This week's RTM will be focused on Jennifer Jareau. Please do not use this discussion as an opportunity to bash JJ as a character, or each other. This also isn't the place to discuss other characters in depth. Stay on topic and discuss JJ, please.
If you are new to the fandom, or just would like a more comprehensive look at Jennifer Jareau, feel free to read on, and then share your thoughts on JJ in the comments!
Jennifer Jareau was born in the late 1970s, and was raised in East Allegheny, Pennsylvania (a neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s north side - population 2,635). JJ grew up collecting butterflies as a child. We assume she comes from a two-parent household. She has an aunt. JJ also had an older sister, who committed suicide in the late 1980s when JJ was eleven years old. She still has the necklace her sister gave her (“Risky Business“.) She also presumably has another older sibling. In “The Boogeyman“, JJ says she has an eight-year-old niece (born in the late 1990s, after JJ’s older sister’s death.) In the same episode, JJ reveals a fear of the woods...
She attended school in the East Allegheny school district in North Versailles, Pennsylvania. At East Allegheny High School, it’s assumed that JJ struggled academically. In the summers, JJ worked at a summer camp in a wooded area of Vermont. She had the night shift. She once told co-worker, Derek Morgan that she discovered the camp director, stabbed to death by the camp’s caretaker. She later reveals she doesn’t know why she’s afraid of the woods, she just is. JJ was captain of the varsity soccer team her senior year (around 1995-1996) and was awarded an athletic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She didn’t enjoy soccer because of the immense pressure put on her to win, but a scholarship was “the only way she was getting into college (“North Mammon”). (She also excels in playing darts - “The Big Game”) She attended Georgetown, as well. JJ had a difficult time figuring out her calling and didn’t know what she was going to do with her life until she heard her eventual co-worker, David Rossi, reading from his second book in the college campus library, during JJ’s senior year (“Zoe’s Reprise”.) The next fall, she applied to the FBI academy.
We first meet JJ as she is introducing herself to co-worker Elle Greenaway in “Compulsion” She tells Elle she is the unit liaison and that her door is always open but that it is mostly because she’s never in her office. She urges Elle to “call her on her cell” if she needs anything. JJ appears a little scattered or rushed in this introduction but in reality, her position is highly sought-after in the FBI. JJ’s interpersonal skills are through the roof. It’s her job (in seasons 1-5) to do triage, in a sense, and figure out where the greatest need is and whether or not it meets the criteria for the FBI to come and assist. JJ not only figures out which cases to take, but presents them to the team. She also is the connection between the FBI and the media. She keeps her cool under pressure and can stand her ground in the face of daunting questions from the press and public. In the early seasons, JJ could also be found helping deliver difficult news to families, offering to assist them in making arrangements, or actually staying at the house with them to manage an unruly media presence outside. JJ felt a lot of pressure, being responsible for which cases got taken and which were not. If the victims in certain cases are around JJ’s age and resemble her physically, she has a more difficult time on the scene (“Birthright”).
In “Riding the Lightening” JJ goes in to help Hotch get information out of serial killer, Jacob Dawes. It appears she does this of her own volition, even changing the part in her hair before she goes in. For the first time, we see that JJ has a fabulous poker face and is able to maintain an impressive calm and distance. We find out that “her friends call her JJ” and since Dawes is not her friend “he can call her Jennifer.” I took this as a humorous line the first time I saw it, but as the seasons progressed, it seems that it is more true that I previously believed. In “Outfoxed” Morgan refers to her as Jennifer (“Jennifer, call your contact,”) after he has been promoted to Unit Chief. And in “Proof” more recently, when Reid feels betrayed by her. A little thing, perhaps, but I find it so interesting.
Though in the background, and working primarily out of police stations or field offices, JJ is attentive to detail, and often provides and insight that turns the case in the direction it should be going. Whether it’s a postmark on an envelope (“Legacy?”) or the fact that trauma would manifest more clearly on the son of a serial killer than on a killer himself (“In Name and in Blood”). She does not hesitate to say what needs to be said, whether to the press, a victim, or bickering family members. She very rarely allows her emotions to interfere with her job. In addition to all of her interpersonal skills, JJ is skilled with her weapon In “The Last Word" JJ pulls her gun on a suspect for the first time, though she doesn’t fire. Later in Season 2, during “The Big Game,” JJ and Reid split up at the house of unsub, Tobias Hankel. JJ finds herself walking into a dark barn, where three dogs are waiting. JJ sees what remains of a woman the dogs tore apart, and is forced to shoot the dogs when they attack her. Later, in “Revelations” JJ to be first in shock and later quite vulnerable as she deals with the aftermath of her own attack and Reid’s kidnapping.
In Season 3’s “Penelope”, JJ is featured as the person who Morgan calls on to slip behind unsub Jason Clark Battle, who has gotten into the BAU and is holding a man hostage, after trying to kill Garcia. This unsub is the first person JJ has killed. Afterward, she is seen sitting off to the side and very self-contained. Garcia tells her she never wanted JJ to have to do that, but JJ says she never even blinked. That she’ll “do whatever she has to do to protect her family.” JJ also views missing children as her own/family as evidenced in “Seven Seconds.” It’s also made clear, though, that JJ has a hard time with personal relationships. During “In Heat” we see her pulling away from boyfriend, Will LaMontagne Jr. and attempting to hide their connection from her coworkers. When Will pushes the issue, JJ admits that she doesn’t want the team to know because if they know, then the relationship is real, and if it’s real then there is a true possibility that she could be hurt, and she “always runs from getting hurt.” But they reconcile, and in the following episode, we find out that JJ is pregnant. JJ and Will spend time figuring out logistics of balancing a baby with their work in the rest of Season 3.
Early in Season 4, JJ goes into labor while showing replacement agent Jordan Todd the ins and outs of her job as media liaison. We see the stacks of files in JJ’s office and get an inside view on how difficult it can be to decide where the team will go, and who needs them the most. She goes through fifteen hours of labor and gives birth to a son, named Henry (born in November, 2008). JJ asks Reid and Garcia to be Henry’s godparents. Near the end of Season 4, we see JJ struggle during a case involving anthrax. According to procedure, she cannot alert her family of danger and give herself an unfair advantage over everyone else who doesn’t know. Will takes Henry for a walk by a certain park every day and as it happens, that park has been targeted by the unsub with anthrax. By the end of the episode, JJ and Will talk on the phone and things seem fine. We never actually know if JJ has made the call to tell Will to keep Henry home, but actress AJ Cook, says that in her mind, and as a mother, JJ definitely made that call.
In Season 5, (“The Performer”) JJ visit’s the house of a young woman who is mentally ill, in order to question her about a current BAU case. JJ ends up being struck in the back of the head with a shovel by the unsub. The blow affects JJ’s vision and hearing, but somehow, she manages to get to her feet, and hit the unsub in the head before he kills JJ. She draws her gun and waits for backup. Later, on the jet, it’s clear JJ doesn’t like being fussed over, though she accepts ice, a blanket, and pain-killers. In “Risky Business” JJ takes a case to Hotch based on a gut feeling that something isn’t right. In Wyoming, at the same time on Friday nights, kids were hanging themselves. All of them didn’t exhibit any kind of red flags for suicide. Hotch trusts JJ’s feeling and the team takes the case. JJ’s insight from beginning to end is invaluable. She even realizes that a kid Garcia interviewed wasn’t the unsub but in fact, suicidal himself, having given Garcia one of his possessions when he left. At the end of the episode, JJ confides in Hotch that her sister committed suicide when JJ was eleven. She uses the moment to tell Hotch that grief does get better with time. That eventually, he will be able to think of his deceased ex-wife Haley, “and it won’t hurt.”
In Season 6, (“The Longest Night”) JJ has a central role. First, she gets access to the Emergency Alert System in LA and then, she is asked by Hotch to work as a hostage negotiator. She takes notes, and reads the files Garcia sends her on their latest unsub - The Prince of Darkness - then, she gets in contact via the EAS. She starts out nervously, but eventually finds her stride and ability to sympathize with the unsub - to a degree. She isn’t able to understand him killing people for all those years, and tells him “what a mother should tell” him, that he can’t take away his pain by hurting someone else. It’s a shining, brilliant moment for JJ. In “JJ” we find out that she has been offered a new job by the Pentagon and is being forced to take it. She gives a beautiful final speech about what she’s learned and the people she’s loved in her time at the BAU. In “Lauren”, three-fourths of the way through Season 6, JJ returns as a terrorism expert from the State Department, who is able to shed light on Emily’s background, when the latter goes missing and is later, presumed murdered by unsub Ian Doyle. JJ is instrumental in the cover-up that is needed to ensure Emily’s survival. She is forced to lie to her team, telling everyone but Hotch that Emily did not survive. She attends Emily’s funeral and lays flowers. She grieves. Somewhere between March and September, JJ traveled to Paris to meet Emily briefly and hand off passports and bank accounts in each to “keep her comfortable.” In the season 6 finale, JJ returns for a few moments at the end, telling Rossi, “I’m coming back.”
In Season 7, JJ is indeed back with the team, this time, as a profiler (despite her previous assertion in “North Mammon” that she preferred her job at the time, as media liaison.) She is seen out on the field with the team for the first time, in an equal capacity. She seems to relish her new role, asking Garcia and Morgan in “It Takes a Village” if they “need some fresh eyes?” looking quite excited. In this same episode, Ian Doyle’s son goes missing. Hotch makes a decision to bring Emily out of Witness Protection and though JJ is initially against this, she eventually agrees. Though JJ doesn’t speak about it, she stands with Hotch while he makes the announcement that Emily never really was dead. In my opinion, JJ says so much, simply by standing with him, while the rest sit. She implicates herself in the lie without saying anything at all. In “Proof” JJ deals with repercussions of lying to the team when Reid makes it clear he is upset with her for lying. It’s revealed that Reid has come to JJ crying for the last ten weeks, and she has said nothing to reassure him that Emily is, in fact, okay. JJ stands by the fact that she couldn’t say anything for Emily’s safety, but Reid is unmoved and even goes so far as to ask if JJ would allow him to take drugs again. She says he hasn’t. He counters that he’s thought about it. Though everything seems resolved at the end during a cooking lesson at Rossi’s, evidence possible tension remains during “Painless” when Reid asks JJ what kind of girl she was in high school. He suspects she was a mean girl and she says she was a nice girl, “even to guys like him.” In the same episode, JJ makes a discovery that changes the direction of the case they are working by realizing that all the victims were chosen by the principal to appear in front of the media after a high school shooting, ten years prior. It’s interesting to see her background as media liaison come out a little bit here. At the end of “Painless,” Emily reveals that while in Witness Protection, she passed the time by playing online Scrabble with JJ. In “From Childhood’s Hour” she interviews a young kidnapping victim about his time in the hands of an unsub. She phrases her questions gently and matter-of-factly. This also marks the second time in season 7 that she is partnered with Rossi in the field (the first is during “Dorado Falls.”) In “There’s No Place Like Home” it’s evidenced that JJ’s son Henry, (now three) is sick, and Will is asking why she won’t stay with him at home. She goes on the case anyway, in tornado-torn Kansas, and meanwhile, Henry has a febrile seizure. Because of the weather, JJ cannot get home as fast as she’d like, but she’s able to read Henry a bedtime story over the phone. In “Hope” JJ gives a cognitive interview to her friend and coworker, Garcia, further driving home the new aspects of her job.
JJ is my favorite character. I've been a fan of AJ Cook since Higher Ground, so I was super sad when I tuned into CM right around the time the news broke that she was off the show. While there was not much of her character to go off of in the early seasons, I love how competently JJ does the job. How she does have moments where she questions herself. How she keeps her emotions contained, because she has to.
My favorite JJ Moments:
- Playing cards with Jacob Dawes in Riding the Lightning. Incredibly brave and I love that she volunteered to do it.
- How fierce she is in North Mammon, standing by the girls and "profiling" them in her own way, based on her own knowledge, having been a high school athlete. And the way she can put the parents in their place. And how she talks to Polly at the end, about how she will "always have a mother who loves her that much."
- Going into the barn at the end of The Big Game. Shooting the dogs. So scary, and it was obvious how rattled she was. Love the terror when she actually comes face to face with the dogs and how she doesn't scream until they attack.
- Everything in Revelations. I love how she is actually crouching in the barn for who-knows-how long before Prentiss and Morgan find her. How well AJ plays the shock that JJ feels. Her face as she watches the light in the back of the ambulance. The dry wit when she tells Garcia, "Welcome to our nightmare." And of course, the whole mirror scene when she pulls her gun on Prentiss. I love how she 'self-hushes' (with a finger to her lips) when she is watching Reid being tortured. I love how she goes to such great lengths to contain her grief over what is happening. I love, "Can't you track him?!" and the desperate way the line is delivered. The conversation with Morgan where she basically begs him to blame her for what happened. Where she insists on Garcia showing her the latest video. I love how she reads the passage from the Bible, and how she is the first to name Hotch's worst quality. And of course, her hug, and apology to Reid at the end.
- How she is so there for Garcia in "Penelope."
- The total realism (to me it looked real) in the way JJ experienced contractions in Memoriam. The wincing. The breathing. They looked seriously painful.
- How she does not go down without a fight in The Performer and she doesn't like being fussed over.
- And everything JJ does in Risky Business. AJ's portrayal here was so raw and moving. It was the little things I noticed. The expressions on her face at certain moments. How she cannot bring herself to come into the bedroom of the victim. How the case obviously is hard for her but she insists on taking it anyway. I've seen all six seasons now, and this is the only episode to ever make me cry. Personal experience, to a degree, and I think AJ portrayed the sadness, shock, etc, beautifully. The quote at the end just did me in.
What strikes you the most about Jennifer Jareau? What is the most memorable scene that she's in? Why is it memorable for you? Is there something about JJ you wish we knew more about? If so, what? What do you think it is that makes JJ an integral part of the BAU?