JAG, an acronym for Judge Advocate General, is a long running TV show (1995-2005), about judge advocates (pentagonese for lawyers in military uniform) in the Department of the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General, who deals with military justice matters wherever the forces of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps go in the world.Created by veteran showrunnerDonald P. Bellisario for Paramount Network Television and originally pitched to the networks as a Top GunmeetsA Few Good Men, the show lasted one season on NBC before being canceled. It was picked up by CBS the following season, and they turned into one of the most successful shows in their history.The first and, to a lesser extent, the second season focused primarily on action packed pre-trial field investigations, while the third and later seasons joined that formula together with an equal amount of courtroom and office drama in the stylistic vein of L.A. Law. Many episodes have storylines which often were Ripped from the Headlines, e.g. the war in the Balkans, introduction of female combat pilots on aircraft carriers, espionage, racial bigotry, fraternization charges, a U.S. sailor accused of raping Japanese woman in Japan, homosexuality in the Armed Forces in the days of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", crooked contractors, the War on Terrorism, homeless veterans, senior officers insulting foreign allies, miscarriages of justice, AWOLs & desertions, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and so on and so forth.JAG has a number of dramatic episodes, some of which were based loosely on historical events. The main characters are so involved in them, that considering that they are lawyers, it tends to strain your Willing Suspension of Disbelief.It produced a spin-off, NCIS, which has somehow managed to become more popular than its parent seriesnote not least in Britain - Channel Five dropped the parent show, but not the spinoff.
Adorkable: Married couple Bud and Harriet. Chegwidden's yeoman Petty Officer Jason Tiner also qualifies.
Armed Farces: This trope only happens stateside and not on the frontlines.
America Won The War and America Will Save The Day: In season 9's "People v. SECNAV", the Secretary of the Navy (with presidential approval) goes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand before charges of war crimes in Iraq and is defended by Harm & Mac. He faces an aggressive prosecutor with a French accent.
Edward Sheffield: Ever since our founding, America has been the symbol of hope for the world, and we remain so today. We accept our responsibility, which all civilized nations should, to fight against oppression and tyranny. But when we fight, we don't fight for land or oil or money or to impose our will. We take up arms against violent men who threaten our freedom and the freedom of others.
ICC Prosecutor: I commend your lofty goal of saving the world. But some might say the hundreds of Iraqis civilians you killed is nothing short of evil.
Edward Sheffield: The unintentional deaths of civilians is a tragic consequence of war. The purposeful slaughter of American civilians followed in the Middle East by jubilant dancing in the street, that is evil!
ICC Prosecutor: Did the world ask you to be its saviour?
Edward Sheffield: In 1917, in 1941, and throughout the 40 years of the Cold War, the world asked us for help. And we gave it. But now the war on terrorism has begun, and we can't wait to be asked. We must do what has to be done.
ICC Prosecutor: So you feel free to attack any nation of which you disapprove?
Backed by the Pentagon: The U.S. Marine Corps supported this series early on, but it took a while for the U.S. Navy to get behind it. They were allowed to film on location with their actors at several military installations in California, such as Camp Pendleton, Point Mugu Naval Air Station, and at Naval installations in San Diego. They also filmed aboard the frigate USS John A. Moore (FFG-19) for the season 3 episode "Tiger, Tiger", aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) off the coast of California for the first episodes of season 5, and aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA-5) for season 6 episodes. After the events of 9/11 Bellisario said it became increasingly more difficult to shoot on location than it had been before.
Following the cancellation in 2005, Commander Bob Anderson of the Navy's Office of Information Agency West said that in JAG "the Navy never looks bad".
And the Admiral's replacement Major General Gordon Cresswell, USMC
Butt Monkey: The writers obviously had the recurring character Ted Lindsey to fill this role.
California Doubling: Except for the pilot episode (partly shot on a decommissioned aircraft carrier in Texas), location filming in Washington DC for two season 4 episodes and a season 5 two part episode filmed in Sydney, Australia, the series was entirely shot in California locales.
Celebrity Paradox: Donald P. Bellisario, the series show runner and creator, exists in the JAG-verse as does his series Quantum Leap. Actor Dean Stockwell who had a major part in Quantum Leap, later plays Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield.
Central Theme: The military in general represents all that’s good about America, and although there are a few rotten apples in the barrel, the military as a system is never at fault.
Chest of Medals: This trope is somewhat inverted as the main characters actually have far fewer ribbons (in terms of quantity not quality) than Navy and Marine Corps personnel in real-life similar positions do have.
Although few judge advocates has ever earned the Navy Cross (like Chegwidden), a Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses (like Rabb), or the Bronze Star (like Turner).
Colonel Badass: Both Harm (a Navy Commander from early season 5) and Mac (a Marine Lt. Colonel from season 4) qualify. Sturgis doesn't, but it's more because he's never really given a chance to be particularly badass.
Cool Plane: Harm more than once climbs into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and also flies F-18s, C-130s, a stolen Mig 29, a Boeing 747 airliner, and the Aurora spy plane by the time the series ends. Not to mention his very own Stearman biplane "Sarah". (named after his grandmother and not his co-worker).
Costume Porn: As the series features full display of uniforms from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps worn by mostly good looking people.
Deadpan Snarker: The main characters, with the exceptions of Bud and Harriet, are prone to this. Chedgwidden is the king of this trope though.
Devil's Advocate: Happens in JAG when one of the characters has to either prosecute an innocent person or defend an obviously guilty one. In addition, it is more frequently used in arguments between the characters, both inside and outside of court.
Disappeared Dad: Harm's father was shot down over Vietnam on Christmas when he was a kid, and Harm's attempts to find him were a recurring subplot for the first three seasons.
Admiral Chegwidden, while a part of his daughter Francesca's life, wishes that he was there for her more than he was. His daughter loves him, however.
Eagleland comes in a mixed flavor, but generally the military is almost always of type 1 (Navy & Marine Corps in particular), while civilians and civilian life is often portrayed as type 2.
Economy Cast: Even though the show was on the air for ten seasons and had loads and loads of characters this trope came into play. For instance, if there would be an issue somehow involving the CIA, Clayton Webb would never be far away.
Final Season Casting: Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden (John M. Jackson) retired at the end of season 9 and was replaced in the final 10th season by Major General Gordon Cresswell (David Andrews). Lieutenants Gregory Vukovic (Chris Beteem) and Catherine Graves (Jordana Spiro) were also last season additions.
Ghost Extras: There are many people in the bullpen but they rarely ever interact with speaking characters. It gets particularly obvious that every staff meeting only includes lead and recurring characters, and sometimes also the guest star.
The Government: JAG is largely an aversion of this trope; as the protagonists work for Uncle Sam, the creator and show runner is a veteran, and the show was supported by the Pentagon; not surprisingly the portrayal of the government at large (excluding the actions of certain individual characters), and the military justice system is overall very favorable. However the CIA (mostly through the character Clayton Webb) is often portrayed, in contrast to the benign U.S. military, as either (depending on the story) ruthless, inept and/or shortsighted.
In Harm's Way: Harmon Harm Rabb, Jr. is a real trouble magnet and almost a trope codifier. Other characters on the show often make the, by now, lame joke that Harm is in harm’s way and the like.
Identical Son: Harmon Rabb Jr. is identical to Harmon Rabb Sr. (save for the latter's mustache).
Idiot Ball: In the season 5 episode "Drop Zone" Mac grabs hold. She is prosecuting a Navy SEAL for causing deaths and injuries of some of his trainees in a jump exercise. When she leaves the office, in her car she found a medical report about the defendent, including his admission he was taking drugs during the time of the mission, and so guilty. She shouldn't have this as it was meant to remain between Doctor and patient. Using her legal knowledge, she doesn't call the police to dust for prints nor the judge to inform him. She kept it and then burned it, but was still found out for merely possessing it by the defense attorney Lt. Singer. As a result, Mac nearly loses her career for her actions.
Another example shows them playing with it intentionally. In "Killer Instinct", Rabb and Bud are prosecuting an officer that they believed murdered weak soldiers by throwing them overboard, but the court case wasn't going so well. The murderer grew in confidence seeing that their lawyer tricks weren't working, which Rabb caught on to. So, at one point during questioning, he acted defeated and (in a prearranged move) called Bud to continue the questioning. Bud proceeded to act like an idiot, dropping his papers, asking the same questions over and over again and stumbling around the courtroom, which riled the murderer, eventually leading to his confession on the stand.
Also in "Killer Instinct" the skipper of the ship the alleged murderer served on holds it as well by acting without due process and searching the alleged murderer's locker without proper justification. Had he held off for one hour, Harm and Bud would have given him the justification, but his rush for answers made the evidence illegally obtained. Thus making it inadmissible.
Constant references are made to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and upon occasion the Manual for Courts-Martial) terminology and articles: particularly articles 31 and 32, the first is the equivalent of Miranda Rights for service members and the latter is the pre-trial investigation. It Makes Sense in Context.
A lot of naval aviation jargon show up in the Pilot Movie and is completely justified as Bud points out to Caitlin Pike:
Caitlin Pike:You a pilot, ensign?
Bud Roberts:No, ma'am. It's just that everybody uses pilot jargon on a carrier.
"Recovery" in the first season has Harm point out that the Air Force has pilots while the Navy has aviators.
Another episode ("Heroes", the one with the submachine gun fired in the courtroom), Mac claims that Marines never duck. Harm asks her what Marines do, and she replies. "They take cover.".
Interservice Rivalry: The Navy/Marine rivalry is occasionally touched on, as one part of Harm and Mac's constant bickering and the short-lived rivalry between Gunnery Sergeant Galindez and Petty Officer Tiner.
Harm occasionally indulges in good-natured smack talk with Air Force pilots in "Recovery":
Meg: You could have used a little more runway. Harm: You want long roll-outs, fly the Air Force. Meg: Careful, Harm. We're in their territory. Harm: There are a lot of friendlies around here, Meg. The space program likes Navy pilots. We make their best astronauts. Meg: Right, I think I read that somewhere in Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Harm: Hey, all I need to say is that the first American in outer space was not an Air Force jock. They put up a man who knew how to make a trap. Meg: Then why was the first man in orbit a Marine?
The Marine provost marshal at the SeaTac base in "Brig Break" obviously didn't think too highly of Navy lawyers. And who could really the poor guy with Rabb outfoxing him several times.
Yet another episode had a far more specific example of intra-service rivalry: Harm (a Tomcat driver) gets into a game of pool against a pair of Hornet drivers (in the military, the pilots understandably take a lot of pride in the aircraft they fly). One discretion cut later, and we discover that Harm and his pool partner evidently won their opponents pants in the game when he holds them up as a trophy to show Mac.
Let Us Never Speak of This Again: When Admiral Chegwidden receives a mysterious tape with no return address in his office, he has Tiner play it. It is a video of the Admiral's fiance dressed seductively holding the roses he sent her quoting Shakespeare and inviting him to a very special dinner. The Admiral cuts the tape off midway and tells Tiner to never speak of this again. Tiner wisely claimed nothing happened.
Limited Advancement Opportunities: Averted mostly - most of the officers among the regular main cast and some of the recurring characters all get promoted at least once.
Harmon Rabb starts the series as a Lieutenant, is promoted to Lieutenant Commander midway through Season One, becomes a Commander in Season Five, and finally reaches Captain in the second-to-last episode of the series.
Sarah Mackenzie starts the series as a Major and is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by the fifth year.
Bud Roberts starts off as an Ensign, is promoted to Lieutenant JG (and the opening credits) when he joins JAG in the second year, reaches Lieutenant in the fourth season, and is promoted to Lieutenant Commander in Season Nine.
Harriet Sims' career path follows Bud's pretty well, going from Ensign to Lieutenant JG by Season Four to full Lieutenant at the end of Season Six.
Even recurring characters such as Thomas Boone (first Commander Air Group- or CAG- aboard aircraft carrier Seahawk, then a Rear Admiral) and Caitlin Pike (first Lt. JG, later a full Commander) get a promotion or three, albeit offscreen. Episode 200, in addition to promoting Petty Officer Jennifer Coates to Petty Officer 1st Class, even showed a what-if scenario where Cmdr. Alison Krennick, unseen since the first year outside of a flashback to a Lost Episode, was Rear Admiral and heading JAG.
One example of Truth in Television in relation to promotions comes with the final season - upon Adm. Chegwidden's retirement, a new character, Col. Gordon Cresswell, is promoted to Maj. Gen. to fill his position as JAG. A variation comes earlier when Secretary of the Navy Alexander Nelson is forced to resign and Senator Edward Sheffield is appointed to the position.
Several characters went without promotions however, but these were either due to seniority (Chegwidden), being late additions to the series (Turner), being unpopular with their co-workers (Cmdr. Lindsey, Lt. Singer), or being murdered (Lt. Singer, by Cmdr. Lindsey).
One episode has Commander Teddy Lindsey up on a promotion list to Captain but Admiral Chegwidden as chair of the promotion board will not recommend him despite Lindsey being a rigged favourite of the then-Secretary of the Navy Alexander Nelson.
Long Lost Relative: Harm spends a substantial portion of the show (seasons 1-3) searching for his father, who went MIA during the Vietnam War. His father escaped custody, and was later shot and killed, but not before meeting a Russian woman and fathering another son, Sergei.
Long Runner: Ran for ten years, on two separate networks.
Mildly Military: Averted. For a staff corps office they take military protocol very seriously.
Military Brat: Harmon Rabb is a Generation Xerox example (right down to his dad looking identical to him in flashbacks, plus a mustache). His dad being shot down during Vietnam and declared MIA forms a central part of Rabb's character arc as he tries to find out what happened to him.
Also the case with most of the rest of the cast - Mac's biggest influence was her Marine uncle, Bud's father was a Master Chief (and he himself fathers four kids of his own with Harriet), Sturgis' father is a Navy Chaplain, and Maj. Gen. Cresswell's daughter is attending the Academy by the time the series ends. Of the main cast members, Chegwidden is the only one who isn't stated to be a military brat or the parent of one.
In one episode, Rabb also had to locate a former soldier who apparently kidnapped his son. According to the son, the son was a military brat. It gets a bit convoluted when the ending heavily implies that the son was actually the reincarnation of his father's best friend who was killed in action back in the Vietnam War.
Mission Briefing: Almost a Once per Episode on JAG. Usually it is Admiral Chegwidden who, following the opening title sequence, hands a new case or mission to either Harm, Mac or to them both.
Oddly Small Organization: The Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy appears to much smaller in the series than in real life, so small that Harm, Mac and Sturgis on occasions are temporarily assigned as Acting Judge Advocate General; despite the fact that in real life there is a flag officer serving as Deputy Judge Advocate General, not to mention all the Captains/Colonels (Assistant Judge Advocate General for X) serving as heads of the various departments; although it’s supposed to be the same size as in real life, as Chegwidden in the NCIS backdoor pilot stating he has 1200 people under his command, which was the actual real-world case in 2003.
Although never stated in-verse, it’s quite possible that the Deputy Judge Advocate General, who in real-life is also dual-hatted as Commander of Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC), has his office at the Washington Navy Yard (as in real life), while the fictional Falls Church office mostly houses OJAG staff and the judiciary.
Bud Roberts falls in love with co-worker Harriet Sims, gets married, and are allowed to work in the same office because Harriet is, courtesy of Admiral Chegwidden, "temporarily assigned" to the office for several years...
Establishing Shot: in season two and onward, the exterior of the in-universe JAG Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia is shown once or twice in most episodes: in real-life it's an American Red Cross building in Pasadena, California.
Every Episode Ending: Every episode on JAG, except the Pilot Movie, ended with a freeze frame, usually of one or two of the main characters either smiling or showing a concerned look.
Overranked Soldier: Averted mostly, even though the investigation's and field work done by Harm and Mac are borderline.
Passed Over Promotion: Commander Lindsey spends much of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" trying to avoid this trope. He does have the support of the Secretary of the Navy. However, the Captains Promotion Board felt in the Navy, lacking much field experience, being a pencil pusher only, and Chegwidden admitting to the assembled board that he would accept his people (Mac and Harm) doing questionable actions but considers Lindsey untrustworthy and wouldn't have him back in his command serves to ensure Lindsey is not made Captain.
Permission to Speak Freely: Used frequently for when a lower ranking officer wants to speak to senior officer. Occasionally denied by the senior officer.
Promotion to Opening Titles: Both Bud (Patrick Labyorteuax) and Admiral Chegwidden (John M. Jackson) did this at the start of Season 2. Turner (Scott Lawrence) and Coates (Zoe McLellan) did likewise in the final season.
Put on a Bus: Lt. JG Meg Austin was present for most of the first season, but disappeared with little explanation at the start of the second. Mostly averted with other characters, however.
Lt. JG Parker in the pilot episode was reassigned off-screen before the show proper started (the actress would go on to appear on The Pretender playing a character named Miss Parker). The Bus Came Back with her on a couple of occasions.
Catherine Bell's pregnancy in late season 8, as her character temporarily served as judge to hide the fact. And later that season she followed Clayton Webb on a secret mission to Paraguay posing as his pregnant wife...
Numerous incidents in the military are turned into episodes, such as the April 1st collusion of a American and Chinese plane, or Clinton era budget cuts. One episode had Rabb going up against the Rogue Warrior.
9/11 and the resulting armed conflicts in the Middle East, from season 7.
All the romantic false for Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie from died one way or another. The Cartwright Curse also affected Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. too, but with the difference that only one of them died.
Running Gag: Whenever a promotion is announced, there are accusations of the officer being "out of" or in "incorrect" uniform. Crosses into Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Admiral Chegwidden retires and promotes Bud beyond his "terminal" rank
Shown Their Work: The research and accuracy became better through the years the show was running, though inaccuracies could always be found. Having a Marine Corps veteran as its creator, executive producer, and show runner probably helped. Being Backed by the Pentagon probably helped a great deal too.
It should be noted that none of the starring characters who are military lawyers became that without having prior military service: Harm started out as an aviator, Mac was an administrative officer, and Bud was from the beginning a public affairs officer. AJ started out as a Navy SEAL, served in The Vietnam War in that capacity, and was transferred later to surface warfare. Sturgis began his career as a submariner. This makes for interesting characters, as opposed to Mildly Military straight-out-of-law-school-graduates, as they can relate to and interact differently with the various communities in the Naval Services. This is not completely unrealistic as the Department of the Navy has a law degree program which allows officers in the Navy & Marine Corps to earn a law degree at an accredited law school on Uncle Sam’s dime, conditioned that they fulfill service obligation following graduation, which must be within three years. Suffice to say, this program is quite sought after and competitive to enter.
Status Quo Is God: Not much changes from episode to episode. The significant changes that inevitably once in a while occurs are few and far between.
Stock Footage: A lot was reused from various films that were endorsed by the armed forces, particularly Top Gun and The Hunt for Red October before the show itself received full official support from the Department of the Navy in the third season. To the show's credit, however, they were able to do some clever things with that stock footage via computer technology, including have Harm interact with then-President Clinton and Bud do likewise with then-President Bush.
Story Arc: The major story arc for the first four seasons of JAG was Harm’s search for his long lost father, although it was latent in most episodes not directly addressing it.
There are also several episodes where members of Congress or White House staffers in concert with Strawman News Media conducts investigations that turns into a politically expedient Witch Hunt. Also, the evidence behind it is always shown as nothing more than either conjecture or hearsay.
Title Drop: Occurs throughout the series times whenever a character introduces oneself followed by he/she is from JAG or is a JAG lawyer. Individual episode names are also often, but not always, dropped.
The most incredible flying stunts on the show were re-enactments of actual events.
Until it diverged with Cresswell becoming the JAG, in reality there has yet to be a Marine serving as Judge Advocate General of the Navy since Col. William Remey, the first Navy JAG.
Which simply makes a Marine serving as Navy JAG a distinct improbability, not an impossibility, considering that less than 500 of 1500 advocates in the Navy JAG are Marines.
Two Star Badass: Rear Admiral Chegwidden and his replacement Maj. Gen. Cresswell.
Un-Cancelled: After the first season, the show was canceled by NBC. However, CBS picked it up immediately after NBC canceled it upon discovering that the show was absolutely huge in Australia and was slowly gaining a cult audience in the United States. CBS proceeded to turn it into the biggest hit on the network. NBC did keep a finger in the pie by securing exclusive cable syndication rights for its USA Network.
Workaholic: All the characters to some extent, but particularly with Admiral Chegwidden who in a season four episode ("War Stories") is forced on leave and we see that he is incredibly bored. Although some of the characters do have meaningful hobbies other than work, like Harm (his Stearman biplane), Mac (Dinosaur bones) and Bud (Star Trek), it’s still implied that they work very long hours and have a limited social life.
X Meets Y: This series is easily described as Top Gun meets A Few Good Men. The first season skews towards the former, while the remaining nine towards the latter.
Admiral Chegwidden himself uses those exact words in his very first line on the show - to describe Rabb's file.
Episodes of this series provide examples of:
555: In "Heart & Soul" Mac says the number to her office phone is 555-0171.
Abandon Ship: The Russian destroyer in "Cowboys and Cossacks".
Aborted Arc: Harm’s Russian half-brother Sergey is not heard from anymore post season eight.
African Terrorists: In the season 4 episode "Embassy", when Harm & Mac are at a reception at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, it’s seemingly taken over by a rebel faction supporting an opposition leader. It actually is an elaborate setup by the asshole ambassador to make him look like a hero and discredit the opposition.
Against My Religion: In the season nine episode “Posse Comitatus”, Bud investigates a Navy reservist physician who suddenly claims conscientious objector status when called on serve in Iraq because he became a Quaker. When Bud informs him that after separation his medical practice would at the same time also lose the military health plan affiliation, he backs down.
Played with in "Soul Searching". Webb reveals information to Chegwidden of a soldier they both think highly of, the admiral going as far as saying he saved his soul. During a attempt to rescue him from terrorists Chegwidden explains his friend didn't call out a sniper target, as they were dressed as a nun. Killing nuns was clearly against his friend's religion and Chegwidden leaves it ambiguous whether he would have taken the shot.
Air Vent Passageway: In "Sightings", Harm and Meg escape the oncoming Colombians by climbing through an air vent.
Alphabet News Network: ZNN, the fictional counterpart to CNN. Often ZNN is just in the background, but sometimes it becomes the very center of the story.
Alien Abduction: In the episode "Vanished", an F-14 Tomcat has disappeared in The Bermuda Triangle. On a helicopter flight back to shore, skeptical Harm spots that nerdy Bud is reading a book titled “The Abductee’s Survival Manual” and starts a conversation on the topic (see quotes.) It eventually turns out that the missing F-14 has nothing to do with aliens, but they do manage to get several vital clues to the puzzle from UFO enthusiasts.
Almost Famous Name: Harm once offered to introduce a pair of sailors to Jennifer Lopez in exchange for them helping him out. It wasn't till after they've helped that we find out this Jennifer is his dental hygienist.
Alternate History: In JAG there really was a smoking gun connecting Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda, discovered by U.S. troops in one of Saddam's palaces, as seen in "Lawyers, Guns and Money". However this information appear to be classified (for some reason), because a year later Harm, Mac & Bud prepare their defense arguments before the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav" and Mac explicitly states that there is no smoking gun connecting Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.
Season 9's "What If?" is an Elseworldstory inspired by a series of identical fortune cookies. Harm and Mac are married and about to divorce, Chegwidden's retired and married to his current girlfriend, Sturgis is working as manager for his girlfriend, Bud and Harriet aren't married, Coates is helping in a sting operation to catch thieves, and the head of JAG is Cmdr. Alison Krennick, unseen outside of flashbacks since the first season.
In the pilot movie we see Soviet-made AA guns used by the Serbs against U.S. Navy F-14s, and they almost take the CAG out, if it were not for his resourceful passenger.
Also part of the backstory of Harm's dad: he was shot down by AA during The Vietnam War (Christmas Eve 1969).
Anti-Villain: Colonel Matthew O’Hara is a Marine Corps legend who earned the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, but he’s grown tired of American degradation of society with street crimes and corrupted politicians, so he and a few other Marines snatches the Declaration of Independence transported in a mail truck on its back from a restoration job. What no one knows at the outset is that the Colonel is the uncle of Major Sarah Mackenzie.
Art Shift: The two part episode of JAG in season eight which served as a backdoor pilot for NCIS had much faster cuts and a completely different musical score from the usual fare on JAG: whenever the NCIS characters were on screen (except for when they went to JAG HQ).
In one episode, Harm's partner is kidnapped by a gang in South Central Los Angeles. They tell Harm to drive back to Camp Pendleton, grab one of their members who has joined the Marines, and bring him back in one hour. Camp Pendleton is 90 miles from Los Angeles - even with no traffic it would be extremely difficult to make the drive down there in one hour, let alone back.
In several episodes they also drive awfully fast, judging by stated Zulu times, from Washington DC to both Norfolk and Blacksburg in Virginia.
Asian Store Owner: In "Wedding Bell Blues", Harm goes to the dry cleaner to get his Dress Whites uniform back in time for Bud’s wedding, but is has been mixed up with a police uniform from another customer. The Indian owner will only help Harm locate the other customer if he agrees to take his daughter on a date.
Bad Date: Bud shows up too late at his first date with Harriet in "Washington Holiday" because his car had a flat tire.
Badass Grandpa: The season 3 episode "Yesterday's Heroes" has three retired underwater demolition divers (one played by Ernest Borgnine) in Florida avenging on a South American drug dealer who'd hurt one of their grandchildren.
Banana Republic: Subverted in the ninth season episode "Secret Agent Man". While on a CIA mission in the Philippines, Harm’s partner Beth O’Neill has managed to get caught by the local police. Harm goes to the police station and tries to first play the act of an ignorant American tourist. When that doesn’t work he changes to a tactic which completely misfires.
Harm: All right, I get it. What's it gonna cost?
Police Officer: What? You think that we are some kind of banana republic here where every official is for sale? You listen to me. You just go back to your nice comfortable tourist hotel and you think about it. (Starts shouting aggressively in Tagalog)
Baseball Episode: At the beginning of "Innocence" in season 4 it's the Navy judge advocates versus the Navy Chaplains.
Also "The Boast" in season 9 where Harm and the Admiral witness a Navy pitcher hit a Marine batter during a friendly baseball game, leading to the pitcher being charged with assault.
Bud Roberts: Well, the medical examiner faxed over more autopsy details for Agent Turque.
Harmon Rabb: Can I see them?
Bud Roberts: Sorry, sir. Agent Turque instructed me that these were for his eyes only. In fact, his exact words were, "Don't hand any faxes over to Commander Rabb."
Harmon Rabb: I see.
Bud Roberts drops one copy of the report for Harm to pick up.
The Bermuda Triangle: An F-14 fighter plane disappears in the Bermuda Triangle in third season episode "Vanished".
Better to Die than Be Killed: After Mustafa Atef, the in-universe Al-Qaeda number 3, was sentenced to death by the military tribunal in "Tribunal", he committs suicide in his cell without uttering a sound.
Bikini Bar: Bud Roberts’s womanizing drunk old sailor father has his son’s bachelor party in a strip club of this variety in "Wedding Bell Blues".
Bilingual Backfire: In "Silent Service" Sarah Mackenzie is on a submarine as part of a fact-finding mission to determine whether women should be allowed to serve on submarines. A sailor looks at Mac and says, in Russian, "Do you think they'd look like her?" Another sailor says, also in Russian, "No, more like sperm whales," and they both laugh. Mac, who is fluent in Russian, says, "Let me know if you see any sperm whales. I thought they were rare in these seas."
In another, where she and Harm travel to Russia, two hotel clerks make some crude remarks about him 'being able to afford' a woman like Mac (they are in civvies). Mac steps forward and rattles off a quick, untranslated, reply, then tells Harm not to bother trying to look up what she said in his phrasebook.
In "Nobody's Child", Harm and Mac questions a convicted child molester who had violated the terms of his parole and watched school children from his car and said he listened to Als ich bei meinen Schaffen wacht in his car, which Mac correctly translates from German to As I watch over my sheep and by doing so really gets his attention.
The 5th season episode "Rogue" begins with a statement that it's not based on any real person or event; but even the episode title is a play on Richard Marcinko and his Red Cell team that would play terrorists to test military security. They apparently really were able to infiltrate nuclear subs (how much of this is fiction is a matter of debate, but the team was real.) Justified as even with his court martial and trial at the beginning of the decade the Navy was still very much trying to keep Marcinko's SEAL Team Six and Red Cell under wraps when the episode aired in 1999.
The 7th season episode "Head to Toe", although its starts with a disclaimer, is clearly inspired by the famed lawsuit (McSally v. Rumsfeld) U.S. Air Force pilot Martha McSally brought against the Secretary of Defense for having to wear the Abaya while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
"Boot" has Meg investigating Paris Island's female DI's in the most straightforward way.
Harm goes undercover as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant in "Force Recon".
Building of Adventure: JAG Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia has had its fair share of hostage situations, impostors, screaming births and courtroom antics (including assault of counsel and an automatic weapon fired in the courtroom).
Buried Alive: Mentioned in the 3rd season episode "Vanished". The villain orders one of his underlings to kill the hostage and bury them in the woods. The underling seems to interpret this literally by asking if they are to be buried alive. The villain replies by saying he’s not heartless and he can shoot them first.
Bud and Harriet both do this in the season 3 episode "Wedding Bell Blues" with separate parents, Bud with his blowhard, semi-abusive working-class father and Harriet with her meddlesome Southern Belle mom.
Mac in season 4 gets one of her own against her mother in "Second Sight" at the deathbed of her father.
This just in, one of the Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down a couple of Serbian MIGs over Bosnia this afternoon. Listen to this, the radar intercept officer in the Tomcat was a woman! Boy, you thought getting shot down by a woman in a bar was bad! Oh my God!
Another thing about that female aviator, now, this has got to be very embarrassing, to Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle, Now women their daughters' age have more combat experience than they do.
Oliver North appears in a few episodes (two in the first season) as himself. Apparently he and Meg's father were old friends, and she calls him "Uncle Ollie".
Canada, Eh?: Clayton Webb getting assigned to a station in Canada was considered punishment for leaking classified information, and Harm expresses sympathy that he was getting assigned there, despite Canada's status as a first world country that's culturally a fair bit like the US, speaks the same language, and is a short flight from his home in the DC area.
The Cartel: In the second season episode "The Game of Go", a U.S. Marine is captured by a drug baron in Colombia while on joint operation with the Colombian authorities.
Chekhov's Gun: In the episode "Brig Break", Lt. Kate Pike and Lt. Meg Austin have a minor disagreement weather the proper title of the visitor's registration form for the brig is -77401 or -77501. At the climax, gunnery sergeant in charge of the brig has activated a nuclear weapon and it can only be deactivated by entering a five digit code. Since the Gunny had perversely tormented Meg by telling her the 5-digit code he picked "has a seven in it", Meg, Harm and Kate desperately try to choose a string of numbers with a seven in it that Gunny might have used on a regular basis.
Christmas Episode: JAG had five of these, once per season following the fourth (save the show's sixth season) and with the common sight of Harm visiting the Vietnam Memorial his father was shot down on Christmas Day. One episode aired on Christmas Day 1997, but had nothing to do with Christmas.
CIA Evil, FBI Good, NCIS Incompetent: The CIA and other espionage agencies are evil or morally gray/grey. The FBI is portrayed as using Jurisdiction Friction to take control of the investigation and refusing to cooperate with others. And with a dash of Early Installment Weirdness for the sequel show, NCIS, NCIS agents, before the in-show pilot "Ice Queen," were prone to Jurisdiction Friction and overlooking evidence that Harm or other lawyers would notice and solve the case. In fact, only the JAG lawyers acts fair and balanced. Everybody else is only concerned with saving their own asses.
The third season ended with a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger where Harm and Mac's plane is hit by a missile behind a cloud, while in Russia looking for Harm's father.
The sixth ended with Harm lost at sea, having ejected from his F-14 trying to get back in time to catch Mac's wedding.
The seventh ends with Bud stepping on a landmine while trying to prevent an Afghan boy from doing likewise.
The eighth ended with Harm leaving JAG to save Mac and Webb against orders.
The ninth ends with Webb apparently killed and the Admiral's retirement.
The series itself ends with something like a cliffhanger, leaving the audience wondering if either Harm or Mac will retire after they decide to marry and whether they'll end up in London or San Diego afterwards.
Clip Show: JAG only had one: "Lifeline" in season 6. Though there were a couple of brief clip-show-style moments in a few other episodes.
Cold Sniper: In "High Ground"; when a promise by his former CO not be deployed to Bosnia is reversed by the new Colonel; Gunnery Sergeant Ray Crockett shots the rear mirror of the Colonel’s car, when moving at 1 000 yards distance, as a warning before he takes off to the hills.
But he's also at the same time a Friendly Sniper, because he felt he was unjustly treated and never meant to harm anyone.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the second part of season 5's "Boomerang", after Harm and Mic get into a fight that inadvertently breaks Bud's jaw (he stepped in between their simultaneous punches), Admiral Chegwidden, with the approval of Mic's superior officer Captain Howell, offers them "non-judicial punishment". He takes them to an empty building, opens the door, and tells them they are not to leave until they inflict damage and pain on each other equal to what they inflicted on Bud. The next day in court, they both look like they went 10 rounds with the heavyweight champ.
Captain Howell: I always did like Yank SEALs.
Cool Car: Harm owns a '70s Chevy Corvette. It gets stolen and stripped for parts, but he eventually builds a new one. Mac buys herself a more modern Corvette at one point. Something of a Kick the Dog moment, however, as this was in the same episode that Harm's Corvette was stolen and stripped.
Commie Land: Harm goes twice to China and twice to Cuba on the show.
Common Nonsense Jury: Basically the plot of the season ten episode "The Sixth Juror" when Petty Officer Jennifer Coates is brought in as juror and starts asking pertinent questions which no one had thought about.
Cool Shades: On JAG, all Naval Aviators has at least one pair.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: used often as defense contractors will sell faulty equipment at premium prices often resulting in deaths of service members. Any military officer who aids them is always a junior officer.
In "Act of Terror", Percival Bertram is a wealthy businessman (looking like a Corrupt Hick) who supports right-wing conservative politicians and brands himself as a super-patriot advocating that the U.S. should take gloves of with respect to terrorists to U.S. interests in the Middle East. However, the alleged super-patriot finances terrorism in the Middle East against U.S. interests (supposedly to create a self-fulfilling prophecy gaining his own business interests.)
Harm fired a loaded MP-5 during a trial in "Heroes". The key piece of evidence in the case was a submachine gun that allegedly failed to fire due to a malfunction. Harm proceeded to pick up the gun, which had evidently never been unloaded, and fired it into the ceiling. This did get him an epic ass-chewing, and the judge would continue to hold this against Harm for at least 7 more seasons. No one else lets him forget about that either.
Bud later uses a loophole so the incident, which has evidently caused a structural weakness in the building itself, will not count as a black mark on Harm's record.
During the military trial of a terrorist Harm uses questioning that violates the spirit of the law. Both the judges and the defense tell him to stop.
Crash Course Landing: Harmon Rabb lands a 747 airliner belonging to Oceanic Airlines in "The Bridge at Kang So Ri" after having taken out South Korean radical-left hijackers. Considering that he’s a pilot, he only gets a reminder of how big a 747 really is.
Crazy Homeless People: In "The Guardian", Harm and Mac defend a homeless former Navy SEAL, in civilian court, who is accused of killing three men while thwarting a convenience store robbery.
Creepy Mortician: Averted with recurring character Lt. Commander Teresa Coulter, a Navy pathologist. The only creepy thing about her might be the deep southern accent.
Cunning Linguist: Mac, as she speaks or reads Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Farsi, German, Arabic (beginning in season 10) and Hebrew.
Dangerous Deserter: In the season nine episode "Shifting Sands" a Navy petty officer believed to be lost since the first Gulf War is found in Iraq, married to a Bedouin sheik. It turns out that she’s provided intelligence to Saddam’s regime through the years.
A Day in the Limelight: Just about every supporting character on the show got an episode an season when they were the lead.
Or an episode when they were put on trial (the "People v. X" episodes, among others). Harm got two.
Decoy Trial: The episode "Defenseless" has a female Ensign in the U.S. Navy killing the Turkish military attaché in Washington. To convict the perpetrator, murder charges are brought against the Ensign who actually, unbeknownst to everyone involved in the trial, is a fake identity of a an officer with Naval Intelligence and evidence is by purpose stacked against the ensign to maintain US-Turkish relations. In spite of this, the Ensign's defense counsel Harmon Rabb, manages to get her acquitted.
Didn't See That Coming: In 1st season episode "Sightings", Colombian drug smugglers use the underground facilities of a supposedly abandoned navy base in Texas where they have a cocaine processing facility without the locals knowing anything about it. The Colombians also used a helicopter equipped with lights and low-frequency emitters, appearing as a UFO, to scare away the locals. Obviously, they didn’t foresee that the disappearance of a young local girl would lead the Navy to send two of its most resourceful investigators and foil the whole operation.
"Code Blue" in the second season had Hamas terrorists take over a DC hospital where the Israeli defense minister was receiving a heart transplant. Unfortunately for Hamas, Harm was there to save the day. A few Shout Outs and an Incredibly Lame Pun ensues, along with hilarity.
Admiral: Signor Amati, many people have tried to kill me one time or another. They're mostly dead. So there's a good chance that your brother-in-law will join them if he does come after me.... Does he have other sons? Enrico Amati: Uno. Admiral: When he comes, I'll regrettably kill him too. And after him? Enrico Amati: My sister will expect me to uphold the honor of mi familia. Admiral: Then I'll have to kill you. I don't want to have to do that. Enrico Amati: [in Italian] You're either a very bold man, or crazy! Admiral: [In Italian] Not crazy. Practical.
Drill Sergeant Nasty: Inverted in the season 1 episode "Boot", where the nasty sergeant, Staff Sergeant Carrington, is a woman (played by Julie Caitlin Brown) training female Marine recruits at Parris Island.
Drives Like Crazy: One episode a young ensign from Jersey played by Sarah Silverman, who absolutely tears across base in a Humvee, hardly ever looking at the road, rambling on about whatever comes to mind, and generally terrifying poor Bud and even making Harm nervous. Bud is forced to have her drive him somewhere on the other side of base because he's in a hurry, and finds her driving much less terrifying if he takes his contacts out first.
Duel to the Death: In "Dog Robber (Part 1)", Mac deals with two Naval Academy midshipmen (and fictional descendants of Burr & Hamilton) who staged a failed duel.
Ejection Seat: Played straight, averted, subverted, and discussed in various different episodes. Also part of the backstory for both how Harm became a lawyer and how his dad ended up Missing In Action.
Electric Torture: Clayton Webb, while on an undercover mission in Paraguay together with Mac, is subjected to this particular kind of torture in the season eight episode "A Tangled Webb". Mac is also about to treated the same, but then Harm arrives and saves them.
Elevator Failure: Bud takes the elevator not realizing it is malfunctioning in the episode "Yeah Baby".
Empty Quiver: In the episode "Empty Quiver" a nuclear torpedo disappeared during transfer to a submarine. Subverted when it was discovered that, through a series of minor missteps (including a short blackout due to transferring to ship's power), the missile was ejected into the harbor. Sturgis notes that while it was an accident, it was very likely all of the sailors involved would never serve on any combat ship again.
Engineered Public Confession and Bluffing the Murderer: In "Killer Instinct" (season 6), the defendant is a petty officer on an Aircraft Carrier suspected of murdering a subordinate (by throwing overboard at night), because they were incompetent at their jobs. One crucial piece of evidence is not admissible in court because the ship's CO did not have probable cause for issuing a search warrant, and this necessitates a different strategy from the prosecution. Harm does the standard Perry Mason Method, knowing beforehand that the defendant will not fall into the trap and make him overconfident. And when Bud later has his turn to question him, he begins by asking the defendant several questions that Harm had asked earlier, then proceeds to make several other basic errors before dropping his notes in mid-question, and finally drives the pedantic defendant into a rage, before revealing that he was Obfuscating Stupidity and it was all part of a plan.
Petty Officer Duell: Some people don’t belong in the United States Navy.
Lieutenant Roberts: No, but the Navy won’t kill them.
Ensign Newbie: Both Bud and Harriet literally starts out as this.
Episode on a Plane: An Oceanic Airlines (how typical) flight to Seoul gets hijacked by South Korean radicals in season 5's "The Bridge at Kang So Ri". Luckily enough our heroes take care of the situation.
Everyone Knows Morse: Played straight in the season 4 episode “Embassy”, when Harm is taken hostage in the Sudanese embassy and the FBI has already decided to cut off the embassy’s electric power, Harm signals the word power in Morse code by failing to light a cigar, and this is noticed by Bud at JAG Headquarters through ZNN live coverage and Clayton Webb relays it the FBI.
Everythings Worse With Bees: In the first season episode "High Ground", after breaking brig and taking to the hills Gunnery Sergeant Ray Crockett is spotting Marines approaching and instead of shooting at them, he shots at a bee’s nest above them…
Faking the Dead: Clayton Webb does this, twice, with Harm and Mac unintentionally doing likewise on one occasion.
Fallback Marriage Pact: In season four at the end of "Yeah, Baby", Harm and Mac agrees to have a child together in five years if neither have a significant other some time in the future.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: In the season fifth episode "Into the Breech" of JAG, when Bud and Gunny go to the ex-wife of an old sailor they're looking for to testify at a hearing, Gunny says to Bud that they should approach it as good cop and bad cop to obtain a positive result.
Gunny: Lieutenant, we play Mutt and Jeff. Do you wanna be good cop or bad cop?
On Clayton Webb's first appearance in "We the people", he gives a rating of Mac's beauty. When someone asks, You go into fractions? Webb replies, I use the Richter Scale.
Mac makes a comment on the coffee made by Petty Officer Tiner to Harm in "Ready or Not".
Mac: Tiner's brew has reached yet another octane level.
Greasy Spoon: Appears several times throughout the series, often on or close to military installations. Season one cliffhanger "Skeleton Crew" has a typical one.
Gulf War: Several references to that conflict are made throughout the series. In the 4th season episode "Mr. Rabb Goes to Washington", rumors are spread on a cable news network (ZNN) that Sarin nerve gas was used by U.S. Marines during the invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
The first Secretary of the Navy in the series, Alexander Nelson, gets called before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to answer for his unauthorized intelligence activities carried out by JAG lawyers. Ironically enough, the Chairman of the Committee, Edward Sheffield, ends up becoming his successor.
In the pilot episode, Admiral Brovo makes the assumption that if the investigation into Lt. Arutti's death is negatively portrayed in the press in the wrong way, as in the Tailhook investigations, he might be made a political scapegoat by the feminists on the hill.
He Knows Too Much: In the episode "Someone to Watch over Annie", the ten year old son of Harm's Romantic False Lead by accident gets to see a murder at Andrews Air Force Base while slipping away from his school class when on a tour. It turns out the bad guys are weapons smugglers who don't shy away from trying to killing witnesses.
Hearing Voices: In first season episode "The Prisoner", when Harm is taken to a Chinese military prison he begins to talk with, what appears to be, another prisoner in another cell who turns out to be his father. However, we see on the surveillance cameras that Harm is talking to no one, and the Chinese later explain that it’s all due to the drugs they’ve administered.
Hey, That's Mine!: Subverted in "Rogue". Harm is talking to a Richard Marcinko expy, and at some point, the guy holds up Harm's wallet, criticizing him for letting the guy steal it, pointing out that he could use the ID contained within to allow him access onto the base. Harm then tells him to open the wallet, revealing that the ID card holder inside contains only a note saying "Arrest Me".
Hollywood Healing: Subverted. If a main character is injured, they will remain so for a few episodes. Then there's Lt. Bud Roberts who never gets his leg back and we see him working with a prosthetic for the rest of the series.
Subverted in places, particularly less than five minutes in the pilot episode, where one of the aviators and air crew of the USS Seahawk (one of the series fictional Aircraft Carriers) banter about what taking out Klingons and Romulans would mean when painting on kill symbols onto the F-14.
Harm's Romantic False Lead Rene Peterson, in seasons five to seven, is very much a personification of this trope. An up and coming director of commercials and music videos, her neurotic personality traits are very much the anti-thesis of all the main characters.
Admiral Chegwidden’s brief stint as technical advisor in "War Stories" was brought to an abrupt end because his can-do due-diligence gung-ho attitude was ultimately not very compatible with the nonsensical herd instinct of the Hollywood folks.
Hospital Hottie: Beverly Tromatore (played by Catherine Bell) in the season 8 episode "Each Of Us Angels".
Foreshadowing of course the fact Bell would play a nurse in Army Wives.
How Unscientific: The show usually kept itself grounded in something resembling reality... except for the episodes involving Mac's psychic powers and Bud's near-death experience. And then there was that one time a villainous plan involving a fake ghostly vision was foiled by the appearance of a real ghost.
Hunting Accident: 3rd season episode "With Intent to Die" had Admiral Chegwidden’s mentor decease at such an occasion, and Chegwidden refuses to believe it was either a suicide or an accident.
Impersonating an Officer: In "JAGathon", an enlisted Navy corpsman saves a man’s life in a traffic accident, but at the same time he wears the uniform of an officer (with an enlisted SWO pin) and is spotted by a superior who apparently recognizes him.
Injun Country: "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse", in the third season.
Insanity Defense: In "Act of Terror", a Marine guard is charged for murder after he shot a terrorist suspect during a prisoner transfer. Harm, as defense counsel, begins to explore the option of an insanity defense, but he’s taken of the case by the defendant who’ s hired a different attorney.
Internal Affairs: In the season five episode "Contemptuous Words", Harm is suspected of having written an unsigned op-ed piece in newspaper denigrating the then-president Bill Clinton, and internal affairs are brought in.
Admiral Chegwidden: Hell, I tried to keep this thing in-house, but to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, pursuit of the matter’s been turned over to the Office of Inspector General.
Commander Rabb: OIG? Admiral, they land a crooked JAG, their budget goes up.
Flight Risk had Harm investigating a military contractor after a faulty plane crashed killing both pilots. There was evidence of poor work, cannibalized parts, putting military personal at risk, and he takes up a pilot's offer to fly in one of the planes. The plane malfunctions due to Rabb's flying, and he is accused of doing this deliberately, but it is the evidence he needs and the pilot makes a tacit admission that the repair crews are lowest bidder and the contractor is more concerned with profits than safety.
The Judge: There were several judges as recurring characters.
Both Harm and Mac, under various circumstances, gets to serve on the bench in later seasons.
Justice By Other Legal Means: Invoked on at least 2 different occasions when an aviator did something which was clearly the wrong thing to do (e.g. accidently killing Russian peacekeepers in Serbia, and intervening in civilian law enforcement in the U.S.), but got acquitted of all significant charges all thanks to having Harm as his defense counsel. After the trial, however, the CO informs the aviator that he’s permanently grounded and will undergo extensive evaluation. In any case Uncle Sam always wins.
Season 5’s “Rules of Engagement”: The Aviator acquitted is grounded and reassigned to a stateside post. He later resigns his commission.
Season 9’s “Posse Comitatus”: The Marine helicopter pilot is grounded as well.
1st season episode "Scimitar", set in Iraq (in 1996), has an American Marine convicted for violating their territory. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Harm manages to prove that the Marine was on the Kuwait side of the border. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish.
4th season episode "The Black Jet", set in Iran has an American on trial for violating their airspace. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Rabb manages to prove that the planes were miles outside the country's airspace. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish. Good thing it was a Decoy Trial and the plan was to break out the prisoner anyway.
Harm and Mac travel to South Korea along with an Army General to investigate an alleged massacre that took place at the time of the war in the fifth season episode "The Bridge at Kang So Ri".
Gunnery Sergeant Galindez helps an old Hispanic Marine veteran of the Korean War who fought at the Chosin reservoir in the sixth season episode "Retreat, Hell".
Land Down Under: Australia didn’t exactly go unnoticed in this series. One of the recurring characters, Mic Brumby, was an Australian naval officer originally on exchange duty in season 4. In season 5 the production team actually went to Sydney to film the two part episode “Boomerang” on location in Oz. The fact that the creator and executive producer had an Australian wife is probably the chief explanation for all this.
Land Mine Goes Click: Played straight in "In Country", and then averted in the very next episode. Harm and Mac end up wrecking their Humvee amidst a minefield, and Harm ends up stepping on the Hollywood click-and-wait variety of mine. Mac takes cover on the other side of the Humvee while Harm prepares to drop a weight on the mine and leap away, barely escaping in the process (along with landing on Mac in quite the Ship Tease arrangement).
In the next episode, Lieutenant Bud Roberts steps on a mine, and this one goes off immediately, leaving him severely wounded just before the credits roll.
Loophole Abuse: In the episode "True Callings" when Harm realizes he is better as a lawyer, he saved a sailor from the brig by pointing out the prosecuting attorney filed the wrong charges, such as "False Imprisonment," which is applicable only to police officers and the like instead of "Kidnapping," and pointed out how the other charge actually invalidates the prosecution's main witness against the sailor by another technicality.
Loose Lips: In "People v. Rabb", when Admiral Chegwidden says that what he's about to say is sensitive, Bud replies that My loose lips will sink no ships.
Lost Episode / Cut Short: Something of a unique example - the first season was to end with an episode called "Skeleton Crew", which ended with a Cliff Hanger of Harm being arrested for murder. It wasn't aired by NBC, but did air in reruns on USA and was included in the DVD release. While the original episode was never used, footage from it was later included in the third season's "Death Watch".
The Mafiya: Pretty much every time a storyline involves either Russians or when the main characters go to Russia, this trope almost instantly comes into play.
Magical Native American: Directly averted in "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" where a Navajo medicine woman refuses to believe that the remains of a WWII code talker are the right ones, despite a conclusive DNA analysis.
Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In the pilot episode, Lt. Arutti and Lt. Painter has sex in a transport plane parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Seahawk.
Manly Tears: At the end of the JAG episode "Critical Condition," Harm breaks into tears of relief after learning that Bud has survived his operation.
Master of Disguise: JAG had several. The eponymous assassin Hemlock in "Hemlock", rouge DSD agent Clark Palmer in "Imposter", and Al-Qaeda associate Sadik Fahd in "Persian Gulf".
Mata Hari: In eight season episode "Dangerous Game", Chegwidden tells Rabb that a new attorney, Lieutenant Commander Tracey Manetti, on the recommendation of the new SecNav will work at JAG, Rabb quips "Mata Hari in our midst". It later turns out (in a later episode) that she actually was assigned there as the Secretary's pair of extra eyes and ears.
Maybe Ever After: Played with in the last episode. During the last ten minutes, Harm and Mac finally admitted their love for each other after nearly a decade and she accepted his marriage proposal. However, as she was being reassigned to San Diego, and he was reassigned to London, the show did end on a question mark, as they literally flipped a coin to determine whether Mac would resign from the Marines or Harm from the Navy so they could be together.
Harm, Sturgis and Admiral Chegwidden are graduates of the United States Naval Academy.
Bud's younger brother Mikey attends the United States Naval Academy in the later seasons.
Misguided Missile: Done more than once on. Commander Rabb put himself in front of a "dirty nuke" missile aimed at a Carrier Group after it closed too close to be shot down to lead it away until it's fuel ran out. And in a separate instance: A similar trick was done with a torpedo, drawing it into one submarine to save another.
Mistaken for an Imposter: In the episode "Imposter", Clark Palmer had Rabb tied up in his apartment and impersonated Rabb in court to frame an innocent defendant in court with planted evidence. When Rabb eventually gets back to JAG the Marine security guards thinks he's the imposter.
Mistaken for Terrorist: JAG has an inverted example predating 9/11. In 6th season episode "Valor", Sergeant Joan Steele was found with terrorists attempting to sabotage a US warship in the vein of the attack on the USS Cole. It is unclear whether Steele was kidnapped and succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome or was a Military Maverick on a mission of her own trying to stop the terrorists. It turns out to be the latter, as she was killed in an explosion stopping them.
Murder by Mistake: In the Pilot Movie, Lieutenant Carter accidently threw Lt. Arruti overboard in anger because she wore a jacket with Lt. Cassie Puller's callsign Lobo on the back. Cassie had beaten Carter in weightlifting three times and he couldn't stand being beaten by a woman.
"Cowboys and Cossacks" plays with both this trope, and the Barratry gag from The Hunt for Red October, when Harm and Bud, while guests aboard a Russian destroyer, conspire with one of the Russian officers to take the ship from the renegade Captain. Harm explains to Bud that what they are doing can not be legally defined as mutiny, given that they are not members of the crew. Technically, it's an act of terrorism.
In the episode named "Mutiny" Mac prepares to give a speech on the infamous mutiny on the USS Somers, which actually happened, and three officers were hung at sea by the Captain Makenzie (no relation to her) with flimsy evidence at best and the subsequent inquiries into whether this was a just response or he murdered three of his own men.
My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: In the episode "Fighting Words," a Marine tries to say, "Stop or I will shoot," in Arabic during a classroom training session, but according to an Iraqi woman who's helping with the class, he actually said, "Stop or I will release the mice."
Also earlier in season 3 when Mac very briefly worked for a civilian law firm, and Harm's 10-Minute Retirement to fly jets in Season 5.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the season four episode "Innocence", Harm first thinks that he’s made a deal with the Japanese prosecutor who smiled and bowed in a friendly manner. It turned out that he had been greatly offended and had contacted the Japanese Prime Minister who told the press that U.S. Authorities were uncooperative and obstructive, and thus forced them to handover the suspect to Japanese authorities.
Night Vision Goggles: Used by the Colombian drug smugglers in 1st season episode "Sightings", and later used by Harm against them.
Mac: Nothing personal, but that last meat loaf you made was nasty.
Harm: Are you dogging Harm's special meatless meat loaf?
Mac: Let's put it this way: if you were to make the Harmon Special on this ship, they'd have to unload it with the toxic waste.
No Party Given: The political affiliations of both SECNAVs are unknown. The political affiliation of Congresswoman Bobbie Latham is never explicitly stated, but many of the issues she supports are definitely left-wing (and thus can't be a republican by any stretch of the imagination).
No Woman's Land: The season 7 episode Head to Toe centers on this. A female naval aviator serving with the U.S. Air Force in Saudi Arabia is defending herself on not wearing an abaya, and arguments are made for abiding by the culture and appeasing terrorists (Osama bin Laden is even quoted as Americans in the Middle East being cause for Jihads, meaning the abayas will protect women) and against the subjugation of women and treatment of foreigners. When Mac is subjected to this poor treatment she sides with the defendant.
Bud bonds with a suspected terrorist in a possible example of this trope. Both are fans of Star Trek, and Bud uses this to obtain information about an attack.
Later, when he's recovering from his leg injury he befriends the Admiral's current girlfriend, a professor of Shakespeare, by noting how several episodes of Star Trek borrow from some of Shakespeare's plays.
In the episode "Baby, It's Cold Outside" Harm uses this trope as a defense tactic. His client is dishonorably discharged black Marine Drill Instructor who pushed his black recruits harder than the whites because he refused to accept their crap and wanted to turn them around into decent young men. When two men died on a force march through a swamp, he plead guilty and faced the consequences of his actions. The prosecutor, intending to put him away for life with the Three Strikes law for a later crime of felony assault, is also a black man who refuses to cut favors for his fellow blacks and sees the parallels between himself and the defendant. The prosecutor agrees to remove the third strike from the mans record in exchange for just two years in jail.
Obfuscating Disability: In the season 3 episode "Yesterday's Heroes", retired navy diver Artemus Sullivan (played by Ernest Borgnine) is avenging the death of his grandson by a drug dealer. When meeting Harm & Mac at first, Sullivan pretends to be in a senile vegetable state of mind.
Obligatory War Crime Scene: The promotion of Rear Admiral Thomas Boone to Vice Admiral is called off in "A Separate Peace" because of credible sources claiming he took part in war crimes during The Vietnam War when working closely with CIA officers. He didn't do it, but witnessed such actions under protest.
Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Harm argues before a Navajo Tribunal Court in "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" and an Australian Court in "Boomerang". Mac argues before a Sharia court in "The Princess and The Petty Officer". And both Harm and Mac defends Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield at the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav".
Averted in "Innocence" where they hire a Japanese attorney, and in "Standards of Conduct" where it's clear that neither Harm nor Sturgis has any intimate knowledge nor experience with civil cases (but Bud does).
Harm is suspected of murdering a Russian Mafioso in "People v. Rabb".
Mac is suspected to have participated in the killing of her ex-husband in "People v. Mac".
Harm is suspected to have published an anonymous Anti-Clinton piece in "Contemptuous Words".
Gunny is suspected to be a gay basher and Tiner is assumed to be homosexual in "People v. Gunny".
Bud Roberts was charged for dereliction of duty in "Exculpatory Evidence".
Admiral Chegwidden is Caught On Tape hitting a high school student in "Code of Conduct".
Jennifer Coates is a murder suspect in "There Goes the Neighborhood".
Only Law Firm In Town: Often it makes you wonder why Harm, Mac et.al. at JAG Headquarters gets to act as trial and defense counsel from an wide array of cases from all around the Navy & the Marines and why they're not handled by the command staff judge advocates out in the field.
In the pilot episode Admiral Brovo makes a suggestion that there wouldn't have been a perceived need to send HQ people out to the USS Seahawk if the missing RIO had been a male for political purposes.
It's suggested many times that they're sent out in the field to be impartial whenever there's a concern that the local judge advoctates might not be, or that there are none present on the location at all.
Out-of-Character Alert: In season 2's "Secrets", Admiral Chegwidden is being held at gunpoint inside his office, and tells Bud over the phone to get him a specific case file. Harm and Mac realize the file the Admiral asked for is about a sailor who held his CO hostage, tipping them off.
Pædo Hunt: In "Nobody's Child" there are initially few clues as to who the killer of an unidentified African-American girl on a naval facility is. Harm's initial hunch is to look after convicted pedophiles. It turns out that the killer wasn't a pedophile: but a pedophile was able to give valuable information that solved the identity puzzle because he had violated terms of his parole by watching children.
Paid For Family: One episode has a marine refusing to testify in his own defense, because he believes it will dishonour the memory of a dead friend. Vic, his lawyer, brings in the dead friend's father, who reads a letter his son sent him about how the thing that killed him was an accident waiting to happen, which gives the marine courage to tell the truth about how his friend died. Both the father and the letter were fake— Vic hired an actor to encourage his client to take the stand. Of course, this action being morally suspect at best, the lawyer does get called on it by his superiors.
Pardo Push: During Harm's brief return to flying carrier operations, he found himself flying with another Tomcat during the Kosovo War. The other jet was damaged and losing fuel, and would not make it over a mountain range before they could leave Serbian territory note It is a general rule of thumb in air warfare to try and avoid bailing out over the area you just bombed. Harm used his own jet to physically push the other plane to keep it in flight long enough to clear the mountains. This was based on a Real Life incident.note Of course, the Air Force did it in real life.
Played straight in "Real Deal Seal", Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Seal team leader Lieutenant Curtis Rivers note played by Montel Williams, who did serve in both the Marines and Navy rips off the SEAL-trident of a congressional candidate falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam as a Navy Seal.
Subverted in "Take It like a Man" where a former Marine who served in the Invasion of Panama claims to have earned the Silver Star. It turns out that he did deserve it, but had never been awarded it because none of his team members would back up his story.
Plagiarism In Fiction: In the season nine episode "Secret Agent Man", one of Mikey Roberts’ classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy is accused of plagiarism.
Plea Bargain: they are offered regularly, but often turned down.
Police Are Useless: The local Texas sheriff in 1st season episode "Sightings" isn’t much of a help and only manages to get himself killed.
Polyamory: Mac has to defend a polygamist in "Killer Instinct".
Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: The first two episodes after September 11 included several references to the terrorist attack and subsequent conflict in Afghanistan. Plot A was Harm trying to work with a retired admiral (to resolve a problem in China, who America needed as an ally in the fight against terrorism), who was going to turn him down but agreed to help resolve a problem after 9/11. Plot B has Mac presiding over two soldiers who were dueling, and she is upset that they were being idiots when their brothers and sisters are fighting and dying in the war on terror. Gunny is recalled to active service and Chegwidden wishes he could go with him. Future promos would place the series during the war on terror. Osama bin Laden made a case a woman facing legal action hard (American bases in the Middle East as cause for Jihad, and the Americans subjecting women to Middle Eastern standards that the defendant had issues with). Harm reunites with his co pilot to fly security over the Superbowl. And a Seebee who supposedly died on 9/11 tries to avoid media attention after he saves his team from a terrorist attack, as when his wife thought he was dead he had an affair.
Prison Episode: JAG had "The Prisoner" in its first season in which Harm was held by the Chinese.
Psychic Powers: The fifth season episode "Psychic Warrior", deals with a Navy Intelligence experimental program, STAR GAZE, on remote viewing in which one of the test subjects committed suicide.note This is based/inspired by the now declassified DIA program known as STAR GATE. No, not that bogus one.
Qurac: Despite having several episodes taking place in the Middle East, JAG subverts this trope by always using real countries, no matter how unfavorable the portrayal may be.
But we all know that your only intent is to bolster your own campaign for the state’s attorney. You’re nothing but a hypocrite and an opportunist and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna have a bottom feeder like you further your personal ambition trampling the integrity of this office.
Recruiters Always Lie: Subverted in "Promises" (season 5) where a young female sailor is court-martialed for going AWOL after she simply had enough of swabbing the deck of a destroyer. Back when she signed up at the recruiter she was almost promised education as an air traffic controller, but she didn't Read The Fine Print of the contract which stated "subject upon availability and to the needs of the Navy".
Red China: In the two-part episode “Dog Robber”, a U.S. reconnaissance plane has to make an emergency landing in mainland China.
In "Brig Break" the Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the brig uses a right wing militia group as a decoy to keep base security busy while steals weapons for Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
In the "Vanished", a right wing militia group called Freedom Brethren kidnaps the wife and child of a F-14 pilot, and convinces the aviator to bring them the aircraft and to shoot down a certain civilian airliner. If demands are not fulfilled, the wife and child will die.
In "Rivers' Run" Harm and Mac defends Navy Seal Lt. Curtis Rivers in a kangaroo court under the common law, as interpreted by anti-government separatists in West Virginia.
Rogue Agent: Clark Palmer, former DSD agent who has tried to either kill or frame on Harm several occasions.
Royal Mess: In the world of JAG ("Washington Holiday"), Romania has restored its monarchy but the King and his heir are living under assassination threat from hardliners who don't want their country to join NATO.
While Romania did have a monarchy, abolished by the communists, the people in this episode are fictitious.
Chegwidden serves as defense counsel to the captured Al Qaeda third banana in "Tribunal" because he doesn’t want anyone of his people to be forced to defend him. However, Sturgis volunteers to sit second chair because he wants to “be part of history”.
Also, from an American point of view, Fidel Castro in "Tiger, Tiger".
Scam Religion: The Wicca religion is portrayed as such in "The Witches of Gulfport".
Seppuku: An American admiral stationed in Japan committs suicide in the episode "Innocence" for what he perceived to be a failure on his part. The characters can’t help by commenting how Japanese it was.
Self-Destruct Mechanism: In the season eight episode "Need to Know", Harm, Mac and Sturgis is investigating why a submarine on a CIA mission in 1968 foundered off the Russian coast. There are rumors floating that so called spec-boats had self-destruct charges aboard but this is flat out denied and the cause of the sinking was in fact caused by a collision with a Soviet sub.
Sexual Extortion: In the first season episode "The Prisoner" Harm has been captured by the Chinese while sailing off the coast of Hong Kong (in 1996 before the 1997 transfer). Commander Allison Krennick has through unofficial contacts learned of Harm’s whereabouts and a Chinese traitor is willing to bring him back in exchange for political asylum in the United States. The Assistant Secretary of State is reluctant at first, but when Krennick threatens to call his wife and say that she’s his lover he quickly changes his mind.
Shell-Shocked Veteran: In the second season episode "The Guardian", Chief Petty Officer Paul Bauwer, a homeless former Navy SEAL, is accused of killing three men while thwarting a convenience store robbery which he did to protect his young son who doesn’t know who he really is.
Lieutenant Commander Vera McCool, counseling, at first reluctant, Sarah Mackenzie twice onscreen in season 9 & 10. Mac is ordered by Admiral Chegwidden to see a psychiatrist in "Take It Like a Man", following changes in behavior after the events in "Persian Gulf". At first the therapy seems to be ineffective, but when seen in the season 10 episode "The Four Percent Solution" it proves to be effective.
Sink or Swim Mentor: This trope occurs several times on JAG, usually it is part of either an ongoing court case, or a preliminary investigation, where an instructor may have pushed the envelope too far
Social Services Does Not Exist: Subverted in season 9, when Harmon Rabb seeks to be the guardian to Matilda "Mattie" Grace: because social services are very thorough.
Soviet Superscience: The 6th season epispde "Iron Coffin" features the supercavitating Russian torpedo VA-111 Shkval, which for an uninformed viewer might come across as pure fiction. However, the Shkval in the episode has a serious design flaw as it retargets the submarine which launched it. The Americans have observed it before, but the Russians thinks the Americans are interfering.
Split-Screen Phone Call: Only used once; in the 8th season episode "Persian Gulf" in a dramatic moment, when Mac speaks to Al-Qaeda terrorist Sadik Fahd.
Spy Satellites: In the second season episode "Rendezvous", a murder case is solved by obtaining photos from a Russian spy satellite showing that the defendant's car was present at the scene of the murder.
Standard Female Grab Area: Frequently. One example is used as evidence against Harm in the investigation into Singers murder.
Stockholm Syndrome: Is explicitly mentioned twice on JAG: 6th season episode "Valor" where it is used in its straight meaning, and in 9th season "A Tangled Web: Part 2" where it’s used jokingly.
Super Reflexes: In "High Ground", Gunnery Sergeant Crockett, a hardened master sniper, catches a fly by its wings. Harm does the same at the end of the episode.
Surpassed The Teacher. In "JAG TV", Mac as trial counsel (prosecutor) in a televised murder case faces her old law professor Juanita Ressler as defense counsel. Ressler knows how use the media to her advantage, while Mac is utterly dismissive of interview requests and is overwhelmed and distracted by the sudden interest of the media in her as a mysterious sex object. Following words of wisdom from Admiral Chegwidden, Mac begins to spin-doctor the media to her advantage which brings forth new evidence from anonymous sources which helps to convict the defendant for murder.
SWAT Team: Appears a few times on JAG. In the second season episode "The Guardian", Bud is trapped inside a church with a crazy homeless veteran who is a murder suspect and a MPD SWAT team is sent to the church and captures the suspect, but only after Harm has done his usual share of heroics.
In 1st season episode "Sightings" (1996), Harm asks a ten year old girl: Do you know how to operate a cellular phone?
In 3rd season episode "Impact" (1998), when escaping from the Bradenhurst facility, Harm captures a 3.5" floppy disc containing digital photos of the UFO-like UCAV, taken directly out from a digital camera.
Mac resigns to become a civilian lawyer in season 3, only to realize she was far happier in the Corps. Turns out, Admiral Chegwidden never actually processed her discharge papers, and she was allowed back on.
Harm had his vision impairment fixed and went back to flying Tomcats for a short while, before his new commanding officer convinced him that he was too old to be competitive as an aviator against all the younger pilots, despite his skill, and that he would do the most good as a judge advocate.
Harm actually did resign his commission at the end of season 8, and went to work for the Agency for a few episodes. After being fired from the CIA for lack of discretion: he was reinstated in the beginning of 9 by the Secretary of the Navy upon the recommendation of Admiral Chegwidden, due to a lack of qualified personnel.
The Troubles: In the season 2 episode "Trinity", Harm and Mac go to Belfast to investigate the disappearance of an infant child whose mother is an American naval officer, and the father, who is an active member of the IRA.
Undercover As Lovers: Mac and Clayton Webb went undercover as husband and wife on a CIA mission in Paraguay in season 8/9.
Vacation Episode: the two-parter "Boomerang", filmed and set in Australia, could be seen as an example of this trope.
Vigilante Execution: The season four episode "Act of Terror" has two vigilante executions. First, a suspected terrorist is transported back the United States but a Marine guard shots at him on live TV coverage. The Marine is charged with murder in a court-martial. However, the suspected terrorist survived because he wore a protective vest and the FBI takes the suspect away for interrogation unbeknownst to everyone. Harm discovers this because there was a major discrepancy between the autopsy report and the video footage. The Marine charged with murder receives top civilian counsel provided by a right-wing businessman. But it turns out that the businessman has made money transfers to terrorist suspects in Saudi Arabia, and while he agrees to let the FBI apprehend the next receiver, that one is gunned down in a drive by shooting. The episode ends with the businessman smiling.
Wedding Day: Bud and Harriet’s wedding in the season 3 episode "Wedding Bell Blues".
Witness Protection: A witness to a crime doesn't want to testify because he's in DOJ witness protection in the season 5 episode "Front And Center".
What If?: JAG's 200th episode revolved around the main characters making different decisions (or events that occurred one way in the "prime" timeline happening the other way). The episode was even titled "What If?".
The White House: Harm & Mac first met in the Rose Garden in "We The People", following an presidential awards ceremony where Harm recieved his first Disthinguished Flying Cross.
Episode "Each Of Us Angels" focuses on a group of Navy nurses before and during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Also the episode "Port Chicago" is based on a real-life accident during WWII.
Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The episode featuring the IRA went to great lengths to glamorize and idealize them as rugged yet heroic freedom fighters, with the main characters actively joining and aiding them for a while (in fairness it was to recover the child of a US navywoman) and the episode amazingly goes so far to portray a suicide bombing by an IRA man against British soldiers as a Heroic Sacrifice. The episode naturally thus goes out of it's way to demonize the British/RUC who were uniformly portrayed as being either faceless or sneering jackbooted monsters and attempted baby killers to boot. This was broadcast before the Good Friday Agreement when The Troubles were still ongoing, which just adds to the Unfortunate Implications seeing how the show was was cheerleading a then active terrorist group.
The Yugoslav Wars: Many episodes in seasons 1-5, including the Pilot Movie, takes place against the backdrop of this conflict. It's also established in canon that Mac served in Bosnia at some point before season 2 began.