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Series / NCIS

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The current cast as of Season 19 (from left to right): Knight, Parker, McGee, and Torres

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

NCIS (Navy NCIS for its first season) depicts a team of investigators assigned to deal with criminal activity involving Navy personnel and Marines. That means that the entire gamut of crime—from Serial Killers to fraud to international espionage to unauthorized absences—can turn up. This Major Cases Response Team was led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon), a retired Marine gunnery sergeant who Always Gets His Man, for eighteen years, and contains a rather colorful collection of detectives and lab workers.

A classic example of a Sleeper Hit, the show was largely ignored at the beginning of its run, but has considerably gained viewers since then (although it is now on a downwards trend in the U.S.). In 2015, ratings-wise it was the number one scripted show on U.S. network television and the most watched show in the world.

NCIS has been on the air since September 2003 and, as of September 2022, is in its 20th season, thus far surpassing the already long run of its parent show and making it the 7th longest-running scripted American primetime television series in U.S. TV history. NCIS was renewed for season 21 on February 21, 2023.

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

It has three spinoff series of its own:

Although neither Los Angeles or New Orleans have reached the heights of the parent program, they have both become successes in their own right.note  Time will tell how well Hawaiʻi does, but it has been renewed for season 3.

Please contribute to the character and recap pages.

Season-specific trope subpages:

This show contains examples of:

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  • Abandoned War Child: Played with in the Christmas Episode "Newborn King": the soldier is the single mother, a Marine who was impregnated by an Afghan tribal prince she fell in love with on deployment, who was later killed by the Taliban. This makes her child potentially the heir to the tribe, which sends mercenaries to kidnap her.
  • Abusive Parents: Eli David is basically an Affably Evil sociopath.
  • Accidental Innuendo: In-Universe. At the start of Season 14, Bishop gets back from her vacation in Scotland and tells McGee how she met Clayton Reeves, and say that "His stamina is incredible, couldn't keep up" McGee grins at this, and she quickly adds "Hiking, Tim, hiking."
  • Accidental Murder: One of the twin cases of "Alleged" is a sailor who died from a head wound. The team thought he had been attacked by a Serial Rapist due to offensive and defensive wounds onto his corpse because he reported that a female co-worker had been raped by an unknown assailant. They eventually figure out that the two cases are unrelated; the sailor was accidentally shoved head-first into a misplaced dumpster while being tossed out of a bar for being drunk and disorderly, and his skull happened to hit a delicate spot that happened to cause fatal internal hemmoraging. That being said, Team Gibbs probably wouldn't have gotten involved with the rapist case if that didn't happen.
  • Action Girl: First Kate, a former Secret Service agent in the presidential protection detail, then Ziva, whose background with the Mossad was as a spy and an assassin rather than as an investigator.
  • Action Mom: Dornaget's mother is a CIA officer. We get a hint of how action-y when she finds one of the people responsible for her son's death.
  • Action Insurance Gag: Played for Drama in one episode when Tony gets a car totaled by the Arc Villain. The next episode he's on the phone with his insurance agent, who informs him that, since this is the third car it's happened to, the company is considering dropping him as a client.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • The shot of an aircraft carrier passing beneath a bridge that was used in early seasons' opening credits is from The Presidio, a film Mark Harmon starred in.
    • In one episode, Gibbs is asked what Ducky looked like when he was younger. He responds, "Illya Kuryakin", who was David McCallum's character in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 40 years earlier. Later proven true in a Ducky flashback in season 12 where Adam Campbell as young Ducky is a dead ringer for McCallum during that era. Young Ducky even had Illya Kuryakin's turtleneck shirts!
    • Gibbs once asked Tony for help with the crossword puzzle clue "TV Drama" and Tony answers "St. Elsewhere," which Mark Harmon appeared on.
    • Tony once says "I've got a better chance of hooking up with Jessica Alba than these guys do of infiltrating Sea Lift." Michael Weatherly was engaged to Jessica Alba for a time. He also starred with her in Dark Angel, where they kept trying to hook up.
      • In the third season episode "Light Sleeper" while on stakeout, Tony is reading an entertainment magazine:
        Tony: Damn, I can't believe this... Mick and Jessica broke up, I'm always the last to know.
        Gibbs: (over radio) Hey, DiNozzo... shut up!
        Toony: Shutting up, Boss.
      • This is just after Michael Weatherly and Jessica Alba broke up.
      • In the episode Obsession (7x21), Tony obsesses over a journalist who embodies all what he finds attractive in a woman, and who is missing. When calling her at her cell phone, he says: "It would seem strange, but I feel like I know you". It's not so strange, though: the journalist is played by Ashley Scott, who also played underground operative and potential secondary love interest Asha Barlow in Dark Angel.
      • Tony and Delilah discuss characters in wheelchairs in series 11: Delilah mentions Logan Cale, Weatherly's character in Dark Angel.
    • Harmon's turn as Serial Killer Ted Bundy (in the TV movie The Deliberate Stranger) is referenced by Fornell in the episode "Smoked" (4x10).
      Fornell: I was on the team that nailed Bundy, Gibbs. And I'm familiar with sick, charming bastards.
      Gibbs: That's probably why we get along so well.
      • Other references to the Bundy role include the episode where Gibbs kept getting mistaken calls about a Volkswagen Bug for sale. This was Bundy's preferred car.
    • In the season eight double episode "Enemies Foreign/Domestic" (also the name of an episode of The West Wing in which Harmon appeared) Tony makes a reference to The West Wing by calling McGee "McBartlet". Both Mark Harmon and Michael O'Neill (who guest stars in these episodes) played secret service agents on the show.
    • A combination of Actor Allusion and Shout-Out: Tony (Mike Weatherly)'s father is played by Robert Wagner. Weatherly met NCIS producer Donald Bellisario while Weatherly was filming The Mystery of Natalie Wood, in which he played Wood's husband...Robert Wagner.
    • A retroactive one: Early in Season 7, a Metro detective who annoys Gibbs is described as having "tugged on Superman's cape".
    • In the Season 9 episode "Newborn King", Jimmy Palmer, when explaining that his future father-in-law, Ed Slater, is visiting the NCIS building, he mentions that the first time he learned that Palmer was marrying his daughter, "[Ed Slater] laughed, and then he cried from laughing too hard". Ed Slater is played by Larry Miller, who himself used the phrase "I laughed, I cried" during his first Is This Thing Still On? moment as Principal Jindrake in the movie Max Keeble's Big Move.
    • In season five's "Recoil", Nick Chinlund guest-starred as a detective hunting a serial killer who murdered women and cut off their fingers. Sixteen years earlier, he played Donnie Pfaster on The X-Files — as a serial killer who murdered women and kept their fingers.
    • Ziva's codename in "Blowback" is 'Dark Angel'.
    • Season 9 introduces Dr. Samantha Ryan (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) as a psychologist and love interest for Gibbs. This is a reference to Freaky Friday in which she played a psychologist, frustrated with the fact that her unruly teenage daughter refuses to accept her fiance—named Ryan, played by Mark Harmon.
    • In Season 6's "Dead Reckoning", Vance says he would have handled the situation differently than Gibbs, "but in the last two minutes you've gotta let your quarterback call the plays." In real life, Mark Harmon was a starting quarterback for UCLA.
    • Throughout her time on the show, Jenny and Gibbs frequently flashbacked to their romance. Mark Harmon (Gibbs) and Lauren Holly (Jenny) starred together on Chicago Hope, where their characters had a similar relationship.
    • When SECNAV Jarvis is introduced in Season Eight's finale "Pyramid", it's quickly established that he and Vance are old friends. Matt Cravin and Rocky Carroll both played officers on the U.S.S. Alabama in Crimson Tide.
    • In Season 11's "Homesick", Ben Vereen guest-stars as the estranged father of Vance's late wife, who has come back trying to make amends for abandoning her and her mother when she was young.
    • In Season 13's "Loose Cannons", it's mentioned that McGee is a Navy brat who lived in Japan for a while. One of Sean Murray's earliest roles was a US Navy Ensign stationed in Japan in JAG.
    • A Season 13 episode is titled "Reasonable Doubts", the name of an early 90's TV show Mark Harmon starred in. Furthermore, Gibbs knows sign language, as did his character on the other show.
    • Fornell briefly mistakes Marcie Warren as "Mindy". Marcie is played by Pam Dawber, Mark Harmon's wife, who played "Mindy" on Mork & Mindy.
    • In Season 19's “Docked”, Alden Parker tells McGee that “I come from a big family, like Brady Bunch big.” Alden Parker is played by Gary Cole, who also played Mike Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie.
    • In Season 19's “Starting Over”, Alden Parker says “What I'd give to never have to fill out another TPS report again,” and then is corrected that it's a TBS report. TPS reports were central to Office Space, in which Gary Cole played Bill Lumburgh.
    • When confronting a runaway perp with a knife, Jessica Knight breaks off a broom handle and employs skilled martial arts moves to take him down, spinning around the makeshift staff with ease and precision. Guess Katrina Law remembered all her lessons from her time with the League of Assassins.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The merchant of death, René Benoît.
    • The Reynosas, a Mexican Brother–Sister Team that declared a feud on Gibbs. They are actually among the series' most sympathetic villains.
    • Eli David, Ziva's father.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: S13 Ep5 "Lockdown" sees Abby take a field trip to investigate the team's current case when there is an event at the pharmaceutical company she is visiting. She uses an air vent to move from the server room she is trapped in back to the lab / office she needs to get back to.
  • The Alibi: One 11th season episode uses "Alibi" as a title. A Marine is killed in a hit and run. The vehicle owner is suspected. Said owner uses attorney/client privilege to secure his alibi. The attorney checks out the alibi and confirms it. The attorney promptly points Gibbs at a second crime without directly connecting it to her client. Turns out, he was across town, committing a different crime at the time. See the trope description for why the attorney/client privilege would only have been a stopgap if the case went to trial.
  • All for Nothing: The perp of "Tell-All" killed his wife and a naval officer because of a mysterious book and gun, thinking they were having an affair and trying to screw him over in the process. They were actually cooperating on tracking illegal guns to bring them into proper government supervision, meaning the husband murdered them and tried to burn/hide their work out of covering his own ass, all over a perceived slight in their marriage.
  • All-Loving Hero: Played straight with Abby, with a couple exceptions (she thinks anyone who abuses children or animals is an evil scumbag.) One episode suggests she even loves trees.
  • The Alleged Boss: Gibbs tends to run roughshod over NCIS directors. Type 3, and with Vance it seems to be diverging into Type 4.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Ziva is a tall, beautiful woman who is a definite Ice Queen to her teammates. She mellowed out considerably to the rest of the team by season 7, however.
  • Altar the Speed: Tim and Delilah scrap their plans for a big summer wedding and instead have a private ceremony with the Director and the team the night after they learn that she's pregnant.
  • Alternate Time Line: In the 200th episode Gibbs has a near-death experience and while in limbo he's shown glimpses of alternate time lines where he saw Ari in time (Kate and DiNozzo become a couple, get married and have kids, as do Abby and McGee, but Ziva remains hostile and antisocial), didn't shoot the Reynosa siblings' dad (being unable to get revenge eventually turns him into a bitter alcoholic), and if his wife didn't testify against the drug dealers (she and their daughter live but Gibbs is killed shortly thereafter during a tour of duty).
  • Alternate Universe Fic: There are stories where Caitlin Todd is not killed by Ari and is still with NCIS, more often than not alongside her (in the original universe) replacement Ziva... which has led to several fics detailing explicit love scenes between the two. There are also rewrites of the transcripts for all season three episodes so that Kate was still alive and having passionate sex with either Abby, Tony, or Gibbs.
  • Always Gets His Man: Gibbs... because, well, he's Gibbs.
  • Always on Duty: Gibbs' team appears to be the only agents at NCIS headquarters who handle investigations, any others having been killed, transferred, or vanished into thin air over the years.
    • Gibbs is also a workaholic so he comes in early and stays late and his Death Glare is more than enough to keep his team at their desks as well, to McGee and Ziva's displeasure.
    • Tony might complain about being tired, but he actually puts in even longer hours than Gibbs, coming back to the office even after his boss has gone home.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Usually resulting in a Redundant Rescue. Sometimes, it's been subverted, as the obvious person in danger isn't actually. In one case, an undercover Ziva killed the guy before help arrived and moped for the rest of the episode. Also, this seems to happen to Abby about once a season.
  • Amicable Exes: Gibbs and Wife #2 Diane, and Fornell with Diane. They can get along civilly and work together, if things get a bit stressed at times when baggage comes up.
  • Amusing Injuries: All the Dope Slaps
    • in "Hiatus" When Ziva and Abby are both upset about what happened to Gibbs, Ziva makes an insensitive comment and Abby slaps her. The two get into a full on slap fight.
    • In the same episode Tony his trying to get the two of them to make up. He says they should shake hands (which they do) and then says they should start deep tongue kissing. The two girls respond by both punching him at the same time.
  • And I Must Scream: In "Hiatus" Gibbs is put in a coma by a head injury and effectively trapped in a never-ending nightmare about the death of his first wife and daughter (presumably the worst moments of his life) Surprisingly, he doesn't seem any worse for wear once he recovers.
  • And Zoidberg: When the team is broken after Jenny's death at the end of Season 5, McGee is sent to the Code Decryption Unit in the basement. Gibbs goes to visit McGee, who tells Gibbs he misses working with him and Ziva. When Gibbs mentions Tony, McGee replies "Yeah, him too."
  • Anyone Can Die: Chris Pacci, Kate Todd, Paula Cassidy, Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks, Eli David, and Jackie Vance... and three of these were in the opening credits.
  • Arcade Sounds: Subverted in the episode "Honor Code". The sounds heard from the Nintendo DS are, in fact, the sounds of the user's info (date, time, etc.) being entered into a brand new Nintendo DS.
  • Arrested for Heroism: In "Semper Fortis" a retired Navy Corpsman renders aid to three people who were in a car accident and finds herself arrested for practicing medicine without a license (due to a peculiarity of the law - at least in the show's universe - Army and Air Force medics are considered licensed EMTs but Navy Corpsmen are not). In the end Gibbs, with the help of the families of the people involved in the accident, get her sentence reduced to community service. This would not happen in reality, as she neither pretended to be a doctor nor charged for her services. As such she has as much of a right to assist as any other bystander.
  • Artistic License: NCIS is depicted in the show as being headquartered in the Washington Navy Yard. While many USN functions are located there in real life, this does not include NCIS; it's actually located at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, some distance away from Washington DC.
  • Artistic License – Geography: NCIS erroneously believes Chechnya to be Russia's neighbor, apparently in-universe invaded in some sort of Russian anti-terrorism police action, and while it is surprisingly regular in recognizing Chechen insurgents as terrorist groups, it stubbornly refers to Chechnya as if it were an independent country, with its own passports recognized by the international community, and so on. The only way to enter the United States from Chechnya is carrying a Russian Federation passport with a U.S. visa, because Chechnya has been a province of Russia for the last several hundred years.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Most of Season 18 takes place during the COVID-19 Pandemic and is referenced in multiple episodes. However, the show barely attempts to showcase the cast living in the same lockdown conditions as real people are. Masks are rarely worn on the show and nobody employs social distancing procedures, either inside or outside. There are also multiple scenes set in hospitals where nobody, whether visitors or staff, are wearing masks or face shields or anything of the like. The characters also mention how much they're sick of being locked at home, but given how little we see of the characters' home lives, it rings hollow since they work like normal. The only indicators we get that COVID has an effect is the addition of a clear divider in the interrogation room and having every other seat taped off in the diner Gibbs frequents.
  • Artistic License – Military: NCIS is—for a dramatic television series—fairly accurate in terms of military protocol and procedures. However, as one may reasonably expect, Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama always take precedence above accuracy whenever it benefits the story.
    • Case in point: The episode where an undercover FBI agent fails to outrun a 500 pound air-dropped bomb on a range more fit for hand grenades.
    • Hollis Mann, a Lieutenant Colonel, is seen actively investigating and supervising Army CID investigations. In reality, commissioned officers merely command CID units while enlisted personnel do field work under the supervision of warrant officers. She's also seen investigating in uniform when Army CID personnel operate in civilian clothing.
    • Aside from protocol issues, many ships that appear in the series have names that don't fit with US Navy naming conventions and hull numbers that belong to another ship, though this might be a form of Bland-Name Product, so as to avoid directly associating active-duty ships with fictitious events.
    • NCIS apparently employs only one medical examiner with one assistant, and only one forensics lab tech with no assistants. While it's suggested there are substitutes for when they are not at work, they are still called in on emergency cases in their off hours, and more often than not are seen working on only one case at a time- usually for Gibbs- even though they are apparently handling the workload for NCIS as a whole. In reality, both departments would have a large amount of staff just to handle all the work. Compare this to a show such as Quincy which tends to show numerous medical examiners and lab technicians doing the same work.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: In "SWAK", Gibbs gives Jimmy this order:
    Gibbs: Requisition replacement cell phones and weapons for my team.
    Jimmy: Pistols?
    Gibbs: Well, no, Palmer, crossbows, if you think that might work better.
  • Assassin Outclassin': In the season 11 premiere, the team learns that Ziva (currently at a family estate in Israel) is in danger of assassination. A rescue team rushes there to rescue her only to find that it's too late — Ziva already killed all the assassins, and has moved to some other location.
  • Asshole Victim: A frequently visited theme with this series. Just go here and scroll down to the NCIS entry for a fairly comprehensive list.
  • Atonement Detective: Gibbs.
  • Audit Threat: Both Tony and Gibbs occasionally make one.
  • Author Appeal: When Shane was producer, the Abby fanservice sharply increased while the Abby/McGee interactions decreased.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis:
    • Inverted by Gibbs in 7x09, "Child's Play", when he asks the savant girl the episode has revolved around to calculate the odds that Ziva will miss a shot at the bad guy... who's holding a gun to the girl's head. She calmly works it out at 97.6%. Gibbs gives the bad guy one more chance to surrender. He doesn't. BIG mistake.
      • Though really, the bad guy was just taking the genius kid at her word. According to her, there was less than 1 chance in 40 that Ziva could hit him.
      • Except Ziva lied to the girl that she hasn't shot anyone ever. 97.6% is the difference between a Naïve Newcomer and a cold-hearted professional assassin.
    • In 7x22, "Borderland", Abby's presenting at a law enforcement symposium in Mexico. One woman insults her fashion sense by asking her who told her that the Day of the Dead was in May. Abby retaliates by providing very detailed facts about the woman based solely on observing her, leaving said woman speechless.
      Natalia: Anyone could tell I have a cat.
      Abby: One orange tabby, and two calicos. You're allergic to citrus. You went bowling last night. You're vitamin D deficient. Oh, and you're ovulating.
  • Awkward Father-Son Bonding Activity: S10 Ep 11 starts out with a man and his teen son fishing in the cold. The cold boredom generates an awkward discussion. Son catches an ear and both kinda freak.
    Son *to father and Gibbs*: This is the most awesome thing to ever happen to us!
  • Backstory:
    • All characters have some, such as Gibbs having lost his first wife and daughter and his multiple divorces.
    • In a Running Gag, Ducky is always interrupted when commenting on his life stories.
    • Several characters' backstories, including Vance's, are brought into sync during the episode "Enemies Domestic".
  • Badass Adorable:
    • Abby is irresistibly cute and perky but has shown on multiple occasions that she can hold her own in a fight, specifically in the season three episodes "Frame-Up" and "Bloodbath".
    • Ziva may be small and cute but she is also a Mossad-trained secret agent. In a few episodes some suspects underestimate her due to her small size and try to lay a hand on her, with predictable results.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • In the season 9 finale, Harper Dearing succeeded in using Director Vance's car as a car bomb at the NCIS parking lot, and caused some deaths besides that of Jonathan Cole, who was caught in the explosion trying to defuse the bomb.
    • Subverted in the season 10 premiere, as it turns out that only Cole and a few others were killed by the bomb, and none of the main characters were killed. Also, Dearing faked his own death (the remains found in the car were his brothers) and Gibbs eventually tracks him down and kills him.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy:
    • Up 'til the sixth season, characters on the autopsy table had their genitals blanked out by a bright "light", unless they were so mangled that it wasn't necessary. From the sixth season on, they simply had a towel covering them.note 
    • Female cadavers are usually shown with their chest cavity already opened so that they do not have to cover their breasts too. That's right: open chest cavities are apparently less offensive than bare boobs.
  • Batman Gambit: In the eighth season premiere, and in order to put a stop to the Reynosa Cartel, Gibbs and Vance trick a crooked Mexican government official into killing his own sister, who runs the cartel. They do this by "accidentally" leaking where Gibbs and his father are, and allowing the official to find out that she'd been "killed". The plan, however, required him to arrive while the sister was searching the safehouse, and to react to that news by shooting the shit out of said house indiscriminately.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Two rather unusual In-universe examples:
    • In "The Tell", Palmer asks an Samantha Ryan if she's seen The Graduate. She replies with "Do you want me to seduce you?" which isn't even close to right (it's "You're trying to seduce me, Ms. Robinson, aren't you?") Oddly, he replies "Is that a quote or a question?", implying he doesn't know the line either.
    • In "The Good Son", there's an even more bizarre bit where Tony says "I think it was Mae West who said "if you've seen one sailor's anchor you've seen them all." Not only did she never say this, what quote he's trying to refer to (if any) is unclear, as searching for that sentence only turns up results about this episode.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The team averts it regularly, but especially in Season 7's premiere. Team Gibbs rocks the dirty and blood-caked look.
  • Becoming the Mask: Tony in season four.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Gibbs:
      • Trying to harm anyone he cares about, especially if it's a member of his team, and especially if it's Abby.
      Gibbs (to Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend): The only reason you're still able to walk is because I just found out about you.
      • Abby actually lampshades this in the same episode.
      Gibbs: Why didn't you come to me, Abby?
      Abby: Because, Gibbs, I wanted him restrained. I didn't want him beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat!
    • People who do harm to kids, especially their own.
    • Messing with his coffee, although his reaction to this is fairly minor in comparison to the others.
    • In "Lost and Found", we learn through her conversation with McGee that Abby's two biggest pet peeves are people who claim to be vegetarians but still eat chicken, and poorly-handled evidence.
      • Also:
      Gibbs: Abs, are you okay?
      Abby: Do I look okay? What is Abby's rule number one? Do not lie to Abby!
    • Beat the crap out of Ziva, she's okay with it. Shoot at her... fine. But don't, don't call her "Ma'am", and never ever hurt Tony. She also doesn't enjoy being groped, as displayed in "Singled Out".
    • Ducky shows a couple of his own:
      • In "Seadog", he goes ballistic on a local LEO who contaminates a crime scene so he can get in good with the news reporter on the scene.
      • In the beginning of "Identity Crisis", Ducky leads a class of med students in a sample autopsy, only to find mercury in the dead body's brainstem. He is quite livid at the medical examiner who okayed the body for the demo autopsy without noticing that the body had been murdered. That said, Ducky calms down when the examiner apologizes and explains that, soon after finding the dead John Doe, they had a rush of bodies from a bus crash and he got lost in the shuffle.
    • Agent Maureen Cabot, the leader of the NCIS Family and Sexual Violence unit, hates Victim-Blaming, to the point where she actually slaps the serial rapist in "Alleged" for attempting to use it to save his skin despite the massive pile of evidence against him.
      Gibbs: You've been saving that one, Mo.
      Cabot: You have no idea. [scene cuts to Abby and Director Vance behind the one-way mirror, cracking satisfied grins]
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Tim and Tony may seem a bit off-beat but they are skilled interrogators. They once used Christmas cookies to catch a guy lying.
    Veil Tupolev: I will stop eating cookies.
  • Big Blackout: "Power Down." Oh, the fun the writers must have had poking fun at the usual NCIS bells and whistles.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Tony and Ziva, after 8 seasons of Will They or Won't They?, get theirs at the end of Ziva's farewell episode and it is glorious.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A small one in "Once a Hero." Spanish-speaking viewers will know that the maid found a body on the bed before Gibbs figures out where it is.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition:
    • In "Newborn King." The poor woman gives birth in the backseat of a broken down car, parked in a gas station garage, in a blizzard, on Christmas, during a shootout with Russian mercenaries who want to kill her and kidnap her child, with Gibbs as the midwife. This is interspersed with a desperately outnumbered and outgunned Ziva singlehandedly defending them against an onslaught of Russian mercenaries.
    • A variation occurs in "Shabbat Shalom". The team are going through old things they used on undercover ops and find a picture from an unseen mission when Ziva masqueraded as a pregnant woman. She keeps the photo and even shows it to her father when he shows up. At the episode, both her father Eli and Jackie Vance were dead.
    • "We Build, We Fight" ends with a murdered homosexual Seabee's husband consoling his partner's ex-squadmate who blamed himself for the killing the ex-mate was addicted to drugs, the Seabee found out and was killed by the dealer when he was going to the police to report him while Palmer's wife gives birth to a girl in the same hospital.
  • Black Comedy: ...including having the team cracking jokes while examining a body.
  • Bland-Name Product: The team's big monitors often tune in to the cable news network ZNN.
  • Blood Knight: Ziva is viewed as this by the rest of the team, though this is more of an Informed Attribute, as for the most part she isn't any more bloodthirsty than the rest of the team.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • The 2015 Christmas episode had Bishop breaking up with her husband and Ducky discovering his younger half-brother Nicholas is alive but with severe Alzheimer's disease (Ducky: I'll take it). Fortunately Nicholas does remember his big brother.
    • The ending of "Skeletons":
      Mann: You made the right call letting the girl go. It seems you always make the right call when it involves a case.
      [They open the door and find said girl chopping up a corpse]
      Mann: Oh son of a...[end credits]
    • "Reasonable Doubt"'s B-plot involves a homeless woman who is obviously not well mistaking DiNozzo Sr. as her father. When he gets her checked out at a clinic, it becomes clear that she has dementia and needed professional help, but she leaves the clinic before Senior can get her to a hospital. When he and Tony track down her last known address, the super tells them that the homeless woman's father disowned her when she turned out to be gay and had died a few years back, and she never found out about his death which is why she believes Senior is her father. By the time the two of them finally find her and get her to a hospital, the doctors discover that she has an inoperable brain tumor and she only has a month at the most to live. DiNozzo Sr. decides to continue to play along with her delusion for the remaining time she has and apologizes on behalf of her birth father for rejecting her homosexuality, allowing her to die believing that she finally reconciled with him.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper:
    • While Undercover as Lovers, Tony and Ziva have (simulated) sex because they know the room is being filmed.
    • In "Twilight", Tony listens in on what he thinks is a conversation between Kate and McGee about Kate's feelings for him, but Kate is fully aware that Tony is listening in and ends up dumping a water bottle on his head.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: One of the show's Running Gags was Ziva's frequent mangling of metaphors, which Tony rarely failed to lampshade..
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger:
    • Season 5 ended with the entire cast getting reassigned. Less fatal than the other situation, but the same effect of being able to write any character they want out.
    • Season 6 ended with Ziva captive in Somalia. On a list of places a Jewish woman would not want to be a prisoner, that's pretty high up there.
    • Season 9 concludes with a real whopper. Harper Dearing's bomb goes off directly in front of NCIS headquarters while most of the main cast are still trying to flee from it. On a beach somewhere, Ducky gets a call about the explosion, and while he's giving instructions to whoever's on the other end, he suffers what appears to be a heart attack and collapses.
      • Apart from Ducky's heart attack (which he recovers from), the only major cast member to be injured is McGee, who gets some glass stuck in him and also recovers.
    • "Berlin" ends with Tony and Ziva in a car crash. While they survived, with Ziva sustaining minor injuries, the previews heavily implied her death. The fact that Coté de Pablo was in contract negotiations led to massive speculation that she had, in fact, been killed off.
    • The final episode of Season 10 has Tony, Ziva, and McGee all resigning, and 4 months later, Gibbs is in the middle of an apparent failed undercover sting, training his sniper rifle on Fornell. We later find out that he was not aiming at Fornell, but at his protectee, who was involved with a terrorist organization that had made attempts on the lives of the team. Ziva, shaken up by the events, decides to remain in Israel for good.
    • Season 12 ends with Tony, Gibbs and another attached agent searching the streets of Iraq for a boy recruited by a terrorist group. Gibbs finds the boy holding a gun. The boy then shoots Gibbs. More than once.
    • Season 14 ends with Gibbs and McGee facing off with a Paraguayan militia group to allow Torres and a number of abducted children to escape in a helicopter.
    • Season 15 ends with Vance captured and bound aboard a private jet flying across an ocean.
  • Bookends: Season 3 starts and finishes with the team mourning the death/injury of a member, struggling to keep their emotions in check while investigating among a Gray Rain of Depression.
  • Bottle Episode: Quite a few. "Trojan Horse" takes place largely in NCIS HQ, aside from a few location shots of Paris and a hospice. "Detour", "Witch Hunt" and others take place in multiple locations, but over the course of only one day.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, as the show generally keeps a tight count on the number of rounds any individual team member fires. Whenever they're shown firing all their rounds, they're also usually shown reloading with a spare magazine (like McGee does when pinned down behind the car in season 2's "Twilight").
  • Boyfriend Bluff: Hilariously subverted in "Designated Target." Ziva asks Tony how to tell someone you no longer wish to see them (while talking on the phone), and Tony tries to help...only to find out the conversation is not what he thought it was.
    Tony: Listen, dirtbag, this is Ziva's husband. I have your phone number now, I can find your address; if you ever try to contact her again, I will reach down your throat, grab your intestines, rip them out and drive over your head! Lose this number or lose your life! [hangs up, hands the phone back to Ziva] You're welcome.
    Ziva: That was my Aunt Nettie from Tel Aviv. She was trying to stop seeing her eighty-six-year-old mah jong partner.
    Tony: Why didn't you stop me?
    Ziva: Too stunned.
    Tony: Where do I send flowers?
    Ziva: If you communicate with her again, I will kill you.
  • The Boxing Episode: Episode 6x18, "Knockout". Director Vance uses the NCIS team to investigate the death of a boxer.
  • Brain Bleach: Episode 4x5, "Dead and Unburied" Tony wonders if a victim of a murder who apparently had three fiancees was special down there. Unfortunately for him, the instruments were in a state of extreme decay. Tony asks Ducky if there is a psychological way to unsee something.
  • Brains and Bondage: Abby frequently wears typically goth clothes to work and listens to metal and heavy electronic music while working, and is extremely intelligent and a forensics expert.
  • Break Them by Talking: A typical stratagem for Gibbs and his people to receive either confessions or withheld evidence from reluctant persons.
  • Break-Up Bonfire In Season 5, Tony throws a letter from his love interest into a bonfire after the relationship went way south due to him Becoming the Mask.
  • Brick Joke:
    • When arms dealer Agah Bayar asks Gibbs what to get at the diner in the episode "The Lost Boys", Gibbs recommends the fries. When Tony and Bishop speak to him later, he comments about how good the fries are.
    • In "Bounce", Tony makes a passing remark that he doesn’t plan to go to Arizona anytime soon. In the next episode, "South By Southwest", guess where Tony and Gibbs go.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: in S 12 Ep 5, "San Dominic", Team Gibbs is facing a ticking time bomb in the cargo bay of a ship. Gibbs has disarmed the detonator, but the timer is still allowed to count down. Tony comments that he didn't bring any clean shorts.
  • Broken Pedestal: Tony, to the basketball coach at his final boarding school who straightened him out as a teen (and is implied to have started his love of movies after explaining what "leave the guns, take the cannoli" means) because the coach failed to disband the abusive morality patrol even after he was made provost because "it was tradition", "[he] didn't get to be in charge by affecting change", and because the school had done a great deal of good in spite/because of the group's harsh discipline (said "discipline" involved harassing a female cadet until she killed herself). At least he wasn't the killer of the week and after he apologized to Tony he said he would resign.
  • Bulletproof Vest:
    • Used and subverted in the same episode. Former Presidential-detail Secret Service agent Kate jumps in front of a bullet for Gibbs... who was also wearing a vest at the time. Moments later when the team is joking about it, Ari snipes her in the head.
    • The season eleven episode "Bulletproof" has the team investigating a number of defective vests that were worn by soldiers who died or were crippled in combat. The vests were from a batch that should have been destroyed, but were sold as surplus body armor on the grey market instead. When confronted by the NCIS agents, the person who sold the vests gets in a shoot out and finds their own vest, from the same batch, to be entirely useless.
  • Bullying a Dragon: This seems to happen a lot with Ziva, probably due to her small size. Often times a suspect will lay a hand on her, with predictable results
  • Bunny Ears Lawyers: All of Team Gibbs! You have Abby the Perky Goth Misfit Lab Rat; Gibbs the regularly-does-stuff-that-would-get-a-real-agent-fired-if-not-arrested guy; Tony, the sexual harassment Karma Houdini; Ziva the weapons nut (including any motor vehicle), and Ducky, who uses any excuse to wax poetic about his past and tells amusing but irrelevant anecdotes to his corpses... as he's dissecting them. This even freaks Gibbs out. And, of course, "Elf Lord" McGee. At this point they're in flipping bunny suits.
    • Which is why they often have to watch their mouths around each other.
    • Justified in Ducky's case; talking to the corpses preserves their humanity and helps him keep sane.
  • Bury Your Gays: Ned Dorneget is killed in Season 12 in a Heroic Sacrifice, which is used to motivate the team into finding the season's antagonist.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Jeanne Benoit makes a reappearance in the Season 13 episode "Saviors".
    • Patrick Labyorteux reprised the role of Bud Roberts 11 years since last playing him on JAG. Since that series ended, Bud has continued his career in the Navy and is now a full Captain (O-6).
    • Ziva Whether or not she was dead remained subject for debate for years until she reappeared in season 16.
  • Butt-Monkey: It depends on the episode, but usually it's McGee for Tony, and Tony for multiple characters.
  • Caffeine Failure: The "Engaged Part 1" episode has the team having to work overtime on the Mystery of the Week, and Gibbs at one point walks in on Abby's lab to see a huge pile of empty Caf-POW! cups on her desk. She says she's written an algorithm to determine how long she can go on like that and that she's got about five minutes before she becomes "Zabby or zombie Abby".
  • Call-Back: Numerous occurrences.
    • Two to JAG:
      • In season 6, Tony is Agent Afloat on the USS Seahawk, a ship commonly seen in the parent series.
    • In chapter 4x17, "Skeletons", two bodies are found in a tomb, and the only thing that is still intact are the bones. Ducky and Palmer start organizing the bones in the two bodies. When they discover that they have three right hands, they make a reference to episode "The Meat Puzzle".
    • In S 10 Ep 11, Tony dons his street busker hat and soul patch from his surveilance assignment way back in season 3 or 4.
    • In a late season 10 episode, Rear Adm A J Chegwidden is Gibbs' lawyer.
    • Another one involving Ducky, he reveals in the 2015 Christmas episode that the reason he's so well-traveled and wound up in the Afghan refugee camp where his patient was tortured to death to torture him was because he was searching for his younger half-brother and was devastated by after being told he was dead.
    • Season 12's "Check", where the Big Bad taunted Gibbs by replicating the murders of Jenny Shepherd (occurred in Season 5), Mike Franks (occurred in Season 8), and capped it off by luring Gibbs and ex-wife Diane to a rooftop. Cue Gibbs' (and the viewers) dawning horror as he looked at the surroundings and realized Diane was about to be sniped down just like Caitlin Todd a decade earlier (Season 2). For added benefit, the killer was the half-brother of Ari, a terrorist who. . . terrorized the team as early as Season 1.
    • It's explained in season 13 that Tony got his very nice apartment for cheap because it was the site of a triple homicide. This was the basis for the plot of a season 14 episode when the apartment's new occupant, McGee, is nearly killed by two intruders seeking loot left behind by the original murderer (they were all involved in a smuggling operation).
    • As Tony packs up to leave at the end of Season 13, one of the items in his box is a photo of him and Kate, murdered at the end of Season 2. In that same episode, having learned of Ziva's supposed "death", Gibbs gazes at the memorial wall, which indeed features the names of all the agents who have died in the line of duty over the show's tenure.
    • At the end of the Season 12 episode "The Lost Boys", after escorting Dorneget's body home, Gibbs hallucinates him standing along with Mike (killed at the end of Season 8), Jenny (killed at the end of Season 5), Paula Cassidy (killed halfway through Season 4). Kate (killed at the end of Season 2), and Chris Pacci (killed halfway through Season 1).
    • Abby's final episode features several flashbacks to key moments of hers, plus the reappearance of several criminals she specifically helped folder put away (oddly, there is no mention of her stalker ex from Season 3, nor Chip, her assistant who tried to frame Tony for murder).
  • Call-Forward: The episode "Baltimore" has flashbacks to how Gibbs and DiNozzo met each other. There are quite a few call forwards to episodes and show tropes.
    Tony: Be a Navy cop? I'd rather have the plague. note 
    Tony (after getting his first Dope Slap from Gibbs): Did you just physically assault me? Don't make a habit of that..
    Chris Pacci: I'm telling you, this stomach is going to be the death of me.
  • Canine Companion: In "Seek" the team briefly gets one in Dex, a bomb-sniffing dog whose handler's death they are investigating. At the end of the episode Dex catches a bullet (saving Gibbs' life in the process) while taking down his handler's killer, gets a medal and an honorable discharge, and is taken in by his handler's widow.
    Gibbs: That's not a dog. That's a Marine.
  • Can't Tie His Tie: In "Institutionalized", Gibbs walks into the lab to discover Kasie attempting to tie a necktie. When Gibbs asks her what she is doing, she explains that an old friend had has a job interview and doesn't know how to tie a tie. She promised him she would tie it for him, only to discover she doesn't know how to tie one either. Gibbs takes the tie from her, ties it round his own neck, and hands it to her. Kasie's friend later turns to be the main suspect in the Mystery of the Week.
  • Captain Ersatz: In-universe. McGee works on the side as a book author, and he bases the characters in his books after the members of the team: LJ Tibbs-Gibbs, Lisa-Ziva, Tommy-Tony. He even has Lisa and Tommy as the Official Couple.
  • Caps Lock: While helping Gibbs' father search for a retired pilot who saved his life, Abby is analysing a letter from the pilot, which happens to be written in all capital letters, which naturally causes confusion since capital letters are used to refer to places and locations. The closest thing to a location the letter talks about is that he's heading "up to the blue sky", which doesn't help much considering his former occupation. Eventually, Abby discovers that "the blue sky" is the name of a retirement home that's north of his house.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Tony is framed for murdering a woman and is held by the FBI because all signs seem to be pointing to him. McGee strolls past the jail cell playing a harmonica, then gives it to him as a "present". Tony later gives it to Agent Fornell (who was in charge of the case at FBI) when he leaves jail. Fornell instantly plays the harmonica to complete Tony's tune.
  • Cargo Ship: Invoked; Abby loves "Major Mass-Spec":
    Abby: Ohhh, I love this machine! (to Gibbs) If Major Mass-Spec were a guy, I would totally marry him and bear his little mini-Mass children.
  • Catchphrase: A few.
    • Gibbs: "Grab your gear", almost always followed by "We've got a dead [sailor/Marine] in [location]", "Ya think?", "What's the point, McGee?", "Yeah, Gibbs."note , and "That's a good question, [Character]. Why don't you find me an answer?" "Is that a fact, [Character]?"
    • Tony, McGee: "On it, boss."
    • Abby: "I hate it when he/she/they does/do that."
    • Gibbs' "Never apologize; it's a sign of weakness" is used by multiple characters over the course of the series.
  • Cat Fight:
    • S4 Ep 4, "Dead and Unburied," had a Marine victim who was revealed to have had two fiances. When they find out about each other, they're not too thrilled and attack each other. While Gibbs and Ziva rush over to break it up, Tony yells "Chick fight", and McGee proceeds to film it.
    • Ziva and Abby get into one in the first "Hiatus" episode; see Intimate Healing below for the resolution.
  • Caught on Tape: The premise of the episode "Dead Reflection".
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: It's a Running Gag that Gibbs is awarded NCIS's service medal year after year, but never even shows up to the awards ceremony, and Tony always accepts on his behalf. This was first introduced in Season Three's "Model Behavior", and made exceptionally poignant in Season Six's "Murder 2.0", after the team has just caught a serial killer who murdered three people in the flashiest possible way for the sake of "fifteen minutes" of fame. Lampshaded by Ducky:
    "It's very revealing the lengths to which some men will go to thrust themselves into the limelight, while others are content to live quietly in solitude."
  • Celebrity Paradox: In The Meat Puzzle, Kate asks Gibbs what Ducky (played by David McCallum) looked like when he was younger. His answer?
    • In "Missing", a bomb defusal instructor references MacGyver. This was six years before Hawaii Five-0 premiered, and eight before NCIS:LA had a crossover in the "Pa Make Loa/Touch of Death" two-parter. And eleven years before H50 itself would crossover with the MacGyver (2016). Incidentally, both versions of the character are former EOD techs. If the original MacGyver had existed in the NCIS universe, it's quite possible his legendary skills would've been passed down in Army myth. note 
    • Nine years after the NCIS:LA crossover with H50 mentioned above, actress Katrina Law, who joined H50's team on later seasons as Quinn Liu, plays NCIS agent Jessica Knight in the show's season 18.
  • Cell Phones Are Useless:
    • One early Running Gag involved Gibbs being unable to quite figure out mobile phones. This resulted in Tony (being taught about them by McGee) offering to teach Gibbs, who angrily exclaimed "It's all backwards!" It still comes up from time to time.
    • A later episode shows that each time Gibbs physically breaks his phone in frustration, he gives it to Tony or Kate to "reboot". They do this by replacing the old phone with a new one from the large supply of extras Kate keeps in one of her desk drawers.
    • Averted when Tony and Ziva are trapped in a shipping container in "Boxed In"; they need to MacGyver a way to communicate.
    • Justified in "Silver War" as the victim was locked in a Civil War Era coffin made from iron.
  • Cerebus Retcon: In what may be record time, this show pulled it off in a 50 minute span. In one episode, Abby uses her refund check to buy everyone else iPods. Gibbs is less than enthused, because he only listens to five songs. This is treated as a joke until the end of the episode, where it's revealed that the five songs he listens to are recordings of his deceased daughter learning how to play the piano. Damn.
  • Character Development: Everyone gets some, but in particular: Tony starts out as The Big Guy in the first 2 seasons, then becomes The Lancer during season 3 and during season 4 he becomes co-hero with Gibbs. McGee, at first, was the Naïve Newcomer, then during season 2 he became The Smart Guy and around season 4 developed into The Lancer, and then The Leader as of season 14.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • In the pilot episode, which takes place on Air Force One, Gibbs makes several references to the 1997 movie Air Force One. This contrasts with Tony later being the one who makes movie references.
    • In the episode "Minimum Security," Tony claims ignorance of both Shane and The Maltese Falcon (as well as drawing a complete blank on Alan Ladd). Some movie buff.
  • Character Outlives Actor: Victoria Mallard, Ducky's mother. She had appeared in two episodes; Season 2's "The Meat Puzzle" and Season 3's "Untouchable." Nina Foch, who played her, passed away in 2008, but the character was referred to several times after. She's referenced after the actress's death in Season 6's "Silent Night" where Ducky says she's in a rest home and in Season 7's "Flesh and Blood". In S7 Ep 17, "Double Identity" Ducky says she passed away a month prior.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Case of the week aside, the "dear departed" include NCIS agents in the opening credits (Field Special Agent Kate Todd, Director Jenny Shepard, Ziva David), their close relatives (Mossad Director Eli David, father of Ziva David; Jackie Vance, wife of Director Leon Vance); (Jackson Gibbs, father of Gibbs), other good guys (Mike Franks, Secnav Clayton Jarvis, Gayne Levin, Simon Cade, Chris Pacci, Paula Cassidy), and of course, bad guys (Ari Haswari, Rene Benoit, Merton Bell). And that's not counting the multitude of others in the NCIS universe, including the spinoff series, who have "jumped ship."
  • The Chessmaster: René Benoît.
    • The leader of The Calling, an ex-DJ from London with bleach-blond hair, believes he's this, what with him and his tween recruits hacking and spying into government business (mainly their own parents'), planting bombs in heavily guarded resorts, almost killing Gibbs, killing an imprisoned member before he could make a deal, and hacking into a North Korean sub to start World War III to prove their worth as terrorists. Tony shoots him in the knee and the chest like Gibbs was, but fatally.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When the team goes to Gibbs' hometown and meets his dad, a rifle is rather prominently displayed behind the counter of his shop. He doesn't use it in the present, but he did fire it into the air in a Flashback to break up a fight between young Gibbs and two other boys. He also killed a robber with it, offscreen, before the Christmas Episode when he visits Gibbs. The rifle is later used in season 11 finale "Honor Thy Father" to knock the support on a truck to crush an assassin hired to kill Gibbs.
    • One episode has McGee get a camera attachment for his phone and happily shows off its recording function. He's later asked by Ducky to secretly record the face of a suspect with it to test a theory about body language. The suspect smirks when asked a very critical question.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: NCIS is a bit of a repeat offender on this one. If someone gets a line but doesn't seem to be contributing to the main plot otherwise, they did it. (If the writers try to hide their non-involvement by stuffing them into a romantic subplot with a main character, they definitely did it.) It was eventually subverted in an episode where the villain of the romantic subplot had not done it, even though he was suspected by a majority of the cast.
  • Child Soldiers: "The Calling", who recruit troubled children over the internet.
  • Choke Holds: One victim of the week died of this.
  • Christmas Episode: In the tradition of JAG, NCIS started doing these in Season Six.
  • Chute Sabotage: In "Hung Out to Dry", a Marine dies during a training jump. The investigation reveals that his shroud lines had been coated with an acidic cleaning agent, causing the fibres to disintegrate.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The team's run-ins with the CIA througout the series have been typically unpleasant for one reason or another, but the season 10 finale heads fully in this direction, hinting at a grand-scale conspiracy going on within the CIA's ranks.
  • Circling Vultures: The series has used the spot-the-vultures technique of finding human remains.
  • Clear My Name: Practically contractually obligated for every member of the team, complete with Lampshade Hanging from Tony:
    Tony: And to think I almost made it an entire year without being accused of murder.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Abby plays the halves of the trope title separately with McGee. The "clingy" can kick in when she's upset or worried. The "jealous" can kick in if there's a non-team member around who pulls McGee's attention away from her (e.g. an ICE agent played by Jaime "Hustle" Murray). You'd swear at times that they were still dating...
  • Clip Show: Season 12's "House Rules" is both this and a Christmas Episode. So is Season 14's "Keep Going", to a lesser extent.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • In "Broken Bird", from an interrogator that Ducky had to work with during his RAF service in Afghanistan. Late in the episode, he reveals that his repeatedly torturing one particular person that Ducky kept patching up and that he knew had no information was actually killed to torture Ducky, as a means of breaking his spirit.
    • Ziva has been known to threaten use of this trope on multiple occasions quite convincingly (and hints to prior experience with it as a Mossad agent).
    • In the sixth season finale, Ziva is taken captive by terrorists and tortured for several months before being rescued.
  • Cold Sniper: What Gibbs is best known for.
    • In the Season 7 opener, he takes out the terrorist holding Tony, McGee, and Ziva hostage from something like a mile away...and walks in the door about 15 seconds later.
    • Averted, however, when he took revenge for his murdered wife and daughter. Hard to be emotionless after that.
    • Ari is portrayed as one.
  • The Commandments: The fifty-or-so Rules that Gibbs uses to run his team.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Ducky spends most of Seasons 15 and 16 traveling, thus only really communicating with the team via Skype/Zoom. In Season 17, he comes back, but moves into a basement office to be the NCIS Historian. This allows him to still appear in any episode he is needed, but he stops being a regular cast member.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: The climax of the episode Bulletproof has the team getting in a shootout with a bad guy hiding in a trailer home. As it turns out, the trailer didn't provide any cover whatsoever, which wouldn't have been a problem if the perp's Bulletproof Vest hadn't been equally useless.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: This exchange also falls under I Know You Know I Know:
    McGee: Tony says if I really want to go [to Baghdad], then I shouldn't volunteer. But if he says I shouldn't volunteer, then he thinks I will volunteer, which means; if I really want to go, I shouldn't volunteer.
    Abby: That's...good, Timmy....Sounds like you're - not doing exactly what you - shouldn't.
  • The Consigliere: It's revealed in one episode that whenever Tony is left in charge of a case, he secretly has meetings with Palmer to help point him in the right direction whenever Tony feels that he's lost on what to do next.
    • On a similar, if lighter note, after discovering that he has a daughter, it's Palmer we see baby-proofing Tony's apartment and helping him out—and inadvertently getting him to debate resigning when he asks Tony if he intends to keep working.
  • Contamination Situation: The penultimate episode of season two, "SWAK", centered around Tony and Kate's exposure to the pneumonic plague, which was sent to the team in an envelope.
  • Continuity Nod: The show is quite good about referencing things that seem like one-time gags in later episodes, making the series Better on DVD.
    • 'The Meat Puzzle' gets cameos in several episodes before getting its own explanation/resolution.
    • "Cloak" referenced "Bete Noire", "Trojan Horse", and "Stakeout"
    • A particularly meaningful one occurs when Ziva returns to the office having quit the team and then gotten kidnapped for several months. She's seen reading the same men's magazine that she and Tony joked about when she was first assigned to the team.
    • When Abby produces her ID in "Hiatus", she explains that she was wearing the more standard outfit in the photo (in contrast to the goth gear she was in) because she was heading to court. It's the same court outfit from "Bloodbath", two episodes previous.
      • Abby's court outfit itself is a continuity nod as the original JAG episode featured a Navy lawyer telling her that in court she should wear a pastel colored suit, glasses and her hair down so it hides her tattoo.
    • Ziva has repeatedly worn the orange hat of the late Lt. Roy from the episode "Dead Man Walking".
      • In a season 3 episode, she is also seen examining Kate's hat, wondering about the bullet hole in it; the hat received said bullet hole back in season 1.
    • "Enemies Domestic" is jam-packed with these. Two words: Anatoly Zukov.
    • The flashbacks in the Season Eight episode "Baltimore" include an appearance from NCIS agent Chris Pacci, whose death was the focus of "Dead Man Talking," a Season ONE episode.
      • In the same episode, Tony has a line that refers to the season 2 episode "SWAK": "I'd rather get the plague than be a navy cop". Guess what happens in that episode, when he's a navy cop.
    • In the first episode of season 5, the remains believed to be Tony were proved not to be because of the Y-Pestis he caught in Season 2 SWAK.
    • Throughout Season One, after Ari infiltrates NCIS, Gibbs is seen running a facial recognition search on him to find his identity. It is implied that he runs this search several times, despite each time coming up negative.
    • Early episodes included crossover characters from JAG, including Bud Roberts and three appearances by Lt. Cmdr. Faith Coleman, who only appeared once on JAG and who made such an impression in NCIS that it gave the impression she might have been in line to become a regular, but this didn't happen. Bud Roberts returns in the Season 14 premiere, eleven years after his last appearance, now having reached the rank of Captain.
    • Tony has a habit of getting framed for murder. Other characters tend to react with variations of "Again?" He's not above joking about it himself:
      Tony: And to think, I almost made it through an entire year without being accused of murder.
    • The high likelihood of Abby's assistant turning out to be the culprit has been pointed out:
      Tony: Like I said, it's always the maid.
      Ziva: No, you have said that it's always the janitor, or the butler, or anyone assigned to work in Abby's lab.
    • The PC's, the gang from S6Ep16 show up again in Season 7, episode 9.
    • A quick one in the S11 premier. Abby is thinking out loud that they should have done more to prevent the events from the S10 finale, like a hunger strike. Palmer says he couldn't do that because he gets lightheaded without a 4 o'clock snack, a nod to the character's diabetes.
    • Season 12's "Check", where the Big Bad taunted Gibbs by replicating the murders of Jenny Shepherd (occurred in Season 5), Mike Franks (occurred in Season 8), and capped it off by luring Gibbs and ex-wife Diane to a rooftop. Cue Gibbs' and the audience's dawning horror as he looked at the surroundings and realized Diane was about to be sniped down just like Caitlin Todd a decade earlier (Season 2). For added benefit, the killer was the half-brother of Ari, a terrorist who. . . terrorized the team as early as Season 1.
    • Very early in the show's run it's explained that Tony snagged a nice apartment for cheap because it was the site of a triple homicide. This is the basis for the plot of a Season 14 episode when the apartment's new occupant, McGee, is nearly killed by two intruders seeking loot left behind the original murderer (they were all involved in a smuggling operation).
    • As Tony packs up to leave at the end of Season 13, one of the items in his box is a photo of him and Kate, murdered at the end of Season 2. Earlier in the episode, having learned of Ziva's death, Gibbs gazes at the memorial wall, which indeed features the name of every agent who has died during the show's tenure.
    • At the end of the Season 12 episode "The Lost Boys", after escorting Dorneget's body home, Gibbs hallucinates him standing along with Mike (killed at the end of Season 8), Jenny (killed at the end of Season 5), Paula Cassidy (killed halfway through Season 4), Kate (killed at the end of Season 2), and Chris Pacci (killed halfway through Season 1).
    • Abby's final episode features several flashbacks to key moments of hers, plus the reappearance of several criminals she specifically helped put away (oddly, there is no mention of her stalker ex from Season 3, nor Chip, her assistant who tried to frame Tony for murder).
    • Speaking of Tony, since his departure, he's mentioned often enough that he may as well be The Ghost rather than truly gone.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Tony and Ziva pretend to be a pair of married assassins in the beginning of the episode in order to find out who their target was. When its revealed that the couple was in fact the target, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In Season 10's "You Better Watch Out" two robbers decided to hit a place without much security in the Washington DC area on May 2, 2011. This is the night the Navy SEALs took out Osama bin Ladin. As a result, Homeland would have increased satellite surveillance on the capital in case of retaliation. As a result, the robbers were caught on that tape.
    • In season 13 where Ducky finally finds his long-lost half brother, the criminals abduct a totally different Nicholas Mallard... who also happened to be British, the right age, AND living in the same city as Ducky's brother.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Tony and Ziva get one in season 10's "Berlin."
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: "Day In Court" features a Petty Officer who faces this after a murder charge laid against him falls apart when he gets Off on a Technicality and requests that he be formally charged and tried so that he can be formally cleared.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: McGee tends to get these from Gibbs for major screw-ups. In the episode with Abby's stalker ex, Gibbs took McGee's chair away from him and made him earn it back. In another episode, Gibbs banned McGee from leaving the elevator.
    • Abby knows about the chair thing, and approves. In a later episode when someone who's pissed her off is in Gibbs's custody, she is incensed that "He gets a chair?!?"
  • Cool Boat: Gibbs always seems to be working on one in his basement; it's implied to be therapeutic for him. When he gets the finished boat out of the basement, no one knows how he does it. Knocking down one of the walls is mentioned a few times, but it's never confirmed.
  • Cool Car: Most of the cast members are seen driving a cool car of one kind or another at some point.
    • Ducky's Vintage Morgan. Complete with right hand drive. He restored it from termite-ridden near-rubbish to pristine condition.
    • Gibbs' 1971 Dodge Challenger muscle car his father had been hanging onto after restoring it for him.
    • Abby's 1930's Ford hot rod.
    • Tony's 1960's Mustang.
    • Ziva's Mini.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Mike Franks, literally.
    • Jackson Gibbs is fairly badass in his own right although he's not really a grandpa anymore.
    • Ducky gets his own moments of this occasionally, like when he faced Ari at gunpoint and told him he would enjoy weighing his liver and had Fornell in a sleeper hold. And the time he was held prisoner and used a scalpel to very precisely cut one of his captor's arteries, giving him the options of surrender or dying within minutes from blood loss.
    • In "Broken Arrow", DiNozzo Senior has a small badass moment himself.
  • Couch Gag: In the Season 12 opening credits. As the title flashes on the screen (with the exception of the lower right, which always shows Gibbs with a model Craftsman boat), the various panels show clips from the episode that is being broadcast.
  • Creator Cameo: Donald P Bellisario's photo used to be on the NCIS Most Wanted wall and the distinct 'phmpht' sound that accompanies the black-and-white bookends to the show's acts was made by Bellisario puffing into a microphone.
  • Creepy Child: Rachel from the episode Parental Guidance Suggested is a child sociopath who shot her own mother in the back.
  • Creepy Stalker Van: In the second season premiere, Team Gibbs must rescue a blind child. When they find her, she remarks that she was in a vehicle with no windows, since she couldn't feel the sun on her face. After looking at security tapes, DiNozzo says they found a white van with no windows and that the plates came back as stolen.
  • The Croc Is Ticking: Having been attacked by two previous lab aides, Abby once tried to convince a visiting intern to wear bells so she could tell whether he was sneaking up on her.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Tony gives this impression, especially in the early seasons, but he's not at all incompetent...if he were, Gibbs would've never recruited him.
    • Palmer has a moment of this in the episode where he nearly gets shot. Towards the end, the guy who fired at him nearly gets away from the team. Palmer nixes these plans by smashing his car into the bastard's truck while screaming like a maniac.
    • Abby goes into this sometimes. One episode had her being kidnapped by a hired gun. Gibbs and Tony track her down and hear muffled screaming from the van she is in. They approach and find that Abby is repeatedly attacking him with her taser.
      Abby: And don't look up my skirt! *Taze*
    • "Frame-Up" (3.09) had lab assistant Chip attacking her with a knife while she was unarmed. By the time the others rush down to her lab, they find that she has hogtied Chip with duct tape all by herself.
      Abby: Now can I work alone?
  • The Cutie: Abby, occasionally.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Reynosas vs Gibbs. It ends when Gibbs tricks one Reynosa sibling into killing the other.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: In "Crescent City" (the Back Door Pilot for NCIS: New Orleans), FBI Agent Doyle is killed by a murderer hiding in the back seat of the car.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: The Season 18 episode Sangre dealt with Nick Torres's father, Miguel abandoning Nick and his sister during their childhood when he did not agree with Manuel Noriega's corruption. In order to facilitate their safety, Miguel disappeared on them and became a CIA asset until the episode's murder case led to an awkward reunion with Nick. Despite having apparently reconciled with Nick, Miguel disappears on Nick again to carry out CIA covert operations.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Season 8 two-part finale was pretty much the darkest episode to date, as it dealt with a serial killer that was the result of Operation Frankenstein, a Navy project to create the ultimate assassin, and none of the usual comic relief exists.
    • Inverted by the fact NCIS in the series evolved from the NIS, Naval Investigative Service, which is depicted as being a covert, CIA/NSA-like entity that is shown conducting assassinations and "red tests" (agents being given assignments with the aim of them committing their first kill), and in one Season 8 episode is shown recruiting Leon Vance in a manner similar to how Sydney Bristow is recruited by SD-6 in Alias. Although modern-day NCIS is shown doing covert operations (particularly Tony's season-long deep undercover op), things like assassinations have so far not been part of the usual mandate. The spin-off, NCIS:Los Angeles, restores some of the NIS trappings, such as having a somewhat secret base of operations.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Quite a few.
    • Palmer names his daughter after his mentor's late mother (Victoria).
    • Ziva names her daughter after her late sister (Tali).
    • McGee has two - a son named after his late father (John) and a daughter named after a police officer who practically died in his arms earlier that day (Morgan).
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Monkey-wrenched every which way in "Kill Ari".
    • We see it again after (and even some before) Mike Franks gets killed.
    • Mike Franks returns to talk some sense into Gibbs while they deal with The Calling and the death of Agent Dornaget. After Gibbs is shot and on the operating table Mike chides him for being so trusting of the kid who later tried to kill him (the boy actually felt horrible about it and was relived to learn Gibbs had survived) and Kelly, Gibbs' daughter, also shows up to remind him he still has work to do.
  • Death Glare:
    • Gibbs, bordering on Once an Episode in earlier seasons.
    • Karen Bright from "Smoked", when she's exposed as the actual serial killer. She flashes Gibbs and Fornell a look that would vaporize lead.
  • Death Faked for You: Variation in the Season 9 Finale: Gibbs and the NCIS team has Jonathan Cole brought into NCIS, while also faking his escape from prison as well, in order to recruit him to act as a double agent for them in tracking down Dearing, and in exchange, they might give him a lighter sentence.
  • Death in the Clouds: The pilot episode, "Yankee White", and "Jet Lag".
  • Deep Cover Agent:
    • Tony in Season 4.
    • Trent Kort, the CIA agent who also infiltrated René Benoît's arms-dealing enterprise.
    • Agent Nick Torres, prior to his arrival in Season 14. He unintentionally followed his father, Miguel's footsteps.
  • Defecting for Love: In S3 Ep14 "Light Sleeper" a North Korean spy who married a US Marine as part of her cell's infiltration of the US comes to love her husband and the daughter they had. She turns on her teammates and hunts them down so they cannot pull off the attack that is likely to come.
  • Defiant Captive: In S11 E10, the villain of the episode kidnaps Fornell's daughter. She immediately manages to get important information to the team when contact is first made, and after he seemingly makes his escape after the exchange without any way of being followed (the burn phone he gave them to allegedly tell them her location turned out to have had all of its electronics stripped), she reminds them that she is a Fornell. Cut to the team tracking the bad guy down by a Bluetooth-enabled device that she planted on him.
  • Defictionalization: Inverted in season 4, the team discovers that McGee wrote a crime 'fiction' book using all of them as characters with the names changed, but little else- and he never asked any of them for permission or warned them that he was writing about them. Unsurprisingly, everyone is pissed at him.
  • Delivery Guy Infiltration: Used in several episodes. Lampshaded in the episode "Identity Crisis," when Tony comments on how he once saw a kid in a liquor store T-shirt and carrying a brown paper bag walk right into a high-security building.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The show was originally named "Navy NCIS", despite the N standing for Navy. This was most likely done to prevent confusion with CSI, something which the series lampshades occasionally.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Comes up a few times for Tony and Ziva, notably with Jeanne (Tony) and Ray (Ziva). Ray gets as far as proposing before his fatal flaw is discovered and he is ushered off the show.
    • Jake goes from a loving, adoring husband to Ellie who becomes even more enamored of her after seeing her in action in "Grounded" to an adulterous one. The 180 is so abrupt and inexplicable that the show seems to lampshade it when Ellie tells McGee and DiNozzo about his affair and they ask "Are you sure?", as if they're as bewildered as the viewer.
  • Determinator: Gibbs becomes one toward finding Ari over the course of the second season. A repeated motif is the one monitor on his desk that's dedicated to running a facial recognition program on Ari. After Ari briefly kidnaps Kate, Gibbs starts displaying Ahab-ish tendencies, which DiNozzo lampshades.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Season 8 makes a big deal about trying to trying to protect Eli David in episode 8, only for a bomb to go off that wounds him and Director Vance. Turns out that for all the consideration of foreign threats the cast were attempting to account for, the following episode reveals it was little more than a petty power grab attempt from McCallister, a retired NCIS Special Agent that tried to kill Eli and Vance in one fell swoop for the latter's chair while framing it on Eli.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Any lawyer in this series is obviously an obstruction to the case, barring very rare exceptions. But if they start getting personally involved, going out of their way to be at a client's case or directly obstructing the investigation as much as possible, there's usually one of two things that happen: either they're so pragmatic for their case that they're completely blind to how Obviously Evil their client is and get blindsided by the case, or the lawyer is in on it themselves and get arrested in the end. Given this team's track record for arrested lawyers, you'd think someone would be more cautious.
    • The perp in Season 4's "Suspicion" took dirty bribes to transport a pair of what they thought were just "rich kids looking to party" from Iraq to the United States, having supposedly vetted them despite the risks that the NCIS team openly retort to the perp's face. When they go to apprehend the two illegal immigrants and have to defend themselves mid-arrest, Ziva then points Gibbs to a jihadist banner on the garage wall and active bombs being built. All of the already-arrested perp's claims fall apart showing they were Only in It for the Money rather than their false pretenses of caring for their country.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: Parodied in the season 10 premiere, when Tony and Ziva are trapped in an elevator. After trying to escape (with Ziva using Tony as a human stepladder to reach the ceiling hatch), the elevator is jarred and knocks them both down. Then:
    Tony: Did we? I thought the earth moved.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Teased for Tony and Ziva on occassion.
    • Once in "Undercovers" in which they pretend to have sex while undercover as married assassins. It gets a Call-Back in season 8, when it comes up in conversation with Tony and McGee and Tony skirts around the question of whether it was all for show or not.
    • And season 7's "Jetlag" in which both Tony and Ziva lie about who took the couch and who took the bed.
    • In “Family First,” it’s revealed through the appearance of Tali, Tony and Ziva’s daughter that they did.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?:
    • S7 Ep 07, "Endgame", has Tony doing this when McGee walks into the office extremely happy. Tony refers to it as "Pulling a Heston" in a reference to Planet of the Apes (1968).
    • Diana "suggests" this during an op with NCIS and the FBI. Fornell just angrily looks at McGee, the latter telling off Diana that her jokes need to stop.
  • Dirty Cop: In "Baltimore", we learn that DiNozzo left the titular police department when he learned that his partner was one.
  • Disability Alibi: In “Wide Awake”, all evidence of the week’s murder points to an insomniac marine who was hypnotized into doing it until Jimmy does another read-through of her medical records and finds out she’s severely allergic to peanuts. A large amount of peanut shells and peanut dust were littered all over the crime scene because the victim loved feeding the legume in question to his pet crows. If the marine actually did commit the murder while hypnotized she would have gone into a severe anaphylactic shock and would have died at the crime scene because she wouldn’t have been in control of her own body and wouldn’t have been able to have gotten medical help in time.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jackie Vance's. She was too nice a person to speak ill of him so her kids thought he was dead. Vance, who despised him for abandoning Jackie and her brother, changes his mind about letting his kids meet him after he overhears Abby saying that it's Christmas and "forgiveness and charity is infectious!"
    • Miguel Torres, Nick's estranged father. Miguel is a former Panamanian police officer who rebelled against Manuel Noriega and abandoned his wife, son and daughter at a church to ensure their safety and became a covert CIA asset throughout Nick's childhood. After helping Nick solve a murder case in a Season 18 episode, Miguel disappears on Nick again despite making attempts to reconcile with his son.
    • And on the deceased side, three seasons in a row have had the father of a main character dying: Ziva's in season ten, Gibbs' in season eleven, and McGee's in season twelve.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In "Cadence", a member of a Military Academy Honor Corps (Basically a semi-official student group to haze undisciplined or underperforming cadets) put a girl through continual discipline details for any reason he could think of until she was Driven to Suicide... because she wouldn't date him.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The CGIS team leader in "Jurisdiction" acts so much like Gibbs that it's essentially lampshaded by the entire NCIS staff. Tony even asks Gibbs whether he had any long-lost sisters or not.
  • Distressed Dude:
    • Generally, Tony is the resident dude in distress, but he usually manages to get himself out of his situations by himself.
      • Quite obvious in season 8 episode 5, "Dead Air" in which the resident Badass Israeli Action Girl jumps on an oblivious Tony to save him from a bomb blast.
    • Dr. Mallard in the episode "Meat Puzzle".
  • Distressed Woodchopping: In "Day in Court", Ellie finds out that Jake has been cheating on her; the episode ends with her taking a leave of absence from NCIS and returning to her family farm in Oklahoma so she can sort out her emotions over the infidelity without being distracted by Jake or work. The first time we see Ellie during the next episode, she's chopping up several logs into wood chunks to fuel the house's furnace.
  • The Don: René Benoît.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir":
    • Gibbs, right down to the "I work for a living" crack. It makes sense; he was a gunnery sergeant, which is a non-commissioned rank.
      Abby: Thank you, sir.
      Gibbs: Don't call me sir.
      Abby: Thank you, ma'am. *walks off*
      Gibbs: *smiles a bit*
    • If you call Ziva "Ma'am"...
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: In "Willoughby", the team ends up having a stakeout in the upper floor of a bakery, and the manager provides the agents with an unlimited supply of free donut holes.
  • Dope Slap: Gibbs' favorite form of non-verbal discipline (besides his Death Glare), to the point that his team calls it the "Gibbs Slap". As he explains to Ducky in an early episode (paraphrasing), "A slap in the face is humiliating; on the back of the head, it's a wake-up call." It's revealed in a later season that Gibbs, as a probie, got the same treatment from Mike Franks; this is subverted in the episode "Hiatus Pt. 2".
    Franks: You got old, Marine.
    Gibbs: Have you looked in the mirror, lately?
    Franks reaches around to slap the back of Gibbs' head, but stops.
    Franks: If you weren't just in a coma.
    • Gibbs isn't the only one to use it; it's been done by both Tony and Abby on McGee, Tony on Ziva, Ziva on Tony...even characters on themselves when Gibbs is not around, but they know they've done something monumentally stupid. Gibbs has also done this to himself after he compromised evidence to let a Marine (who normally wouldn't have gotten in, due to health reasons) avoid confessing to a crime he didn't commit. In an episode where Gibbs had Trauma-Induced Amnesia, Ziva takes his hand and uses it to slap her own head, which triggers his memory recall.
      • Occasionally they dope-slap themselves in Gibbs' presence just to save him the trouble, usually preceded by a "This one's on me, boss."
      • In a crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles, Tony visits the LA team. By the end of the episode, Hetty Lange dope-slaps him, at Gibbs's request.
    • In one episode, the team had to attend a mandatory Sensitivity Training seminar. Tony casually asked if it would be okay to receive such a slap from a coworker, and received the predictable reply that it was workplace harassment. Cue a round of shifty looks from the entire team and a hasty backpedal from Tony when the presenter asked if such a thing had actually happened.
    • Gibbs even slaps Palmer in one episode as a form of congratulations. Abby is confused as to how liquid nitrogen used to kill the victim had traces of food in it, and Palmer is the one to suggest that the nitrogen was delivered via the victim's thermos. It's worth noting that Gibbs had just congratulated Abby with his customary kiss on the cheek and a "well done, Abbs," as is typical, and Palmer then leaned forward as if expecting the same. Of course, this is after the episode that revealed that Palmer likes such treatment...which is probably why it was used as congratulations.
    • It's also shown to be a sort of term (or slap) of endearment. Gibbs won't bother to head slap you unless he knows you're worth it. This is demonstrated in one of the early Ziva episodes where Gibbs gives her a light-hearted version and she takes it as a sign that she belongs to the team.
    • The amount of dope-slapping has been toned down as of late, because it's been reported that fans of the show were doing it to Michael Weatherly in public.
  • Double Agent:
    • Agent Lee.
    • A conversation between Gibbs and Vance implies that Ziva was this as well, something that was treated as pretty much a given by everyone in her first season.
    • NCIS attempts to have Jonathan Cole act as this to them regarding Harper Dearing in the Season 9 Finale, which Cole agrees to in exchange for a lighter sentence when he gets back to prison. Unfortunately, Dearing was smart enough to realize what the NCIS was planning to do, so he instead has a waitress deliver the cellphone to Cole for him and then communicate with him via phone and relay a message to Gibbs.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Subverted in S3 Ep 14, "Light Sleeper". The initial suspect in the murder of a Korean-born woman is her Marine husband. Their neighbor claimed she frequently heard them screaming at each other, leading her to believe that husband was abusive. However, the husband reveals to Gibbs in interrogation that she was the abusive one and proves it by lifting up his shirt to reveal a large burn mark where she hit him with an iron. The team actually takes him seriously and release him shortly after the reveal.
  • Double Tap: The show has almost without exception averted this; both here and in real life, Federal agents never fire only once or twice. They will keep shooting you until either you fall down or they run out of bullets, whichever comes first.
  • Dramatic Necklace Removal: Ziva gets one where a necklace her daughter made her wear gets ripped off her neck. When the jerk who took it has it wrapped around his fingers, she gets desperate when he is dead that she has to chop off the fingers.
  • Dramedy: The series gets downright serious at times and Anyone Can Die, but it's an extremely popular Long Runner because of the liberal use of funny and heartwarming moments in the episodes.
  • Dress Code: Forcing Abby to follow one makes her so uncomfortable that it actually hurts her analytical skills.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Ziva in "Under Covers."
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Gibbs has shifted into this mode more than once to intimidate suspects, especially if they're Marines.
    • S3 Ep 11, "Model Behavior" had an actual Marine drill instructor, though he wasn't training Marine recruits. He was part of a reality TV show.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Gibbs, Ziva, and Tony in the earlier seasons. When Kate is in a car that a very angry Gibbs is driving, this conversation ensues:
    Kate: Gibbs is driving.
    Abby: I'm saying a prayer in many languages.
    • A quote by Shepard about Ziva is telling (this is after she drove the team's van like a maniac and made Tony puke):
      Shepard: I forgot to mention, I think she may have been an Eastern European cab driver in a past life.
    • Ziva tries to make this a Justified Trope by saying her driving style is good for avoiding ambushes and IEDs. It's pointed out to her that neither scenario is likely to be encountered in the US.
    • In "Aliyah" we find out that even in Israel Ziva is regarded as a crazy driver.
      Eli: With traffic, I wasn't expecting you for another hour.
      Ziva: I drove.
      Eli: Enough said.
    • We find out from Eli in "Enemies Foreign" that we have Ziva's mother to thank for it.
  • Driven to Suicide: A flashback in "Hiatus" shows Gibbs seriously considering putting a gun in his mouth after the deaths of his wife and daughter.
  • Driving a Desk: While this show is usually pretty good about avoiding this trope, In the Season 15 finale, Vance is driving a car that is clearly still in park.
  • Driving Stick: Lampshaded by Ari, when Gerald attempts to use Ducky's car to make an escape.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Palmer often gets called out when making jokes around the autopsy table, usually because they're not very funny or because the timing is terrible.
  • Due to the Dead: Jackson Gibbs received a burial with full honors.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome:
    • Jenny Shephard takes down five hitmen aiming to ambush her.
    • Mike Franks goes down fighting Jason Cobbs in a knife fight and does some damage along the way.
    My name is Mike Franks! I figure I got one more fight left in me!... You want it?
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Compare NCIS agents in series proper to the agents who would show up in the parent show JAG. In the parent show, they were shown as arrogant investigators who would overlook evidence and miss connections that Harm, Mac, Bud, and others would need to find so justice would be done. It is shocking in some instances when this is compared to the general appearance of agents who look into various leads and don't discount the implausible.
    • While Gibbs's astounding bad luck in the marriage department was well-known from the beginning of Season 1, it wasn't until the end of Season 3 that we learned about Shannon and Kelly and the immense trauma their deaths had on Gibbs.
    • At the start of the series, Gibbs was a lot more talkative, smiled more often, and had just as many quips as the other characters. He only started settling into the "functional mute"' character towards the end of the first season and it took a while longer for it to properly take hold.
    • Abby had a deeper, huskier voice in the beginning and was flirtatiousnote  with nearly every male character she interacted with (including Gibbs!). It took a while before she became the manic and cheerfully playful character most people know her as.
    • Early on, Tony had a more casual dress style and sloppier hair. He also wasn't as much of a movie nerd and wore glasses in his first appearances.
      • Most shockingly, he fails to recognize The Maltese Falcon early in the first season.
      • As late as "Call to Silence", about a third of the way through Season Two, he recommends that Kate go see Halloween: Resurrection (and he calls it "Halloween 8"). A film geek like Tony would never recommend that film (which was universally derided by critics and audiences, especially fans of the series), even as a joke.
    • In his first appearance in the first episode, Special Agent Fornell shows no recognition of Gibbs and it's clear the two men are not friends. Their friendship and its backstory was only developed in the season two finale.
    • The black-and-white shots that start and conclude each segment didn't begin until about 1/3rd of the way through the second season. For those who started watching the show later in its tenure, watching the first season episodes with regular fade/cut to black can be very strange.
    • A great many of the recurring guest stars who show up at least once a season in the later years (as in, all of them other than Fornell) were introduced fairly late. Mike Franks? Season 4. DiNozzo Sr? Season 7. Diane Fornell? Season 8. Delilah? Mentioned Season 10 finale, first appeared on screen in season 11.
    • When we first meet Gibbs' father, we see an old photo of him with a black man in front of the general store, who we're told is named Leroy Jethro, an old friend of Jackson's and the man Gibbs was named after. He's spoken of in past tense and with fondness. In a later season episode when Gibbs finds Leroy's old war medal at a pawn shop, we learn his full name is Leroy Jethro Moore, he's still very much living and Jackson has a long-running grudge against him that results in him even barely acknowledging the man exists.
    • In season 1 and early season 2 it's implied McGee and Abby have some kind of relationship, but what exactly it entails is never explained and the whole thing seems to just be forgotten about by the end of season 2
  • Easter Egg: In one episode, the team finds a voice synthesizer speaking individual words, including "...yankee, white...". "Yankee White" is the pilot episode.
  • Elevator Conference: Gibbs frequently halts the NCIS elevator for private conversations. He typically does this to quietly confront people when they aren't being upfront with him. Though sometimes the elevator is used to pass information about security leaks or as a safe meeting place when the NCIS building itself is compromised. Apparently this is something Gibbs gets from Mike Franks.
  • Embarrassing Hobby: In one episode, it's discovered that the Victim of the Week is a very prolific collector of vintage television lunchboxes. Though the victim is too... well... dead to be embarrassed by it at the time, he had been keeping his hobby secret from his neighbors and basically every member of the cast mocks him for it. Amusingly, due to the lack of any other leads at the time, they briefly investigate the possibility that he was murdered as a result of a lunchbox deal gone horribly wrong (he wasn't).
  • Embarrassing Old Photo:
    • One of the sub-plots of S2 Ep 19, "Conspiracy Theory". While vacationing in Panama, Tony discovers a photo of Kate winning a Wet T-Shirt Contest there years earlier. He wasn't going to mention it, but then she decided to share his college nickname with everyone. He torments her with it throughout the episode. She uses photoshop to create an "old photo" of him. And then, once they've had enough of holding it over each other, they both decided to delete it at the same time, but both secretly planned to send it to Gibbs instead. Cue hurried rushes from the elevator when they hear Gibbs' computer give the "new email" chime twice in succession, and an amused expression when Gibbs looks at the emails.
    • In a season 10 episode, McGee finds a high school photo of Tony - with a truly horrific 80s hairstyle - and shows it to Ziva.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Ducky impersonates the deceased English arms dealer to try to capture La Grenouille. (Ducky is the only 60-year-old Englishman they know.)
  • Empathic Environment: After Ari kills Kate, it is constantly raining as the team grieves for her and Gibbs blames himself. After Ari is himself killed and Gibbs comes to terms with it, it becomes sunny again. This is actually a favorite trick of the director. In "Swan Song," a major Tonight, Someone Dies episode, the characters repeatedly comment on how it is they think it's going to rain.
  • Enfant Terrible: Rachel Barnes, pretty much all of The Calling's child soldiers including one who gets the drop on Gibbs, long after he realizes he been played.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Several. The most memorable one involves a druggie kid and his equally messed up mother who confesses while the kid is wearing a Hidden Wire.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Tony frequently has moments where he realizes he missed some obvious clue and solves the case.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Ari is implied to have cared for his late mother and believed his father is responsible for her death. He used that as his Freudian Excuse for joining Hamas, as his father was a Mossad director.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: invoked deliberately by Ziva at one point: while they people she's killed were all murderers, terrorists, and the like, she acknowledges most of them probably did have innocent family members who mourned their loss, a fact she finds immensely sad considering one such person was her own brother Ari, who wasn't always so evil and who she still feels bad about.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • From Season 10's "Gone" Miranda Pennebaker, who knows Gibbs, has a reputation for buying and selling pretty much anything, save people. Human trafficking is the one area she didn't get into but because of her connections to that world, Gibbs goes to her to help save an abducted a teenage girl likely slated to be sold as a wife or sex slave.
    • Similarly, Agah Bayar agrees to help the team pro-bono in Season 13's "The Lost Boys" because he believes in "women and children first".
      • From the same episode, one of a trio of radicalized Americans has no problem helping the team fight the splinter group recruiting Child Soldiers because they no longer have a religious purpose and just want to cause chaos.
    • In Season 13's "Deja Vu", a gang member is suspected of killing the Navy servicewoman who was scheduled to testify at his murder trial; he says he may be no saint, but his younger brother serves in the U.S. military, and he would never attack anyone else who does.
  • Everybody Is Single: Though Gibbs has been married four times (Once widowed, thrice divorced), and McGee and Abby used to date. Tony frequently has one night/weekend/week stands, but was with René Benoît's daughter for most of that season. Most of the characters have brief flings, sometimes running multiple episodes (usually with characters that may or may not be seen on-screen), presumably brief due to the stress of their jobs. Averted by of all people, Leon Vance, who has a wife (until her death) and two kids.
    • In season 7, Palmer actually has a (offscreen) girlfriend that everybody knows about.
      • Not to mention the onscreen fling between Palmer and Lee
      • In the season 9 opening episode, it is pointed out that Palmer is getting married the following spring and is mentioned in the following episodes. Though the wedding is not shown, his bachelor party occurs in the penultimate episode of the season - as part of a stakeout.
    • Ziva dates a man named Ray for a few episodes. They go skiing together. In a later season he proposes to her and she responds by decking him and arresting him for murder.
    • Initially averted with Ellie Bishop, who is also married. We see her husband Jake for the first time in "Grounded", but she eventually breaks up with him after discovering that he's been unfaithful.
    • McGee ends up in a relationship with a DoD analyst named Delilah at the end of season eleven. At the end of season 13 they've moved in together and they marry at the end of season 14. They later have two children.
    • Alden Parker was married to an FBI colleague and later divorced her some time prior to his appearance on the show, and it was revealed in the Season 20 episode Bridges that he had an ex-girlfriend from his childhood that he never got over, which was the main reason why he got divorced.
  • Everybody Lives: "See No Evil" from season two, and "Bait" from season three.
  • Everyone Can See It: It becomes a Running Gag after awhile to have someone outside the team (or working with the team) comment on just how close Tony and Ziva are to each other.
    • After Palmer and Knight get a [1], in Season 19 the pair try to keep their relationship a low profile during Season 20. However, everyone else, including the Hawaii team (Ernie in particular) correctly guess that they are already a couple.
  • Everyone's Baby Sister: The best way to make something personal for the entire team is to threaten Abby. This can be seen when you compare an episode like "Bloodbath," where someone is after Abby, to episodes like "Frame Up," "Reveille," "Probie," and "Recoil," where the threats against Tony, Kate, McGee, and Ziva are take seriously, but not as personally.
  • Everything Is Online: Seriously. Everything. Including pacemakers.
    • Terrifying Truth in Television. Pacemakers actually can be hacked... and manipulated.
    • In one season 13 episode, a wounded Marine Gibbs is talking to hangs a big lampshade on this by commenting that he had looked Gibbs up online.
  • Evil Laugh: Tony lets out an epic one when he discovers a picture of the prudish Kate taking part in a Wet T-Shirt Contest. The episode ends with his mad cackling as the camera fades to black.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Gibbs is pretty much an infallible human lie detector. If you lie while he's looking you in the eye, he'll know. Lampshaded back on JAG when he was investigating Harm.
    Harm: How long you been doing this, Gunny?
    Gibbs: Seventeen years.
    Harm: And can you tell if someone's lying to you by looking in their eyes?
    Gibbs: Yes I can.
    Harm: Then why don't you just ask me, Gunny? Why don't you just ask me?
    Gibbs: *pause* Would you kill for your brother?
    Harm: *makes Oh, Crap! face*
  • Exact Words:
    • Jimmy Palmer does this with Sexual Harassment Seminar by taking the "No touching other people" policy to its extremes, and the confused bureaucrat who doesn't know he's a coroner.
    Palmer: What if your job includes touching, ah, naked people...
    Woman: That is inappropriate at any time.
    Palmer: Even if they're dead?
    Woman: [sternly] Why are you touching dead naked people?!
    Palmer: Well, I work in autopsy...
    • Palmer has been targeted by an assassin and follows the team to the assasin's hideout. Gibbs sees him and orders him to stay in the car. Palmer sees the assassin trying to flee and uses his car as a battering ram against the assassin's truck.
    Gibbs: What the hell were you thinking?!
    Palmer: I did not get out of the car.
    Gibbs: Don't ever do it again!
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Gibbs keeps his hair fairly short, but in the second part of "Hiatus", while suffering from amnesia, he cuts his hair back to the much shorter crewcut variant he wore when he was a probie.
    • Gibbs having a longer-than-Marine-regs haircut gets made fun of in "My Other Left Foot" by a gunnery sergeant Gibbs met years before as an MP.
    Gunny: (trying to remember Gibbs) He was high and tight then.
    Gibbs: (rubs hair) Not exactly shaggy, Gunny.
    Gunny: I've seen sheepdogs shorter.
    • "Baltimore" reveals that, at the time that Tony joined NCIS, Gibbs' haircut was similar to his look from the first couple of seasons, if not as long.
  • Eye Scream: Several.
    • In one episode, the victim's eye was missing. He pulled out his own eye and ate it!
    • One episode was kicked off by someone being sent a pair of human eyes.
    • In "Forced Entry" the guy who put together the fake online chats was found with his throat slashed and his eyes gouged out.
    • CIA agent Trent Kort got his eye gouged out by the Port-to-Port Killer.
    • In "Engaged, Part II" a thirteen year-old girl is blinded after terrorists throw hot grease into her face.
  • Expy: The International Doctors Group for Médecins Sans Frontières in "Saviors". It's lampshaded in the episode itself with the former as a latter-type of group.

  • Facial Dialogue: Gibbs can hold entire conversations with squints, glares, smirks, and Gibbs slaps. Every episode has at least one such scene.
  • Fair Cop: The entire main cast. Sean Murray as Agent McGee would seem to be the only one to avert this, but then he lost a good amount of weight entering Season 7, and now we can pretty much include the whole crew.
  • Fake First Kiss: Tony and Ziva kiss and have a simulated sex sequence while undercover as a couple. The episode was aptly titled Under Covers.
  • Family of Choice: Unsuprisingly given a lot of the characters' family backstories, the team forms a family dynamic, with Gibbs and Ducky acting as father/grandfather figures for pretty much all the other characters. All the characters even acknowledge this in universe.
    Ziva: Are you lonely, Gibbs?
    Gibbs: You're never alone when you have kids. *kisses Ziva on the forehead* Good night, kid.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: At the end of one Season 6 episode, a young Marine mentions that his mother took care of Gibbs when he was wounded on a mission in her country. Gibbs tells the Marine that his mother was already pregnant when they met. Seconds later, in Vance's office, Vance asks Gibbs if Gibbs told the young man that his mission had been to kill his father.
  • Fanservice:
    • Abby, mostly.
    • At times, Director Shepard, especially after wardrobe started putting her in tight skirts and sweaters.
    • There's also the pic of Kate in the Wet T-Shirt Contest (though it is Nipple and Dimed), plus numerous butt shots from Tony's POV.
    • One of the most blatant instances of potential fanservice (Ziva in a fairly skimpy bikini) actually ended up being a half-subversion, as she's lying on her side reading a book and the audience never gets a good look...unless you count the screensaver McGee made from Tony's pictures of her.
    • Then there's the cocktail dress Ziva wore while undercover as a lounge singer. The back is scooped down so low you can see Coté de Pablo's tanline.
    • Kate as an adult version of a 'Catholic Schoolgirl' and as a Dominatrix. This was the lighter side of a very serious episode.
  • Fatal Attractor: The entire cast. With relatively few exceptions, every date any of the characters go on will be with someone evil.
  • Fatal Family Photo: The ending of the episode "Rekindled" features a Marine out at sea on an amphibious carrier accidentially dropping his cell phone through the grates, reassembling it to see his family photo, only to find flickering lights underneath the door to the electric room (strongly implied to be the arson electrical bomb trap from earlier) before he is knocked back in an explosion.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Ari Haswari, Mossad double agent extraordinaire. He's always calm and polite, even when pointing a gun; he's charming and persuasive enough to convince several groups of his loyalty, which is truly only to his own agenda.
  • Feuding Families:
    • Season 2 featured a rural area with a Hatfields-McCoys situation.
    • The Reynosas vs Gibbs and his father and teammates.
  • Film at 11: In one episode, Gibbs doesn't show up and the rest of the team suspects something happened to him (he lives alone and no one would know, after all). Tony, in his usual style, parodies the concept, complete with desk lamp shade and a coincidental ZNN news report in the background.
    Tony:In a tragic story of obsessive hobbying turned deadly, an NCIS agent was discovered in his basement, crushed between a large homemade boat and an even larger bottle of bourbon. (dramatic pause) Film at eleven.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Gibbs and McGee, as of their ordeal in Paraguay.
  • First-Name Basis:
    • Gibbs's father, Jackson, is the only one who consistently addresses him by his first name of Leroy.
    • Most of the female main characters (Kate, Abby, Jenny, Ziva, Kasie) are usually addressed by their first name. Jenny is a minor exception whenever someone used her title "Director Sheppard," but played straight otherwise.
      • The only exceptions are Ellie, who is usually referred to by her last name (Bishop) by everyone, and Alexandra, who is always referred to as Quinn.
  • False Flag Operation: The whole point in the end of "Devil's Triangle".
  • Fan Disservice: Used to excellent effect in "Kill Ari", contrasting the Kate-visions of McGee, Tony, and Abby (!) with Ducky and Gibbs' decidedly more morbid versions.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: During combat training in "The Bone Yard", McGee gets Distracted by the Sexy when he sees Kate doing warm-up exercises and comments on how flexible she is to Tony. Unfortunately to him, she overhears, which earns him a Groin Attack during training.
  • Foil: An industrial chemist for Abby. Abby is tall (though most of that is her bootsnote ), brunette, goth, perky, and American while the other scientist is short, stout, blonde, neither goth nor perky, and British. About the only thing they have in common is their love of science and commitment to environmentalism which is why Abby feels sorry about turning her in for corporate espionage and letting a bunch of violent thugs into her workplace (she didn't know her "fellow environmentalists" would be so trigger-happy and when she immediately owned up to everything Abby wrote her a recommendation for a reasonable sentence).
  • Foreshadowing: This is actually a standard feature of the show. The two-second black & white sequence at the beginning of each segment is the last image you will see before the next commercial break. So if you see a dead body, or Abby looking frightened, or a car crashing, then you know that you will see events leading up to that situation.
    • Some specific instances: The fourth season's slow leadup to the finale/premiere. Also, as early as season one, Gibbs had a vision of Kate being shot by Ari. Cue the season two finale...
    • The season two finale is crammed full of these. These moments are even lampshaded on the cast commentary.
    • As of "Family First," episodes like "Under Covers", "Engaged Part 2," and "Shabbat Shalom" are this for Tony and Ziva's daughter Tali.
    • In the Season 3 episode “Family Secret”, Gibbs and Jenny eat steak au poivre together. Their relationship never got off the ground due to her death in Season 5. In the Season 14 episode “A Many Splendored Thing”, Vance and Congresswoman Flemming, who were then dating, were about to eat steak au poivre together. Their relationship ultimately failed, too, mirroring the events that happened (in that very same office, no less) 11 years earlier.
  • For the Evulz: When Gibbs asks Ari why he murdered Kate Ari just says "to cause you pain."
  • For Want of a Nail: In the episode Better Angels, Jackson Gibbs takes Gibbs to see Walter Beck, the German pilot who saved him during WWII. Jackson, knowing Walter felt bad about the deaths they caused during the war, told Walter about his son's work in NCIS, making it clear that Walter indirectly helped a lot of people by keeping Jackson alive so Gibbs could be born.
  • Frame-Up:
    • "Lt. Jane Doe" had the killer trying to pin the murder of her ex-girlfriend on a serial rapist and murderer, going so far as to acquire a sample of the rapist's sperm from an evidence freezer. However, unknown to her, the rapist had died five weeks prior, causing her to have a Villainous Breakdown when presented with the rapist's death certificate by Gibbs.
    • The season 3 episode "Frame Up" where Tony was pointed out as the killer through the evidence collected, no matter what Abby did. She did clear Tony in the end, it turned out to be her lab partner Chip, who wanted revenge on Tony for costing him his job.
    • In the season 9 premiere "Nature of the Beast," Tony ended up framed for killing a fellow NCIS agent, Cade, whom he was also intending to bring into custody for stealing equipment from the watchers. Cade also implies in what ultimately turned out to be his last moments that he was actually framed for stealing the microchips and selling them onto the black market. It was later revealed that a fake FBI agent as well as the Director of Special Operations, both of whom were in Watcher 8, were the ones who were actually doing this action.
  • Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Abby.
  • Freeze-Frame Ending: This happens not just at the end of each episode, but the end of every segment, as well. The freeze frame is always black and white.
    • Lampshaded in "Jet Lag", when Ziva remarks that Tony's photo of her would look better in black and white. Cue this trope.
  • Freudian Excuse: Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Ziva all have astounding Daddy Issues that can be seen as the cause of all their idiosyncrasies. Gibbs and Tony are able to reconcile with their fathers after years-long estrangements, but other agents haven't been as fortunate.
    • McGee's father was a career naval officer and a strict disciplinarian leading to the two not speaking for years, only hearing about the other through news delivered by McGee's grandmother. They started speaking again when a case NCIS was investigating brought McGee's father, now an admiral, under scrutiny, but the relationship remained strained and never had the chance to fully heal before the admiral passed away due to cancer in Season 12. McGee is able to find closure, however, through a letter he writes, explaining his issues and feelings, and places in his father's coffin.
    • Ziva eventually had to retreat into seclusion because all (or most of) the trauma she went through from her father's machinations became too much to bear.
    • It isn't until Season 11(!), with the introduction of Ellie Bishop, that an agent of the Major Case Response Team comes from a happy family and is Happily Married. The marriage falls apart in season 13.
    • Sharif. His family was killed by a bomb in a tragic accident, which made him become a terrorist.
  • "Friends" Rent Control:
    • Tony lives in a very nice apartment for a cop's salary - having bought it at a significant discount - because it was once the scene of a triple homicide, after which he was the only person who was interested in taking the place. The piano is actually hiding a large bloodstain. A subplot of one episode in season 14 is the team quarreling over who gets to lease that apartment from Tony's dad after Tony leaves the team and the country. Tim ends up with it.
    • In season 14, new agent Nick Torres laments that back when he did undercover work in South America, he could get a gorgeous apartment for $400 US a month. The cost of living in the DC Metro area is much higher.
  • Fridge Horror: invoked Of the in-universe type. The season 4 episode "Smoked" has the team find the corpse of a cannibal serial killer (identified due to the fact that he still had a victim's toe in his stomach) where he fell into an abandoned chimney. Fornell had been chasing this guy for years, but eventually they realize his wife was the killer, and hadn't stopped at her husband's death.
    Fornell: You know what's really got me freaked out? If her husband's body hadn't gotten hung up going down that chimney five years ago, she'd still be out there. We'd never have caught her.
    Gibbs: I can do you one better than that.
    Fornell: No, can't top that, Jethro.
    Gibbs: What was a toe doing in her husband's stomach?
  • A Friend in Need: In Season 13 episode "Spinning Wheel" flashes back to the 1960s with Ducky and his lawyer friend Angus Clarke. After the events previously shown when Ducky tells Angus' fiance he loves her and the fight in which Ducky knocks two of Angus' teeth out but the woman still marries Angus, Ducky goes to Angus for help in securing custody of Ducky's half-brother from his biological mother. When the legal case is against them, Angus tells Ducky he will give Ducky the 10,000 pounds the mother is asking for in exchange to give up custody of her child. Ducky is shocked at this benevolence from the man, who will simply take Ducky floundering for the words to thank him as payment.
  • Funny Background Event: In "Life Before His Eyes", if you look at the foreground carefully, you can see Ari and Leon Vance are playing chess.
  • Girls with Guns: In the first episode of season 9, Dr. Rachel Cranston pegs Tony's type as this, along with being attracted to dysfunctional women because he wants to help them.
    Dr. Cranston: Tony, admit it. You like hot girls who carry guns.
    Tony: Who doesn't like hot girls who carry guns?!
  • Girlish Pigtails:
    • Abby, occasionally.
    • Child genius Angela in S7 Ep 09, "Child's Play."
  • Give Away the Bride: When Ziva is considering marrying Ray, everyone assumes Gibbs would walk her down the aisle. It does not happen, and never will. Marrying Ray, that is, not Gibbs walking her down the aisle. And with Ziva being murdered by Kort (it turns out she's actually alive and went to hiding after the explosion), the second won't happen either, sadly.
  • Give Me a Sign: Ziva asks for one after the death of her father. Her sign arrives in the form of Tony, offering her support for whatever she needs.
  • The Glomp: Abby, usually to Tony and McGee (especially if they're injured, which seems to be a minor Running Gag).
  • Glove Snap: Tony does this comically quite often.
  • Golf Clubbing: In S11 Ep 19, "Crescent City" McGee collects the wrong end of this from a perpetrator's father.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Abby is a wonderfully chipper woman but she does seem at times to not understand how terrible some human beings can be and stunned at a truly grisly murder case.
    • Her brother, Luca, is actually worse as Abby notes he assumes anyone he tries to help is a wonderful person who deserves it. This attitude has caused him to unknowingly invest in Ponzi schemes and help a woman fleeing her ex who turns out to be a Russian spy wanted for murder. Despite hearing the truth, Luca still insists on helping her and is stunned the woman turns out to be so dangerous.
  • Goomba Stomp: Take Gibbs' utter intolerance for anything that tampers with a crime scene, add his general hatred of technology, mix in the fact that a scheduled and automated roomba was eerily sucking up shell casings at the site of a shooting, and the result is that Gibbs invents the Roomba Stomp.
  • The Government: Interagency cooperation (and competition) comes up a lot. And Benoît? He was working with, or for, the CIA.
  • Grade-School C.E.O.: A bit character from one early episode runs a nightclub while still in high school.
  • Grave Robbing: The criminals in "Silver War" are engaged in this - they are after a stash of 50 Civil War Era rifles, which they plan to sell to collectors for 30 grand each. The victim was Buried Alive because he tried to invoke It Belongs in a Museum.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Some scenes in Season 4 with Ziva show her a little too interested in who Tony speaks with when using his second mobile phone. Sure you are only worried because he is your partner...
    • Almost every episode in later seasons has a witness/local detective/suspect make a pass at Ziva. Cut to a reaction shot from Tony, looking quite displeased. This is often followed by a snarky remark to said witness/suspect/local detective.
    • Abby's generally not wild about seeing McGee interested in other women, or vice versa. However, Abby has recently befriended McGee's current girlfriend Delilah.
      • Then again, Gibbs's flames tend to put her hackles up as well. Mann, anyone?
  • Grief-Induced Split: Season 9 Big Bad Harper Dearing used to be a CEO with a happy family. Following his Navy sailor son's death in a shipyard explosion, he began turning to crime, a change that led his wife to divorce him. This, in turn, caused his transformation into the ship-firebombing vengeful terrorist that the NCIS team encounters.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: In episode "Singled Out" Ziva threatened a guy who grabbed her ass that she'll rip his arm off and beat him to death with it.
  • The Grim Reaper: In the fourth season finale "Angel of Death", Dr. Jeanne Benoît encounters a little girl outside the hospital who may or may not be the Angel of Death. An odd example from a show usually so completely grounded in reality, especially since it's heavily implied to the viewer that she really is the Angel of Death.
  • Gun Stripping:
    • Ziva mentioned once that she cleans her gun every day, even when she hasn't fired it. Of course, unless someone with a gun is wallowing around in extremely dusty or gritty places, cleaning the weapon every day is unnecessary, but given that Ziva's Mossad background means she spent most of her time with her life in danger, her behavior is understandable. She was also shown cleaning her gun while hiding out in Gibbs' basement during season 4's "Shalom", and Gibbs has also been shown cleaning his gun a few times.
    • In "Judgement Day Part 1" Shepard strips and cleans the gun Mike Franks loans her for her final firefight.
  • Halloween Episode: "Witch Hunt", "Murder 2.0", and "Code of Conduct"
  • Hand Cannon: Ex-Watcher operator Casey Stratton uses a Desert Eagle chambered in .50 Action Express against the NCIS team in "Housekeeping". Lampshaded by McGee: "What's he got, a cannon?"
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jerry, a witness in a murder investigation, points out several characters' psychological problems (Abby doesn't admit she likes Tim because she's Married to the Job and doesn't want to risk him being The One and missing out; Gibbs shows that he misses his late wife by keeping his house better than a single man who's never home or locks his door should; Ziva most definitely has feelings for Tony), however it appears he's just really good at reading people and really bad at reading the atmosphere. He later atones by helping Tony rig a surprise Christmas confetti bombardment.
  • Happily Married: McGee and Delilah, as of Season 14
    • Vance.
    • Gibbs' first marriage was, from all evidence, happy...not so much since then.
    • Bishop's was this, initially, but became less so after she joined NCIS, finally being capped off with the revelation that her husband is having an affair.
  • Harmful to Minors: In Season 4, Episode 2, Fornell is at a party with his daughter when she is approached by a criminal Fornell put away. It's a very tense scene as they talk, enhanced by the fact that everybody in the room besides the two are oblivious. But then comes the man's threat to keep Fornell from following him from the party. Sure, he turned out to be innocent, but that scene gives us a reason for doubt throughout the episode.
    Paulson: Now I'm going to walk out of here. You'll want to follow. But you realize something, and end up just reaching for that cell instead.
    Fornell: Really.
    Paulson: Yeah.
    Fornell: What's that?
    Paulson: I might not be alone. (touches Emily's shoulder) Bye, sweetie.
    Emily: Bye.
    (Paulsen walks out while Fornell moves closer to his daughter)
  • I Have Your Wife: In "Devil's Triad", Emily, Fornell and Diane's thirteen-year-old daughter, gets kidnapped by the head of the money laundering scheme as ransom for the money the team confiscated. While she does get saved at the end of the episode, her parents are completely out of their minds with worry for the remaining quarter of the episode (the former is rallying every asset from the FBI, the latter is freaking out because the kidnapper broke into her house to get to Emily).
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Page 57 from S3 Ep 04, "Silver War". Tony shows Ziva an FHM/Maxim-esque magazine called "GSM".
    Tony: You want something to read?
    Ziva: What do you have?
    Tony: (pulls out magazine) GSM. It's a men's magazine. Most women find it objectifies them.
    Ziva: (pulls out same magazine in Hebrew) I read it on the plane. I especially liked the article on page fifty-seven. In my experience, it works every time.
    Tony: (checks his copy with the inside facing away from the camera) I always thought that was an urban legend.
    • There's a similar scene in Season Twelve's "Choke Hold" when Tony and Tim are scoffing at the sex tips listed in the same magazine, only to have Ellie rather blithely admit that she's pulled off several of them, prompting Tony to ask, "Are you double-jointed?"
  • Hearing Voices: Subverted in one episode. A woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia after she said was hearing voices. The reveal? She was being assaulted via a remote audio transmitter so that she would be declared insane and sent back into the asylum.
  • Held Gaze:
    • Tony and Ziva, accentuating their UST.
    • Gibbs and Sloane, ditto.
  • Help Mistaken for Attack: Minor recurring character Nikki Jardine had this as part of her Backstory. When her brother, Eric, was in Iraq he was injured in an IED attack and when a friendly Iraqi man tried to save Eric's life, the man was shot by US Forces who mistook him for a terrorist. Nikki has tried to help the Iraqi's widow and children ever since in gratitude for his sacrifice.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Averted in-universe. McGee doesn't make himself the big hero of his books...he does that for his Gibbs Captain Ersatz.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Gibbs has a history of marrying red-heads, or having liaisons with them on undercover missions in Paris, or getting picked up by them on his way home from get the idea.
    • Whenever a character hears about a witness or suspect flirting with Gibbs, someone inevitably asks "Is she a redhead?"
    • In "Life Before His Eyes" we see that Gibbs got this from his father, given that his mother is revealed to have been a redhead herself.
    • Colonel Mann is the only exception to this rule so far for Gibbs. They did have a relationship, but then she realized that he'd never be able to forget his wife and daughter. She moved to Hawaii after breaking it off with him. (And even she's a suspiciously reddish shade of blonde!)
    • McGee fell for a redhead in a coffee shop. She turned out to be an assassin.
    • Ducky and Dr. Jordan Hampton.
    • Abby's brother Luca and his "houseguest" Ava who turns out to be a Russian spy.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Amnesiac Gibbs' reaction to his Mentor telling him about 9/11.
    • Tony goes into one in the season 7 premiere when he thinks Ziva is dead.
    • Everyone when Mike Franks is killed in "Swan Song". Everyone also had one when Caitlin Todd is killed as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Agent Cassidy, who saves the team from a suicide bomber.
    • Agent Lee when she decides that Redemption Equals Death.
    • Subverted by Agent Todd. She takes a bullet to save Gibbs' life, but is saved by her Kevlar vest...and then gets head-sniped by Ari.
    • Jonathan Cole ends up doing this to disarm the bomb in the Season 9 Finale. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to start disarming the bomb before Dearing activated it. Also qualifies as a Redemption Equals Death.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners:
    • For just being former NCIS partners, Franks and Gibbs seem awfully close together. When Gibbs was retired, he actually went to live with Franks in Mexico, and they bickered like a married couple.
      • The place that Franks has is one they used to stay at when they would go fishing in Mexico — so they even went on vacation together at one point, apparently.
    • Gibbs and Ducky
    • Gibbs and Fornell. They also share a common ex-wife.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Eli David. He has crossed the Moral Event Horizon a number of times,and it is obvious that he does so because of his determination to protect his people against vicious enemies.
  • Hidden Depths: McGee's writing career and, far more importantly, Tony's growing maturity. Unfortunately, Tony seems to have been getting more and more Flanderized and less mature in the most recent seasons, although this may just be Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • This is especially prominent when you compare Tony's maturity and his solidarity with McGee before and after the season two finale.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: One season eleven episode centered around tracking down the source of defective suits of body armor being sent to soldiers at the front. When confronted, the person responsible dons body armor and opens fire on NCIS. Bishop is shot, but survives without serious injury because she's wearing a vest. The perp is also shot in the vest, but because she was wearing one of the defective vests - which were worse than useless - she dies.
  • Hollywood Atlas: In series premiere "Yankee White" The Wichita County Coroner shows up to fight for the body. Wichita County, KS is in the far western part of the state. The city of Wichita is in Sedgwick County. This was most likely done so as not to confuse those who don't live in "Flyover Land"
  • Hollywood Hacking: McGee and Abby.
  • Hollywood Healing: Consistently averted; characters who suffer injuries at the end of one episode are typically still sporting the signs of them in the next one...except glaringly in season one when Gibbs recovered from grenade fragments in the shoulder between episodes.
    • Played painfully straight in the 200th episode, where Gibbs is shot in the shoulder at the beginning. At the episode's end, set the very next day, he's perfectly fine.
  • Honorary Uncle: Gibbs is this to Fornell and Diane's daughter
  • Hooking the Keys: A variation shows up in "Missing". Tony DiNozzo ends up getting drugged, captured, and trapped in the same room by the same Serial Killer who kidnapped the missing marine NCIS is searching for. Tony uses a knife he had hidden in his belt and a piece of string to get the piece of wood locking both of them in so they can escape.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: In the episode "Guilty Pleasure" we are introduced to Det. Philip McCadden of Baltimore PD. He was a Flanderized Expy of Tony and the two movie buffs became fast friends. But when Tony saw McCadden disrespecting McGee during an NCIS case (and not caring if he got some movie trivia wrong), Tony effectively ended their friendship, without even telling McCadden why.
  • Huggy, Huggy Hippos: A variation of this with a hippo plushy that belongs to Abby. Bonus points for the fact that hugging is involved: when hugged, he makes a fart noise.
  • Hypocritical Humor: On one occasion Gibbs sees fit to remind McGee that hacking is illegal.
    • A great case is Ducky checking over the body of a murdered teacher, saying he thought about going into teaching once but "I could never stand giving lectures." He completely fails to notice the looks of the team who put up with his constant stories on bizarre trivia.
  • Hypothetical Fight Debate: There is a small running gag about the rest of the team talking about who would win in a fight-resident Memetic Badass Jethro Gibbs and such crazy proposals as The Terminator and Batman... and Memetic Badass that he is, the rest of the team puts the odds on Gibbs.
    • It was eventually decided that the only contest was Gibbs vs. Gibbs, but they thought it would just end in a draw.
  • I Am Spartacus: In S 10 Ep 11, a reporter, whose story might have falsely implicated some sailors in a crime, is found dead which results in them being called in. They all confess to killing the reporter. Tony later lampshades the four sailors.
  • I Call It "Vera":
    • Abby's "Major Mass Spec", and, apparently, her own teeth, though they appear to be masculine names - one is Frank.
    • In one episode, she gives the bugs she is raising as evidence male names, such as George, Norman and the like. George ends up being Regina.
    • According to Gibbs, a Bravo 51 sniper rifle is called a "Kate".
    • In S11, Ep 19: Crescent City Pt 2, Agent Pride calls his Hand Cannon "Charmaine".
  • I Know Mortal Kombat
    • Justified in S 7 Ep 09, "Child's Play", which focuses on child prodigies using video games, one of which is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, in which they compare the situations in the game to real life military situations and analyze them.
    • In S 10 Ep 16, "Detour," Jimmy claims that while he has no experience with a real gun, he nevertheless Prestiged in Call of Duty: Black Ops six times. And he shoots an assassin with a full clip not long afterwards.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Frequently. A few standout examples:
    • The killer mentions the man who (supposedly) shot the lieutenant will get away. "How did you know she was shot?"
    • S 7 Ep 07, "Endgame", has Amanda, McGee's love interest for that episode, coming to visit him at work. The next morning McGee reveals that he never told her where he works. It turns out she was hired to kill the North Korean assassin the team is trying to catch.
    • When Gibbs tells a suspect that a victim was found dead, the man asks, "How was he murdered?", thus confirming Gibbs' suspicions, as he hadn't told the man that.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • They retrieve Director Vance's car when it was handled by a terrorist and since they found no prints, they don't strip it down for explosives or other traps.
    • From the same episode: when the headquarters building goes into bomb threat alert and begins evacuation procedures, Tony and Ziva help usher everyone out of the upper floors and then decide to take the elevator down together. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
      • The two do lampshade the blatant breaking of protocol in doing such in the following episode, however.
    • In a later episode, when Vance is searching for a nanny to help the family, one of the women he interviews is a young 20-something woman who cannot get off Twitter and Facebook during her interview with him. Vance barely holds in his contempt at this lack of respect and proper interview ethics.
    • Gibbs is at least aware he's holding the ball when a hallucination of Mike Franks and Dornaget's (not hallucinatory) CIA officer mother both tell him that they're being played by one of The Calling's child soldiers, who they realize has seen inside a government security building, met with important agents, and later KO's his social worker agent and shoots Gibbs in the leg and torso.
    • Bishop is normally a competent and intelligent agent, but in "Incognito" at the end of the episode she is told that they have all the evidence necessary to arrest the suspects and that Tony and Gibbs are on the way to the suspects' house that Bishop is currently watching to arrest one of them. Bishop however decides for literally no reason whatsoever to break into the house to look for more evidence, WITHOUT her phone or any other way of contacting her and without her gun. This leads to her being snuck up on and nearly being murdered by the aforementioned suspect returning to the house and only surviving due to a conveniently placed pair of scissors.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Played with all over the map.
    • Played with when Gibbs asks for Ziva's weapon. And her backup weapon (revolver in ankle holster). And her backup backup weapon (a knife). He then hands the knife back to her, and points out that he wanted her to know he knew.
    • At the end of S 5 Ep 6 "Chimera", McGee summs up the situation involving a Navy research ship that isn't, pirates who are actually Russian sailors on a state-sponsored covert op and a Soviet nuclear warhead that the US thought that the Russians didn't know about but clearly did. And now we know that they knew.
  • Imagined Innuendo: A little one from "Jack Knife," in which a sleep-deprived McGee totally misinterprets Gibb's request regarding Tony and Ziva:
    Gibbs: Get Ziva and DiNozzo out of bed.
    McGee: What?!
    Gibbs: Wake 'em up.
    McGee: Oh. Oh, right. Get them out of bed because it's the middle of the night and they're asleep.
    Gibbs: (incredulously) Yes.
    McGee: Individual beds. Get them out of individual beds. I was confused. I thought we were talking —
    Gibbs: Need some sleep yourself, do you, McGee?
  • Impaled Palm: Ducky suffers this when he's attacked with a knife at a crime scene.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Justified in "Yankee White", since the guy in question is trying to fire an MP5 submachine gun on full auto one-handed while raising it from his side. He misses Gibbs by a foot and change.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy:
    • The Christmas Episode "Newborn King" had the team defending a very pregnant Marine from mercenaries trying to get the baby, due to it being, if male, the only surviving heir to an Afghan tribe. (She'd fallen in love with the previous heir, who was later killed by the Taliban.) A Maternity Crisis ensues and Gibbs ends up delivering the baby in a gas station while Ziva fights off the mercs in the next room.
    • The Thanksgiving episode "Ready or Not" had an indirect one: a hostage situation in the hospital where Delilah is giving birth. However, since the hostage situation was in a totally different part of the building than the maternity ward, Delilah was not in direct danger (though her husband was).
  • Implausible Synchrony: The Cyber Vid Character gives the time of his victims' deaths and then broadcasts the murder over the internet. One example especially strains plausibility. He lists the time of death as five minutes to midnight. Two clocks were shown when the victim died, and they both showed the precise time, despite the fact that the poison that killed him was administered hours ago. The in-episode explanation makes it sound plausible.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: While all the agents on the show have been shown to be excellent marksmen, Gibbs and Tony show almost a supernatural ability to hit whatever they're aiming at.
    • Gibbs is a trained sniper and has been shown making accurate shots over long distances. Impressive once you remember that his eyesight was damaged when he was injured in Desert Storm and should be wearing corrective lenses but rarely ever does.
    • Tony once took down two armed men while shooting single handed and running at full tilt. He also took out the tires of a pickup truck that was speeding away immediately after having tackled his partner out of danger. Note that not one of his shots missed in either of these incidents.
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • In "Jetlag":
      Ziva: "I once killed a man with a credit card."
      • Possibly a a shout out to Trevanian's "Naked/Kill" techniques where an Israeli operative uses a credit card on a plane to kill someone. Everything matched perfectly.
      • Later in that episode aboard the plane, the air marshall is found dead in the lavatory, stabbed in the neck with a knitting needle taken from one of the sleeping passengers. And then the assassin (who is actually the stewardess) tries to kill her target by giving her a pillow covered with peanut dust, trying to trigger fatal anaphylaxis from her peanut allergy.
    • Ziva has also threatened that she can kill Tony eighteen different ways with a paper clip. Safety recommends that she be believed - after all, the bullpen's probably got plenty of paper clips lying around.
  • Improbable Age:
    • Ziva David is less Improbable Age and more Impossible Age. She joins the show in her early twenties, supposedly after she's graduated high school, served her two years in the IDF, attended college, applied for Mossad, become immediately tapped for inclusion into an elite and highly competitive special operations unit with a training period of several years, and still have enough time to become "an experienced agent" with multiple missions under her belt. And this is at an age the youngest CIA intelligence officers would be beginning training. (It's worth pointing out, however, that she is the daughter of the Director of Mossad, and it is heavily implied that she was all but raised from the cradle to be a Mossad operative.)
    • Abby, meanwhile, was stated as being in her late twenties during season 7. And it's also been heavily implied she has a PhD in chemistry.
  • Improvised Weapon: In "Old Wounds", Knight uses an old fashioned landline touch tone telephone as a weapon against one of Benny's goons.
  • Initialism Title: NCIS
  • Innocent Innuendo: Numerous instances...along with the not-so-innocent kind.
  • Insurance Fraud: In the episode "Reasonable Doubt", the team is faced with a dead officer, with his wife and mistress accusing each other of the murder. They can't arrest either of them, because the physical evidence is so ambiguous that no matter which one they charge, any decent lawyer could establish reasonable doubt that it might have been the other one. It turned out to not be a murder at all, and the two women faked the crime scene because the man's life insurance wouldn't pay out on a suicide.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: The rest of the team with Ducky (in his 70s) and Gibbs (in his 50s). In early seasons Ducky and Abby even indulged in occasional intergenerational flirtation, while Gibbs and Abby still do.
  • Internal Affairs: Perspective Flipped, as NCIS often takes the role of internal affairs towards the suspects-of-the-week. They are fully aware of how this makes them look to those being investigated.
  • Intimate Healing: Played with. Abby is very fond of hugs. Also, in the first "Hiatus" episode, after Abby blows up at Ziva and each slaps the other a coupla times, Tony disciplines them in the office area:
    Tony: Abby! Front and center. You too Ziva. Let's go! I know what happened.
    [Abby and Ziva start talking at the same time]
    Tony: Hey! If there's going to be any bitch slapping on this team, I'll do it. Clear? Good. Now shake hands. Shake.
    [Abby and Ziva reluctantly shake hands]
    Tony: There we go. That wasn't so tough, was it? Now how about a little hug? Big buddy hug. Come on.
    [Abby immediately hugs Ziva, Ziva slowly reciprocates]
    Tony: Now a deep tongue kiss.
    [Abby and Ziva punch him in the chest at the same time]
    Tony: OOF! Now we feel better.
  • Iron Lady: Several women during the course of the series.
    • Director Shepherd.
    • Gibbs' ex- and Fornell's soon-to-be re-wife used this in the fake recording that lured Gibbs to the roof.
  • Irony / Dramatic Irony:
    • Jackson Gibbs refused to let his son fire his rifle. He notes the irony in his son becoming a sniper.
    • Both Mrs. Vance and (the first) Mrs. Gibbs were preparing for life after their husbands' deaths but didn't plan on their own.
    • Jake narrowly escaping a hotel bombing in Dubai made Ellie decide she wanted to salvage their faltering marriage—and made him embark on an affair. Conversely, her discovering the affair made him realize that he wanted to save their marriage, while she realized that it was over.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Joked about in S 7 Ep 11, "Ignition."
    Ziva: There's nothing good on the internet anymore.
    McGee: Yeah, I think that internet thing has just about run its course.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: One of the main reasons why Amanda Kendall, the titular character in the episode "The Admiral's Daughter", does not want to reveal what's under her party girl persona...She's an undercover CIA agent who uses her party girl persona as cover. Not even her father the Admiral knows this; he would likely have been in danger if he or anyone else did.
  • It's Personal:
    • Even if a case doesn't involve anyone the main cast knows personally, Gibbs takes his ties to the military very seriously. His hunting down the man who murdered his family goes without saying.
    • Amusingly, Gibbs' Rule Number 10 is: Never get personally involved in a case. He admits he has trouble with that one.
    • Jenny Shepard's possibly unwarranted hunt for René Benoît is this, since she believes Benoît killed her father.
    • "Check": Gibbs was already gunning for Sergei Mishnev personally after he escaped in Russia when Sergei hacked Gibbs' record and recreated the murders of Jenny Shepard (plus the four guys who killed/were killed by her) and Mike Franks using innocent people and then sniped Diane in front of Gibbs, which now makes this personal for Fornell too. Ducky is certain that Sergei's hatred is fueled by something beyond Gibbs' attempts to kill him; it's later revealed Sergei is Ari's half-brother.
    • Gibbs helps out a DEA agent capture a very elusive drug dealer who gave the order that killed Gibbs' family and their guard, the agent's father. The agent doesn't know what Gibbs did to the assassin but Gibbs does tell the agent that killing the drug dealer won't help his feelings; fortunately Tony (who figured out the truth after learning the agent's full name and was understandably alarmed) was able to sneak a recording device into the drug dealer's house and got a confession without anyone getting killed.
  • I Work Alone: Abby, and with good reason. She tends to get neurotic when another person she doesn't approve of is helping her in the lab. She makes one intern wear bells so she knows where he is, though considering the last person who was assigned to her tried to kill her and frame Tony for murder it's not without justification.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: These pop up now and then. With Tony being a pop culture fan and somewhat Genre Savvy, he can be a big source.
    • When Team Gibbs is questioning a random hotel desk clerk, said clerk claims the person they are looking for pulled one of these on him. Including dropping the trope name.
    • In S 12, Ep 8, Gibbs is talking to a "suspect" who didn't do anything wrong. Tony comes in, ready to take their detainee back to Fairfax but Gibbs says no. So Tony makes a Shout-Out.
    Tony: Right. These are not the droids we're looking for.
  • Jenny's Number: In "Judgement Day", Gibbs is given an FBI file with the number 8675309.
  • Jerk Jock: Though not in high school, Tony, especially in early McGee episodes. Incidentally, his major was Phys. Ed.
    • Tony's high school basketball teammates were even worse because they were, basically, an Absurdly Powerful Student Council (complete with red arm bands of enforcement) who terrorize underclassmen with impunity. Tony thought they were disbanded after they were caught attacking him but he was simply left alone on orders of his beloved coach who allowed the abuse to continue into the present day because "it's school tradition".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tony, he skirts into Jerkass territory.
    • Gibbs as well. While he's often quite rude to his allies he has a lot of Pet the Dog moments.
  • Jurisdiction Friction/Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The team frequently run into jurisdiction issues with the FBI and other government organizations.

  • Karma Houdini:
    • Ari for a while.
    • Subverted at the (apparent) end of the Benoît arc, when Gibbs, Tony and Ziva are on his boat, and figure he must've disappeared. Then the camera pans out over the water to reveal Benoît's corpse in the water with a hole in his head. End credits.
    • Tony would've been fired for sexual harassment of Kate before the end of the first season in a normal workplace. The show eventually hangs a lampshade on this when the team goes to a sensitivity training seminar, where Tony doesn't pay attention. To fix this, Ziva licks him.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: In S8 E7 ("Broken Arrow") Ziva David speedily defeats an attacker while wearing a full length gown.
  • Know Your Vines: While investigating a murder in a national park McGee has to search a patch of poison ivy for a murder weapon. Tony recognises what the plant is, but when Tim says he can handle things, Tony doesn't correct him.
  • The Lab Rat: Abby, sometimes McGee.
  • The Lad-ette: Ziva fits this when not in combat.
  • Lady of War: Ziva fits this when in combat.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The show has now started lampshading itself.
    Ziva: "No, Tony, I am not going to rate your butt, you know Gibbs is going to be around that corner!
    • On another occasion, Tony baits Ziva into saying something bad about Gibbs. She almost falls for it, then turns around because she knows Gibbs will doubtless be coming up behind her. He's actually in MTAC.
  • Large Ham: Tony.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The CyberVid killer in "Murder 2.0" is a narcissist who committed and filmed the crimes in a bid for everlasting fame; when Gibbs arrests him, he cackles that even if he goes down for multiple homicides, his name will live on alongside those of Charles Manson and other notorious serial killers, whereas Gibbs will be as forgotten as the men who arrested the serial killers. Cut to a newsreader announcing that, because of suspected terrorist connections, the CyberVid killer's identity is being withheld from the public and will likely never be known.
  • Last-Name Basis:
    • Most of the male agents (Gibbs, DiNozzo, Fornell, McGee, Palmer, Vance, Torres) are almost exclusively addressed by their last names, unless the conversation is personal.
    • Eleanor is almost always addressed by her last name (Bishop), even among her teammates. Torres is the only one who calls her "Ellie" with any regularity.
    • Quinn was only on the show for a little over a season, but very few people called her "Alex" or "Alexandra."
    • Donald Mallard is the only male execption, as most people address him by his nickname "Ducky."
  • Layman's Terms: Gibbs does this at least Once an Episode, usually when dealing with McGee or Abby/Kasie.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The episode "Jet Lag" ends with a Ziva looking at a picture Tony took, with her commenting, "I think it would look better in black and white." Cue the ending black and white shot of said picture.
  • Left the Background Music On: In "Power Down," a scene in Abby's lab starts out with her music, but ends with the music slowing to a stop as the CD player runs out of battery.
  • Locked in a Freezer: The shipping crate variation for Tony and Ziva in "Boxed In", to capitalize on the UST.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In one episode, a panicking suspect tries to run, leaving behind his high-powered hunting rifle, right next to Gibbs, the Marine Corps sniper. Not that that would have been bright to do that under any circumstances, but still. It should be noted that it was very highly insinuated that Gibbs let the suspect go so that he would have an excuse to shoot him in the ass. Cue Tony and McGee wondering, "You don't think he did that on purpose...?" ", of course not," and Gibbs just doing a badass walk with a huge smile on his face.
  • Long List: Ducky's list of interests when he joined Facebook.
  • Long Runner: NCIS is currently in its 20th season and now have over 450 episodes.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: The only members of the cast from the opening credits of Season 1 who are still in the cast after the end of Season 15 are Gibbs/Mark Harmon and Ducky/David McCallum (McGee/Sean Murray and Palmer/Brian Dietzen were recurring guest stars in Season 1 who didn't get Promoted to Opening Credits until later seasons). Over the course of those fourteen seasons, four people left, six people joined, and three others joined and then left. And that's not counting the turnover in recurring guest characters.
    • With Mark Harmon/Gibbs no longer in the show after Season 19, Sean Murray/McGee now appears in most episodes (441 episodes to be exact so far, even surpassing Harmon’s and McCallum's total number of episodes), and Ducky/David McCallum is the only member of the cast from season 1 to still be in the opening credits.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • In "SWAK", Gibbs and McGee are confined to Autopsy until it can be confirmed they weren't infected by the powder even though they don't have to stay in a hospital's Isolation Ward like DiNozzo and Kate had to so they don't infect anybody else. Unfortunately, there's a time limit to the case and they can't work on it if they stay in Autopsy. So they put on Haz-Mat suits so they can work on the case without potentially infecting anybody else until their blood samples are confirmed clean.
    • In "Alibi", a Marine is killed in a hit and run, and the vehicle owner is the main suspect. When he asks for a lawyer, he reveals to her that he was in a different town committing an unrelated murder at the time of the accident, and the attorney is unable to inform Gibbs of this because of client-attorney confidentiality. As a result, she uses a payphone across the street from the second crime scene to call Gibbs and tells him that she was able to confirm the alibi. She used the payphone because she knew that it would show up as an unknown number on Gibbs' caller ID, which would prompt him to have the call traced and have the surrounding area investigated by his team, leading them to the second crime scene.
  • Love Confessor: Just before Tony's departure in Family First Abby tells him "I know how much Ziva really loved you. And I need to know that you know that too." He responds, "I do, I think." Abby then tells him, "Don't think. Know. I know. She told me." In Family First, Tony also confesses to McGee "I loved her, Tim."
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Tony is told that there was one survivor pulled from the rubble. An agent is told to bring in Tali. Tony asks "wasn't that Ziva's sister?" to which Orli responds, "her namesake, yes." Confused, Tony asks whose namesake and is told that Tali is he and Ziva's daughter, a result of their 'fond farewell' in Israel three years prior. Orli also tells him that Ziva had wanted to tell Tony as Tali grew, but assumed that he would not be happy with the news.
  • Lzherusskie: Gratuitous fake Russians, everywhere, speaking second-year level (jumbled, albeit real) Russian, complete with the expected grammatical errors and horrid pronunciation. Strangely enough, they are interspaced with people fluent in Russian, and in at least one case, an actor highly proficient or fluent in Russian speaking lines written by someone who was not, true to script, complete with every single error. Also, a surprising number of cast members and recurring characters, including ones too young to have picked it up in the course of their military duties during the Cold War, speak Russian. A lot.
  • Magnetic Hero: Gibbs. But "he only uses his powers for good."
  • Malaproper: Ziva (the ESL variety) which is a Running Gag on the show; she speaks English perfectly, except for idioms, which she constantly gets wrong and is usually corrected by Tony. What's strange is that she actually has a remarkably good grasp of American pop culture. That and her level of English proficiency mean she shouldn't get nearly every single idiom she uses wrong. It's eventually revealed that Ziva was using a For Dummies book to memorize pop culture cliches from by rote, especially movie lines. And it's hinted in a later episode that she was, at times, playing dumb to get people off-guard (and yank Tony's chain). Possibly a Retcon, though.
    Ziva: It'll be like shooting fish in a pond.
    Tony: Fish in a barrel.
    Ziva: Why would fish be in a barrel?
    Gibbs: How'd you get on?

    Ziva: I hit a stone wall.
    Tony: Brick wall.
    Ziva: No, it was definitely a stone wall. I backed the car into it.
    • In "Shabbat Shalom", it's Ziva who corrects her father's malapropism.
  • Male Gaze: From Tony's point of view, natch.
  • Mama Bear:
    • S4 Ep 06, "Witch Hunt", a Halloween episode. A mother lays the smackdown on a kidnapper after learning that her daughter is safe. Ducky even lampshades the trope.
    • S7 E6. "Outlaws and In-laws" had Mike Franks' daughter-in-law shooting down a pair of mercenaries trying to kidnap her daughter. Franks even names the trope directly.
      Franks: Never underestimate a mama bear when her cub's in danger.
    • In season 6's "Cloak" and "Dagger," this is Agent Michelle Lee's motive for becoming The Mole: to protect her little sister Amanda, whom she has raised as her own since their parents' deaths. The moment she finds out Amanda is safe, Lee lets Gibbs SHOOT her to take the bad guy down!
    • In Season 11's "Bulletproof": during the investigation into the faulty bulletproof vests that was sold as surplus on the gray market, a whole group of mothers show up at the Navy Yard demanding answers, since they sent their Marine sons and daughters extra body armor and they're worried that their children are in danger because of the vests.
    • Season 12's finale, "Neverland", features Mimi Rogers as Ned Dorneget's mother, CIA Officer Joanna Teague, who is more than ready to torture a terrorist suspect to find the men who killed her son.:
      Suspect: Who are you?
      Joanna: A very angry mother with a short fuse.
  • Manly Tears: Tony after Agent Cassidy's death. Eventually, after Ziva's too.
    • S13 Ep 11, "Spinning Wheel:" Ducky sheds some as well when he reunites with his younger brother Nicholas.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Speculated on by Abby in regards to Gibbs, who has the seemingly-supernatural ability to appear out of thin air and walk into a room just as an important development is discovered. Abby's even gone as far as to sweep her labs for bugs under the suspicion that Gibbs monitors her progress remotely. Tony demonstrates the same ability whenever he's in charge of the team.
    • Given a very mundane explanation in a Season 13 episode, when McGee and DiNozzo are standing in a corner, discussing Bishop's marriage, assuming she can't hear them because they're too far away, only for her to reveal that she can, because their voices are reverberating off of the skylight.
    DiNozzo: "Wait a second. Is that how Gibbs is always able to—-"
    (right on cue, Gibbs appears out of nowhere)
    Gibbs: "—walk up behind you and finish your sentences?"
  • May–December Romance: Gibbs regularly gets hit on by women at least twenty years his junior.
    • Not often brought up, but the age difference between Tony and Ziva is roughly 14 years.
    • Most of Ducky's love interests have been considerably younger than him too.
  • Mean Boss: Gibbs leans toward this when he's really angry or upset, as his already-considerable impatience skyrockets, his tolerance for the team's personality quirks goes right out the window, and he gets a lot snippier and Drill Sergeant Nasty-ish.
    • In "SWAK", he even got mad at Abby... count how many times that's happened over the course of the series.
    • He explodes at DiNozzo in the episode where Ari briefly kidnapped Kate, at a point when the team's having no luck identifying Ari and doesn't know what's happened to Kate.
  • Meaningful Funeral: New Orleans style.
  • Medication Tampering: A victim-of-the-week runs afoul of this. His wife replaced his contact lens solution with a drug that reacted with his anti-depression meds, making him suicidal. But when that wasn't quite enough, she simply shot him.
  • Memetic Badass: Gibbs is an in-universe example. When asked what the most awesome cage fight opponent for Gibbs would be, McGee and Abby casually discard such foes as Godzilla and Mothra, and decide (however unintentionally) that Gibbs vs. Gibbs would be pretty much impossible to top. At least once, Abby has put forth the theory that Gibbs has magical powers. Tony once compared Gibbs arresting God to The Thing arresting The Hulk. Even diseases know better than to mess with Gibbs, as proven in "S.W.A.K."
    Gibbs: Never had a cold. Never had the flu, either.
    Kate: ...Why do I believe that?
    Tony: If you were a bug, would you attack Gibbs?
  • Mercy Kill: In "Broken Bird", it's revealed that Ducky was forced to do this to an innocent Afghani civilian who was being brutally tortured for information. Thirty years later, and Ducky still feels guilty about it. The man actually knew nothing, and his torture was really a way to torture Ducky, who had to patch him up.
  • Military School: In S12, Ep 14 "Cadence" we learn that DiNozzo attended one his senior year. We get to visit it because the Victim of the Week was also an alumnus.
  • Mission Control: Whomever issues orders from MTAC while the other agents are out in the field. Usually either Gibbs or the Director.
  • Mistaken for Flatulence: Abby has a plush hippo that makes a fart noise when squeezed. It surprises people the first time they hear it.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: “Kill Screen” starts out with a pickpocket lifting a purse from a customer at a hotdog stand. A few seconds later, he’s intercepted by a police officer who witnessed the act. The officer confiscates the bag and discovers the fingertips and teeth of a corporal inside, getting the NCIS team called into the scene. Over the course of the episode the case spirals from a pickpocket accidentally stealing the I.D. evidence of a gruesome murder to a game developer’s plot to wipe out every military computer on the Pentagon’s grid using his new video game and a computer mainframe to generate enough power to break through the firewalls.
  • The Missus and the Ex: Played With. When Tony's ex-fiance comes to the team for a story, Tony tries his hardest to keep Wendy and Ziva from being alone. He isn't worried about them fighting but the possible personal information Wendy has on him.
    • Gibbs was once confronted by Hollis Mann (his then-paramour), his third ex-wife, and Jenny Shepard (his former lover and current boss). Gibbs can only stand in silence while the women take pot shots at him as Tony and Ziva look on.
    • In a gender-flipped example, Diane (Gibbs and Fornell's shared ex) had to deal with two of her husbands (while in the midst of divorcing her third) and her most recent boyfriend. All four happened to be working on the same case and she'd recently rekindled her romance with Fornell. Emily (Diane and Fornell's daughter) was not pleased to find out that her parents were getting back together.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Both Tony and Gibbs and Tony and McGee on different occasions.
  • Mock Millionaire: Anthony DiNozzo Sr. is a formerly wealthy businessman, who is trying to keep up the appearance that he is still wealthy.
  • The Mole: Michelle Lee.
  • Mood Whiplash: Sometimes. A particularly prominent example is in the tenth season premiere, when Ziva and Tony are trapped in an elevator following the bombing of NCIS. They (of course) bicker, then chuckle with the thought that at least they aren't trapped with a few other colleagues who sweat a lot or undress Ziva with their eyes. Then a thought occurs to Ziva and she asks "Hey, what if those men are dead?"
  • Morality Pet: Abby. She serves as a much-needed outlet for Gibbs' paternal instincts, which arguably keeps him from becoming utterly cold and ruthless.
  • Motor Mouth: Abby, especially when she's really stressed.
  • Mouthy Kid: A few, as either victims, witnesses, or suspects, but probably none funnier than Nick—the young son of McGee's landlord who steals his identity in season 8's "Freedom" and spends over $10,000 on ridiculous things. He tells McGee that he did it because McGee's life is too predictable, and he's "too young to act so old." He even manages to make a pass at Ziva as Tony leads him out of the office.
  • The Movie Buff: Tony
  • Ms. Fanservice: Abby and Ziva tend to rotate between this role.
    Abby: See anything you liked?
    McGee: (embarrassed) No.
    Abby: (skeptical look)
    McGee: ...Yes.
    Abby: (satisfied look) Better.
    • Subverted in another episode when we get to see what she sleeps in; the camera does the usual panning establishing shots, then pans over to Abby...and we see she's wearing a full-length Victorian-style nightgown, complete with cap. And since it's Abby, she looks adorable.
    • In the stalker boyfriend episode when Abby was staying with McGee, she was wearing a man's shirt and panties.
  • Multi-Take Cut: Used extensively in the early seasons in pretty much every establishing shot, with a few seconds clearly passing between each cut. Presumably done to give a sense of hurry. They eventually became less elaborate and camera movements were minimized to save on time during production.
  • The Münchausen: Ducky.
  • Murder by Remote Control Vehicle: One episode has someone sabotaging an experimental self-driving car so anybody who gets in it and triggers a certain type of actions related to maintenance will be trapped and suffocated with the car's redirected fumes. This is what happens to the Victim of the Week and almost happens to Abby.
  • "Murder 2.0".
  • Must Have Caffeine: Gibbs needs coffee to get through the day to the point where McGee has an Oh, Crap! moment when he accidentally knocks over and spills Gibbs coffee. Abby prefers the Big Gulp-esque drink, Caf-POW.
    • Also, the terrorist who captures Ziva at the end of Season 6. His addiction to Caf-POW! is so great he has it imported, which winds up being how the team finds him.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ducky's mom, although she's suffering from Alzheimer's and can't really help herself.
    • Alex's mom is revealed to be one in S14 E20
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: One episode featured a paranoid submariner who killed himself by suffocation when he realized NCIS was closing in. They stow his body in the freezer...then they realize he has a cold-activated nerve-gas bomb in him. Solution to the problem? FIRE HIS CORPSE OUT A TORPEDO TUBE. And all topped off with this:
    Gibbs: You know what our top priority is now, Chief?
    Chief Of the Boat: Getting all the ice cream back in the freezer.
    Gibbs: Exactly. *chuckles*
  • My Secret Pregnancy: The Season 13 episode Family First reveals Ziva and Tony had a 'fond farewell', resulting in their daughter Tali. Tony doesn't find out until after Ziva dies in a mortar attack two years later.
  • Myth Arc: All main characters (except McGee for some reason) have had important involvement in one. However, the dual episode "Enemies Foreign / Enemies Domestic" brought this to a level bordering on Continuity Lock-Out: To wit, the earliest referenced event in the series is (former) NCIS Director Morrow's retirement, linked to Vance's promotion; the earliest chronologically referenced event in the series continuity is probably Vance's recruitment, which is essentially linked to Eli David's rise into the top seat of Mossad.
    • The cherry on top is definitively the link the entire affair has with the Season 5 finale and Gibbs's mission in Paris... also opening to question the relation between these episodes and Decker's "insurance policy" that Mike Franks took away (with the explicitly stated declaration that it was for Vance to read "in my will").
    Gibbs (realizing the connection): Zukov? Anatoly Zukov?
    Agent Sharp: Yeah, that's him... Wait a minute, that's him. What... you think he came back to clean after himself [for failing to kill Vance]?
    Gibbs (head leaning down): No, he's long gone.
    Agent Sharp: You sure?
    Gibbs: Yes, I'm positive.
    (Gibbs flash backs to the well-known Paris mission with Jenny, where Gibbs terminates Zukov)
  • Mythology Gag: In the Season 7 episode "Moonlighting", while Gibbs and Fornell are watching McGee questioning a witness inside the conference room via camera, Fornell is suprised that they have a security camera inside the conference room. He then asks nervously if they also have cameras inside the elevator now.
  • Name McAdjective: Tony's many nicknames for McGee, which he picks according to the circumstances. Examples include "McGoogle", "McBackstabber" and "McRomeo". This once confused McGee when Tony compared the condition of a body to the (discontinued) McDLT sandwhich. McGee thought it was another nickname that he didn't get.
    • Someone on YouTube has put together a 14 minute video of McGee's McNames.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: A suspected spy named Rudolph (which rhymes with Adolph) Stalin was looked at for planting a bug on the SECNAV, but it was really a military contractor who didn't like the fact that the SECNAV was a civilian (especially since he was also asked to be SECNAV and respectfully declined for the same reason).
  • Nasal Trauma: In "Corporal Punishment", Team Gibbs is trying to find a PTSD-afflicted Marine who broke out of a psych ward. When they find him, the Marine attacks them as he believes they're the same enemies who captured and tortured him in Iraq; over the course of subduing him, Tony ends up getting his nose broken.
  • Neat Freak: Agent Jardine
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Ziva describes the task of finding a stolen defense system in a room full of computers as "looking for a needle in a needlestack". It was on what looked like an obsolete laptop with a suspiciously fast boot-up time; the guts were state-of-the-art.
  • Nerds Speak Klingon: The Halloween Episode "Witch Hunt" provides the page quote. McGee is portrayed as a nerd and he translates when a guy wearing a costume for Halloween will only speak Klingon. Gibbs just gets annoyed and shoves the guy against the wall.
    Robert Miller: Hab SoSli’ quch!
    McGee: Boss, he just said your mother has a smooth forehead. It's a Klingon insult.
    DiNozzo: You speak Klingon?
    McGee: Not fluently, but yes.
  • Never Found the Body: In Family First it is noted several times that there had been no body recovered at Ziva's farmhouse. In fact, several characters question whether she is in fact dead and there are several hints that she may not be. At the end of the episode, DiNozzo refers to Ziva in present tense with an implied wink. Ziva's supposed death is also an example of Bus Crash
    • The Season 16 episode She stops just short of fully confirming Ziva is alive. The case within the episode reveals that Ziva had personally been investigating a case originally ruled as suicide for years up until her supposed death, which eventually leads the team to finding a space Ziva had rented out and used as an office to store her files on the case. Ziva had written a letter to the man involved that she intended to read to him once he was finally caught. Bishop planned to do this in her place, but the man stopped her and told her that another woman had already done so. Upon investigating the office again, Bishop discovers Ziva's personal items missing and a note that reads "Eleanor Bishop, for the safety of my family, please keep my secret."
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer:
    • Much to Gibbs' annoyance, Abby loves to beat around the bush before giving her discovery. She claims it's because she's alone in the lab all day and if she didn't give a full explanation, Gibbs wouldn't appreciate the trouble she went through.
    • Ducky also has a habit of digressing into random reminiscences, though Gibbs is more prone to cutting off his babbling than Abby's.
    • McGee is also frequently guilty. Hilariously lampshaded somewhat in one episode:
      McGee: All right. I think I know what happened here.
      Tony: Oh, twenty bucks says McGee's about to say something nobody understands again!
      McGee: The GPS coordinates came bundled in a proprietary packet. Since it was a beta, I thought—
      Gibbs: I'm starting to think you can't help yourself, McGee.
    • In "Baltimore", Gibbs actually throws away one of McGee's reports because of the technical jargon he used.
  • Never Heard That One Before:
    • In "Baltimore", McGee and Ziva are looking for Dao Huang, who turns out to be a Caucasian guy with a Russian accent. When McGee questions this, Dao rolls his eyes and explains that he was adopted by a Chinese couple who immigrated to Russia, indicating he gets a lot of questions about it.
    • In Season 12's "Grounded" Elle's husband Jake notes, with some exhaustion, he has heard "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown" "All my life, Mr. Mulwray".
      • Invoked by Tony in the same episode when he talks with Air Marshal Mike Beers and asks, after a tense introduction, should they grab "some [beers]." The guy acts like it was the first time he heard it and raises Tony's concerns. Turns out he is an imposter who killed the real Mike Beers.
  • New Media Are Evil: Played straight in earlier seasons, but mostly subverted later. McGee's status as a die-hard gamer has proved useful more than once.
    Ziva: I spoke with the boy who saw the car. He said it was a "silver Kuruma," whatever that is...
    Gibbs: "Car."
    Ziva: What?
    Tony: "Kuruma" is Japanese for "car." Your description of the suspect's car? Is "car".
    McGee: The Kuruma is a car from Grand Theft Auto. It's a Chrysler Sebring.
  • New Old Flame: Tony's ex-fiancee Wendy shows up mid-season 9. Whether she'll be the Romantic False Lead, or the actual Love Interest, was toyed with and eventually dropped.
    • Jessica's ex-boyfriend, Gage Winchester, a park ranger, appears in the Season 20 episode Leave No Trace. This creates an awkward situation between her, Jimmy, and Gage. Thankfully, Gage shows maturity and already knows she belongs with Jimmy by the end of the episode.
    • Vance has a zig-zagged version in the form of Lena Paulsen in the Season 20 episode Guardian. Despite this being Lena's only episode in the series, it is established that Vance had a yearly one-night-stand with her whenever he traveled to Germany some time after his wife's death.
    • Alden Parker has one in the form of a childhood girlfriend Joy Aaronson (Rachel Ticotin) introduced in the Season 20 episode Bridges. It is established that Parker never got over the circumstances that led to their break-up. By the time the episode starts, her son, Travis, stole Parker's identity, which leads to a reunion between the pair and an eventual arrest of two Russian spies. During the aftermath, Parker considers rekindling their romance after hearing that his ex-wife (a former FBI agent) deduced Joy's identity and paid her a visit without his knowledge.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands:
    • Abby, who completely alone can process forensic evidence for the whole building or has a relationship with someone with the required speciality. However, several episodes have featured her showing stress or fatigue from the demands of her job, so this isn't completely a God-Mode Sue situation.
    • To a lesser extent Ducky, who is now The Medic, performs autopsies, and generates psychological profiles when not working undercover.
      • Though, to be fair, he is shown in several consecutive episodes studying for his psychology exams with Palmer.
    • Ziva calls in a lot of favors. Then again, given her past, it's not that much of a stretch.
      • To the point where it seems if you exist in the NCIS universe, chances are good that Ziva has saved your life at least once.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain/Villain Ball: In the episode "Bloodbath" the money launderer would have gotten away with his scheme had he just let his lawyer do her work. Instead, he used his ill-gotten funds to pay for a man to stalk and then kill Abby, as she was the key witness his lawyer needed to discredit. The judge dismissed the money laundering case as he didn't think Abby's method, which hadn't been peer-approved, was a valid means to obtain forensic evidence, but because his hitman wasn't paid to keep his mouth shut, the launderer gets arrested for hiring the hitman.
  • Noodle Implements: In season 9, Abby (as Palmer's Best Woman), is planning his bachelor party. She refuses to tell him anything about it and nobody else is giving anything away, either. We only get hints of the things that are required to pull it off, including 50 gallons of body wash and the autopsy saw (with the 20 foot cord; 15 is not long enough). Tony and McGee tell Palmer to make sure he's up on his hepatitis vaccination and bring a good pair of knee-pads and a helmet. When she approaches him to take him to the party, she is in a ringmaster uniform, top hat, and carrying a cattle prod.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The start of season four, when we were told that Tony had been regularly visiting Ziva's apartment, alone, at night, for no given reason. What were they doing?
    • Many of Ducky's stories get cut off before we get sufficient detail, becoming these. For instance, there was a story about a bachelor party that Gibbs would really rather he not tell Palmer about.
    • In "Hide and Seek", McGee accidentally runs over a custom golf club set that Ducky loaned him so he spends the whole episode trying to win a bid for a replacement set on eBay. When Ducky ends up finding out at the end of the episode, he sheepishly admits that the copy of the Crazy Rhythm Django Reinhardt album that McGee lent him met some unfortunate fate, so they can consider themselves even.
      McGee: It was autographed. What happened to it?
      Ducky: Good question.
    • In "Code of Conduct", Abby complained that costumes were no longer allowed in headquarters after "last year's Jonas Brothers Incident". All we learn is that it involved McGee in tight jeans, which Abby insists wasn't a good look on him.
    • During a flashback in "Truth or Consequences", Tony recalls being in a funk without Ziva on the team and only hearing cliche conversation pieces from the other team members. One of those conversations was Gibbs telling the team to get ready for this bizarre incident that is not discussed in greater detail afterward:
      Gibbs: Some idiot smuggled a koala onto a submarine, grab your gear!
    • In "Ships in the Night" the whole team is shown working long hours. Cue Abby's lab where there are no less than eight empty CaffPows sitting on her workstation, and another one in her hand.
      Agent Borin: Is this a record?
      Abby: No, we don't talk about the record. It got ugly.
    • When Ellie claims to have achieved what is apparently a very difficult sex position, the astonished Tony asks her if she's double-jointed. The guys are further amazed when she claims to have done so by accident. She starts to explain that she and her husband were on a camping trip, but gets cut off when Gibbs arrives.
    • In "Being Bad", Palmer accidentally reveals to Ducky that he once spent a night in jail during high school, but he's too embarrased to reveal why he had to do so in the first place.
    • Abby apparently has something called the "Two Month Rule", what it entails is never really explained, although the implication seems to be "if whoever she's dating doesn't do something within two months, they break up", in one episode where they first bring it up, she's almost reached the two month mark with the guy she's dating. At the end he brings her some black roses, she's pleased and he seems to have passed whatever the test was, although it's never explained if that was all that was required, or just one of the steps.
  • No Sense of Direction: Ducky. He blames his assistants but he's always the one giving directions.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: Jimmy comes into the office with an allergic reaction to henna on his back and asks for help to apply ointment. Tony's and Ziva's responses?
    Tony: I have to go to lunch.
    Ziva: I need to get the hell out of here.
  • Not Me This Time: In season 11's Halloween Episode "Oil and Water" someone is pranking the team, such as wrapping McGee's desk up, putting a beeping device in Ducky's lab, and moving Abby's desk a few inches off its normal place. All suspect Tony as he is Tony and he hadn't been pranked. He claims it wasn't him and in the end, is pranked by having weights put into his pack and he tried picking it up unknowingly. In the end the prankster is Gibbs, who was beneath suspicion by the team.
  • Not Proven: In one case, the perp is a gang leader, and the team know he killed a sailor and the previous leader, but can't prove it. So they showed the other gang members their evidence, mentioned that they would never get a conviction, and the leader shows up the next morning dead in a dumpster.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough: Tony finally finds the beautiful but mysterious ZNN reporter who was uncovering info on her ex-KGB friend, but she's already been poisoned with ricin and dies not long after.
    • Also, Caitlin Todd.
  • "Not So Different" Remark:
    • When Alejandro accuses Gibbs of being a murderer whose father was shot dead by a coward when Gibbs interrogates him following the attack on Abby on Clayton, Gibbs says the same thing about how Alejandro shot his own sister to death by accident.
    • Dearing tries to pull this on Gibbs, saying that both of them getting revenge for their families makes them alike. Gibbs doesn't even try to dignify this with a response in his Tranquil Fury, but his disagreement (and the audience's) needs nothing to be said given the series has long since covered that Gibbs isolated his vengeance to his family's assassin and wore the guilt of it ever since.
  • Not What It Looks Like:
    • Bishop thinks her husband might be cheating on her until she realizes that the woman she saw him with was from NSA's Internal Affairs department and thus concludes that he's in trouble at work. When she tries talking about him with it, he says that he's actually cheating on her with the woman from Internal Affairs.
    • In the Season 10 episode "Devil's Trifecta", Agent McGee and Diane Sterling are discovered in a rather compromising position on McGee's couch by Gibbs and Fornell. This is even given a Call-Back in the Season 12 Episode "Check", with Gibbs and his second ex-wife being discovered by Diane and McGee in practically the same position.
  • Nothing Personal: Ex-CIA agent Kort says this to DiNozzo and claims Ziva's death was unintentional because he didn't know she was living on her father's farmhouse when he hired a hitman to bomb it. It kind of falls flat as he only targeted the place because Ziva's name came up in the investigation (Kort thought her father might have hidden info on his (Kort's) cover-up there).
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Gibbs is no stranger to playing stupid, especially when dealing with smug characters who believe in their superior intelligence or power. Such as in season 10's "Canary" he purposefully messes up computer terms to make the guy think they are stupider than they are and trick him into their trap all the easier.
    • Tony, especially in later seasons. Even early on, it's implied that he's not as stupid as he acts. When undercover in "Chained," he is able to recall that people didn't live in Iraq 100,000 years ago, something he probably wouldn't have said in his "regular" persona. He also was able to come off as completely competent, fooling the guy he was cuffed to.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Tony deals with one at the end of season 10 in the form of his insurance company. After his third car is destroyed, by the villain of the season, they call him and say because this was the third car destroyednote  they plan on dropping him, despite none of those being his fault. Also, two of those were in the process of doing his job, and shouldn't be held against him.
  • Office Romance: Played with several times, though none last very long. Abby and McGee date early in the series, Tony has a fling with another team leader in season 8, Abby goes on a date with a member from another team, etc.
    • It's explicitly stated in season 8's "Dead Reflection" that there is no rule that prevents NCIS agents from dating each other; they can even be married. However, it is against Gibbs' rules; his personal rule Number 12 is "never date a co-worker" and he frowns upon it in his team.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In "Mind Games", Paula Cassidy is caught by one of the episode villains, who binds her hands behind her back. The scene cuts away as he menaces her with a knife. At the end of the episode we learn that she killed him in the ensuing fight.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In the season 7 opener, Gibbs manages to snipe two baddies from what looks like a mile or more away. By the time McGee, Tony, and Ziva have managed to get out of their bonds, he manages to make it all the way to the building they were in, through combat right outside the building, and beating any of the SEALs who were in position around the building to finding and saving his team, in just enough time to save them, again, and have a Holy Backlight moment. That's not a complaint.
  • Oh, Crap!: McGee telling Fornell that he "didn't" do anything to his ex-wife Diana.
    • In "Hiatus: Part 2", Ziva is conducting an interrogation with a witness whom she has intense hatred for. She sets her gun on the table. Alarmed, McGee asks Tony, who is in charge at the moment:
    McGee: That's not loaded, is it?
    Tony: Would Gibbs allow Ziva to carry a loaded weapon in there?
    McGee: No.
    Tony: And I'm not Gibbs, right?
    McGee: (Oh, Crap! expression)
    (Ziva picks up gun and points it at suspect's head)
  • Old Soldier: Jackson Gibbs served in World War II.
  • Ominous Hair Loss: "Dead Man Walking" begins with Lt. Roy Sanders arriving at NCIS headquarters to report his own murder, shedding a clump of hair in his hands as he does so; turns out he's been poisoned with thalium-laced cigars. Despite being given immediate medical care, he's been exposed too long to recover, and dies shortly after the episode's end.
  • Omniglot: Ziva speaks ten languages, including the language of love.
  • Omniscient Database: Lampshaded in "False Witness" when there is a national database for the DNA of wild turkeys and both Abby and Gibbs find it weird. (Truth in Television; such a database really does exist.)
  • Once a Season: As of season 7, one autumn episode will involve CGIS Agent Abigail Borin (Diane Neal).
  • Once Killed a Man with a Noodle Implement: Ziva David boasted that she can kill a man eighteen different ways with a paperclip. And from the episode "Jet Lag":
    Ziva David: And plastic silverware is not as safe as you may think. I once killed a man with a credit card.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Happens in S3 E17. Abby is dwelling on the fact that Gibbs apparently forgot her birthday, while McGee is telling her they've just uncovered a Serial Killer. Hilarity Ensues.
    McGee: If our missing woman fits the same profile, we could be dealing with a Serial Killer. One who uses park accidents to cover up abductions and murder. So what do you think?
    Abby: (staring off into space) I'm not sure yet, McGee. But I think...that this might be unforgivable.
    McGee: (confused) Well, yeah, of course it's unforgivable.
    Abby: What if he had a really good reason?
    McGee: A good reason?
    Abby: Yeah, like if he was really stressed out, or overworked -
    McGee: What difference does that make?!
    Abby: Nobody's perfect.
    McGee: Abby, there is no excuse.
    Abby: (hugs him) McGee, that's so sweet! [McGee looks thoroughly confused] You know what, it's just a stupid birthday. Who cares if Gibbs forgot.
    McGee: We - I - uh - guess that I do.
    Abby: That's why I love you.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. We have Abigail Sciuto and CGIS Agent Abigail Borin. Upon meeting for the first time, they simultaneously introduce themselves as "Abby". In order to avoid confusion, Borin is addressed by her last name or occasionally her full first name, with Abby Sciuto sometimes calling her "Other Abby" for fun. The two have also been collectively referred to as 'Abbs-es'.
    • Gibbs was named after Leroy Jethro Moore, an old friend of his father's. In episodes where he appears, the elder Leroy is addressed as "L.J." to avoid confusion.
    • Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, Jr. was named after his father: Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. The elder is addressed as "Senior" by the other characters while the younger is either "Tony" or "DiNozzo".
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Characters who get shot are still recovering several episodes later, and even a hit to a bulletproof vest leaves a painful bruise. One supporting character (Gerald, Ducky's original assistant), deliberately shot through the ball-and-socket joint in his shoulder by Ari, never fully recovers from his injuries and retires on a disability pension.
    • Played annoyingly straight in Episode 200. See Hollywood Healing above.
    • Averted throughout season 13 after the end of the episode "Neverland," when Gibbs gets shot twice by Luke Harris.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: In most of the interrogations of suspects, the issue of lawyers doesn't come up, but it does happen occasionally. This is a crime drama afterall.
    • Oddly enough, despite what has been implied on a few episodes, military personnel actually have more protection from self-incrimination than civilians. Not only do the 5th and 6th Amendments apply equally to them, they are also covered by Section 31 of the UCMJ, which has almost identical language in it.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Ducky", whose real name is Donald Mallard. About the only person who calls him "Dr. Mallard" are his assistants, while his mother is the only person to consistently call him "Donald".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • At the beginning of "Kill Ari Part 1," the entire team is still feeling raw about Ari killing Kate, but what really drives it home for McGee and DiNozzo is the fact that Gibbs offers to get them coffee.
    • Abby doesn't usually turn off her rock music as much as turn it down, so it's kind of scary when she switches off her stereo to yell at Ziva.
    • Really, Abby personifies this trope. Whenever she's not her normal nice, upbeat self, it's a good sign things are really bad.
    • When Gibbs returns to the office after being shot by The Calling everyone is intrigued by the fact that he seems to care a little more about his appearance (he got a hair cut and wears a buttoned-up shirt and blazer).
  • Orphaned Setup: Not really a joke but in one episode Quinn tells the group she had an Erotic Dream about Gibbs and starts to describe it, saying in the dream she was at work when Gibbs came up to her, knocked on her desk and said "Do you know what kind wood that is?", however, she gets interrupted and never goes back to explaining it, meaning we never find out what the sexy part was.
  • ...Or So I Heard: The team find the website for a speed-dating event the victim went to. McGee explains the event...rather eloquently. Upon noticing the odd looks, he says this trope verbatim.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: A distraught schoolboy holds his classmates hostage so someone - it happens to be our team - will find his ostensibly dead mother. Gibbs lets himself be taken, and Tony later tells the boy that Special Agent Caitlin Todd is looking for his mother. Out of earshot, when asked how he's going to tell Gibbs the kid's mother is dead, Tony replies that he already has: Special Agent Todd *is* dead.

  • Pac Man Fever:
    • Played painfully straight in "The Immortals". For one thing, it seems to be confusing online Dungeons & Dragons games, with MMORPGs... and, most MMORPGs are pretty damn easy to trace...
    • Subverted in "Bete Noir", when Gibbs asks if Kate and Tony checked the computer of the man whose house they were sent to search. Kate says he didn't even have a Game Boy. Tony points out a GameBoy is a handheld system, and she's thinking more of an Xbox or PlayStation 2.
    • Also Subverted with Killscreen. The information given about killscreens is completely accurate, but killscreens are almost non-existent in modern games because of how they are designed and don't consist of a single screen as how killscreens are explained in the episode.
    • As a rule, this is averted wherever there's a throwaway reference or gag, as these tend to be pretty accurate. If any aspect of gaming or IT is central to a plotline, however, expect excruciating levels of this trope. (It is suspected that the writers are trolling the audience when they do this, as some of the reviews of the above-mentioned "Killscreen" speculated.)
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Gibbs.
    • Mike Franks can be considered a Grandpa Wolf.
  • Parental Betrayal: Eli David, hands down.
  • Parental Neglect: Tony's father. Tony has a strained relationship with his father owing to this neglect; one glaring story involves a young Tony being left at a hotel in Maui for days. His father finally remembered he'd left Tony there when he received the room service bill. On top of that, Tony was shipped off to various boarding schools shortly after the death of his mother, while DiNozzo Sr. remarried several times.
    • Ducky's father worked a lot but his stepmother takes the cake: she ditches her son and stepson on Christmas Eve (her son's cool with it "I thought she'd never leave"); it's later revealed she was getting surprise divorce papers and leaving the country with her son purely to spite the Mallard men.
  • Passing the Torch: In "Bears and Cubs", Ducky decides it's time for him to retire. While the next episode, "Silent Service", has Ducky stay at NCIS as the part-time Historian, Palmer still takes over as the Chief Medical Examiner.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Being old school, Gibbs will naturally resort to this at times. One memorable example is in the season 10 episode "Hit and Run," where Abby has called in sick, (but she was really having bad memories that interfered with her work) leaving a flustered McGee to run her lab, and when Major Mass Spec acts up, Gibbs starts smacking it.
  • Perky Goth: Abby, and her actress, Pauly Perette, in Real Life.
  • Perp Sweating:
    • Oh, can Gibbs make them sweat. One of the best examples involves taking the suspect down to Ducky's area to "prep" him. It involves Ducky and Gibbs telling the guy exactly how he's going to be dissected. This is after Gibbs kills the guy and makes it look like a suicide, which it is heavily implied that he wouldn't hesitate to do if the guy didn't cooperate.
    • Sometimes, when Gibbs can't make them sweat, he gives Ziva a turn. Ziva's presence is also occasionally used by Gibbs as a threat: 'Cooperate with us or we'll extradite you to Israel'. This is used on those who would really, really rather not end up in the custody of the Mossad.
      • What makes Ziva's interrogations work is almost never shown on-screen, but it tends to quickly reduce the perp to a crying wreck. In one fairly early episode with a female accessory who won't talk, Gibbs locks her in her office with Ziva. In the next scene, as they're interrogating her, Ziva just slowly, calmly walks around her; the woman is a weepy, trembling mess and flinches like she's been shocked when Ziva lightly touches her neck. In the one instance where we do see her at work (in "Hiatus," after Gibbs is caught in the bomb blast), Ziva harshly interrogates the Turkish ship captain... at gunpoint.
    • Ducky has also broken several people just by explaining anatomy to them. (e.g. "This is how we cut your torso open", and "this is what happens to your skull when a bullet enters the back of your head.")
    • Tony, meanwhile, prefers to annoy suspects into submission. He's very good at it; in the season six finale he manages to get the better of Ziva's father (Eli David, the director of Mossad) this way.
      • Bonus points because Tony was the one being interrogated, and still managed to get Eli to spill more than he did.
    • Even McGee gets in on this.
      • In one episode, he informed a suspect that, as a known member of a gang suspected of terrorist ties, the Patriot Act says that he can be held at their discretion, and he doesn't have to be charged with anything, ever. Whether it's true or not doesn't matter, since the guy believed it. And Gibbs once used McGee as a blunt weapon for the same purpose; he had McGee come in and dryly rattle off a list of consequences, his banal, matter-of-fact delivery making them far scarier than any emotionally delivered threat.
      • McGee also had the luck of interrogating a teenage bully...the same kind that picked on him in high school. McGee basically gets buddy buddy with him, discussing the fun of tormenting geeks, then goes scary real fast when he reveals he was the geek in high school, and now he has the gun, badge, and paperwork know-how to make the bully go away for a long time unless the kid tells him where he found the victim's phone, and he's going to enjoy it. We still don't know if he was serious.
      McGee: Do me a favor. When you're crying and shivering on your cell bed after a hard day of beatings, I want you to think of me.
    • It's so prevalent that the team actually bets on what kind of interrogation strategy Gibbs will use next.
      McGee: So how do you think he's going to break her down? What's the style?
      Tony: He's leading with the Creepy Uncle, but I think he's going to with the Father Figure You Can Trust.
      McGee: Nope, that doesn't feel right. I'm gonna go with the classic, in your face Gibbs, The Intimidator.
      • They do the same thing when Tony is interrogating a suspect. Gibbs wins the bet.
      • In one of the first Season 7 episodes, as they're breaking in a possible replacement for Ziva, Tony starts speaking in tandem with Gibbs while observing.
    • Lampshaded in "Murder 2.0" when the suspect is literally sweating and complaining about how hot it is in the interview room while Gibbs is just talking to him, leading Tony to comment with pride on Gibbs' skills. Turns out the suspect had been poisoned, causing extremely elevated blood pressure and a shortly-ensuing heart attack.
    • In "Identity Crisis," Gibbs and Fornell double-team an interrogation.
      Gibbs: The worst mistake you made...
      Fornell: You tried to shoot our agents.
      (Fornell gets up and takes off his jacket)
      Gibbs: Hey, let me hang that up for you, Tobias
      (Gibbs tosses Fornell's jacket over the security camera while Fornell rolls up his sleeves. Cue the Oh, Crap! look on the suspect's face as he realizes he's in serious trouble.)
  • Person as Verb: Tony, frequently.
    • In her first outing with the team, Tony comments that Bishop "...pulled a Palmer..." referring to Palmer's Ram Job.
  • Pet the Dog: Any time Gibbs is shown interacting with children, and his more gentle moments with Abby.
    • Used in a literal sense at one point. Gibbs sat on a park bench in the pouring rain because he put the dog that was sleeping under the bench in the nearby gazebo so it wouldn't get even more wet. He wouldn't sit in the gazebo with it because it smelled like...well, a wet dog.
    • Another literal one with McGee and Jethro (nee Butch), the German Shepherd he shot (in self-defense). McGee was wary of Jethro for the whole episode; at the end, when Jethro is vindicated and Abby's landlord has said "no dogs", Abby makes an impassioned speech to a reluctant Tim about how Jethro is the dog McGee has been wanting to get for a long time. A later episode shows that Abby did eventually succeed in this little campaign, and McGee has a very loving relationship with the dog.
    • And yet another literal one in the episode "Seek", with Gibbs' interactions with Dex the military dog. At the end of the episode, he declares with the utmost respect and sincerity:
    "That's not a dog. That's a Marine."
    • And yet another in "Caught On Tape". When the team gets into a shootout with a suspect who's made it abundantly clear that he won't surrender, Gibbs pauses to whistle to the man's dog (who he'd befriended earlier in the episode) so that the animal will run out of the house to safety.
  • Pillow Pistol: Tony teases Kate for sleeping with a gun under her pillow, though Gibbs is impressed. Ziva has also been shown to sleep with one hand on a gun hidden beneath her pillow.
  • Playboy Parody: Tony Di Nozzo has a subscription to "Get Some Magazine", or GSM, which is occasionally compared to Playboy.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Tony in the first few seasons. This gets lampshaded early on, with the trope even mentioned by name (that one about McGee though).
  • The Pollyanna: Luca, Abby's younger brother "the one [she] grew up with" not the long-lost biological one has ridiculously good faith in people. This has led him to be suckered into at least one Ponzi scheme and in the cross-over with NCISNOLA he is unshakably certain that Ava, a woman he's let into his home and has a crush on, is a good person despite everyone telling him she's isn't due to the fact that she is a Russian spy, hid listening devices, guns, and money in his apartment, drugged him and left him in a motel, and used him as bait for an assassin. Turns out he's actually right and she was doing everything to prevent the Russians from getting top secret technology.
    • All-Loving Hero: He nearly sets an oyster bar on fire, among other roadblocks, just to help Ava.
    • He points out that his habit of "helping strays" must be biological since his parents took in Abby, "sight unseen".
    • Good Is Dumb: He trusts everyone... except both series' agents who are trying to protect him and uses every anti-tracking trick his sister taught him to evade detection. Granted he was initially afraid that he had accidentally killed the victims-of-the-week with food poisoning and later could not believe that an innocent domestic violence victim could be involved in mass murder.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot:
  • Precious Puppies: Dogs have featured in a few episodes, but Mortimer, the rescue-dog-in-training Golden Lab puppy takes the cake. He even cheers Ducky up after his mother dies.
  • Pregnant Badass:
    • The female assassin Ziva impersonates in "Undercovers" is discovered to have been pregnant before being fatally wounded in a car accident. Hilarity Ensues when Ziva decides to share this bit of information with Tony (impersonating the female assassin's also-dead husband), who is in the middle of hitting on another woman. The look on Tony's face when Ziva ends her phone call and tells him "I'm pregnant, Tony" in a complete deadpan voice is just priceless.
    • Presumably Ziva was one as well when carrying Tali, her daughter that resulted from a fond farewell Tony.
  • Pretender Diss: In Season Nine's "Secrets", when a group of "real-life superheroes" are brought in for questioning:
    "Spandaxia": We would appreciate a little professional courtesy!
    Tony: [over personal loudspeaker] You are not professionals!
  • Pretty Little Headshots:
    • Several instances, most notably when Caitlin Todd is sniped by Ari, although a squib on the back of her head can be seen going off, and in "Kill Ari" it's stated that the back of her head was pretty much gone.
    • Averted in "The Good Wives' Club" with the perp's suicide.
  • Professional Killer: Ziva's father trained her to be a Mossad operative starting as a child; by the time she reaches NCIS, she is an efficient assassin.
    • Gibbs used to be a sniper and uses it to his advantage on at least one occasion during the series.
  • Prohibited Hero Saves the Day: At one point Jimmy Palmer is with the team as they pursue the criminal of the week. Gibbs orders Jimmy to stay in the car (obviously intending for Jimmy to not be The Load). When the criminal gets in his truck to make a getaway, Jimmy rams him with the car he was forbidden to leave. Jimmy points out the Exact Words to Gibbs afterwards.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: After eight years with the show, Brian Dietzen was finally upgraded to a series regular for season ten.
  • Promotion to Parent:
    • Ducky wanted to adopt his much younger half-brother; Tony and McGee note that it would've been great if Ducky had been their father/s.
    • In a more straight example, Jimmy Palmer and his wife Breena eventually have a baby of their own.
    • Tony resigns from NCIS when he finds out he is the father of Ziva's child, who is placed under her care when Ziva fakes her death. Ziva herself eventually rejoins him several seasons later.
  • Properly Paranoid: McGee never tells anyone where he works. He'll give out cell numbers, pages, etc, but he never mentions NCIS. Which is how he knows, when his new girlfriend shows up to pick him up after work, that she's not who she says she is. Overlaps with I Never Said It Was Poison.
    • Abby taught her brother Luca how to avoid detection from the government if he was in trouble. She would know—
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality:
    • There are a lot of "justified" extra-judicial killings on this show, even for a Post-9/11 Terrorism Show. Revenge killings are always justified if it's Gibbs taking the shot. In an early season, he arranges for the death of a suspect whose guilt they know but can't prove, by making sure the suspect's gang would be angry enough at his deception to kill him. Whether or not these actions are deserved is up to the viewer to decide, but it can be jarring when you remember that these are supposed to be law enforcement personnel.
    • In the Season 13 premiere, Gibbs heads to a prison to interrogate a man who had a connection with the terrorist that shot Gibbs last season. When Gibbs realizes that the prisoner is no longer in contact with the terrorist and doesn't have the info he needs, he stabs the prisoner in the arm with his pen, severely injuring him. Not only is Gibbs allowed to walk out like nothing ever happened, but when Vance finds out, he just gives a Death Glare to Gibbs, says they'll "talk about this later" and the matter is dropped entirely.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I am one of the few people, in the world, who can kill you and leave no...forensic...evidence."
  • Punny Name: Donald Mallard - a mallard is a other words, Donald Duck. Lampshaded time and again in the series as the explanation for his nickname, Ducky.
    • The first NCIS Director in the series, from the JAG pilot to the start of season 3, was named Thomas Morrow. Or rather, "Tom Morrow"... tomorrow.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Thomas Morrow, the NCIS Director when the show started, leaves at the beginning of Season 3.
    • Tony leaves at the end of Season 13 to take care of his daughter.
    • Ziva was originally killed off, but eventually revealed to be alive. She eventually plays this straight at the end of Season 17 to join Tony.
    • Alexandra Quinn left in Season 15 to focus on caring for her sick mother.
    • Abby also left in Season 15 in order to head a non-profit organization Reeves was going to make.
    • Jackie Sloane decides to stay in Afghanistan to help three girls rescued by the Taliban in season 18.
    • Eleanor Bishop leaves at the end of Season 18 to go on a dangerous undercover mission.
    • Gibbs leaves at the fourth episode of Season 19 to retire permanently from NCIS after arresting a corrupt businesswoman.
  • Putting On My Thinking Cap: In Season Twelve's "Scope", Abby fashions a literal thinking cap, by combining her hardhat and a hydration pack loaded with two jumbo Caf-Pows. Palmer decides to try on the cap:
    Bishop: We have to shut [the airport] down.
    Gibbs: Or not.
    Palmer: If we shut it down then Cross will know we're on to him, if we leave it open we know where he'll be. (pulls a "Did I Just Say That Out Loud?" face)
    Gibbs: What He Said.
    Palmer: (to Abby) This thing really works!
  • Quote Mine: In season Three "Model Behavior" when supermodel Taylor Shane was found dead on a Marine base, the press were all over the entrance trying to get in or talk with someone. When Gibbs was going through, they were shoving themselves in the way and knocked his coffee out of his hands. Very angry but holding it in, he kept on the "No comment" line. When one complained about their story not having much if they don't get answers, Gibbs replied "I don't care." Later, the reporter took that line and added the question "Don't you care about the victim?" or something to that effect and added Gibbs' line to the shot of him walking away. Gibbs is able to convince the station to make a retraction and apology.
  • Ramming Always Works: After being targeted by an assasin, Palmer drives out to where the suspect is thought to be hiding. He sees the suspect preparing to drive away. Palmer takes this as his cue to attampt to stop said suspect. Although Palmer's car is totaled, the suspect is caught before he can get away.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Anything can be done by quickly typing on the keyboard - which, strangely, always generates the same sound effects. In one episode, the computers in Abby's lab are attacked by a hacker. The best way to respond? Both Abby and McGee rapidly hit keys on the same keyboard to literally type fast enough to fight the hack. It's still ineffective, until Gibbs comes up with a simpler solution; unplug the computer.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: In "Viral", Tony has a bad run-in with some poison oak:
    Tony: So on a scale of one to ten, how bad is it?
    Ducky: Let's just say the scale needs recalibrating.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Kate's death was either because Sasha Alexander is completely exhausted due to the grueling schedule.
    • Pauley Perrette's nightmarish divorce from ex-husband Coyote Shivers may or may not have been the basis for the plot for "Bloodbath," where the team has to deal with Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend, but the parallels are impossible to deny.
    • "Honor Thy Father", which centers around Gibbs coming to terms with the death of his father, was written because Ralph Waite, the actor who played Jackson Gibbs, had died a few months previously.
    • The COVID-19 pandemic are depicted throughout season 18.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Inverted. McGee and DiNozzo are capable of killing, and Gibbs is an expert, but Ziva boasts about her talents enough to make everyone, including the male characters, mildly uncomfortable.
  • Real Men Take It Black: Gibbs is also known for drinking black coffee. It comes with being a former marine. When Tony takes over Gibb's position during Gibbs 10-Minute Retirement, Tony also starts drinking black coffee. Non Action Girl Abbie prefers soft drinks.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: S10 Ep 16 "Detour" has Palmer (no actual firearms training) with a handgun, which he rather casually waves around. Fortunately, Ducky (military training from many decades past) carefully redirects it away from his face.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: The Victim of the Week in one episode was an unscrupulous Marine recruiter who made promises that he knew would never be met, such as promising one recruit that he would be trained as a medic. As Gibbs points out, the Marine Corps doesn't have medics; they use Navy corpsmen.
  • Red Herring: In "Obssession", the viewers are led to believe that the culprits are PMC goons, when in fact it's an ex-KGB operative that's responsible.
    • Similarly, the opening of "The Engagement Part 2" had DiNozzo arriving at the church with the chaplain and her father asking what the result of the mission to rescue Flores is, and the scene then cutting to the interior of a Marine transport plane with Gibbs and the others inside looking at a marine burial coffin, leading the viewers to believe that they failed their mission and Flores was killed. However, the episode later reveals that they actually succeeded in their mission, and the marine burial coffin actually belonged to her commanding officer, who was killed in action by a gunshot to the neck.
  • Red Herring Mole: Brent Langer.
    • The entire Season 8 finale/Season 9 opener dealt with this: DiNozzo was assigned to track down someone leaking NCIS secrets (involving Watcher microchips), and the target is seemingly Special Agent EJ Barret. It is later revealed to be Special Agent Simon Cade, but then not only did he reveal that he was actually framed, but the entire thing was actually staged as a trap to kill all of them, although only Cade actually bit the dust, as Barret, while wounded, went into hiding, and DiNozzo was hospitalized with amnesia that was presumably brought about from getting grazed in the head.
  • Redemption Equals Death:
    • The ultimate resolution of the season six "mole hunt" plotline.
    • Jonathan Cole in the Season 9 finale, although he unfortunately wasn't able to start bomb disposal before Dearing detonated it.
    • Captain Wayne died fighting against the sniper of his mole's organization, giving Gibbs a chance to stop a corrupt business man.
  • Reference Overdosed: Justified in that many of the characters are pop culture savvy, from Tony being a movie buff, to McGee being a gamer and internet surfer.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: The episode "Dead Air" featured MAH (Military At Home), a group of isolationist Americans. A faction of MAH plot an attack to destroy some unmanned equipment, which our heroes need to stop. It turns out that the splinter group had another more extreme splinter group who are planning to attack a softball game that has the daughters of high-government officials playing.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the literal sense. Tony keeps actual goldfish as pets, one of which is named Kate after his partner of the same name who was killed early in the series. Later, when Ziva leaves the team to stay in Israel, he names the other after her.
  • Retcon:
    • Very likely at least one element of the Ari plotline.
    • The friendship between Gibbs and FBI agent Fornell - in "Yankee White", the first episode, Fornell doesn't appear to know Gibbs at all, but in subsequent Fornell appearances they're implied to be longtime acquaintances if not perhaps not-quite-friends. There's also Fornell's dickish behavior in the same episode, while Gibbs is fairly affable, which has flip-flopped as the show's gone on.
    • Fornell was married to one of Gibb's ex-wives, and even had a child with her. Gibbs states in that episode that he warned Fornell about what kind of woman she was, as Fornell and Gibbs' ex-wife were also exes.
  • Retirony: Played with in "Pyramid". When EJ is escorting Cobb, the P2P Killer, she runs into Palmer and they briefly talk about how he is getting ready to marry. When Cobb manages to escape two seconds later, guess who gets taken hostage?
    • Vera Strickland from "Under The Radar" is fully aware of this trope. When Gibbs tells her to help Tony out on a case, she loudly protests, using Tony's tendency to attract injury and that she is weeks away from retirement as reasons why she'd rather stay in the office. Vera ends up being nearly run over and needing crutches soon afterwards. At least HR expedited her retirement paperwork due to her injury.
  • Reverse Psychology: Tony and McGee blatantly use it to hide the fact that they want to go on an overseas assignment. Gibbs knows what's going on and just rolls his eyes and lets the two sort it out for themselves.
  • Sexiness Score:
  • A Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma: Tony refers to Abby in the season 8 episode "Two-Faced" as "A paradox wrapped in an oxymoron, smothered in contradictions in terms."
  • Right Behind Me: Gibbs catches virtually everyone, especially Tony, with this all the time, bordering on Stealth Hi/Bye.
    • Other characters also do it occasionally; Ziva to Tony, and Tony to McGee, especially when he's emulating Gibbs in Gibbs's absence. Vance does it now, too.
    • Even Abby get caught by some of this, thanks to Fornell and Diane.
    • Bishop gets told early on that subverting this trope by warning others about Gibbs being behind them is unauthorized.
    • As more-or-less Distaff Counterparts of Gibbs, Lt. Col. Hollis Mann and CGIS Agent Abigail Borin are nearly as good at this as Gibbs himself and use the trope frequently — often in tandem with Gibbs.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The episode that introduced Ellie opened with a presentation on the Zumwalt-class destroyer, a real Navy warship class, the first vessel of which completed construction a month before the episode aired. However, the list of companies involved in building it mentioned at the end of the presentation is entirely fictional.
    • TPTB were inspired to write "Seek" after seeing a picture of a military dog sitting at the coffin of his handler. The episode even ends with a nearly identical shot.
    • "Recruited" was written in the wake of the repeal of the "Don't ask, don't tell" law.
    • Season 18's "Blood and Treasure" was a real life reference to Fenn's Treasure, first profiled on Expedition Unknown.
  • Rip Van Tinkle: In "Boxed In", Tony and Ziva get locked in a dockyard shipping container for most of a day/24 hours. When they're set free, Ziva's first action is to head directly for the ladies' room, an intention she explains in tones that promise mayhem for anyone who gets in her way.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Gibbs takes off on one of these when Ari kills Kate. He also went on one when his first wife and daughter were murdered.
    • Tony gets one of his own in season 7 when Ziva goes missing. Technically the whole team could count, but especially Tony. After learning of her (misreported) death, Tony has a Heroic BSoD. When he comes out of it, he becomes relentless in his hunt for the person responsible. While being held by Saleem and asked why he came, Tony specifically pinpoints revenge as his motivation for being there.
    Saleem: You were driving the desert with out back up. So what are you doing here?
    Tony: Well Saleem, there's only one force on Earth that can short circuit a man's better instincts, put fire in his veins, makes him dive head long into danger with no regard for his own well being... Vengeance, Saleem. I'm here to kill you.
    • An ex-MI6 agent is after the team (not "our" team though of course they're involved now) who killed his wife — or at least that's what he told his fellow prison escapee — and he started in a big way kidnapping current Director Vance to get info and killing former director Tom Morrow, number one on the list of people involved in the wife's death. However he never personally killed anyone — the prison guard had an allergic reaction and her boyfriend, the other escapee, killed two people on a grief-fueled drug binge. As for the other murders it was actually recurring character CIA agent Kort covering up his framing of the MI6 agent and his wife.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In "Cracked".
  • Rule #1: Gibbs's various rules, cited by the characters throughout the show. He originally had 50 of them, although he later adds a 51st. Later revealed in flashback to have been inspired by his first wife, on the day they met. The Season 7 finale has him adding "Rule Fifty-One". Ziva has requested that Gibbs write them down; only for Tony to rebut this by pointing out that while most are for day-to-day use. The ones in the forties are reserved for emergencies.
    • There are actually two Rule Number 1s, and two Rule Number 3s. Word of God is this was intentional. While Gibbs has his own rules, his mentor Mike Franks told him he only needs three golden rules. The other Rule Number 2 has yet to be revealed, and the writers are letting the viewers determine which are Gibbs' rules, and which are Franks'.
    • CGIS Abigail Borin a Distaff Counterpart to Gibbs, unsurprisingly, has her own rules. Her rule number one is "Never make excuses."
  • Rule of Three: McGee warns Bishop to be careful when he realizes she's in a thicket of poison oak; he mentions two previous encounters with poison oak and how Tony teased him during his recovery This time Tony gets hit with poison oak .
  • Running Gag: Many.
    • In fact, they've evolved over the years.
  • Scary Black Man: Leon Vance can be absolutely terrifying when he wants to be, which is probably one of the reasons he gets to boss Gibbs around. Taken to severe extremes when he put a fire safety axe through a metal table in the interrogation room to intimidate a teenage suspect who was suspected of killing one of Vance's friends.
  • The Scottish Trope: After a stressful episode where Bishop thought her husband had been killed she starts the next one hoping for a quiet workday. Tony and McGee immediately point out she's basically jinxed it by saying "quiet" and that episode includes: Tony getting two giant splinters, Ducky being forced to admit he's a member of a secret cold case squad who are not happy with him revealing their existence to NCIS (one member quickly becomes an Abhorrent Admirer of Gibbs), and Abby freaking out because a now-discredited test she did on hair samples sent an innocent man to prison for 16 years. After Gibbs slices the second splinter out of Tony's finger because he realized it's evidence Bishop makes amends by standing on her desk and loudly begging the powers that be for a horribly busy day. The whole squad room claps in approval.
  • Screaming Birth: In "We Build, We Fight," the birth of Jimmy and Breena's daughter happens off screen. Two of Jimmy's fingers are broken.
    Jimmy: Funny story. Did you know epidurals don't work on five percent of patients? Because I sure didn't.
    Breena: I had to improvise my pain management.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Caitlin Todd doesn't appear in the Poorly-Disguised Pilot; she gets introduced in the first actual episode as a secret service agent who transfers to NCIS for episode 2.
  • Secret-Keeper: Played for laughs in season 2 "Caught on Tape" when Tim reveals his extreme reaction to poison ivy, including having unknowingly spread it to his groin, Ducky assures him he will keep this between them. Then Jimmy walks in, sees the undressed Tim and walks back out. Ducky isn't quite sure Jimmy will keep this secret.
  • Sensitivity Training: Treated by the characters as a form of endurance trial (The very first episode in which this is mentioned has Gibbs and DiNozzo scouring the crime reports looking for something serious enough to justify them missing it). And Palmer takes things a little too literally when told he needs a person's permission to touch them and he works with corpses.
    Jimmy Palmer: [at a sexual harassment seminar] Uh, what if, part of your job includes, touching naked people and...
    Tracy Taylor: [quickly] Oh, that's inappropriate at any time!
    Palmer: Even if they're dead?
    Taylor: Why are you touching dead naked people?
  • Sergeant Rock: The team runs into a few over the course of the series.
  • Sexy Schoolwoman:
    • Referenced in "Forced Entry". Kate comments that she spent twelve years in Catholic School; Tony asks if she still has the pleated skirt. In that same episode, Abby's outfit certainly seems schoolgirl-inspired.
    • Tony's "hallucination" in Kill Ari, Part 2.
  • Sexy Slit Dress: In S8 E7 ("Broken Arrow") Ziva David speedily defeats an attacker while wearing a full length gown whose skit is slit for ease of movement.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Somewhat of a Running Gag regarding Tony and Ziva in later seasons.
  • Ship Tease:
    • Tony/Ziva and McGee/Abby are two shipping groups the writers especially love to mess with. However, McGee/Abby was canon before their breakup and might come back per Word of God. Tony/Ziva has yet to go beyond Ship Tease. (Granted, the sheer mass of Ship Tease there is so large, it's verging on upstaging the Great Attractor.)
    • This one's even messed with in-universe. Tony and Ziva are together in McGee's metafiction. See Write Who You Know below. Even in-universe alternate-universe timelines!
    • Between the long looks, blatant concern for each other, that time they held hands, and that forehead kiss, not to mention the way he borrows her glasses and she constantly sits on the edge of his (and only his) desk, the teasing for Gibbs and Jack Sloane is growing increasingly blatant. She is the only person he's ever voluntarily told about Shannon and Kelly, after all...
  • Shipper on Deck: In "Singled Out", the team was playing with software showing what children of two people would look like. McGee uses Ziva and Tony for the basis to show them a grumpy little devil of a kid, then the two simultaneously say "Do the Director and Gibbs" and Abby compliments the result saying that Gibbs and Director Shepard make nice "Gibblets".
    • Lately it seems every woman Tony meets including his ex-fiancee who thinks he's perfect! ships Tony/Ziva or is at least aware there's someone he already really likes.
    • McGee ships "Tommy" and "Lisa", two of his books' main characters, and Tony and Ziva's counterparts. Considering that he uses his in-universe real life experiences for the book, it is pretty much the same as shipping Tony and Ziva.
    • In "Berlin", there is a flashback to a young Ziva dancing with Eli David who states "Someday, you will dance with a man who deserves your love." Present-day, Tony and Ziva are slow dancing in a nightclub. Writer on Board, anyone?
    • After the death of her father, Ziva prays for a sign that she should not give up hope. Her prayers are answered not ten seconds later as Tony walks through the door, offering her support. Yes, apparently even God ships Tiva.
    • Tony's father ships Tony and Ziva full stop. It's hilarious. From season 10's "You Better Watch Out", when he decides to crash at Tony's place for the holidays:
    Tony: No. No, no, no, no. Because it's not big enough.
    Senior: Oh, come on, Junior. You've got room. (looks pointedly at Ziva) Doesn't he?
    Ziva (flustered): I would not know. I've never been invited.
    Senior (to Tony):
    ' Is that true? What's the matter with you?
  • Shirtless Scene: McGee's gotten two or three, and DiNozzo's gotten several. Strangely, Gibbs is absent from this unless you count the very-soapy shower scene in "SWAK", which is one for the entire Kate-era team.
  • Shot in the Ass:
    • Gibbs inflicts this on a Serial Killer. It's strongly implied it's on purpose.
    • He does the same to Tobias Fornell in the second episode of season 11. Fortunately, it was actually aimed PAST him: the real target was a cell phone, set to trigger a bomb. Fornell was just a little too close to the path of the bullet. He complains loudly about it afterward as they carry him away on a gurney.
  • Shout-Out: So, so many that we had to give them their own page.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • All of the Hebrew in the show, plus the Jewish references related to Ziva are all accurate, and Coté de Pablo's accent is pretty spot-on.
    • David McCallum also does a lot of research to accurately portray Ducky's coroner techniques, and it shows.
    • In "Dressed to Kill", a list of Asian ports are shown with some of the locations that have been previously/currently visited by US Navy ships.
    • One episode has Caitlin held hostage in an attempt to force her to identify which of six planes is Air Force One. She responds that there's no way to tell the real plane from the decoys. This is true, because Air Force One is the callsign of whichever plane The President happens to be on, so it can't be identified based only on visuals.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: In "Enemies Foreign" the Palestinian terrorist tries to lecture Gibbs about his war. Gibbs' response is basically "Yeah, you're right. Where's the other terrorist?"
  • Silver Fox: Abby's referred to Gibbs as such on a couple of occasions.
    Abby: *to Gibbs* Well my silver-haired fox... Gibbs... sorry.
    Abby: I'm pregnant, McGee. Twins. Haven't told the father yet. It's Gibbs. I know it's wrong, but something about his silver hair gets me all tingly inside.
    [Tony walks in at the end of Abby's line]
    Tony: Excuse me for a second, I think I'm going to vomit.
    Abby: I'm joking, Tony. Except for that part about Gibbs' hair. That is really hot.
  • Similar Squad:
    • In "Doppleganger", a Metro PD team gets involved in the case, whose members are ridiculously similar to the NCIS team, right down to the Gibbs Slap.
    • The team has also run into "child versions" of DiNozzo and Gibbs, respectively.
    • In "Jurisdiction", one of the CGIS investigators is a red-haired female version of Gibbs. Tony is the first to notice and the others are all rather amused. Gibbs is apparently the only member of the team that is not aware of this.
  • Simple, yet Opulent: In S8 E7 ("Broken Arrow") Ziva David speedily defeats an attacker while wearing a full-length gown whose skit is slit for ease of movement.
  • Sixth Ranger: Kate is an example of this from the first episode, since the team was established in JAG. Later, McGee, and then once again with Ziva following Kate's death.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: McGee and Abby in the first season.
  • Slashed Throat:
    • One episode involved the murderer using the Marine sentry removal technique (described in The Five Fingers example above) to kill the victim...while she was having sex with him.
    • In an episode revolving around a revenge plot against Ducky, when the team rescued Ducky, one of the perps slashed his own throat with a scalpel rather than go back to jail.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tony.
  • Snipe Hunt: S 13 Ep 7 "16 Years" opens with two boys out on a nocturnal one of these, supervised by their fathers. Bonus points for all of them actually using the word "snipe".
  • The Sociopath: Ellie and McGee are taken aback at Quinn's description of really deep-cover agent Torres' double-agent gig, even Honey Trapping his enemy's daughter; naturally Torres isn't a sociopath (he's actually getting tired of not being able to just be himself), especially compared to his enemy who uses his son as an assassin and plants a bomb under Torres' seat right next to his daughter (he probably assumed that since Torres was such a highly skilled double-agent his daughter wouldn't be in danger since he would've easily spotted the bomb) and naturally blames Torres for his family's destruction.
  • Somber Backstory Revelation: The two-part episode "Hiatus" reveals Gibbs' tragic backstory. It turns out that he had a wife and daughter before his three ex-wives — and they were murdered by a Mexican drug dealer. Also becomes Sympathetic Murder Backstory as Gibbs followed the killer back to Mexico and got his revenge.
  • South Asian Terrorists: Gibbs and the others deal with a Pakistani terrorist named Al Zalim in one of their cases.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: In the first episode with Ari, after he shoots Gerald in the shoulder, Kate clearly calls him a fucking bastard, only the first word is conveniently drowned out in a sudden cry of pain from Gerald. Kate also swears in the first episode. When she attacks Gibbs in the bathroom, she calls him an asshole through clenched teeth while sobbing.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In "Newborn King", the soundtrack of choice is "Silent Night" during a scene which is anything but silent: Gibbs is helping a marine give birth, while Ziva is having a shootout with some bad guys in the next room.
  • Southies: See trope entry.
  • Sparse List of Rules: Gibbs' Rules, a list of rules he has come up with (and occasionally adds to) for how to run a successful investigation. This fansite catalogs the whole list so far. Rule #1? "Never screw over your partner."
  • Spanner in the Works: The "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder in "Alibi" fell apart because a drunken Marine stole one of the conspirator's truck and accidentally killed somebody with it in a hit-and-run.
  • Spin-Off: Of JAG, with two spinoffs of its own (NCIS: Los Angeles, NCIS: New Orleans).
  • Spoiler Title: "Trojan Horse"; "Aliyah", via Bilingual Bonus; "Shariff Returns."; "Kill Ari", the title of the two-part Season 3 opener.
  • Sports Hero Backstory: DiNozzo was a college basketball player who made it to the Final Four before he decided to become a police officer.
  • Spotting the Thread: The case of "Dressed To Kill" starts when Tony notices that a Navy officer leaving the hotel his dad is staying at is wearing (Or more accurately, carrying when he should be wearing) a hat whose insignia indicates a rank that does not match the rank indicated by the insignia on his uniform jacket.
  • Staggered Zoom
  • Standard Cop Backstory: Most of Team Gibbs fits the bill, though it's averted (refreshingly) by a few characters who had completely normal childhoods, like Abby and Palmer.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Gibbs loves to sneak up on people. Especially Tony.
  • Stock Footage: Largely averted. For a show involving the US Navy, its hardware doesn't really feature all that much, although earlier seasons had many an obvious stock clip of various ships and sometimes planes.
    • But it is liberally used in the 200th episode to fill in for past NCIS characters who can't make it to filming. I'm looking at you, Kate and Jenny.
  • "Strangers on a Train"-Plot Murder: Two episodes do this.
    • "Inside Man" gives us insider trading as the crime dujour. At least at first.
    • "Alibi" plays this out much, much straighter. It falls apart when a drunken Marine kills an innocent Marine in a hit and run while driving a car belonging to the other killer.
  • "Stuck at the Airport" Plot: In the season 12 episode "Grounded", Tony is at Dulles Int'l Airport waiting for his father's flight to arrive. Bishop and her husband (We finally get to see him!) are also there to catch a southbound flight. Three things manage to happen all at once:
    • Gibbs calls Tony with news about some important intel regarding terrorist activity and airports in the Eastern US.
    • Bishop sees somebody she thinks she recognizes, but can't remember where from.
    • The airport admins decide that the snow is bad enough to begin closing the runways.
  • Subtext: Beginning with the season five finale, Tony and Ziva's conversations are becoming increasingly subtext-heavy.
  • Suddenly Shouting: In "Family First", after learning of Ziva's death, this is the line:
    Tony: We've lost agents before, haven't we? And when we do, it's ALL HANDS ON DECK!
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: They are sprinkled throughout the series.
    • A standout example would be the episode "Alibi" where the non-hit-and-run killer's lawyer denies her client's involvement with the hit and run death involving his vehicle.
  • Taking the Bullet: In one season one episode Tony dramatically leaps in front of a wave to keep it from contaminating the crime scene further up the beach. Gibbs later tells Kate to go easy on him that day because he took a wave for the team.
    • Dex the bomb-sniffing dog does this for Gibbs at the end of "Seek", simultaneously avenging his handler who was killed in the opening sequence.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal:
    • Season 5's "Leap of Faith" starts with a Navy lieutenant preparing to jump from a tall building, so Gibbs goes up there to talk to him. The man is clearly upset and claims that he screwed up with something, with Gibs offering to help him. Just as Gibbs is about to pull the lieutenant off the ledge, somebody shoots the lieutenant.
    • Season 14's "Keep Going" centers around Jimmy trying to keep the son of the victim of the week from jumping off a building while the rest of the team tracks down down the killer. At the end of the episode Gibbs catches the killer, explains to the son that the killer would have tracked down and killed his father no matter what the son had done, and the young man goes back inside, at which point Palmer gets a standing ovation from all the emergency workers who'd been watching him for the past several hours.
  • Talking to the Dead: Mostly Ducky, as he says it "helps to reciprocate"; other characters have been known to do it as well.
  • Talking through Technique
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: Invoked by Ari, who kills Kate and deliberately goes after Shepard and Abby just because it would cause Gibbs more pain. The show has a bad record of killing female main/recurring characters and current male characters' love interests. To date, Kate, Paula Cassidy, Jenny, Michelle Lee, Jackie Vance, and Lara Macy, although Kate's actress, as well as Jenny's, wanted to leave the show of their own accord.
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted.
  • Team Dad: Gibbs.
    • This is most obvious with Abby in early seasons. He's even more or less threatened to spank her at one point. In Season 7, when she found evidence that would incriminate him for the murder of Pedro Hernandez, she pleaded with him to tell her that she was "like a daughter to [him]" and that he would not begrudge her for the results of her report.
    • In one episode, Gibbs, in attempt to keep calm a suspect who unknowingly had a bomb set to detonate in his backpack, commented that his "son, Tony, plays that same game" (the suspect had been playing Tetris). Cue a rather odd if semi-pleased look from Tony himself, who had been listening in from the bushes.
    • In Season 7, Ziva admitted that Gibbs is more of a father to her than her biological one. He's since acted accordingly on her behalf, later openly calling her his "kid". This has been commented on by other characters. Notably, when Ziva was considering marrying her boyfriend in Season 9, Tony told Gibbs to "[get] ready to play father of the bride" (Which unfortunately never happens. Not only does Ziva not accept the proposal, she dies four seasons later - still single).
    • In Season 14, Gibbs plays the part of Tim's father at the latter's wedding, even giving Tim a watch that his own father had given him on his wedding day, cementing Tim as his younger son in spirit.
  • Team Mom: Agent Jacqueline "Jack" Sloane, a forensic psychologist and profiler, slips easily into this role when she joins the Navy Yard in season 15. She's a trained counselor and by nature a warm and rather maternal person, meaning that the team members often turn to her (sometimes with some reluctance) when they're struggling. At one point Gibbs even sends one of the "kids" (Nick Torres) off to her to Have A Talk after Torres "misbehaves" (read: gets arrested after getting in a fight with a couple of homophobic jerks)!
  • Team Pet: Abby.
  • The Tease: Ziva takes immense pleasure in short-circuiting Tony's brain.
  • Technobabble: Let's just say that if you know anything about computers, you'll want to turn your brain off whenever Abby or McGee is talking.
  • Technology Marches On: In "Blowback" (a fourth season episode) Abby expresses amazement at finding a 1 terabyte hard drive (which is quite large) in the suspects house. Nowadays hard drives up to 100TB are commercially available.
  • Tempting Fate: ...from Season 4, "Witch Hunt". It ends, of course, when the kidnapper and his plan are shot full of holes. Should have listened to McGee.
    Victim: NCIS is going to figure this out.
    Kidnapper: I've had those Navy cops running around all night. They're clueless.
    Gibbs: Federal agents!
    McGee: Drop your weapon!
    • Happens with Special Agent Chris Pacchi back in season 1. Towards the end of one episode, he tries to ask Gibbs for some help on a case he's working, but relents when he realizes how busy he is. "What can one more day hurt?" He's dead at the start of the next episode, which presumably occurs the next day.
    • A sad example. Palmer talks about how the only thing that can go wrong with his and Breena's adoption is the birth mother changing her mind. It's initially played for laughs, but she does change her mind and Jimmy is absolutely devastated.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Gibbs in Season 4.
  • Terminally Ill Criminal:
    • "SWAK" has Tony being infected with Y. pestis sent in the mail by a woman named Hannah Lowell in a desperate attempt to get NCIS to reveal the truth that her daughter Sarah was the rape victim of a midshipman, despite investigations suggesting otherwise and Sarah's Trauma-Induced Amnesia about the incident. If they don't reveal what she believes is the truth, Tony will die without the antidote. Hannah was unafraid of the consequences of her actions due to her dying of an inoperable brain tumor, which made her undergo enough Sanity Slippage to resort to using the bioweapon in the first place, having stolen it from one of the researchers at the pharmaceutical company of which she was the CEO (Ironically, she had once been an activist against the use of bioweapons). Fortunately, Hannah didn't know that the sample was programmed to kill itself off thirty-two hours after infecting the host. This fact, combined with his modern-day immune system, allows Tony to survive. Apparently, after she was arrested, Hannah's tumor made her regress to her activist days during which she had a tendency to flash her breasts alongside her peace slogans. Sarah apologizes to the team for her mother's actions, knowing of her condition but not expecting she would do something that extreme. She also reveals that she faked her amnesia and lied about being raped. What had actually happened was that she was involved with the midshipman, and was consensually tied to his bed. He left to get food for them both but was killed in a car accident and never returned, leaving Sarah tied to the bed panicking and calling for help. She lied to her mother because she couldn't figure out how else to explain the situation of why she would be tied to a bed.
    • 'Last Dance': Convicted arms dealer Reymundo Diaz bribing his way out of prison and going on a bloody rampage with his henchmen across the US seeking revenge on the two people who put him away six years ago, Carlos Salazar (who happens to be one of Torres's undercover aliases, but Diaz never learned his real name) and his own cousin Maria (whom Torres convinced to testify). However, he shows no interest in rebuilding his empire. It's because Diaz is dying from a rare and deadly cancer, and he's hellbent on making sure Torres and Maria die with him. He fails, as Diaz is shot in the head by Torres during their shootout.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Fornell on why he doesn't actually go out with the women he meets on dating apps a year after his wife was murdered:
    Fornell: I can't get it up!
    Gibbs: GAH!
    Fornell: The nerve, I mean the nerve!
  • That One Case: Ducky in Lt. Jane Doe.
  • That's an Order!: Though it's easy to forget because of his behavior, Tony is the most senior agent on Gibbs' team. He jokingly orders McGee to do scut work all the time, but there have been several situations where he drops the Small Name, Big Ego act and firmly commands McGee, Kate or Ziva to do what he says. They're insightful enough to tell the difference and listen to him at those times.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: Their initial attitude towards seeing a therapist, though eventually the team gets some long overdue therapy. It . . . seems to help. A little. Very little. See below.
  • There Are No Therapists: There is a staff psychoanalyst, and the team is long overdue for a checkup. However, she's got an ulterior motive. She's Kate's older sister who hadn't gotten closure since her sister's death and wanted to talk to the people who knew her best. Tony guesses who she is, and Gibbs takes her to the spot where her sister's killer died.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Invoked in season 7's "Jetlag." While escorting a witness back to the US from Paris, they're forced to share a single hotel room. Ziva tells the witness she took the couch, while Tony tells McGee he did.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Tony, being The Movie Buff that he is, references the Trope Namer when interviewing a suspect in "Faith".
    Ziva: 1st Sgt. Tibbins?
    Tibbins [starts to hit on Ziva]: Call me Tibbs.
    Tony [impersonates Sidney Poitier]: They call you Mr. Tibbs?
  • This Bear Was Framed:
    • Happens in an episode, with a serial killer masking his murders in a natural park as accidents — including a grizzly attack. The bear sure did partially eat the corpse, but during the autopsy Ducky finds a stab wound in the heart that is too neat to have been done by bear claws.
    • In another episode "Dog Tags", Abby clears the name of a German Shepherd she has named Jethro.
  • Throwing the Fight: Ziva in the season 4 episode "Shalom" against an Iranian Agent so she would confess who she was, thinking she was going to kill Ziva right after said confession. Ziva laughs, thanks her and promptly knocks her out. Turns out she had a voice recorder and had taped the whole thing.
  • Time-Delayed Death: In the Season 7 episode "Obsession", a Navy Lieutenant and his journalist sister are killed by an ex-KGB member with tiny metal balls laced with ricin, bringing to mind the Real Life assassination of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978 in London.
  • Title Drop: In an emotional conversation with Ziva, Tony reminds her of a Navy lieutenant she'd fallen for and refers to him by a common phrase, a phrase which happened to be the episode in which he appeared: "Dead Man Walking".
    • Mike's Swan Song.
    • In "Keep Going" Ducky drops the title offhandedly as part of a saying; Jimmy later gives a Meaningful Echo of it in one of his best moments ever.
    Jimmy, quoting Ducky: When you're going through hell...keep going.
  • To Absent Friends: In the season 2 episode "Call of Silence" there is a touching moment at the end when Corporal Ernest Yost and Lieutenant Hitoshi Yoshida of the Japanese Empire, both of whom served in World War II, share a drink of sake together in memory of their friends who were no longer with them.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kate and Abby, and then Ziva and Abby.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Tony, who Shepard puts in charge when Gibbs is seriously injured and doesn't appear to be coming back. Once he puts aside the smart-ass tendencies, he becomes quite the effective leader. This, of course, shows us some Hidden Depths, and leads to a great exchange when he starts channeling Gibbs during a team argument.
      Abby: You're not Gibbs, Tony.
      Tony: You're right. Acting like Gibbs doesn't make me the boss, being senior agent does. And if drinking coffee, staring, and whacking the backs of your heads helps me to lead this with it.
    • McGee at the beginning of "Dog Tags" and at the end of "Caged".
  • Too Kinky to Torture:
    • Implied with Abby in "Bloodbath":
      McGee: Now, you stay here and don't answer the door, or I will tie you up!
      Abby: Really?
    • Also, Jimmy "Autopsy Gremlin" Palmer. When he helps Abby solve a problem, Gibbs gives Abby a peck on the cheek and Jimmy a Gibbs slap. He looks just as pleased at this as Abby.
    • Much earlier in "Grace Period" Ducky mentioned that he had tried giving Jimmy a Gibbs slap, but Jimmy "appeared to enjoy it."
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Gibbs' not-Starbucks and Abby's Caf-POW! Occasionally subverted, as Gibbs can be seen drinking coffee from Panera Bread early on. The not-Starbucks, however, is far more prominent.
    • Toyed with in one episode in which Gibbs (with his coffee in-hand) becomes engrossed watching Abby and McGee (both drinking Caf-POW!) showing him evidence on the computers in Abby's lab, Gibbs sets down his coffee, drinks are shuffled around the desk, and he gets handed McGee's Caf-POW!. He takes a big, hearty drink (with the straw) while distracted; his eyes go wide, he rips off the lid, spits it back into the cup, hands it back to a thoroughly devastated McGee, takes his coffee, and walks off.
    • In the Season 7 premiere a terrorist is tracked down to Somalia because he imported Caf-POW!.
  • Tragic Keepsake:
    • Ziva's orange cap; it's a reminder of the victim from "Dead Man Walking".
    • Kate's desk, for about three episodes. When Ziva moves on, it returns to tragic keepsake status. Rachel Cranston even discusses this with Bishop.
      • This is so obvious that at first Ellie won't even use the desk, sitting either on the floor or perching on the partition behind it. She lampshades that Ziva is a Tough Act to Follow.
  • Tranquil Fury: Ricki's dad in the flashback scenes of "Hit and Run," especially when Abby returns the teddy bear she got from her grandpa (whom the dad doesn't like.) The grandpa is white, so it is implied that racial tension is involved. Abby did grow up in New Orleans, after all.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Ziva
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Gibbs after getting blown up in the season 3 finale, and DiNozzo in the season 9 premiere after getting shot. They both get better.
  • Trojan Horse: "Trojan Horse."
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback
  • True Companions: With Gibbs in the "Team Dad" role. Do not hurt a member of Team Gibbs. They will hunt you down. And they will end you.
    • You can actually regard them as an actual family. Gibbs as the father, DiNozzo and McGee as the jock-and-nerd quarrelling brothers who seek Dad's approval, Ziva as the tomboy daughter that likes to play with her brothers, Abby as the young Daddy's Girl, Ducky as the odd uncle who loves to tell stories and Palmer as the weird cousin who is sometimes pushed aside. In the season eleven episode "Bulletproof", Ducky actually refers to the team as a family.
    • A running theme in Season 14 is Gibbs trying to make the new team members (Torres, Quinn, and Reeves) understand that the team is a family and that they're part of that family now.
    • When Jacqueline "Jack" Sloane, a forensic psychologist, joins the team in season 15, she slips easily into the Team Mom role, serving as something of a maternal figure for the younger agents — and on multiple occasions teaming up with Gibbs to parent them.
  • Tyke Bomb: A plot point of S7 Ep 07, "Endgame", involving a North Korean assassin who was raised, along with other young girls, for the purpose of being so.

  • Underestimating Badassery: Eli David has a lot of information on Tony DiNozzo. He knows the Tony's great works and his failures. He still let Tony get under his skin when Tony was the one being interrogated by Eli over Tony's involvement in the death of a Mossad agent. Tony even got his interrogator to admit to something he shouldn't have.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Fornell apparently died by hanging in one episode, then showed up at the end without any explanation (though everyone but Gibbs was surprised).
    Tony: Didn't you die?
    Fornell: I'm feeling much better.
  • Unorthodox Holstering: Largely averted, as the team members almost always wear their sidearms on their "strong side" hipnote  though several times they have experienced difficulties when changing where or how they carry. A mini-dress wearing undercover Agent Lee once complained that she could "barely walk straight" because of the location of her gunnote , and while dating Jeanne, Tony once almost blew his cover when trying to control a potentially violent situation by reaching for his gun...which he had forgotten he wasn't wearing.
    • Although we only see Tony carry his weapon on his hip or in a shoulder holster, Ziva and McGee once mentioned that Tony annoys the NCIS armorers by regularly visiting them to try out different types of holsters and carry methods.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: In one episode, Tony dates a woman who turns out to be a male seeking gender reassignment surgery. This is made all the more awkward by the fact the woman had killed a Marine and was intending to kill Tony before the night was over.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Ziva tells Tony he should not have come to rescue her in Somalia.
  • Urban Legend Love Life: Tony, starting in season five. He acknowledges in Season Six that he's going through a dry spell since falling in love while undercover. He just doesn't want anyone to know.
    • Tony and Tim are reading a men's magazine, scoffing at the sexual techniques listed, when Bishop claims to have pulled off several of them, one of which prompts Tony to ask if she's double jointed and for her to claim that she and her then-husband actually did it "by accident".
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment:
    • Gibbs uses the elevator (emergency stopped, of course) as his own private conference room, so this results in many of these.
      "Boss using the elevator as an office again?"
    • In one episode, Gibbs essentially put McGee in "time out" by forbidding him from leaving the elevator as a punishment for a major screw-up.
    • In the "Abby's ex is stalking her" episode, Abby eventually hides in the elevator because she read some statistic that elevators are about the least likely place to die in the United States. Subverted when she realizes that the average person spends just a minute a day in an elevator, and if she moves into one, her chances increase thousandfold.
    • Ziva goes into an elevator with a very obnoxious suspect. When the elevator doors open, the suspect is dead.
    • In Season 7, a massive power outage causes McGee and Ziva to be stuck in the elevator together all night.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Tony and Ziva in the infamous "Under Covers" episode, where they go undercover as insatiable newlywed assassins. And they're apparently very convincing.
    • Bishop and McGee go undercover as husband and wife, but it doesn't result in or heighten already present sexual tension between them. Rather, she ends up confiding in him about her faltering marriage.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Abby's ID card shows no hints of her usual Perky Goth look, showing her with a rather boring suit and hairstyle. She explains it away as saying she had to testify in court the same day she took the photo.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Tony and Kate to some degree. Productions notes say that a relationship between the two characters was being developed, but Sasha Alexander asked to be released from her contract so they never went beyond belligerent flirting.
    • Tony and Ziva, for eight whole seasons before having to be abruptly wrapped up.
      • As one example for the former, they were required to go undercover as a couple of assassins. You read that right, couple. As in married couple. They engage in simulated sex for the benefit of a surveillance camera... and fool the guy who can tell if a person is faking an orgasm, who happens to enjoy note  manning the camera.
      • The entire Season Four has Ziva showing some jealousy at Tony's conversations with Jeanne (even if she tries to hide it as something else).
      • The tension is taken to the next level in Season Six, where Tony is obviously pining for Ziva and clearly jealous of her relationship with Michael. Of course, killing Michael doesn't help his chances, and probably kills any possibility of hooking up with Ziva in the near future.
      • Then again in season 7 Tony basically puts his life on the line to rescue Ziva, and while they are both captives and he has been injected with Truth Serum he warns her not to ask questions she doesn't want answers to.
      • Then again they're being rather cagey about who took the bed and who took the sofa while they were in Paris...
      • In season 9, Tony calls Ziva to tell her that the Navy officer she is safeguarding is actually the man they suspect of having hired an assassin to kill the officer. When she hangs up, the officer asks her if it was her boyfriend and she just gives a little smile that may say much more than what it seems...
      • The production team had to give Tony and Ziva some form of closure in the wake of Coté de Pablo's departure from the show and they did, with the barest of hints that there could be more in the future, in a moment Tiva fans spent the better part of a decade waiting for.
    • Gibbs and Jenny (though theirs used to be resolved).
    • McGee and Abby. When McGee has an onscreen girlfriend and before she turns out to be an assassin, Abby is noticeably torn between wanting him to be happy and just wanting him.
    • Gibbs and Kate, arguably.
      • Suggestive comments: in Sub Rosa, an emergency blow on a nuclear sub throws Kate into Gibbs' arms. His response to her "Wow?" "That's what they all tell me." Her response is to laugh, rather than react angrily. In My Other Left Foot, Gibbs also claimed to know that the tattoo on Kate's butt was not a rose. It's also Gibbs, not Tony, who suggests Kate try on the Puerto Rican two piece Tony gave her - a bikini bottom and a hat, a comment that would be unremarkable from Tony, but is not nearly so typical of Gibbs.
      • In My Other Left Leg, Kate shows quite a bit of jealousy and curiosity when Gibbs flirts shamelessly with a possible suspect.
      • The two of them are pretty uncomfortable reading the sexually explicit e-mails exchanged between a perpetrator and his would-be victim.
      • In one of the first episodes Kate can be seen drawing a very flattering sketch of Gibbs, whereas the ones she draws of Abby and Tony are caricatures. A few episodes later, Tony is riffling through her pad and she seems downright panicky at the thought that he or Gibbs might see it.
      • Gibbs' Berserk Button is triggered when Ari asks after Kate (quote: "Go near her and I don’t care what government agency is watching your back, I will kill you this time."), and to an extent when Tony teases Kate about the Wet T-Shirt Contest photograph. It's also Kate who appears dead in Gibbs' nightmare about Ari. It gets pushed even harder when she does die by Ari's hand.
      • On the flip side, Kate's own button is pushed at the realization that Ari is planning to kill Gibbs.
  • The Unreveal: A very fiendish example mixed with Trolling Creator happened in the Season 14 opener with a mystery pointing back to the predecessor of NCIS, which features a cameo of now full Colonel Bud Roberts from JAG. The question is asked regarding who had to resign their commission when Harmon Rabb and Sarah Mackenzie decided to get married (because there are constraints regarding married personnel working in the military together due to concerns about fraternization interfering with their duties), pointing back to the famous last scene of the series where he flipped a coin for them but we never saw the outcome. Bud is able to get as far as, "So, Harm—" before being cut off. Of course, this also doubles as a Mythology Gag, because had JAG been renewed for an eleventh season, David James Elliot would have let his 10-year contract expire, so Harm would have been the one to resign. In other words, it's heavily implied it was Harm- who had just got promoted, too.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: In Season 18's "Blown Away", Gibbs helps out a reporter study cold cases while on leave from NCIS duty while his team help a NCIS REACT operator investigate why someone wants her team dead.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: In "Ready or Not", McGee and Delilah's twins, Johnny and Morgan, are born.
  • The Uriah Gambit: Vance is revealed to have been originally recruited to NIS in 1991 almost specifically for his expendibility. Obviously, it didn't go as planned.
  • Vapor Wear:
    • Played with in a piece of UST-heavy dialogue between Ziva and Tony: Ziva wants to say that she has no cellphone reception but mangles her English, and says that she is braless rather than the intended "barless". Tony calmly responds, "Yes, I've noticed."
    • Ziva is, in fact, rather obviously not wearing a bra under many of her outfits.
    • In a couple of scenes where Abby is shown taking her T-shirt off, she is not wearing anything underneath. She does seem to be wearing a bra most of the time, though.
    • Discussed — especially by Tony — when an incident from Kate's past is revealed: she won a Wet T-Shirt Contest in her youth.
  • Very Special Episode: More than one episode have slid into this trope's territory.
    • The 2 part episode, "Shell Shock" goes fairly deep into this territory with much screen time being devoted to a Marine's PTSD troubles.
    • "Alleged" focuses on sexual assault, especially the widespread issue with it in the U.S. Military, and it makes it clear that nobody deserves it.
    • S11 Ep 22 "Shooter" edges into this territory with substantial screen time devoted to the plight of unemployed, homless vets. And a runaway homeless teen.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: The strangest example has to be the 3-D graphic of a hard-drive when scanning a perp's computers, but even the main office contains magical displays that are able to zoom in on whatever part of a digital document is being referred to with a simple click of a remote.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kyle Boone, Serial Killer, in the episode 'Mind Games'. He has two actually. He has the first, a minor one, when Gibbs "shoots" him with an unloaded gun instead of actually killing him in cold blood. The second is his real breakdown. It happens when he uses one last psychological attack to rattle Gibbs and put a stay of his execution. It has to do with an agent working under Gibbs (Cassidy) who Boone has his lawyer/protege abduct, torture, and kill. The breakdown at the end of the exchange:
    Boone: Hey, do you think she screamed, when he cut out her tongue, Jethro?
    Gibbs: I don't know. Why don't you ask her yourself?
    *cue agent Cassidy walking into the room and Boone's giant grin melting into shock*
    Cassidy: I'm afraid your lawyer's going to miss your execution tomorrow.
    Tony: He's kinda dead.
    Gibbs: Enjoy hell.
    Boone: *insert breakdown and screaming here*
  • Villainous Legacy: Ari Haswari. He's the one villain that never completely leaves the series. Even close to fifteen years after his death, villains connected to him come out of the woodwork to terrorize Gibbs and the team. On a more personal level, his death continues to haunt his sister and killer Ziva, who has never truly gotten over the guilt of the act, regardless of its necessity.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: Discussed. One episode had a vegan janitor as a suspect, and Abby invoked this trope to argue he had to be innocent.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During the episode "Yankee White," Kate is unknowingly (at first) suffering from the flu. Gibbs makes her vomit into an clear evidence bag since the case they are investigating involves poisoning.
    • Combined with a Vomit Discretion Shot in the episode "Chimera." The first person to end up dead vomits all over another crewmate as he is dying. The initial projectile is shown in all its glory, but he then vomits on the floor — concealed by the character bending over out of frame.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Tony and his father, oddly, since Tony is usually portrayed as being the wacky teammate. His father has an even more carefree and laissez faire attitude, which Tony finds irritating and embarrassing. He becomes very serious and hard-faced when his father is around, much to the confusion of his teammates, who find Dinnozo, Sr. to be very charming. Tony's irritation probably isn't helped by the fact that his father takes every opportunity to hit on Ziva while in town.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Tony, Ziva, and Gibbs all do this when woken up unexpectedly.
  • Was It All a Lie?: In her last appearance before Season Thirteen, Jeanne Benoit asks Tony if anything in their relationship was real. While it was real in that Tony genuinely did love Jeanne back, the relationship itself was all based on a lie, so Tony claimed none of it was so they could both move on.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack":
    • S2 Ep 15, "Caught On Tape", has a Type 1. Kate names the dog of the killer, Tony, even though it's a girl. This leads to a humorous scene where Tony is listening in on Kate and Abby talking about whether Tony likes them, how cute Tony is, and how they could share Tony.
      • Tony returns the favour some time later, although on a fictional dog. While undercover as an escaped convict with real fugitive (to follow him to his partner), Tony is unable to contact the team to let them know where he is. He manages to leave them a message via a random civilian by pretending to be looking for his dog, Kate, who is apparently shaggy and mangy.
    • S5 Ep 13, "Dog Tags" has another Type 1. A military police German Shepard that Abby has to examine for evidence, who she names Jethro.
    • Tony has a pet goldfish named Kate.
  • War Hero: The episode "Call Of Silence" is about a WWII veteran who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima trying to turn himself in for murdering a fellow Marine on the battlefield. In the end, it turned out that he had performed a Mercy Kill for his mortally wounded comrade because the screaming would have attracted the attention of Japanese forces.
    Gibbs: You don't win the Medal of Honor, Kate. You're awarded it, for conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back!: When Tony abruptly goes into "serious mode" Ziva and McGee first thinks he's joking, then trying to make them look bad in front of an assistant DA and later believes he is going crazy. It turns out he was feeling guilty for not noticing a woman he had a one-night-stand with who thought they were soulmates was actually seriously depressed and was trying to make up for it by not making fun of everyone. He got better after Ziva gives him a pep-talk.
    • In "Kill Ari," Gibbs briefly starts acting nice, even offering to buy Tony and McGee coffee. Abby doesn't notice a difference, but Tony is horrified and spends a portion of the episode trying to annoy Gibbs into his usual personality.
    • Bishop snaps at Gibbs after realizing he's been going easy on her ever since she joined the team. After he explains that he's trying something new, since he keeps losing the agent that sits at her desk, she demands the same treatment that Tony and McGee get. Gibbs complies—and immediately tells her to sit at her desk and not on the floor where she'd pretty much been sitting any time she was researching in prior episodes.
    Gibbs: Back to the old way.
  • Wedding Deadline: A mild example. The team rescue a Marine who was abducted shortly before his wedding for totally unrelated reasons. After closing the case he contacts his fiancee and they have to rush to the nearest courthouse to get married before it closes for the weekend. Thankfully, McGee cheats - he called ahead with an explanation to ensure that a justice of the peace would stay a little late to marry the couple if they didn't make it on time.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Tony; slightly subverted in that Gibbs has always been proud of him...he just doesn't feel the need to say it. This has lessened in later seasons, after Gibbs left his team to Tony during his Mexican sabbatical. This quote is from season six's "Bounce":
    Tony: Save the pep talk. We both know I screwed up.
    Gibbs: Yeah, three years ago. But now you're making it right...and me proud. You've been doing a hell of a job, Anthony.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A Marine captain who, because he wanted to prevent his men from being tortured to death like his younger brother, decided to torture them the same way his brother was to toughen them up. When one of them accidentally died (followed not long after by his friend), the others rationalized it by saying they were weak.
  • Wet T-Shirt Contest: A drunken Tony discovers that straight-laced Kate has not only entered, but won, one in her youth. He never lets her live it down. When a photo of the occasion finally is produced, it turns out to be a Nipple and Dimed version: it shows her in a Sexy Soaked Shirt but is cropped just above her breasts.
  • Wham Episode:
    • "Twilight" has Kate being murdered in the last seconds.
    • "Angel of Death" ends with Jeanne introducing Tony to her father, La Grenouille.
    • "Shabbat Shalom" has Eli David and Jackie Vance being murdered.
    • "Berlin" ends with Tony and Ziva getting into a car accident.
    • "Check" ends not only with Gibbs' ex-wife/Fornell's current wife Diane getting killed by Sergei Mishnev but Gibbs actually finds Mishnev and is about to choke him to death when someone (with the same long red hair as Gibbs' other ex-wife (the 2nd one)) KO's him and allows Mishnev to escape.
    • "Family First". Ziva is murdered, it is revealed that she and Tony had a brief fling before they parted ways in Israel two years previously, resulting in a child, and Tony resigns to focus on raising his daughter.
    • "Two Steps Back" sees the death of Clayton Reeves in an attempt to kill Abby, and the resulting incident leads Abby to leave NCIS to honor Reeves and his work with orphaned children.
    • "She" ends with the reveal that Ziva is alive and in hiding.
    • "Rule 91" Bishop is responsible for leaking a NSA document.
    • "A Family Matter" Raven turns out to be the hacker Maxwell who NCIS took into custody initially.
  • Wham Line: In season 11 "Better Angels" Jackson Gibbs revealed the man who saved him in World War 2 was German.
  • Wham Shot: The end of "Daughters": Ziva's back!
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: "Bête Noire" points out a few of the main characters' (plus Ari who first appears in this episode but becomes a recurring character) fears.
    • Tony fears vampires.
    • Abby fears going to Autopsy (but gets over it soon after).
    • Gibbs fears having to be taught about technology.
    • Ari fears butterflies.
  • What If?: The 200th episode Life Before His Eyes takes place in a comatose dream where Gibbs reunites with some of the people in his life who had passed on (Franks, his mother, and Shannon and Kelly), where they show what would happen if things turned out differently in his life: if Caitlin never died by Ari's hand, she and Tony would've married, Ziva would've never joined NCIS and would instead be arrested for terrorism. If Gibbs never exacted his revenge against Hernandez for the death of his wife and child, he would've left NCIS and become a reclusive drunk. Finally, if Shannon and Kelly had survived, Gibbs would've stayed in the Marines and eventually die in combat.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gibbs has been on the receiving end twice from:
    • Abby, regarding his murder of Pedro Hernandez, not confessing for 20 years and not stopping the evidence incriminating him from being buried, twice.
    • Tony, for not being as vigilant in the manhunt for Trent Kort after he's revealed to have killed Ziva.
  • Whodunnit to Me?: "Dead Man Walking". A lieutenant is poisoned via radiation and asks NCIS to solve who did it to him before he starts getting really sick. He survives to the end of the episode, but dies offscreen a few shows later.
  • Why Couldn't You Save Them?: A major plot point of season 9's "Rekindled" when Tony works with arson specialist Jason, whom he saved from a housefire when Jason was 9. Unfortunately, the fire was too out of control by the time Tony arrived to save Jason's younger sister without killing all three of them. He made a choice, one that Jason resents him for. He gives Tony the cold shoulder until the end of the episode, when the two finally has it out. Tony tells him the incident was the reason he became a cop (it's also the reason Jason became an arson specialist), and that the number one thing he learned that night was you can't save them all.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: "Why does it always have to be boats, and rats?"
  • Wild Card: Tony describes himself as one when captured by Saleem.
  • Wire Dilemma: In "Ready or Not", Reeves and Torres find a bomb, and it quickly becomes clear that neither has the slightest idea how to disarm one. With time clearly running out and the bomb squad not present, they ultimately just slice through some wires and run for it. Fortunately, it worked.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: "The Enemy Within": A bunch of American terrorists are on a mission in America and one of them is posing as a volunteer who worked with orphans in Syria who pretended to be kidnapped in order to drum up funds for terrorists (she didn't expect the part where she was rescued by Navy SEALs and became famous). When their plan fails they let out a stream of what sounds like swear words and insults (I recognized this one her target was a peace-preaching imam and it's definitely not a compliment), quite a contrast to their previous behavior.
  • Women Are Delicate: Hilarity Ensues when those not in the know assume this of Ziva.
  • Woman Scorned: A mild example. In early season 11, Ziva runs into Dr. Deena Bashan, a childhood friend and Ari's love. He was planning on proposing to her when he went rogue and Ziva killed him. She was less than pleased with learning Ziva was involved in Ari's death, and so she lied to Tony so Ziva's love couldn't find her.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: A guy exploits vulnerabilities in the entire Navy fleet to avenge his son, who died when a terrorist exploited a flaw in his battleship.
  • The Worf Effect: Want to show how awesome a new threat is?? Have Ziva be taken down by said threat.
  • Working with the Ex:
    • Seasons three through five had Director Jenny Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs, who had formerly been lovers.
    • At least thrice has wife number 2 Diane, the one who wed both Gibbs and Fornell, has worked with both ex's.
    • Tony ends up working with his ex-fiance Wendy in season 9, and spends most of the episode trying to prevent her and Ziva from being alone together. He's not afraid that they'll hate each other...he's afraid of what Wendy might tell Ziva about him. He is unsuccessful, but is pleasantly surprised that Wendy had nothing but good things to say.
  • Write Who You Know: In-Universe McGee's based a series of thriller novels he's written on his coworkers and miscellaneous civilians. He is a best-selling author, under the Pen Name of "Thom E. Gemcity". Despite his picture being on the back cover, he's almost never recognized. This causes problems when a Loony Fan starts killing people based on actions taken by their fictional selves in McGee's next book (the killer had been reading McGee's typewriter ribbons to get a sneak peek). In that episode, McGee finally admits that he bases the characters in his books off the NCIS team (after the content of his latest book had been revealed, he'd made it a point to deny the similarities).
    • This gets lampshaded and exploited in the episode "Friends and Lovers", when the team has to investigate a high-class nightclub. Rather than make up a celebrity to get into the place, they simply send in McGee using his "Gemcity" identity, complete with a trio of female admirers (Ziva, Abby, and Michelle Lee). The bouncer was a fan of his works.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: In "Lost and Found", the team learns that a Cub Scout who was visiting NCIS on a field trip had been reported kidnapped by a non-custodial parent years before. Later investigation connects the father to a convenience store murder committed around the same time. While the team does eventually prove that he had been framed for the armed robbery and murder charges, the fact remains that he had kidnapped his infant son from his legal guardians (maternal grandparents). Even if said guardians were now deceased and he had done his best to be a good father to the boy over the years, it seems unlikely that the authorities would simply hand the boy over to the man and let him go home, especially without some form of hearing from child services.
  • X Days Since: Used a few times.
  • You Are Not Alone: After the death of her father, Tony tells her this (in Hebrew, no less) as she leaves for Israel to attend the funeral.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Regularly.
    • Played with in the "Doppelgänger" episode when the McGee analogue fetches coffee for Gibbs and his counterpart.
    • This is also played with when one of the team members (usually McGee) drinks or spills Gibbs' coffee, leaving them stammering, sputtering, and scrambling to get him a fresh cup.
      • This panic exists, but with the exception of Tony. Upon accidentally getting each other's coffees, he and Gibbs take a sip, pull disgusted faces, and calmly swap and keep drinking, all without saying a word or looking at one another.
      • Director Shepard also had immunity, Gibbs GAVE her his coffee at least twice, and one time she actually stole his cup and drank from it. Considering their history, it's not surprising...
  • You Have to Believe Me!: The show loves subverting this one. See trope page for examples.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • Director Shepard to La Grenouille.note  Later she does kill him, but no one figures it out until she's already dead...or was it Trent, actually telling the truth?
    • The daughter of the drug dealer who killed Gibbs' family to Gibbs; it turns out she's now the leader of the gang and she's the one who's been orchestrating all the Mexican intrigue.
    • Variation: You killed my daughter. Prepare to Die. — Gibbs' former mother-in-law to the Navy captain who was the main connection to the drug dealers that killed her daughter and granddaughter (the closest she could get to the actual murderers) — as he's on his knees about to propose to her. Gibbs later reveals to her that he avenged his family and "illegally" arrests her in her lawyer's presence to negate the charges.
    • Another variation: You (tangentially) killed my son: A young Navy recruit was arrested by Gibbs after he and a friend played a prank. The recruit's dad, a technological firm CEO, had them transferred to another ship which was blown up by a terrorist who found a flaw in the ship's design. Years later the guy blames Gibbs for his son's transfer, and he knows at least two deadly flaws in the fleet.
    • Ziva invoked this after her father gunned down in a drive-by shooting arranged by his protege.
    • Another variation is a man killed this young man's sister in front of him during a mugging gone wrong. The victim purposely screwed with the case to get it thrown out, so he could exact a personal revenge.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Gibbs' team tries to find him the perfect woman in the ninth season episode "Safe Harbor" so he will stop making them work nights and weekends.
    • Gibbs told Tony he'd made a mistake in blowing off his ex-fiancee for Christmas brunch in the ninth season episode "Newborn King."
    • Tony and Ziva often push Tim McGee to ask out a girl and Tony once arranged a date for Tim.
    • Dr. Samantha Ryan says this is the reason why Gibbs is so gruff in season 9's "The Tell."
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lt. Roy Sanders in "Dead Man Walking."
  • You Taste Delicious: During the aforementioned sexual harassment training, Ziva notices Tony not paying attention, and licks him. He promptly jumps up and draws everyone's attention.


Video Example(s):


Community Center

Knight and Torres pay a visit to the Promised Honored community center, which assists Afghans who made it to America via American-led airlift operations in 2021.

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Main / RippedFromTheHeadlines

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