- Gibbs' reaction to finding out the Man Behind the Man was the father in "See No Evil" may just possibly be the most massive Fridge Tearjerker in history. After seeing another man ready to throw away what he himself would do anything to get back, nobody can fault him for having a crack in his armor.
- In the episode "Heart Break," Kate unwittingly is the 'cop' part of a suspect's Suicide by Cop. Due likely in part to her religious background (coming from a Catholic background), she is clearly devastated not only in the fact that she killed an innocent man but that there's no punishment coming to her, since she doing her job and attempting to protect Gibbs from someone she thought was a threat.
- Any time where Abby is less than sunny is jarring, so seeing her almost in tears going over the late Director Shepard's possessions in the season 5 finale "Judgement Day", regretting not telling her that she always thought her a snappy dresser is a sad moment.
- "Judgment Day" - Jenny may have had her issues, but Tony's reaction to her death, and his intense guilt over not tailing her, is absolutely heartbreaking.
- Similarly, when Abby is upset in "Skeletons" because her boyfriend dumped her for being too tall. That in itself is sad enough, but the Reality Subtext is sadder still (his dumping her was a hasty rewrite after the actor playing him died).
- Abby remembering how she couldn't return a little girl's teddy bear, or prevent her from being taken away from town by her hateful father after her mother's death in "Hit and Run" was just too sad.
- At least this one ended with a beautiful Heartwarming Moment (the reading of a fortune cookie fortune that Abby gave Gibbs when they first met), which is a real relief for the first new episode after the double whammy of "Shabbat Shalom" and "Shiva."
- On an earlier-season note, "Once A Hero" brought the tears, but for a different reason. Firstly, once it was clear what had actually happened and that the deceased Marine had been trying to save a teenaged prostitute before he was killed, and secondly, somewhat cathartic tears once they found all the other girls locked in that van.
Gibbs: His name was Brian Wright. Sergeant Brian Wright. United States Marine Corps. Bronze Star, Purple Heart. He was a hero.
- "Call of Silence" with the Medal of Honor recipient believing he had killed a fellow marine, his best friend, during WWII. Offering his Metropass to DiNozzo (multiple times) and dancing with Kate in the squad room...
- DiNozzo nudging aside the man's tie, so that the Marines coming to arrest him could see the Medal of Honor, and them immediately snapping to attention out of respect.
- Just about everything with Corporal Yost is a Tear Jerker. He walks into NCIS headquarters, saying he killed his friend, and is practically begging to be arrested for it. And that's just the first five minutes of the episode. His dance with Kate in the squad room makes you smile through the tears, and then there's the flashback that Gibbs triggers to prove his innocence — he struck his friend in the head with the butt-end of his gun because he couldn't stop moaning in pain from having his legs blown off, threatening to give away their position to the Japanese at Iwo Jima. Even Lieutenant Coleman, who's been demanding Gibbs turn him over all episode, is brought to tears and drops the issue after watching him break down in the interrogation room.
- The last ten minutes or so of the season 6 episode "Dagger". Lee ends up sacrificing herself so Gibbs could kill the man who was blackmailing her. Then we find out that this was probably the best outcome for her, as the alternative was life in prison and never being able to see her sister again. Then Gibbs breaks the news to Lee's sister at the end of the episode as he hands her Lee's badge.
- At the end of "Silent Night", when Gibbs convinces a man who has been absent from his daughter's life for nearly two decades to reunite by saying that he would give anything to hug his murdered daughter one more time.
- The ending of "Corporal Punishment."
- The beginning of "Engaged Part 1", where Gibbs dreams about waking up next to Shannon as if nothing had happened. He looks so damn happy...
- The season four episode "Dead Man Walking", in which Ziva comes to care for a man who's dying of radiation poisoning, definitely yanks on the heartstrings, particularly with the last scene:
Roy: Would you think you'd have noticed... that I was no longer there? That I'd stopped running.
Ziva: Yes. I would've noticed... I would have missed seeing you.
Roy: But eventually you'd have forgotten me.
Ziva: I won't forget you now.
- And in later episodes she can be seen wearing his orange watchcap when she's out running.
- Particularly when Gibbs wakes up with amnesia, and everyone's calling him "Agent Gibbs"...
Gibbs: I don't KNOW Agent Gibbs, I don't WANNA know Agent Gibbs, I want... I want SHANNON! I want... Kelly... (sob) I miss 'em...
- When we learn Gibbs gets his "rules" not from his father, but via flashback from the first time he talked with Shannon.
- Ziva snapping Gibbs out of it.
Ziva: Ari killed Kate. And I... (bursts into tears) I killed Ari.
Gibbs: Your brother. You killed your brother.
Gibbs: You killed your brother... (tearing up) to save me.
- Particularly when Gibbs wakes up with amnesia, and everyone's calling him "Agent Gibbs"...
- The end of "In The Zone", where we find out that Nikki's brother Eric is alive, but in a coma that he has presumably never woken up from since he was wounded. Nikki just talks to him as normal, saying how happy Jamal's family was to hear he's doing well...
- "Requiem" leaves you in tears from the moment when the team figures out that Maddie was Kelly's best friend.
- An understated one in The season 6 episode "Collateral Damage". Gibbs is arguing with Vance about being assigned a rookie, and that he chooses his own damn team. Vance replies "Like you chose Agent Langer?", the agent killed in the season six premiere. The Tear Jerker part: Langer was framed, but they don't know that. Sure, he wasn't the nicest guy around, but he's remembered as a traitor instead of a man who trusted the wrong person. It's a good thing Gibbs got suspicious...
- Agent Lee's sobbing in Gibbs' arms in the season 6 premiere. Made ten thousand times worse when you realize she's not only sobbing because she killed a man, but because she know he's innocent and she only killed him to keep her cover. She probably feels like absolute shit as Gibbs comforts her.
- The end of season six. When Tony's sitting in the squadroom without Ziva, trying to explain to Abby and McGee that it wasn't Gibbs or Vance who made Ziva stay in Israel ...it was Ziva herself. Made much worse by how we know that Gibbs believes she's been lying to him, Tony believes she hates him and Ziva herself thinks Gibbs doesn't want her there... and then we switch to the scene of Ziva tied to a chair in Somalia, her face bruised and bloody.
Tony: Boss? One short?
- The Season 7 premiere, as well. They saved Ziva! She's back home, on the team! ...But look at how terrible she looks...
- Ziva shooting Ari. Gibbs' expression of shock and horror as he realises he put her in a position where she had to shoot her own brother, that light touch to her hand as he walks by, and her mourning song... Especially when straight after the scene shifts to Kate's funeral.
- The end of "Family", when Tony finally lets his dreams of a life with Jeanne go. Also a double Heartwarming Moment, one for the series in general (the parents reunited with their child) and another for Tony and the team showing just how much of a family they've come to be.
- In "Flesh And Blood", Prince Sharif is chauvinistic, spoiled and willfully ignorant of the danger he's in. But at the end of the episode, when he is told that it's his brother who tried to kill him, the look on his face will make you want to hug him.
- The end of "Borderland", where Abby discovers evidence of Gibbs' shooting of the drug dealer who killed his family. She comes to Gibbs' basement, torn up over what to do. This conversation happens:
Abby: Tell me how much I've been like a daughter to you, and how much you love me...
Gibbs: Will that help?
Abby: (Visibly struggling for control) No... What I really need to know, Gibbs, is if you're gonna love me, no matter what.
- "Broken Bird": Ducky is forced to face a monster who psychologically tortured him years ago while he served as a doctor in an Afghan refugee camp. But what brought it home was the very end when Ducky returns to work, quieter than ever before, and proceeds to break down in his girlfriend Jordan's arms.
- When Ziva cries after Mike Frank dies.
- Season 2, episode 22, "SWAK". Seeing DiNozzo looking so awful as he's dying from bubonic plague. Granted he DOES live, but still...
- The end of "Honor Code", where scenes of Gibbs working on his boat with Zach are montaged with scenes of Gibbs and Kelly working on the boat.
- Pretty much all of "Life Before His Eyes". Especially when Gibbs talks to Shannon and Kelly.
- "Recruited" has a few, especially when it's revealed that the murdered Petty Officer was helping the boy to deal with bullying.
- An especially heartwrenching one is The Reveal: the boy's father thought the Petty Officer was a sexual predator and killed him for it, trying to protect his son.
- Doctor Magnus being reminded of all the people he helped.
- The ending of "Till Death Do Us Part". While the fates of Gibbs, Abby, McGee, Tony, and Ziva are up in the air, the finale of the entire episode comes on a beach, where the shock of NCIS HQ's bombing and their being dead from the attack causes Ducky to suffer a seemingly fatal heart attack. The final gray-out of the season occurs with a shot of Ducky laying on his side, convulsing in pain. Especially painful was the thought that "Oh, Ducky's heartbroken but at least he's safe— Oh holy shit, is he having a heart attack?"
- Season 10, episode 2, "Recovery." Throughout the episode, Director Vance is clipped and abrasive to everyone we see him interact with, but as he's psychologically evaluated by Dr. Wolfe, he reveals how much he wants to go back in time to stop the HQ bombing, the entire episode showing him trying to reassert control and enforce normalcy again. The real kicker is how much he blames himself for the bombing, pointing out how vulnerable he was, or what if he had his kids with him when the carbomb went off, barely holding back tears.
- When Kate Todd was killed. And her blood splattered on Tony.
- And Gibbs' hallucinations of Kate in the next episode "Why me Gibbs? Wasn't taking one bullet enough for you? Why did i have to take two?!" and "Why did I die instead of you?!"
- Notable when compared to the others - everyone else is seeing her offering statements of how it's okay and they're going to be all right, even joking around. Gibbs sees her berating him, yelling at him, angry both in general and specifically at him. It makes the finale, of her in her coffin, gently ribbing him about being late to her funeral, turn the tears to ones of joy.
- In the end of the season 10 episode "Shabbat Shalom", Ziva, normally the most reserved member of the cast after Gibbs, screams and breaks down into a weeping mess when she sees that her father has been shot to death by an assassin. This was after she was going to turn him in for murder too. This was the woman who shot her own brother and only uttered a quiet, but sad, prayer afterward. Seeing her in such a state for the first time in eight years is just heartbreaking.
Ziva: An innocent man is dead. You disposed of his body, and you lied about it.
- Pretty much all of the last ten minutes of "Shabbat Shalom" qualify. By the time the episode finally ends - with Vance telling Gibbs that his wife has died in surgery - most viewers will just be beyond numb.
- Not to mention the very last conversation Ziva has with her father. Eli spent the episode telling Ziva he wants to redeem himself, but realizes that his sins may be too great. Just as Ziva was starting to warm up to him, she spots evidence that he might have accidentally killed someone. When she confronts him about it, she reveals that he was right about his sins. In her last conversation with him, she told her father that he could never redeem himself in her eyes, which clearly breaks his heart.
Eli: Yes, I did. But why is that the only part of this that you can see?
Ziva: (With tears in her eyes) Because you were right. Your sins are too great.
Eli: (Struggling to hold back tears) Ah. So be it. But will you please sit across from me at the dinner table one last time?
- "Grace Period," from the beginning - Two agents are lured to an abandoned store as a trap and killed, to the shocking twist at the conference - One of the clerics is a terrorist with a bomb strapped to his chest, and Special Agent Cassidy sacrifices herself to stop him. The other shock is just the added Tear Jerker fuel: Gibbs' team was supposed to be the ones to do the case at the abandoned store, and subsequently would have died. The song at the end R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" is just perfect.
- Dex the bomb-sniffing dog in "Seek" (10.18) is a walking Tear Jerker, from the beginning of the episode when he whimpers by the body of his handler, just killed by a sniper, to the end, when he takes a bullet his handler's murderer has fired at Gibbs and survives to retire with his handler's widow and attend his handler's funeral.
- The look on McGee's face when he hears that his estranged father is dying of stage 4 cancer is enough to break your heart. Even though it's clear that McGee has a very hard time even tolerating the Admiral, given years of abusive behavior, he still loves his father. Of course, finding out said information standing on the other side of a two way mirror while your father's being interrogated about his whereabouts in a murder case was probably one of the worst ways to hear the news.
- The ending of the episode "Obsession," where Tony starts getting emotionally involved in finding an Intrepid Reporter who disappeared around the same time her Marine brother was killed by an old KGB-issued poison that was injected into his body, and which has been injected into the woman's body as well, and for which there is no cure. Throughout the episode, Tony finds himself getting more and more connected to the woman, and then eventually he does find her...only, they can't get together after all since she doesn't have much longer to live after having been injected with said poison. The final scene sees Tony going down into Gibb's basement and having this conversation:
Gibbs: How did it go?
Tony: She went peacefully.
Gibbs: (Pause) You okay?
Tony: Not really. (Sits down.)
(Gibbs pours a drink and hands it to Tony, who downs it.)
Tony: I broke Rule #10. Again. "Never get personally involved in a case."
Gibbs: (Sympathetic) Yeah. It's the rule I always had the most trouble with.
- The Christmas present McGee helps give to the nephew of one of Abby's friends at the end of the episode "Faith". The little boy's mother is in the Navy and currently stationed overseas onboard a destroyer. McGee sneaks the little boy into MTAC where he has arranged for a video feed with the mother's ship. The look of surprise and delight on the faces of both mother and son when they see each other for the first time in months.
- This exchange in Ziva's final scene:
Ziva: Tony, you are so...
Tony: ...handsome? Funny?
Ziva: Loved. (Cue the Big Damn Kiss)
- Tony begging her to come back and be with him, even if she doesn't come back to NCIS. And barely managing not to cry while doing so.
- This quote: "Hardest 180 of my life."
- Tony finding Ziva's star in his pocket on the flight back to the states.
- Leroy Gibbs and his dad meeting up with Walter Back, the ex-Luffwaffe pilot who saved the latter's life in "Better Angel" by guiding him out of occupied airspace back to England. Without his help, both Gibbs wouldn't have existed. This episode was the last appearance of Jackson Gibbs prior to his portrayer, Ralph Waite, passing away.
- Jimmy's crushed look on his face and heartbroken tone of voice when he tells everyone that the woman who was carrying the child for him and his wife has decided to keep it. Questioning himself and wondering if he's really able to be a father.
- Gibbs getting frustrated on how a Navy veteran in "Shooter" gets to be a homeless man in the end after being honorably discharged from military service. Even Vance hates that it happens a lot recently.
- The Season 11 finale, saying goodbye to both Jackson Gibbs and his actor, Ralph Waite.
- A retired Marine in "The Searchers" tries his best to bring home the remains of his friend. Even though he died from being shot by a conman, NCIS was able to secure the remains in Da Nang.
- The end of "House Rules," with McGee reading the letter he wrote to his father who died because he delayed the surgery that was his last hope of surviving cancer so he could spend one last Christmas with his family.
- In "Check", after the death of Diane Sterling, Gibbs is in a total BSOD. Especially bad because the murder was deliberately staged to reenact Kate's death.
- Jimmy has one of his own, having reached his limit of what he can take in good humor. Ducky notes that he himself had reached that point long ago and that it's impossible to go back to how things used to be.
- Abby's crisis of faith in "Hit and Run." After the events of the previous two-parter, and the case of the week bringing up memories of her first case, she's off her game, to the point of taking her first sick day ever. Seeing Abby absolutely broken is devastating.
- McGee's empathy for her is as bad. It's obvious that he would do anything to help her, even though both realize that this isn't something he can fix.
- All the way back in the Season 2 episode 'Witness', McGee gets sent on a solo assignment as a test by Gibbs; the task being to determine whether or not a witness's account of a possible murder is credible. Upon meeting her, he discovers she is a graduate of MIT, same as him, and makes the call to bring the rest of the team in to check out the suspected crime scene. As the episode goes on he forms a bond with the eponymous witness, even flirting with her as he stakes out the crime scene/ apartment across the street from hers. Needless to say, when the killer goes to kill her he is quickly on the scene; however in his haste he forgets to clear the room and gets hit in the head for his troubles. His inability to save her or catch her killer at the scene really does a number on him, to the point where when he inevitably realizes who the killer is, his first reaction is to chase him into traffic, then shove the business end of his Sig in the guys face, with a truly frightening expression of rage on his own. The Tear Jerker moment? At the end of the episode he is quietly writing something on his notepad, which Kate and Tony believe is his official report. Instead it is a sympathy letter to the girl's parents, saying how sorry he is for not saving her. Damn.
- Basically, the end of "Day in Court" - Bishop's learned that Jake is having an affair, and as a result, decides to leave for Oklahoma for an indefinite amount of time. Playing "Say Something" by A Great Big World definitely adds to it.
- There's also the fact that's Jake's probably ruined his friendship with the team, all of whom clearly genuinely liked him but are now furious with him because of what he's done.
- "Spinning Wheel". As Jake tearfully apologizes and pleads for a chance to save their marriage, Bishop sadly declares that their marriage is over and has been for a long time, otherwise he wouldn't have had the affair or told her about it in the first place.
- In a flashback scene, Ducky being forcibly separated from his half-brother Nicholas.
- In "Sister Cities", Abby prevents a plane from crashing into a city by hacking its GPS so that the autopilot makes it crash into an uninhabited forest. Then Gibbs gets a phone call from Agent Pride in New Orleans saying that Luca Scuito was on that plane. While it's eventually revealed that he wasn't actually on the plane, for ten eternal minutes it looks like Abby had just killed her little brother.
- In the end of "Scope", Gibbs chooses to sleep in his actual bed rather than his couch after who know's how long. This troper shed happy tears.
- In "Reasonable Doubt", DiNozzo Sr runs into a homeless woman who believes that he's her father. Over the course of the episode, it's revealed that she ran away from home because her real father rejected her for being gay, was suffering dementia, and had a brain tumor. At the end of the episode, she's taken to a hospital and her condition is diagnosed as terminal. DiNozzo Sr then walks into her room and plays along with her delusion so that she can die believing that she finally reconciled with the (long-deceased) father she hadn't spoken to in years.
- The end of the episode "Homefront". Fornell is shot multiple times and his fate is left uncertain as his phone rings.
- "Family First". Just "Family First". Ziva is killed by Trent Kort, leaving Tony grief-stricken throughout, as well as the rest of the team. Even moreso when Tony learns that Ziva left behind their daughter, whom he had never know about until now. And, finally, his decision to leave NCIS.