- Gibbs's rules are a constant fixture throughout the show, with him and other characters invoking them as a code to live by. It's eventually revealed that Gibbs started his list after meeting Shannon and learning that she had a set of esoteric and arbitrary rules she tried to live by and we see that Shannon was both flattered and amused by Gibbs' attempts to emulate her. He had 50 written down on scraps of paper and stored away in a wooden box for years and it's while remembering the moment Shannon discovered his list that he decides to add a 51st rule: "Sometimes you're wrong."
- Way back in season 1, episode 15, Gibbs is illegally helping an old Marine friend. Everyone can guess as much, even if there's no proof. He refuses to bring Tony and Kate in on it, leading them to form the wrong conclusion. Fortunately, Ducky sets them straight.
Fornell: If I find Gibbs is helping him, I'll have him charged. As an accessory to murder.
Kate: He's right. We have to do something.
Tony: Like what? I mean, Gibbs obviously doesn't trust us enough to tell us what's going on.
Ducky: You don't honestly believe that, do you? Don't you see, Gibbs is doing his very best to protect you.
Tony: From what?
Ducky: From being accessories yourselves. He's willing to risk his own life and reputation for a friend, but he's not willing to risk yours.
- "Requiem" when Kelly's best friend, Maddie, comes back into Gibbs's life. He immediately slips into the paternal role like a pair of well worn shoes. When Maddie is threatened, he immediately does everything to protect her, swearing not to let what happened before happen now...and he succeeds. At the end, he holds a pair of pictures of both Kelly and Maddie, overlapping them in a way so it looks Gibbs is embracing both of them.
- Tony's making a bucket list. Okay, he wants to master art of kung fu, haha, experience a Wonder of the World "besides Gibbs," hehe—holy crap did that just say "tell Dad it's okay?!" Others, Word of God include "discuss Paris," "let friends get closer," and "tell her." Whoa.
- Basically any episode ending with a child involved, seeing as how Gibbs tends to flashback to his daughter.
- "A Man Walks Into A Bar..." is a crowning episode of heartwarming five plus years in coming. Especially when Gibbs brings Kate's sister to the place where Ari was killed.
Gibbs: This is closure. Everything else is memories.
- In "Enemy On The Hill", Abby's entire world is turned upside-down when she finds out she's adopted. Where does she go? Gibbs' house, where he holds her and tells her she isn't alone and that her family is going to help her through this.
- NCIS: In "Corporal Punishment", a "Poster Boy" marine escapes from a mental institution, right before he's given a Silver Star; his list of accomplishments includes breaking out of captivity after four days' torture, killing his captors, and getting his comrades to safety. It turns out he had been initially rejected for service, and he had gotten steroids, giving him 'roid rage. When Ziva asks him if he went through all that "just so [he] could be some sort of Super-Marine?" he says "No ma'am. Just a Marine."
- Later in the same episode, the Marine loses his shot at the medal due to his drug use, and is said to be lucky if he gets an honorable discharge. Gibbs goes back to the office, gets a box, comes back to the Marine's room and silently places the opened box on the table. It's his Silver Star. End credits.
- When the marine attacks Ziva, Tony and McGee scramble to her rescue, from where they had been on surveillance. They burst through the door, guns drawn, to find Ziva cradling the marine's head in her arms, just like a mother would comfort her child.
- The marine reappears in a later episode, unknowingly working for the bad guys. The moment he meets Gibbs and team, he recognizes that and quits, helping them.
- This exchange:
Gibbs: You know how I feel about apologies.
Ducky: That they're a sign of weakness.
Gibbs: Not between friends.
- When Tony is in the hospital with the plague, Gibbs tells him that he won't die, and Tony believes him... Just anytime that Tony and Gibbs act like Father and Son, really...
- The ending of "Faith" certainly qualifies: DiNozzo (doing a not-so-Secret Santa) gives a sour human-resources woman a gift she didn't get as a child, bringing her to joyful tears; McGee and Abby, via MTAC, help a little boy talk to his mother who is deployed overseas; and Gibbs and his dad reconcile and leave to deliver some hand-carved toys to a children's hospital. Merry Christmas, indeed.
- Any scene involving Shannon and/or Kelly that isn't a Tear Jerker, and a few that are.
- The ending of "Outlaws and In-Laws". Franks and the mother of his daughter-in-law are both just sitting on his front porch while Gibbs voiceovers a story about how Civil War soldiers who fought on opposite sides of the war had to live together when their kids got married. They hated each other, but still managed by not speaking to each other for the rest of their lives. Except on Franks' porch, the Matriarch shyly looks at him like she wants to say something, but doesn't. Considering that it's one of her few moments of vulnerability, it's kinda hard not to ship them now.
- "Truth or Consequences." The premise alone ( Tony, McGee, and Gibbs go to Somalia to rescue Ziva from a terrorist camp.) is equal parts this and Crowning Moment of Awesome, but the last 2 minutes are the most heartwarming. When the team comes into the squad room, beaten, tired, and looking like hell, the entire floor applauds them, starting with Vance. And Abby, usually the embodiment of Genki Girl, silently and calmly goes over and hugs Ziva. You can't help but feel good after watching that.
- The very last scene of "Bait", when Kody is reunited with his mother.
- "In The Zone." Tony and germaphobic NCIS analyst Nikki Jardine go to Iraq to investigate a murder. At one point Nikki goes to visit the family of a man who helped save her brother's life during an ambush (and was killed by Marines who mistakenly thought he was an insurgent). Nikki brings a laptop computer for the young son, who had given her intel during the investigation. The boy is thrilled with the gift—not only for himself, but also for his little sister's sake. She is not allowed to attend school, so the laptop can provide her access to an education. When she sees the gift, and he tells her it's theirs, she shyly walks up to Nikki, wraps her arms around the woman and softly says "Thank you" over and over. Nikki freezes for a moment, but then overcomes her phobia and warmly returns the hug.
- In the S6 episode "Cloak", Tony is smashed to the ground by a machine gun slam to the head, and Ziva goes absolutely berserk. It took four people to bring her down. The first words out of her mouth upon waking are "Where is Tony?"
- Early Season 10, Tony asks Abby to develop some photos on a very old camera of his. Ziva later finds him holding the photos, and jokingly asks him if it's more pictures of him from boarding school. He tentatively asks her if he can show her something, and we find out the pictures are of him and his mother. They then have a touching conversation where we find out more about Tony's mother than in the past nine seasons, including that Tony got his love of movies from her.
- Understated but heartwarming one in 'Baltimore,' McGee asks Ziva how she'd react if he was killed. Her answer is an immediate, matter-of-fact, off-the-cuff statement of "I'd hunt him down and make him regret the day he was born!" in a tone that dripped with "how do you not know this already?"
- Another understated one near the end of "Royals and Loyals". Tony is poking Ziva (yet again) about who she met when in Miami, and says he would like to meet him. Ziva asks Tony what he would say to him if he did.
Be careful. (Beat)
Handle with care...Contents: priceless.
- When we find out that Gibbs built Mike Franks' coffin himself.
- In the episode "UnSEALed", Gibbs' relationship with the little boy is really sweet.
Boy: I'm not gonna help you catch my dad.
Gibbs: That's OK. *ruffles his hair*
- Likewise, in "Honor Code" every scene Gibbs has with Zach, the kidnapped man's son, is a CMOH. Abby even calls Zach "Mini-Gibbs."
- A lot of the stuff involving Jackson Gibbs in "Heartland". Gibbs's clear joy at finally being able to drive and keep his dream car, and especially that hug at the end. On a broader note, pretty much anything involving hugs.
- In that same episode "Heartland", just as Gibbs is driving out of his hometown he reminisces about the first time he met his deceased first wife Shannon. The flashback itself is incredibly heartwarming but the smile that Gibbs gives after he thinks of her is priceless.
- Ziva air guitaring at the end of "Road Kill".
Ziva: Tony, you and I come from two totally different places. In my world, you grow up. Fast. You have no choice.
Tony: Now you do.
- The ending (arguably even the majority) of "Silent Night", heartwarming for the whole team spending Christmas together (even if Gibbs is taking a detour to take someone back to their daughter), and downright heartwrenching for the call back to Kate's sketches.
- From "Broken Arrow": DiNozzo Senior showing Tony the picture of both of them on a fishing trip, and telling him it was one of his fondest memories, right after Tony assumed he'd forgotten about it.
- The ending of Witch Hunt. They rescue the kidnapped girl, and to make it up to her for missing Halloween, let her visit their building as all the agents from their cubicles give her candy. The mother tries to express gratitude and how she could thank Gibbs, and Tony replies "He knows". That he does, even remembering his daughter (also in a princess dress before she died) with a smile.
- The ending of the episode "Safe Harbor": The team spent the episode searching for a date for Gibbs, who they thought was feeling lonely. In the end he tells Ziva "You are never alone when you have kids", gives her a kiss on the forehead, and finishes with, "Goodnight, kid."
- Engaged, Part II has a couple. The first is when Gibbs and Ziva are talking to the two girls that Gabriela Flores had rescued, one of whom has grease burns on her face and may be permanently blinded, the other with cigarette burns all over her body. When they're done, Gibbs gives them both a kiss on the head and tells them never to stop smiling.
- Then, after they find Flores alive, and capture the female insurgent who was posing as a teacher in order to destroy the school, Gibbs asks Flores what he thinks should happen to the insurgent.
Flores: She should watch those girls change the world in positive ways she never imagined.
Gibbs: That a punishment?
Flores: That's a gift, sir. Punishment's knowing she could've done the same.
Gibbs: ...You're rare, Flores. Come on, let's go home.
- Palmer finally gets one in the Christmas Episode "Newborn King." He wearily puts up with his jerkass future father-in-law's abuse all night, but when Pops implies that the team doesn't know what they're doing, Palmer snaps and rips into him. He explains that they're highly trained, his father-in-law doesn't know what he's talking about, and if Palmer's not going to get any respect then the team should. Also, he's not taking a high paying job in the private sector because he "loves NCIS" and his job there. Also, his father-in-law isn't leaving until he understands all this.
So sit down, and shut up!
- Ziva's "There's always another monster" speech in "Swan Song" is just one CMOH after another. First, she hugs Tony. Then Tony touches her face. Then they hug. Then the elevator opens to reveal Abby and McGee, also hugging. Then the whole team gets in a group hug... excuse me, there's something in my eye...
- In "Need to Know", there's something strangely heartwarming about McGee getting to call someone "Probie" for once.
- Ducky after convincing Palmer not to cancel/postpone his wedding:
Ducky: Did I not say, rather poetically, that we have loved ones who should not be taken lightly?
- In early season 7 a Mossad officer came to try and bring Ziva back to Israel, despite the fact that she did not want to return, he continued to act as if she did. When Gibbs finally foils his plan at the end, the officer says "I failed you, Ziva, I'm sorry." Ziva replies with "Never apologize. It is a sign of weakness," which is Gibbs's rule #6, cementing her decision to stay with the team.
- Even though it's Played for Laughs a few moments later, the scene in "Missing," when Gibbs tells Tony that he's irreplaceable after rescuing Tony from the serial killer.
- In "Kill Screen", McGee decides to swear off girls for a time, especially after the previous Girl of the Week faked her own kidnapping and put his position in NCIS in danger. However, when he meets the Victim Of The Week's ex-girlfriend, he finds out she is a girl with very similar interests to his (videogames, laser gunfights), but he chooses not to ask her out. In the end, Tony decides to give him a hand and set him a "laser gunfight" date for him and the girl.
- In "Call of Silence" Tony is ordered to watch Corporal Ernest Yost, an aging World War II Medal of Honor Recipient, who is suspected of murdering his friend in battle. So Tony takes the lonely man to a fair or amusement park, off-screen, and wins the gentleman a stuffed giraffe.
- In the same episode Gibbs brings in a Japanese POW who fought on Iwo Jima to help prove Yost's innocence. It turns out Yost did kill his friend in an accident, as the friend was wounded, in pain and was about to give away their position. He isn't charged and the record remains as it was. And the Japanese POW? He didn't fight on Iwo Jima but Guadalcanal, where Yost was previously injured. At the end of the episode, Yost and the Japanese veteran share a drink together.
- After NCIS is bombed, Tony and Ziva are trapped in an elevator. Ziva's estranged father calls her cell to make sure she's alright before they even get out. And despite the fact that they last parted on such bad terms that she changed nationalities to get away from him, he's the only relative of any of the team members to make such a call - and he did it at a time that was probably quite late at night, Jerusalem time.
- In the episode "Recruited" Ducky's predecessor, Dr. Walter Magnus (played by Bob Newhart) is suffering from Alzheimer's and is slowly forgetting who he was. As he tells Ducky, before this disease he could sit and mentally recall every detail of the cases he worked but now they are slowly slipping from him. So Ducky, with McGee's help, creates a video showing the happy pictures of those Magnus' cases as Ducky narrates that these were the men and women Magnus helped and brought them closure to.
- In the episode "You Better Watch Out" we find out that Tony has a pet goldfish named after Kate.
- Really, the entirety of the last five minutes of that episode.
- Also, it's mentioned later that he has two goldfish; presumably, the other one is for Ziva.
- Everything Tony does for Ziva in "Shiva" after her father is killed, including bringing Schmeil over from Israel.
- In "Hit and Run", Abby's spent the whole episode worrying that she isn't good enough to counteract all the bad in people's lives. Gibbs comforts her by saying that you can't always see the after effects of a good deed. Then he asks if she remembers the first day they met. She says she'd been eating Chinese for lunch and had given him her fortune cookie. Turns out Gibbs had kept that fortune after all these years. And even better? The fortune says "Today's new friend is tomorrow's family."
- A lot of the things involving Jimmy and Breena, but, to cite a specific moment, there's how he wants to get married immediately and go home to the team to help them catch Harper Dearing, and her agreement.
- Jimmy and Ducky's It Has Been an Honor moment in "Detour" in case their plan to escape doesn't work. For perhaps the second time in the entire series Ducky calls Jimmy by his first name instead of the usual "Mr. Palmer".
- And when Ducky repeatedly suggested that Palmer run and save himself?
Jimmy: Doctor, I respect you more than anyone else in the world, so please forgive me when I say go to hell. I'm not leaving you. I think it's time we made our stand.
- Every year on her late sister's birthday, Ziva makes a point of going to the opera to honour the sibling who wanted to be an opera singer when she grew up. One year, she isn't able to get tickets. So Tony gets McGee to explain how to turn the bullpen's speakers into a high grade surround sound system and tracked down a CD of her sister's favourite opera so she could listen to the opera at her desk.
- Pretty much every scene with the little girl in "See No Evil" qualifies as this. Her little actress (Abigail Breslin) deserves an award for the way she pulls at your heartstrings in a thousand ways all episode long.
- Despite the ending of 'Twilight', there is a brief but powerful scene halfway through. Ari has admitted that he will try to kill Gibbs soon. Gibbs isn't unduly worried, and stays at headquarters for the night. He tells McGee, Kate and Tony to go home, several times. The camera cuts to later in the night, with Gibbs working in a silent office...except for the snoring, because they all stayed with him.
- Also, at the beginning of the episode, Tony, still recovering from last episode and just the recipient of being pushed to the ground by Kate after a fall down a hill, ordering McGee and Kate away from the bomb on the car while he stays behind to hold the trigger so they can get a lead before it detonates.
- Around the middle of S4 Ziva starts noticing Tony's odd behavior. She gets suspicious, but instead of being angry that he's keeping secrets she starts worrying about his health and a possible relapse of the plague. Episode 11 ends with her telling Gibbs while researching Y Pestis, unable to quite hide every trace of her concern.
- Tony and Ziva's final scene. He's spent several months trying to track her down and is madly begging her to come back to the states. She's refuses but shows she will always love him by treating him to the series most memorable Big Damn Kiss.
- Earlier, Ziva told Tony about an old tradition involving making a list of things which you want to come true. On the flight back to the states, Tony is despondently drawing the list.
- Tony giving Ziva her star and then on the plane, finding it in his pocket. This troper was bawling.
- The end of "Twisted Sister": Sarah McGee, now cleared of suspicion for the episode's murder, comforts the victim's girlfriend, telling her that the victim was a good man and that he really loved her. This is especially poignant when you remember that Sarah had previously trashed her entire college cheer squad (and by extension, the girlfriend) on her blog. She's essentially offering comfort and sympathy to someone that she normally can't stand.
- Gibbs offering CGIS Agent Abigail Borin a position at NCIS and on his team. Notable in that every time someone else has tried to fill in the slot in the team first filled by Kate and then Ziva, there is blatant (and often heavy) resistance from some if not all of the team. With her, however, it's clear than none of the team would object to her being a full time member of Team Gibbs.
- Tony, who has no problem with tricking a probie into memorizing the entire NCIS handbook, present Bishop with a cupcake with a lit candle to congratulate her on having her first BOLO come back with a positive result.
- The episode "Better Angels" has Gibbs spend pretty much the entire episode bickering with his father. But at the end of the episode, Gibbs Sr introduces his son to a man who saved his life during WWII as "the best man I know."
- Even more heartwarming, the man who saved Jackson's life was a German pilot. Jackson's compass was busted and couldn't know which way to go over Europe to reach the English Channel. Later, as he lay dying Walter Beck, hating himself for having to fought for an ideology he never believed in and feared he only did evil, was assured by Jackson he did do good and by saving him, his son Leroy came into the world, and Leroy helps people and saves them. None of that could have happened if not for Walter Beck.
- This also becomes an unintentional Tear Jerker when one realizes that this was Jackson Gibbs' last episode. His actor died the following year.
- Look closely at the pencil holder in Abby's lab during season 11 and you'll see a new addition - Ziva's Israeli flag.
- After hearing the news that the birth mother decided to keep the baby that Jimmy Palmer and his wife were going to adopt, Gibbs comforts Jimmy as only he can and reassures him that he is ready to be a father.
- Abby going out of her way in "Shooter" to help a homeless girl reunite with her parents after the former ran away in 2008.
- At the end of "The Admiral's Daughter," Jimmy realizes his wife sent him a "picture puzzle" that translates to "A bun in the oven."
- In "Bulletproof" both McGee and his girlfriend Delilah are both struggling to adjust to Delilah's recent paralysis. Over the course of the investigation Tim and Gibbs go to interview a soldier who was paralyzed in the line of duty and now runs a skydiving business. At the end of the episode McGee takes Delilah to meet and talk with him at his work, where he runs a parachute company and is coming down for a landing.
- In "Sandblast" Gibbs' remark of "My son, Tony, plays that same game."
- The name of Jimmy and Breena's child: Victoria Elizabeth Palmer, named after Ducky's mother.
- And in a later episode, Ducky is declared to be the child's honorary grandfather, who the parents both expect to be addressed as Grandducky once she's old enough to speak.
- In "Cadence" the case takes Tony back to his former military academy. One of the other cadets, an overweight teen nicknamed Piggy, collapses during the middle of drills, and Tony's first instinct is to help the guy out, even standing up to the senior cadet to do it. Cue the final scene of the episode; while Tony is reminiscing about a picture of him and Piggy as flagbearers, he calls him up and invites him to dinner to catch up.
- Gibbs setting things up in "Mother's Day" so that he legally could not have his mother-in-law arrested for the murder of a man connected to the same drug cartel run by the man who killed Shannon and Kelly.
- In "Double Back," Doctor Cranston (aka Doctor Kate's Sister) has a brief chat with Bishop, telling her that the desk she's at, formerly Ziva's and Kate's before her is a good place to learn, and that both her predecessors would approve of her.