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Series: NCIS
The cast, as of Season 11 (from left to right):
Palmer, Vance, Sciuto, Gibbs, DiNozzo, Bishop, McGee, Mallard.

NCIS is an American primetime television series created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill for CBS about Navy criminal investigators. The show is a spinoff of JAG (1995-2005), which in addition to the parent series’ military theme and occasional Spy Drama also leaped on the Forensic Drama bandwagon started by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. NCIS stands for "Naval Criminal Investigative Service"; like JAG, it is based on a real organization within the Department of the Navy, and also much less action-packed in real life than the Hollywood-style fictionalized version the show depicts.

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 Major Cases Response Team team is led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon), a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who Always Gets His Man, and contains a rather colorful collection of detectives and lab workers.

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 2014, is ratings-wise the number one show on network television. NCIS debuted in September 2003 and is currently airing its 12th season, thus surpassing the already long 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.

Recent episodes can be viewed free on CBS's site here.

It has two spinoff series: NCIS: Los Angeles, which premiered in 2009, and NCIS: New Orleans, which premiered in 2014 and stars Scott Bakula.

Editing note: If you intend to place a link to this page on other pages, you must type ''Series/{{NCIS}}'' for the customized title to properly take effect.


This show contains examples of:

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    A-E 
  • Abusive Parents: Eli David is basically an Affably Evil sociopath.
  • 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.
  • Action Insurance Gag: Played for Drama in one episode when Tony gets a car totaled by the Arc Villain. The next episode he's on the phone with his insurance agent, who informs him that, since this is the third car it's happened to, the company is considering dropping him as a client.
  • Adorkable:
    • In "Jurisdiction", the CGIS expy of Abby is a cute Asian Meganekko wearing Nerd Glasses.
    • In "Singled Out", Ziva is "dorked up" to participate in speed dating to find a suspect.
    • Jimmy Palmer is fairly adorkable in his own right.
  • Adult Fear: In S4 E2, Fornell is at a party with his daughter when she is approached by a criminal Fornell put away. It's a very tense scene as they talk, enhanced by the fact that everybody in the room besides the two are oblivious. But the Adult Fear kicks in with the man's threat to keep Fornell from following him from the party. Sure, he turned out to be innocent, but that scene gives us a reason for doubt throughout the episode.
    Paulson: Now I'm going to walk out of here. You'll want to follow. But you realize something, and end up just reaching for that cell instead.
    Fornell: Really.
    Paulson: Yeah.
    Fornell: What's that?
    Paulson: I might not be alone. (touches Emily's shoulder) Bye, sweetie.
    Emily: Bye.
    (walks out while Fornell moves closer to his daughter)
    • During an investigation into a supposed case of rape in "Alleged", Vance is worried about his daughter's intention of becoming an officer with the US Navy due to the possibility that she may be a potential victim when she gets older.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The merchant of death, René Benoît.
    • Ari Haswari, Mossad double agent extraordinaire.
    • The Reynosas, a Mexican Brother-Sister Team that declared a feud on Gibbs. They are actually among the series' most sympathetic villains.
    • Eli David, Ziva's father.
  • The Alibi: One 11th season episode uses "Alibi" as a title. A Marine is killed in a hit and run. The vehicle owner is suspected. Said owner uses attorney/client privilege to secure his alibi. The attorney checks out the alibi and confirms it. The attorney promptly points Gibbs at a second crime without directly connecting it to her client. Turns out, he was across town, committing a different crime at the time. See the trope description for why the attorney/client privilege would only have been a stopgap if the case went to trial.
  • The Alleged Boss: Gibbs tends to run roughshod over NCIS directors.
  • 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 either Abby, Tony, or Gibbs.
  • Always Gets His Man: Gibbs...because, well, he's Gibbs.
  • Always on Duty: Gibbs' team appears to be the only agents at NCIS headquarters who handle investigations, any others having been killed, transferred, or vanished into thin air over the years.
    • Gibbs is also a workaholic so he comes in early and stays late and his Death Glare is more than enough to keep his team at their desks as well, to McGee and Ziva's displeasure.
    • Tony might complain about being tired, but he actually puts in even longer hours than Gibbs, coming back to the office even after his boss has gone home.
  • 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.
  • Amicable Exes: Gibbs and Wife #2 Diane, and Fornell with Diane. They can get along civilly and work together, if things get a bit stressed at times when baggage comes up.
  • 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: Chris Pacci, Kate Todd, Paula Cassidy, Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks, Eli David, Jackie Vance... and two of these were in the opening credits.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License - Military: NCIS is—for a dramatic television series—fairly accurate in terms of military protocol and procedures. However, as one may reasonably expect, Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama always take precedence above accuracy whenever it benefits the story.
    • Case in point: The episode where an undercover FBI agent fails to outrun a 500 pound air-dropped bomb on a range more fit for hand grenades.
  • Assassin Outclassin': In the season 11 premiere, the team learns that Ziva (Currently at a family estate in Israel) is in danger of assassination. A rescue team rushes there to rescue her only to find that it's too late - Ziva already killed all the assassins, and has moved to some other location.
  • Atonement Detective: Gibbs.
  • Audit Threat: Both Tony and Gibbs occasionally make one.
  • Author Appeal: Ever since Shane jumped on as producer, there's been a lot more Abby fanservice and a lot less Abby/McGee.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • 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.
    • In 7x22, "Borderland," Abby's presenting at a law enforcement symposium in Mexico. One woman insults her fashion sense by asking her who told her that the Day of the Dead was in May. Abby retaliates by providing very detailed facts about the woman based solely on observing her, leaving said woman speechless.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: S10 Ep11 starts out with a man and his teen son fishing in the cold. The cold boredom generates an awkward discussion. Son catches an ear and both kinda freak.
    Son to father and Gibbs: This is the most awesome thing to ever happen to us!
  • Backstory:
    • All characters have some, such as Gibbs having lost his first wife and daughter and his multiple divorces.
    • In a Running Gag, Ducky is always interrupted when commenting on his life stories.
    • Several characters' backstories, including Vance's, are brought into sync during the episode "Enemies Domestic".
  • Badass: Gibbs, Ziva (who's a Badass Israeli). All of the main cast get at least one badass moment over the course of the show's run, though.
  • Badass Adorable: Abby is irresistibly cute and perky but has shown on multiple occasions that she can hold her own in a fight, specifically in the season three episodes "Frame-Up" and "Bloodbath".
  • Badass Crew: Team Gibbs. Full stop. Even off-duty.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Mike Franks, literally.
    • Jackson Gibbs is fairly badass in his own right although he's not really a grandpa anymore.
    • Ducky gets his own moments of this occasionally, like when he faced Ari at gunpoint and told him he would enjoy weighing his liver and had Fornell in a sleeper hold.
    • In "Broken Arrow", DiNozzo Senior has a small badass moment himself.
  • Badass Mustache: Gibbs sported one for a few episodes in early season four. It freaked out Tony and McGee. After Gibbs shaves it off, Fornell later inquires about it's whereabouts:
    Gibbs: I need you to look at something before you leave.
    Fornell: You've got that mustache in a box, don't you?
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • In the season 9 finale, Harper Dearing succeeded in using Director Vance's car as a car bomb at the NCIS parking lot, and caused some deaths besides that of Jonathan Cole, who was caught in the explosion trying to defuse the bomb.
    • 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.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy:
    • 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 themnote .
    • Female cadavers are usually shown with their chest cavity already opened so that they do not have to cover their breasts too. That's right: open chest cavities are apparently less offensive than bare boobs.
  • 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.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The team averts it regularly, but especially in Season 7's premiere. Team Gibbs rocks the dirty and blood-caked look.
  • Becoming the Mask: Tony in season four.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Gibbs:
      • Trying to harm anyone he cares about, especially if it's a member of his team, and especially if it's Abby.
    Gibbs (to Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend): The only reason you're still walking around is because I just found out about you.
    • Abby actually lampshades this in the same episode.
    Gibbs: Why didn't you come to me, Abby?
    Abby: Because, Gibbs, I wanted him restrained. I didn't want him beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat!
    • People who do harm to kids, especially their own.
    • Messing with his coffee, although his reaction to this is fairly minor in comparison to the others.
    • In "Lost and Found", we learn through her conversation with McGee that Abby's two biggest pet peeves are people who claim to be vegetarians but still eat chicken, and poorly-handled evidence.
      • Also:
    Gibbs: Abs, are you okay?
    Abby: Do I look okay? What is Abby's rule number one? Do not lie to Abby!
    • Beat the crap out of Ziva, she's okay with it. Shoot at her... fine. But don't, don't call her "Ma'am", and never ever hurt Tony... She also doesn't enjoy being groped, as displayed in "Singled Out"
    • Ducky shows a couple of his own:
      • In "Seadog", he goes ballistic on a local LEO who contaminates a crime scene so he can get in good with the news reporter on the scene.
      • In the beginning of "Identity Crisis", Ducky leads a class of med students in a sample autopsy, only to find mercury in the dead body's brainstem. He is quite livid at the medical examiner who okayed the body for the demo autopsy without noticing that the body had been murdered. That said, when the examiner apologized and explained how soon after finding a dead John Doe, they had a rush of bodies from a bus crash and the man got lost in the shuffle, Ducky calms down.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Tim and Tony may seem a bit off-beat but they are skilled interrogators. They once used Christmas cookies to catch a guy lying.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Tony and Ziva, after 8 seasons of Will They or Won't They?, get theirs at the end of Ziva's farewell episode and it is glorious.
  • 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.
    • A variation occurs in "Shabbat Shalom". The team are going through old things they used on undercover ops and find a picture from an unseen mission when Ziva masqueraded as a pregnant woman. She keeps the photo and even shows it to her father when he shows up. At the episode, both her father Eli and Jackie Vance were dead.
  • 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 or the timing is terrible.
    • The ending of "Skeletons":
    Mann: You made the right call letting the girl go. It seems you always make the right call when it involves a case.
    [They open the door and find said girl chopping up a corpse]
    Mann: Oh son of a...[end credits]
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper:
    • While Undercover as Lovers, Tony and Ziva have (simulated) sex because they know the room is being filmed.
    • In "Twilight", Tony listens in on what he thinks is a conversation between Kate and McGee about Kate's feelings for him, but Kate is fully aware that Tony is listening in and ends up dumping a water bottle on his head.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Ziva, very frequently. A Running Gag.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger:
    • 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. While they survived, with Ziva sustaining minor injuries, the previews heavily implied her death. The fact that Cote de Pablo was in contract negotiations led to massive speculation that she had, in fact, been killed off.
    • The final episode of Season 10 has Tony, Ziva, and McGee all resigning, and 4 months later, Gibbs is in the middle of an apparent failed undercover sting, training his sniper rifle on Fornell. We later find out that he was not aiming at Fornell, but at his protectee, who was involved with a terrorist organization that had made attempts on the lives of the team. Ziva, shaken up by the events, decides to remain in Israel for good.
  • 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").
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Hilariously subverted in "Designated Target." Ziva asks Tony how to tell someone you no longer wish to see them (while talking on the phone), and Tony tries to help...only to find out the conversation is not what he thought it was.
    Tony: Listen, dirtbag, this is Ziva's husband. I have your phone number now, I can find your address; if you ever try to contact her again, I will reach down your throat, grab your intestines, rip them out and drive over your head! Lose this number or lose your life! [hangs up, hands the phone back to Ziva] You're welcome.
    Ziva: That was my Aunt Nettie from Tel Aviv. She was trying to stop seeing her eighty-six-year-old mah jong partner.
    Tony: Why didn't you stop me?
    Ziva: Too stunned.
    Tony: Where do I send flowers?
    Ziva: If you communicate with her again, I will kill you.
  • 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.
  • Brains and Bondage: Abby.
  • 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 Goth Lab 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.
  • California Doubling:
    • 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 EverBank 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.
    • One episode features Gibbs and Ziva driving down a wide boulevard with steep-sided hills covered in dried grass and rock outcroppings in the near background. Such hills are common in the Los Angeles basin, but would be much further away and covered in trees in Virginia where the episode is supposed to take place.
    • The team is often seen canvasing the scene of a crime somewhere in DC or the surrounding area. Anyone who knows DC will know that there are absolutely NO bridges with art deco style decorations. Los Angeles, however, is littered with them.
  • Call Back: Numerous occurrences.
    • Two to JAG:
      • In season 6, Tony is Agent Afloat on the USS Seahawk, a ship commonly seen in the parent series.
    • In a late season 10 episode, Rear Adm A J Chegwidden is Gibbs' lawyer.
    • 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 
    Tony (after getting his first Dope Slap from Gibbs): Did you just physically assault me? Don't do that again.
    Chris Pacci: My stomach is going to kill me.
  • 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.
  • Captain Ersatz: In-universe. McGee works on the side as a book author, and he bases the characters in his books after the members of the team: LJ Tibbs-Gibbs, Lisa-Ziva, Tommy-Tony. He even has Lisa and Tommy as the Official Couple.
  • 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.
  • Cargo Ship: Invoked; Abby loves "Major Mass-Spec":
    Abby: Ohhh, I love this machine! (to Gibbs) If Major Mass-Spec were a guy, I would totally marry him and bear his little mini-Mass children.
  • The Cast Showoff:
    • 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.
  • Catch Phrase: A few.
    • Gibbs: "Grab your gear", almost always followed by "We've got a dead [sailor/Marine] in [location]", "Ya think?", "What's the point, McGee?", "Yeah, Gibbs."note , and "That's a good question, [Character]. Why don't you find me an answer?"
    • Tony, McGee: "On it, boss."
    • Abby: "I hate it when he/she/they does/do that."
    • Gibbs' "Never apologize; it's a sign of weakness" is used by multiple characters over the course of the series.
  • Cat Fight:
    • 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.
  • Caught on Tape: The premise of the episode "Dead Reflection".
  • Cell Phones Are Useless:
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Character Development: Everyone gets some, but in particular: Tony starts out as The Big Guy in the first 2 seasons, then becomes The Lancer during season 3 and during season 4 he becomes co-hero with Gibbs. McGee, at first, was the Naïve Newcomer, then during season 2 he became The Smart Guy and around season 4 developed into The Lancer.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In the pilot episode, which takes place on Air Force One, Gibbs makes several references to the 1997 movie Air Force One. This contrasts with Tony later being the one who makes movie references.
    • 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.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Case of the week aside, the "dear departed" include NCIS agents in the opening credits (Field Special Agent Kate Todd, Director Jenny Shepard), their close relatives (Mossad Director Eli David, father of Ziva David; Jackie Vance, wife of Director Leon Vance); (Jackson Gibbs, father of Gibbs), other good guys (Mike Franks, Secnav Clayton Jarvis, Gayne Levin, Simon Cade, Chris Pacci, Paula Cassidy), and of course, bad guys (Ari Haswari, Rene Benoit, Merton Bell). And that's not counting the multitude of others in the NCIS universe, including the spinoff series, who have "jumped ship."
  • The Chessmaster: René Benoît.
  • 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. The rifle is later used in season 11 finale "Honor Thy Father" to knock the support on a truck to crush an assassin hired to kill 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.
  • Choke Holds: One victim of the week died of this.
  • Christmas Episode: In the tradition of JAG, NCIS started doing these in Season Six.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The team's run-ins with the CIA througout the series have been typically unpleasant for one reason or another, but the season 10 finale heads fully in this direction, hinting at a grand-scale conspiracy going on within the CIA's ranks.
  • Circling Vultures: The series has used the spot-the-vultures technique of finding human remains.
  • Clear My Name: Practically contractually obligated for every member of the team, complete with Lampshade Hanging from Tony:
    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...
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • In "Broken Bird", from an interrogator that Ducky had to work with during his RAF service in Afghanistan. Late in the episode, he reveals that his repeatedly torturing one particular person that Ducky kept patching up and that he knew had no information was actually Stuffed into the Fridge 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.
  • Cold Sniper: What Gibbs is best known for.
    • In the Season 7 opener, he takes out the terrorist holding Tony, McGee, and Ziva hostage from something like a mile away...and walks in the door about 15 seconds later.
    • Averted, however, when he took revenge for his murdered wife and daughter. Hard to be emotionless after that.
    • Ari is portrayed as one.
  • The Commandments: The fifty-or-so Rules that Gibbs uses to run his team.
  • 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.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: This exchange also falls under I Know You Know I Know:
    McGee: Tony says if I really want to go [to Baghdad], then I shouldn't volunteer. But if he says I shouldn't volunteer, then he thinks I will volunteer, which means; if I really want to go, I shouldn't volunteer.
    Abby: That's...good, Timmy....Sounds like you're - not doing exactly what you - shouldn't.
  • 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 "Bete Noire", "Trojan Horse", and "Stakeout"
    • 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?" He's not above joking about it himself:
      Tony: And to think, I almost made it through an entire year without being accused of murder.
    • The high likelihood of Abby's assistant turning out to be the culprit has been pointed out:
      Tony: Like I said, it's always the maid.
      Ziva: No, you have said that it's always the janitor, or the butler, or anyone assigned to work in Abby's lab.
    • The PC's, the gang from S6Ep16 show up again in Season 7, episode 9.
    • A quick one in the S11 premier. Abby is thinking out loud that they should have done more to prevent the events from the S10 finale, like a hunger strike. Palmer says he couldn't do that because he gets lightheaded without a 4 o'clock snack, a nod to the character's diabetes.
  • 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.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In Season 10's "You Better Watch Out" two robbers decided to hit a place without much security in the Washington DC area on May 2, 2011. This is the night the Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Ladin. As a result, Homeland would have increased satellite surveillance on the capital in case of retaliation. As a result, the robbers were caught on that tape.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Tony and Ziva get one in season 10's "Berlin."
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: McGee tends to get these from Gibbs for major screw-ups. 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. When he gets the finished boat out of the basement, no one knows how he does it. Knocking down one of the walls is mentioned a few times, but it's never confirmed.
  • Cool Car: Most of the cast members are seen driving a cool car of one kind or another at some point.
    • Ducky's Vintage Morgan. Complete with right hand drive. He restored it from near-rubbish to pristine condition.
    • Gibb's 1971 Dodge Challenger muscle car his father had been hanging onto after restoring it for him.
    • Abby's 1930's Ford hot rod.
    • Tony's 1960's Mustang.
    • Ziva's Mini.
  • 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.
  • Cool Old Guy: Gibbs, and to a lesser extent, Ducky.
  • Creator Cameo: Donald P Bellisario's photo used to be on the NCIS Most Wanted wall and the distinct 'phmpht' sound that accompanies the black-and-white bookends to the show's acts was made by Bellisario puffing into a microphone.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • 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! *Taze*
    • "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.
      Abby: Now can I work alone?
  • Crusading Widower: Gibbs.
  • The Cutie: Abby, occasionally.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Reynosas vs Gibbs.
  • 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.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Monkey-wrenched every which way in "Kill Ari".
    • We see it again after (and even some before) Mike Franks gets killed.
  • Death Glare:
    • Gibbs, bordering on Once an Episode in earlier seasons.
    • 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.
  • Death in the Clouds: The pilot episode, "Yankee White", and "Jet Lag".
  • Deep Cover Agent:
    • Tony in Season 4.
    • Trent Kort, the CIA agent who also infiltrated René Benoît's arms-dealing enterprise.
  • Defiant Captive: In S11 E10, the villain of the episode kidnaps Fornell's daughter. She immediately manages to get important information to the team when contact is first made, and after he seemingly makes his escape after the exchange without any way of being followed (the burn phone he gave them to allegedly tell them her location turned out to have had all of its electronics stripped), she reminds them that she is a Fornell. Cut to the team tracking the bad guy down by a Bluetooth-enabled device that she planted on him.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The show was originally named "Navy NCIS", despite the N standing for Navy. This was most likely done to prevent confusion with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, something which the series lampshades occasionally.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Comes up a few times for Tony and Ziva, notably with Jeanne (Tony) and Ray (Ziva). Ray gets as far as proposing before his fatal flaw is discovered and he is ushered off the show.
  • 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.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: Parodied in the season 10 premiere, when Tony and Ziva are trapped in an elevator. After trying to escape (with Ziva using Tony as a human stepladder to reach the ceiling hatch), the elevator is jarred and knocks them both down. Then:
    Tony: Did we? I thought the earth moved.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Teased for Tony and Ziva twice.
    • Once in "Undercovers" in which they pretend to have sex while undercover as married assassins. It gets a Call Back in season 8, when it comes up in conversation with Tony and McGee and Tony skirts around the question of whether it was all for show or not.
    • And season 7's "Jetlag" in which both Tony and Ziva lie about who took the couch and who took the bed.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?:
    • S7 Ep07, "Endgame", has Tony doing this when McGee walks into the office extremely happy. Tony refers to it as "Pulling a Heston" in a reference to Planet of the Apes.
    • Diana "suggests" this during an op with NCIS and the FBI. Fornell just angrily looks at McGee, the latter telling off Diana that her jokes need to stop.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jackie Vance's. She was too nice a person to speak ill of him so her kids thought he was dead. Vance, who despised him for abandoning Jackie and her brother, changes his mind about letting his kids meet him after he overhears Abby saying that it's Christmas and "forgiveness and charity is infectious!"
  • 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 Israeli Action Girl jumps on an oblivious Tony to save him from a bomb blast.
    • Dr. Mallard in the episode "Meat Puzzle".
  • The Don: René Benoît.
  • Don't Call Me Sir:
    • Gibbs, right down to the "I work for a living" crack. It makes sense; he was a gunnery sergeant, which is a non-commissioned rank.
      Abby: Thank you, sir.
      Gibbs: Don't call me sir.
      Abby: Thank you, ma'am. *walks off*
      Gibbs: *smiles a bit*
    • If you call Ziva "Ma'am"...
  • 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.
  • Double Agent:
    • Agent Lee.
    • 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 Standard: Abuse, 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 it 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.
  • 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.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Ziva in "Under Covers."
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Gibbs has shifted into this mode more than once to intimidate suspects, especially if they're Marines.
    • S3 Ep11, "Model Behavior" had an actual Marine drill instructor, though he wasn't training Marine recruits. He was part of a reality TV show.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Gibbs, Ziva, and Tony in the earlier seasons. When Kate is in a car that a very angry Gibbs is driving, this conversation ensues:
    Kate: Gibbs is driving.
    Abby: I'm saying a prayer in many languages.
    • A quote by Shepard about Ziva is telling (this is after she drove the team's van like a maniac and made Tony puke):
      Shepard: I forgot to mention, I think she may have been an Eastern European cab driver in a past life.
    • Ziva tries to make this a Justified Trope by saying her driving style is good for avoiding ambushes and IEDs. It's pointed out to her that neither scenario is likely to be encountered in the US.
    • In "Aliyah" we find out that even in Israel Ziva is regarded as a crazy driver.
      Eli: With traffic, I wasn't expecting you for another hour.
      Ziva: I drove.
      Eli: Enough said.
    • We find out from Eli in "Enemies Foreign" that we have Ziva's mother to thank for it.
  • Driving Stick: Lampshaded by Ari, when Gerald attempts to use Ducky's car to make an escape.
  • Due to the Dead: Jackson Gibbs received a burial with full honors.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Jenny Shephard takes down five hitmen aiming to ambush her.
    • Mike Franks goes down and does some damage along the way.
    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 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.
    • At the start of the series, Gibbs was a lot more talkative, smiled more often, and had just as many quips as the other characters. He only started settling into the "functional mute"' character towards the end of the first season and it took a while longer for it to properly take hold.
    • Abby had a deeper, huskier voice in the beginning and was flirtatiousnote  with nearly every male character she interacted with (including Gibbs!). It took a while before she became the manic and cheerfully playful character most people know her as.
    • Early on, Tony had a more casual dress style and sloppier hair. He also wasn't as much of a movie nerd and wore glasses in his first appearances.
  • 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.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Ducky impersonates the deceased arms dealer to try to capture La Grenouille.
  • 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.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Several. The most memorable one involves a druggie kid and his equally messed up mother who confesses while the kid is wearing a Hidden Wire.
  • 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.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: From Season 10 "Gone" Miranda Pennebaker, who knows Gibbs, has a reputation for buying and selling pretty much anything, save people. Human trafficking is the one area she didn't get into but because of her connections to that world, Gibbs goes to her to help save an abducted a teenage girl likely slated to be sold as a wife or sex slave.
  • Everybody is Single: Though Gibbs has been married four times (Once widowed, thrice divorced), 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 (until her death) 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. Though the wedding is not shown, his bachelor party occurs in the penultimate episode of the season - as part of a stakeout.
    • 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.
    • Averted with Ellie Bishop, who is married, though her husband has yet to be seen or named.
  • Everybody Lives: "See No Evil" from season two, and "Bait" from season three.
  • Everyone Can See It: It becomes a Running Gag after awhile to have someone outside the team (or working with the team) comment on just how close Tony and Ziva are to each other.
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: The best way to make something personal for the entire team is to threaten Abby. This can be seen when you compare an episode like "Bloodbath," where someone is after Abby, to episodes like "Frame Up," "Reveille," "Probie," and "Recoil," where the threats against Tony, Kate, McGee, and Ziva are take seriously, but not as personally.
  • Everything Is Online: Seriously. Everything. Including pacemakers.
  • Evil Laugh: Tony lets out an epic one when he discovers a picture of the prudish Kate taking part in a wet T-shirt contest. The episode ends with his mad cackling as the camera fades to black.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Gibbs is pretty much an infallible human lie detector. If you lie while he's looking you in the eye, he'll know. Lampshaded back on JAG when he was investigating Harm.
    Harm: How long you been doing this, Gunny?
    Gibbs: Seventeen years.
    Harm: And can you tell if someone's lying to you by looking in their eyes?
    Gibbs: Yes I can.
    Harm: Then why don't you just ask me, Gunny? Why don't you just ask me?
    Gibbs: *pause* Would you kill for your brother?
    Harm: *makes Oh, Crap face*
  • Exact Words:
    • Jimmy Palmer does this with Sexual Harassment Seminar by taking the "No touching other people" policy to its extremes, and the confused bureaucrat who doesn't know he's a coroner.
    Palmer: What if your job includes touching, ah, naked people...
    Woman: That is inappropriate at any time.
    Palmer: Even if they're dead?
    Woman: [sternly] Why are you touching dead naked people?!
    Palmer: Well, I work in autopsy...
    • 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.
  • Eye Scream: Several.
    • In one episode, the victim's eye was missing. He pulled out his own eye and ate it!
    • One episode was kicked off by someone being sent a pair of human eyes.
    • In "Forced Entry" the guy who put together the fake online chats was found with his throat slashed and his eyes gouged out.
    • CIA agent Trent Kort got his eye gouged out by the Port-to-Port Killer.
    • In "Engaged, Part II" a thirteen year-old girl is blinded after terrorists throw hot grease into her face.

    F-J 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Then there's the cocktail dress Ziva wore while undercover as a lounge singer. The back is scooped down so low you can see Cote de Pablo's tanline.
    • Kate as an adult version of a 'Catholic Schoolgirl' and as a Dominatrix. This was the lighter side of a very serious episode.
  • 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.
  • Feuding Families:
    • Season 2 featured a rural area with a Hatfields-McCoys situation.
    • The Reynosas vs Gibbs and his father and teammates.
  • 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.
    Tony:In a tragic story of obsessive hobbying turned deadly, an NCIS agent was discovered in his basement, crushed between a large homemade boat and an even larger bottle of bourbon. (dramatic pause) Film at eleven.
  • First Name Basis: Gibbs's father, Jackson, is the only one who addresses him by his first name of Leroy.
  • Five-Man Band: It depends on the episode.
  • False Flag Operation: The whole point in the end of "Devil's Triangle".
  • 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. These moments are even lampshaded on the cast commentary.
  • Frame-Up:
    • 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.
    • In the season 9 premiere "Nature of the Beast," Tony 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.
  • Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Abby.
  • Freudian Excuse: Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Ziva all have astounding Daddy Issues that can be seen as the cause of all their idiosyncrasies. While Gibbs and Tony are able to reconcile with their fathers after years-long estrangements, McGee's relationship with his father continues to be strained, and Ziva eventually had to retreat into seclusion because all the trauma, which was directly caused by her father, she went through became too much to bear. It isn't until Season 11(!), with the introduction of Ellie Bishop, that an agent of the Major Case Response Team comes from a happy family and is Happily Married.
  • Funny Background Event: In "Life Before His Eyes", if you look at the foreground carefully, you can see Ari and Leon Vance are playing chess.
  • Gay Aesop:S8 Ep12, "Recruited"
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Tony. Pity it's sometimes the wrong one.
    • 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?"
    • In "Flesh and Blood," Ziva is translating a conversation in Arabic. Sayif says something, and Ziva responds, "That is too disgusting to translate."
    • The first episode of the 11th season is called "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot."
  • Girls with Guns: In the first episode of season 9, Dr. Rachel Cranston pegs Tony's type as this, along with being attracted to dysfunctional women because he wants to help them.
    Dr. Cranston: Tony, admit it. You like hot girls who carry guns.
    Tony: Who doesn't like hot girls who carry guns?!
  • Girlish Pigtails:
    • Abby, occasionally.
    • Child genius Angela in S7 Ep09, "Child's Play."
  • 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.
  • Give Me a Sign: Ziva asks for one after the death of her father. Her sign arrives in the form of Tony, offering her support for whatever she needs.
  • The Glomp: Abby, usually to Tony and McGee (especially if they're injured, which seems to be a minor Running Gag).
  • Glove Snap: Tony does this comically quite often.
  • The Government: Interagency cooperation (and competition) comes up a lot. And Benoît? He was working with, or for, the CIA.
  • Grade School CEO: A bit character from one early episode runs a nightclub while still in high school.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Some scenes in Season 4 with Ziva show her a little too interested in who Tony speaks with when using his second mobile phone. Sure you are only worried because he is your partner...
    • Almost every episode in later seasons has a witness/local detective/suspect make a pass at Ziva. Cut to a reaction shot from Tony, looking quite displeased. This is often followed by a snarky remark to said witness/suspect/local detective.
    • Abby's generally not wild about seeing McGee interested in other women, or vice versa. However, Abby has recently befriended McGee's current girlfriend Delilah.
      • Then again, Gibbs's flames tend to put her hackles up as well. Mann, anyone?
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In episode "Singled Out" Ziva threatened a guy who grabbed her ass that she'll rip his arm off and beat him to death with it.
  • The Grim Reaper: In the fourth season finale "Angel of Death", Dr. Jeanne Benoît encounters a little girl outside the hospital who may or may not be the Angel of Death. An odd example from a show usually so completely grounded in reality, especially since it's heavily implied to the viewer that she really is the Angel of Death.
  • 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 Gibbs' 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 firefight.
  • Halloween Episode: "Witch Hunt", "Murder 2.0", and "Code of Conduct"
  • 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.
  • Happily Married: Vance.
    • 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 and sent back into the asylum.
  • Held Gaze: Tony and Ziva, accentuating their UST.
  • 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.
  • Her Code Name Was Mary Sue: Averted in-universe. McGee doesn't make himself the big hero of his books...he does that for his Gibbs Captain Ersatz.
  • 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.
    • Ducky and Dr. Jordan Hampton.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Amnesiac Gibbs' reaction to his Mentor telling him about 9/11.
    • Tony goes into one in the season 7 premiere when he thinks Ziva is dead.
    • Everyone when Mike Franks is killed in "Swan Song". Everyone also had one when Caitlin Todd is killed as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Agent Cassidy, who saves the team from a suicide bomber.
    • Agent Lee when she decides that Redemption Equals Death.
    • 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.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Eli David. He has crossed the Moral Event Horizon a number of times,and it is obvious that he does so because of his determination to protect his people against vicious enemies.
  • 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.
    • This is especially prominent when you compare Tony's maturity and his solidarity with McGee before and after the season two finale.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: One season eleven episode centered around tracking down the source of defective suits of body armor being sent to soldiers at the front. When confronted, the person responsible dons body armor and opens fire on NCIS. Bishop is shot, but survives without serious injury because she's wearing a vest. The perp is also shot in the vest, but because she was wearing one of the defective vests - which were worse than useless - she dies.
  • 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 Hacking: McGee and Abby.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood Nerd: McGee and Palmer. And now Bishop at times.
  • Honorary Uncle: The newest episode reveals Gibbs is this to Fornell and Diane's daughter.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: In the episode "Guilty Pleasure" we are introduced to Det. Philip McCadden of Baltimore PD. He was a Flanderized Expy of Tony and the two movie buffs became fast friends. But when Tony saw McCadden disrespecting McGee during an NCIS case (and not caring if he got some movie trivia wrong), Tony effectively ended their friendship, without even telling McCadden why.
  • Hypocritical Humor: On one occasion Gibbs sees fit to remind McGee that hacking is illegal.
  • Hypothetical Fight Debate: There is a small running gag about the rest of the team talking about who would win in a fight-resident Memetic Badass Jethro Gibbs and such crazy proposals as The Terminator and Batman... and Memetic Badass that he is, the rest of the team puts the odds on Gibbs.
    • It was eventually decided that the only contest was Gibbs vs. Gibbs, but they thought it would just end in a draw.
  • I Am Spartacus: In S10 Ep11, a reporter, whose story might have falsely implicated some sailors in a crime, is found dead which results in them being called in. They all confess to killing the reporter. Tony later lampshades the four sailors.
  • I Call It "Vera":
    • Abby's "Major Mass Spec", and, apparently, her own teeth, though they appear to be masculine names - one is Frank.
    • In one episode, she gives the bugs she is raising as evidence male names, such as George, Norman and the like. George ends up being Regina.
    • According to Gibbs, a Bravo 51 sniper rifle is called a "Kate".
    • In S11, Ep 19: Crescent City Pt 2, Agent Pride calls his Hand Cannon "Charmaine".
  • Idiot Ball:
    • 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 Know Mortal Kombat
    • Justified in S7 Ep09, "Child's Play", which focuses on child prodigies using video games, one of which is Call of Duty Modern 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.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Frequently. A few standout examples:
    • 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.
  • Imagined Innuendo: A little one from "Jack Knife," in which a sleep-deprived McGee totally misinterprets Gibb's request regarding Tony and Ziva:
    Gibbs: Get Ziva and DiNozzo out of bed.
    McGee: What?!
    Gibbs: Wake 'em up.
    McGee: Oh. Oh, right. Get them out of bed because it's the middle of the night and they're asleep.
    Gibbs: (incredulously) Yes.
    McGee: Individual beds. Get them out of individual beds. I was confused. I thought we were talking —
    Gibbs: Need some sleep yourself, do you, McGee?
  • 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.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: The Christmas Episode "Newborn King" had the team defending a very pregnant Marine from mercenaries trying to get the baby, due to it being, if male, the only surviving heir to an Afghan tribe. (She'd fallen in love with the previous heir, who was later killed by the Taliban.) A Maternity Crisis ensues and Gibbs ends up delivering the baby in a gas station while Ziva fights off the mercs in the next room.
  • 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.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: While all the agents on the show have been shown to be excellent marksmen, Gibbs and Tony show almost a supernatural ability to hit whatever they're aiming at.
    • Gibbs is a trained sniper and has been shown making accurate shots over long distances. Impressive once you remember that his eyesight was damaged when he was injured in Desert Storm and should be wearing corrective lenses but rarely ever does.
    • Tony once took down two armed men while shooting single handed and running at full tilt. He also took out the tires of a pickup truck that was speeding away immediately after having tackled his partner out of danger. Note that not one of his shots missed in either of these incidents.
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • In "Jetlag":
      Ziva: "I once killed a man with a credit card."
      • 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.
  • In Memoriam: The Season 11 finale, "Honor Thy Father", in which Jackson Gibbs dies off-camera, is dedicated to his actor, Ralph Waite, who died three months before the episode aired.
  • Initialism Title
  • Innocent Innuendo: Numerous instances...along with the not-so-innocent kind.
  • 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.
  • Iron Lady: Director Shepherd
  • Irony / Dramatic Irony:
    • Jackson Gibbs refused to let his son fire his rifle. He notes the irony in his son becoming a sniper.
    • Both Mrs. Vance and (the first) Mrs. Gibbs were preparing for life after their husbands' deaths but didn't plan on their own.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Joked about in S7 Ep11, "Ignition."
    Ziva: There's nothing good on the internet anymore.
    McGee: Yeah, I think that internet thing has just about run its course.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: One of the main reasons why Amanda Kendall, the titular character in the episode "The Admiral's Daughter", does not want to reveal what's under her party girl persona...She's an undercover CIA agent who uses her party girl persona as cover. Not even her father the Admiral knows this; he would likely have been in danger if he or anyone else did.
  • It's Personal:
    • Even if a case doesn't involve anyone the main cast knows personally, Gibbs takes his ties to the military very seriously. His hunting down the man who murdered his family goes without saying.
    • Amusingly, Gibbs' Rule Number 10 is: Never get personally involved in a case. He admits he has trouble with that one.
    • Jenny Shepard's possibly unwarranted hunt for René Benoît is this, since she believes Benoît killed her father.
  • I Work Alone: Abby, and with good reason.
  • Jack the Ripoff
  • Jerk Jock: Though not in high school, Tony, especially in early McGee episodes. Incidentally, his major was Phys. Ed.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tony, he skirts into Jerk Ass territory.
  • "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.
  • Jurisdiction Friction/Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The team frequently run into jurisdiction issues with the FBI and other government organizations.

    K-O 
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Ari for a while.
    • 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.
  • Know Your Vines: While investigating a murder in a national park McGee has to search a patch of poison ivy for a murder weapon. Tony recognises what the plant is, but decides not to tell him.
  • The Lab Rat: Abby, sometimes McGee.
  • The Lad-ette: Ziva fits this when not in combat.
  • Lady of War: Ziva fits this when in combat.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The show has now started lampshading itself.
    Ziva: "No, Tony, I am not going to rate your butt, you know Gibbs is going to be around that corner!
  • Large Ham: Tony.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The CyberVid killer in "Murder 2.0" is a narcissist who committed and filmed the crimes in a bid for everlasting fame; when Gibbs arrests him, he cackles that even if he goes down for multiple homicides, his name will live on alongside those of Charles Manson and other notorious serial killers, whereas Gibbs will be as forgotten as the men who arrested the serial killers. Cut to a newsreader announcing that, because of suspected terrorist connections, the CyberVid killer's identity is being withheld from the public and will likely never be known.
  • Layman's Terms: Gibbs does this at least Once an Episode.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The episode "Jet Lag" ends with a Ziva looking at a picture Tony took, with her commenting, "I think it would look better in black and white." Cue the ending black and white shot of said picture.
  • Locked in a Freezer: The shipping crate variation for Tony and Ziva in "Boxed In", to capitalize on the UST.
  • 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 List: Ducky's list of interests when he joined Face Book.
  • Long Runner: NCIS has been renewed for its eleventh season. During that season, it aired its two hundred and fiftieth episode.
  • 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.
  • Magnetic Hero: Gibbs. But "he only uses his powers for good."
  • 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.
  • Male Gaze: From Tony's point of view, natch.
  • Mama Bear:
    • S4 Ep06, "Witch Hunt", a Halloween episode. A mother lays the smackdown on a kidnapper after learning that her daughter is safe. Ducky even lampshades the trope.
    • S7 E6. "Outlaws and In-laws" had Mike Franks' daughter-in-law shooting down a pair of mercenaries trying to kidnap her daughter. Franks even names the trope directly.
      Franks: Never underestimate a mama bear when her cub's in danger.
  • Manly Tears: Tony after Agent Cassidy's death.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Speculated on by Abby in regards to Gibbs, who has the seemingly-supernatural ability to appear out of thin air and walk into a room just as an important development is discovered. Abby's even gone as far as to sweep her labs for bugs under the suspicion that Gibbs monitors her progress remotely. Tony demonstrates the same ability whenever he's in charge of the team.
  • May-December Romance: Gibbs regularly gets hit on by women at least twenty years his junior.
    • Not often brought up, but the age difference between Tony and Ziva is roughly 14 years.
  • 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.
  • Meaningful Funeral: New Orleans style.
  • Meganekko:
    • 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.
  • Mission Control: Whomever issues orders from MTAC while the other agents are out in the field. Usually either Gibbs or the Director.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Played With. When Tony's ex-fiance comes to the team for a story, Tony tries his hardest to keep Wendy and Ziva from being alone. He isn't worried about them fighting but the possible personal information Wendy has on him.
    • Gibbs was once confronted by Hollis Mann (his then-paramour), his third wife, and Jenny Shepard (his former lover and current boss). Gibbs can only stand in silence while the women take pot shots at him as Tony and Ziva look on.
    • In a gender-flipped example, Diane (Gibbs and Fornell's shared ex) had to deal with two of her husbands (while in the midst of divorcing her third) and her most recent boyfriend. All four happened to be working on the same case and she'd recently rekindled her romance with Fornell. Emily (Diane and Fornell's daughter) was not pleased to find out that her parents were getting back together.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Both Tony and Gibbs and Tony and McGee on different occasions.
  • Mock Millionaire: Anthony DiNozzo Sr. is a formerly wealthy businessman, who is trying to keep up the appearance that he is still wealthy.
  • The Mole: Michelle Lee.
  • Mood Whiplash: Sometimes. A particularly prominent example is in the tenth season premiere, when Ziva and Tony are trapped in an elevator following the bombing of NCIS. They (of course) bicker, then chuckle with the thought that at least they aren't trapped with a few other colleagues who sweat a lot or undress Ziva with their eyes. Then a thought occurs to Ziva and she asks "Hey, what if those men are dead?"
  • Morality Pet: Abby. She serves as a much-needed outlet for Gibbs' paternal instincts, which arguably keeps him from becoming utterly cold and ruthless.
  • Motor Mouth: Abby, especially when she's really stressed.
  • Mouthy Kid: A few, as either victims, witnesses, or suspects, but probably none funnier than Nick—the young son of McGee's landlord who steals his identity in season 8's "Freedom" and spends over $10,000 on ridiculous things. He tells McGee that he did it because McGee's life is too predictable, and he's "too young to act so old." He even manages to make a pass at Ziva as Tony leads him out of the office.
  • The Movie Buff: Tony
  • Ms. Fanservice: Abby and Ziva tend to rotate between this role.
    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.
  • Multi-Take Cut: Used extensively in the early seasons in pretty much every establishing shot, with a few seconds clearly passing between each cut. Presumably done to give a sense of hurry. They eventually became less elaborate and camera movements were minimized to save on time during production.
  • The Munchausen: Ducky.
  • Murder.com: "Murder 2.0".
  • 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.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: One episode featured a paranoid submariner who killed himself by suffocation when he realized NCIS was closing in. They stow his body in the freezer...then they realize he has a cold-activated nerve-gas bomb in him. Solution to the problem? FIRE HIS CORPSE OUT A TORPEDO TUBE. And all topped off with a Crowning Moment of Funny:
    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.
    • Someone on YouTube has put together a 14 minute video of McGee's McNames.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: A suspected spy named Rudolph (which rhymes with Adolph) Stalin was looked at for planting a bug on the SECNAV, but it was really a military contractor who didn't like the fact that the SECNAV was a civilian (especially since he was also asked to be SECNAV and respectfully declined for the same reason).
  • Neat Freak: Agent Jardine
  • 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.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer:
    • 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:
      McGee: All right. I think I know what happened here.
      Tony: Oh, twenty bucks says McGee's about to say something nobody understands again!
      McGee: The GPS coordinates came bundled in a proprietary packet. Since it was a beta, I thought—
      Gibbs: I'm starting to think you can't help yourself, McGee.
    • In "Baltimore", Gibbs actually throws away one of McGee's reports because of the technical jargon he used.
  • New Media Are Evil: Played straight in earlier seasons, but mostly subverted later. McGee's status as a die-hard gamer has proved useful more than once.
    Ziva: I spoke with the boy who saw the car. He said it was a "silver Kuruma," whatever that is...
    Gibbs: "Car."
    Ziva: What?
    Tony: "Kuruma" is Japanese for "car." Your description of the suspect's car? Is "car".
    McGee: The Kuruma is a car from Grand Theft Auto. It's a Toyota Yaris.
  • New Old Flame: Tony's ex-fiancee Wendy shows up mid-season 9. Whether she'll be the Romantic False Lead, or the actual Love Interest, remains to be seen.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Implements: In season 9, Abby (as Palmer's Best Woman), is planning his bachelor party. She refuses to tell him anything about it and nobody else is giving anything away, either. We only get hints of the things that are required to pull it off, including 50 gallons of body wash and the autopsy saw (with the 20 foot cord; 15 is not long enough). Tony and McGee tell Palmer to make sure he's up on his hepatitis vaccination and bring a good pair of knee-pads and a helmet. When she approaches him to take him to the party, she is in a ringmaster uniform, top hat, and carrying a cattle prod.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • 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.
  • No Sense of Direction: Ducky. He blames his assistants but he's always the one giving directions.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Jimmy comes into the office with an allergic reaction to henna on his back and asks for help to apply ointment. Tony's and Ziva's responses?
    Tony: I have to go to lunch.
    Ziva: I need to get the hell out of here.
  • Not Me This Time: In season 11's Halloween Episode "Oil and Water" someone is pranking the team, such as wrapping McGee's desk up, putting a beeping device in Ducky's lab, and moving Abby's desk a few inches off its normal place. All suspect Tony as he is Tony and he hadn't been pranked. He claims it wasn't him and in the end, is pranked by having weights put into his pack and he tried picking it up unknowingly. In the end the prankster is Gibbs, who was beneath suspicion by the team.
  • Not Proven: In one case, the perp is a gang leader, and the team know he killed a sailor and the previous leader, but can't prove it. So they showed the other gang members their evidence, mentioned that they would never get a conviction, and the leader shows up the next morning dead in a dumpster.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Tony finally finds the beautiful but mysterious ZNN reporter who was uncovering info on her ex-KGB friend, but she's already been poisoned with ricin and dies not long after.
    • Also, Caitlin Todd.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Gibbs is no stranger to playing stupid, especially when dealing with smug characters who believe in their superior intelligence or power. Such as in season 10's "Canary" he purposefully messes up computer terms to make the guy think they are stupider than they are and trick him into their trap all the easier.
    • Tony, especially in later seasons. 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.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Tony deals with one at the end of season 10 in the form of his insurance company. After his third car is destroyed, by the villain of the season, they call him and say because this was the third car destroyednote  they plan on dropping him, despite none of those being his fault. Also, two of those were in the process of doing his job, and shouldn't be held against him.
  • Office Romance: Played with several times, though none last very long. Abby and McGee date early in the series, Tony has a fling with another team leader in season 8, Abby goes on a date with a member from another team, etc.
    • It's explicitly stated in season 8's "Dead Reflection" that there is no rule that prevents NCIS agents from dating each other; they can even be married. However, it is against Gibbs' rules; his personal rule Number 12 is "never date a co-worker" and he frowns upon it in his team.
  • Offscreen 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.
  • 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.
    • In "Hiatus: Part 2", Ziva is conducting an interrogation with a witness whom she has intense hatred for. She sets her gun on the table. Alarmed, McGee asks Tony, who is in charge at the moment:
    McGee: That's not loaded, is it?
    Tony: Would Gibbs allow Ziva to carry a loaded weapon in there?
    McGee: No.
    Tony: And I'm not Gibbs, right?
    McGee: (Oh, Crap expression)
    (Ziva picks up gun and points it at suspect's head)
  • Old Soldier: Jackson Gibbs served in World War II.
  • Omniglot: Ziva speaks ten languages, including the language of love.
  • Omniscient Database: Lampshaded in "False Witness" when there is a national database for the DNA of wild turkeys and both Abby and Gibbs find it weird. (Truth in Television; such a database really does exist.)
  • Once a Season: As of season 7, one autumn episode will involve CGIS Agent Abigail Borin (Diane Neal).
  • Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: Ziva David boasted that she can kill a man eighteen different ways with a paperclip. And from the episode "Jet Lag":
    Ziva David: And plastic silverware is not as safe as you may think. I once killed a man with a credit card.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Happens in S3 E17. Abby is dwelling on the fact that Gibbs apparently forgot her birthday, while McGee is telling her they've just uncovered a Serial Killer. Hilarity Ensues.
    McGee: If our missing woman fits the same profile, we could be dealing with a Serial Killer. One who uses park accidents to cover up abductions and murder. So what do you think?
    Abby: (staring off into space) I'm not sure yet, McGee. But I think...that this might be unforgivable.
    McGee: (confused) Well, yeah, of course it's unforgivable.
    Abby: What if he had a really good reason?
    McGee: A good reason?
    Abby: Yeah, like if he was really stressed out, or overworked -
    McGee: What difference does that make?!
    Abby: Nobody's perfect.
    McGee: Abby, there is no excuse.
    Abby: (hugs him) McGee, that's so sweet! (McGee looks thoroughly confused) You know what, it's just a stupid birthday. Who cares if Gibbs forgot.
    McGee: We - I - uh - guess that I do.
    Abby: That's why I love you.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted. We have Abigail Sciuto and CGIS Agent Abigail Borin. Upon meeting for the first time, they simultaneously introduce themselves as "Abby". In order to avoid confusion, Borin is addressed by her last name or occasionally her full first name, with Abby Sciuto sometimes calling her "Other Abby" for fun. The two have also been collectively referred to as 'Abbs-es'.
    • Gibbs was named after Leroy Jethro, an old friend of his father's. The elder Leroy is addressed as "L.J." to avoid confusion.
    • Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. was named after his father: Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. The elder is addressed as "Senior" by the other characters while the younger is either "Tony" or "DiNozzo".
  • 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.
  • Or So I Heard: The team find the website for a speed-dating event the victim went to. McGee explains the event...rather eloquently. Upon noticing the odd looks, he says this trope verbatim.
  • 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.

    P-T 
  • Pac Man Fever:
    • Played painfully straight in "The Immortals". For one thing, it seems to be confusing online D&D games, with MMORPGs... and, most MMORPGs are pretty damn easy to trace...
    • 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.)
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Gibbs.
    • Mike Franks can be considered a Grandpa Wolf.
  • Parental Betrayal: Eli David, hands down.
  • Parental Neglect: Tony's father. Tony has a strained relationship with his father owing to this neglect; one glaring story involves a young Tony being left at a hotel in Maui for days. His father finally remembered he'd left Tony there when he received the room service bill. On top of that, Tony was shipped off to various boarding schools shortly after the death of his mother, while Dinozzo Sr. remarried several times.
  • 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.
  • Perky Goth: Abby, and her actress, Pauly Perette, in Real Life.
  • Perp Sweating:
    • 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. (e.g. "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.
      McGee: Do me a favor. When you're crying and shivering on your cell bed after a hard day of beatings, I want you to think of me.
    • 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)
  • Person as Verb: Tony, frequently.
  • 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.
  • Pillow Pistol: Tony teases Kate for sleeping with a gun under her pillow, though Gibbs is impressed. Ziva has also been shown to sleep with one hand on a gun hidden beneath her pillow.
  • 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).
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot:
  • Precious Puppies: Dogs have featured in a few episodes, but Mortimer, the rescue-dog-in-training Golden Lab puppy takes the cake. He even cheers Ducky up after his mother dies.
  • Pregnant Badass: The female assassin Ziva impersonates in "Undercovers" is discovered to have been pregnant before being fatally wounded in a car accident. Hilarity Ensues when Ziva decides to share this bit of information with Tony (impersonating the female assassin's also-dead husband), who is in the middle of hitting on another woman. The look on Tony's face when Ziva ends her phone call and tells him "I'm pregnant, Tony" in a complete deadpan voice is just priceless.
  • Pretty Little Headshots:
    • 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.
  • Professional Killer: Ziva's father trained her to be a Mossad operative starting as a child; by the time she reaches NCIS, she is an efficient assassin.
    • Gibbs used to be a sniper and uses it to his advantage on at least one occasion during the series.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: After eight years with the show, Brian Dietzen was finally upgraded to a series regular for season ten.
  • 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.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I am one of the few people, in the world, who can kill you and leave no...forensic...evidence."
  • 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.
  • Put on a Bus: Thematically inverted for Ziva, who stays in Israel while Tony gets on a plane back to the US.
  • Quote Mine: In season Three "Model Behavior" when supermodel Taylor Shane was found dead on a Marine base, the press were all over the entrance trying to get in or talk with someone. When Gibbs was going through, they were shoving themselves in the way and knocked his coffee out of his hands. Very angry but holding it in, he kept on the "No comment" line. When one complained about their story not having much if they don't get answers, Gibbs replied "I don't care." Later, the reporter took that line and added the question "Don't you care about the victim?" or something to that effect and added Gibbs' line to the shot of him walking away. Gibbs is able to convince the station to make a retraction and apology.
  • 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 Writes the Plot:
    • Kate's death was either because Sasha Alexander wanted to have a child, which wouldn't have worked into the episodes very well or because she was exhausted by her role.
    • Pauley Perrette's nightmarish divorce from ex-husband Coyote Shivers may or may not have been the basis for the plot for "Bloodbath," where the team has to deal with Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend, but the parallels are impossible to deny.
  • 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.
  • Rear Window Witness: "Witness".
  • Reckless Gun Usage: S10 Ep16 "Detour" has Palmer (no actual firearms training) with a handgun, which he rather casually waves around. Fortunately, Ducky (military training from many decades past) carefully redirects it away from his face.
  • 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.
  • Red Herring Mole: Brent Langer.
    • 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.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • The ultimate resolution of the season six "mole hunt" plotline.
    • Jonathan Cole in the Season 9 finale, although he unfortunately wasn't able to start bomb disposal before Dearing detonated it.
    • Captain Wayne died fighting against the sniper of his mole's organization, giving Gibbs a chance to stop a corrupt business man.
  • Redundant Rescue: Frequently.
  • 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.
  • Retcon:
    • 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?
    • Vera Strickland from "Under The Radar" is fully aware of this trope. When Gibbs tells her to help Tony out on a case, she loudly protests, using Tony's tendency to attract injury and that she is weeks away from retirement as reasons why she'd rather stay in the office. Vera ends up being nearly run over and needing crutches soon afterwards. At least HR expedited her retirement paperwork due to her injury.
  • Reverse Mole
  • Reverse Psychology: Tony and McGee blatantly use it to hide the fact that they want to go on an overseas assignment. Gibbs knows what's going on and just rolls his eyes and lets the two sort it out for themselves.
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Tony refers to Abby in the season 8 episode "Two-Faced" as "A paradox wrapped in an oxymoron, smothered in contradictions in terms."
  • 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.
    • Even Abby get caught by some of this, thanks to Fornell and Diane.
    • Bishop gets told early on that subverting this trope by warning others about Gibbs being behind them is unauthorized.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The episode that introduced Ellie opened with a presentation on the Zumwalt-class destroyer, a real Navy warship class, the first vessel of which completed construction a month before the episode aired. However, the list of companies involved in building it mentioned at the end of the presentation is entirely fictional.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Gibbs takes off on one of these when Ari kills Kate. He also went on one when his first wife and daughter were murdered.
    • Tony gets one of his own in season 7 when Ziva goes missing. Technically the whole team could count, but especially Tony. After learning of her (misreported) death, Tony has a Heroic BSOD. When he comes out of it, he becomes relentless in his hunt for the person responsible. While being held by Saleem and asked why he came, Tony specifically pinpoints revenge as his motivation for being there.
    Saleem: You were driving the desert with out back up. So what are you doing here?
    Tony:Well Saleem, there's only one force on Earth that can short circuit a man's better instincts, put fire in his veins, makes him dive head long into danger with no regard for his own well being... Vengeance, Saleem. I'm here to kill you.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In "Cracked".
  • 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."
  • Running Gag: Many.
    • In fact, they've evolved over the years.
  • 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.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Caitlin Todd doesn't appear in the Poorly Disguised Pilot; she gets introduced in the first actual episode as a secret service agent who transfers to NCIS for episode 2.
  • Sensitivity Training: Treated by the characters as a form of endurance trial.
  • Separated-at-Birth Casting: Compare David McCallum in his Illya Kuryakin days (the mid-1960s) with Adam Campbell as a younger version of McCallum's character in a season 12 episode (mid-2010s).
  • Sergeant Rock
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: 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.
  • Sexy Schoolwoman:
    • 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.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Somewhat of a Running Gag regarding Tony and Ziva in later seasons.
  • 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?
    • After the death of her father, Ziva prays for a sign that she should not give up hope. Her prayers are answered not ten seconds later as Tony walks through the door, offering her support. Yes, apparently even God ships Tiva.
    • Tony's father ships Tony and Ziva full stop. It's hilarious. From season 10's "You Better Watch Out", when he decides to crash at Tony's place for the holidays:
    Tony: No. No, no, no, no. Because it's not big enough.
    Senior: Oh, come on, Junior. You've got room. (looks pointedly at Ziva)' Doesn't he?
    Ziva (flustered): I would not know. I've never been invited.
    Senior (to Tony): Is that true? What's the matter with you?
  • 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.
  • Shot in the Ass:
    • Gibbs inflicts this on a Serial Killer. It's strongly implied it's on purpose.
    • He does the same to Tobias Fornell in the second episode of season 11. Fortunately, it was actually aimed PAST him: the real target was a cell phone, set to trigger a bomb. Fornell was just a little too close to the path of the bullet. He complains loudly about it afterward as they carry him away on a gurney.
  • Shout-Out: So, so many that we had to give them their own page.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • All of the Hebrew in the show, plus the Jewish references related to Ziva are all accurate, and Cote De Pablo's accent is pretty spot-on.
    • David Mc Callum also does a lot of research to accurately portray Ducky's coroner techniques, and it shows.
    • In "Dressed to Kill", a list of Asian ports are shown with some of the locations that have been previously/currently visited by US Navy ships.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In "Enemies Foreign" the Palestinian terrorist tries to lecture Gibbs about his war. Gibbs' response is basically "Yeah, you're right. Where's the other terrorist?"
  • Silver Fox: Gibbs.
    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.
    • Also:
      Abby: [To Gibbs] Well my silver-haired fox... Gibbs... sorry.
  • Similar Squad:
    • 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.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: McGee and Abby in the first season.
  • Slashed Throat:
    • 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.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tony.
  • 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.
  • Southies: See trope entry.
  • 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."
  • Spin-Off: Of JAG, with two spinoffs of its own (and, yes, they're both being troped.
  • Spoiler Title: "Trojan Horse"; "Aliyah", via Bilingual Bonus; "Shariff Returns."; "Kill Ari", the title of the two-part Season 3 opener.
  • Spotting the Thread: The case of "Dressed To Kill" starts when Tony notices that a Navy officer leaving the hotel his dad is staying at is wearing (Or more accurately, carrying when he should be wearing) a hat whose insignia indicates a rank that does not match the rank indicated by the insignia on his uniform jacket.
  • Staggered Zoom
  • Standard Cop Backstory: Most of Team Gibbs fits the bill, though it's averted (refreshingly) by a few characters who had completely normal childhoods, like Abby and Palmer.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Gibbs loves to sneak up on people. Especially Tony.
  • Stock Episode Titles: NCIS is rife with these, having used the majority of items on the list over its (at press time) 11 seasons.
  • 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.
  • Talking through Technique
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted.
  • Team Dad: Gibbs.
    • 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".
  • Team Pet: Abby.
  • The Tease: Ziva takes immense pleasure in short-circuiting Tony's brain.
  • 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.
    • A sad example. Palmer talks about how the only thing that can go wrong with his and Breena's adoption is the birth mother changing her mind. It's initially played for laughs, but she does change her mind and Jimmy is absolutely devastated.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Gibbs in Season 4.
  • That One Case: Ducky in Lt. Jane Doe.
  • 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.
  • Therapy Is For The Weak: Their initial attitude towards seeing a therapist, though eventually the team gets some long overdue therapy. It . . . seems to help. A little. Very little. See below.
  • 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.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Invoked in season 7's "Jetlag." While escorting a witness back to the US from Paris, they're forced to share a single hotel room. Ziva tells the witness she took the couch, while Tony tells McGee he did.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Tony, being The Movie Buff that he is, references the Trope Namer when interviewing a suspect in "Faith".
    Ziva: 1st Sgt. Tibbins?
    Tibbins [starts to hit on Ziva]: Call me Tibbs.
    Tony [impersonates Sidney Poitier]: They call you Mr. Tibbs?
  • This Bear Was Framed:
    • Happens in an episode, with a serial killer masking his murders in a natural park as accidents — including a grizzly attack. The bear sure did partially eat the corpse, but during the autopsy Ducky finds a stab wound in the heart that is too neat to have been done by bear claws.
    • In another episode "Dog Tags", Abby clears the name of a German Shepherd she has named Jethro.
  • Throwing the Fight: Ziva in the season 4 episode "Shalom" against an Iranian Agent so she would confess who she was, thinking she was going to kill Ziva right after said confession. Ziva laughs, thanks her and promptly knocks her out. Turns out she had a voice recorder and had taped the whole thing.
  • Title Drop: In an emotional conversation with Ziva, Tony reminds her of a Navy lieutenant she'd fallen for and refers to him by a common phrase, a phrase which happened to be the episode in which he appeared: "Dead Man Walking".
  • 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.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kate and Abby, and then Ziva and Abby.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • 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".
  • Too Kinky to Torture:
    • Implied with Abby in "Bloodbath":
      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!.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Ziva's orange cap; it's a reminder of the victim from "Dead Man Walking".
    • Kate's desk, for about three episodes. When Ziva moves on, it returns to tragic keepsake status. Rachel Cranston even discusses this with Bishop.
      • This is so obvious that at first Ellie won't even use the desk, sitting either on the floor or perching on the partition behind it. She lampshades that Ziva is a Tough Act to Follow.
  • 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 Conga Line: Ziva
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Gibbs after getting blown up in the season 3 finale, and DiNozzo in the season 9 premiere after getting shot. They both get better.
  • Trojan Horse: "Trojan Horse."
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback
  • 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. In the season eleven episode "Bulletproof", Ducky actually refers to the team as a family.
  • 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.

    U-Z 
  • Underestimating Badassery: Eli David has a lot of information on Tony Dinozzo. He knows the Tony's great works and his failures. He still let Tony get under his skin when Tony was the one being interrogated by Eli over Tony's involvement in the death of a Mossad agent. Tony even got his interrogator to admit to something he shouldn't have.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Fornell apparently died by hanging 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  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 , 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.
    • Although we only see Tony carry his weapon on his hip or in a shoulder holster, Ziva and McGee once mentioned that Tony annoys the NCIS armorers by regularly visiting them to try out different types of holsters and carry methods.
  • 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.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Ziva tells Tony he should not have come to rescue her in Somalia.
  • 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.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment:
    • 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.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Tony and Ziva in the infamous "Under Covers" episode, where they go undercover as insatiable newlywed assassins. And they're apparently very convincing.
  • Unfortunate Names:
    • "La Grenouille" translates to "The Frog", a very old nickname for people from France.
      • It's noteworthy that La Grenouille's real name is René. In Latin America, Kermit the Frog is named La Rana René (or René, the Frog).
    • It's absolutely no surprise that someone with a name like Donald Mallard should have picked up the nickname "Ducky".
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Tony and Kate to some degree. Productions notes say that a relationship between the two characters was being developed, but Sasha Alexander asked to be released from her contract so they never went beyond belligerent flirting.
    • Tony and Ziva, for eight whole seasons before having to be abruptly wrapped up.
      • 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 note  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...
      • The production team had to give Tony and Ziva some form of closure in the wake of Cote de Pablo's departure from the show and they did, with the barest of hints that there could be more in the future, in a moment Tiva fans spent the better part of a decade waiting for.
    • 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.
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Played with in a piece of UST-heavy dialogue between Ziva and Tony: Ziva wants to say that she has no cellphone reception but mangles her English, and says that she is braless rather than the intended "barless". Tony calmly responds, "Yes, I've noticed."
    • Ziva is, in fact, rather obviously not wearing a bra under many of her outfits.
    • In a couple of scenes where Abby is shown taking her T-shirt off, she is not wearing anything underneath. She does seem to be wearing a bra most of the time, though.
    • Discussed — especially by Tony — when an incident from Kate's past is revealed: she won a wet T-shirt competition in her youth.
  • 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: Kyle Boone, 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.
    Tony: He's kinda dead.
    Gibbs: Enjoy hell.
    Boone: *insert breakdown and screaming here*
  • 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.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Tony and his father, oddly, since Tony is usually portrayed as being the wacky teammate. His father has an even more carefree and laissez faire attitude, which Tony finds irritating and embarrassing. He becomes very serious and hard-faced when his father is around, much to the confusion of his teammates, who find Dinnozo, Sr. to be very charming. Tony's irritation probably isn't helped by the fact that his father takes every opportunity to hit on Ziva while in town.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Tony, Ziva, and Gibbs all do this when woken up unexpectedly.
  • We Named the Monkey Jack:
    • 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.
  • Wedding Deadline: A mild example. The team rescue a Marine who was abducted shortly before his wedding for totally unrelated reasons. After closing the case he contacts his fiancee and they have to rush to the nearest courthouse to get married before it closes for the weekend. Thankfully, McGee cheats - he called ahead with an explanation to ensure that a justice of the peace would stay a little late to marry the couple if they didn't make it on time.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "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.
  • Wham Line: In season 11 "Better Angels" Jackson Gibbs revealed the man who saved him in World War 2 was German.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: "Bête 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.
  • What If?/For Want of a Nail: The 200th episode Life Before His Eyes takes place in a comatose dream where Gibbs reunites with some of the people in his life who had passed on (Franks, his mother, and Shannon and Kelly), where they show what would happen if things turned out differently in his life: if Caitlin never died by Ari's hand, she and Tony would've married, Ziva would've never joined NCIS and would instead be arrested for terrorism. If Gibbs never exacted his revenge against Hernandez for the death of his wife and child, he would've left NCIS and become a reclusive drunk. Finally, if Shannon and Kelly had survived, Gibbs would've stayed in the Marines and eventually die in combat.
  • 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.
  • Why Couldn't You Save Them?: A major plot point of season 9's "Rekindled" when Tony works with arson specialist Jason, whom he saved from a housefire when Jason was 9. Unfortunately, the fire was too out of control by the time Tony arrived to save Jason's younger sister without killing all three of them. He made a choice, one that Jason resents him for. He gives Tony the cold shoulder until the end of the episode, when the two finally has it out. Tony tells him the incident was the reason he became a cop (it's also the reason Jason became an arson specialist), and that the number one thing he learned that night was you can't save them all.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: "Why does it always have to be boats, and rats?"
  • Wild Card: Tony describes himself as one when captured by Saleem.
  • Women Are Delicate: Hilarity Ensues when those not in the know assume this of Ziva.
  • Woman Scorned: A mild example. In early season 11, Ziva runs into Dr. Deena Bashan, a childhood friend and Ari's love. He was planning on proposing to her when he went rogue and Ziva killed him. She was less than pleased with learning Ziva was involved in Ari's death, and so she lied to Tony so Ziva's love couldn't find her.
  • 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 Ziva be taken down by said threat.
  • Working with the Ex:
    • Seasons three through five had Director Jenny Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs, who had formerly been lovers.
    • AT least thrice has wife number 2 Diane, the one who wed both Gibbs and Fornell, has worked with both ex's.
    • Tony ends up working with his ex-fiance Wendy in season 9, and spends most of the episode trying to prevent her and Ziva from being alone together. He's not afraid that they'll hate each other...he's afraid of what Wendy might tell Ziva about him. He is unsuccessful, but is pleasantly surprised that Wendy had nothing but good things to say.
  • Write Who You Know: In-Universe 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). The bouncer was a fan of his works.
  • X Days Since: Used a few times.
  • You Are Not Alone: After the death of her father, Tony tells her this (in Hebrew, no less) as she leaves for Israel to attend the funeral.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Regularly.
    • 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...
  • You Have to Believe Me: The show loves subverting this one. See trope page for examples.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • Director Shepard to La Grenouille.note  Later she does kill him, but no one figures it out until she's already dead...or was it Trent, actually telling the truth?
    • 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.
    • Another variation is a man killed this young man's sister in front of him during a mugging gone wrong. The victim purposely screwed with the case to get it thrown out, so he could exact a personal revenge.
  • You Know What They Say About X
  • You Need to Get Laid: Gibbs' team tries to find him the perfect woman in the ninth season episode "Safe Harbor" so he will stop making them work nights and weekends.
    • Gibbs told Tony he'd made a mistake in blowing off his ex-fiancee for Christmas brunch in the ninth season episode "Newborn King."
    • Tony and Ziva often push Tim McGee to ask out a girl and Tony once arranged a date for Tim.
    • Dr. Samantha Ryan says this is the reason why Gibbs is so gruff in season 9's "The Tell."
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lt. Roy Sanders in "Dead Man Walking."
  • You Taste Delicious: During the aforementioned sexual harassment training, Ziva notices Tony not paying attention, and licks him. He promptly jumps up and draws everyone's attention.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: This is one of the staples of Abby's wardrobe.


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alternative title(s): NCIS
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