Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, NCIS is a spinoff of JAG that leaped on the Forensic Drama bandwagon started by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, with some traditional Crime And Punishment and even a bit of Spy Drama thrown in for good measure. NCIS (Navy NCIS for its first season) depicts a team of investigators assigned to deal with criminal activity involving Navy personnel and Marines. That means that the entire gamut of crime — from Serial Killers to fraud to international espionage to Unauthorized Absences— can turn up. This particular team is led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, and contains a rather colorful collection of detectives and lab workers. The series debuted in September 2003 and is currently (2012-13) in its 10th season, thus equalling the run of its parent show. Barring doomsday, it is expected to run for several more seasons, making it one of the longest-running action/crime series in US TV history.A classic example of a Sleeper Hit, the show was largely ignored at the beginning of its run, but has gained viewers with virtually every season and as of 2012 is the number one scripted drama on network television.NCIS stands for "Naval Criminal Investigative Service" - like JAG, a real department of the Navy, and also like JAG, less action-packed in real life than the show would imply.A spinoff series, NCIS Los Angeles, premiered in 2009.
Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male: Subverted in S3 Ep14, "Light Sleeper". The initial suspect in the murder of a Korean woman is her Marine husband. Their neighbor claimed she frequently heard them screaming at each other, leading her to believe that husband was abusive. However, the husband reveals to Gibbs that she was the abusive one and proves by lifting up his shirt to reveal a large burn mark where she hit him with an iron. He's actually taken seriously and released.
Action Girl: First Kate, a former Secret Service agent in the presidential protection detail, then Ziva, whose background with the Mossad was as a spy and an assassin rather than as an investigator.
In one episode, Gibbs is asked what Ducky looked like when he was younger. He responds, "Illya Kuryakin," who was David McCallum's character in The Man From UNCLE 40 years earlier.
Gibbs once asked Tony for help with the crossword puzzle clue "TV Drama" and Tony answers "St. Elsewhere," which Mark Harmon appeared on.
Tony once says "I've got a better chance of hooking up with Jessica Alba than these guys do of infiltrating Sea Lift." Michael Weatherly was engaged to Jessica Alba for a time. He also starred with her in Dark Angel, where they kept trying to hook up.
In the episode Obsession (7x21), Tony obsesses over a journalist who embodies all what he finds attractive in a woman, and who is missing. When calling her at her cell phone, he says: "It would seem strange, but I feel like I know you". It's not so strange, though: the journalist is played by Ashley Scott, who also played underground operative and potential secondary love interest Asha Barlow in Dark Angel.
In the Season 4 Halloween episode "Witch Hunt", Abby, in her Marilyn Monroe Halloween Costume, calls Gibbs "Mr. President" in a reference to John F. Kennedy. However, Mark Harmon also played the US President in the 2004 film, "Chasing Liberty". This may be a YMMV, since Abby was more likely attempting to evoke the time Marilyn sang "Happy Birthday" to John F. Kennedy.
Harmon's turn as serial killer Ted Bundy (in the TV movie The Deliberate Stranger) is referenced by Fornell in the episode "Smoked" (4x10).
Fornell: I was on the team that nailed Bundy, Gibbs. And I'm familiar with sick, charming bastards. Gibbs: That's probably why we get along so well.
In the season eight double episode "Enemies Foreign/Domestic" (also the name of an episode of The West Wing in which Harmon appeared) Tony makes a reference to The West Wing by calling McGee "McBartlet". Both Mark Harmon and Michael O'Neill (who guest stars in these episodes) played secret service agents on the show.
A combination of Actor Allusion and Shout Out: Tony (Mike Weatherly)'s father is played by Robert Wagner. Weatherly met NCIS producer Donald Bellisario while Weatherly was filming The Mystery of Natalie Wood, in which he played Wood's husband...Robert Wagner.
In the Episode 'Light Sleeper' while on stake out Tony is reading an entertainment magazine
Tony: Damn, I can't believe this... Mick and Jessica broke up, I'm always the last to know.
This is just after Michael Weatherly and Jessica Alba broke up.
A retroactive one: Early in Season 7, a Metro detective who annoys Gibbs is described as having "tugged on Superman's cape".
In the Season 9 episode "Newborn King", Jimmy Palmer, when explaining that his future Father-in-Law, Ed Slater, is visiting the NCIS building, he mentions that the first time he learned that Palmer was marrying his daughter, "[Ed Slater] laughed, and then he cried from laughing too hard". Ed Slater is played by Larry Miller, who himself used the phrase "I laughed, I cried" during his first Is This Thing Still On? moment as Principal Jindrake in the movie Max Keeble's Big Move.
Alternate Time Line: In the 200th episode Gibbs has a near-death experience and while in limbo he's shown glimpses of alternate time lines where he saw Ari in time (Kate and Dinozzo become a couple, get married and have kids as do Abby and McGee, but Ziva remains hostile and antisocial), didn't shoot the Reynosa siblings' dad (being unable to get revenge eventually turns him into a bitter alcoholic), and if his wife didn't testify against the drug dealers (she and their daughter live but Gibbs is killed shortly thereafter during a tour of duty).
Alternate Universe Fic: There are stories where Caitlin Todd is not killed by Ari and is still with NCIS, more often than not alongside her (in the original universe) replacement Ziva...which has led to several fics detailing explicit love scenes between the two. There are also rewrites of the transcripts for all season three episodes so that Kate was still alive and having passionate sex with Abby.
Alone with the Psycho: Usually resulting in a Redundant Rescue. Sometimes, it's been subverted, as the obvious person in danger isn't actually. In one case, an undercover Ziva killed the guy before help arrived and moped for the rest of the episode. Also, this seems to happen to Abby about once a season.
And Zoidberg: when the team is broken after Jenny's death at the end of Season 5, McGee is sent to the Code Decryption Unit in the basement. Gibbs goes to visit McGee, who tells Gibbs he misses working with him and Ziva. When Gibbs mentions Tony, McGee replies "Yeah, him too."
Anyone Can Die: Kate Todd, Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks... that's not counting the multitude of other NCIS agents and the like who have died, or the spinoff series.
Arcade Sounds: Subverted in the episode "Honor Code". The sounds heard from the Nintendo DS are, in fact, the sounds of the user's info (date, time, etc.) being entered into a brand new Nintendo DS.
Artistic License - Geography: NCIS erroneously believes Chechnya to be Russia's neighbor, apparently in-universe invaded in some sort of Russian anti-terrorism police action, and while it is surprisingly regular in recognizing Chechen insurgents as terrorist groups, it stubbornly refers to Chechnya as if it were an independent country, with its own passports recognized by the international community, and so on. The only way to enter the United States from Chechnya is carrying a Russian Federation passport with a US visa, because Chechnya has been a province of Russia for the last several hundred years.
Note as this takes place in the JAG-universe, JAG made this error first and for continuity's sake was kept.
Inverted by Gibbs in 7x09, "Child's Play", when he asks the savant girl the episode has revolved around to calculate the odds that Ziva will miss a shot at the bad guy...who's holding a gun to the girl's head. She calmly works it out at 97.6%. Gibbs gives the bad guy one more chance to surrender. He doesn't. BIG mistake.
Though really, the bad guy was just taking the genius kid at her word. According to her, there was less than 1 chance in 40 that Ziva could hit him.
Except Ziva lied to the girl that she hasn't shot anyone ever. 97.6% is the difference between a Naïve Newcomer and a cold-hearted professional assassin.
Backed by the Pentagon: It would seem so, but in spite of this the show has depicted some ethically dubious (and in some cases, outright criminal) acts committed by politicians and armed forces higher-ups...and NCIS personnel have not been exempt from this.
The Navy and USMC supports the show because malfeasance (regardless of whether it is done by service members or otherwise) is always brought to justice.
Subverted in the season 10 premiere, as it turns out that only Cole and a few others were killed by the bomb, and none of the main characters were killed. Also, Dearing faked his own death(the remains found in the car were his brothers) and Gibbs eventually tracks him down and kills him
Up 'til the sixth season, characters on the autopsy table had their genitals blanked out by a very bright "light", unless they were so mangled that it wasn't necessary. From the sixth season on, they simply had a towel covering them.
Female cadavers are usually shown with their chest cavity already opened so that they do not have to cover their breasts too.
Batman Gambit: In the eighth season premiere, and in order to put a stop to the Reynosa Cartel, Gibbs and Vance trick a crooked Mexican government official into killing his own sister, who runs the cartel. They do this by "accidentally" leaking where Gibbs and his father are, and allowing the official to find out that she'd been "killed." The plan, however, required him to arrive while the sister was searching the safehouse, and to react to that news by shooting the shit out of said house indiscriminately.
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Abby is repeatedly misquoted as having screamed "Stop looking up my skirt!" in "Bloodbath". What she actually says is "And don't look up my skirt!"
In "Seadog", Ducky goes ballistic on a local LEO who contaminates a crime scene so he can get in good with the news reporter on the scene.
BFG: Ex-Watcher operator Casey Stratton uses a Desert Eagle chambered in .50 Action Express against the NCIS team in "Housekeeping". Lampshaded by McGee: "What's he got, a cannon?"
Big Blackout: "Power Down." Oh, the fun the writers must have had poking fun at the usual NCIS bells and whistles.
Birth/Death Juxtaposition: In "Newborn King." The poor woman gives birth in the backseat of a broken down car, parked in a gas station garage, in a blizzard, on Christmas, during a shootout with Russian mercenaries who want to kill her and kidnap her child, with Gibbs as the midwife. This is interspersed with a desperately outnumbered and outgunned Ziva singlehandedly defending them against an onslaught of Russian mercenaries.
Black Comedy: ...including having the team cracking jokes while examining a body.
Palmer has been called out when making jokes around the autopsy table several times, though, usually because they're not very funny.
Season 5 ended with the entire cast getting reassigned. Less fatal than the other situation, but the same effect of being able to write any character they want out.
Season 6 ended with Ziva captive in Somalia. On a list of places a Jewish woman would not want to be a prisoner, that's pretty high up there.
Season 9 concludes with a real whopper. Harper Dearing's bomb goes off directly in front of NCIS headquarters while most of the main cast are still trying to flee from it. On a beach somewhere, Ducky gets a call about the explosion, and while he's giving instructions to whoever's on the other end, he suffers what appears to be a heart attack and collapses.
Apart from Ducky's heart attack (Which he recovers from), the only major cast member to be injured is McGee, who gets some glass stuck in him and also recovers.
"Berlin" ends with Tony and Ziva in a car crash. At least one of them is implied to be heavily injured.
Bottle Episode: "Trojan Horse" takes place largely in NCIS HQ, aside from a few location shots of Paris and a hospice.
Bottomless Magazines: Averted, as the show generally keeps a tight count on the number of rounds any individual team member fires. Whenever they're shown firing all their rounds, they're also usually shown reloading with a spare magazine (like McGee does when pinned down behind the car in season 2's "Twilight").
The Boxing Episode: Episode 6x18, "Knockout". Director Vance uses the NCIS team to investigate the death of a boxer.
Brain Bleach: Episode 4x5, "Dead and Unburied" Tony wonders if a victim of a murder who apparently had three fiancees was special Down There, unfortunately for him the instruments were in a state of extreme decay. Tony asks Ducky if there is a psychological way to Unsee something.
Break Them By Talking: A typical stratagem for Gibbs and his people to receive either confessions or withheld evidence from reluctant persons.
Break Up Bonfire In Season 5, Tony throws the letter of his Love Interest into a bonfire after the relationship went way, way, way south due to him Becoming the Mask.
Bullet Proof Vest: Used and subverted in the same episode. Former Presidential-detail Secret Service agent Kate jumps in front of a bullet for Gibbs... who was also wearing a vest at the time. Moments later when the team is joking about it, [Ari snipes her in the head.
Bunny Ears Lawyers: All of Team Gibbs! You have Abby the Perky GothLab Rat; Gibbs the regularly-does-stuff-that-would-get-a-real-agent-fired-if-not-arrested guy; Tony, the sexual harassment Karma Houdini; Ziva the weapons nut (including any motor vehicle), and Ducky, who uses any excuse to wax poetic about his past and tells amusing but irrelevant anecdotes to his corpses... as he's dissecting them. This even freaks Gibbs out. And, of course, "Elf Lord" McGee. At this point they're in flipping bunny suits.
Which is why they often have to watch their mouths around each other.
Justified in Ducky's case; talking to the corpses preserves their humanity and helps him keep sane.
Butt Monkey: It depends on the episode, but usually it's McGee for Tony, and Tony for multiple characters.
A few episodes make reference to Shenandoh National Park, but the terrain and scenery don't match the real thing.
One episode has them in a trailer park in Arlington, Virginia, an area with no trailer parks.
The season six finale features scenes at an airfield in Israel clearly shot at Sacramento. Look for the USCG Hercules behind Ziva at the end.
In another episode, where Tony pretends to be a convict to trace artifacts smuggled out of Iraq, they end up in a storage facility across the street from the WalMart in Lynchburg, VA; such a facility doesn't exist.
Another episode has members of the team follow a lead in Arizona. In clear view behind them when talking to a local cop, Kirk's Rock.
An episode from season 9 ends with the team racing to a football stadium to stop an attack on some high ranking military members in attendance. The overhead shot of the stadium is of Ever Bank Field, which is in Jacksonville, Florida.
In one episode they mention that you have to supply a fingerprint to get a drivers' license. NCIS is supposedly located in Falls Church, Virginia. California requires a fingerprint to be issued a drivers' license. The District of Columbia, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia do not require or ask for a fingerprint, and they are the only drivers' licensing issuing jurisdictions within 50 miles of NCIS headquarters.
Call Back: All the way to JAG in season 6 with Tony being Agent Afloat on the USS Seahawk a ship commonly seen in the parent series.
In chapter 4x17, "Skeletons", two bodies are found in a tomb, and the only thing that is still intact are the bones. Ducky and Palmer start organizing the bones in the two bodies. When they discover that they have three right hands, they make a reference to episode "The Meat Puzzle".
Call Forward: The episode "Baltimore" has flashbacks to how Gibbs and DiNozzo met each other. There are quite a few call forwards to episodes and show tropes.
Tony: Be a Navy cop? I'd rather have the plague. note Not only did Dinozzo become a "Navy Cop", but he also contracted the plague during SWAK in season 2.
Tony (after getting his first Dope Slap from Gibbs): Did you just physically assault me? Don't do that again.
One early Running Gag involved Gibbs being unable to quite figure out mobile phones. This resulted in Tony (being taught about them by McGee) offering to teach Gibbs, who angrily exclaimed "It's all backwards!" It still comes up from time to time.
A later episode shows that each time Gibbs physically breaks his phone in frustration, he gives it to Tony or Kate to "reboot". They do this by replacing the old phone with a new one from the large supply of extras Kate keeps in one of her desk drawers.
Averted when Tony and Ziva are trapped in a shipping container in "Boxed In"; they need to MacGyver a way to communicate.
Canine Companion: In "Seek" the team briefly gets one in Dex, a bomb-sniffing dog whose handler's death they are investigating. At the end of the episode Dex catches a bullet while taking down his handler's killer, gets a medal and an honorable discharge, and is taken in by his handler's widow.
Captivity Harmonica: Tony is framed for murdering a woman and is held by the FBI because all signs seem to be pointing to him. McGee strolls past the jail cell playing a harmonica, then gives it to him as a "present". Tony later gives it to Agent Fornell (who was in charge of the case at FBI) when he leaves jail. Fornell instantly plays the harmonica to complete Tony's tune.
When some kids overthrow their football near a crime scene, Gibbs, before returning it, tells one of the kids to go long, and then he throws a perfect spiral. Keep in mind, Mark Harmon was a starting quarterback for two years with the UCLA Bruins and his father was actor and quarterback Tom Harmon, who was the first Michigan Wolverine to win the Heisman Trophy. Another bit that can be related to this is why Gibbs makes boats: Mark Harmon was a carpenter once before he started acting.
Cote de Pablo did theater and musicals before joining NCIS, and gets to show off her singing chops in "Last Man Standing", when Ziva performs a rendition of Tom Waits' "Temptation" while undercover as a singer in a Moroccan nightclub. The song is included on the 2-disk NCIS soundtrack album.
Cast the Expert: Pauley Perrette studied sociology and criminal science before becoming an actress and playing forensic specialist Abby Sciuto
S4 Ep4, "Dead and Unburied," had a Marine victim who was revealed to have had two fiances. When they find out about each other, they're not too thrilled and attack each other. Rather than breaking it up, Tony yells "Girl fight", and McGee proceeds to film it.
Ziva and Abby get into one in the first "Hiatus" episode; see Intimate Healing below for the resolution.
Cerebus Retcon: In what may be record time, this show pulled it off in a 50 minute span. In one episode, Abby uses her refund check to buy everyone else iPods. Gibbs is less than enthused, because he only listens to five songs. This is treated as a joke until the end of the episode, where it's revealed that the five songs he listens to are recordings of his deceased daughter learning how to play the piano. Damn.
In the episode "Minimum Security," Tony claims ignorance of both Shane and The Maltese Falcon (as well as drawing a complete blank on Alan Ladd). Some movie buff.
Character Outlives Actor: Victoria Mallard, Ducky's mother. She had appeared in two episodes; Season 2's "The Meat Puzzle" and Season 3's "Unotuchable." Nina Foch, who played her, passed away in 2008, but the character was referred to several times after. She's referenced after the actress's death in Season 6's "Silent Night" where Ducky says she's in a rest home and in Season 7's "Flesh and Blood". In S7 Ep17, "Double Identity" Ducky says she passed away a month prior.
Chekhov's Gun: When the team goes to Gibbs' hometown and meets his dad, a rifle is rather prominently displayed behind the counter of his shop. He doesn't use it in the present, but he did fire it into the air in a Flashback to break up a fight between young Gibbs and two other boys. He also killed a robber with it, offscreen, before the Christmas Episode when he visits Gibbs.
Chekhov's Gunman: NCIS is a bit of a repeat offender on this one. If someone gets a line but doesn't seem to be contributing to the main plot otherwise, they did it. (If the writers try to hide their non-involvement by stuffing them into a romantic subplot with a main character, they definitely did it.) It was eventually subverted in an episode where the villain of the romantic subplot had not done it, even though he was suspected by a majority of the cast.
Tony: "And to think I almost made it an entire year without being accused of murder."
Clingy Jealous Girl: Abby plays the halves of the trope title separately with McGee. The "clingy" can kick in when she's upset or worried. The "jealous" can kick in if there's a non-team member around who pulls McGee's attention away from her (e.g. an ICE agent played by Jaime "Hustle" Murray). You'd swear at times that they were still dating...
Coast Guard: In "Jurisdiction", the CGIS (Coast Guard Investigating Service) features in a major way.
In "Broken Bird", from an interrogator that Ducky had to work with during his RAF service in Afghanistan. Late in the episiode, he reveals that his repeatedly torturing one particular person that Ducky kept patching up and that he knew had no information was actually to torture Ducky, as a means of breaking his spirit.
Ziva has been known to threaten use of this trope on multiple occasions quite convincingly (and hints to prior experience with it as a Mossad agent).
In the sixth season finale, Ziva is taken captive by terrorists and tortured for several months before being rescued.
The Consigliere: It's revealed in one episode that whenever Tony is left in charge of a case, he secretly has meetings with Palmer to help point him in the right direction whenever Tony feels that he's lost on what to do next.
Contamination Situation: The penultimate episode of season two, "SWAK", centered around Tony and Kate's exposure to the pneumonic plague, which was sent to the team in an envelope.
Continuity Nod: The show is quite good about referencing things that seem like one-time gags in later episodes, making the series Better on DVD.
'The Meat Puzzle' gets cameos in several episodes before getting its own explanation/resolution.
"Cloak" referenced both "Bete Noire" and "Trojan Horse"
A particularly meaningful one occurs when Ziva returns to the office having quit the team and then gotten kidnapped for several months. She's seen reading the same men's magazine that she and Tony joked about when she was first assigned to the team.
When Abby produces her ID in "Hiatus", she explains that she was wearing the more standard outfit in the photo (in contrast to the goth gear she was in) because she was heading to court. It's the same court outfit from "Bloodbath", two episodes previous.
Abby's court outfit itself is a continuity nod as the original JAG episode featured a Navy lawyer telling her that in court she should wear a pastel colored suit, glasses and her hair down so it hides her tattoo.
Ziva has repeatedly worn the orange hat of the late Lt. Roy from the episode "Dead Man Walking".
In a season 3 episode, she is also seen examining Kate's hat, wondering about the bullet hole in it; the hat received said bullet hole back in season 1.
"Enemies Domestic" is jam-packed with these. Two words: Anatoly Zukov.
The flashbacks in the Season Eight episode "Baltimore" include an appearance from NCIS agent Chris Pacci, whose death was the focus of "Dead Man Talking," a Season ONE episode.
In the same episode, Tony has a line that refers to the season 2 episode SWAK: "I'd rather get the plague than be a navy cop". Guess what happens in that episode, when he's a navy cop.
In the first episode of season 5, the remains believed to be Tony were proved not to be because of the Y-Pestis he caught in Season 2 SWAK.
Throughout Season One, after Ari infiltrates NCIS, Gibbs is seen running a facial recognition search on him to find his identity. It is implied that he runs this search several times, despite each time coming up negative.
Early episodes included crossover characters from JAG, including Bud Roberts and three appearances by Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman, who only appeared once on JAG and who made such an impression in NCIS that it gave the impression she might have been in line to become a regular, but this didn't happen.
Tony has a habit of getting framed for murder. Other characters tend to react with variations of "Again?"
Contract on the Hitman: Tony and Ziva pretend to be a pair of married assassins in the beginning of the episode in order to find out who their target was. When its revealed that the couple was in fact the target, Hilarity Ensues.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: McGee tends to get these from Gibbs for major screwups. In the episode with Abby's stalker ex, Gibbs took McGee's chair away from him and made him earn it back. In another episode, Gibbs banned McGee from leaving the elevator.
Abby knows about the chair thing. And approves. In a later episode when someone who's pissed her off is in Gibbs's custody, she is incensed that "He gets a chair?!?"
Cool Boat: Gibbs always seems to be working on one in his basement; it's implied to be therapeutic for him.
Complete with in-universe Fridge Logic on how he gets the finished boat out of the basement. Knocking down one of the walls is mentioned a few times, but it's never confirmed.
The Croc Is Ticking: Having been attacked by two previous lab aides, Abby once tried to convince a visiting intern to wear bells so she could tell whether he was sneaking up on her.
Tony gives this impression, especially in the early seasons, but he's not at all incompetent...if he were, Gibbs would've never recruited him.
Palmer has a moment of this in the episode where he nearly gets shot. Towards the end, the guy who fired at him nearly gets away from the team. Palmer nixes these plans by smashing his car into the bastard's truck while screaming like a maniac.
Abby goes into this sometimes. One episode had her being kidnapped by a hired gun. Gibbs and Tony track her down and hear muffled screaming from the van she is in. They approach and find that Abby is repeatedly attacking him with her taser.
Abby: And don't look up my skirt!
"Frame-Up" (3.09) had lab assistant Chip attacking her with a knife while she was unarmed. By the time the others rush down to her lab, they find that she has hogtied Chip with duct tape all by herself.
Darker and Edgier: The Season 8 two-part finale was pretty much the darkest episode to date, as it dealt with a serial killer that was the result of Operation Frankenstein, a Navy project to create the ultimate assassin, and none of the usual comic relief exists.
Inverted by the fact NCIS in the series evolved from the NIS, Naval Investigative Service, which is depicted as being a covert, CIA/NSA-like entity that is shown conducting assassinations and "red tests" (agents being given assignments with the aim of them committing their first kill), and in one Season 8 episode is shown recruiting Leon Vance in a manner similar to how Sydney Bristow is recruited by SD-6 in Alias. Although modern-day NCIS is shown doing covert operations (particularly Tony's season-long deep undercover op), things like assassinations have so far not been part of the usual mandate. The spin-off, NCIS:Los Angeles, restores some of the NIS trappings, such as having a somewhat secret base of operations.
Don't forget Karen Bright from "Smoked", when she's exposed as the actual serial killer. She flashes Gibbs and Fornell a look that would vaporize lead.
Death Faked for You: Variation in the Season 9 Finale: Gibbs and the NCIS team has Jonathan Cole brought into NCIS, while also faking his escape from prison as well, in order to recruit him to act as a double agent for them in tracking down Dearing, and in exchange, they might give him a lighter sentence.
Determinator: Gibbs becomes one toward finding Ari over the course of the second season. A repeated motif is the one monitor on his desk that's dedicated to running a facial recognition program on Ari. After Ari briefly kidnaps Kate, Gibbs starts displaying Ahab-ish tendencies, which DiNozzo lampshades.
Distaff Counterpart: The CGIS team leader in "Jurisdiction" acts so much like Gibbs that it's essentially lampshaded by the entire NCIS staff. Tony even asks Gibbs whether he had any long-lost sisters or not.
Distressed Dude: Generally, Tony is the resident dude in distress, but he usually manages to get himself out of his situations by himself.
Quite obvious in season 8 episode 5, "Dead Air" in which the resident Badass IsraeliAction Girl jumps on an oblivious Tony to save him from a bomb blast.
Dope Slap: Gibbs' favorite form of non-verbal discipline (besides his Death Glare), to the point that his team calls it the "Gibbs Slap". As he explains to Ducky in an early episode (paraphrasing), "A slap in the face is humiliating; on the back of the head, it's a wake-up call." It's revealed in a later season that Gibbs, as a probie, got the same treatment from Mike Franks; this is subverted in the episode "Hiatus Pt. 2".
Franks: You got old, Marine.
Gibbs: Have you looked in the mirror, lately?
Franks reaches around to slap the back of Gibbs' head, but stops.
Franks: If you weren't just in a coma.
Gibbs isn't the only one to use it; it's been done by both Tony and Abby on McGee, Tony on Ziva, Ziva on Tony...even characters on themselves when Gibbs is not around, but they know they've done something monumentally stupid. Gibbs has also done this to himself after he compromised evidence to let a Marine (who normally wouldn't have gotten in, due to health reasons) avoid confessing to a crime he didn't commit. In an episode where Gibbs had Trauma Induced Amnesia, Ziva takes his hand and uses it to slap her own head, which triggers his memory recall.
Occasionally they dope-slap themselves in Gibbs' presence just to save him the trouble, usually preceded by a "This one's on me, boss."
In one episode, the team had to attend a mandatory Sensitivity Training seminar. Tony casually asked if it would be okay to receive such a slap from a coworker, and received the predictable reply that it was workplace harassment. Cue a round of shifty looks from the entire team and a hasty backpedal from Tony when the presenter asked if such a thing had actually happened.
Gibbs even slaps Palmer in one episode as a form of congratulations. Abby is confused as to how liquid nitrogen used to kill the victim had traces of food in it, and Palmer is the one to suggest that the nitrogen was delivered via the victim's thermos. It's worth noting that Gibbs had just congratulated Abby with his customary kiss on the cheek and a "well done, Abbs," as is typical, and Palmer then leaned forward as if expecting the same. Of course, this is after the episode that revealed that Palmer likes such treatment...which is probably why it was used as congratulations.
It's also shown to be a sort of term (or slap) of endearment. Gibbs won't bother to head slap you unless he knows you're worth it. This is demonstrated in one of the early Ziva episodes where Gibbs gives her a light-hearted version and she takes it as a sign that she belongs to the team.
The amount of dope-slapping has been toned down as of late, because it's been reported that fans of the show were doing it to Michael Weatherly in public.
A conversation between Gibbs and Vance implies that Ziva was this as well, something that was treated as pretty much a given by everyone in her first season.
NCIS attempts to have Jonathan Cole act as this to them regarding Harper Dearing in the Season 9 Finale, which Cole agrees to in exchange for a lighter sentence when he gets back to prison. Unfortunately, Dearing was Genre Savvy enough to realize what the NCIS was planning to do, so he instead has a waitress deliver the cellphone to Cole for him and then communicate with him via phone and relay a message to Gibbs.
Double Tap: The show has almost without exception Averted this; both here and in real life, Federal agents never fire only once or twice. They will keep shooting you until either you fall down or they run out of bullets, whichever comes first.
Dress Code: Forcing Abby to follow one makes her so uncomfortable that it actually hurts her analytical skills.
My name is Mike Franks! I figure I got one last fight left in me!... You want it?
Early Installment Weirdness: Compare NCIS agents in series proper to the agents who would show up in the parent show Series/JAG. In the parent show, they were shown as arrogant investigators who would overlook evidence and miss connections that Harm, Mac, Bud, and others would need to find so justice would be done. It is shocking in some instances when this is compared to the general appearance of agents who look into various leads and don't discount the implausible.
Easter Egg: In one episode, the team finds a voice synthesizer speaking individual words, including "...yankee, white...". "Yankee White" is the pilot episode.
Embarrassing Old Photo: One of the sub-plots of S2 Ep19, "Conspiracy Theory". While vacationing in Panama Tony discovers a photo of Kate winning a wet T-shirt contest there years earlier. He wasn't going to mention it, but then she decided to share his college nickname with everyone. He torments her with it throughout the episode. She uses photoshop to create an "old photo" of him. And then, once they've had enough of holding it over each other, they both decided to delete it at the same time, but both secretly planned to send it to Gibbs instead. Cue hurried rushes from the elevator when they hear Gibbs' computer give the "new email" chime twice in succession, and an amused expression when Gibbs looks at the emails.
In a season 10 episode, McGee finds a high school photo of Tony - with a truly horrific 80s hairstyle - and shows it to Ziva.
Empathic Environment: After Ari kills Kate, it is constantly raining as the team grieves for her and Gibbs blames himself. After Ari is himself killed and Gibbs comes to terms with it, it becomes sunny again. This is actually a favorite trick of the director. In "Swan Song," a major Tonight Someone Dies episode, the characters repeatedly comment on how it is they think it's going to rain.
Eureka Moment: Tony frequently has moments where he realizes he missed some obvious clue and solves the case.
Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ari is implied to have cared for his late mother and believed his father is responsible for her death. He used that as his Freudian Excuse for joining Hamas, as his father was a Mossad director.
Everybody is Single: Though Gibbs has been married four times, and McGee and Abby used to date. Tony frequently has one night/weekend/week stands, but was with René Benoît's daughter for most of that season. Most of the characters have brief flings, sometimes running multiple episodes (usually with characters that may or may not be seen on-screen), presumably brief due to the stress of their jobs. Averted by of all people, Leon Vance, who has a wife and two kids.
In season 7, Palmer actually has a (offscreen) girlfriend that everybody knows about.
Not to mention the onscreen fling between Palmer and Lee
In season 9 opening episode, it is pointed out that Palmer is getting married the following spring and is mentioned in the following episodes. If its happening on screen, it would mean all the characters are gathered in one place - coincidentally around the time for the season finale...
Ziva dates a man named Ray for a few episodes. They go skiing together. In a later season he proposes to her and she responds by decking him and arresting him for murder.
Everybody Lives: "See No Evil" from season two, and "Bait" from season three.
Exact Words: Palmer has been targeted by an assassin and follows the team to the distant location. Gibbs sees him and orders him to stay in the car. Palmer sees the assassin trying to flee and uses his car as a battering ram against the assassin's truck.
Gibbs: What do you think you were doing?
Palmer: I did not leave the car.
Gibbs: Don't ever do that again.
Expository Hairstyle Change: Gibbs keeps his hair fairly short, but in the second part of "Hiatus", while suffering from amnesia, he cuts his hair back to the much shorter crewcut variant he wore when he was a probie.
Gibbs having a longer-than-Marine-regs haircut gets made fun of in "My Other Left Foot" by a gunnery sergeant Gibbs met years before as an MP.
Gunny: (trying to remember Gibbs) He was high and tight then.
Gibbs: (rubs hair) Not exactly shaggy, Gunny.
Gunny: I've seen sheepdogs shorter.
"Baltimore" reveals that, at the time that Tony joined NCIS, Gibbs' haircut was similar to his look from the first couple of seasons, if not as long.
In "Engaged, Part II" a thirteen year-old girl is blinded after terrorists throw hot grease into her face.
Fair Cop: The entire main cast. Sean Murray as Agent McGee would seem to be the only one to avert this, but then he lost a good amount of weight entering Season 7, and now we can pretty much include the whole crew.
Fake Nationality: Israeli Mossad agent Ziva, played by Chilean actress Cote de Pablo.
Family Relationship Switcheroo: At the end of one Season 6 episode, a young Marine mentions that his mother took care of Gibbs when he was wounded on a mission in her country. Gibbs tells the Marine that his mother was already pregnant when they met. Seconds later, in Vance's office, Vance asks Gibbs if Gibbs told the young man that his mission had been to kill his father.
Fanservice: Abby, mostly. At times, Director Shepard, especially after wardrobe started putting her in tight skirts and sweaters. And let us not forget Ziva in the season 6 opener◊. And there's also the pic of Kate in the wet T-shirt contest, plus numerous butt shots from Tony's POV.
One of the most blatant instances of potential fanservice (Ziva in a fairly skimpy bikini) actually ended up being a half-subversion, as she's lying on her side reading a book and the audience never gets a good look...unless you count the screensaver McGee made from Tony's pictures of her.
Fatal Attractor: The entire cast. With relatively few exceptions, every date any of the characters go on will be with someone evil.
Fatal Family Photo: The ending of the episode "Rekindled" features a Marine out at sea on an amphibious carrier accidentially dropping his cell phone through the grates, reassembling it to see his family photo, only to find flickering lights underneath the door to the electric room (strongly implied to be the arson electrical bomb trap from earlier) before he is knocked back in an explosion.
Film At Eleven: In one episode, Gibbs doesn't show up and the rest of the team suspects something happened to him (he lives alone and no one would know, after all). Tony, in his usual style, parodies the concept, complete with desk lamp shade and a coincidental ZNN news report in the background.
Fan Disservice: Used to excellent effect in "Kill Ari", contrasting the Kate-visions of McGee, Tony, and Abby (!) with Ducky and Gibbs' decidedly more morbid versions.
Fridge Horror: invoked Of the in-universe type. The season 4 episode "Smoked" has the team find the corpse of a cannibal serial killer (identified due to the fact that he still had a victim's toe in his stomach) where he fell into an abandoned chimney. Fornell had been chasing this guy for years, but eventually they realize his wife was the killer, and hadn't stopped at her husband's death.
Fornell: You know what's really got me freaked out? If her husband's body hadn't gotten hung up going down that chimney five years ago, she'd still be out there. We'd never have caught her.
Gibbs: I can do you one better than that.
Fornell: No, can't top that, Jethro.
Gibbs:What was a toe doing in her husband's stomach?
Foreshadowing: This is actually a standard feature of the show. The two-second black & white sequence at the beginning of each segment is the last image you will see before the next commercial break. So if you see a dead body, or Abby looking frightened, or a car crashing, then you know that you will see events leading up to that situation.
Some specific instances: The fourth season's slow leadup to the finale/premiere. Also, as early as season one, Gibbs had a vision of Kate being shot by Ari. Cue the season two finale...
The season two finale is crammed full of these.
Frame Up: In the season 9 premiere "Nature of the Beast," Tony DiNozzo ended up framed for killing a fellow NCIS agent, Cade, whom he was also intending to bring into custody for stealing equipment from the watchers. Cade also implies in what ultimately turned out to be his last moments that he was actually framed for stealing the microchips and selling them onto the black market. It was later revealed that a fake FBI agent as well as the Director of Special Operations, both of whom were in Watcher 8 were the ones who were actually doing this action.
Also, the season 3 episode Frame Up where Tony was pointed out as the killer through the evidence collected, no matter what Abby did. She did clear Tony in the end, it turned out to be her lab partner Chip, who wanted revenge on Tony for costing him his job.
There's also Harper Dearing from late Season 9, and its for this reason that he ends up succeeding at the end of the season... until it's subverted in the season 10 premiere, as it turns that the bomb didn't kill any of the main characters and that Dearing faked his own death, though it doesn't take long for Gibbs to track down Dearing and kill him for real
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Tony and Ziva are investigating and decide to try the back door of a house. Ziva advises him to be prepared, he suggests shoving her through the cat-flap — crouching down by it at the exact moment a cat rushes out. Tony starts backwards and draws his firearm, cueing the line "Don't tell me you're afraid of a little pussy...cat, Tony!"
Ziva also gave us this nice one: "Does a bear sit in the woods?"
Give Away The Bride: When Ziva is considering marrying Ray, everyone assumes Gibbs would walk her down the aisle. It does not happen, and never will. Marrying Ray, that is, not Gibbs walking her down the aisle. Still holding out hope for the second bit.
The Glomp: Abby, usually to Tony and McGee (especially if they're injured, which seems to be a minor Running Gag).
Gun Stripping: Ziva mentioned once that she cleans her gun every day, even when she hasn't fired it. Of course, unless someone with a gun is wallowing around in extremely dusty or gritty places, cleaning the weapon every day is unnecessary, but given that Ziva's Mossad background means she spent most of her time with her life in danger, her behavior is understandable. She was also shown cleaning her gun while hiding out in Gibb's basement during season 4's "Shalom", and Gibbs has also been shown cleaning his gun a few times.
In "Judgement Day Part 1" Shepard strips and cleans the gun Mike Franks loans her for her final fire fight.
Hannibal Lecture: Jerry, a witness in a murder investigation, points out several characters' psychological problems (Abby doesn't admit she likes Tim because she's Married to the Job and doesn't want to risk him being The One and missing out; Gibbs shows that he misses his late wife by keeping his house better than a single man who's never home or locks his door should; Ziva most definitely has feelings for Tony), however it appears he's just really good at reading people and really bad at reading the atmosphere. He later atones by helping Tony rig a surprise Christmas confetti bombardment.
Gibbs' first marriage was, from all evidence, happy...not so much since then.
Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Page 57 from S3 Ep04, "Silver War". Tony shows Ziva an FHM/Maxim-esque magazine called "GSM".
Tony: You want something to read?
Ziva: What do you have?
Tony: (pulls out magazine) GSM. It's a men's magazine. Most women find it objectifies them.
Ziva: (pulls out same magazine in Hebrew) I read it on the plane. I especially liked the article on page fifty-seven. In my experience, it works every time.
Tony: (checks his copy with the inside facing away from the camera) I always thought that was an urban legend.
Hearing Voices: Subverted in one episode. A woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia after she said was hearing voices. The reveal? She was being assaulted via a remote audio transmitter so that she would be declared insane.
Help Mistaken For Attack: Minor recurring character Nikki Jardine had this as part of her backstory. When her brother, Eric, was in Iraq he was injured in an IED attack and when a friendly Iraqi man tried to save Eric's life, the man was shot by US Forces who mistook him for a terrorist. Nikki has tried to help the Iraqi's widow and children ever since in gratitude for his sacrifice.
Heroes Want Redheads: Gibbs has a history of marrying red-heads, or having liaisons with them on undercover missions in Paris, or getting picked up by them on his way home from work...you get the idea.
Whenever a character hears about a witness or suspect flirting with Gibbs, someone inevitably asks "Is she a redhead?"
In "Life Before His Eyes" we see that Gibbs got this from his father.
Colonel Mann is the only exception to this rule so far for Gibbs. They did have a relationship, but then she realized that he'd never be able to forget his wife and daughter. She moved to Hawaii after breaking it off with him. (And even she's a suspiciously reddish shade of blonde!)
McGee fell for a redhead in a coffee shop. She turned out to be an assassin.
Subverted by Agent Todd. She takes a bullet to save Gibbs' life, but is saved by her Kevlar vest...and then gets head-sniped by Ari.
Jonathan Cole ends up doing this to disarm the bomb in the Season 9 Finale. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to start disarming the bomb before Dearing activated it. Also qualifies as a Redemption Equals Death.
Heterosexual Life Partners: For just being former NCIS partners, Franks and Gibbs seem awfully close together. When Gibbs was retired, he actually went to live with Franks in Mexico, and they bickered like a married couple.
The place that Franks has is one they used to stay at when they would go fishing in Mexico — so they even went on vacation together at one point, apparently.
Gibbs and Ducky
Gibbs and Fornell. They also share a common ex-wife.
The same episode starts with the angelCastiel driving a car with a bloodied, screaming woman in the back seat. Turns out he only stole the car without noticing the woman, then ran off when he did notice her. Giving not-Ryan a chance to kidnap her again. So that's all right then.
And in 6x05, "Nine Lives", Detective Javier Esposito was Retired Marine Sergeant Jack Kale, who is being protected by the FBI due to his status as a witness to a murder. The Victim of the Week, and another one, was a partner in the Marines. The victims were killed because they were the actual witnesses, and Kale ends up killing the man that killed the victims.
It also looks like Logan's gotten out of his wheelchair AND exoskeleton and has become quite the (snarky) Action Guy.
Hidden Depths: McGee's writing career and, far more importantly, Tony's growing maturity. Unfortunately, Tony seems to have been getting more and more Flanderized and less mature in the most recent seasons, although this may just be Obfuscating Stupidity.
Hollywood Atlas: In series premiere "Yankee White" The Wichita County Coroner shows up to fight for the body. Wichita County, KS is in the far western part of the state. The city of Wichita is in Sedgwick County. This was most likely done so as not to confuse those who don't live in "Flyover Land"
Hollywood Healing: Consistently averted; characters who suffer injuries at the end of one episode are typically still sporting the signs of them in the next one...except glaringly in season one when Gibbs recovered from grenade fragments in the shoulder between episodes.
Played painfully straight in the 200th episode, where Gibbs is shot in the shoulder at the beginning. At the episode's end, set the very next day, he's perfectly fine.
They retrieve Director Vance's car when it was handled by a terrorist and since they found no prints, they don't strip it down for explosives or other traps.
From the same episode: when the headquarters building goes into bomb threat alert and begins evacuation procedures, Tony and Ziva help usher everyone out of the upper floors and then decide to take the elevator down together. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
In a later episode, when Vance is searching for a nanny to help the family, one of the women he interviews is a young 20-something woman who cannot get off Twitter and Facebook during her interview with him. Vance barely holds in his contempt at this lack of respect and proper interview ethics.
Ignorance Is Bliss: In "Toxic", Abby builds one half of a biological weapon without knowing what it is.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: The season 10 episode "Detour" has Palmer (no actual firearms training) with a handgun. It's averted when Ducky (military training from many decades past) carefully redirects it away from his face.
Justified in S7 Ep09, "Child's Play", which focuses on child prodigies using video games, one of which is Call of DutyModern Warfare 2, in which they compare the situations in the game to real life military situations and analyze them.
In S10 Ep16, "Detour," Jimmy claims that while he has no experience with a real gun, he nevertheless Prestiged in Call of Duty: Black Ops six times. And he shoots an assassin with a full clip not long afterwards.
The killer mentions the man who (supposedly) shot the lieutenant will get away. "How did you know she was shot?"
S7 Ep07, "Endgame", has Amanda, McGee's love interest for that episode, coming to visit him at work. The next morning McGee reveals to her that he never told her where he works. It turns out she was hired to kill the North Korean assassin the team is trying to catch.
Intergenerational Friendship: The rest of the team with Ducky (in his 70s) and Gibbs (in his 50s). In early seasons Ducky and Abby even indulged in occasional intergenerational flirtation, while Gibbs and Abby still do.
Impaled Palm: Ducky suffers this when he's attacked with a knife at a crime scene.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Justified in "Yankee White", since the guy in question is trying to fire an MP5 submachine gun on full auto one-handed while raising it from his side. He misses Gibbs by a foot and change.
Implausible Synchrony: The Cyber Vid Character gives the time of his victims' deaths and then broadcasts the murder over the internet. One example especially strains plausibility. He lists the time of death as five minutes to midnight. Two clocks were shown when the victim died, and they both showed the precise time, despite the fact that the poison that killed him was administered hours ago. The in-episode explanation makes it sound plausible.
Possibly a a shout out to Trevanian's "Naked/Kill" techniques where an Israeli operative uses a credit card on a plane to kill someone. Everything matched perfectly.
Later in that episode aboard the plane, the air marshall is found dead in the lavatory, stabbed in the neck with a knitting needle taken from one of the sleeping passengers. And then the assassin (who is actually the stewardess) tries to kill her target by giving her a pillow covered with peanut dust, trying to trigger fatal anaphylaxis from her peanut allergy.
Ziva has also threatened that she can kill Tony eighteen different ways with a paper clip. Safety recommends that she be believed - after all, the bullpen's probably got plenty of paper clips lying around.
Improbable Age: Ziva David is less Improbable Age and more Impossible Age. She joins the show in her early twenties, supposedly after she's graduated high school, served her two years in the IDF, attended college, applied for Mossad, become immediately tapped for inclusion into an elite and highly competitive special operations unit with a training period of several years, and still have enough time to become "an experienced agent" with multiple missions under her belt. And this is at a age the youngest CIA intelligence officers would be beginning training. (It's worth pointing out, however, that she is the daughter of the Director of Mossad, and it is heavily implied that she was all but raised from the cradle to be a Mossad operative.)
Abby, meanwhile, was stated as being in her late twenties during season 7. And it's also been heavily implied she has a PhD in chemistry.
Internal Affairs: Perspective Flipped, as NCIS often takes the role of internal affairs towards the suspects-of-the-week. They are fully aware of how this makes them look to those being investigated.
Intimate Healing: Played with. Abby is very fond of hugs. Also, in the first "Hiatus" episode, after Abby blows up at Ziva and each slaps the other a coupla times, Tony disciplines them in the office area:
Tony: Abby! Front and center. You too Ziva. Let's go! I know what happened. [Abby and Ziva start talking at the same time] Tony: Hey! If there's going to be any bitch slapping on this team, I'll do it. Clear? Good. Now shake hands. Shake. [Abby and Ziva reluctantly shake hands] Tony: There we go. That wasn't so tough, was it? Now how about a little hug? Big buddy hug. Come on. [Abby immediately hugs Ziva, Ziva slowly reciprocates] Tony: Now a deep tongue kiss. [Abby and Ziva punch him in the chest at the same time] Tony: OOF! Now we feel better.
"Join the Army," They Said: The Victim of the Week in one episode was an unscrupulous Marine recruiter who made promises that would never be met, such as promising one recruit that he would be trained as a medic. As Gibbs points out, the Marine Corps doesn't have medics; they use Navy corpsmen.
Subverted at the (apparent) end of the Benoît arc, when Gibbs, Tony and Ziva are on his boat, and figure he must've disappeared. Then the camera pans out over the water to reveal Benoît's corpse in the water with a hole in his head. End credits.
Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In one episode, a panicking suspect tries to run, leaving behind his high-powered hunting rifle, right next to Gibbs, the Marine Corps sniper. Not that that would have been bright to do that under any circumstances, but still. It should be noted that it was very highly insinuated that Gibbs let the suspect go so that he would have an excuse to shoot him in the ass. Cue Tony and McGee wondering, "You don't think he did that on purpose...?" "No...no, of course not," and Gibbs just doing a badass walk with a huge smile on his face.
Long Runner: NCIS has been renewed for its eleventh season.
Lzherusskie: Gratuitous fake Russians, everywhere, speaking second-year level (jumbled, albeit real) Russian, complete with the expected grammatical errors and horrid pronunciation. Strangely enough, they are interspaced with people fluent in Russian, and in at least one case, an actor highly proficient or fluent in Russian speaking lines written by someone who was not, true to script, complete with every single error. Also, a surprising number of cast members and recurring characters, including ones too young to have picked it up in the course of their military duties during the Cold War, speak Russian. A lot.
Malaproper: Ziva (the ESL variety) which is a Running Gag on the show; she speaks English perfectly, except for idioms, which she constantly gets wrong and is usually corrected by Tony. What's strange is that she actually has a remarkably good grasp of American pop culture. That and her level of English proficiency mean she shouldn't get nearly every single idiom she uses wrong. It's eventually revealed that Ziva was using a For Dummies book to memorize pop culture cliches from by rote, especially movie lines. And it's hinted in a later episode that she was, at times, playing dumb to get people off-guard (and yank Tony's chain). Possibly a Retcon, though.
Ziva: It'll be like shooting fish in a pond. Tony: Fish in a barrel. Ziva: Why would fish be in a barrel? Gibbs: How'd you get on?
Ziva: I hit a stone wall. Tony: Brick wall. Ziva: No, it was definitely a stone wall. I backed the car into it.
Mean Boss: Gibbs leans toward this when he's really angry or upset, as his already-considerable impatience skyrockets, his tolerance for the team's personality quirks goes right out the window, and he gets a lot snippier and Drill Sergeant Nasty-ish.
In "SWAK", he even got mad at Abby... count how many times that's happened over the course of the series.
He explodes at DiNozzo in the episode where Ari briefly kidnapped Kate, at a point when the team's having no luck identifying Ari and doesn't know what's happened to Kate.
Director Shepard whenever she wore glasses, skirting into Hot Librarian territory.
The episode "Singled Out" featured a geeky-looking Navy lieutenant as the victim who fit this trope, and in the same episode, Ziva falls into the trope when she goes undercover as a geeky girl resembling the Navy lieutenant.
Abby, in the few times when she wears glasses.
Male example; Jimmy Palmer. Agent Lee definitely thought so.
Memetic Badass: Gibbs is an in-universe example. When asked what the most awesome cage fight opponent for Gibbs would be, McGee and Abby casually discard such foes as Godzilla and Mothra, and decide (however unintentionally) that Gibbs vs. Gibbs would be pretty much impossible to top. At least once, Abby has put forth the theory that Gibbs has magical powers. Tony once compared Gibbs arresting God to The Thing arresting The Hulk. Even diseases know better than to mess with Gibbs, as proven in "S.W.A.K."
Gibbs: Never had a cold. Never had the flu, either. Kate: ...Why do I believe that? Tony: If you were a bug, would you attack Gibbs?
Mercy Kill: In "Broken Bird", it's revealed that Ducky was forced to do this to an innocent Afghani civilian who was being brutally tortured for information. Thirty years later, and Ducky still feels guilty about it. The man actually knew nothing, and his torture was really a way to torture Ducky, who had to patch him up.
Missed Moment of Awesome: In "Mind Games", Paula Cassidy is caught by one of the episode villains, who binds her hands behind her back. The scene cuts away as he menaces her with a knife. At the end of the episode we learn that she killed him in the ensuing fight.
Abby: See anything you liked? McGee: (embarrassed) No. Abby: (skeptical look) McGee: ...Yes. Abby: (satisfied look) Better.
Subverted in another episode when we get to see what she sleeps in; the camera does the usual panning establishing shots, then pans over to Abby...and we see she's wearing a full-length Victorian-style nightgown, complete with cap. And since it's Abby, she looks adorable.
In the stalker boyfriend episode when Abby was staying with McGee, she was wearing a man's shirt and panties.
Must Have Caffeine: Gibbs needs coffee to get through the day to the point where McGee has an Oh Crap moment when he accidentally knocks over and spills Gibbs coffee. Abby prefers the Big Gulp-esque drink, Caf-POW.
Also, the terrorist who captures Ziva at the end of Season 6. His addiction to Caf-POW! is so great he has it imported, which winds up being how the team finds him.
My Beloved Smother: Ducky's mom, although she's suffering from Alzheimer's and can't really help herself.
Gibbs: You know what our top priority is now, Chief? Chief Of the Boat: Getting all the ice cream back in the freezer. Gibbs: Exactly. *chuckles*
Myth Arc: All main characters (except McGee for some reason) have had important involvement in one. However, the dual episode "Enemies Foreign / Enemies Domestic" brought this to a level bordering on Continuity Lock-Out: To wit, the earliest referenced event in the series is (former) NCIS Director Morrow's retirement, linked to Vance's promotion; the earliest chronologically referenced event in the series continuity is probably Vance's recruitment, which is essentially linked to Eli David's rise into the top seat of Mossad.
The cherry on top is definitively the link the entire affair has with the Season 5 finale and Gibbs's mission in Paris... also opening to question the relation between these episodes and Decker's "insurance policy" that Mike Franks took away (with the explicitly stated declaration that it was for Vance to read "in my will").
Gibbs (realizing the connection): Zukov? Anatoly Zukov? Agent Sharp: Yeah, that's him... Wait a minute, that's him. What... you think he came back to clean after himself [for failing to kill Vance]? Gibbs (head leaning down): No, he's long gone. Agent Sharp: You sure? Gibbs: Yes, I'm positive. (Gibbs flash backs to the well-known Paris mission with Jenny, where Gibbs terminates Zukov)
Mythology Gag: In the Season 7 episode "Moonlighting", while Gibbs and Fornell are watching McGee questioning a witness inside the conference room via camera, Fornell is suprised that they have a security camera inside the conference room. He then asks nervously if they also have cameras inside the elevator now.
Name McAdjective: Tony's many nicknames for McGee, which he picks according to the circumstances. Examples include "McGoogle", "McBackstabber" and "McRomeo". This once confused McGee when Tony compared the condition of a body to the (discontinued) McDLT sandwhich. McGee thought it was another nickname that he didn't get.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: Ziva describes the task of finding a stolen defense system in a room full of computers as "looking for a needle in a needlestack". It was on what looked like an obsolete laptop with a suspiciously fast boot-up time; the guts were state-of-the-art.
Nerds Are Sexy: Not an in-universe example, but Michelle Lee definitely felt this way about Jimmy Palmer.
Much credit must be given to Abby, and McGee seems to be able to attract a surprisingly large number of women.
Much to Gibbs' annoyance, Abby loves to beat around the bush before giving her discovery. She claims it's because she's alone in the lab all day and if she didn't give a full explanation, Gibbs wouldn't appreciate the trouble she went through.
Ducky also has a habit of digressing into random reminiscences, though Gibbs is more prone to cutting off his babbling than Abby's.
McGee is also frequently guilty. Hilariously lampshaded somewhat in one episode:
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Abby, who completely alone can process forensic evidence for the whole building or has a relationship with someone with the required speciality. However, several episodes have featured her showing stress or fatigue from the demands of her job, so this isn't completely a God Mode Sue situation.
To a lesser extent Ducky, who is now The Medic, performs autopsies, and generates psychological profiles when not working undercover.
Though, to be fair, he is shown in several consecutive episodes studying for his psychology exams with Palmer.
Ziva calls in a lot of favors. Then again, given her past, it's not that much of a stretch.
To the point where it seems if you exist in the NCIS universe, chances are good that Ziva has saved your life at least once.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain/Villain Ball: In the episode "Bloodbath" the money launderer would have gotten away with his scheme had he just let his lawyer do her work. Instead, he used his ill-gotten funds to pay for a man to stalk and then kill Abby, as she was the key witness his lawyer needed to discredit. The judge dismissed the money laundering case as he didn't think Abby's method, which hadn't been peer-approved, was a valid means to obtain forensic evidence, but because his hitman wasn't paid to keep his mouth shut, the launderer gets arrested for hiring the hitman.
The start of season four, when we were told that Tony had been regularly visiting Ziva's apartment, alone, at night, for no given reason. What were they doing?
Many of Ducky's stories get cut off before we get sufficient detail, becoming these. For instance, there was a story about a bachelor party that Gibbs would really rather he not tell Palmer about.
In a recent Halloween-themed episode, Abby complained that costumes were no longer allowed in headquarters after "last year's Jonas Brothers Incident". All we learn is that it involved McGee in tight jeans, which Abby insists wasn't a good look on him.
During a flashback in "Truth or Consequences", Tony recalls being in a funk without Ziva on the team and only hearing cliche conversation pieces from the other team members. One of those conversations was Gibbs telling the team to get ready for this bizarre incident that is not discussed in greater detail afterward:
Gibbs: Some idiot smuggled a koala onto a submarine, grab your gear!
In "Ships in the Night" the whole team is shown working long hours, cut to Abby's lab where there are no less than eight empty CaffPows sitting on her workstation, and another one in her hand.
Agent Borin: Is this a record? Abby: No, we don't talk about the record.
Even early on, it's implied that he's not as stupid as he acts. When undercover in "Chained," he is able to recall that people didn't live in Iraq 100,000 years ago, something he probably wouldn't have said in his "regular" persona. He also was able to come off as completely competent, fooling the guy he was cuffed to.
Offscreen Teleportation: In the season 7 opener, Gibbs manages to snipe two baddies from what looks like a mile or more away. By the time McGee, Tony, and Ziva have managed to get out of their bonds, he manages to make it all the way to the building they were in, through combat right outside the building, and beating any of the SEALs who were in position around the building to finding and saving his team, in just enough time to save them, again, and have a Holy Backlight moment. That's not a complaint.
Oh Crap: McGee telling Fornell that he "didn't" do anything to his ex-wife Diana.
Once a Season: As of season 7, one autumn episode will involve CGIS Agent Abigail Borin (Diane Neal).
Ziva David: And plastic silverware is not as safe as you may think. I once killed a man with a credit card.
One Steve Limit: Averted. We have Abigail Sciuto and CGIS Agent Abigail Borin. They tend to either call the later her full name or "Agent Borin" to avoid being confused with their Abby.
Though they have been collectively referred to as 'Abbs-es'.
One episode had two Leroy Jethros - Gibbs was named after an old war buddy of his father's. Leroy Jethro the elder was usually referred to as "L.J."
Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Characters who get shot are still recovering several episodes later, and even a hit to a bulletproof vest leaves a painful bruise. One supporting character (Gerald, Ducky's original assistant), deliberately shot through the ball-and-socket joint in his shoulder by Ari, never fully recovers from his injuries and retires on a disability pension.
Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: In most of the interrogations of suspects, the issue of lawyers doesn't come up, but it does happen occasionally. This is a crime drama afterall.
Oddly enough, despite what has been implied on a few episodes, military personnel actually have more protection from self-incrimination than civilians. Not only do the 5th and 6th Amendments apply equally to them, they are also covered by Section 31 of the UCMJ, which has almost identical language in it.
Only Known by Their Nickname: "Ducky", whose real name is Donald Mallard. About the only person who calls him "Dr. Mallard" are his assistants, while his mother is the only person to consistently call him "Donald".
OOC Is Serious Business: At the beginning of "Kill Ari Part 1," the entire team is still feeling raw about Ari killing Kate, but what really drives it home for McGee and DiNozzo is the fact that Gibbs offers to get them coffee.
Out-of-Character Alert: A distraught schoolboy holds his classmates hostage so someone - it happens to be our team - will find his ostensibly dead mother. Gibbs lets himself be taken, and Tony later tells the boy that Special Agent Caitlin Todd is looking for his mother. Out of earshot, when asked how he's going to tell Gibbs the kid's mother is dead, Tony replies that he already has: Special Agent Todd is dead.
Subverted in "Bete Noir", when Gibbs asks if Kate and Tony checked the computer of the man whose house they were sent to search. Kate says he didn't even have a Game Boy. Tony points out a Game Boy is a handheld system, and she's thinking more of an Xbox or Playstation 2.
Also Subverted with Killscreen. The information given about killscreens is completely accurate, but killscreens are almost non-existant in modern games because of how they are designed and don't consist of a single screen as how killscreens are explained in the episode.
As a rule, this is averted wherever there's a throwaway reference or gag, as these tend to be pretty accurate. If any aspect of gaming or IT is central to a plotline, however, expect excruciating levels of this trope. (It is suspected that the writers are trolling the audience when they do this, as some of the reviews of the above-mentioned "Killscreen" speculated.)
Percussive Maintenance: Being old school, Gibbs will naturally resort to this at times. One memorable example is in the season 10 episode "Hit and Run," where Abby has called in sick, (but she was really having bad memories that interfered with her work) leaving a flustered McGee to run her lab, and when Major Mass Spec acts up, Gibbs starts smacking it.
Oh, can Gibbs make them sweat. One of the best examples involves taking the suspect down to Ducky's area to "prep" him. It involves Ducky and Gibbs telling the guy exactly how he's going to be dissected. This is after Gibbs kills the guy and makes it look like a suicide, which it is heavily implied that he wouldn't hesitate to do if the guy didn't cooperate.
Sometimes, when Gibbs can't make them sweat, he gives Ziva a turn. Ziva's presence is also occasionally used by Gibbs as a threat: 'Cooperate with us or we'll extradite you to Israel'. This is used on those who would really, really rather not end up in the custody of the Mossad.
What makes Ziva's interrogations work is almost never shown on-screen, but it tends to quickly reduce the perp to a crying wreck. In one fairly early episode with a female accessory who won't talk, Gibbs locks her in her office with Ziva. In the next scene, as they're interrogating her, Ziva just slowly, calmly walks around her; the woman is a weepy, trembling mess and flinches like she's been shocked when Ziva lightly touches her neck. In the one instance where we do see her at work (in "Hiatus," after Gibbs is caught in the bomb blast), Ziva harshly interrogates the Turkish ship captain... at gunpoint.
Ducky has also broken several people just by explaining anatomy to them (eg. "this is how we cut your torso open", and "this is what happens to your skull when a bullet enters the back of your head")
Tony, meanwhile, prefers to annoy suspects into submission. He's very good at it; in the season six finale he manages to get the better of Ziva's father (Eli David, the director of Mossad) this way.
Bonus points because Tony was the one being interrogated, and still managed to get Eli to spill more than he did.
Even McGee gets in on this.
In one episode, he informed a suspect that, as a known member of a gang suspected of terrorist ties, the Patriot Act says that he can be held at their discretion, and he doesn't have to be charged with anything, ever. Whether it's true or not doesn't matter, since the guy believed it. And Gibbs once used McGee as a blunt weapon for the same purpose; he had McGee come in and dryly rattle off a list of consequences, his banal, matter-of-fact delivery making them far scarier than any emotionally delivered threat.
McGee also had the luck of interrogating a teenage bully...the same kind that picked on him in high school. McGee basically gets buddy buddy with him, discussing the fun of tormenting geeks, then goes scary real fast when he reveals he was the geek in high school, and now he has the gun, badge, and paperwork know-how to make the bully go away for a long time, and he's going to enjoy it. We still don't know if he was serious.
It's so prevalent that the team actually bets on what kind of interrogation strategy Gibbs will use next.
McGee: So how do you think he's going to break her down? What's the style? Tony: He's leading with the Creepy Uncle, but I think he's going to with the Father Figure You Can Trust. McGee: Nope, that doesn't feel right. I'm gonna go with the classic, in your face Gibbs, The Intimidator.
They do the same thing when Tony is interrogating a suspect. Gibbs wins the bet.
In one of the first Season 7 episodes, as they're breaking in a possible replacement for Ziva, Tony starts speaking in tandem with Gibbs while observing.
Lampshaded in "Murder 2.0" when the suspect is literally sweating and complaining about how hot it is in the interview room while Gibbs is just talking to him, leading Tony to comment with pride on Gibbs' skills. Turns out the suspect had been poisoned, causing extremely elevated blood pressure and a shortly-ensuing heart attack.
In at least one episode, Gibbs and Fornell double-team an interrogation.
Gibbs: The worst mistake you made... Fornell: You tried to shoot our agents. (Fornell gets up and takes off his jacket) Gibbs: Hey, let me hang that up for you, Tobias (Gibbs tosses Fornell's jacket over the security camera while Fornell rolls up his sleeves)
Pet the Dog: Any time Gibbs is shown interacting with children, and his more gentle moments with Abby.
Used in a literal sense at one point. Gibbs sat on a park bench in the pouring rain because he put the dog that was sleeping under the bench in the nearby gazebo so it wouldn't get even more wet. He wouldn't sit in the gazebo with it because it smelled like...well, a wet dog.
Another literal one with McGee and Jethro (nee Butch), the German Shepherd he shot (in self-defense). McGee was wary of Jethro for the whole episode; at the end, when Jethro is vindicated and Abby's landlord has said "no dogs", Abby makes an impassioned speech to a reluctant Tim about how Jethro is the dog McGee has been wanting to get for a long time. A later episode shows that Abby did eventually succeed in this little campaign, and McGee has a very loving relationship with the dog.
The Pete Best: Robyn Lively played Special Agent Vivian Blackadder in the two-part JAGPoorly Disguised Pilot. Donald Bellisario reportedly said she was "too soft" for the new show, and she was replaced by Sasha Alexander's Caitlin Todd for the series proper.
Plucky Comic Relief: Tony in the first few seasons. This gets lampshaded early on, with the trope even mentioned by name (that one about McGee though).
Several instances, most notably when Caitlin Todd is sniped by Ari, although a squib on the back of her head can be seen going off, and in "Kill Ari" it's stated that the back of her head was pretty much gone.
Averted in "The Good Wives' Club" with the perp's suicide.
Properly Paranoid: McGee never tells anyone where he works. He'll give out cell numbers, pages, etc, but he never mentions NCIS. Which is how he knows, when his new girlfriend shows up to pick him up after work, that she's not who she says she is. Overlaps with I Never Said It Was Poison.
Punny Name: Donald Mallard - a mallard is a duck...in other words, Donald Duck. Lampshaded time and again in the series as the explanation for his nickname, Ducky.
The first NCIS Director in the series, from the JAG pilot to the start of season 3, was named Thomas Morrow. Or rather, "Tom Morrow"... tomorrow.
Rapid-Fire Typing: Anything can be done by quickly typing on the keyboard - which, strangely, always generates the same sound effects. In one episode, the computers in Abby's lab are attacked by a hacker. The best way to respond? Both Abby and McGee rapidly hit keys on the same keyboard to literally type fast enough to fight the hack. It's still ineffective, until Gibbs comes up with a simpler solution; unplug the computer.
Rare Guns: In one season eight episode a Webley Revolver is the murder weapon.
Real-Life Relative: Sean Murray, who plays Timothy McGee, is Donald P. Belissario's (one of NCIS' creators and producers) step-son. Troian Belissario, Donald P. Belissario's daughter and Sean's step-sister, plays Sarah McGee, Timothy's sister.
A Real Man Is a Killer: Inverted. McGee and DiNozzo are capable of killing, and Gibbs is an expert, but Ziva boasts about her talents enough to make everyone, including the male characters, mildly uncomfortable.
Red Herring: In "Obssession", the viewers are led to believe that the culprits are PMC goons, when in fact it's an ex-KGB operative that's responsible.
Similarly, the opening of "The Engagement Part 2" had DiNozzo arriving at the church with the chaplain and her father asking what the result of the mission to rescue Flores is, and the scene then cutting to the interior of a Marine transport plane with Gibbs and the others inside looking at a marine burial coffin, leading the viewers to believe that they failed their mission and Flores was killed. However, the episode later reveals that they actually succeeded in their mission, and the marine burial coffin actually belonged to her commanding officer, who was killed in action by a gunshot to the neck.
The entire Season 8 finale/Season 9 opener dealt with this: DiNozzo was assigned to track down someone leaking NCIS secrets (involving Watcher microchips), and the target is seemingly Special Agent EJ Barret. It is later revealed to be Special Agent Simon Gade, but then not only did he reveal that he was actually framed, but the entire thing was actually staged as a trap to kill all of them, although only Gade actually bit the dust, as Barret, while wounded, went into hiding, and DiNozzo was hospitalized with amnesia that was presumably brought about from getting grazed in the head.
Reference Overdosed: Justified in that many of the characters are pop culture savvy, from Tony being a movie buff, to McGee being a gamer and internet surfer.
Renegade Splinter Faction: The episode "Dead Air" featured MAH (Military At Home), a group of isolationist Americans. A faction of MAH plot an attack to destroy some unmanned equipment, which our heroes need to stop. It turns out that the splinter group had another more extreme splinter group.
Very likely at least one element of the Ari plotline.
The friendship between Gibbs and FBI agent Fornell - in "Yankee White", the first episode, Fornell doesn't appear to know Gibbs at all, but in subsequent Fornell appearances they're implied to be longtime acquaintances if not perhaps not-quite-friends. There's also Fornell's dickish behavior in the same episode, while Gibbs is fairly affable, which has flip-flopped as the show's gone on.
Fornell was married to one of Gibb's ex-wives, and even had a child with her. Gibbs states in that episode that he warned Fornell about what kind of woman she was, as Fornell and Gibbs' ex-wife were also exes.
Retirony: Played with in "Pyramid". When EJ is escorting Cobb, the P 2 P Killer, she runs into Palmer and they briefly talk about how he is getting ready to marry. When Cobb manages to escape two seconds later, guess who gets taken hostage?
Right Behind Me: Gibbs catches virtually everyone, especially Tony, with this all the time, bordering on Stealth Hi/Bye. Other characters also do it occasionally; Ziva to Tony, and Tony to McGee, especially when he's emulating Gibbs in Gibbs's absence. Vance does it now, too.
Rule Number One: Gibbs's various rules, cited by the characters throughout the show. Later revealed in flashback to have been inspired by his first wife, on the day they met. The Season 7 finale has him adding "Rule Fifty-One". Ziva has requested that Gibbs write them down; only for Tony to rebut this by pointing out that while most are for day-to-day use, only the ones in the forties are reserved for emergencies.
There are actually two Rule Number 1s, and two Rule Number 3s. Word Of God is this was intentional. While Gibbs has his own rules, his mentor Mike Franks told him he only needs three golden rules. The other Rule Number 2 has yet to be revealed, and the writers are letting the viewers determine which are Gibbs' rules, and which are Franks'.
CGIS Abigail Borin a Distaff Counterpart to Gibbs, unsurprisingly, has her own rules. Her rule number one is "Never make excuses."
Scary Black Man: Leon Vance can be absolutely terrifying when he wants to be, which is probably one of the reasons he gets to boss Gibbs around. Taken to severe extremes when he put a fire safety axe through a metal table in the interrogation room to intimidate a teenage suspect who was suspected of killing one of Vance's friends.
Referenced in "Forced Entry". Kate comments that she spent twelve years in Catholic School; Tony asks if she still has the pleated skirt. In that same episode, Abby's outfit certainly seems schoolgirl-inspired.
Tony's "hallucination" in Kill Ari, Part 2.
Ship Tease: Tony/Ziva and McGee/Abby are two shipping groups the writers especially love to mess with. However, McGee/Abby was canon before their breakup and might come back per Word Of God. Tony/Ziva has yet to go beyond Ship Tease. (Granted, the sheer mass of Ship Tease there is so large, it's verging on upstaging the Great Attractor.)
This one's even messed with in-universe. Tony and Ziva are together in McGee's metafiction. See Write Who You Know below.
Even in-universe alternate-universe timelines! While Tony/Kate obviously can't happen, there's still hope for McGee/Abby.]]
Shipper on Deck: In "Singled Out", the team was playing with software showing what children of two people would look like. McGee uses Ziva and Tony for the basis to show them a grumpy little devil of a kid, then the two simultaneously say "Do the Director and Gibbs" and Abby compliments the result saying that Gibbs and Director Shepard make nice "Gibblets".
Lately it seems every woman Tony meets including his ex-fiancee who thinks he's perfect! ships Tony/Ziva or is at least aware there's someone he already really likes.
McGee ships "Tommy" and "Lisa", two of his books' main characters, and Tony and Ziva's counterparts. Considering that he uses his in-universe real life experiences for the book, it is pretty much the same as shipping Tony and Ziva.
In "Berlin", there is a flashback to a young Ziva dancing with Eli David who states "Someday, you will dance with a man who deserves your love." Present-day, Tony and Ziva are slow dancing in a nightclub. Writer on Board, anyone?
Shirtless Scene: McGee's gotten two or three, and DiNozzo's gotten several. Strangely, Gibbs is absent from this unless you count the very-soapy shower scene in "SWAK", which is one for the entire Kate-era team.
Abby: I'm pregnant, McGee. Twins. Haven't told the father yet. It's Gibbs. I know it's wrong, but something about his silver hair gets me all tingly inside. *Tony walks in at the end of Abby's line* Tony: Excuse me for a second, I think I'm going to vomit. Abby: I'm joking, Tony. Except for that part about Gibbs' hair. That is really hot.
Abby: [To Gibbs] Well my silver-haired fox... Gibbs... sorry.
In "Doppleganger", a Metro PD team gets involved in the case, whose members are ridiculously similar to the NCIS team, right down to the Gibbs Slap.
The team has also run into "child versions" of DiNozzo and Gibbs, respectively.
In "Jurisdiction", one of the CGIS investigators is a red-haired female version of Gibbs. Tony is the first to notice and the others are all rather amused. Gibbs is apparently the only member of the team that is not aware of this.
Sixth Ranger: Kate is an example of this from the first episode, since the team was established in JAG. Later, McGee, and then once again with Ziva following Kate's death.
One episode involved the murderer using the Marine sentry removal technique (described in The Five Fingers example above) to kill the victim...while she was having sex with him.
In an episode revolving around a revenge plot against Ducky, when the team rescued Ducky, one of the perps slashed his own throat with a scalpel rather than go back to jail.
Sleeper Hit: NCIS is one of the rare examples of a show that's steadily increased its viewing audience as it's gone on. Try to think of another show that hit a series-high in viewers in its eighth season.
Left the Background Music On: In "Power Down," a scene in Abby's lab starts out with her music, but ends with the music slowing to a stop as the CD player runs out of battery.
Sound Effect Bleep: In the first episode with Ari, after he shoots Gerald in the shoulder, Kate clearly calls him a fucking bastard, only the first word is conveniently drowned out in a sudden cry of pain from Gerald. Kate also swears in the first episode. When she attacks Gibbs in the bathroom, she calls him an asshole through clenched teeth while sobbing.
Soundtrack Dissonance: In "Newborn King", the soundtrack of choice is "Silent Night" during a scene which is anything but silent: Gibbs is helping a marine give birth, while Ziva is having a shootout with some bad guys in the next room.
Sparse List Of Rules: Gibbs' Rules, a list of rules he has come up with (and occasionally adds to) for how to run a successful investigation. This fansite catalogs the whole list so far. Rule #1? "Never screw over your partner."
Stock Footage: Largely averted. For a show involving the US Navy, its hardware doesn't really feature all that much, although earlier seasons had many an obvious stock clip of various ships and sometimes planes.
But it is liberally used in the 200th episode to fill in for past NCIS characters who can't make it to filming. I'm looking at you, Kate and Jenny.
Stuffed into the Fridge: Invoked by Ari, who kills Kate and deliberately goes after Shepard and Abby just because it would cause Gibbs more pain. The show has a bad record of killing female main/recurring characters and current male characters' love interests. To date, Kate, Paula Cassidy, Jenny, Michelle Lee, Jackie Vance, and Lara Macy, although Kate's actress, as well as Jenny's, wanted to leave the show of her own accord.
Subtext: Beginning with the season five finale, Tony and Ziva's conversations are becoming increasingly subtext-heavy.
Talking to the Dead: Mostly Ducky, as he says it "helps to reciprocate"; other characters have been known to do it as well.
This is most obvious with Abby in early seasons. He's even more or less threatened to spank her at one point. In Season 7, when she found evidence that would incriminate him for the murder of Pedro Hernandez, she pleaded with him to tell her that she was "like a daughter to [him]" and that he would not begrudge her for the results of her report.
In one episode, Gibbs, in attempt to keep calm a suspect who unknowingly had a bomb set to detonate in his backpack, commented that his "son, Tony, plays that same game" (the suspect had been playing tetris). Cue a rather odd if semi-pleased look from Tony himself, who had been listening in from the bushes.
In Season 7, Ziva admitted that Gibbs is more of a father to her than her biological one. He's since acted accordingly on her behalf, later openly calling her his "kid". This has been commented on by other characters. Notably, when Ziva was considering marrying her boyfriend in Season 9, Tony told Gibbs to "[get] ready to play father of the bride".
Technobabble: Let's just say that if you know anything about computers, you'll want to turn your brain off whenever Abby or McGee is talking. Anything.
Tempting Fate: ...from Season 4, "Witch Hunt". It ends, of course, when the kidnapper and his plan are shot full of holes. Should have listened to McGee.
Victim: NCIS is going to figure this out. Kidnapper: I've had those Navy cops running around all night. They're clueless. Gibbs: Federal agents! McGee: Drop your weapon!
Happens with Special Agent Chris Pacchi back in season 1. Towards the end of one episode, he tries to ask Gibbs for some help on a case he's working, but relents when he realizes how busy he is. "What can one more day hurt?" He's dead at the start of the next episode, which presumably occurs the next day.
That's an Order: Though it's easy to forget because of his behavior, Tony is the most senior agent on Gibbs' team. He jokingly orders McGee to do scut work all the time, but there have been several situations where he drops the Small Name, Big Ego act and firmly commands McGee, Kate or Ziva to do what he says. They're insightful enough to tell the difference and listen to him at those times.
There Are No Therapists: There is a staff psychoanalyst, and the team is long overdue for a checkup. However, she's got an ulterior motive. She's Kate's older sister who hadn't gotten closure since her sister's death and wanted to talk to the people who knew her best. Tony guesses who she is, and Gibbs takes her to the spot where her sister's killer died.
To Absent Friends: In the season 2 episode "Call of Silence" there is a touching moment at the end when Corporal Ernest Yost and Lieutenant Hitoshi Yoshida of the Japanese Empire, both of whom served in World War II, share a drink of sake together in memory of their friends who were no longer with them.
Tony, who Shepard puts in charge when Gibbs is seriously injured and doesn't appear to be coming back. Once he puts aside the smart-ass tendencies, he becomes quite the effective leader. This, of course, shows us some Hidden Depths, and leads to a great exchange when he starts channeling Gibbs during a team argument.
Abby: You're not Gibbs, Tony. Tony: You're right. Acting like Gibbs doesn't make me the boss, being senior agent does. And if drinking coffee, staring, and whacking the backs of your heads helps me to lead this team...live with it.
McGee at the beginning of "Dog Tags" and at the end of "Caged".
McGee: Now, you stay here and don't answer the door, or I will tie you up! Abby: Really?
Also, Jimmy "Autopsy Gremlin" Palmer. When he helps Abby solve a problem, Gibbs gives Abby a peck on the cheek and Jimmy a Gibbs slap. He looks just as pleased at this as Abby.
Much earlier in "Grace Period" Ducky mentioned that he had tried giving Jimmy a Gibbs slap, but Jimmy "appeared to enjoy it."
Trademark Favorite Food: Gibbs' not-Starbucks and Abby's Caf-POW! Occasionally subverted, as Gibbs can be seen drinking coffee from Panera Bread early on. The not-Starbucks, however, is far more prominent.
Toyed with in one episode in which Gibbs (with his coffee in-hand) becomes engrossed watching Abby and McGee (both drinking Caf-POW!) showing him evidence on the computers in Abby's lab, Gibbs sets down his coffee, drinks are shuffled around the desk, and he gets handed McGee's Caf-POW!. He takes a big, hearty drink (with the straw) while distracted; his eyes go wide, he rips off the lid, spits it back into the cup, hands it back to a thoroughly devastated McGee, takes his coffee, and walks off.
In the Season 7 premiere a terrorist is tracked down to Somalia because he imported Caf-POW!.
Ziva's orange cap; it's a reminder of the victim from "Dead Man Walking".
Kate's desk, for about three episodes.
Tranquil Fury: Ricki's dad in the flashback scenes of "Hit and Run," especially when Abby returns the teddy bear she got from her grandpa (whom the dad doesn't like.) The grandpa is white, so it is implied that racial tension is involved. Abby did grow up in New Orleans, after all.
Trauma Induced Amnesia: Gibbs after getting blowned up in season 3 finale, and DiNozzo in the season 9 premiere after getting shot. They both get better.
True Companions: Put Gibbs in the "Team Dad" role, and the cast starts to look a lot like a standard sitcom Five-Man Band. Do not hurt a member of Team Gibbs. They will hunt you down. And they will end you.
You can actually regard them as an actual family. Gibbs as the father, DiNozzo and McGee as the jock-and-nerd quarrelling brothers who seek Dad's approval, Ziva as the tomboy daughter that likes to play with her brothers, Abby as the young Daddy's Girl, Ducky as the odd uncle who loves to tell stories and Palmer as the weird cousin who is sometimes pushed aside.
Tyke Bomb: A plot point of S7 Ep07, "Endgame", involving a North Korean assassin who was raised, along with other young girls, for the purpose of being so.
Unexplained Recovery: Fornell died in one episode, then showed up at the end without any explanation (though everyone but Gibbs was surprised).
Tony: Didn't you die? Fornell: I'm feeling much better.
Unorthodox Holstering: Largely averted, as the team members almost always wear their sidearms on their "strong side" hipnote (specifically, outside-the-waistband paddle holsters, oriented to "FBI forward cant", although in Season 8, Tony shifted to a 'Jackass'-style shoulder holster rig) though several times they have experienced difficulties when changing where or how they carry. A mini-dress wearing undercover Agent Lee once complained that she could "barely walk straight" because of the location of her gunnote (Get your mind out of the gutter), and while dating Jeanne, Tony once almost blew his cover when trying to control a potentially violent situation by reaching for his gun...which he had forgotten he wasn't wearing.
Unsettling Gender Reveal: In one episode, Tony dates a woman who turns out to be a male seeking gender reassignment surgery. This is made all the more awkward by the fact the woman had killed a Marine and was intending to kill Tony before the night was over.
Urban Legend Love Life: Tony, starting in season five. He acknowledges in Season Six that he's going through a dry spell since falling in love while undercover. He just doesn't want anyone to know.
Gibbs uses the elevator (emergency stopped, of course) as his own private conference room, so this results in many of these.
Boss using the elevator as an office again?
In one episode, Gibbs essentially put McGee in "time out" by forbidding him from leaving the elevator as a punishment for a major screw-up.
In the "Abby's ex is stalking her" episode, Abby eventually hides in the elevator because she read some statistic that elevators are about the least likely place to die in the United States. Subverted when she realizes that the average person spends just a minute a day in an elevator, and if she moves into one, her chances increase thousandfold.
In Season 7, a massive power outage causes McGee and Ziva to be stuck in the elevator together all night.
As one example for the former, they were required to go undercover as a couple of assassins. You read that right, couple. As in married couple. They engage in simulated sex for the benefit of a surveillance camera... and fool the guy who can tell if a person is faking an orgasm, who happens to enjoy *
the "fake" porn
manning the camera.
The entire Season Four has Ziva showing some jealousy at Tony's conversations with Jeanne (even if she tries to hide it as something else).
The tension is taken to the next level in Season Six, where Tony is obviously pining for Ziva and clearly jealous of her relationship with Michael. Of course, killing Michael doesn't help his chances, and probably kills any possibility of hooking up with Ziva in the near future.
Then again in season 7 Tony basically puts his life on the line to rescue Ziva, and while they are both captives and he has been injected with Truth Serum he warns her not to ask questions she doesn't want answers to.
Then again they're being rather cagey about who took the bed and who took the sofa while they were in Paris...
In season 9, Tony calls Ziva to tell her that the Navy officer she is safeguarding is actually the man they suspect of having hired an assassin to kill the officer. When she hangs up, the officer asks her if it was her boyfriend and she just gives a little smile that may say much more than what it seems...
Gibbs and Jenny (though theirs used to be resolved).
McGee and Abby. When McGee has an onscreen girlfriend and before she turns out to be an assassin, Abby is noticeably torn between wanting him to be happy and just wanting him.
Gibbs and Kate, arguably.
Suggestive comments: in Sub Rosa, an emergency blow on a nuclear sub throws Kate into Gibbs' arms. His response to her "Wow"? "That's what they all tell me". In My Other Left Foot, Gibbs also claimed to know that the tattoo on Kate's butt was not a rose. It's also Gibbs, not Tony, who suggests Kate try on the Puerto Rican two piece Tony gave her - a bikini bottom and a hat, a comment that would be unremarkable from Tony, but is not nearly so typical of Gibbs.
In My Other Left Leg, Kate shows quite a bit of jealousy and curiosity when Gibbs flirts shamelessly with a possible suspect.
Gibbs' bezerk button is triggered when Ari asks after Kate (quote: "Go near her and I don’t care what government agency is watching your back, I will kill you this time."), and to an extent when Tony teases Kate about the wet t shirt competition photograph. It's also Kate who appears dead in Gibbs' nightmare about Ari.
The Uriah Gambit: Vance is revealed to have been originally recruited to NIS in 1991 almost specifically for his expendibility. Obviously, it didn't go as planned.
Very Special Episode: The 2 part episode, "Shell Shock" edges into this territory with much screen time being devoted to a marine's PTSD troubles.
Viewer-Friendly Interface: The strangest example has to be the 3-D graphic of a hard-drive when scanning a perp's computers, but even the main office contains magical displays that are able to zoom in on whatever part of a digital document is being referred to with a simple click of a remote.
Villainous Breakdown: KyleBoone, Serial Killer, in the episode 'Mind Games'. He has two actually. He has the first, a minor one, when Gibbs "shoots" him with an unloaded gun instead of actually killing him in cold blood. The second is his real breakdown. It happens when he uses one last psychological attack to rattle Gibbs and put a stay of his execution. It has to do with an agent working under Gibbs (Cassidy) who Boone has his lawyer/protege abduct, torture, and kill. The breakdown at the end of the exchange:
Boone: Hey, do you think she screamed, when he cut out her tongue, Jethro?
Gibbs: I don't know. Why don't you ask her yourself?
*cue agent Cassidy walking into the room and Boone's giant grin melting into shock*
Cassidy: I'm afraid your lawyer's going to miss your execution tomorrow.
Vomiting Cop: An amnesiac Gibbs, being brought up to speed on recent history, succumbs to this trope when his old mentor tells him about 9/11.
Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During the episode "Yankee White," Kate is unknowingly (at first) suffering from the flu. Gibbs makes her vomit into an clear evidence bag since the case they are investigating involves poisoning.
Combined with a Vomit Discretion Shot in the episode "Chimera." The first person to end up dead vomits all over another crewmate as he is dying. The initial projectile is shown in all its glory, but he then vomits on the floor — concealed by the character bending over out of frame.
S2 Ep15, "Caught On Tape", has a Type 1. Kate names the dog of the killer, Tony, even though it's a girl. This leads to a humorous scene where Tony is listening in on Kate and Abby talking about whether Tony likes them, how cute Tony is, and how they could share Tony.
Tony returns the favour some time later, although on a fictional dog. While undercover as an escaped convict with real fugitive (to follow him to his partner), Tony is unable to contact the team to let them know where he is. He manages to leave them a message via a random civilian by pretending to be looking for his dog, Kate, who is apparently shaggy and mangy.
S5 Ep13, "Dog Tags" has another Type 1. A military police German Shepard that Abby has to examine for evidence, who she names Jethro.
Tony has a pet goldfish named Kate.
We Want Our Jerk Back: When Tony abruptly goes into "serious mode" Ziva and McGee first thinks he's joking, then trying to make them look bad in front of an assistant DA and later believes he is going crazy. It turns out he was feeling guilty for not noticing a woman he had a one-night-stand with who thought they were soulmates was actually seriously depressed and was trying to make up for it by not making fun of everyone. He got better after Ziva gives him a pep-talk.
In "Kill Ari," Gibbs briefly starts acting nice, even offering to buy Tony and McGee coffee. Abby doesn't notice a difference, but Tony is horrified and spends a portion of the episode trying to annoy Gibbs into his usual personality.
“Well Done Son” Guy: Tony; slightly subverted in that Gibbs has always been proud of him...he just doesn't feel the need to say it. This has lessened in later seasons, after Gibbs left his team to Tony during his Mexican sabbatical. This quote is from season six's "Bounce":
Tony: Save the pep talk. We both know I screwed up.
Gibbs: Yeah, three years ago. But now you're making it right...and me proud. You've been doing a hell of a job, Anthony.
McGee; the episode in which his father first appeared had Gibbs and the others react strongly in the negative to the fact that Admiral McGee didn't actually seem to know who Tim was. Gibbs went so far as to make a contemptuous speech about how all the man was was an empty suit that wore medals and made demeaning comments about his estranged son.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: A Marine captain who, because he wanted to prevent his men from being tortured to death like his younger brother, decided to torture them the same way his brother was to toughen them up. When one of them accidentally died (followed not long after by his friend), the others rationalized it by saying they were weak.
Wet Sari Scene: A Nipple and Dimed (by pouring water) photo on one when a drunken Tony discovers strait-laced Kate once entered (and won) a wet T-shirt contest. He never lets her live it down. She doesn't get a chance to because Ari doesn't let her live three episodes later.
"Twilight" has Kate being murdered in the last seconds.
"Shabbat Shalom" has Eli David and Jackie Vance being murdered.
"Berlin" ends with Tony and Ziva getting into a car accident.
"What Do They Fear?" Episode: "BÃªte Noire" points out a few of the main characters' (plus Ari who first appears in this episode but becomes a recurring character) fears.
Tony fears vampires.
Abby fears going to Autopsy (but gets over it soon after).
Gibbs fears having to be taught about technology.
Ari fears butterflies.
Whodunnit To Me: "Dead Man Walking". A lieutenant is poisoned via radiation and asks NCIS to solve who did it to him before he starts getting really sick. He survives to the end of the episode, but dies offscreen a few shows later.
Wild Card: Tony describes himself as one when captured by Saleem.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: A guy exploits vulnerabilities in the entire Navy fleet to avenge his son, who died when a terrorist exploited a flaw in his battleship.
The Worf Effect: Want to show how awesome a new threat is?? Have them take down Ziva in a fight.
Working With The Ex: Seasons three through five had Director Jenny Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs, who had formerly been lovers.
Write Who You Know: McGee's based a series of thriller novels he's written on his coworkers and miscellaneous civilians. He is a best-selling author, under the Pen Name of "Thom E. Gemcity". Despite his picture being on the back cover, he's almost never recognized. This causes problems when a Loony Fan starts killing people based on actions taken by their fictional selves in McGee's next book (the killer had been reading McGee's typewriter ribbons to get a sneak peek). In that episode, McGee finally admits that he bases the characters in his books off the NCIS team (after the content of his latest book had been revealed, he'd made it a point to deny the similarities).
This gets lampshaded in the episode "Friends and Lovers", when the team has to investigate a high-class nightclub. Rather than make up a celebrity to get into the place, they simply send in McGee using his "Gemcity" identity, complete with a trio of female admirers (Ziva, Abby, and Michelle Lee).
Played with in the "Doppelgänger" episode when the McGee analogue fetches coffee for Gibbs and his counterpart.
This is also played with when one of the team members (usually McGee) drinks or spills Gibbs' coffee, leaving them stammering, sputtering, and scrambling to get him a fresh cup.
This panic exists, but with the exception of Tony. Upon accidentally getting each other's coffees, he and Gibbs take a sip, pull disgusted faces, and calmly swap and keep drinking, all without saying a word or looking at one another.
Director Shepard also had immunity, Gibbs GAVE her his coffee at least twice, and one time she actually stole his cup and drank from it. Considering their history, it's not surprising...
The daughter of the drug dealer who killed Gibbs' family to Gibbs; it turns out she's now the leader of the gang and she's the one who's been orchestrating all the Mexican intrigue.
Variation: You killed my daughter. Prepare to Die. — Gibbs' former mother-in-law to the Navy captain who was the main connection to the drug dealers that killed her daughter and granddaughter (the closest she could get to the actual murderers) — as he's on his knees about to propose to her. Gibbs later reveals to her that he avenged his family and "illegally" arrests her in her lawyer's presence to negate the charges.
Another variation: You (tangentially) killed my son: A young Navy recruit was arrested by Gibbs after he and a friend played a prank. The recruit's dad, a technological firm CEO, had them transferred to another ship which was blown up by a terrorist who found a flaw in the ship's design. Years later the guy blames Gibbs for his son's transfer, and he knows at least two deadly flaws in the fleet.
Ziva is about ready to go into this, with her father gunned down in a drive-by shooting arranged by his protege.