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Series / JAG

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Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden: Your record here reads like a cross between Top Gun and A Few Good Men.
Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr.: Sorry about that, sir.
Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden: I'm not. The Navy needs heroes. Now more than ever. Pilloried in the press by a liberal media, underfunded by an election-driven Congress and shooting ourselves in the foot every time a sailor gets horny.
Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb, Jr.: Yes, sir.
Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden: Now, if I repeated those words to the press, the Secretary of the Navy would demand my resignation. For while my words are as true as the blue ice in the Arctic, they're politically incorrect. And today's Navy, Mr. Rabb, sails on the sea of political correctness.
— Season 1, Episode 14, "Smoked"

JAG (an acronym for "Judge Advocate General") is a long-running TV show (1995-2005), about judge advocates (Pentagon-ese for lawyers in military uniform) in the Department of the Navy's Office of the Judge Advocate General, who deals with military justice matters wherever the forces of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps go in the world.

Created by veteran showrunner Donald P. Bellisario for Paramount Network Television and originally pitched to the networks as a Top Gun meets A Few Good Men, the show lasted one season on NBC before being canceled. It was picked up by CBS the following season and turned into one of the most successful shows in their history. It became the first Paramount-produced series to last more than two seasons on CBS (which soon became its sister company) since Mannix, which began under Desilu Studios (as did another long-runner on CBS from the 60s and 70s, Mission: Impossible), ended its run in 1975.

The first and, to a lesser extent, second season focused primarily on action-packed pre-trial field investigations, while the third and later seasons joined that formula together with an equal amount of courtroom and office drama in the stylistic vein of L.A. Law. Many episodes have storylines which often were Ripped from the Headlines, e.g. the war in the Balkans, introduction of female combat pilots on aircraft carriers, espionage, racial bigotry, fraternization charges, a U.S. sailor accused of raping Japanese woman in Japan, homosexuality in the Armed Forces in the days of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", crooked contractors, The War on Terror, homeless veterans, senior officers insulting foreign allies, miscarriages of justice, AWOLs and desertions, the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and so on and so forth.

JAG has a number of dramatic episodes, some of which were based loosely on historical events. The main characters are so involved in them that, considering that they're lawyers, it tends to strain your Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Although the show was quite successful ratings-wise, which the longevity alone suggests, it never generated much buzz in the hype machine and it never received any major awards beyond three technical Emmys. Much of that is probably due to the fact that JAG was not, by industry standards, perceived as cutting-edge but rather conventional in its set-up, and that the largest demographic audience share was elder Middle Americanote .

In any case, its popularity led to a spinoff launched through a Back Door Pilot in its 8th season, NCIS, which has managed to become more popular (and has remained longer on the air) than its parent series. This Shared Universe would go on to include seven more series that aired on CBS, including three spinoffs of NCIS and three reboots of older TV series.

Character tropes added here, please. The Recap Page needs love as well.

Note that the tropes on this page are divided into an overall series section (at the top) and a specific-to-an-episode section (below). Thanks.

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JAG as a series provides overall examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Harm was a naval aviator before becoming a lawyer. He still flies whenever he can, and even gets back on flying duty for part of a season.
  • Adventure Towns: Harm's and Mac's line of work (court cases and/or field investigations) takes them all over the world, i.e. wherever the US Navy and Marine Corps forces are stationed. Not to mention the occasional CIA undercover stuff and Harm's private searches for his MIA father.
  • Alliterative Title: Some episodes:
    • Cowboys & Cossacks
    • Brig Break
  • And Starring: David James Elliott (Harmon Rabb) had the "starring" for all ten seasons, "and John M. Jackson as Admiral Chegwidden" at the end for the eight seasons (2-9) in which he appeared in the opening titles.
  • Armies Are Evil: Inverted. The U.S. Armed Forces (naval services in particular) is portrayed, save for a few bad apples, as the very finest America has ever offered to the world. The civilian world is commonly portrayed as something lesser than the military with its inherent codes and values. In fact, the military is implied to be the only place in America where the content of a person's character can be fairly judged without any prejudice. An obvious Author Tract as the creator and executive producer did, once upon a time, serve in the Marine Corps and would later make a career in Hollywood. It should be noted though that even with the blatant pro-military stance from the get-go, JAG wasn't Backed by the Pentagon for the first two seasons because the Navy, following the Tailhook incident and the controversy of introducing females on combat ships and fighter planes, were in a hyper-sensitive mode and didn't want to be associated with any TV-show dramatizing crimes committed in the service.
  • Artistic License – Military: JAG was - for a Hollywood-made television series - fairly accurate in terms of military protocol and procedures, however as one may reasonably expect, the Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama always takes precedence above accuracy whenever it benefits the story; it has to be acknowledged that well more than half the episodes featured situations that were completely removed from reality:
    • Even the promo picture above shows a female character with her hair down to her shoulders, which is not allowed in uniform.
    • Retired Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist, hired as a technical consultant had this to say:
      There's one issue that really used to bug me, but now I accept it. When they show people flying in planes or taking off from an aircraft carrier, they never wear their oxygen masks. I understand, though, that the director wants to make sure that we can see the actors' faces. I sort of gave up on that battle.
    • The premise of the show - a lawyer who is also a naval aviator with full flying privileges, itself takes a lot of artistic license. Normally, when a naval aviator loses his "wings" or flight qualification, it is impossible to regain that qualification. Harm should never have been allowed to get in the cockpit of a Navy fighter ever again.
  • Artistic License – Ships: Almost all US Navy vessels on the show, other than decommissioned ones or historic references, have fictional names. This may have been intentional.
    • In "Cowboys & Cossacks", the exterior of the Russian destroyer is actually stock footage of a British Type 42 destroyer.
  • Benevolent Boss:
    • Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, JAGC, USN.
    • And the Admiral's replacement Major General Gordon Cresswell, USMC
  • Bilingual Backfire: More than once, a character accidentally tipped their hand because they didn't realize that one of the heroes (usually Mac) could understand their language, or at least recognize key words in it, such as the Spanish name for the United States (Estados Unidos).
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The main cast can fall into this at times. General Cresswell lampshades this in season 10 "The Sixth Juror" when he finds Bud having a hobby of code breaking, helping Harm on a case by phone, but still got all the work assigned done, Harm and Mac's usual antics when on a case and Petty Officer Coates being made a juror on said case and pushed the rules by investigating whether another juror was having an improper relationship with a witness in the trial. In summary, the General can abide by these antics, as long as the work done continues being exceptional.
  • Central Theme: The military in general, Navy and Marine Corps in particular, represents all that's good about America, and although there are a few rotten apples in the barrel, they are invariably dealt with, and the military as an institution is never at fault. A subversion of Armies Are Evil as far as it gets without being outright propaganda.
  • Chest of Medals: This trope is somewhat surprisingly averted, as the main characters actually have far fewer ribbons (in terms of quantity not quality) than Navy and Marine Corps personnel in real-life similar positions have.
    • Although few judge advocates have ever earned the Navy Cross and Bronze Star with "Combat V" (like Chegwidden), a Silver Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses (like Rabb), or the Bronze Star (like Turner). Fewer still wear the Special Warfare insignia/SEAL Trident above their medals (Chegwidden).
  • Cool Ship & Cool Boat: Various US Navy vessels appear throughout the program, with one of the most prominent being the fictional USS Seahawk.
  • Cool Plane: Harm more than once climbs into the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat and also flies F-18s, C-130s, a stolen Mig 29, a Boeing 747 airliner, and the Aurora spy plane by the time the series ends. Not to mention his very own Stearman biplane "Sarah" (which he named after his grandmother and not his co-worker).
  • Costume Porn: As the series features full display of the uniforms from the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps worn by mostly good looking people. It’s ironic, though, that the episode ("Gypsy Eyes") for which the show did in fact win an Emmy for best costuming hardly featured any U.S. military uniforms at all.
  • Court-martialed: As is expected by the title and premise, many episodes involved court-martials for reasons varying from minor mistakes (that in order to up the drama led to (or nearly led to) major disasters or had their cases led by a Hanging Judge or Kangaroo Court) to dereliction of duty to possible espionage.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In "Brig Break", a group of right-wing militiamen armed with automatic rifles encounters a Sea Stallion helicopter equipped with armor protection and machine guns. The fight lasts about two seconds before the militiamen are forced to retreat into the woods.
  • Dad the Veteran:
    • Harm's deceased father obviously.
    • Admiral Chegwidden, the Father to His Men also qualifies.
    • Sturgis' father, the Navy chaplain, also qualifies as he served in both Korea and Vietnam as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The main characters, with the exceptions of Bud and Harriet, are prone to this. Chegwidden is the king of this trope though.
  • Devil's Advocate: Happens often in JAG when one of the characters has to either prosecute an innocent person or defend an obviously guilty one. In addition, it is more frequently used in sparring arguments between the characters, both inside and outside of court. A Truth in Television.
  • Disappeared Dad: Harm's father was shot down over Vietnam on Christmas Eve 1969 when he was a kid, and Harm's attempts to find him were a recurring subplot for the first three seasons.
    • Admiral Chegwidden, while a part of his daughter Francesca's life, wishes that he was there for her more than he was. His daughter loves him, however.
  • Downer Beginning: Most of the Cold Openings starts with an accident occurring or a crime being committed.
  • Dramatic Hour Long: The show's format.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The show switched networks after the first season, and experienced a Retool as a result, mostly resulting in much of the supporting cast being replaced. Given that the show centers around the military, the cast switch was remarkably easy to explain as being Truth in Television. Further, the pilot episode has Harm paired with Lieutenant Caitlin Pike who would be replaced by Lieutenant Meg Austin in the first season.
  • Economy Cast: Even though the show was on the air for ten seasons and had loads and loads of characters this trope came into play. For instance, if there would be an issue somehow involving the CIA, Clayton Webb would never be far away.
  • Evil Virtues: From time to time, the heroes will be dealing with a Well-Intentioned Extremist (or even a relatively heroic character who is simply serving a different nation at cross-purposes to the USA). Other times even the more petty villains will Pet the Dog, such as in "Shadow", where the nerd "Techno Pirate" who had hijacked an experimental torpedo is quick to try and comfort Meg Austin when he realizes she is having a full-blown claustrophobia attack in the confines of a submarine.
  • Expy: A lot of one off characters especially in early season episodes were based on actual military personnel involved in well known military controversies during the era. Lt Puller in the pilot episode is one for Kara Hultgreen, the first ever woman to qualify to fly the F-14 Tomcat, Lt Isaacs in a second season episode is one for Lt Carey Lohrenz, a female F-14 pilot who sued the Navy alleging sexual harassment and discrimination after losing her "wings", Raglan the SEAL is one for Richard Marcinko and Red Cell, a marine gunship pilot in season three is one for Kelly Flynn the Air Force pilot dishonorably discharged for having an extramarital affair, an ensign in season five is one for a Naval Academy midshipman who murdered her romantic rival, a major general in season seven is one for a marine colonel accused of "cheating" to win an exercise, etc.
  • Final Season Casting: Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden (John M. Jackson) retired at the end of season 9 and was replaced in the final 10th season by Major General Gordon Cresswell (David Andrews). Lieutenants Gregory Vukovic (Chris Beteem) and Catherine Graves (Jordana Spiro) were also last season additions.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Mac's Georgetown apartment probably costs as much for one month's rent as a JAG lawyer would earn in three months. It can't even be handwaved in any meaningful way, since it's well-established that Mac came from a poor family. (To their credit, they never really even tried.) The same arguably applies to Harm's apartment, but it has the mitigating circumstance of being located "north of Union Station" (a really bad neighborhood in real life, so it's somewhat plausible that even an apartment that big and nice would be relatively cheap).
  • Ghost Extras: There are many people in the bullpen but they rarely ever interact with speaking characters. It gets particularly obvious that every staff meeting only includes lead and recurring characters, and sometimes also the guest star.
  • The Government: JAG is largely an aversion of this trope; as the protagonists work for Uncle Sam, the creator and show runner is a veteran, and the show was supported by the Pentagon; not surprisingly the portrayal of the government at large (excluding the actions of certain individual characters), and the military justice system is overall very favorable. However the CIA (mostly through the character Clayton Webb) is often portrayed, in contrast to the benign U.S. military, as either (depending on the story) ruthless, inept and/or shortsighted.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy: This trope is a recurring theme on the show and is brought up in several episodes. The resolution of the eight season episode "Need to Know" is a good case in point. However, the twist is that there should be honesty among the Americans, but maintaining a false facade towards others is okay.
  • In Harm's Way: Harmon Harm Rabb, Jr. is a real trouble magnet and almost a trope codifier. Other characters on the show often make the, by now, Incredibly Lame Pun that Harm is in harm's way and the like.
  • Identical Grandson: Identical Son: Harmon Rabb Jr. is identical to Harmon Rabb Sr. (save for the latter's mustache).
  • Immoral Journalist: Journalists have been consistently causing issues during the show. When they're not inflating body counts, they accuse the military of whitewashing (e.g., "The Good of the Service"), ask slanted questions, compromise national security, and intrude on a family's grief (e.g., "Coming Home").
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Constant references are made to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (and upon occasion even the Manual for Courts-Martial) terminology and articles: particularly articles 31 and 32, the first is the equivalent of Miranda Rights for service members, and the latter is about pre-trial investigation and hearing. It Makes Sense in Context.
    • A lot of naval aviation jargon show up in the Pilot Movie and is completely justified as Bud points out to Caitlin Pike:
    Caitlin Pike: You a pilot, ensign?
    Bud Roberts: No, ma'am. It's just that everybody uses pilot jargon on a carrier.
    • "Recovery" in the first season has Harm point out that the Air Force has pilots while the Navy has aviators.
    • Another episode ("Heroes", the one with the submachine gun fired in the courtroom), Mac claims that Marines never duck. Harm asks her what Marines do, and she replies, "They take cover."
  • Interservice Rivalry: A very common trope, used quite extensively in this series. Sometimes it could be something as basic as military people v. civilians, or lawyers vs. non-lawyers, or JAG vs. NCIS. Sometimes it's intra-service rivalry (e.g. submariners vs. aviators), or even intra-intra-service rivalry (e.g. naval aviators of plane type X v. naval aviators of plane type Y.)
    • The Navy/Marine rivalry/siblingship is often touched on: as one part of Harm and Mac's constant bickering, the all too short-lived rivalry between Gunnery Sergeant Galindez and Petty Officer Tiner, or in any other permutation as the needs of the story dictates.
    • In "Shadow", a crewman aboard a helicopter asks Commander Lindsey if the case he is escorting really contains a hundred million in gold. Lindsey demands to know where he heard that, and the sailor admits he heard it from a Marine. Lindsey jokes that the sailor should never listen to Marines. And it's only forty million.
    • In "Pilot Error", Lt. McKee, a tomboyish fighter pilot, gets into a one-sided brawl with a Marine officer in a bar (he insulted her wingman who had died in a crash recently, but refused to hit a woman, so she hit him twice.) The next evening, she returns to the bar and runs into the same Marine officer, who politely apologizes for his behavior and invites her to share a drink with him. She declines.
    McKee: Marines. You know, they're the only species on the planet that will develop a crush on you if you punch them out?
    • After making five carrier landings in a row with Harm, McKee says:
    You're making me wish I'd joined the Air Force.
    • The Marine provost marshal at the SeaTac base in "Brig Break" obviously didn't think too highly of Navy lawyers. And who could really blame the poor guy with Rabb outfoxing him several times.
    • Harm occasionally indulges in good-natured smack talk with Air Force pilots in "Recovery":
    Meg: You could have used a little more runway.
    Harm: You want long roll-outs, fly the Air Force.
    Meg: Careful, Harm. We're in their territory.
    Harm: There are a lot of friendlies around here, Meg. The space program likes Navy pilots. We make their best astronauts.
    Meg: Right, I think I read that somewhere in Kepler's laws of planetary motion.
    Harm: Hey, all I need to say is that the first American in outer space was not an Air Force jock. They put up a man who knew how to make a trap.
    Meg: Then why was the first man in orbit a Marine?
    • In "Heroes", Harm ridicules the ability of NCIS special agents:
    Bud: NCIS didn't find anything in his apartment, sir.
    Harm: I'm surprised they found his apartment at all without a trail of doughnuts.
    • Harm also got into a Bar Brawl with Army Rangers while working undercover as a Marine (It Makes Sense in Context) in "Force Recon".
    • Yet "Blind Side" had a far more specific example of intra-intra-service rivalry: Harm (an F-14 Tomcat driver) gets into a game of pool against a pair of F-18 Hornet drivers (in the military, the pilots understandably take a lot of pride in the aircraft they fly). One discretion cut later, and we discover that Harm and his pool partner evidently won their opponents' pants in the game when he holds them up as a trophy to show Mac.
    • In "Code of Conduct", the Army prosecutor lampshades the mere perception of it by opening his remarks with:
    This is not the Army-Navy Game...
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Occurs in several episodes. Not only with external parties (i.e. non-military) such as local police and prosecutors, other federal agencies or foreign government entities; but often the local commanding officer does not like the presence of JAG officers from Washington in his/her fiefdom.
    • In "Desert Son", Captain Reed does not like Harm interfering in his unit's training with their investigation, especially as he sees it as open and shut. This leads directly to Poor Communication Kills.

  • Long-Lost Relative: Harm spends a substantial portion of the show (seasons 1-3) searching for his father, who went MIA during the Vietnam War. His father escaped custody, and was later shot and killed, but not before meeting a Russian woman and fathering another son, Sergei.
  • Long Runner: Ran for ten years, on two separate networks.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: Harm and Mac gets to do a lot more while on duty than just litigating UAs and AWOLs...
  • Married to the Job: All the main characters.
  • Mildly Military: Averted. For a staff corps office they take military protocol very seriously.
    • Take for instance when another admiral walks into the bullpen in "Mixed Messages", the Gunny yells "Admiral on deck!" and everyone stands to attention without the slightest degree of hesitation, as if at boot camp.
    • Acknowledged in an interview with retired Rear Admiral Paul T. Gillcrist, who worked as a technical consultant on the show:
    Another thing is the way people talk. Admirals don't normally say things like "at ease" or "dismissed" to JAG officers. They may speak like that in battle, or on the parade grounds, but not in an office environment. But, again, that's just something they do for the sake of the show.
    • This revealing comment was given by the other technical consultant, retired Master Sergeant Matt Sigloch:
    David was invited to go to D.C. to actually go to JAG headquarters. And he came back to me and said that there were some people kind of upset with the show. Apparently, their senior officers are telling some of the junior officers, "You people aren't even as squared away as the people on the TV show. You guys look sloppy compared to them." So David suggested that we loosen things up, but Don didn't want to.
    • Meta example: On the Season One Box Art, Harm is shown wearing an officer's cap with a single line of "scrambled eggs" on the brim. Harm would not be authorized to wear such a cap until making Commander (O-5).
  • Mission Briefing: Almost a Once per Episode on JAG. Usually it is Admiral Chegwidden who, following the opening title sequence, hands a new case or mission to either Harm, Mac or to them both.
  • Oddly Small Organization: The Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy appears much smaller in the series than in real life, so small that Harm, Mac and Sturgis on occasions are temporarily assigned as Acting Judge Advocate General; despite the fact that in real life there is a flag officer serving as Deputy Judge Advocate General, not to mention all the Captains/Colonels (Assistant Judge Advocate General for X) serving as heads of the various departments; although it's supposed to be the same size as in real life, as Chegwidden in the NCIS backdoor pilot stating he has 750 people under his command, which was the actual real-world case in 2003.
    • Although never stated in-verse, it's quite possible that the Deputy Judge Advocate General, who in real-life is also dual-hatted as Commander of Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC), has his office at the Washington Navy Yard (as in real life), while the fictional Falls Church office mostly houses OJAG staff and the judiciary.
  • Once an Episode:
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: In the second season episode "Heroes", Harm fired off a sub-machine gun in the courtroom to demonstrate a point. This gets referenced two or three times a season for the rest of the show's run, usually in terms of "I can't believe he didn't get brig time for that", or "you should've seen him in the courtroom."
  • One-Word Title:
    • The show's title.
    • Episodes:
  • Overranked Soldier: Averted mostly, even though the investigations and field work done by Harm and Mac are borderline.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Used frequently for when a lower ranking officer wants to speak to senior officer. Occasionally denied by the senior officer.
  • Plot Parallel: Used in just about every single episode post the first season.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Both Bud (Patrick Labyorteuax) and Admiral Chegwidden (John M. Jackson) did this at the start of Season 2. Turner (Scott Lawrence) and Coates (Zoe McLellan) did likewise in the final season.
  • Put on a Bus: Lt. JG Caitlin Pike was reassigned between the pilot and the first regular episode, while Lt. JG Meg Austin was present for most of the first season, but disappeared with little explanation at the start of the second. Mostly averted with other characters, however. Lt Elizabeth 'Skates' Hawkes did not appear after mid Season 7.
  • Quitting to Get Married: Zig-zagged on the last episode where Harm and Sarah flip a coin for who will have to do this when they marry. The show ends before the coin lands.
  • Rated M for Manly: The first season of JAG on NBC was essentially an Action Series, where the protagonist just happened to be a lawyer. Thus the show was marketed and made according to this trope. When the show moved to CBS, it was retooled to include more legal drama and soap opera elements, partially to appeal more to female audiences.
  • Recurring Character: Quite a few. No surprise with a show that was on the air for 10 years.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Iron Coffin" Mac, while on a US sub, must convince a Russian submarine captain the super-new missile they are about to test fire is faulty and will come back to hit them. However, she cannot use the fact US sonar technology is so good they can hear the conversations of the Russian crew and translate it. So instead she claims that the US has had agents in their shipyards planting listening bugs in their vessels for decades. The US sub captain is impressed because now the Russians will spend a lot of money and time looking for something that isn't there.
  • Running Gag: Whenever a promotion is announced, there are accusations of the officer being "out of" or in "incorrect" uniform. Admiral Chegwidden retires and promotes Bud beyond his "terminal" rank
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Female combat pilots in the Navy? Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy? The War on Terror? Issues with various aircraft? You pick 'em, this show has 'em.

  • Semper Fi: Do or Die!
  • Sergeant Rock: Most NCO's (particulary Marines) seems to be made of this stuff. Could be case of Author Appeal.
  • Shared Universe: JAG is the starting point of seven CBS shows that all link together either through being Spin-Off series or cross-pollinating with one another through Crossover events. In chronological order:
    • JAG
    • First Monday (unofficial) (Senator Edward Sheffield, play by Dean Stockwell appeared and later became the Secretary of the Navy on JAG.)
    • NCIS (spin-off from JAG)
    • NCIS: Los Angeles (1st spin-off from NCIS)
    • Hawaii Five-0 (crossed over with NCIS)
    • Scorpion (crossed over with NCIS: LA)
    • NCIS: New Orleans (2nd spin-off from NCIS)
    • MacGyver (2016) (crossed over with Hawaii Five-0)
  • Shown Their Work: The research and accuracy became better through the years the show was running, though inaccuracies could always be found. Having a Marine Corps veteran as its creator, executive producer, and show runner probably helped. Being Backed by the Pentagon probably helped a great deal too. They did sometimes even cite real military case law.
    • It should be noted that none of the starring characters who are military lawyers became that without having prior military service: Harm started out as an aviator, Mac was an administrative officer, and Bud was from the beginning a public affairs officer. AJ started out as a Navy SEAL, served in The Vietnam War in that capacity, and was transferred later to surface warfare. Sturgis began his career as a submariner. This makes for interesting characters, as opposed to Mildly Military straight-out-of-law-school-graduates, as they can relate to and interact differently with the various communities in the Naval Services. This is not completely unrealistic as the Department of the Navy has a law degree program which allows officers in the Navy & Marine Corps to earn a law degree at an accredited law school on Uncle Sam's dime, conditioned that they fulfill service obligation following graduation, which must be within three years. Suffice to say, this program is quite sought after and competitive to enter.
  • Slave to PR: A very common trope for this show. The protagonists work for the Department of the Navy and although they are primarily concerned with the proper functioning of the military justice system, the overall PR ramifications are never far away from their minds or actions. The news media, congressional people or other groups often play up various incidents. PR considerations are often hinted at by superiors (usually the SECNAV) and are often talked about behind closed doors (to avoid the appearance of unlawful command influence).
    • The Pilot Movie features an exchange between the CNO, Admiral Drake, and the JAG, Rear Admiral Brovo, where it's made clear that the mere appearance of things (the ongoing Seahawk murder investigation and an upcoming Navy strike mission) are more important to consider than the actual facts.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: For the protagonists, pragmatism is usually the best solution to any given problem. This is not surprising given that they're military officers. The show overall is somewhat idealistic regarding the ability of the U.S. military to almost always do the right thing.
  • Sliding Scale of Like Reality Unless Noted: Semirealistic.
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: Unrealistic or Semirealistic, as opposed to mundane or unusual.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: The show kept a balance between the serious and the silly.
  • Soaperizing: This trend began to accelerate in the second and third seasons.
  • Spin-Off: NCIS, which in turn spun off NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans.
  • Status Quo Is God: Not much changes visibly from episode to episode for the casual viewer. The significant changes that inevitably once in a while occurs are few and far between.
  • Stock Footage: A lot of footage was reused from various military-themed films; particularly Paramount library films like Top Gun, The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger; before the show itself received full official support from the Department of the Navy in the third season.
    • To the show's credit, however, they were able to do some clever things with that stock footage via computer technology, including have Harm interact with then-President Clinton and Bud do likewise with then-President Bush.
    • Due to the use of such footage, several shots have a flipped over perspective, to keep the action pointed in the right direction. Most obvious when various aircraft are launched or recovered with numbers such as "E01" (103 reversed).
  • Story Arc: Although JAG is mostly a procedural in the sense of "new episode, new case", there are plenty of arcs too.
    • One major story arc for the first four seasons of JAG was Harm's search for his long lost MIA father, although it was latent in most episodes not directly addressing it.
    • The whole Will They or Won't They? and Unresolved Sexual Tension arc for nine seasons between Harm and Mac. Also Master of the Mixed Message. Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other in the last episode "Farewell and Following Seas": however it ends in the middle of the toss with a coin, is it Harm or Mac who will give up career for love? In the tenth season finale of NCIS: Los Angeles, Mac reveals that Harm lost the coin flip and stayed with her, but after a 10-Minute Retirement, got called back into combat while she found a better opportunity at the State Department.
    • Office Romance: Bud Roberts falls in love with co-worker Harriet Sims, gets married, and are allowed to work in the same office because Harriet is, courtesy of Admiral Chegwidden, "temporarily assigned" to the office for several years...
    • Romantic False Lead: Quite a few. All the romantic false leads for Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie from died one way or another. The Cartwright Curse also affected Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. too, but with the difference that only one of them died.
    • Starting in season 7, The War on Terror and subsequent U.S. military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and fictional al-Qaeda terrorists became the basis for story arcs.
  • Strawman News Media: All types were used. But, in the later seasons the storylines presented The United States military as an Eagleland with infinite Patriotic Fervor. [1]
    • There are also several episodes where members of Congress or White House staffers in concert with Strawman News Media concocts scandals that turns into a politically expedient witch hunts. Also, the evidence behind it is always shown as nothing more than either conjecture or hearsay.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Harm and Mac had through the years various love interests, none of them lasted more than a season. Also Admiral Chegwidden had several short-lived love interests. Averted, of course, with Bud and Harriet, who remain married from season 3 to the end of the series.
  • That's an Order!
  • Theme Music Power-Up: Almost always the case whenever Harmon Rabb does something heroic or gets someone acquitted from court martial charges.
  • Third Act Stupidity: Harm or Mack confronting the bad guy alone.
  • Title Drop: Occurs throughout the series times whenever a character introduces oneself followed by he/she is from JAG or is a JAG lawyer. Individual episode names are also often, but not always, dropped.
    • In "Brig Break", Harm looks out the window and sees the prisoners exiting the brig and herding Meg Austin onto a bus. He immediately shouts "BRIG BREAK" before trying to stop them from escaping.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The most incredible flying stunts on the show were re-enactments of actual events.
    • Until it diverged with Cresswell becoming the JAG, in reality there has yet to be a Marine serving as Judge Advocate General of the Navy since Col. William Remey, the first Navy JAG. However, there is nothing on the books to make a Marine General serving as the JAG impossible.
  • Four-Star Badass: Two Star Badass: Rear Admiral Chegwidden and his replacement Maj. Gen. Cresswell.
  • Un-Cancelled: After the first season, the show was canceled by NBC. However, CBS picked it up immediately after NBC canceled it upon discovering that the show was absolutely huge in Australia and was slowly gaining a cult audience in the United States. CBS proceeded to turn it into the biggest hit on the network. NBC did keep a finger in the pie by securing exclusive cable syndication rights for its USA Network. Ironically, JAG would turn out to be the progenitor of a Shared Universe, so by choosing to save it from cancellation, multiple CBS shows now have one universe to call their own.
  • Vast Bureaucracy: On JAG this tropes comes in two different flavors. If concerning the Navy and Marine Corps, the vast bureaucracy, which it is, will often be portrayed in a positive and/or neutral sense. If concerning any other service or another non-military agency the negatives will be accentuated.
  • Verbed Title: At least the episode, "Smoked".
  • Workaholic: All the characters to some extent, but particularly with Admiral Chegwidden who in a season four episode ("War Stories") is forced on leave and we see that he is incredibly bored. Although some of the characters do have meaningful hobbies other than work, like Harm (his Stearman biplane), Mac (Dinosaur bones) and Bud (Star Trek), it's still implied that they work very long hours and have a limited social life.

Episodes of this series provide examples of:

  • 555: In "Heart & Soul" Mac says the number to her office phone is 555-0171.
  • Abandon Ship: The Russian destroyer in "Cowboys and Cossacks".
  • Abandoned Area: In "Sightings", the Naval Air Station at Del Rio, which was shut down after the Cold War. Truth in Television for many military installations, which have a history of being shut down and reopened and shut down again depending on the needs of the military. Some get turned into civilian airports or put to other uses if there is any demand for the real estate, but others simply gather dust.
  • Aborted Arc: Harm's Russian half-brother Sergey is not heard from anymore post season eight.
  • Acronym and Abbreviation Overload: Lots of military terminology. Often played straight, but sometimes used for laughs.
  • African Terrorists: In the season 4 episode "Embassy", when Harm & Mac are at a reception at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, it's seemingly taken over by a rebel faction supporting an opposition leader. It actually is an elaborate setup by the asshole ambassador to make him look like a hero and discredit the opposition.
  • Against My Religion: In the season nine episode "Posse Comitatus", Bud investigates a Navy reservist physician who suddenly claims conscientious objector status when called on serve in Iraq because he became a Quaker. When Bud informs him that after separation his medical practice would at the same time also lose the military health plan affiliation, he backs down.
    • Played with in "Soul Searching". Webb reveals information to Chegwidden of a soldier they both think highly of, the admiral going as far as saying he saved his soul. During a attempt to rescue him from terrorists Chegwidden explains his friend didn't call out a sniper target, as they were dressed as a nun. Killing nuns was clearly against his friend's religion and Chegwidden leaves it ambiguous whether he would have taken the shot.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: In "Sightings", Harm and Meg escape the oncoming Colombians by climbing through an air vent.
  • Alphabet News Network: ZNN, the fictional counterpart to CNN. Often ZNN is just in the background, but sometimes it becomes the very center of the story.
  • Alcoholic Parent: Bud Robert's father. Mac's late father was also like this.
  • Alien Abduction:
    • In "Sightings", Harm and Meg debate the possibility of this, given the blinding lights in the sky, deafening noises, and strange smells people have been reporting. Harm is dismissive of it and tries to find mundane explanations, while Meg is more open to the possibility. Harm is right, as it is revealed to be drug runners employing an elaborate cover-up.
    • In the episode "Vanished", an F-14 Tomcat has disappeared in The Bermuda Triangle. On a helicopter flight back to shore, skeptical Harm spots that nerdy Bud is reading a book titled "The Abductee's Survival Manual" and starts a conversation on the topic (see quotes.) It eventually turns out that the missing F-14 has nothing to do with aliens, but they do manage to get several vital clues to the puzzle from UFO enthusiasts.
  • Almost Famous Name: Harm once offered to introduce a pair of sailors to Jennifer Lopez in exchange for them helping him out. It wasn't till after they've helped that we find out this Jennifer is his dental hygienist.
  • Alternate History: In JAG there really was a smoking gun connecting Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda, discovered by U.S. troops in one of Saddam's palaces, as seen in "Lawyers, Guns and Money". However this information appear to be classified (for some reason), because a year later Harm, Mac & Bud prepare their defense arguments before the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav" and Mac explicitly states that there is no smoking gun connecting Al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein.
  • Ambiguous Situation: In "Boot", someone attacks Austin in the gas chamber, but it's impossible to see who. It's possible that Private Whitley was trying to kill her because she was on her trail, or that Private Johnson was trying to rough her up out of spite.
  • Ambulance Chaser: In the season eight episode "Standards of Conduct", one of these goes after Harm in a traffic accident scam, and apparently this particular Ambulance Chaser is so good that the lawyer has to get himself a lawyer!
    • Actually Harm concedes that he doesn't know enough about civil law/tort to handle it himself. Enter Bud, who see through the scam.
    • Besides that, it's standard procedure for a lawyer to hire another lawyer for his/her own legal troubles. The classic saying goes that "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client," and Harm himself alludes to that when he asks Sturgis to represent him. (Sturgis says no but suggests Bud, who says yes.)
  • America Saves the Day: In season 9's "People v. SecNav", the Secretary of the Navy (with presidential approval) goes before the International Criminal Court in The Hague to stand before charges of war crimes in Iraq and is defended by Harm & Mac. He faces an aggressive prosecutor with a French accent.
    Edward Sheffield: Ever since our founding, America has been the symbol of hope for the world, and we remain so today. We accept our responsibility, which all civilized nations should, to fight against oppression and tyranny. But when we fight, we don't fight for land or oil or money or to impose our will. We take up arms against violent men who threaten our freedom and the freedom of others.
    ICC Prosecutor: I commend your lofty goal of saving the world. But some might say the hundreds of Iraqis civilians you killed is nothing short of evil.
    Edward Sheffield: The unintentional deaths of civilians is a tragic consequence of war. The purposeful slaughter of American civilians followed in the Middle East by jubilant dancing in the street, that is evil!
    ICC Prosecutor: Did the world ask you to be its saviour?
    Edward Sheffield: In 1917, in 1941, and throughout the 40 years of the Cold War, the world asked us for help. And we gave it. But now the war on terrorism has begun, and we can't wait to be asked. We must do what has to be done.
    ICC Prosecutor: So you feel free to attack any nation of which you disapprove?
  • Amusement Park: In "Boomerang, Part I", an American sailor kills an Australian sailor on the dock outside Luna Park Sydney during The Vietnam War.
  • Anchored Ship: This was the case with Harm and Mac for almost nine seasons until it was resolved in the very last episode, "Fair Winds and Following Seas"; due to the fact that they are both career-oriented military officers working at the same place. Plus multiple other vauge excuses were made throughout the series.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: No one was particularly sad to see Lt. Singer leave for sea duty in the Middle East save Sergei.
  • Anti-Air:
    • In the pilot movie we see Soviet-made AA guns used by the Serbs against U.S. Navy F-14s, and they almost take the CAG out, if it were not for his resourceful passenger.
    • Also part of the backstory of Harm's dad: he was shot down by AA during The Vietnam War (Christmas Eve 1969).
    • "Brig Break" begins with a JAG investigation concerning a missing Stinger missile before the titular brig break occurs. The missing Stinger launcher is used on a Sea Stallion helicopter pursuing the villains. But it was sabotaged so the warhead didn't go off.
  • Anti-Villain: Colonel Matthew O'Hara in "We the People" is a Marine Corps legend who earned the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War, but he's grown tired of American degradation of society with street crimes and corrupted politicians, so he and a few other Marines snatches the Declaration of Independence transported in a mail truck on its back from a restoration job. What no one knows at the outset is that the Colonel is the uncle of Major Sarah Mackenzie.
  • Arc Number: In "Brig Break", the number 7 is repeated throughout the episode in various contexts. The keycode to disable the nuclear bomb has a 7 in it, Austin mentions at one point that they have 7 minutes left, and finally they disable the bomb with 7 seconds left.
  • Area51: In the "The One Who Got Away", while flying for the CIA, Harm is detailed to fly the Aurora spy plane from a secret location, which even the usually reliable Title In names as "Diamond Lake, Location classified".
    Harm: So what is this place, anyway?
    Allen Blaisdell: The Directorate for Development Plans Area.
    Harm: I thought that was Area 51.
    Allen Blaisdell: DDP hasn't been there for years.
    Andy Watson: It's kind of difficult to do top secret flight ops, huh, on a base surrounded by tourists with telescopes and video cameras.
    • However, in a later scene we do see on a flight map that the base is located somewhere around the Nevada Test Site.
    • In "Impact", although the story is set around Twenty-Nine Palms, California, the secretive Bradenhurst Corporation test area exhibits many subtropes commonly associated with Area 51, such as: use of deadly force authorize signs, armed private security guards, mysterious unidentified aircraft originating from that area, and blanket security cover for the whole operation. And Clark Palmer when interrogating Harm also says:
    Listen, since when did top secret become everybody's business? Do you have any idea how many nutcases we have trying to break onto this site because they think we have crashed spaceships and aliens on ice out here?
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • In "Ice Queen", the NCIS Backdoor Pilot, Harm is arrested as the prime suspect for the murder of Lieutenant Singer and as he's being handcuffed Gibbs ask a question he wasn't prepared for:
    Commander Rabb: Can you tell if someone's guilty by their eyes?
    Special Agent Gibbs: I can.
    Commander Rabb: Yeah? Well, look in mine. Ask me. Ask me
    Special Agent Gibbs: Would you kill for your brother?
    • In "Shifting Sands", Bud asks Rear Admiral La Porte how non-English speaking Bedouin tribe could break American English codes if it wasn't his daughter, who was injured, found by the tribe 12 years previously, and fell in love with the sheik, who did it. The Admiral is stunned and broken as he realizes his daughter was guilty of treason.
  • Art Shift: The two part episode of JAG in season eight which served as a backdoor pilot for NCIS had much faster cuts and a completely different musical score from the usual fare on JAG: whenever the NCIS characters were on screen (except for when they went to JAG HQ).
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • In one episode, Harm's partner is kidnapped by a gang in South Central Los Angeles. They tell Harm to drive back to Camp Pendleton, grab one of their members who has joined the Marines, and bring him back in one hour. Camp Pendleton is 90 miles from Los Angeles - even with no traffic it would be extremely difficult to make the drive down there in one hour, let alone back.
    • In several episodes they also drive awfully fast, judging by stated Zulu times, from Washington, D.C. to both Norfolk and Blacksburg in Virginia.
  • Asian Store-Owner: In "Wedding Bell Blues", Harm goes to the dry cleaner to get his Dress Whites uniform back in time for Bud's wedding, but is has been mixed up with a police uniform from another customer. The Indian owner will only help Harm locate the other customer if he agrees to take his daughter on a date.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Ambassador Bartlett in "War Cries". Worth noting, she's only an ass to her fellow Americans at the embassy, when she meets with a Peruvian government official, she is the model of composed behavior.
  • Audit Threat: Ted Lindsey's investigation in season 8.
  • Bad Date: Bud shows up too late at his first date with Harriet in "Washington Holiday" because his car had a flat tire.
  • Badass in Distress: Happens to Harm in the climax of "Déjà Vu" when he's attacked in his apartment.
  • Balkanize Me: The Yugoslav Wars provided much of the material for the episodes in seasons 1 (Bosnia), 4 and 5 (Kosovo).
  • Banana Republic: Subverted in the ninth season episode "Secret Agent Man". While on a CIA mission in the Philippines, Harm's partner Beth O'Neill has managed to get caught by the local police. Harm goes to the police station and tries to first play the act of an ignorant American tourist. When that doesn't work he changes to a tactic which completely misfires.
    Harm: All right, I get it. What's it gonna cost?
    Police Officer: What? You think that we are some kind of banana republic here where every official is for sale? You listen to me. You just go back to your nice comfortable tourist hotel and you think about it. (Starts shouting aggressively in Tagalog)
  • Baseball Episode:
    • At the beginning of "Innocence" in season 4 it's the Navy Judge Advocates versus the Navy Chaplains.
    • Also "The Boast" in season 9 where Harm and the Admiral witness a Navy pitcher hit a Marine batter during a friendly baseball game, leading to the pitcher being charged with assault.
  • Batman Gambit: In the climax of "Shadow", the crew informs Grover that they have seized control of the torpedo only to realize it has locked onto the Tigershark as a new target. Grover instructs Meg on how to disable the torpedo, only to find they had never been able to gain control of his laptop or the torpedo to begin with.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: In "Skeleton Crew"
    Bud Roberts: Well, the medical examiner faxed over more autopsy details for Agent Turque.
    Harmon Rabb: Can I see them?
    Bud Roberts: Sorry, sir. Agent Turque instructed me that these were for his eyes only. In fact, his Exact Words were, "Don't hand any faxes over to Commander Rabb."
    Harmon Rabb: I see.
    Bud Roberts drops one copy of the report for Harm to pick up.
  • Bedlam House: In "The Martin Baker Fan Cub", paraplegic Vietnam veteran Roscoe Martin (from "King of the Fleas") has been placed in a secured psychiatric ward in a VA hospital, rather than in prison due to Harm's lawyering skills. Now he's charged with second degree murder for the death of a fellow patient who jumped out of a window. While the hospital isn't bad, it's understaffed. Roscoe, quite obviously, doesn't like being institutionalized there, is described by a doctor as the most disruptive patient, and he makes an escape with a few other patients.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: In "The Black Jet", bedouins have seized the downed jet, but proves to be helpful, and while Harm takes off in the downed jet, Mac and Keeter manage to sneak out of Iran with the aid of the bedouins.
    • This shows a research failure on behalf of the script writers. There are actually no bedouins in Iran.
  • The Bermuda Triangle: An F-14 fighter plane disappears in the Bermuda Triangle in third season episode "Vanished".
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Chegwidden once spent an episode as the technical advisor on a movie about the US Navy and the sub-plot drew attention to every nitpick real servicemembers had about JAG.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After Mustafa Atef, the in-universe Al-Qaeda number 3, was sentenced to death by the military tribunal in "Tribunal", he committs suicide in his cell without uttering a sound.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In "Déjà Vu", Meg and the Instrumental Theme show up just in the nick of time to save Harm's life.
    • In "Enemy Below", both Harm and Sturgis, in their own ways, prevents Al-Qaida terrorists and a defected Russian submarine captain to unleash a dirty bomb on U.S. Carrier Battle Group in the Indian Ocean.
  • Bilingual Backfire:
    • In "Iron Coffin" Sarah Mackenzie is on a submarine as part of a fact-finding mission to determine whether women should be allowed to serve on submarines. A sailor looks at Mac and says, in Russian, "Do you think they'd look like her?" Another sailor says, also in Russian, "No, more like sperm whales," and they both laugh. Mac, who is fluent in Russian, says, "Let me know if you see any sperm whales. I thought they were rare in these seas."
    • In "To Russia with Love", where she and Harm travel to Russia, two hotel clerks make some crude remarks about him 'being able to afford' a woman like Mac (they are in civvies). Mac steps forward and rattles off a quick, untranslated, reply, then tells Harm not to bother trying to look up what she said in his phrasebook.
    • In "Nobody's Child", Harm and Mac questions a convicted child molester who had violated the terms of his parole and watched school children from his car and said he listened to Als ich bei meinen Schaffen wacht in his car, which Mac correctly translates from German to As I watch over my sheep and by doing so really gets his attention.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • The 5th season episode "Rogue" begins with a statement that it's not based on any real person or event; but even the episode title is a play on Richard Marcinko and his Red Cell team that would play terrorists to test military security. They apparently really were able to infiltrate nuclear subs (how much of this is fiction is a matter of debate, but the team was real.) Justified as even with his court martial and trial at the beginning of the decade the Navy was still very much trying to keep Marcinko's SEAL Team Six and Red Cell under wraps when the episode aired in 1999.
    • The following episode, "The Colonel's Wife", also starts with the same disclaimer and is clearly inspired by the real-Life story of a military wife stationed abroad who in effect became a drug courier.
    • The 7th season episode "Head to Toe", although its starts with a disclaimer, is clearly inspired by the famed lawsuit (McSally v. Rumsfeld) U.S. Air Force pilot Martha McSally brought against the Secretary of Defense for having to wear the Abaya while stationed in Saudi Arabia.
  • Blinded by the Light: In "Sightings", this is one of two methods the UFO has of rendering people helpless.
  • Bomb Disposal: In "Brig Break", Harm races to get the nuclear bomb far enough from the base before it goes off, while Meg and Pike try to figure out the code to disable it.
  • Boot Camp Episode:
    • "Boot" has Meg investigating Paris Island's female DI's in the most straightforward way.
    • Harm goes undercover as a Marine Gunnery Sergeant in "Force Recon".
  • Boundand Gagged: Meg in "Brig Break" and Hamm in "Imposter".
  • Brand X:
    • "Heroes" introduced a hamburger chain called Beltway Burgers.
    • An Oceanic Airlines flight to Seoul gets hijacked by South Korean radicals in 5th season episode "The Bridge at Kang So Ri". Luckily enough our heroes take care of the situation.
    • The faulty F-14 maintenance contractor in "Flight Risk" is named Froehlke.
  • Building of Adventure: JAG Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia has had its fair share of hostage situations, impostors, screaming births and courtroom antics (including assault of counsel and an automatic weapon fired in the courtroom).
  • Bulletproof Vest: In "War Cries", the vest's lack of protection for the wearer's head is lampshaded.
    Ambassador Bartlett: What if someone aims at my head?
    Gunnery Sgt. Granger: Duck, ma'am.
  • Burial at Sea: At the end of "Need to Know", the families of the crew of a submarine that foundered off the Soviet coast in 1968 on a secret mission gets to see a declassified film of the burial at sea that took place shortly after recovery of the wreckage.
  • Buried Alive: Mentioned in the 3rd season episode "Vanished". The villain orders one of his underlings to kill the hostage and bury them in the woods. The underling seems to interpret this literally by asking if they are to be buried alive. The villain replies by saying he's not heartless and he can shoot them first.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: In "High Ground," the expert sniper that saved RADM Chegwidden life in Vietnam admits to LCDR Rabb that he's saved so many others that he can't remember Chegwidden. However, the Admiral wants to buy him a drink in repayment. When Rabb leans over to the Gunny and says, "You still don't remember him, do you?" the Gunny wisely responds, "A Gunny Sergeant never tells an Admiral he doesn't remember him."
  • Butt-Monkey: The writers obviously had the recurring character Ted Lindsey to fill this role.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Bud and Harriet both do this in the season 3 episode "Wedding Bell Blues" with separate parents, Bud with his blowhard, semi-abusive working-class father and Harriet with her meddlesome Southern Belle mom.
    • Mac in season 4 gets one of her own against her mother in "Second Sight" at the deathbed of her father.
  • The Cameo:
    • For the cameos by Jay Leno in the Pilot Movie and Craig Kilborn in "JAG TV", see Leno Device.
    • Oliver North appears in a few episodes (two in the first season) as himself. Apparently he and Meg's father were old friends, and she calls him "Uncle Ollie".
    • Gloria Allred and Johnnie Cochran in "JAG TV" comments on an in-universe televised court-martial with Mac as trial counsel.
    • Mary Hart as host of Entertainment Tonight, also in "JAG TV".
    • Bill O'Reilly comments on a case in "Firendly Fire" involving friendly fire with British forces.
  • Career Versus Man: In "Scimitar", Colonel Al-Barzan is fascinated by the strong-willed Meg Austin, leading to a discussion (and dismissal) of this trope:
    Colonel Al-Barzan: How can work compare to the caresses of a man you love?
    Lt. J.G. Meg Austin: I wasn't comparing them, Colonel. You were.
    Colonel Al-Barzan: A woman like you needs a strong hand.
    Lt. J.G. Meg Austin: I already have a strong hand. My own.
  • The Cartel: In the second season episode "The Game of Go", a U.S. Marine is captured by a drug baron in Colombia while on joint operation with the Colombian authorities.
  • Casting Gag: In the episode "Ghosts of Christmas Past," David Elliott plays his father, Harm Rabb, Sr. and Peter Murnik plays the young version of Tom Boone, the CAG from past episodes. This has Harm's worst enemy, Clark Palmer, playing Harm's dad's best friend.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Donald P. Bellisario, the series show runner and creator, exists in the JAG-verse as does his series Quantum Leap. Actor Dean Stockwell who had a major part in Quantum Leap, later plays Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield.
    • Rear Admiral Chegwidden tells Harm that his "record here reads like a cross between Top Gun and A Few Good Men". John M. Jackson portrayed JAG Captain West in A Few Good Men.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the episode "Brig Break", Lt. Kate Pike and Lt. Meg Austin have a minor disagreement weather the proper title of the visitor's registration form for the brig is -77401 or -77501. At the climax, gunnery sergeant in charge of the brig has activated a nuclear weapon and it can only be deactivated by entering a five digit code. Since the Gunny had perversely tormented Meg by telling her the 5-digit code he picked "has a seven in it", Meg, Harm and Kate desperately try to choose a string of numbers with a seven in it that Gunny might have used on a regular basis.
    • A more literal example from the same episode: It is mentioned early on that after Quinn was caught trying to smuggle a Stinger launcher off base, they did a complete inventory and found that another one was missing. Much later in the episode, the gunnery sergeant reveals the missing Stinger and fires it at a pursuing helicopter. The missile bounces off the helicopter's rotor without detonating, revealing it to be a dud.
  • Cherry Tapping: In "Boot", Meg and Johnson are selected to fight each other with pugil sticks, with any blow to the head (and only a blow to the head) being counted as a kill. Johnson manages to disarm Meg and proceeds to repeatedly beat her without going for the headshot. Meg in turn manages to trip Johnson, get her pugil stick, and gently tap her in the faceplate.
  • Christmas Episode: JAG had five of these, once per season following the fourth (save the show's sixth season) and with the common sight of Harm visiting the Vietnam Memorial his father was shot down on Christmas Day. One episode aired on Christmas Day 1997, but had nothing to do with Christmas.
    • Season 4: "Jaggle Bells"
    • Season 5: "Ghosts of Christmas Past"
    • Season 7: "Answered Prayers"
    • Season 8: "All Ye Faithful"
    • Season 9: "A Merry Little Christmas"
      • Spin-Off NCIS has been carrying on the tradition with style.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good, NCIS Incompetent: The CIA and other espionage agencies are evil or morally gray/grey. The FBI is portrayed as using Jurisdiction Friction to take control of the investigation and refusing to cooperate with others. And with a dash of Early-Installment Weirdness for the sequel show, NCIS, NCIS agents, before the in-show pilot "Ice Queen", were prone to Jurisdiction Friction and overlooking evidence that Harm or other lawyers would notice and solve the case. In fact, only the JAG lawyers acts fair and balanced. Everybody else is only concerned with saving their own asses.
  • Cigar Chomper: Harmon Rabb occasionally smoked cigars, until third season episode "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" when he had decided to quit.
    • In a review panning the series in its first season, TV Guide even characterized it as:
    ... macho swaggering, muscle-flexing, cigar-chomping military men who can't stop whining about having to share their Navy with sailors in skirts.
    • Many minor characters; particularly senior military officers, intelligence officers and businessmen are often seen chomping cigars: Tom Boone in the Pilot Movie, Captain Reed in "Desert Son" (Bonus points for lighting up his cigar just before ordering his artillery battery to fire), Gunnery Sergeant Granger in "War Cries", the Aryan Nation militia leader in "Brig Break", Percival Bertram in "Act of Terror".
  • Clear My Name:
    • Harmon Rabb in "People v. Rabb" in season 3 most notably.
    • And in season 10, Jennifer Coates in "There Goes The Neighborhood".
  • Cliffhanger:
    • The first season ended with Harm being arrested for murder, though same episode was a Missing Episode and later adapted, thus bordering on Canon Discontinuity.
    • The third season ended with a Bolivian Army Cliffhanger in "To Russia with Love" where Harm and Mac's plane is hit by a missile behind a cloud, while in Russia looking for Harm's father.
      • Cliffhanger Copout: In the next season resolution, in "Gypsy Eyes", we see that they managed to eject before the plane exploded.
    • The sixth ended with Harm lost at sea, having ejected from his F-14 trying to get back in time to catch Mac's wedding.
    • The seventh ends with Bud stepping on a landmine while trying to prevent an Afghan boy from doing likewise.
    • The eighth ended with Harm leaving JAG to save Mac and Webb against orders.
    • The ninth ends with Webb apparently killed and the Admiral's retirement.
    • The series itself ends with something like a cliffhanger, leaving the audience wondering if either Harm or Mac will retire after they decide to marry and whether they'll end up in London or San Diego afterwards.
  • Clip Show: JAG only had one: "Lifeline" in season 6. Though there were a couple of brief clip-show-style moments in a few other episodes.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: This happened several times on JAG, and ZNN was the news network of choice.
  • Cold Sniper: In "High Ground"; when a promise by his former CO not be deployed to Bosnia is reversed by the new Colonel; Gunnery Sergeant Ray Crockett shots the rear mirror of the Colonel's car, when moving at 1 000 yards distance, as a warning before he takes off to the hills.
    • But he's also at the same time a Friendly Sniper, because he felt he was unjustly treated and never meant to harm anyone.
  • Colonel Badass: Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. and Lieutenant Colonel Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie, obviously.
    • Thai Colonel Patano in "Déjà Vu". It's made clear that the only reason Harm isn't dead is because Patano never had the intention to kill him.
  • Comforting the Widow: In "Pilot Error", Harm spends time with the deceased Lt. Luke Pendry's family, having known them when he was still alive.
  • Commie Land: Harm goes twice to China and twice to Cuba on the show.
  • Common Nonsense Jury: Basically the plot of the season ten episode "The Sixth Juror" when Petty Officer Jennifer Coates is brought in as juror and starts asking pertinent questions which no one had thought about.
  • Commonality Connection:
    • In "In Country", Bud bonds with a suspected terrorist in a unusual example of this trope. Both are fans of Star Trek, and Bud uses this to obtain information about an attack.
    • In "When the Bough Breaks", while Bud is recovering from his leg injury, he befriends the Admiral's current girlfriend, a professor of Shakespeare, by noting how several episodes of Star Trek borrow from some of Shakespeare's plays.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: The female assassin in "Washington Holiday" tries to do this twice with the Romanian royals, first in Brussels and later in DC.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the second part of season 5's "Boomerang", after Harm and Mic get into a fight that inadvertently breaks Bud's jaw (he stepped in between their simultaneous punches), Admiral Chegwidden, with the approval of Mic's superior officer Captain Howell, offers them "non-judicial punishment". He takes them to an empty building, opens the door, and tells them they are not to leave until they inflict damage and pain on each other equal to what they inflicted on Bud. The next day in court, they both look like they went 10 rounds with the heavyweight champ.
    Captain Howell: I always did like Yank SEALs.
  • Cool Car: Harm owns a '70s Chevy Corvette. It gets stolen and stripped for parts, but he eventually builds a new one. Mac buys herself a more modern Corvette at one point. Something of a Kick the Dog moment, however, as this was in the same episode that Harm's Corvette was stolen and stripped.
  • Cool Old Lady: Porter Webb, CIA officer Clayton Webb's mother, a former NSA analyst who is perfectly comfortable with her son's fake deaths and other cloak and dagger shenanigans.
  • Cool Shades: On this show, all naval aviators have at least one pair.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: this trope is often used as defense contractors will sell faulty equipment at premium prices often resulting in deaths of service members. Any military officer who aids them is always portrayed in a very negative light.
    • "Pilot Error" plays with this: Two aviators are killed when their F-14 crashes during a test of a terrain-following autopilot being considered by the Navy. The company rep believes it had to be pilot error, as the equipment works fine on Air Force jets, and goes so far as to dig up dirt on the pilot to discredit him. When Harm is able to prove the autopilot had been malfunctioning (it wasn't designed to deal with the abuse of carrier landings), the company rep accepts it without argument and promises that the problem will be corrected to prevent further deaths.
    • In "Act of Terror", Percival Bertram is a wealthy businessman who supports right-wing conservative politicians and brands himself as a super-patriot (i.e. a Warhawk) advocating that the U.S. should take gloves of with respect to terrorists to U.S. interests in the Middle East. However, the alleged super-patriot finances terrorism in the Middle East against U.S. interests (supposedly to create a self-fulfilling prophecy gaining his own business interests.)
  • Covert Group with Mundane Front: In "Impact", The Bradenhurst Corporation officially handles toxic waste near Twenty Nine Palms, CA: but in reality builds UFO-like UAVs for Uncle Sam.
  • Crash Course Landing: Harmon Rabb lands a 747 airliner belonging to Oceanic Airlines in "The Bridge at Kang So Ri" after having taken out South Korean radical-left hijackers. Considering that he's a pilot, he only gets a reminder of how big a 747 really is.
    • In the pilot episode, he ends up having to land a damaged Tomcat that he was riding in the back seat of. While he was actually trained to fly the Tomcat, he was about five years out of practice and suffered from night blindness. Another Tomcat pilot helped guide him in.
  • Crazy Homeless People: In "The Guardian", Harm and Mac defend a homeless former Navy SEAL, in civilian court, who is accused of killing three men while thwarting a convenience store robbery.
  • Creepy Mortician: Averted with recurring character Lt. Commander Teresa Coulter, a Navy pathologist. The only creepy thing about her might be the deep southern accent.
  • Cunning Linguist: Mac, as she speaks or reads Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Farsi, German, Arabic (beginning in season 10) and Hebrew.
    • To a lesser degree, you have Meg Austin, who is fluent in Spanish, as befitting an educated woman from Texas.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: When President of the Captains' Promotion Board, Chegwidden could only give a bare minimal compliment to Commander Lindsey. Then the board made further inquiries and Chegwidden's real feelings showed through.
  • Dangerous Deserter: In the season nine episode "Shifting Sands" a Navy petty officer believed to be lost since the first Gulf War is found in Iraq, married to a Bedouin sheik. It turns out that she's provided intelligence to Saddam's regime through the years.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Just about every supporting character on the show got an episode an season when they were the lead.
    • Or an episode when they were put on trial (the "People v. X" episodes, among others). Harm got two.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: An unusual example in "Pilot Error", in that it was the object of both parties' affection, Harm's friend and Annie's husband, rather than one of the competitors, who dies.
  • Death World: A non-science fiction example; several episodes in the later half of the 7th season depicts Afghanistan as one.
  • Deception Non-Compliance: Admiral Chegwidden subtly informs people that he's being held at gunpoint by referring to a file which relates to another hostage-taking case.
  • Decoy Trial: The episode "Defenseless" has a female Ensign in the U.S. Navy killing the Turkish military attaché in Washington. To convict the perpetrator, murder charges are brought against the Ensign who actually, unbeknownst to everyone involved in the trial, is a fake identity of a an officer with Naval Intelligence and evidence is by purpose stacked against the ensign to maintain US-Turkish relations. In spite of this, the Ensign's defense counsel, Harmon Rabb, manages to get her acquitted.
  • Deep Cover Agent: Harm's new neighbor, Meghan O'Hara, in "Washington Holiday" turned out to be a trained assasin, whose mission was to killDesignatedGirlFight the Romanian king while in DC.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Meg Austin vs Angelique in "Déjà Vu", after Angelique drugged Harm and tried to murder him.
  • Despair Event Horizon: In "King of the Fleas", Roscoe Martin tells the story how had as a POW during the Vietnam War been tricked into revealing the names of the pilot inmates at the POW camp, and was then forced to watch as the Vietcong executed the rest of them, which had plagued him ever since. Subverted in that after he had killed the camp commander in the present-day (1997-98), he regained some hope again, as evidently seen in "The Martin Baker Fan Club".
  • Determinator: In "Desert Son", we learn that General Williams made three trips in a damaged helicopter to rescue a special operations team, after having most of his leg blown off and the rest of his crew killed. That's why he got the Medal of Honor.
  • Didn't See That Coming: In 1st season episode "Sightings", Colombian drug smugglers use the underground facilities of a supposedly abandoned navy base in Texas where they have a cocaine processing facility without the locals knowing anything about it. The Colombians also used a helicopter equipped with lights and low-frequency emitters, appearing as a UFO, to scare away the locals. Obviously, they didn't foresee that the disappearance of a young local girl would lead the Navy to send two of its most resourceful investigators and foil the whole operation.
  • "Die Hard" on an X:
    • "Code Blue" in the second season had Hamas terrorists take over a DC hospital where the Israeli defense minister was receiving a heart transplant. Unfortunately for Hamas, Harm was there to save the day. A few Shout Outs and an Incredibly Lame Pun ensues, along with hilarity.
    • Another episode, "Tiger, Tiger" in the third season, was basically Die Hard on A Warship, with Cuban hijackers seizing a frigate while it is taking a group of Navy Brats on a Tiger Cruise. Turns out, they are not supporters of Castro's regime, but instead want to use the ship's weapons to assassinate him.
    • "Embassy" in season 4 is Die Hard inside a foreign embassy.
  • Dirty Cop:
  • Dirty Harriet: Mac goes undercover in season 5 as a Chief Petty Officer trying infiltrate a Wicca group, including getting herself sky-clad.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In "Yesterday's Heroes", as part of the plan of busting a drug kingpin is having Mac approach him in a two piece swimsuit. It works.
  • Dr. Jerk: The character played by Patrick Labyorteaux in "Each Of Us Angels".
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The dog Admiral Chegwidden adopts in the season nine episode "Empty Quiver" is named Dammit, because that was the only expression to which it would pay attention.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir":
    • In 1st season episode ("Sightings") a former enlisted service member takes offense being called sir by Harm.
    • Another example is in "Dog Robber: Part 1" when Harm goes to Admiral Boone's place to inform him that the SecNav wants to have him as his troubleshooter.
    Boone: Don't sir me. I'm retired.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: From Soul Searching, when Adm. Chegwidden, a former Navy SEAL, gets into a scrape with a Italian mafioso:
    Admiral: Signor Amati, many people have tried to kill me one time or another. They're mostly dead. So there's a good chance that your brother-in-law will join them if he does come after me.... Does he have other sons?
    Enrico Amati: Uno.
    Admiral: When he comes, I'll regrettably kill him too. And after him?
    Enrico Amati: My sister will expect me to uphold the honor of mi familia.
    Admiral: Then I'll have to kill you. I don't want to have to do that.
    Enrico Amati: [in Italian] You're either a very bold man, or crazy!
    Admiral: [In Italian] Not crazy. Practical.
  • Double Agent: Sina Kazzari in "The Black Jet", who at first is assumed to work for the Americans, but later turns out to be working for the Iranians as well.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: In "Scimitar", Colonel Ahmad Al-Barzan who obviosly works for Saddam Hussein, but for plot purposes he is the highest ranking official the heroes have to deal with.
  • Drama Bomb: The death of Lt. Loren Singer in "Ice Queen". Enter NCIS.
  • Drawing Straws: In "Retrial", the wives of the bigamist prosecuted by Mac drew straws on who shouldn't divorce him.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: From "Brig Break", in addition to the handful of bad guys who actually are Marines, several others use uniforms to infiltrate the base.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The season 1 episode "Boot" presents a pair of female instructors training female Marine recruits at Parris Island. The senior of the two is Staff Sergeant Carrington, (played by Julie Caitlin Brown). While Harm and Meg quickly figure out they are hiding something and suspect that one of them killed a recruit, it is revealed that the junior instructor, Sergeant Gonzales, was carrying on an illegal relationship with the base Provost Marshall, and Carrington was helping cover for her.
    • Another season 1 episode, "The Brotherhood", has a retired Gunnery Sergeant who runs a boot camp for troubled kids.
  • Drinking on Duty: In "Desert Son", Lt. Williams jokes that he's not hungover, but rather "still drunk" just before the friendly fire incident, and later claims his hangover to have caused his mistake, before changing his story and letting Boone take the blame.
  • Drives Like Crazy: One episode a young ensign from Jersey played by Sarah Silverman, who absolutely tears across base in a Humvee, hardly ever looking at the road, rambling on about whatever comes to mind, and generally terrifying poor Bud and even making Harm nervous. Bud is forced to have her drive him somewhere on the other side of base because he's in a hurry, and finds her driving much less terrifying if he takes his contacts out first.
  • Dropped After the Pilot: The two episodes that comprised the Poorly Disguised Pilot for NCIS had a character named Vivian Blackadder on Team Gibbs. Come the first episode of the spinoff, she's nowhere to be seen, and her slot on the team is quickly filled by new recruit Caitlin Todd.
  • Drowning Pit: In "Cabin Pressure", Harm along with the ship's sergeant-at-arms and an enlisted sailor accused of murder are trapped below deck on a ship that ran aground. The Dirty Cop left Harm and the sailor to drown when getting rescued and claimed that they were already dead; but in this show The Hero never dies.
  • Drugs Are Bad: In the episode "JAG TV", Harm investigates the death of a sailor onboard an aircraft carrier who apparently committed suicide by jumping in front of an F-14 during landing. Turns out the reason was his drug use plus other personal problems.
  • Duel to the Death: In "Dog Robber (Part 1)", Mac deals with two Naval Academy midshipmen (and fictional descendants of Burr & Hamilton) who staged a failed duel.
  • Ejection Seat: Played straight, averted, subverted, and discussed in various different episodes. Also part of the backstory for both how Harm became a lawyer and how his dad ended up Missing In Action.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: In "Sightings", the abandoned military airfield was built with underground aircraft shelters, being used by drug runners to conceal their operation.
  • Electric Torture: Clayton Webb, while on an undercover mission in Paraguay together with Mac, is subjected to this particular kind of torture in the season eight episode "A Tangled Webb". Mac is also about to treated the same, but then Harm arrives and saves them.
  • Elevator Failure: Bud takes the elevator not realizing it is malfunctioning in the episode "Yeah Baby".
  • Emergency Impersonation: In "Sightings", after Meg is captured, she is made to announce over a loudspeaker that Lt. Rabb should hand himself over or she will be killed. Since they don't know J.D. is there as well, and haven't seen Harm yet, J.D. and Harm change clothes, allowing J.D. to serve as a distraction while Harm sneaks in to do his hero thing.
  • Empty Quiver: In the episode "Empty Quiver" a nuclear torpedo disappeared during transfer to a submarine. Subverted when it was discovered that, through a series of minor missteps (including a short blackout due to transferring to ship's power), the missile was ejected into the harbor. Sturgis notes that while it was an accident, it was very likely all of the sailors involved would never serve on any combat ship again.
  • Engineered Public Confession and Bluffing the Murderer: In "Killer Instinct" (season 6), the defendant is a petty officer on an Aircraft Carrier suspected of murdering a subordinate (by throwing overboard at night), because they were incompetent at their jobs. One crucial piece of evidence is not admissible in court because the ship's CO did not have probable cause for issuing a search warrant, and this necessitates a different strategy from the prosecution. Harm does the standard Perry Mason Method, knowing beforehand that the defendant will not fall into the trap and make him overconfident. And when Bud later has his turn to question him, he begins by asking the defendant several questions that Harm had asked earlier, then proceeds to make several other basic errors before dropping his notes in mid-question, and finally drives the pedantic defendant into a rage, before revealing that he was Obfuscating Stupidity and it was all part of a plan.
    Petty Officer Duell: Some people don't belong in the United States Navy.
    Lieutenant Roberts: No, but the Navy won't kill them.
    Petty Officer Duell: No, but somebody has to.
    Lieutenant Roberts: Somebody has to, sir.
  • Ensign Newbie: Both Bud and Harriet literally starts out as this.
  • Episode on a Plane: An Oceanic Airlines (how typical) flight to Seoul gets hijacked by South Korean radicals in season 5's "The Bridge at Kang So Ri". Luckily enough our heroes take care of the situation.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Played straight in the season 4 episode "Embassy", when Harm is taken hostage in the Sudanese embassy and the FBI has already decided to cut off the embassy's electric power, Harm signals the word power in Morse code by failing to light a cigar, and this is noticed by Bud at JAG Headquarters through ZNN live coverage and Clayton Webb relays it the FBI.
  • Everything Is Online: In "Shadow", Grover claims to control the torpedo via his laptop, and is able to set off various bombs he has concealed throughout the ship. It is lampshaded that the only way he is able to do this is because he arranged for extra pieces of equipment to be installed in the submarine while it was still under construction.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Scotland The Brave is played at Admiral Chegwidden's dining-out retirement party in the last episode of season nine.
  • Exact Words: In season 8 episode "Friendly Fire" acting judge Harmon Rabb and his clerk Jennifer Coates realize that both prosecution and defense have missed evidence which would give the defense a crucial edge in showing reasonable doubt. However, Judicial Conduct rules are strict and interference beyond the scope of his duties in the case is a court martial offense. However when Harm realizes the rules only prohibit from giving advantageous help to the side which would gain the advantage. So he nudges the prosecution to look over where he found the evidence. Upon discovering it, they must give it to the defense. And with that, the case was over.
  • Faking the Dead: Clayton Webb does this, twice, with Harm and Mac unintentionally doing likewise on one occasion.
  • Fallback Marriage Pact: In season four at the end of "Yeah, Baby", Harm and Mac agrees to have a child together in five years if neither have a significant other some time in the future.
  • False Reassurance: In "Cowboys and Cossacks", Harm and Bud conspire with the officers of a Russian warship to take command of the ship away from the Captain, who seems intent to go rogue and attack an American warship. Bud asks if they could be charged with mutiny for this, and Harm assures him that legally, they can't. Because it's technically an act of terrorism.
  • Fan Convention: Harm, Mac and Bud stay at a motel in "Father's Day" where a Quantum Leap convention is held. The special guest of honor is none other than Donald P. Bellisario.
  • Femme Fatale Spy: In eight season episode "Dangerous Game", Chegwidden tells Rabb that a new attorney, Lieutenant Commander Tracey Manetti, on the recommendation of the new SecNav will work at JAG, Rabb quips "Mata Hari in our midst". It later turns out (in a later episode) that she actually was assigned there as the Secretary's pair of extra eyes and ears.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: Just about every episode taking place on an aircraft carrier will feature this trope in some fashion.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis:
    • A variation in "Sightings". Harm notices a puddle on the tarmac and touches it before rubbing it between his fingers. It's aircraft engine oil. Which wouldn't be weird to find at an abandoned military airfield except that it should have dried up long ago unless a plane was there very recently.
    • In "The Brotherhood", Captain Overton identifies a stash of drugs this way (specifically, he knows it's Crank (crystal meth) rather than Crack (cocaine). Harm snarks at him, asking how he could know, and Overton explains that he was in a street gang before cleaning up and joining the Marines.
  • Foot-Dragging Divorcee: Mac had an abusive husband who refused to sign the divorce papers. And then he wound up dead and Mac was tried for murder.
  • Foreign Language Title: JAG had only one episode with one: "Pas de Deux".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the pilot episode when Harm arrives on the USS Seahawk both the Skipper and the CAG notices this from the tower and speaks on the phone where they hint at Harm's backstory.
    Skipper: Damn, CAG. He looks like Hammer.
    CAG: Yeah. Too bad he couldn't fly like him.
    CAG: So they say, Skipper.
    • In "Boot", Austin finds a letter mailed to the deceased recruit, which included a newspaper clipping about her. On the backside is a clipping about a female suspected wanted in an armed robbery case, with a partial photo of the suspect (and the episode's villain).
      • Also in "Boot", the swamp around Paris Island is mentioned early on, and the movie the two D.I.s are watching was in fact made in response to an incident where several Marine recruits drowned in the swamp. The climax of the episode takes place in the swamp.
  • Flare Gun: In the episode "Full Engagement", Harm and Mac crash land his Boeing-Stearman biplane in the woods and fall afoul of a group of poachers who have recently shot and killed a park ranger. The Mac shoots one of the poachers with a flare gun in self-defense (at very close range) because they don't have any real weapons on them.
  • Flashback: Harm gets one in "Déjà Vu", fleshing out a bit of his Back Story, where he at age 16 went on foot into Vietnam trying to find his father, who went MIA. He met a girl his age who ended up being shot dead while he watched, unable to help.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • No more than four episodes had stories involving characters other than the main cast, though still played by the main cast.
    • Season 5's Christmas Episode was a Whole Episode Flashback to when Harm's dad was shot down over Vietnam, framed by Harm speaking with a USO performer who'd met his dad shortly before.
    • Season 6's "Mutiny" had a dramatization of the Real Life mutiny attempt on the USS Somers and the investigation that followed, framed by Mac preparing to lecture on those events.
    • Season 8's "Each Of Us Angels" focused on a group of Navy nurses before and during the Battle of Iwo Jima, and is the only episode where the entire cast appears, but where none of them play their usual characters.
    • Season 9's "What If?" is an Elseworld story inspired by a series of identical fortune cookies. Harm and Mac are married and about to divorce, Chegwidden's retired and married to his current girlfriend, Sturgis is working as manager for his girlfriend, Bud and Harriet aren't married, Coates is helping in a sting operation to catch thieves, and the head of JAG is Rear Admiral (formerly Cmdr.) Alison Krennick, unseen outside of flashbacks since the first season.
  • Frame-Up: In "Ares", The Mole planted floppy discs with corrupted software code from the eponymous weapons system with an innocent colleague, to steer attention away from his own planned escape.
  • Freudian Excuse: Angelique's reason for the killings in "Déjà Vu". Her father was a Navy Lieutenant who left her and her mother behind when Saigon fell. The North Vietnamese raped and murdered her mother when they found out she had an American officer for a lover.
  • Funny Background Event: Harm gets quick-and-harsh training in "Force Recon" so he can go undercover as a Marine gunnery sergeant. This training takes place in his salty trainer's yard, and in the background throughout you can see the neighbors looking over the fence and reacting incredulously.
  • The General's Daughter: Bud's brother Mikey ends up briefly dating the daughter of the series' last JAG, Maj. Gen. Gordon Cresswell.
  • Genre Blindness: Discussed in "Déjà Vu". Harm is blindsided due to his own emotional baggage.
    Harm: There's a lot of things you're blind to. But you don't realize it until it's too late.
  • Genre Savvy: Last season addition Lieutenant Catherine Graves is a fan of crime and mystery novels. Even though she is not a lawyer, being savvy of those genres turns out to be quite useful on several occasions.
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: The season 5 episode "Ghosts of Christmas Past", dedicated to Bob Hope and USO, casts Catherine Bell as one back in 1969.
  • Going Down with the Ship: The Russian destroyer captain in "Cowboys & Cossacks" invokes this.
  • Going Native: In "Gypsy Eyes", after Harm & Mac have had their plane shot down by the Russian Air Force in Russia, they join a gypsy Brother–Sister Team during his quest to find his father. Also a case of Sacred Hospitality.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: In the season fifth episode "Into the Breech" of JAG, when Bud and Gunny go to the ex-wife of an old sailor they're looking for to testify at a hearing, Gunny says to Bud that they should approach it as good cop and bad cop to obtain a positive result.
    Gunny: Lieutenant, we play Mutt and Jeff. Do you wanna be good cop or bad cop?
    Bud: Well, uh, let's see.
    Gunny: Good cop. Absolutely.
  • Good Lawyers, Good Clients: This is generally the case on JAG.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: Military Space Agency ("Recovery") & Defense Security Division ("Impact", and mentioned in other episodes.)
  • Graceful Loser: In "Pilot Error", once presented with solid evidence that the autopilot system may have in fact malfunctioned due to not being designed with the abuse of Navy carrier landings in mind, the Macroplex executive accepts this and promises to have the newly discovered flaws corrected.
  • Grade System Snark:
    • On Clayton Webb's first appearance in "We the People", he gives a rating of Mac's beauty. When someone asks, You go into fractions? Webb replies, I use the Richter Scale.
    • Mac makes a comment on the coffee made by Petty Officer Tiner to Harm in "Ready or Not".
    Mac: Tiner's brew has reached yet another octane level.
  • Greasy Spoon: Appears several times throughout the series, often on or close to military installations. Season one cliffhanger "Skeleton Crew" has a typical one.
  • Great Escape:
    • "Brig Break" is about a jailbreak and with Meg in a Hostage Situation.
    • In "Scimitar", Harm and Meg gets the captured marine out of an Iraqi prison.
    • In "The Black Jet", Harm and Mac gets Keeter out of an Iranian prison.
  • Grumpy Old Men: Basically, every Admiral/General or senior NCO on the show near retirement will exhibit these traits. It goes for those who have already retired too. It's justified, since those characters are almost always involved to some extent in an investigation or trial.
  • Gunship Rescue:
    • At the final climax in the 1st season episode "Scimitar", Harm and Meg while driving a limousine are chased by Iraqis in a Soviet made Hind. But at the Kuwait border a U.S. Army Apache saves the day.
    • At the end of "The Black Jet", American F-18s provides cover for Harm to escape in the downed jet.
    • Also in the 5th season episode "The Bridge at Kang So Ri", two U.S. Air Force F-15 Eagles out powers two North Korean Migs.
  • Guy in Back: Skates, who was Harm's RIO when he went back to flying Tomcats in early season 5. Various other characters fill this role in episodes featuring the Tomcat, including the pilot episode, where one such GIB was murdered.


  • Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee:
    • The first Secretary of the Navy in the series, Alexander Nelson, gets called before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to answer for his unauthorized intelligence activities carried out by JAG lawyers. Ironically enough, the Chairman of the Committee, Edward Sheffield, ends up becoming his successor.
    • In the pilot episode, Admiral Brovo makes the assumption that if the investigation into Lt. Arutti's death is negatively portrayed in the press in the wrong way, as in the Tailhook investigations, he might be made a political scapegoat by the feminists on the hill.
    • In "Mr. Rabb goes to Washington" Harm assists Congresswoman Bobbie Latham in her House subcommittee hearings on the alledged use of sarin nerve gas by U.S. Marines at the time of the Gulf War.
  • He Knows Too Much: In the episode "Someone to Watch over Annie", the ten year old son of Harm's Romantic False Lead by accident gets to see a murder at Andrews Air Force Base while slipping away from his school class when on a tour. It turns out the bad guys are weapons smugglers who don't shy away from killing witnesses.
  • Heads or Tails?: The series finale ends with Harm and Mac (who finally tied the knot) flipping a Challenge Coin to decide which of them will leave the military and live with the other so they don't have to be stationed apart from each other.
  • Hearing Voices / Cuckoo Nest: In first season episode "The Prisoner", when Harm is taken to a Chinese military prison he begins to talk with, what appears to be, another prisoner in another cell who turns out to be his father. However, we see on the surveillance cameras that Harm is talking to no one, and the Chinese later explain that it's all due to the drugs they've administered.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gunnery Sergeant Granger dies during the street ambush in "War Cries".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Harm deliberately invokes this on himself in "The Good of the Service", calling in a witness and asking a question that destroys his case, because he's sympathetic to the defendant.
  • Hollywood Board Games: Played for Laughs in 'Iron Coffin'. Without context, two enlisted sailors playing Battleship way too seriously looks as if they are about to be attacked by a Russian submarine. In truth, the two men are just bored out of their minds in the USS Watertown.
  • Honor Before Reason: In "The Colonel's Wife", the eponymous wife has involuntarily become a drug courier in order to protect her husband's anti-drug program in Panama from blackmail. When the facts are about to be revealed, she gets herself killed in order to save her husband's honor.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Meg's failed attempts to seize control of Grover's computer, in "Shadow", lead to various responses, ranging from an animation of Grover giving a raspberry, to other concealed bombs being armed.
  • Hollywood Healing: Subverted. If a main character is injured, they will remain so for a few episodes. Then there's Lt. Bud Roberts who never gets his leg back and we see him working with a prosthetic for the rest of the series.
  • Hollywood Silencer: The first season of JAG had these in several episodes, including "Brig Break" and "Hemlock".
  • Horrible Hollywood:
    • Harm's Romantic False Lead Rene Peterson, in seasons five to seven, is very much a personification of this trope. An up and coming director of commercials and music videos, her neurotic personality traits are very much the anti-thesis of all the main characters.
    • Admiral Chegwidden's brief stint as technical advisor in "War Stories" was brought to an abrupt end because his can-do due-diligence gung-ho attitude was ultimately not very compatible with the nonsensical herd instinct of the Hollywood folks.
  • Hospital Hottie: Beverly Tromatore (played by Catherine Bell) in the season 8 episode "Each Of Us Angels". Foreshadowing of course the fact Bell would play a nurse in Army Wives.
  • Hostage MacGuffin: In the second season episode "Washington Holiday", Harm escorts Princess Alexandra, the daughter of King Josif of Romania, while Josif is preparing to petition for admittance into NATO. A group of hard-line Communist extremists threaten Alexandra's life if he does so. During the climax, King Josif does not publically petition for NATO membership, but Alexandra, knowing that her father wanted this for the benefit of their country, makes the announcement herself, while Harm prevents an attempted assassination.
  • Hostage Situation: Happens fairly often. Before 9/11 it was usually part of a "Die Hard" on an X.
  • How Unscientific!: The show usually kept itself grounded in something resembling reality... except for the episodes involving Mac's psychic powers and Bud's near-death experience. And then there was that one time in "Ghost Ship" a villainous plan involving a fake ghostly vision was foiled by the appearance of a real ghost.
  • Human Shield: Done several times.
    • In "War Cries", one of the Marines throws himself over the Ambassador in the car to shield her during the ambush while they make their escape.
    • In "Tribunal", Mac is made a human shield by a suspected Taliban in Afghanistan with a knife aimed at her throat. She manages to get of his grip and beats him up.
  • Hunting "Accident": 3rd season episode "With Intent to Die" had Admiral Chegwidden's mentor killed in such a manner, and Chegwidden refuses to believe it was either a suicide or an accident. Turns out he was right.
  • Hurricane of Puns: In at least two episodes, a case is presented with a series of puns of varying quality.
    • In "Flight Risk", Mac's case is used strictly only for the puns and we're not really told whether the case reaches the courtroom, is plead out or is dismissed.
    Mac: Three Navy divers stole eighty lobsters from underwater traps. One of Singer's cases. She's out sick.
    Rabb: Sounds tough. Hope you crack it.
    Roberts: Have you tried buttering up the judge, ma'am?
    Mac: One more word from either of you, I'm bringing you both up on charges.
    Rabb: Oh, she's reaching her boiling point!
    Mac: (to Chegwidden, who has just come near them) Sir, it's gonna be justifiable homicide.
    Chegwidden: (to Rabb and Roberts) Gentlemen, we maintain a harassment-free workplace. (to Mac) Colonel, I expect a Marine to have a tougher shell.
    • In "Dream Team", Mac's case with the sailor who tried to free some Navy dolphins is an actual courtroom case with guest stars for the defendant, the judge and witnesses. But, like the lobster case, the dolphin case gives Roberts and Rabb an opportunity for a sequence of puns, with Vukovic joining in at the end instead of Chegwidden. Also, they're sitting at a table in the chow hall this time, and Mac joins in a little.
    Mac: I'm representing Seaman Apprentice Charles Bander. He released two Navy dolphins from a marine mammal deployment center.
    Rabb: Why?
    Roberts: They think he did it on porpoise, sir.
    Mac: He felt he owed them a debt.
    Roberts: You know, kind of like a squid pro quo, sir.
    Mac: He was caught by one of the trainers in the dolphins' pen with a bucket of fish.
    Roberts: Red herring, probably. You know, trying to avoid pursuit.
    Mac: One more fish joke, and I'll have you filleted.
    Rabb: What happened to the dolphins?
    Mac: Well, they, um, came back on their own.
    Roberts: (to Rabb) What would you charge him with, sir?
    Rabb: Well, there's, um, Article 96 [of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)], releasing a prisoner without otter-ization.note 
    Mac: You enjoying yourselves?
    Vukovic: [about to sit down at the table] Room for one more?
    Mac: Yeah, if you promise no fish jokes.
    Vukovic: Oh, not even one, just for the halibut?
  • I Am Spartacus: Lampshaded in "Desert Son". Harm and Reed get into a fist fight. Later, General Butler demands to know who started it. In unison, both men declare "I did!" General Butler is not impressed, and demands that someone explain to him what happened.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Bud's college roommate Ron Katz who became a dot com millionaire at one point had asked Bud to become his business partner. Bud ponders in "The Colonel's Wife" what could have been if he had taken that path. Ultimately, he realizes that if so, he wouldn't have met his wife and had their kid.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Played straight in "Washington Holiday", when the team were witnessing a failed assassination attempt on the Romanian royals. Told that the would-be assassin had named him as being behind the plot, the Evil Chancellor protested that it was ridiculous to accept the word of a woman who had been subjected to lengthy police questioning. Of course, nobody had mentioned that the assassin was female...
    Minister Kepish: Your Majesty, how can you possibly believe the lies of a woman tortured by the Belgian police?
    King Josip: How did you know the assassin was a woman, minister? They didn't even tell me that until an hour ago.
  • I Was Never Here: In "Tribunal":
    Rabb: Webb, I didn't know you were here.
    Webb: I'm not.
  • Idiot Ball: In the season 5 episode "Drop Zone", Mac grabs hold. She is prosecuting a Navy SEAL for causing deaths and injuries of some of his trainees in a jump exercise. When she leaves the office, in her car she found a medical report about the defendent, including his admission he was taking drugs during the time of the mission, and so guilty. She shouldn't have this as it was meant to remain between Doctor and patient. Using her legal knowledge, she doesn't call the police to dust for prints nor the judge to inform him. She kept it and then burned it, but was still found out for merely possessing it by the defense attorney Lt. Singer. As a result, Mac nearly loses her career for her actions.
    • Another example shows them playing with it intentionally. In "Killer Instinct", Rabb and Bud are prosecuting an officer that they believed murdered weak soldiers by throwing them overboard, but the court case wasn't going so well. The murderer grew in confidence seeing that their lawyer tricks weren't working, which Rabb caught on to. So, at one point during questioning, he acted defeated and (in a prearranged move) called Bud to continue the questioning. Bud proceeded to act like an idiot, dropping his papers, asking the same questions over and over again and stumbling around the courtroom, which riled the murderer, eventually leading to his confession on the stand.
      • Also in "Killer Instinct" the skipper of the ship the alleged murderer served on holds it as well by acting without due process and searching the alleged murderer's locker without proper justification. Had he held off for one hour, Harm and Bud would have given him the justification, but his rush for answers made the evidence illegally obtained. Thus making it inadmissible.
  • If Jesus, Then Aliens: Played with in "Psychic Warrior", in which a skeptical mathematician was asked by Rabb on the stand, in a case dealing with a Navy experiment on remote viewing, if he believed in God. He reluctantly admitted it. Rabb then criticized his lack of belief in the possibility of psychic phenomena.
  • The Illegal: In "Sightings", a terrified Mexican man in tattered clothing appears outside J.D.'s trailer just before the bright lights and deafening noise hit (and Cathy's disappearance). It seems he was trying to escape from the Cartel's underground base, where illegal immigrants were being forced to work in the drug running operation.
  • Impersonating an Officer: In "JAGathon", an enlisted Navy corpsman saves a man's life in a traffic accident, but at the same time he wears the uniform of an officer (with an enlisted SWO pin) and is spotted by a superior who apparently recognizes him.
    • The act of someone in an officer's uniform wearing an enlisted surface warfare specialist (ESWS) pin is not technically an impersonation. Enlisted service members can get commissioned as officers in a number of ways, including being selected for the US Naval Academy, the Seaman to Admiral 21 program, or, if they have been enlisted long enough, as a Limited Duty Officer or a Warrant Officer. The warfare qualifications they earn do not disappear once they get commissioned; if they earn the ESWS pin as an E-3, for example, they can wear it as an officer until they have earned their surface warfare officer (SWO) qualification and get that insignia. The regulation is only that a service member cannot wear two of the same type of qualification (in this case, enlisted and officer surface warfare, where the officer qualification will always take precendence). So, while yes, this character specifically was impersonating an officer, the act of wearing an ESWS pin alone is not enough to say with certainty that someone in general was doing so.
  • Improvised Weapon: In the episode "Code Blue" (second season), when a terrorist in a hospital demands that he identify himself, Harm claims his callsign is Zapper. And then zaps the guy with a defibrillator.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades:
    • In the pilot, a regulation-breaking relationship was being concealed between Lieutenant Arutti (the murder victim) and someone in the same unit.
    • In the first season episode "Boot", Harm and Meg are investigating a marine's murder, and there's more than one person obviously keeping secrets. It turns out that Sergeant Gonzales is in a relationship with the base commander, but that this is independent of the murder. Harm decides, conditionally, not to report it.
  • Injun Country: "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse", in the third season is set in a contemporary version.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Averted in "The Martin Baker Fan Cub", where only one of the four escaped mental patents from a VA hospital exhibits violent behavior (by grabbing a sidearm from a police officer) and two others are completely harmless with the mental acuity of small children.
  • Insanity Defense:
    • In "The Martin Baker Fan Club", Harm begins to explore the possibility of an insanity defense after his client made an incriminating outburst in the courtroom.
    • In "Act of Terror", a Marine guard is charged for murder after he shot a terrorist suspect during a prisoner transfer. Harm, as defense counsel, begins to explore the option of an insanity defense, but he’s taken off the case by the defendant who has hired a different attorney.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Strangely enough for a military-themed show, they never played this trope straight. Inverted at the end of "High Ground", when the hardened old master sniper is told by the colonel to pin his chevrons back on.
  • Internal Affairs: In the season five episode "Contemptuous Words", Harm is suspected of having written an unsigned op-ed piece in newspaper denigrating the then-president Bill Clinton, and internal affairs are brought in.
    Admiral Chegwidden: Hell, I tried to keep this thing in-house, but to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, pursuit of the matter’s been turned over to the Office of Inspector General.
    Commander Rabb: OIG? Admiral, they land a crooked JAG, their budget goes up.
    Admiral Chegwidden: Oh, hell yes.
  • Interrogation Montage: The episode "JAG TV" has a scene like this, with Mac interviewing the husband and Harm with the wife suspected of killing her husband's lover.
  • Invisible President: This trope is averted at every opportunity in the first season, making it a Running Gag.
    • A first season episode of JAG used stock footage of Bill Clinton jogging through a park, edited to look like Harm, who was jogging the other way, passed him.
    • The second season opener starts with Bill Clinton presenting Harm with the Distinguished Flying Cross. Again stock footage was edited into the show.
    • In one episode, Bud Roberts carried the so-called "football" for George W. Bush, and archived footage of the President was used in the episode.
    • Stock footage of the President of the time were often seen in the background in the bullpen scenes. Later seasons more often featured regular background footage of then-SECDEF Donald Rumsfeld.
  • Irish Priest: Father Harry O'Rourke, Vatican investigator in season six episodes "Miracles" and "Salvation".
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: In "Nobody's Child" when questioning a convicted child molester Harm gets dangerously close to this.
    • "Flight Risk" had Harm investigating a military contractor after a faulty plane crashed killing both pilots. There was evidence of poor work, cannibalized parts, putting military personal at risk, and he takes up a pilot's offer to fly in one of the planes. The plane malfunctions due to Rabb's flying, and he is accused of doing this deliberately, but it is the evidence he needs and the pilot makes a tacit admission that the repair crews are lowest bidder and the contractor is more concerned with profits than safety.
  • Japanese Politeness: Harm and Mac faces this trope in the episode "Innocence", which is set in Japan.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Gunnery Sergeant Granger makes a number of valid observations in "War Cries", about the danger of their security situation when challenged on his unrelenting leadership and training style.
  • Jury Duty:
    • Bud Roberts in "Odd Man Out" (season 7).
    • Jennifer Coates in "The Sixth Juror" (season 10).
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: Invoked on at least 2 different occasions when an aviator did something which was clearly the wrong thing to do (e.g. accidentally killing Russian peacekeepers in Serbia, and intervening in civilian law enforcement in the U.S.), but got acquitted of all significant charges all thanks to having Harm as his defense counsel. After the trial, however, the CO informs the aviator that he’s permanently grounded and will undergo extensive evaluation. In any case Uncle Sam always wins.
    • Season 5's "Rules of Engagement": The Aviator acquitted is grounded and reassigned to a stateside post. He later resigns his commission.
    • Season 9's "Posse Comitatus": The Marine helicopter pilot is grounded as well.
  • Kangaroo Court:
    • 1st season episode "Scimitar", set in Iraq (in 1996 during the reign of Saddam Hussein), has an American Marine convicted for violating their territory. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Harm manages to prove that the Marine was on the Kuwait side of the border. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish.
    • 4th season episode "The Black Jet", set in Iran has an American on trial for violating their airspace. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Rabb manages to prove that the planes were miles outside the country's airspace. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish. Good thing it was a Decoy Trial and the plan was to break out the prisoner anyway.
    • The "trial" held by the South Korean hijackers in "The Bridge at Kang So Ri".
  • Kick the Dog: In "Desert Son", Lt. Williams shoots Boone when confronted with the proof of what he's done, then shoots the radio so the heroes will have to drive Boone back to the camp to get medical assistance rather than try to chase him.
  • Lady Drunk: The first season episode "War Cries" gives us Ambassador Bartlett, a snarky career politician who discusses matters of state and embassy security while sipping scotch. As the episode continues, we see that she has quite a bit to drink about.
  • Land Down Under: Australia didn’t exactly go unnoticed in this series. One of the recurring characters, Mic Brumby, was an Australian naval officer originally on exchange duty in season 4. In season 5 the production team actually went to Sydney to film the two part episode "Boomerang" on location in Oz. The fact that the creator and executive producer had an Australian wife is probably the chief explanation for all this.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!":
    • Played with for laughs in "In Country", before taken very seriously in the following episode, "Enemy Below". Harm and Mac end up wrecking their Humvee amidst a minefield, and Harm ends up stepping on the Hollywood click-and-wait variety of mine. Mac takes cover on the other side of the Humvee while Harm prepares to drop a weight on the mine and leap away, barely escaping in the process (along with landing on Mac in quite the Ship Tease arrangement).
    • In the next episode, "Enemy Below", Lieutenant Bud Roberts steps on a mine, and this one goes off immediately, leaving him severely wounded just before the credits roll.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Lt. Williams' fate in "Desert Son", accidentally killed by an artillery strike fired by the same battery he was spotting for when the accident happened.
    • In "Boomerang, Part II", Chegwidden and Captain Howell, Mic's superior in the Royal Australian Navy, deliver this onto Mic and Harm for throwing punches and ended up breaking Bud's jaw in two places when he got between the punches. After Bud covers for the two, Chegwidden decides on a "non-judicial punishment" is chosen and Mic and Harm are put in a storage unit until they inflict the same level of harm onto each other as they did to Bud.
      Captain Howell: I always did like Yank SEALs.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: After nine freakin' seasons of Will They or Won't They? UST, Mac and Harm get engaged in the last seven minutes of the series finale. And then they break it off because they found better work opportunities, according to Mac in the tenth season of NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • Latin Land: An 1st season episode takes place at the U.S. embassy in Peru.
    • Harm and Mac goes to Panama in "The Colonel's Wife".
    • In the last two episodes of season 8 and the first of the 9th season, Mac goes undercover as Clayton Webb's wife on mission in Paraguay where they aim to stop terroist Sadik Fahd from establishing a base. But everything does not go according to plans.
  • Lemming Cops: In "Dangerous Game", a Virginia deputy sheriff pursues a speeding car with civilian dressed Navy Seals and accidentally gets himself killed. The Navy Seal who drove the other car stands trial for negligent homicide. While this is obviously not played for fun, the writers were genre-savvy enough to have the sheriff back at the station watching Smokeyandthe Bandit.
  • Leno Device:
    This just in, one of the Navy F-14 Tomcats shot down a couple of Serbian MIGs over Bosnia this afternoon. Listen to this, the radar intercept officer in the Tomcat was a woman! Boy, you thought getting shot down by a woman in a bar was bad! Oh my God!
    Another thing about that female aviator, now, this has got to be very embarrassing, to Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle, now women their daughters' age have more combat experience than they do.
    • Later when it moved to CBS, in "JAG TV", Mac lands a publicly televized case which all of a sudden receives national attention. On a segment of The Late Late Show the then-host Craig Kilborn has this to say about Mac:
    Now, officially, she's a colonel in the Marines. But to me, she's a major babe.
    (Kilborn holds up picture of Mac in a bikini.)
    I think we now know why the Marines are first on the beach.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: When Admiral Chegwidden receives a mysterious tape with no return address in his office, he has Tiner play it. It is a video of the Admiral's fiance dressed seductively holding the roses he sent her quoting Shakespeare and inviting him to a very special dinner. The Admiral cuts the tape off midway and tells Tiner to never speak of this again. Tiner wisely claimed nothing happened.
  • Like a Son to Me:
    • Harm's stepfather Frank Burnett tells him this when he visits his mother in "To Russia with Love":
    Frank Burnett: I figured out early on that I could never live up to your father in your eyes. I wasn't a Blue Angel. Hell, I never even wore a uniform.
    Harmon Rabb, Jr.: Frank.
    Frank Burnett: But although you never thought about me as your father, you're the only son I ever had.
    • From "Desert Son": General Williams to Lt. Boone, the only friend of the careless Lt. Williams that he approves of.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Averted mostly - most of the officers among the regular main cast and some of the recurring characters all get promoted at least once.
    • Harmon Rabb starts the series as a Lieutenant, is promoted to Lieutenant Commander midway through Season One, becomes a Commander in Season Five, and finally reaches Captain in the second-to-last episode of the series.
    • Sarah Mackenzie starts the series as a Major and is promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by the fifth year.
    • Bud Roberts starts off as an Ensign, is promoted to Lieutenant JG (and the opening credits) when he joins JAG in the second year, reaches Lieutenant in the fourth season, and is promoted to Lieutenant Commander in Season Nine.
    • Harriet Sims' career path follows Bud's pretty well, going from Ensign to Lieutenant JG by Season Four to full Lieutenant at the end of Season Six.
    • Even recurring characters such as Thomas Boone (first Commander Air Group- or CAG- aboard aircraft carrier Seahawk, then a Rear Admiral) and Caitlin Pike (first Lt. JG, later a full Commander) get a promotion or three, albeit offscreen. Episode 200, in addition to promoting Petty Officer Jennifer Coates to Petty Officer 1st Class, even showed a what-if scenario where Cmdr. Alison Krennick, unseen since the first year outside of a flashback to a Missing Episode, was Rear Admiral and heading JAG.
    • One example of Truth in Television in relation to promotions comes with the final season - upon Adm. Chegwidden's retirement, a new character, Col. Gordon Cresswell, is promoted to Maj. Gen. to fill his position as JAG. A variation comes earlier when Secretary of the Navy Alexander Nelson is forced to resign and Senator Edward Sheffield is appointed to the position.
    • Several characters went without promotions however, but these were either due to seniority (Chegwidden), being late additions to the series (Turner), being unpopular with their co-workers (Cmdr. Lindsey, Lt. Singer), or being murdered (Lt. Singer, by Cmdr. Lindsey).
      • One episode has Commander Teddy Lindsey up on a promotion list to Captain but Admiral Chegwidden as chair of the promotion board will not recommend him despite Lindsey being a rigged favourite of the then-Secretary of the Navy Alexander Nelson.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The second season episode "We the People", taken from the U.S. Constitution, although the story is about the Declaration of Independence.
  • Local Hangout: McMurphy's, and to a lesser extent Benzinger's.
  • Logic Bomb: In "Ares''," the eponymous computerized weapons control system onboard a destroyer in the Sea of Japan goes havoc and starts firing at friendly aircraft, as programmed by the North Korean Mole. However, Harm's partner Meg is en route in a helicopter: the on the spot solution advocated by Harm is for the helicopter to fly low altitude (20 feet) and at low speed (20 knots), thus simulating a ship, which the computer won't target.
  • Loose Lips: In "People v. Rabb", when Admiral Chegwidden says that what he's about to say is sensitive, Bud replies that My loose lips will sink no ships.
  • Low Clearance: After they first board the submarine in "Shadow", Harm manages to smack his head on low ceiling support twice within five minutes. He ruefully lampshades this.
  • The Mafiya: Pretty much every time a storyline involves either Russians or when the main characters go to Russia, this trope almost instantly comes into play.
  • Magical Native American: Directly averted in "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" where a Navajo medicine woman refuses to believe that the remains of a WWII code talker are the right ones, despite a conclusive DNA analysis. They end up concluding that it was him, only his spirit had been changed by the experience of war enough to make him seem a different person.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: In the pilot episode, Lt. Arutti and Lt. Painter have sex in a transport plane parked on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Seahawk.
  • Make the Dog Testify: In Season 5 "Front and Center" Mac justifies this tactic as her client is facing drug charges based solely on an old drug-sniffing dog. The client claims he had a rare oregano not marijuana. So, Mac sets up a blind test to have the dog ferret out one duffel bag of marijuana from nine of the oregano her client claims to have had. The old dog fails the test and Mac's client is cleared.
  • Manipulative Editing: In "Desert Son", Lt. Williams has a female DJ (who has a crush on him) edit a tape recording of a radio conversation to make it sound like Lt. Boone transposed a set of numbers, when in fact Boone had perfectly relayed the incorrect coordinates Williams had sent him. Harm picks up on the editing because there's an analog hiss on the edited portion due to the DJ's different equipment.
  • Manly Tears: At the end of the JAG episode "Critical Condition", Harm breaks into tears of relief after learning that Bud has survived his operation.
  • Master Computer: In "Ares", the eponymous computerized weapons control system onboard a destroyer in the Sea of Japan goes havoc and starts firing at friendly aircraft, as programmed by the North Korean Mole. But Harm et al eventually sorts it out.
  • Master of Disguise: JAG had several. The eponymous assassin Hemlock in "Hemlock", rogue DSD agent Clark Palmer in "Imposter", and Al-Qaeda associate Sadik Fahd in "Persian Gulf".
  • Maybe Ever After: Played with in the last episode. During the last ten minutes, Harm and Mac finally admitted their love for each other after nearly a decade and she accepted his marriage proposal. However, as she was being reassigned to San Diego, and he was reassigned to London, the show did end on a question mark, as they literally flipped a coin to determine whether Mac would resign from the Marines or Harm from the Navy so they could be together.
  • Meaningful Funeral: In "Pilot Error", Harm and Meg attends the funeral of Lt. Pendry, which is complete with military honors and fighters flying the missing man formation. It is meaningful to Harm because Pendry was his friend and the loss for the son of the deceased mirrors Harm’s own loss of his father at roughly the same age.
  • The Men in Black: Lampshaded by Admiral Chegwidden in "Vanished" when an F-14 has disappeared in The Bermuda Triangle.
    Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden: Oh, lieutenant, if you get a visit from any strangers in black suits and sunglasses, don't talk to them.
  • Men Use Violence, Women Use Communication: In "Scimitar", the US military's plan has Harm acting to bust Corporal Anderson out of prison, while keeping Austin entirely out of the loop and believing their primary goal is to get him acquitted at the trial. Meg isn't thrilled when she learns of this. This neatly mirrors the relationship between Lt. Dumai and the male Iraqi officers.
  • Metaphorically True: In "Dungaree Justice", the article 32 hearing of Mac's dubious actions in "People v. Mac" takes place and it is discussed to what extent she had lied in the earlier episode.
    Lt. Commander Alan Mattoni: Major Sarah Mackenzie, having taken a lawful oath in a trial by court-martial that she would testify truly, did wilfully, corruptly and contrary to such oath, testify falsely regarding the killing of her husband, Christopher Ragle.
    Lt. Commander Harmon Rabb: Sir, Major Mackenzie did testify that she shot and killed her husband. There was no lie there.
    Lt. Commander Alan Mattoni: But she omitted certain details, including the fact that Lieutenant Colonel Farrow was present at the time.
    Lt. Commander Harmon Rabb: She took the blame, sir, to protect an innocent man.
    Lt. Commander Alan Mattoni: A lie of omission, no matter how noble the intention, is still a lie.
    Lt. Commander Harmon Rabb: Yes. But for it to be perjury, it must be material to the case. Murder charges against Major Mackenzie and Lieutenant Colonel Farrow were subsequently dismissed. Therefore, I submit: the detail of Colonel Farrow's presence was not material, and the omission of said detail should not be considered perjury.
  • Midair Collision: This happens several times on JAG.
  • Military Academy:
    • Harm, Sturgis and Admiral Chegwidden are graduates of the United States Naval Academy.
    • Bud's younger brother Mikey attends the United States Naval Academy in the later seasons.
  • Military Brat: Harmon Rabb is a Generation Xerox example (right down to his dad looking identical to him in flashbacks, plus a mustache). His dad being shot down during Vietnam and declared MIA forms a central part of Rabb's character arc as he tries to find out what happened to him.
    • Also the case with most of the rest of the cast - Mac's biggest influence was her Marine uncle, Bud's father was a Master Chief (and he himself fathers four kids of his own with Harriet), Sturgis' father is a Navy Chaplain, and Maj. Gen. Cresswell's daughter is attending the Academy by the time the series ends. Of the main cast members, Chegwidden is the only one who isn't stated to be a military brat or the parent of one.
    • In "Survivors", Rabb also had to locate a former soldier who apparently kidnapped his son. According to the son, the son was a military brat. It gets a bit convoluted when the ending heavily implies that the son might be the Reincarnation of his father's best friend who was killed in action back in The Vietnam War.
  • Military Moonshiner: In "Cabin Pressure", Harm & Mac are sent out to a ship to investigate the death of a moonshiner.
  • Military Salute: In "War Stories", Admiral Chegwidden bawls out a sailor who failed to salute him while passing. The "sailor" snaps at him sarcastically, because it turns out he was an actor in a movie being shot next to JAG HQ.
  • Military School: Harm and Mac visit such a school in "Into the Breech".
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: In "Brig Break", a handful of prisoners busting out of the brig gradually escalates into a plot to destroy the base with a nuclear explosion and selling stolen nuclear weapons to Saddam Hussein.
  • Miscarriage of Justice:
    • The episode "Secrets" revolves around an escaped prisoner trying to prove his innocence.
    • In "Retrial", a sailor had unbeknownst to him hired a transsexual prostitute. When finding out, the sailor changed his mind and the prostitute threatens him with a knife. The sailor defends himself and accidentally stabs the prostitute and runs away in fear and shame. Not long thereafter, another man comes and viciously stabs the prostitute to death. The sailor is convicted for the murder, but only because the military prosecutor, presumably on purpose didn’t follow up on a lead from the local DA in order to further his own political ambitions as being "tough on crime".
  • Misguided Missile: Done more than once on.
    • Commander Rabb put himself in front of a "dirty nuke" missile aimed at a Carrier Group after it closed too close to be shot down to lead it away until it's fuel ran out.
    • A similar trick was done with a torpedo, drawing it into one submarine to save another.
    • The first season episode "Shadow" subverts it: The villain is lead to believe the submarine has managed to draw the torpedo towards it, and gives the code to self-destruct it... only to realize the torpedo had never left its original target.
  • Missing Episode / Cut Short: Something of a unique example - the first season was to end with an episode called "Skeleton Crew", which ended with a Cliffhanger of Harm being arrested for murder. It wasn't aired by NBC, but did air in reruns on USA Network and was included in the DVD release. While the original episode was never used, footage from it was later included in the third season's "Death Watch".
  • Mistaken for an Imposter: In the episode "Imposter", Clark Palmer had Rabb tied up in his apartment and impersonated Rabb in court to frame an innocent defendant in court with planted evidence. When Rabb eventually gets back to JAG the Marine security guards thinks he's the imposter.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: JAG has an inverted example predating 9/11. In 6th season episode "Valor", Sergeant Joan Steele was found with terrorists attempting to sabotage a US warship in the vein of the attack on the USS Cole. It is unclear whether Steele was kidnapped and succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome or was a Military Maverick on a mission of her own trying to stop the terrorists. It turns out to be the latter, as she was killed in an explosion stopping them.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Seen several times in season nine with Mac and Romantic False Lead Clayton Webb.
  • The Mole:
    • In "War Cries", the boy, his sister who the Marine was dating, and their mom were all sleeper agents for the Shining Path, and weren't even related to each other.
    • In "Brig Break", Gunnery Sergeant Gentry. In the same episode, Petty Officer Quinn turns out to be an agent from Naval Intelligence working undercover.
    • In "Ares", Lieutenant Commander Gino Campisano is the senior weapons officer running the eponymous computerized weapons system onboard the destroyer: and suddenly, while off the North Korean coast, it starts to go crazy, operating without human input, and allowing no vessels other than ships to approach it. What no one knows is that Campisano is a North Korean mole, planted in the United States many years ago.
  • Murder by Mistake: In the Pilot Movie, Lieutenant Carter accidentally threw Lt. Arruti overboard in anger because she wore a jacket with Lt. Cassie Puller's callsign Lobo on the back. Cassie had beaten Carter in weightlifting three times and he couldn't stand being beaten by a woman.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Mac's stalker kills off her ex-boyfriend.
  • The Mutiny:
    • "Cowboys and Cossacks" plays with both this trope, and the Barratry gag from The Hunt for Red October, when Harm and Bud, while guests aboard a Russian destroyer, conspire with one of the Russian officers to take the ship from the renegade Captain. Harm explains to Bud that what they are doing can not be legally defined as mutiny, given that they are not members of the crew. Technically, it's an act of terrorism.
    • In the episode named "Mutiny" Mac prepares to give a speech on the infamous mutiny on the USS Somers, which actually happened, and three officers were hung at sea by the Captain Makenzie (no relation to her) with flimsy evidence at best and the subsequent inquiries into whether this was a just response or he murdered three of his own men.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: In the episode "Fighting Words", a Marine tries to say, "Stop or I will shoot," in Arabic during a classroom training session, but according to an Iraqi woman who's helping with the class, he actually said, "Stop or I will release the mice."
  • My President, Right or Wrong: In "Contemptuous Words" Harm is accused of writing an op-ed article which contains a harsh opinion against then-President Clinton, going well beyond insubordination. To help defend him, a right-wing lobbyist group helps pay for a private lawyer. During a mock-cross, the lawyer forces Harm into a corner when he cannot say he would condone a higher ranking officer to play loose with the truth and having sexual relationships with subordinates as President Clinton did.note  When the truth comes out, Harm tells one of the group's leaders while he may have personal issues with President Clinton's actions, he makes it perfectly clear that President Clinton is the Commander-in-Chief and it is a military officer's legal and moral duty to serve and obey the President whoever he may be.

  • Never My Fault: Lt. Williams in "Desert Son" is incapable of taking responsibility for his own actions. His dying words are "Why me?", unable to accept that everything that has happened to him has been his own doing.
  • New Job Episode: When Harm starts working for the CIA in season 9.
    • Also earlier in season 3 when Mac very briefly worked for a civilian law firm, and Harm's 10-Minute Retirement to fly jets in Season 5.
  • News Reel: First 20 seconds of "Port Chicago" begins with an authentic Paramount News Reel.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In the season four episode "Innocence", Harm first thinks that he’s made a deal with the Japanese prosecutor who smiled and bowed in a friendly manner. It turned out that he had been greatly offended and had contacted the Japanese Prime Minister who told the press that U.S. Authorities were uncooperative and obstructive, and thus forced them to handover the suspect to Japanese authorities.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: Used by the Colombian drug smugglers in 1st season episode "Sightings", and later used by Harm against them.
  • No Antagonist: In "Mishap''," Harm's former RIO, Lieutenant Elizabeth Skates, acts as LSO when a crash occurs aboard the aircraft carrier USS Patrick Henry. Skates gets court-martialed for alleged culpability in the incident, but it turns out she was not doing anything wrong; but rather that the entire crew was overworked and underfunded (lack of manpower, lack of spare parts etc.). Captain Ingles acts as the Hate Sink, by charging Skates in the first place and impeding Harm’s request for documents: but he didn't act maliciously or with any hidden motives other than to maintain his prerogative of command and unit cohesion.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Brought up several times throughout the series.
    Webb: There's one thing I've always admired about SEALs, admiral.
    Chegwidden: What? Just one?
    Webb: Your code of never leaving a man behind. In the Company, we not only leave them behind, we deny ever knowing them.
    • Deconstructed in the season seven episode "Code of Conduct" where going back was against orders and cost the life of another soldier to rescue the one who was left behind.
  • Nonviolent Initial Confrontation: In "Scimitar", Harm and Meg are officially in Iraq (during the time of the Saddam Hussein regime) to act as legal counsel for the captured American Marine, so the Iraqis, including the villain, treat them as welcome guests at first.
  • Noodle Incident: In the episode "Shakedown".
    Mac: Nothing personal, but that last meat loaf you made was nasty.
    Harm: Are you dogging Harm's special meatless meat loaf?
    Mac: Let's put it this way: if you were to make the Harmon Special on this ship, they'd have to unload it with the toxic waste.
  • No Party Given: The political affiliations of both SECNAVs are unknown. The political affiliation of Congresswoman Bobbie Latham is never explicitly stated, but many of the issues she supports are definitely left-wing (and thus can't be a republican by any stretch of the imagination).
  • No Woman's Land: The season 7 episode "Head to Toe" centers on this. A female naval aviator serving with the U.S. Air Force in Saudi Arabia is defending herself on not wearing an abaya, and arguments are made for abiding by the culture and appeasing terrorists (Osama bin Laden is even quoted as Americans in the Middle East being cause for Jihads, meaning the abayas will protect women) and against the subjugation of women and treatment of foreigners. When Mac is subjected to this poor treatment she sides with the defendant.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • In "Scimitar", Commander Lindsey states that in theory, the Iraqi constitution guarantees defendants most of the same rights in a trial that the American constitution does. He goes on to mention that in practice, the courts do pretty much whatever Saddam Hussein tells them to do.
    • In the episode "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Harm uses this trope as a defense tactic. His client is dishonorably discharged black Marine Drill Instructor who pushed his black recruits harder than the whites because he refused to accept their crap and wanted to turn them around into decent young men. When two men died on a force march through a swamp, he plead guilty and faced the consequences of his actions. The prosecutor, intending to put him away for life with the Three Strikes law for a later crime of felony assault, is also a black man who refuses to cut favors for his fellow blacks and sees the parallels between himself and the defendant. The prosecutor agrees to remove the third strike from the mans record in exchange for just two years in jail.
  • Obfuscating Disability: In the season 3 episode "Yesterday's Heroes", retired navy diver Artemus Sullivan (played by Ernest Borgnine) is avenging the death of his grandson by a drug dealer. When meeting Harm & Mac at first, Sullivan pretends to be in a senile vegetable state of mind.
  • Obstructive Vigilantism: In "Dungaree Justice", a female sailor passed out in a bar and at closing time, the owner helped her out to her car. When she woke up, she discovered that she had been raped. Some of her shipmates decide to exact vengeance on the bar owner, who they assumed to be the perpetrator. However the bar owner is proven to be medically impotent. The real perpetrator turns out to be one of the shipmates who didn't like having females serving in the navy.
  • Old Soldier: Captain Reed in "Desert Son" served in the enlisted ranks before bucking for officer. As a result, he's unusually old and salty for a Marine Captain. And of course there is General Williams.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Harm argues before a Navajo Tribunal Court in "The Return of Jimmy Blackhorse" and an Australian Court (New South Wales Supreme Court, dressed in gown and wig attire.) in "Boomerang, Part II".
    • Mac argues before a Sharia court in "The Princess and The Petty Officer".
    • And both Harm and Mac defends Secretary of the Navy Edward Sheffield at the International Criminal Court in "People v. SecNav".
    • Averted in "Innocence" where they hire a Japanese attorney.
    • Also in "Standards of Conduct" where it's clear that neither Harm nor Sturgis has any intimate knowledge nor experience with civil cases (but Bud does).
  • One of Our Own: Happens a few times;
    • Harm is suspected of murdering a Russian Mafioso in "People v. Rabb".
    • Mac is suspected to have participated in the killing of her husband in "People v. Mac".
    • Harm is suspected to have published an anonymous Anti-Clinton piece in "Contemptuous Words".
    • Gunny is suspected to be a gay basher and Tiner is assumed to be homosexual in "People v. Gunny".
    • Bud Roberts was charged for dereliction of duty in "Exculpatory Evidence".
    • Admiral Chegwidden is Caught on Tape hitting a high school student in "Code of Conduct".
    • Jennifer Coates is a murder suspect in "There Goes the Neighborhood".
  • Only Shop in Town: Law firm variant. Often it makes you wonder why Harm, Mac at JAG Headquarters gets to act as trial and defense counsel from an wide array of cases from all around the Navy & the Marines and why they're not handled by the command staff judge advocates out in the field.
    • In the pilot episode Admiral Brovo makes a suggestion that there wouldn't have been a perceived need to send HQ people out to the USS Seahawk if the missing RIO had been a male for political purposes.
    • It's suggested many times that they're sent out in the field to be impartial whenever there's a concern that the local judge advoctates might not be, or that there are none present on the location at all.
  • Opening Narration: Used for the second and third seasons (and provided by Don LaFontaine for good measure!), but not for the others.
  • Organization with Unlimited Funding: Funding, provided by U.S. taxpayers, is never really an issue, and often in court-martials held in Virginia, foreign nationals as witnesses are flown in from across the world.
    • Subverted though in "Father's Day" when Harm, Mac and Bud had a tight budget; due to Harm's tortious interference with the secret business of the Bradenhurst Corporation in a previous episode.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: In season 2's "Secrets", Admiral Chegwidden is being held at gunpoint inside his office, and tells Bud over the phone to get him a specific case file. Harm and Mac realize the file the Admiral asked for is about a sailor who held his CO hostage, tipping them off.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience:
    • The first few acts of "Sightings" play more like an episode of The X-Files.
    • The episode "Each of Us Angels" is about an old man telling stories about his experience on a hospital ship during the storming of Iwo Jima.
  • Pædo Hunt: In "Nobody's Child" there are initially few clues as to who the killer of an unidentified African-American girl on a naval facility is. Harm's initial hunch is to look after convicted pedophiles. It turns out that the killer wasn't a pedophile: but a pedophile was able to give valuable information that solved the identity puzzle because he had violated terms of his parole by watching children.
  • Paid-for Family: One episode has a marine refusing to testify in his own defense, because he believes it will dishonour the memory of a dead friend. Vic, his lawyer, brings in the dead friend's father, who reads a letter his son sent him about how the thing that killed him was an accident waiting to happen, which gives the marine courage to tell the truth about how his friend died. Both the father and the letter were fake; Vic hired an actor to encourage his client to take the stand. Of course, this action being morally suspect at best, the lawyer does get called on it by his superiors.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: Bud and Harriet are in a hotel in one episode. Bud asks Harriet to watch Free Willy with him. Unfortunately for Bud, the movie is actually "Free the Willy".
  • Paranormal Episode:
    • In "Ghost Ship", Harm and Mac are saved from a fire by a real ghost.
    • "Psychic Warrior" deals with psychic phenomena.
  • Pardo Push: During Harm's brief return to flying carrier operations, he found himself flying with another Tomcat during the Kosovo War. The other jet was damaged and losing fuel, and would not make it over a mountain range before they could leave Serbian territory note . Harm used his own jet to physically push the other plane to keep it in flight long enough to clear the mountains. This was based on a Real Life incident.note 
  • Passed-Over Promotion: Commander Lindsey spends much of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" trying to avoid this trope. He does have the support of the Secretary of the Navy. However, the Captains Promotion Board felt in the Navy, lacking much field experience, being a pencil pusher only, and Chegwidden admitting to the assembled board that he would accept his people (Mac and Harm) doing questionable actions but considers Lindsey untrustworthy and wouldn't have him back in his command serves to ensure Lindsey is not made Captain.
  • Persians with Pistols: In "The Black Jet", Harm and Mac stages a jailbreak of downed pilot Keeter from an Iranian prison, and is chased by the Iranian Army to the location of the not-crashed airplane.
  • Penultimate Outburst:
    • In "Heroes", the judge delivers a threat to get Harm removed after he fires an MP-5 in the courtroom.
    • In "Killer Instinct", they provoke the pedantic defendant into a rage as part of an Engineered Public Confession that gets him threatened to be removed from the courtroom.
  • Pet the Dog: In "Shadow", When Grover first notices Meg suffering a claustrophobia attack, his first reaction is to try and comfort her, before he goes back to taunting her. Meg is able to exploit this by convincing him to let her play games on his computer, giving her a chance to take it away from him.
  • Phony Veteran:
    • Played straight in "Real Deal Seal", Medal of Honor recipient and Navy Seal team leader Lieutenant Curtis Rivers note  rips off the SEAL-trident of a congressional candidate falsely claiming to have served in Vietnam as a Navy Seal.
    • Subverted in "Take It like a Man" where a former Marine who served in the Invasion of Panama claims to have earned the Silver Star. It turns out that he did deserve it, but had never been awarded it because none of his team members would back up his story.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: In the season nine episode "Secret Agent Man", one of Mikey Roberts’ classmates at the U.S. Naval Academy is accused of plagiarism.
  • Plea Bargain: they are offered regularly, but often turned down.
    • In "Head to Toe", opposing counsels make a deal, but when the defendant gets into even more trouble, the deal becomes untenable.
  • Pocket Protector: In "Déjà Vu", Colonel Patano's life is saved by a metal plate in his chest that stops a bullet. The plate itself was the result of an old war wound.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • The marine provost marshall in "Brig Break" is outwitted by Harm.
    • Sheriff Polk tries to be helpful in "Sightings", but he's a one-man department responsible for patrolling the entire abandoned base and the surrounding area. It doesn't help that J.D. has a reputation for outlandish claims anyways, and that the only explanation he has for Cathy's disappearance sounds like something out of a sci-fi film. He does eventually find Cathy (trying to call for backup for Harm and Meg), but is killed by the drug runners almost immediately after.
    • The deputy sheriff in "Survivors" is outfoxed by Harm.
    • In "Death Watch", we learn that NCIS Special Agent Turque never found the murderer of Diane Schone in "Skeleton Crew".
    • Subverted by Team Gibbs in "Ice Queen" and "Meltdown".
  • Police Brutality Gambit: In "Survivors", a shell-shocked Marine colonel intends to take his son, whom he believes to be the reincarnation of a war buddy from The Vietnam War, to a cabin in the woods. Faced with an arrest warrant, he has a scuffle with an unsympathetic deputy sheriff at a gas station. Having almost reached the cabin, with the help of Harm, the cops also arrive. The incensed deputy sheriff tries to arrest Harm, but Harm claims that Meg has a tape from a surveillance camera at the gas station, which would show that the deputy sheriff had committed acts of Police Brutality. Although it's later revealed that Meg was just playing along, the deputy sheriff had in fact been more brutal than necessary at the gas station and backed off from arresting Harm as a precaution.
  • Political Overcorrectness: The very first appearance of Admiral Chegwidden on the show, in "Smoked", has him ranting a lengthy tirade about the state of political correctness imposed on the Navy in the wake of the Tailhook Scandal.
    • The same topic is furthermore alluded to many times by other characters in the first and second seasons, in less explicit terms.
    • In fact, in the pilot movie, Lt. Pike is sent along with Harm to investigate the disappearance and death of a female officer explicitly because of this trope. Mind, the Admiral requesting a female officer be sent along for the investigation also insists that she should be "easy on the eyes", suggesting that the trope is not without merit.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Harm and Captain Reed in "Desert Son" do not get along, and Reed gives the bare minimum of assistance when Harm and Meg go to investigate the accident site. This plus one knocked-over road sign nearly get Meg and Harm killed when they accidentally enter the Free Fire Zone.
    • In "Scimitar", Meg is not let in on the secret part of their mission and is left to improvise when she discovers that Harm is in danger.
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: The first two episodes after September 11 included several references to the terrorist attack and subsequent conflict in Afghanistan. Plot A was Harm trying to work with a retired admiral (to resolve a problem in China, who America needed as an ally in the fight against terrorism), who was going to turn him down but agreed to help resolve a problem after 9/11. Plot B has Mac presiding over two soldiers who were dueling, and she is upset that they were being idiots when their brothers and sisters are fighting and dying in the war on terror. Gunny is recalled to active service and Chegwidden wishes he could go with him. Future promos would place the series during the war on terror. Osama bin Laden made a case a woman facing legal action hard (American bases in the Middle East as cause for Jihad, and the Americans subjecting women to Middle Eastern standards that the defendant had issues with). Harm reunites with his co pilot to fly security over the Superbowl. And a Seebee who supposedly died on 9/11 tries to avoid media attention after he saves his team from a terrorist attack, as when the widow of his business partner, who did not make it out, comes forward.
  • Polyamory: Mac has to defend a polygamist in "Killer Instinct", then prosecute one in "Retrial". In the latter episode there's even a Continuity Nod to the first, despite taking place several seasons later.
  • POW Camp: In "King of the Fleas", paraplegic Vietnam veteran Roscoe Martin tells Harm about his experiences as a POW and the Despair Event Horizon it was. It all comes down to that he’s seeking legal representation for a fateful stabbing he had committed the same day on a Vietnamese immigrant, who actually turned out to have been the POW camp commander.
  • Prison Episode: JAG had "The Prisoner" in its first season in which Harm was held by the Chinese.
  • Professional Killer: The eponymous Hemlock in "Hemlock" who’s out to kill Russian President Boris Yeltsin while in Washington, D.C. is not just a professional killer, but also a Master of Disguise.
  • Properly Paranoid: In "War Cries", Gunnery Sergeant Granger, as the climax reveals.
  • Protocol Peril: The main story in "Head to Toe" is about a female Naval Aviator who refuses to wear the abaya and show deference to the locals while stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in Saudi Arabia.
  • Psychic Powers: The fifth season episode "Psychic Warrior", deals with a Navy Intelligence experimental program, STAR GAZE, on remote viewing in which one of the test subjects committed suicide.note 
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: "Anchors Aweigh" and "The Marines Hymn" are played several times.
    • In "Boot", "The Marines Hymn" is sung by female Marines during an exercise.
    • In "Heroes", both Harm and Mac get to whistle their respective service song.
    • In "Trojan Horse", a marine who won an American Idol-like competition closes the episode by singing the Marine Hymn.
  • Public Secret Message: In "The Black Jet", Jack Keeter has downed in Iran with a secret airplane and is detained by the authorities. When first meeting Harm and Mac, accompanied by an Iranian official in prison, he says No Martin Baker's several times over. Harm later decodes the message: Martin Baker is the manufacturer of ejection seats, and thus Keeter didn't eject but landed the plane and was captured elsewhere.
  • Qurac: Despite having several episodes taking place in the Middle East, JAG subverts this trope by always using real countries, no matter how unfavorable the portrayal may be.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • In "Shadow", Commander Ted Lindsey evidently got caught in the crosshairs during the Senate hearings after the events of the pilot episode, so Admiral Brovo reassigned him to serve as Harm's boss. Or as Lindsey puts it, Brovo felt that Lindsey should "get the hell out of Dodge." Admiral Drake also informs Lindsey that if Harm and Meg can't resolve the situation before the US government ends up paying the ransom, Lindsey will be hit with this trope again.
    • Admiral Chegwidden hints at the possibility in "We the People".
    Lieutenant JGs don't joke with admirals, son, it could get him transferred to a supply ship in the Aleutians. Joking is strictly an admiral's privilege only.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: JAG has realistic quantity of 'um's and 'ah's, except for when closing arguments are delivered.
  • Realpolitik: This way of reasoning is often used by Clayton Webb and other CIA characters to justify their actions.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In "People v. Gunny", Admiral Chegwidden tells the Maryland state’s attorney that:
    But we all know that your only intent is to bolster your own campaign for the state’s attorney. You’re nothing but a hypocrite and an opportunist and I'll be damned if I'm gonna have a bottom feeder like you further your personal ambition trampling the integrity of this office.
    • An earlier example in "The Good of the Service", after Harm asks the mother of a child killed in a raid by US Marines whether she blames their CO:
    "Yes. I blame you. And I blame you, and you, and you... I blame all of you because you stand by and do nothing. The rebel soldiers come, they rape, murder, take our children and train them to kill and you do nothing! So rich, you send us food and shovels but you don't protect us! Even when your own people are killed you do nothing! Finally, this one, this one sent in soldiers to fight! And now you want to punish him? I don't understand your country. Do you?"
  • Rebellious Princess: King Josip and his daughter Princess Alexandra of Romania in the season 2 episode "Washington Holiday".
  • Recap by Audit: In "Soul Searching", Harm and Bud goes over the budget request for the office in which it appears that Harm's firing of an H&K in the courtroom (two seasons earlier in "Heroes") has caused a structural damage to the roof. Through clever lawyering, Bud makes the outstanding expense go away under a building health plan.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: Subverted in "Promises" (season 5) where a young female sailor is court-martialed for going AWOL after she simply had enough of swabbing the deck of a destroyer. Back when she signed up at the recruiter she was almost promised education as an air traffic controller, but she didn't Read the Fine Print of the contract which stated "subject upon availability and to the needs of the Navy".
  • Red Alert: The trope is seen in several episodes in the contemporary U.S. Navy sense.
  • Red China: In the two-part episode "Dog Robber", a U.S. reconnaissance plane has to make an emergency landing in mainland China.
  • Red Herring:
    • In "Pilot Error", A growing body of evidence suggests that Pendry and McKee had an affair, including the two going to visit a doctor for what appeared to be an abortion. McKee had actually suffered a miscarriage, and the child was their commanding officer's, rather than Pendry's. Pendry was simply there for emotional support.
    • In "Brig Break", the Aryan Nation folks pretty much stop being relevant one scene after being introduced.
    • In "Boot", Private Johnson isn't the villain. She's just a Jerkass.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Sightings", the villains' plot: Run an illegal drug refining operation at an abandoned American military base in Texas, knowing that the authorities expect to find any such facilities in Mexico or Central America, and use a flashy attention-getting setup to make locals confuse it for a UFO sighting, in turn making the authorities dismiss it out of hand.
  • Retired Badass:
    • General Williams in "Desert Son", former Commandant of the Marine Corps and Medal of Honor recipient. Even as a retiree, he still warrants his own helicopter transport and honor guard.
    • The trio of retired underwater demolition divers (one of them played by Ernest Borgnine), in "Yesterday’s Heroes", whom despite living at a retirement home in Florida decides to take on a drug dealer.
    • Admiral Boone (Terry O'Quinn), the wingman of Harm's dad, is recalled to active duty in season 7.
  • Revealing Cover Up: In "Déjà Vu", Colonel Patano, the Thai Embassy chief of security, bribes a witness into telling the cops that he didn't see anything. Which is entirely true, as he really didn't see anything. However, he decides to tell Harm about the bribe.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic:
    • In "Brig Break" the Gunnery Sergeant in charge of the brig uses a right wing militia group as a decoy to keep base security busy while he steals nuclear weapons for Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
    • The group known as The Defenders in "We the People" is called this by Clayton Webb.
    • In the "Vanished", a right wing militia group called Freedom Brethren kidnaps the wife and child of a F-14 pilot, and convinces the aviator to bring them the aircraft and to shoot down a certain civilian airliner. If demands are not fulfilled, the wife and child will die.
    • In "Rivers' Run" Harm and Mac defends Navy Seal Lt. Curtis Rivers in a kangaroo court under the common law, as interpreted by anti-government separatists in West Virginia.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: A sign marking an entrance into the Free Fire Zone in "Desert Son" has been knocked down, which nearly gets Harm and Meg killed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Rescue: In the the episode "Going after Francesca", while in Italy, Chegwidden's daughter has been kidnapped and he essentially does a Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right! with Harm by procuring weapons through Navy channels under the false pretense that they are meant for "target practice".
  • Rogue Agent: Clark Palmer, former DSD agent who has tried to either kill or frame on Harm several occasions.
  • Royal Mess: In the world of JAG ("Washington Holiday"), Romania has restored its monarchy but the King and his heir are living under assassination threat from hardliners who don't want their country to join NATO.
    • While Romania once had a monarchy, abolished by the communists, the people in this episode are fictitious. The country did however join NATO in 2004.
  • Run for the Border:
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: In "Cowboys and Cossacks", the Russian captain of a soon to be scrapped destroyer decides to attacka U.S. destoryer in a final blaze of glory. Meanwhile, the gloomy crew indulge in drinking vodka and smoking cigarettes.
    • In a later season, Harm's Russian half-brother ends up as a POW in Chechnya.
  • Save the Villain:
    • Chegwidden serves as defense counsel to the captured Al Qaeda third banana in "Tribunal" because he doesn't want anyone of his people to be forced to defend him. However, Sturgis volunteers to sit second chair because he wants to be part of history.
    • Also, from an American point of view, Fidel Castro in "Tiger, Tiger".
  • Scam Religion: The Wicca religion is portrayed as such in "The Witches of Gulfport".
  • Scary Black Man: In "Brig Break", Petty Officer Quinn, who turns out to be The Mole.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In the first season episode "High Ground", after breaking brig and taking to the hills Gunnery Sergeant Ray Crockett is spotting Marines approaching and instead of shooting at them, he shots at a bee's nest above them.
  • Scenery Censor:
    • In "Gypsy Eyes", the gypsy woman coming out of the water in a Dream Sequence is topless, but her breasts are obscured by leaves and a grainy picture.
    • In two-part episode "Boomerang" Mac is supposedly sunbathing topless with Mic on Manly Beach in Australia, given the amusing reactions of Harm and Bud from a distance. When Harm and Bud comes closer she has a magazine covering her chest.
    • In "Ice Queen", certain parts of Lauren Singers' naked corpse, while on the slab at the NCIS medical examiner, are covered with stark lights.
    • In "A Tangled Webb (Part 2)", Mac has a Bathtub Scene, but the audience (as opposed to Harm) don't get to see anything because of strategically placed bubbles and camera angle.
  • Screaming Birth: Harm delivers a baby in "Code Blue" on a DC hospital taken over by Hamas terrorists.
    • Admiral Chegwidden delivers two babies in his office: Bud and Harriet's son in "Yeah, Baby", and another baby in "All ye Faithful".
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Harmon Rabb invokes this trope several times:
    • In "Brig Break" when Lieutenant Austin is taken hostage.
    Lt. Caitlin Pike: Major Aspinal ordered us to start an investigation!
    Lt. Harmon Rabb: He suggested, Kate. I don't have to follow suggestions.
    Lt. Caitlin Pike: To him a suggestion is as good as an order.
    Lt. Harmon Rabb: Damn it! Thay have my partner! I'm sorry Kate, but if that was you out there, would you want me to start an investigation or come after you?
    • In "Impact" when a UFO-like UAV from the Bradenhurst Corporation kills Marines with impunity in an accident, Harm is determined to bring them to justice.
  • Sea Stories: Many episodes.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • In the Pilot Movie, Lt. Arutti was secretly married to Painter. They kept it a secret because the Navy would not have allowed them to serve in the same unit.
    • In "Boot", between Sergeant Gonzalez and Major Klein. Harm decides to overlook it on the condition that they will turn themselves in if Sergeant Gonzalez is not accepted into the officer commissioning program, which she was previously mentioned to be a shoe-in for.
  • Secret Test of Character: Harm failed one in "In Thin Air". The Admiral assigned him to defend a mechanic accused of manslaughter in the death of a Navy pilot. Harm did a poor job because he believed the mechanic was responsible, forcing Chegwidden to take him off the case. Afterwards he revealed that the only reason Harm got the case was to see if he could put aside his personal feelings, because the Admiral was looking at assigning him to serve as a judge on a temporary basis.
  • Seppuku: An American admiral stationed in Japan commits suicide in the episode "Innocence" for what he perceived to be a failure on his part. The characters can’t help by commenting how Japanese it was.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: In the season eight episode "Need to Know", Harm, Mac and Sturgis is investigating why a submarine on a CIA mission in 1968 foundered off the Russian coast. There are rumors floating that so called spec-boats had self-destruct charges aboard but this is flat out denied, and the cause of the sinking was in fact caused by a collision with a Soviet sub.
  • Sensitivity Training: JAG toyed with this concept, particulary in the early seasons.
    • In "Heroes", Harm and Mac have the following exchange:
      Mac: If you have some evidence I should know about...
      Harm: You'll eventually get it, and then you can plea-bargain.
      Mac: In your dreams, commander.
      Harm: Oh, you don't wanna be in my dreams, major.
      Mac: Red light, commander.
      Harm: Red light? (Pause) There was nothing sexual in what I said. And if you think there was, then maybe I should be giving you the red light, major.
  • Serial Killer: JAG has had several, but Ax-Crazy child-killer Charles "Charlie" Lynch in season 4 is by far the most despicable.
    • In "Déjà Vu", Harm and Meg suspect the murders of multiple Navy Lieutenants around Arlington National Cemetery are related. A local cop points out it could just be statistics: Washington, D.C. has both an unusually high murder rate and an unusually high Navy Lieutenant rate compared to other cities. Obviously, it's a serial killer.
  • Sexual Extortion: In the first season episode "The Prisoner" Harm has been captured by the Chinese while sailing off the coast of Hong Kong (in 1996 before the 1997 transfer). Commander Allison Krennick has through unofficial contacts learned of Harm’s whereabouts and a Chinese traitor is willing to bring him back in exchange for political asylum in the United States. The Assistant Secretary of State is reluctant at first, but when Krennick threatens to call his wife and say that she’s his lover he quickly changes his mind.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • The only witness to the latest murder in "Déjà Vu" is a retired Navy SEAL who works as a groundskeeper at Arlington National Cemetery, and who spends much of his time drinking.
    • J.D. in "Sightings", a former Navy SEAL who harbors a very strong distrust of the Government in general.
    • Colonel Matt Anderson in "Survivors" who has many flashbacks to The Vietnam War and believes his young son to be the Reincarnation of a dead war buddy.
    • In the second season episode "The Guardian", Chief Petty Officer Paul Bauwer, a homeless former Navy SEAL, is accused of killing three men while thwarting a convenience store robbery which he did to protect his young son who doesn’t know who he really is.
  • Shotgun Wedding: The trope is mentioned in "Wedding Bell Blues" by Bud’s father.
    Big Bud: Hey, this isn't a shotgun wedding, is it?
  • Shout-Out: Many examples are found on a separate subpage.
  • Show Within a Show: In season 4's "War Stories", Admiral Chegwidden while on leave gets persuaded by a Hollywood producer to act as technical advisor on the movie “Fields of Gold” which is a navy-themed action adventure with a court-martial. Chegwidden is a Fish out of Water as the Real Navy differs quite a lot from the Reel Navy, and Hilarity Ensues.
    • Chegwidden tells the producer that he'd like to talk to the writer while we see that he's attached quite a few post-it notes to the script.
  • The Shrink:
    • Lieutenant Commander Jordan Parker, first introduced in "Jaggle Bells". Romantic False Lead to Harmon Rabb in season 4.
    • Lieutenant Commander Vera McCool, counseling, at first reluctant, Sarah Mackenzie twice onscreen in season 9 & 10. Mac is ordered by Admiral Chegwidden to see a psychiatrist in "Take It Like a Man", following changes in behavior after the events in "Persian Gulf". At first the therapy seems to be ineffective, but when seen in the season 10 episode "The Four Percent Solution" it proves to be effective.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: In "Scimitar", Lt. Dumai tells off Lt. Austin for her attitude towards Iraqi gender attitudes:
    Lt. Dumai: Your country is like a child who has learned nothing yet thinks it knows everything. Let your civilization survive its first thousand years; then perhaps we'll begin to listen.
  • Simulated Urban Combat Area: The season 2 episode "Force Recon", filmed on location at Camp Pendelton.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: This trope occurs several times on JAG, usually it is part of either an ongoing court case, or a preliminary investigation, where an instructor may have pushed the envelope too far.
    • Captain Coonan in "Force Recon".
  • Skewed Priorities: In "Brig Break", the group of right-wing militiamen seeking to overthrow the government learn that one of their co-conspirators is a black man, and their leader proceed to demand that the tall blonde female US military officer (Meg) whose government they are fighting against is protected from him.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: While the men are more numerous, the women are no less capable.
  • Snipe Hunt: In "Iron Coffin" Mac sends the entire Russian Navy and Intelligence on one. To explain, Mac is on a US sub as Harm is on a Russian one. The Russians are about to test fire a new torpedo (a previous test of the same type turned on the sub that fired it and destroyed it. The Americans know it but the Russian captain doesn't know this) and Mac makes the captain break silence to warn about this. To prove she knows what they are about to do, she cites happenings on the Russian sub she couldn't know happened. When asked how the Americans can possibly know all the details happening on a Russian Sub, rather than admit the US sonar tech is so advanced they can clearly hear the Russians conversations, Mac tells them the sub and every other sub since the Cold War has had bugs put on them by American Agents. The US Captain compliments Mac on this as it will cause the ones fooled to waste a lot of manpower and resources.
  • Sniper Rifle:
    • The episode "High Ground" has an NCO Friendly Sniper with Improbable Aiming Skills becoming a Cold Sniper, due to the fact that his Colonel didn't give a damn about an agreement he had made with the predecessor to not ship him off to a combat zone ever again.
    • The female assassin in "Washington Holiday" carries one of those sniper rifles convertible to components for a stealthy getaway.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Subverted in season 9, when Harmon Rabb seeks to be the guardian to Matilda "Mattie" Grace: because social services are very thorough.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Roscoe Martin, the paraplegic Vietnam veteran in "King of the Fleas" and "The Martin Baker Fan Club", is the broken soldier type who while getting himself in trouble manages to manipulate people around him (including Harm).
  • Somebody Set Us Up The Bomb: In "War Cries", an old lady leaves a basket in front of the Embassy's front gate. A Marine sentry sees this and immediately sounds the alarm just before the bomb explodes.
  • Sonic Stunner: The other method used by the UFO in "Sightings" to subdue and intimidate people.
  • Soviet Superscience: The 6th season epispde "Iron Coffin" features the supercavitating Russian torpedo VA-111 Shkval, which for an uninformed viewer might come across as pure fiction. However, the Shkval in the episode has a serious design flaw as it retargets the submarine which launched it. The Americans have observed it before, but the Russians thinks the Americans are interfering.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead: In "Pilot Error", there are persistent rumors that Lt. Pendry had been having an affair with his female wingman, and that this may have contributed to the crash.
  • Spinning Paper: "Contemptuous Words" opens with a printing press spinning, however, the relevant content is read in the following scence.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Only used once; in the 8th season episode "Persian Gulf" in a dramatic moment, when Mac speaks to Al-Qaeda terrorist Sadik Fahd.
  • Spy Satellites: In the second season episode "Rendezvous", a murder case is solved by obtaining photos from a Russian spy satellite showing that the defendant's car was present at the scene of the murder.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Frequently. One example is used as evidence against Harm in the investigation into Singers murder.
  • Stalker Shrine: DC Detective Frank Coster had one of these with secretly taken photos of Mac in the, rather aptly named, episode "The Stalker".
  • Starts with a Suicide:
    • It turns out to have essentially been this for the Navy SEAL who initially was presumed to have been murdered in "Heroes".
    • "The Martin Baker Fan Club" starts with a former naval aviator jumping out of a window at a VA hospital.
  • Status Quo Is God: In Season 3, Mac temporarily resigns to “stretch her wings” and go into private practice, then returns. In Season 5, Harm deploys onboard a carrier as a Tomcat pilot but then returns to JAG HQ. In Season 9, Harm joins the CIA as a pilot, even flying the fictional Aurora spy plane, but then returns again to JAG. After all, the show’s premise is military lawyers, not carrier based fighter pilots or CIA pilots!
  • Stay in the Kitchen: In "Scimitar", Lt. Dumai is not terribly well respected by her Iraqi male peers, and does her best to keep her head down rather than draw their ire.
  • Stereotype Flip: J.D. in "Sightings", a drunken drawling man living in a trailer near the border, dismisses the possibility that the Mexican man he saw near Cathy could be responsible for her disappearance. In this case, because he could see the man was scared out of his wits.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Is explicitly mentioned twice on JAG: 6th season episode "Valor" where it is used in its straight meaning, and in 9th season "A Tangled Web: Part 2" where it’s used jokingly.
  • Straw Civilian: Occurs often. In fact, the The War on Straw tropes applied heavily in the later seasons. The only exception was Strawman Has a Point, the military was never portrayed as wrong. The corrupt members of the military were always the exception and lectured on their betrayal of The United States.
  • Straw Loser: Kate’s superior in "Ares", Commander Dennis Brockman, fits this trope. Self-centered, mousy, lack of resourcefulness and eventually taken hostage by the bad guy: only to be saved by Harm.
  • Sub Story: JAG featured several episodes taking place on submarines, with plots ranging from historica events, espionage to fish-out-of-water stories to the occasional bit of Hot Sub-on-Sub Action.
    • 11 out of 227 episodes featured sub stories.
      • 1x3 "Shadow"
      • 4x16 "Silent Service"
      • 5x7 "Rogue"
      • 5x22 "Overdue & Presumed Lost"
      • 6x15 "Iron Coffin"
      • 7x5 "Mixed Messages"
      • 7x14 "Odd Man Out"
      • 7x24 "Enemy Below"
      • 8x7 "Need To Know"
      • 8x17 "Empty Quiver"
      • 9x7 "Close Quarters"
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: In "Sightings", Harm discusses this as part of his Agent Scully argument:
    Harm: You expect the spaceships to be lined up along the tarmac?
    Meg: Very funny.
    Harm: Seriously. If there was a race advanced enough to travel millions of light-years to Earth, I truly doubt we could catch them, no matter how much we wanted to.
  • Suicide by Cop: In "Deja Vu", this is attempted by Colonel Patano, who opens up a gunfight with Harm with the intent of letting Harm win in order to cover up for the killer.
  • Super Cell Reception: In "Tiger, Tiger", Harm's cell phone starts ringing, despite being onboard a frigate out in the Mexican Gulf somewhere between the Florida Keys and Cuba, and he had tried to use before to no avail. Moments before it started ringing, Harm told the terrorists holding the ship's crew as hostage something to the effect that "It won't work out here." The caller is Mac, but she plays the role of an ignorant tourist. After the non sequitur call is over, Bud explains it away as an atmospheric distortion, which the terrorist buy for lack a better explanation.
  • Super-Reflexes: In "High Ground", Gunnery Sergeant Crockett, a hardened master sniper, catches a fly by its wings. Harm does the same at the end of the episode.
  • Surpassed the Teacher. In "JAG TV", Mac as trial counsel (prosecutor) in a televised murder case faces her old law professor Juanita Ressler as defense counsel. Ressler knows how use the media to her advantage, while Mac is utterly dismissive of interview requests and is overwhelmed and distracted by the sudden interest of the media in her as a mysterious sex object. Following words of wisdom from Admiral Chegwidden, Mac begins to spin-doctor the media to her advantage which brings forth new evidence from anonymous sources which helps to convict the defendant for murder.
  • SWAT Team: Appears a few times on JAG.
    • In the second season episode "The Guardian", Bud is trapped inside a church with a crazy homeless veteran who is a murder suspect and a MPD SWAT team is sent to the church and captures the suspect, but only after Harm has done his usual share of heroics.
    • In "The Martin Baker Fan Club", A MPD SWAT team enter Harm's appartment after on of the crazy fugitive veterans grabbed a side arm from a police officer. The suspect is arrested but another veteran is shot at.
    • The opening of "The Colonel's Wife" is of a San Diego SWAT team, while on a drug bust, discovers the origin of a drug shipment.
    • In "Persian Gulf", an MPD SWAT team enters after Mac killed the terrorist Fadik Sahd.

  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The murder victims in "Déjà Vu" are drugged before they are murdered, so they can't put up a fight. Harm avoids drinking the champagne when he thinks he's Alone with the Psycho. But he did eat the chocolate she gave him.
  • Tap on the Head: In "Scimitar", The Mole refuses to go with them to Kuwait, and intends to stay behind to help fix the problems in Iraq, and insists on this to make it look like the heroes took them prisoner before leaving them behind. Harm balks at this, so Meg does it instead.
  • 10-Minute Retirement:
    • Mac resigns to become a civilian lawyer in "Impact", only to realize she was far happier in the Corps. Turns out, in "People v Rabb", that Admiral Chegwidden had never actually processed her discharge papers, and she was allowed back in.
    • Harm had his vision impairment fixed and went back to flying Tomcats for a short while, before his new commanding officer convinced him that he was too old to be competitive as an aviator against all the younger pilots, despite his skill, and that he would do the most good as a judge advocate.
    • Harm actually did resign his commission at the end of season 8, and went to work for the CIA for a few episodes. After being fired from the CIA for lack of discretion: he was reinstated in the beginning of 9 by the Secretary of the Navy upon the recommendation of Admiral Chegwidden, due to a lack of qualified personnel.
  • That Was Objectionable:
    • Kinda hard to avoid in court room scenes...
    • Deconstructed in the second season episode "Rendezvous", when incriminating evidence is presented and the defendant asks defense counsel to object.
    Chief Petty Officer Holst: Do something!
    Major Mackenzie: What?
    Chief Petty Officer Holst: Object!
    Major Mackenzie: On what grounds? I'm not a magician, chief. I can't make a murder go away.
  • The Reveal: In "Boot", Private Schuler's killer was Private Whitley, who appeared to be the nicest character in the episode.
  • There Is No Higher Court:
    • Averted in the season 5 episode "Life and Death" where Mac argues before the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
    • Played straight in the military tribunal episode "Tribunal" in season 8 where the fictional Al-Qaeda top third banana is given the death sentence without chance of appeal.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: In "Shadow", the villain Grover mandates that the naval personnel address him as either "Sir" or "Mr. Grover". He gleefully notices when Meg manages to do exactly that while making it sound as disrespectful as possible.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: In "Crossing the Line", this is Lt. Skates' nonverbal reaction to learning that she's going to have to be the RIO for Lt. Isaacs, the worst pilot on the Seahawk, on a night mission with bad weather.
  • This Is Reality: Clayton Webb says to Mac in a heated argument that this is the real world Sarah in the season nine episode "Take It like a Man".
  • Toplessness from the Back:
    • In the pilot episode, when Harm and Kate searches the deceased female officer’s belongings in her cabin, her bodybuilding roommate Cassie comes to change and as Harm gentlemanly offers to leave, she quips "Why? Never seen a naked sailor before?" before he even gets a chance to, as shown from the back. Both Harm and Kate get noticeably uncomfortable in their facial expressions. When Cassie has left, Kate asks Harm:
    Kate: Did you see the muscles on her?
    Harm: I wasn't looking at her muscles.
    • Also, in the first part of two-parter "Boomerang", Harm and Bud walks on the beach when takes of her bikini top, which makes Bud clearly distracted.
  • Tracking Device: Used by Clayton Webb in his first dealing with Harm and Mac, in "We The People", to track their rental car. However, they're Genre Savvy enough to leave it.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: In "Father’s Day", Corporal Wetzl runs a tank over his CO’s tent, claiming to be distracted about the divorce from his drug-addicted wife and impending custody hearings on their infant son. Frustrated by the countless lies spun in court and in the media by his wife and her lawyer, he takes action of his own, commandeering a tank with his son inside. He blows up a TV van and gets into a stand-off. Eventually Harm and Mac manages to get him to surrender by bringing his grandmother on the spot.
  • Training "Accident": In "Force Recon", Harm is sent undercover as a Gunny to investigate a Marine captain who is suspected of exposing his recon marines to dangerous situations, such training in an area with live artillery shells hitting the ground.
  • Training from Hell: The Marine Boot Camp for women in "Boot".
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Bud Roberts is sent to an Anger Managment class in "Automatic for the People". Hilarity Ensues.
  • Turn Out Like His Father: Annie Pendry's biggest fear concerning her son Josh, after his father is killed in a plane crash in "Pilot Error". She points out that Harm became a fighter pilot after his own father went missing in Vietnam, further reinforcing her concern.
  • Unconventional Courtroom Tactics:
    • Harm fired a loaded MP-5 during a trial in "Heroes". The key piece of evidence in the case was a submachine gun that allegedly failed to fire due to a malfunction. Harm proceeded to pick up the gun, which had evidently never been unloaded, and fired it into the ceiling. This did get him an epic ass-chewing, and the judge would continue to hold this against Harm for at least 7 more seasons. No one else lets him forget about that either.
    • Bud uses a loophole in the building regulations so that the incident, which has evidently caused a structural weakness in the leaking roof, will not count as a black mark on Harm's record.
    • During the military trial of a terrorist Harm uses questioning that violates the spirit of the law. Both the judges and the defense tell him to stop.
  • The Un Favourite: Lt. Williams, in "Desert Son", claims that his father elevates his deceased older brother to unreachable heights as a paragon of virtue, making it that much worse.
  • Unflinching Walk: In "Boot", Staff Sergeant Carrington and Sergeant Gonzalez slowly pace up and down the length of a gas chamber full of tear gas, singing the Marine Corps Hymn while the recruits are hardly able to breathe.
  • Under the Mistletoe: Harriet kisses Bud under a mistletoe she holds up out in the bullpen in "Jaggle Bells".
  • Undercover as Lovers: Mac and Clayton Webb went undercover as husband and wife on a CIA mission in Paraguay in season 8/9.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal:
    • The episode "Brig Break" has Meg Austin discovering that Petty Officer Quinn is an undercover agent for Navy Intelligence trying to infiltrate a group of gun runners. He ends up getting killed by Sergeant Lowell soon after Austin figures it out.
    • Played for Laughs in "Boot". After everything she has put her through, Staff Sergeant Carrington is stunned to discover that Private McEntire, a problem recruit she had been singling out, was in fact Lt. Meg Austin. Austin assures her she knew it wasn't personal.
  • Unprocessed Resignation:
    • After realizing civilian law practice is not for her, Sarah MacKenzie asks Admiral Chegwidden to let her return to duty in "People v. Rabb". Chegwidden reveals he just never processed her resignation.
    • Subverted in "Shifting Sands". Harmon Rabb assumes Admiral Chegwidden did the same with his resignation as with MacKenzie's. But no, Harmon really is a civilian now.
  • Vacation Episode: the two-parter "Boomerang", filmed and set in Australia, could be seen as an example of this trope.
  • Vigilante Execution: The season four episode "Act of Terror" has two vigilante executions. First, a suspected terrorist is transported back the United States but a Marine guard shots at him on live TV coverage. The Marine is charged with murder in a court-martial. However, the suspected terrorist survived because he wore a protective vest and the FBI takes the suspect away for interrogation unbeknownst to everyone. Harm discovers this because there was a major discrepancy between the autopsy report and the video footage. The Marine charged with murder receives top civilian counsel provided by a right-wing businessman. But it turns out that the businessman has made money transfers to terrorist suspects in Saudi Arabia, and while he agrees to let the FBI apprehend the next receiver, that one is gunned down in a drive by shooting. The episode ends with the businessman smiling.
  • Walk and Talk: Happens frequently, both at the headquarters building in Falls Church and onboard Navy ships.
  • Wealthy Yacht Owner: It is mentioned in "Wedding Bell Blues", when the future in-laws meets, that Harriet's wealthy father owns a yacht.
    '"Big" Bud Roberts: So, Rollo, I hear you have a yacht.
    Roland Sims: Well, a small yacht.
    Lydia Sims''': It is not that small, Roland.
  • We Need a Distraction: In "War Cries", the Shining Path operatives have a pair of pretty girls wave at the Peruvian soldiers standing guard outside the U.S. Embassy so an old lady can walk past them and leave a bomb.
  • Wedding Episode: Bud and Harriet's wedding in the season 3 episode "Wedding Bell Blues".
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Lieutenant Williams in "Desert Son" feels that his father has always considered him a failure. What's worse, is he's right, and his father's low opinion of him is well-founded.
  • Western Terrorists:
    • In first season episode "Shadow", a civilian contractor onboard an nuclear attack submarine (SSN) holds the sub ransom, through his lap top computer, with which he supposedly can activate charges or to have them explode automatically unless he stays online.
    • Doubly subverted in "Rogue" where the Rogue Warrior Expy and his men, not only captures a nuclear attack submarine (SSN), as per orders, but also takes it to sea and threatens to attack New York City unless a ransom is paid. Turns at that the end that the intentions were honorable: a wakeup call to make officials aware of the threats posed by terrorists such as Osama bin Laden...
  • With Due Respect: That phrase occurs many times on the show, which is not surprising given its military theme.
    • In "Gypsy Eyes", when Admiral Chegwidden learns that Harm and Mac are missing in Russia on Harm’s private quest to find his long lost father, the Secretary of the Navy forbids Chegwidden from going over there, to which the old Navy SEAL courteously replies.
    Admiral Chegwidden: With all due respect, Mr. Secretary, you don't want to try to stop me.
  • Witness Protection: A witness to a crime doesn't want to testify because he's in DOJ witness protection in the season 5 episode "Front And Center".
  • Wham Line: In "Desert Son", after Boone has been found to blame for the mishap, Williams is out spotting for artillery strikes again, and remarks that he never knew how much better he'd be at spotting artillery simply by doing it while sober. The corporal riding in the humvee with him is stricken speechless by the implications of this remark.
  • What If?: JAG's 200th episode revolved around the main characters making different decisions (or events that occurred one way in the "prime" timeline happening the other way). The episode was even titled "What If?".
  • The White House: Harm & Mac first met in the Rose Garden in "We The People", following an presidential awards ceremony where Harm recieved his first Disthinguished Flying Cross.
  • Worthy Opponent: "Cowboys and Cossacks" has Harm and Mack observing a joint war game with the Russian Navy. Harm is assigned to ride along aboard a Russian guided-missile destroyer whose captain has a long history of facing off with the skipper of the US destroyer opposing him in the exercise, both of them being old Cold War hands. The Russian eventually decides to shoot live missiles, provoking retaliation from the American destroyer. He knows his own ship is outclassed, and reveals to Harm that his ship is doomed by budget cuts, and deserves to go out fighting rather than rusting in a breaking yard. The Russian captain chooses to go down with his ship, but asks Harm to give his regards to the American captain, saying "We were never friends, but we were the best of enemies." The US captain shares the sentiment, and has his crew salute the Russian destroyer as she goes down.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: In "Tribunal", Sturgis is assigned as co-defense counsel for the fictional Al-Qaida No 3 in the military tribunal held aboard a warship, and has an Army Special Forces captain on the stand to answer questions about unconventional warfare by US Forces and that of unlawful combatants. The implication of the final question being that there's not always a distinct difference between them.
    Sturgis: One final question. On certain operations, Special Forces personnel remove all insignia. Your dog tags, anything that could identify you. Is that correct?
    Army Captain: That's classified, sir.
    Sturgis: Let the record reflect that was not a no.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: In "Brig Break", once Gunnery Sergeant Gentry has got the nukes, he kills his accomplices.
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Used more than once in several ways on JAG, first when Harm meets a Vietnamese woman who reminds him of someone he saw die years before in "Déjà Vu", again when he meets Major Sarah MacKenzie, who is a dead ringer for Lt. Diane Schonke, a murdered Naval officer Harm used to know ("We The People"), and finally when Mac confronts the officer who murdered Schonke, who is so startled by what appears to be the ghost of their murder victim that they stumble backwards off a pier and are crushed to death by the ship moored there, in "Death Watch".

"This court-martial is adjourned."