You see, personality-wise they’re very different people, Hotch is this by-the-book, no-nonsense FBI agent while Reid is this nerdy guy who fidgets and tends to recite facts and statistics. YET life has brought them very similar experiences.
- They had crappy childhood. (abusive father+impassive mother / absent father+mentally ill mother)
- They’re both afraid of becoming their parents.
- They’re both overachievers. (Reid was a child prodigy, finished high school at 12, got 3 PhD before joining the BAU while Hotch had been a lawyer, a prosecutor, a SWAT agent, a profiler and a BAU team leader by the age of 40.)
- They were both tortured by serial killers. (Foyet / Hankel)
- They were both put in situations to save one another (L.D.S.K, Revelations, Damaged)
- They both lost loved ones to serial killers. (Haley / Maeve)
What does all this mean? Well, to me it means they get each other, down to the level I don’t think anyone else can. That is a major appeal of this pairing for me.
Psychologically, they’re good for each other. Reid, with his abandonment issues, needs someone with emotional stability, someone who won’t up and leave just when things get rough. I think that’s Hotch in a nutshell. I also think Reid feels more himself around Hotch because he knows he won’t be judged by his tangents. If anything, Hotch calms him down. As for Hotch, he’s very open with the person he’s in relationship with; he’s not demanding; he is patient; he lets the other person set the pace. However, for all his good intentions, he sometimes puts other people’s needs before his own. We saw that with Haley when she asked him to leave the BAU for a nine-to-five job, and he actually went through with it, only to find out he couldn’t. I think that’s why it’s very easy to pair Hotch up romantically with someone because he has tremendous empathy, understanding and patience. What’s difficult is finding that someone who’s willing to be his, not first, not second, but third priority (if they’re lucky). Jack and his job will always come before a relationship.
I can see Reid being that person. Sure, some other people on the team fit that criteria too, but their lives haven't intertwined the way Hotch’s and Reid’s have and still are. Some people might call the previous paragraph a stretch of imagination, and they won’t be wrong—we all wear shipper goggles when it comes to our OTPs, but we can’t be blamed for wanting what we want, not after all the canonical things the writers have been giving us over the years.
Here are the key episodes where their ‘relationship’ is explored:
TRUST + SECRET CODES
- Hotch gives Reid shooting lesson(s?) for Reid’s firearms qualification.
- Hotch and Reid are caught in a hostage situation where Hotch had to fake-kicked poor Reid a lot, but only to give Reid access to his backup gun on his ankle.
- Reid shoots the bad guy right between the eyes, his first kill ever by the way, and saves Hotch (along with other hostages).
- Afterwards they have this cute moment behind an ambulance. Hotch gives Reid his backup gun.
- Reid is kidnapped and tortured by Tobias Hankel. Hankel wants Reid to choose one of his team members to die. Reid refuses at first but finally chooses Hotch, but only to send Hotch an encrypted message so Hotch (and the team) can come rescue him.
- Hotch, being awesome, cracks the code and rescues poor Reid. The first thing Reid says to Hotch is ‘I knew you’d understand,’ the quote that best describes this pairing for me. They hug. It was EPIC.
- Did I say that their hug was epic? <333
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
These two episodes are significant not only because Hotch and Reid essentially save each other’s lives, but also because they do so by trusting one another completely. In L.D.S.K., Hotch knew Reid was a terrible shot but still trusted Reid’s shooting skills to take out the UnSub (who was having his rifle trained on Hotch by the way). In Revelations, Reid trusted Hotch to look past his (false) offensive remark and notice his (real) encoded message. I mean that takes a lot of trust especially in Reid’s case. In L.D.S.K. Hotch was trapped with Reid, he didn’t have much choice, but in Revelations it was more calculated. Reid actively chose Hotch (instead of Gideon who would have been a more obvious choice, but he knew Gideon’s ego), and that decision saved his life. You know, this kind of experience, it stays with you. It bonds you in ways it bonds soldiers in battles. However, we’re now almost at the end of season 8, and the writers still act like none of this has ever happened. :P
THEY LISTEN TO EACH OTHER
- They are trapped in a room with a death row, homicidal inmate; Hotch is being antagonizing and hence useless (albeit sexy with his tie ripping) while Reid uses his wit and saves the day.
- Afterwards Hotch confides in Reid about his impending divorce (well, ‘confiding’ might be a stretch, but Hotch finally opened up to someone, and it was Reid!).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
There are two things to be noted here. First, this is a very revealing role reversal between Hotch and Reid. Hotch, who’s normally very composed and professional, lets his emotions get the best of him, while Reid, whom Matthew Gray Gubler once described as a wuss, takes an initiative and manages to save both their asses with the power of his mind. I said before that Hotch sometimes grounded Reid. Now we see that Reid can do the same for Hotch if the situation calls for it.
The second thing is their conversation in the car when Hotch starts talking about his divorce. I find Reid’s question “You don’t want to?” very interesting. I think with someone else, even someone on the team, their response would be either a pat on the back or just a polite silence, which are completely okay. But what Reid does here is asking what Hotch wants. I don’t think that many people at that point in time did that, and that’s probably why the question feels so unexpected, almost out of place (at least to me the first time I saw it). It’s because Hotch almost never gets asked what he wants. This saddens me deeply, you don’t even know. The only thing that makes me feel better is the fact that Reid is willing to listen.
Elephant’s Memory (3x16)
- Reid is over-identified with the UnSub, a bullied teenage boy, to the point it keeps him from doing his job. Hotch tries to reason with him but when that fails he decides to send Reid away from the actions. This is their exact exchange (tsk tsk):
- Bonus: Protective!Hotch when Reid's risking his own life trying to save the UnSub - - notice the hand on Reid's back ;)
- Afterwards Hotch reprimands Reid. With assuring words. <3
- Bonus: This is the first and only time Hotch acknowledges Reid's drug problems in front of Reid. Late is better than never, right?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
After what he saw what Dilaudid did to Reid and how big a mistake it was for them not to address it right away, Hotch has learned that cutting Reid some slack is probably not the way to go. So Hotch does what he should have done, he confronts Reid, challenges him with reasons, sits him down and reprimands him, but he also gives Reid a chance to explain himself and reminds Reid that he is not alone. Have I told you how awesome a listener Hotch is?
FOYET VS HANKEL
- Reid essentially talks about torture and the consequential trauma. He thinks they all should give Hotch some space because that was what he needed after Hankel.
- Reid talks some more about torture.
- Reid is being protective when Strauss tries to blame Hotch for what happened.
Reid: I know what you’re thiking, and I agree it would be easy for us to blame him.
Reid: Yeah. Why not just say it’s his fault and then we can all just forget about it. But, uh, the problem is, I have an eidetic memory, and that’s not what happened. (x)
(Or in Adriana's words: “Look. Strauss? I know you wanna can Aaron’s career. But you can’t. You know why? I have an eidetic memory, and what you think happened? It didn’t. You wanna know what happened? No? Too bad. I’m about to tell you.”)
- The end scene where the camarawork accidentally makes the whole thing very Hotch/Reid.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
These are the only times the writers acknowledged the parallels between Foyet and Hankel, which I think is a shame. I don’t know if it was because MGG had hurt his knee back then and could not take on a big story arch or just because the writers were just too lazy to create one. Either way it was a shame. I think it would have made an interesting story to tell, not because they’re my OTP, but because it would make sense.
- Hotch confronts Reid about his headaches. Reid lies.
Hanley Waters (6x20)
- Hotch evaluates his team after Prentiss’ ‘death.’ Hotch tells Reid he doesn't have to pretend.
- Hotch lies (by keeping silent).
- After a big fight between Reid and JJ, Hotch takes the blame for lying to his team about Prentiss’ ‘death.’
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Season 6 has a theme, and that theme is ‘lies.’ I think it’s worth noting how guilty Hotch feels both in Hanley Waters and Proof. He knows that Reid, with his trust issues, would take The Lie the hardest because it isn’t just a lie to Reid; it’s a betrayal of trust, the one thing Hotch knows cannot be repaired. I think Hotch hates every minute of it, not because he knows he could lose a great agent, but because he knows he's hurting Reid in the worst possible way.
HALEY vs MAEVE
- Distraught Reid comes to Hotch about Maeve’s stalker.
- Hotch tries to keep Reid out of harm’s way (while manhandling him a lot).
- Reid seeks comfort in Hotch after Maeve’s death. Reid asks Hotch a question only Hotch can answer.
- Bonus: Haley parallel -- Hotch doesn't need to imagine.
The Gathering (8x17)
- Hotch tries to talk to Reid about Maeve after Reid’s personal feelings might have caused the UnSub’s death.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Do I have to remind you that they both lost the love of their life to a freaking serial killer? I mean if that doesn’t bring two people closer together, I don’t know what does. I’m not saying it’s the healthiest way for people to bond, but it’s there and they need to deal with it. And by ‘they’ I mean both Hotch and Reid, AND the writers.
These are just the key moments in their canonical relationship as colleagues and friends. There are many other moments on the show that are noteworthy but not entirely relevant to the narrative I’m trying to create here. Maybe I’ll make posts on those when I have time. I just want to keep this post as canonical as possible.
I wasn’t lying when I said this was the short version. You don’t want to see the full version I’ve had in my draft box for the last six months, lol.