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Criminal Minds: Reid's Best Parental Figure Throughout The Show

No matter how smart you are, everybody needs a little guidance sometimes.

Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit on the long-running CBS series "Criminal Minds," has three PhDs, a genius I.Q., and an eidetic memory. He joined the FBI at the age of 20, and his powerful brain proves an invaluable asset to the team as it pursues its Unknown Subjects. 

Reid's mind works atypically. Though the show itself never diagnoses Reid's neurodiversity, Gubler himself has said that he considers Reid to have "some form of autism." That coupled with a difficult upbringing –– a mother who suffered from mental illness and a father who abandoned the family –– means that for every arena in which his smarts allow him to excel, there's another in which he can struggle.

But many of these are places where his teammates on the BAU, especially those on the older side, are able to help him grow. This got one fan on the r/criminalminds subreddit wondering whom other viewers of the show thought was the most beneficial to Reid's development on the show. The poll they posted asks simply "Best Parental Figure to Reid throughout the Series," and once the 808 votes were counted, a clear winner emerged — one some fans might take issue with.

Why fans think Jason Gideon was Reid's best parental figure

The top vote-getter was also the first of Reid's replacement parents, BAU unit chief Jason Gideon (Mandy Patinkin). As a character, Gideon has always divided fans, some of whom found him too distant and occasionally even rude to his own team. But his relationship with Reid was different, with Gideon sensing the other's need for a mentor and recognizing that the younger man's respect for his intelligence made him a logical candidate. Commenter u/Marvelthingss_ wrote that Gideon taught Reid "to think outside the box because Reid was always used to being the genius."

But to others, the method of Gideon's departure disqualifies him, especially considering the parallels with Reid's own father. "Agreed I liked Gideon and Reid until he left him without a word," wrote u/shelllllo. Gideon left the BAU abruptly in the first episode of the show's third season, purportedly because of growing doubts over his own abilities. (Patinkin told TV Guide he left the show because its weekly roster of horrible crimes was too much for him to take.)

"Writing him a letter explaining he was leaving when his dad also did that to him was just..." added original poll poster u/sarbear0903.

Rossi's longevity earned him the votes of some fans

By contrast, the second place vote-getter remained with Reid on the show from his arrival in the third season until the end of the line, which some commenters thought earned him the title. "Rossi's the only who didn't leave...so [shrug emoji]," wrote u/TJMac81. "Plus he also has the whole 'My kid is weird and I know it but I'll break your face if you hurt him' vibe."

David Rossi (Joe Mantegna) finished the contest with an even 200 votes, and plenty of support in the comments. As u/Marvelthingss_ put it, "With Rossi he taught Spencer it was okay to feel his emotions, whenever Reid had a hard time expressing how he felt Rossi would talk to him and help him figure it out."

Finishing in third place, just 18 votes behind Rossi, was BAU Supervisory Special Agent Alex Blake (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who joined the team in Season 8. Blake was especially attuned to Reid from the start, noticing when he began acting strangely and eventually getting him to admit it's because he was attempting to court Maeve Donovan (Beth Riesgraf) without anyone else on the team realizing it. Reid winds up taking a bullet for Blake during Season 9, and the resulting guilt leads her to quit the BAU. 

Before she leaves the team, and series, at the end of Season 9, she tells Reid that he reminds her of her son, who died of an illness as a boy.

Some fans argued for Hotch's 'team dad' energy

Though a fourth, "Other" option received just 65 total votes, plenty of fans in the comments were annoyed at a candidate the original poster left off: Aaron "Hotch" Hotchner (Thomas Gibson). The most upvoted response to the poll was one simply reading "Loved Hotch and Reid's relationship," from u/jayjaymads27.

The OP owned up to their mistake, admitting that Hotch's relationship with Reid had more than earned at least a nomination. Others thought their dynamic brought something different out of Reid that the others didn't manage. "With Hotch, he taught Spencer it was okay to be wrong, either with a case or something that was in his personal life," u/Marvelthingss_ wrote.

The length of Hotch and Reid's relationship led many in the comments to pair him with Rossi in their appreciations. "Hotch and Rossi are such Team-Dads," wrote u/GlitchingGecko. Which may be what Reid really needed, not just a surrogate parent, but an entire family.