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Criminal Minds: The Surprising Origin Of Reid's Nickname

Few characters on the CBS crime drama "Criminal Minds" were as beloved as Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler), the genius supervisory special agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) who was as socially awkward as he was intelligent. The son of a paranoid schizophrenic, ReidĀ had significant storylines during the 15 seasons in which he has appeared on the show. The character grew from a young agentĀ unable to feel empathy for others to a seasoned, compassionate team member who dealt with mental health issues. As the character who most frequently appeared on the show in its nearly two-decade-long run, Reid's many quirks won fans throughout it all.

While Reid earned several nicknames, including Spence, Genius, and Junior G-Man, viewers were given insight into another nickname late in the "Criminal Minds" run. In Season 12, Reid's childhood memories surfaced when he brought his mother to live with him after she was removed from a clinical trial. During one of her more lucid moments, she revealed her childhood nickname for him.

Reid was always bumping into things as a kid

In the Season 12 episode titled "Surface Tension" (via IMDb) Reid (Matthew Gray Gubler) struggles to care for his mother, Diana (Jane Lynch), who he's brought home to care for following her participation in a clinical study. Early in the episode, Reid shows his mother her old scrapbook, hoping it will jog her memory and make her happy. Instead, she grows agitated and confused. Later, following a fight between the two in which Diana slaps Reid repeatedly, she emerges lucid and communicative. She notices the scrapbook and recalls her fondness for the memories it contains. She also notices Reid's face, irritated and red from their fight.

Rather than reminding her of their altercation, Reid tells her he probably bumped into something, prompting her to reveal her childhood nickname for him: Crash. She gave him the moniker because he used to bump into things a lot. Even though he has always been "smart as a whip," she notes, he was clumsy as a child.

The revelation is a sentimental moment in Reid's history. It illustrates his rocky relationship with his mother, who he eventually returned to assisted living after realizing he couldn't care for her by himself. All in all, it was just another character trait that endeared Reid to "Criminal Minds" viewers.

Stream this "Criminal Minds" episode (as well as all seasons of the CBS series) on Netflix and Paramount+.