episode "Won't Get Fooled Again." Agent Derek Morgan (Shemar Moore) jokingly asks Penelope, "Garcia, what are you doing in the FBI?" to which she quips, "I didn't get into medical school." He laughs, continuing their banter by commenting, "Why does that not surprise me?" and she lightly punches him on the shoulder, saying, "Ouch, that's what my father said." From this exchange, we learn that Penelope's dad is disappointed in her career — maybe he's one of those parents who has a very narrow vision of what they hope to see their kids accomplish, and nothing will ever really be good enough.

This is the scene from which Reddit user a–reilly, the original poster, kicks off the discussion of Penelope's changing backstory. Years later, in the Season 13 episode "All You Can Eat," viewers learn that Penelope's mother and stepfather were killed by a drunk driver when she was a teenager. Putting this episode together with "Won't Get Fooled Again," a–reilly writes, "Penelope['s] parents died when she was 16 or 18 (I can't [remember] but it's one of those 2) so her father wouldn't have been able to say that [he was disappointed she didn't get into medical school] unless he came back from the dead."

Is this a potential slip into the paranormal? Probably not. In fact — while nothing can be 100% certain — there are a couple ways to explain what's going on here.

... or do they?

Word choice could be the key here: In the Season 1 episode, Penelope Garcia says that her father wasn't surprised she didn't get into medical school, while in the Season 13 episode, she discusses the death of her mother and stepfather. So maybe we're talking about two different dads here. One user, jona712, points this out: "Her mum and her Dad (stepdad) died in the car crash when she was 18. I can't recall if they ever said what happened to her biological Dad, maybe he said this."

But user a–reilly replies, "I think her bio dad wasn't in the picture." This is supported by the fact that Penelope took her stepfather's last name — how many in-the-picture dads would allow their children to take the last name of their exes' new partner? This takes us to the more plausible explanation: It's just banter.

User LauraLand27 is the one to point this out, writing "I totally didn't take her response that way. When you're in a banter session with somebody you say things that aren't necessarily true, just to go with the flow of the banter." And if you go back and watch the scene from Season 1, Penelope's delivery of the line "I didn't get into medical school" ends with a slightly raised voice, making it sound almost like a question — like she's trying out a joke. So it's possible that she never even applied to medical school in the first place.

She has anywhere between 0 and 4 siblings

Inconsistencies with Penelope Garcia's family history aren't just limited to her parents — we also don't really know how many siblings she has. User Gemini987654321 notes the changing story Penelope gives her coworkers: "'I'm an only child but isn't that standard for those of you with siblings' 'I have 4 brothers JJ' [but] Only 1 brother shows up after she gets kidnapped you'd think if they'd kept the 4 they'd all show." And they are right about this; in the Season 2 episode "P911," Penelope does tell JJ she has four brothers, while in later seasons, she describes herself as an only child.

It's totally possible that Penelope is referencing her 4 stepbrothers to JJ as simply her "brothers" then later describes herself as an only child because she has no biological siblings. But it's more likely that "Criminal Minds" just changed her story up over the years. Reddit user dinvy helpfully brings the term "retcon" into the conversation, writing, "I wouldn't call it a plot hole more like it got retconned. You'll find more of this as characters are fleshed out."

"Retcon" is short for retroactive continuity, signifying that a character's story is altered to better reflect the present moment (via Merriam-Webster). It's super common for a television series that spans many years to retcon minor details of its characters' backstories in order to make current events seem more important, and, being that "Criminal Minds" was filmed over the course of 15 years, it's no surprise that some fairly irrelevant character features like how many siblings Penelope Garcia has have been switched up a couple of times. While this practice may frustrate the most observant of fans, it actually makes for even more exciting trivia.