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  • Acceptable Targets:
    • Any case where there's a Would Hurt a Child villain gets taken personally by Gibbs and the rest of the team.
    • Rapists are not shown in any sympathetic light (to the point where the Team tends to go easy on people who kill them), and if you're a child molester or a sex trafficker, Team Gibbs will show you NO mercy when they hunt you down.
    Abby: (After Agent Cabot slaps a serial rapist in Interrogation for attempting to use Victim Blaming to save his skin despite the huge pile of evidence against him) Okay... I'm really antiviolence, but that was awesome!
    • Being a member of the CIA is more-or-less shorthand for corrupt agent in this show. (Especially if your name is Trent Kort.)
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    • Subverted with the Real-Life Superheroes Neighborhood Watch program in "Secrets". Many of them are portrayed as pretty nerdy as they dress up in homemade superhero costumes and take on "secret identities" as part of it, but the episode demonstrates that the social work they do has actually lowered crime rates by 50% in the DC area, and they can be pretty badass when the situation calls for it (Especially the nerdy, skinny guy who surprise uppercuts the ex-Marine-turned-hitman who attempts to attack Gibbs, Tony, and Ziva). Even Gibbs comes to respect the group by the end of the episode.
      Gibbs: They were making a difference.
      Vance: Sounds like you had a change of heart.
      Gibbs: Good guys are good guys, Leon.
      Vance: And bad guys are bad guys.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Does Abby solve crimes out of a sense of duty? Or does she regard cases more like fun puzzles to solve? That would explain why she's so happy all the time.
  • Angst? What Angst?: Ziva. Though we do get shown some moments, most of the time she's surprisingly chipper considering everything that's happened to her.
    • As is Bishop, who mourned her dead boyfriend for all of one episode. This is a man who was the first she dated after her divorce (and she got over that right away too) and whose proposal she was going to accept.
  • Badass Decay: Every time Kort shows up after season 4, something worse happens to him. It's no surprise that he ends up getting killed no matter what the circumstances.
  • Broken Base: One don't hear much about it but there's one camp that think that Ziva and Tony's relationship is Like Brother and Sister (making Gibbs' team like siblings with him as Daddy Gibbs) and then there's the ones that think of it as Belligerent Sexual Tension. And then there's they who can't make up their minds. Even the series switched back and forth a lot.
  • Complete Monster: See here.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • People who dislike and/or outright hate every other character on the show will still love Ducky. But hey, it is Ilya Kuryakin...
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    • CGIS Agent Abigail Borin, played by Diane Neal, has a popularity with the fanbase all out of proportion to the number of times she has actually been on the show, to the point where she made two consecutive appearances on NCIS: New Orleans and eventually made a third. Many are clamoring for her to be a full time addition to the NCIS universe and some blatant hints have been made on NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans that the powers that be may be seriously considering the idea.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Agent "Pouty Lips" Lee.
  • Foe Yay:
    • Between Kate and Ari in the first two seasons, even acknowledged by the other characters.
    • Arguably, Tony and Trent Kort, the CIA agent who tried to kill him once.
    • Gibbs and M. Allison Hart.
    • With bonus Les Yay in "The Curse". A female suspect (Melora Hardin) smiles at Kate and says "Come on home with me, honey." Kate does.
    • Vance and that North Korean spy. Ducky explicitly explained how to her Vance is the closest thing to a lover she's had.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: Early jokes about "why Gibbs has three ex-wives" seem a lot less funny when the real reason becomes clear.
    • In "Page Not Found", Tony and McGee remark that a corrupt CIA agent is "worse than Trent Kort". Come "Dead Letter", Kort is revealed to have been traitor for years.
  • Genius Bonus: The "artwork" on the walls of Abby's lab is actually blown-up close-ups lethal wounds.
  • Gotta Ship 'Em All: Gibbs, Tony, Ziva, McGee, Kate, Abby, and, to a lesser extent, Jenny, are each shipped with all the others by fans. The Ziva/Kate ship is particularly jarring, considering Ziva didn't even come on the show until after Kate had died. This leaves only Ducky, Palmer, and Vance who aren't commonly shipped with anyone (though you do occasionally see Ducky/Gibbs or Palmer/someone), perhaps because Ducky is about thirty-five years older than almost everyone else, Palmer doesn't have a substantial amount of interaction with anyone other than Ducky, and Vance was married until very recently.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Any scene with Jake and Ellie, courtesy of the revelation of his affair and their subsequent divorce.
      • In "Incognito", McGee congratulates Jake on him and Ellie going to St. Johns for a long weekend. He didn't know that it was supposed to be a surprise anniversary gift and Ellie sarcastically thanks McGee for ruining the surprise. Six episodes later, Ellie gets a nasty surprise of her own when Jake's affair comes to light, meaning that was one of the last things that they were ever going to do together.
    • In one episode, a mob boss says that if Gibbs is screwing him around, he'll kill his entire family, and then him. Gibbs jauntily replies that everyone in his family is dead, though he would be willing to give the boss the names of his ex-wives. Later on, we learn that he does have a living father, Jackson Gibbs, who appears in several episodes...and eventually dies of a stroke.
    • Tony's comments to Jimmy and Breena in We Build, We Fight become this after Family First, when it is revealed that Ziva had their child without telling him. Victoria Palmer was not the first NCIS baby.
    • In "Dead Letter," Kort mentions that he was the best man at a dead agent's wedding. Tony doesn't believe him. Either Kort's lying to gain sympathy and seem less guilty, or he just killed his friend (of which he does have very few).
    • In "Hiatus, Part 2", an amnesia-stricken Gibbs is being caught up on history:
    Doctor: "It doesn't surprise you that The Terminator is the governor of California?"
    Gibbs: "Not at all. The Gipper was President."
    • A little over ten years from that episode's airing, we got an even more shocking presidential election result. Even odder, the episode was rerun on the USA network a few days after Election Day 2016.
    • "Dead Man Talking" The team's attitude regarding the woman who turns out to be a pre-op transsexual, as well as the killer they're looking for comes off pretty transphobic nowadays—continually referring to her as a "guy", or with male pronouns, even as a "he-she" (which some consider a slur these days). In particular, Gibbs' snark about "adding that misdemeanor to the murder charge", regarding the woman having used the female restroom, is especially cringeworthy given the ongoing bathroom controversies.
    • A marine recruiter in "One Shot, One Kill" (from the first season, first aired in 2004) tells two teenagers that Iraq will probably be over by the time they finish basic training. Yeah...
    • Any episode that explores Abby's troubled background and issues stemming from harassment, especially the episode where she is pursued by a stalker. In real life, Pauley Perrette shares this aspect of her character because she was aggressively stalked to the point of being sickened to even open a laptop and having tearful breakdowns, and now started her own group to protest and cope with this sort of abuse, as seen in a two-part special on 48 Hours. Perrette invoked that plot on purpose as a statement to the problem stalkers present to our society and how unjust it is for authority abusers to just leave them be and blame the women for getting involved with them as though they had control over the situation in the first place.
    • Speaking of Abby, virtually every single scene between her and Gibbs over the show's first 14 seasons after a falling-out between their actors resulted in Perrette deciding to leave the shownote . Consequentially, Gibbs and Abby have very few scenes together in Season 15, not even in her final episode.
      • In particular, the episode "Dog Tags", where Abby befriends a dog that bit McGee and relentlessly chastises McGee for disliking and fearing the animal, to the point of forcing him to take the dog home with him seems like a downright eerie premonition.
    • In "Dead Air", a few extreme members of an isolationist political group based in Alexandria, Virgina, target a high-school softball game which several high-government officials are attending due to their daughters participating in the game. Thankfully, nobody was hurt because the team managed to get everybody out of the baseball field before the bomb went off. Seven years after the episode first aired, a Left-Wing domestic terrorist shot up the practice game of the Congressional Baseball Game for Charity in Alexandria, and unlike the episode, people were hurt in the attack (although the only fatality was the perpetrator after a shootout with the police).
    • In "One Man's Trash", Kasie's debut episode, she moves her workspace from Autopsy to the Forensics Lab because she didn't want to see the dissection of one of the victims; when Gibbs asks if it's her first dead body, she nervously says she has seen one before but she doesn't give him any details. In "What Child is This", we learn that Kasie's "first dead body" was her father, who died from a sudden heart attack on his mail route three months before the events of "One Man's Trash". Kasie had to ID him in the morgue because her mom couldn't bring herself to do it. What makes it even worse? The last time Kasie and her father talked to each other, they got into a huge fight because Kasie was thinking of dropping out of grad school.
    • In Season 17 everything that the new neighbor Sarah did now that we know she was the one who firebombed Ziva's farmhouse (making Team Gibbs think she was dead for three years) and used her own son as a way to spy on Gibbs.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The final line of "Twisted Sister," in which McGee's sister thinks she may have killed someone, has Gibbs saying "Sometimes, McGee, a little lie is good for the soul." Sis is played by Troian Bellisario, who four years after the episode first aired would start to build evidence to the contrary. P.S. She didn't do it.
    • In "Good Cop, Bad Cop", Tony is being annoying to McGee, including a reference to "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allen Poe and asking him if he has a body buried under his floorboards. (It Makes Sense in Context...sorta.) Seven years later, it's revealed that Tony's apartment has a body buried under the floorboards, and he doesn't even know it. And to make it better, this revelation comes after McGee leases the apartment for himself and Delilah, making Tony's joke prescient by seven years.
      • And speaking of that body, witness this dialogue from "Return to Sender" when McGee and Bishop try to guess how Tony could even afford his apartment. Does Gibbs intentionally hide the answer in plain sight?
        Bishop: Loan from your dad?
        McGee: Generous cougar?
        Gibbs: (entering) Dead the mortuary.
    • In "Voices", McGee and his wife Delilah are disagreeing on wheather or not they want to know the gender of the baby they're expecting. Tim wants to find out, and one of the reasons he gives is because it would be easier to narrow down the baby names if they know the gender. At the end of the episode, the couple discover that they're expecting twins, one boy and one girl, so they really do have to come up with names for both genders.
    • In early May 2019, David McCallum was seen leaving Martin's Tavern in Georgetown with none other than Robert Mueller. People were quick to joke that NCIS was on the Mueller Investigation.
  • He's Just Hiding!: Ziva. This is even supported by producer and co-writer of the episode, Gary Glasberg, who stated it's left open to interpretation whether or not Ziva is dead for real. Though, now that Glasberg himself is no longer with us, if she does suddenly come back, he won't be there to see it happen... Season 16's "She" reveals that Ziva is indeed still alive.
  • Ho Yay: Has it's own page NCIS
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • In one episode, Gibbs is "shot" as part of a sting. In the season 5 finale, killing Jenny Shepard offscreen. Subverted, as they darn well would. She takes four baddies with her, though. And the serial killer's plan to get himself shot and ruin Gibbs' fails. Badly. "Requiem" opens with Gibbs having apparently drowned.
    • Like you would really blow up Tony and his old flame with an RPG. Your Target Is In Another Safe House.
    • Like you would really blow up Gibbs, Abby, Tony, Ziva AND McGee, and give Ducky a heart attack at the news. Yep, that's the season nine cliffhanger note ...
    • Like you would really kill Tony and Ziva off in a car crash 3 episodes before the end of season 10.
    • Like you would really kill off Dex, the brave bomb-sniffing black Labrador who the team and audience has come to respect and adore throughout the episode "Seek". By the episode's conclusion, he's recovered and given to his handler's widow.
    • Like you would even DARE to kill off the beloved and highly idolized Abigail Scuito on her farewell episode. Trailers ALWAYS Lie!
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Ari shoots Kate and tries to shoot Abby to deliberately cause Gibbs grief, despite the fact that he could have easily shot Gibbs instead at the time and Gibbs was a more tactically valuable target.
    • Ari believes that the missile strike that killed his mother was ordered by Eli David, in order to "harden" him into a better killer. Keep in mind that Ari was a child at the time, and Eli was his father. If that wasn't enough, he orders his daughter Ziva to kill Ari, her half-brother, after Ari proves to be disloyal.
  • More Popular Replacement: Ziva is more widely recognized than Kate, given that the show gained widespread recognition after Kate's departure. As a result, many newer viewers don't even know who Kate is until they either stumble across an episode where she's mentioned or view one of the first two seasons later on.
  • More Popular Spin-Off: NCIS has far outstripped its parent show JAG, to the point that many viewers haven't even heard of the latter.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Ducky's voice.
  • Narm:
    • The climax of the Christmas Episode Newborn King. A pregnant Marine is giving birth while Ziva holds off the mercenaries who are trying to kidnap the baby...but all dialogue and sound effects are muted, with the soundtrack playing "Silent Night." Painfully overdone.
    • The infamous "2 idiots, 1 keyboard" scene, where Abby and [McGee get into a Hacker Duel with someone trying to hack into NCIS...using the same keyboard...
    • The depiction of Marseilles in "The Admiral's Daughter", especially the restaurant signs that make no sense and the accordion background music, more fitting the 1910s than the 2010s.
  • Narrowed It Down to the Guy I Recognize:
    • In the episode "Dead Reckoning," an international crime lord is played by some guy you've probably never heard of before. Meanwhile, the timid accountant who turns informer against him is played by Emmy Award winner Christian Clemenson. If you guessed just by reading that sentence that Clemenson is, in fact, The Man Behind the Man, you win a cookie.
    • The episode "A Weak Link" had guests Adam Baldwin, Julie Benz and Doug Savant. Subverted - None of them did it, it was a suicide.
      • Some fifteen seasons later, Doug Savant returns as a different character. Apparently, he really needed to be responsible for a crime on this show.
    • Misha Collins guest-starred as someone who gets "Singled Out" as a kidnapping/murder suspect. He did steal the car, but did not kill the navy lieutenant.
  • Periphery Demographic: This series is far more popular among tween girls than the typical Police Procedural, thanks to the popularity of Abby Sciuto.
  • The Problem with Licensed Games: The video game wasn't very well received. For starters only one voice actor from the actual show was in it, it was near impossible to lose, simple plots, poor visuals, etc.
  • 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.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Bishop is still on the receiving end of a lot of vocal fan hate after her second season.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Director Vance wasn't well liked until it was revealed there's more to him than meets the eye, and he very likely isn't Vance at all.
    • After she was poorly received for being overly quirky in Season 11, Season 12 cast Eleanor Bishop as a probie taken under DiNozzo's wing and attitudes towards her improved as well.
      • "A Many Splendored Thing" also cast her in a more positive light for some fans, because of her attempt at going after the season's Big Bad by herself, and succeeding at out-gambitting his attempt at Playing Both Sides.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Ship Tease: Tony and Kate unfortunately she dies before it can go anywhere. He also seems to have.. Something towards McGee, although that never goes anywhere either.
  • Squick:
    • In one episode, a woman and her son with a vendetta against Ducky kidnap him, strap him to an autopsy table, and try to kill him by bleeding him out through a huge needle in his neck.
    • Don't forget when Gibbs find the husband-wife toe-eating team.
    • The Cold Opening of "Murder 2.0". A woman turns on her shower, her husband puts on mood music, Bra Hits Floor, blood starts spurting from the shower head.
    • "Angel of Death". A drug dealer and his addict girlfriend try to retrieve the body of a mule, who had the package burst inside him. While the stand-off happens, the addict gets on the table and begins snorting straight out of the opened corpse. Bonus Squick for the corpse in question being her brother!
    • The exploding bodies in the crypts in "Skeletons."
    • In "Detour", Ducky and Jimmy weaponize this trope. When they are kidnapped and forced to perform an autopsy on a dead mole, they purposely sqiuck out their captors with the details so that they vacate the cabin they are chained in. This gives them enough alone time to plan out their escape.
    • Some of the dead bodies, before and/or during the autopsy scenes, obviously count. Those makeup artists have no shortage of fake blood and guts.
  • Special Effects Failure: The show started using some extremely cheap looking CGI in lieu of practical effects in later seasons. Watch the car's transformation in this scene.
  • Stoic Woobie: Gibbs, Ziva.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Bishop and Qasim. Unlike the time and care taken to develop nearly every other love interest/love story, their relationship is depicted in a grand total of THREE episodes—one to establish that they're dating (before which we got zero indication that she was seeing anyone), one to kill him off a few weeks later, and one a few weeks after that to tell us their story via flashbacks, capped off with the revelation that she would have accepted his proposal had he not died. The sole purpose of the storyline seems to be to give Bishop the same tragic, screwed-up love life that nearly every other character has. Unfortunately, given how rushed it was, unlike the deaths of other love interests—Jackie, Diane, etc—his fails to have any emotional impact. Not to mention that the time frame of their relationship makes it implausible that they could have been together long enough to be considering marriage.
    • Gibbs' relationship with his never before mentioned fiancée Ellen Wallace gets this too. He was in the process of divorcing his third wife in 2001. That leaves very little time for him to meet Ellen, want to marry her, then break up with her the day before 9/11 (she was killed in the attack on the Pentagon). Not to mention that he swore off marriage after the third divorce. It's unlikely that he would have met someone who would have changed his mind so rapidly.
  • Strawman Has a Point: Or rather, Abby's psychotic stalker ex has a point, in that if he hadn't been stalking her and taking pictures of her, then he wouldn't have found the other stalker that had just kidnapped Abby on her way to court. Of course since it's Abby she's got the situation well in hand, but he still helped find the real bad guy who Team Gibbs didn't even know existed.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Miranda Pennebacker from "Gone". She's some kind of Anti-Villain who Gibbs apparently got involved with at some point, and mainly deals in stolen jewels and the like, but still considers human traffickers to be scum, and helps rescue a kidnapped girl from such people. Sounds like a cool character, right? Too bad she never shows up again after that one episode.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Eli David. Every so often the writers make him look like he is misunderstood, that he is some sort of a ultra-dedicated patriot, and therefore Ziva should try to make amends with him. All these ring hollow, however, because Ziva herself has once explicitly stated that, after abandoning her to death in Somalia, for all intents and purposes, Eli is dead to her.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • "Last Man Standing" : Evidence indicates that Agent Lee is the mole the team is searching for until she sheepishly admits that her secret rendezvous' were with Palmer. By the episode's conclusion, it's revealed that she IS the traitor at NCIS.
    • "Day In Court": 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 confesses that he is cheating on her with the woman from Internal Affairs.
      • It gets untwisted even further in subsequent episodes. Given the nature of the show, many viewers speculated that Jake was in fact lying to protect Ellie from something even more nefarious, only for the affair to be confirmed once again.
    • Emily Fornell suffers a drug overdose. Everyone assumes her drink was spiked and sets out to find her assailant. . . and it turns out that she's become a drug addict.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • The team's attitude in "Dead Man Talking" (an episode released in 2004) regarding the woman who turns out to be a pre-op transsexual, as well as the killer they're looking for comes off pretty transphobic nowadays—continually referring to her as a "guy", or with male pronouns, even as a "he-she" (which some consider a slur these days). In particular, Gibbs' snark about "adding that misdemeanor to the murder charge", regarding the woman having used the female restroom, is especially cringeworthy given the ongoing bathroom controversies. Kate also seems far more aghast at "Tony being on a date with a guy!", rather than Tony being on a date with a murderer who killed one of their fellow agents and was likely going to kill Tony as well. Not to mention that the murderer likely didn't transition because of identifying as a woman, but as of the ultimate disguise to get away with their crimes, lending to the unfortunate implication that transgender people are somehow "bad" or "evil" (Though given it was a transition to hide from a murder charge, whether or not it counts as transphobic can become it's own debate).
    • A more minor example in the season 3 episode “Ravenous”, released in 2006. Tony shows romantic interest in a park ranger he meets during an investigation, but he changes his mind when he finds out that she doesn’t shave her legs or underarms. The sight of this causes him to react in disgust and make up an excuse for why he can’t date her. This is Played for Laughs and it’s clear the writers expect the audience to share his revulsion. While stigma against women who choose not to shave for whatever reason still exists, nowadays there is a growing backlash against the idea that natural body hair on a woman is somehow dirty or gross.
    • Tony says and does a HELL of a lot of things that would get him slapped with a sexual harassment complaint these days—and should have even then. Like the jaw-droppingly inappropriate scene where he bluntly asks Kate why she's in such a bad mood—"It can't be PMS, that's not for another week."
  • The Woobie: Various characters have been this at times. Tony sometimes skirts into Jerkass Woobie territory.
    • Jeanne Benoit. A completely innocent woman who just happened to be the daughter of a crime lord/arms dealer, and as such, was manipulated by Tony in order to get to her father, only to find out Tony never really loved her. (In Tony's defense, it's implied he really did have feelings for her and didn't like having to do what he did).


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