Reacher: Why Doesn’t Neagley Like to be Touched?

Image Credit: Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

In Prime Video’s ‘Reacher,’ we are introduced to a bunch of eccentric characters, all of whom bring something new to the plate. Reacher himself is quite a case study as a beast of a man who prefers to stay away from people and doesn’t own anything apart from what he has on his person at every time. While the audience was still getting to know him in the first season, they were introduced to Frances Neagley, one of Reacher’s friends and colleagues from the military. She comes with her own specific skillset and her own array of quirks.

Neagley’s Rule of Not Touching Comes From the Books

One of the things that is quite noticeable about Neagley is that she doesn’t like to shake hands or hug people. At one point, Reacher mentions that she doesn’t like the meet new people either, but that’s something she is flexible about, considering that her job demands her to be continuously in touch with new people. As for the thing about touching, she sticks quite religiously to this code, and we see her not even shake hands with or hug Reacher goodbye when they part ways in Season 1 or reunite in Season 2.

Image Credit: Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

According to Lee Child’s books, on which the show is based, Neagley has haphephobia. It is described as “an intense, overwhelming fear of being touched.” This is not just limited to being touched by strangers. People with haphephobia often refrain from touching people they are highly familiar with, even friends and family. We see the same thing happen with Neagley in ‘Reacher.’

While the show hasn’t yet delved into the reason behind Neagley’s phobia/preference, the books have not been very descriptive about it either. For the viewers, Neagley might have become a common presence, but for the readers of Lee Child’s books, she can be a sight for sore eyes. She remains a mysterious and elusive figure in the books who drops in when she is needed. Because she shows up so little, there isn’t much to discuss about her past. Most of what is known about her comes from the conversation between other people discussing her.

In one of the scenes in the book, the topic of Neagley’s preference to not touch or be touched by people is brought up. It begins with someone suggesting that things might not be as platonic as they seem between Reacher and her and that she might want to sleep with him, where he reveals that this is categorically false because she doesn’t like to be touched. When asked why, Reacher says she has “haphephobia” and that she was born with it.

It is commented that Neagley might have gone through something traumatic in the past to make her feel that way, but Reacher doesn’t confirm or deny this. This is either because he doesn’t know it either, or that he knows something but prefers to keep his friend’s secret. Considering that the show often goes in flashbacks and how much space it has given to Neagley, we can expect the subject of her haphephobia to be broached at some point. What remains to be seen is whether the show will follow the same path as the book or if it will shed light on the matter and end the speculations about Neagley once and for all.

Read More: Is Jack Reacher Autistic? Theories