- "Driven to succeed to the point of developing an ulcer, no tolerance for superiors less sharp than yourself, shutting out girls that wanted to hang out with you, blowing off boys that want to get close. All the while, at every turn, wondering 'what is it I really want?' "
- ―Patrick Jane to Teresa Lisbon in Rose-Colored Glasses on how she has not changed since high school.
Lisbon was raised in Chicago. Her mother was a nurse, and her father a firefighter (Red Hot). Her parents bought the yellow house in the Chicago neighborhood where she grew up when she was three years old (Little Yellow House). Young Lisbon drew a picture of her family and pets on the wall in her bedroom closet in crayon. The crayoned drawing still remains in the home. The family had financial problems. Lisbon says in White Orchids that her mother owned a sewing machine, but "it was always in hock" at the local pawn shop. Lisbon and probably her brothers were sent to Catholic schools (Red Velvet Cupcakes), where Lisbon was a star student (Little Yellow House).
Her mother was killed by a drunk driver when she was twelve (Red Badge). In the episode Red Tide, it is implied that she had to take over her mother’s role and care for her family at a young age. In Little Yellow House, Lisbon tells Jane that she had to be the parent to her brothers after the death of her mother. It is implied that her family life was not an easy one even before the death of her mother. Lisbon tells her brother Jimmy that someone in the household had to be responsible because, "You know what Mom and Dad were like." After her mother’s death, her father's drinking either started or worsened and he ended up killing himself. It isn't specified whether he did this accidentally or on purpose. Lisbon said that he “damn near killed me and my brothers too,” leaving both possibilities open. It may have been something like another drunken car accident, or simply neglect. In Red Badge Lisbon mentions that her father used to be violent, as he once beat one of her brothers half to death and didn't remember doing so. Apparently her father suffered blackouts when he drank.
Lisbon babysat for a boy named TJ Mullins when she was a teenager. When he locked her out, Lisbon threw a brick through his basement window and got into the house that way. She later insisted on paying Mr. and Mrs. Mullins for the damaged window because she was such a "straight arrow." As a teenager, she worked for a local restaurant. She dated a boy named "Woody Squire," whose piercing became infected right before a school dance. (Little Yellow House). She played clarinet in the high school band. Jane had previously guessed this and it is confirmed when a clarinet is seen in a box of Teresa's items in her childhood home in Little Yellow House.
The first of her three brothers to be seen in the series is Tommy Lisbon (probably derived from Thomas), who is listed under "Town & Country Electrical" in Lisbon's phone book. She seems to be at odds with him because she "forgives him for whatever" and wants him to make up with his brothers (Code Red). Her brother Tommy becomes a bounty hunter; Tommy Lisbon, a single parent, and his 14-year-old daughter Annie appear in the fourth season episode Where in the World is Carmine O'Brien?, Lisbon seems to take a parental role towards Tommy, whom she regards as a bit of a screw-up, and tells Jane "I practically raised that punk and his brothers." Her brothers Jimmy and Stan make their first appearance in Little Yellow House. Jimmy is wanted as a material witness in a murder investigation and Stan, a housing contractor who is married with five children, owes money to a loan shark who has him beat up for falling behind on his payments. Lisbon and Jane help out and Lisbon reconciles with her brothers and they attend the christening of her youngest nephew.
When she was younger and still lived in Chicago, Teresa was engaged to a man named Greg Tayback but she broke up with him. In So Long, and Thanks for All the Red Snapper, they met again and his wife Lauren says that he was heartbroken after their break-up. Lisbon later apologizes to Greg for "running away" from him the way she did. In Little Yellow House, Lisbon tells Jane that she has not been in her parents' house since her father's death. In Nothing But Blue Skies, Lisbon mentions her grandfather, who gave her a model of a classic car as a graduation gift. It is implied that Lisbon left her family behind in Chicago to attend college on the West Coast and has not often returned to visit. In college, Lisbon enjoyed listening to jazz, a taste for music she seems to share with Jane. (Carnelian, Inc.), (Ring Around the Rosie). In Little Yellow House, Jane says she left Chicago because she felt trapped by her family responsibilities. Lisbon does not dispute this.
All three of Lisbon's brothers look up to her but also have a somewhat difficult relationship with her. Tommy regards her as overly controlling, but is pleased when she expresses pride in him at the end of Where in the World is Carmine O'Brien?. In Little Yellow House, Jimmy Lisbon accuses Lisbon of calling him only when she wants to chew him out. Stan Lisbon calls his older sister "boss" and conceals his financial trouble from her because he wants her to be proud of him. He resents the way she avoids family gatherings. Lisbon's niece, Annabeth, wants to be a cop like her aunt because she thinks Teresa is totally "badass" and gets to beat up bad guys. Teresa's family nickname is "Reese" or "T." In Little Yellow House, Jane tells her that her brothers are not angry with her for leaving; they just miss her. This helps her to reconcile with them. Stan and Jimmy Lisbon and their families later attend Lisbon's wedding to Jane in White Orchids.
Before joining the CBI she was a police detective for the San Francisco Police Department. There, she was assigned to the team of Agent Sam Bosco, who helped to train her to become the cop she is today. She and the married Bosco were in love with one another, but never spoke of their feelings out loud or acted on them (His Red Right Hand). It is implied that Lisbon learned after the fact that Bosco had killed a suspect who beat the charges, but failed to turn him in (Black Gold and Red Blood). As a detective, she investigated and brought down a serial child rapist called William McTier in the San Francisco bay area. That move made her career and also earned her the nickname "Saint Teresa" in the papers.
With the CBI
At the beginning of the series, Lisbon maintained strictly professional relationships with her subordinates, hardly ever discussing details of her personal life or of anything outside of the task at hand. In spite of Lisbon's preference for following proper procedures, Jane persistently contradicts her plans and at times directly undermines her authority, usually apologizing immediately afterwards. Although she criticizes most of Jane's tricks and revelations in front of him, she also often defends him from suspects (especially those with political pull) or from her very own superiors.
One of the darker conflicts between Lisbon and Jane arises when "Red John," a serial killer who murdered Jane's family, purposely appears within their jurisdiction. Lisbon was forced to draw the line when Jane revealed that he plans to kill Red John when he is found & putting them on opposing sides (Lisbon wants Red John brought to justice, not killed outright). Lisbon even confronts Jane at the end of the first season, telling him, "Can't you see there's people who care about you, who need you?" referring to his tendency toward self-destructive behavior and dangerous plans where getting revenge on Red John is concerned.
One of Jane's fears was that Lisbon could at some point become a target for Red John because of her close relationship with Jane. Red John once tested their relationship when he ordered Jane to bring him Lisbon's dead body as a "gift".
Lisbon has suffered injuries during the course of the Red John investigation. In the third season finale (Strawberries and Cream), Lisbon is shot in the shoulder by Craig O'Laughlin, Van Pelt's fiancé.
Even though Lisbon's often annoyed by Jane's behavior, she trusts him and has his back. In the fourth season finale (The Crimson Hat) Jane hugs her and tells her "Good luck, Teresa. Love you." before faking her death. She later asks him about it, he claims not to remember what he said. At the end of the episode, Jane reaches for her hand.
As for the season five finale (Red John's Rules), Lisbon is the only one, besides Jane, who knows the names of the final seven suspects of being Red John (Bret Stiles, Gale Bertram, Ray Haffner, Reede Smith, Bob Kirkland, Thomas McAllister and Brett Partridge) but in the 1st episode of Season 6, she asks Van Pelt to track down the mobile phones of all seven suspects so she could have an eye on their activities. At the end of the season premiere, she receives an emergency call which leads her to Brett Partridge's locations. Arriving there, she finds him deeply injured, most likely by Red John, following the last two words before he dies ("tiger, tiger"). After Patrick tried to call her several times, finally someone picks up the phone. To his great shock, it's not Lisbon who answers, but his nemesis who tells her that "Teresa can't come to the phone right now" while cleaning his usual murder weapon. The next thing you see is the hand of Red John, drawing a smiley face on Lisbon's face who is currently unconscious. But in the second episode, Teresa returned to the CBI after some days passed from the hospital, after Ray Haffner arrived to talk. Then she told Van Pelt to stop the survey of the suspects because it's too dangerous for the CBI.
Following the scandal of The Blake Association, Gale Bertram's crimes and Red John's connection, CBI is dismantled and Lisbon is temporarily arrested along with her team, while Jane kills the serial killer.
After a few months, however, she became the police chief in Cannon River, a small town in Washington state. (My Blue Heaven)
She quits her job as a police chief to work with Jane for the FBI. (Green Thumb).
Relationship with Patrick Jane
Lisbon first met Jane when he came to the CBI to get information about the serial killer Red John in the episode Red Dawn. Though showing compassion for him and his loss, she was at first annoyed by his behavior. Later, she asks him for his help during a murder investigation and seems to accept his addition to her team after Minelli offered him a job.
Lisbon cares deeply about Jane and even though he constantly gets her in trouble because of his reckless and questionable behaviour, they formed a close friendship. As time goes on, becomes more apparent that Lisbon has begun to develop strong romantic feelings for Jane.
She rarely ever shows her affection towards him, though it's likely that he's aware of her feelings for him. When Jane disappeared for six months in the season four finale, she was clearly upset and when she found out about Jane's affair with Red John's accomplice Lorelei Martins, she also seemed to be jealous and hurt. Jane once told her he loved her which she questioned him about and looked terrified while doing so, and Jane claimed to not remember what he'd said.
They seem to be closer in season five, though Lisbon is constantly conflicted between her feelings for Jane and her fear he could go too far to get information from Lorelei.
In the season five finale, Red John's Rules, Lisbon and Jane's budding relationship is again brought to the forefront. This time, Lisbon is the one being questioned about her feelings. Lisbon and Jane visit Sean Barlow, a 'psychic', in which he asks to see what Lisbon is hiding just by reading it on her face after asking her where she was the night before last (as she had asked him) and tells Lisbon that she was 'lying in bed and thinking about Patrick'. He suggests that Lisbon is 'a little in love with' Jane, to which Lisbon does not deny, but simply turns her head in embarrassment. Sean Barlow then proceeds to tell her that Jane is 'secretive and controlling', and suggests that this is a hard thing for her to accept, which she still doesn't deny. Trying to save Lisbon from her blush-worthy admission from Barlow, Jane deflects the conversation back, but it is too late. We saw the truth all over her face.
In Fire and Brimstone Jane hugs Lisbon and tells her how much she means to him, but then abandons her on the beach to go and confront the Red John suspects. In the episode My Blue Heaven during Jane negotiation with Abbot, Lisbon appears to become Jealous when Agent Kim Fisher is introduced to her as she seems to senses a possible romantic attraction between her and Jane. Jane at that point had already met Kim Fisher while on the island although at the time he did not know she was an FBI agent.
In My Blue Heaven, set two years later, it is revealed that the fugitive Jane has been writing letters to Lisbon during his absence.Lisbon keeps the letters he has sent her in a special box and sometimes re-reads them. This shows that Lisbon seemed to have missed Jane immensely and her romantic feeling for him might have become even stronger. She also had a sea shell on her desk that was hinted by Abbot to have possibly been sent to her as a present from Jane who at the time was living in a tropical and oceanic environment. When they are reunited later in the episode, she is delighted to see him again.
Unfortunately, her growing feeling for him seemed to have also brought with them a sense of insecurity in relation to their relationship. In the episode Green Thumb, Lisbon berates Jane for running away from her again, for treating her like his sidekick and not taking her feelings into account. In return for coming back to the United States to work for the FBI, the fugitive Jane demanded that the FBI also offer Lisbon a job. However, he had not consulted her beforehand. Jane apologizes and, at the end of the episode, Lisbon decides to accept the job offer and work at the FBI with Jane.
In later sixth season episodes, after Jane fails to make his feelings for her clear, Lisbon begins dating Marcus Pike and later decides to move with Pike to Washington D.C. and to accept his marriage proposal. All the while, however, it is evident that she would really prefer to be in a relationship with Jane. Finally, in the sixth season finale Blue Bird, Jane realizes his true feelings and makes a declaration of love to Lisbon on a plane as she is preparing to leave for D.C. Lisbon decides to return to Texas and to Jane, where she kisses him in an airport security office and tells him that she returns his feelings.
In the seventh season, Lisbon and Jane are in a romantic relationship, though not without some conflicts. Jane, still recovering from his past trauma, has a difficult time dealing with seeing Lisbon in dangerous situations at work. Lisbon does not want to give up her career and tells Jane that he has to stop pulling her out of the path of moving trains because there is always another train coming. Throughout much of the season, he also wears his old wedding ring. Jane proposes to Lisbon in the series finale, White Orchids, telling her that his old wedding ring also has the potential to represent his future, since he would never have met Lisbon if he had not been wearing the ring. He gives Lisbon the ring, which she decides to wear on a chain along with the cross that her dead mother had given her. The couple marry in the finale. After they exchange their vows, Lisbon tells Jane that she is pregnant with their child. Jane has bought 24 acres of Texas hill country real estate and plans to remodel the cabin where they will be living.
- Lisbon keeps three guns in her car, and at least one in her house.
- While at CBI, she kept a hammer in her desk ("Panama Red")
- She had a picture of a dog on her desk, though she never mentioned owning one. (It's the dog of Robin Tunney)
- She is shown to be a pretty good poker player, but not as good as Jane, which she challenges and they end the episode playing for gummy candies ("Red In Tooth and Claw").
- She used to drink a Tequila shot with Sam Bosco after each solved case. We find out in Season 2 that she keeps a rather large bottle of tequila in her desk at the CBI. This may mean that, despite Bosco's death, she cannot bring herself to end the tradition.
- In Season 2, she is seen dancing to Spice Girls at her house ("Red Badge").
- Lisbon and Bosco share the dark secret that he killed, rather then arrested, someone but she let him off the hook ("Black Gold and Red Blood").
- She likes Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples ("Ball of Fire").
- She ran track in high school.
- She played an instrument in high school although it is not specified which one. Patrick Jane guesses it was the clarinet and she does not correct him. In Red, White and Blue, Jane states she played a clarinet in high school and again she doesn't correct him.
- In "Rose-Colored Glasses", she revealed that she loves the song More Than Words by Extreme, which she then dances to with Jane.
- Her brother Tommy calls her "Reese", short for Teresa ("Where in the World is Carmine O'Brien?").
- She was mad to find out that her brother Tommy was a bounty hunter. She didn't like Jane teaching Annie how to pickpocket either ("Where in the World is Carmine O'Brien?").
- Lisbon is very attached to her team but often expresses an aversion towards anything that makes her emotional with the team. She was actually to be the bridesmaid for Van Pelt in her wedding.
- Lisbon drives a Ford Mustang, as shown in "Blood Money" (2x19). In "Scarlett Ribbons" (04x01), she drives a Chevy Volt.
- She is the only character, along with Kimball Cho and the protagonist Patrick Jane, who appeared in every single episode of the series.
- Lisbon attended catholic school, as did Robin Tunney.
- Lisbon gets seasick ("The Silver Briefcase").
- She used a Blackberry (season 5).