Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
From left to right (For Seasons 3-5): Gibbs, Jenny, Ducky, Abby, Tony, McGee, and Ziva.

Created by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill, NCIS is a spinoff of JAG that leaped on the Forensic Drama bandwagon started by CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, with some traditional Crime And Punishment and even a bit of Spy Drama thrown in for good measure. 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 particular team is led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a retired Marine gunnery sergeant, and contains (surprise!) a rather colorful collection of detectives and lab workers. The series debuted in September 2003 and is still ongoing.

A classic example of a Sleeper Hit, the show was largely ignored at the beginning of its run, but has gained viewers with virtually every season and as of 2012 is the number one scripted drama on network television.

NCIS stands for "Naval Criminal Investigative Service" - like JAG, a real department of the Navy, and also like JAG, less action-packed in real life than the show would imply.

A spinoff series, NCIS: Los Angeles, premiered in 2009.

Tropes used in NCIS include:


  • 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.
  • Adorkable: In "Jurisdiction", the CGIS expy of Abby is a cute Asian Meganekko wearing Nerd Glasses.
  • Affably Evil:
    • The merchant of death, René Benoît.
    • Arguably, Ari.
    • The Reynosas, a Mexican Brother-Sister Team that declared a feud on Gibbs. They are actually among the series' most sympathetic villains.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Usually resulting in a What Kept You?. 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.
  • Alternate Timeline: 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 Abby.
  • Always Gets His Man: Gibbs... because, well, he's Gibbs.
  • Anyone Can Die: Kate Todd, Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks... that's not counting the multitude of other NCIS agents and the like who have died, or the spinoff series.
  • Arcade Sounds: Subverted in the episode "Honor Code". The sounds heard from the Nintendo DS are, in fact, the sounds of the user's info (date, time, etc) being entered into a brand new Nintendo DS.
  • Artistic License Geography: NCIS erroneously believes Chechnya to be Russia's neighbor, apparently in-universe invaded in some sort of Russian anti-terrorism police action, and while it is surprisingly regular in recognizing Chechen insurgents as terrorist groups, it stubbornly refers to Chechnya as if it were an independent country, with its own passports recognized by the international community, and so on. The only way to enter the United States from Chechnya is carrying a Russian Federation passport with a US visa, because Chechnya has been a province of Russia for the last several hundred years.
    • Note as this takes place in the JAG-universe, JAG made this error first and for continuity's sake was kept.
  • Atonement Detective: Gibbs.
  • Audit Threat: Both Tony and Gibbs occasionally make one.
  • Author Appeal: Ever since Shane jumped on as Producer, there's been a lot more Abby fanservice and a lot less Abby/McGee. YMMV, but some fans do not approve.
  • Awesomeness By Analysis:
    • Inverted by Gibbs in Season 7 Episode 9 "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 Naive Newcomer and a cold-hearted professional assassin.
    • In Season 7 Episode 22 "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.
  • Backstory:
    • All characters have some, such as Gibbs having lost hist first wife and daughter.
    • In a Running Gag, Ducky is always interrupted when commenting on his life stories.
    • Several characters' backstories, including Vance's, are brought into sync during the episode "Enemies Domestic".
  • Badass: Gibbs, Ziva (who's a Badass Israeli). All of the main cast get at least one badass moment over the course of the show's run, though.
  • Badass Adorable: Abby.
  • Badass Crew: Team Gibbs. Full stop. Even off-duty.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Mike Franks, literally.
    • Jackson Gibbs is fairly badass in his own right although he's not really a grandpa anymore.
    • Ducky gets his own moments of this occasionally, like when he faced Ari at gunpoint and had Fornell in a sleeper hold.
  • Badass Mustache: Gibbs sported one for a few episodes after his short "retirement". It freaked out Tony and McGee.

Gibbs: I need you to look at something before you leave.
Fornell: You've got that mustache in a box, don't you?

  • Bad 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.
  • 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.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy:
    • Up 'til the sixth season, characters on the autopsy table had their genitals blanked out by a very bright "light", unless they were so mangled that it wasn't necessary. From the sixth season on, they simply had a towel covering them.
    • Female cadavers are usually shown with their chest cavity already opened so that they do not have to cover their breasts too.
  • 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 safe-house, and to react to that news by shooting the shit out of said house indiscriminately.
  • Beauty/Handsomeness Are Never Tarnished: The team averts it regularly, but especially in Season 7's premiere.
  • Becoming the Mask: Tony in Season Four.
  • Berserk Button:
    • For Gibbs:
      • Trying to harm anyone he cares about, especially if it's a member of his team, and especially if it's Abby.

Gibbs (to Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend): The only reason you're still walking around is because I just found out about you.

Abby actually lampshades this in the same episode.

Gibbs: Why didn't you come to me, Abby?
Abby: Because, Gibbs, I wanted him restrained. I didn't want him beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat!

      • People who do harm to kids, especially their own.
      • Messing with his coffee, although his reaction to this is fairly minor in comparison to the others.
    • In "Lost and Found", we learn through her conversation with McGee that Abby's two biggest pet peeves are people who claim to be vegetarians but still eat chicken, and poorly handled evidence.
    • 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...
      • It's mutual, too.
    • In "Seadog", Ducky goes ballistic on a local LEO who contaminates a crime scene so he can get in good with the news reporter on the scene.
  • Big Blackout: "Power Down". Oh, the fun the writers must have had poking fun at the usual NCIS bells and whistles.
  • Big Freaking Gun: Ex-Watcher operator Casey Stratton uses a Desert Eagle chambered in .50 Action Express against the NCIS team in "Housekeeping".
  • Bilingual Bonus: Ziva is Hebrew, even though it's sorta mangled. Also, Abby and Gibbs using sign language. Gratuitous second-year undergrad level Russian for a lot of characters. Passable French and some level of Arabic.
    • Averted hard in the episode "Primitus Victor". "Victor" isn't Latin for "victim;" it's Latin for "victor".
  • 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 single-handedly defending them against an onslaught of Russian mercenaries.
  • Black Comedy: ...including having the team cracking jokes while examining a body.
    • Palmer has been called out when making jokes around the autopsy table several times, though, usually because they're not very funny.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: While Undercover As Lovers, Tony and Ziva have (simulated) sex because they know the room is being filmed.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Ziva, very frequently. A Running Gag.
  • Bolivian Army Cliffhanger:
    • Season 5 ended with the entire cast getting reassigned. Less fatal than the other situation, but the same effect of being able to write any character they want out.
    • Season 6 ended with Ziva captive in Somalia. On a list of places a Jewish woman would not want to be a prisoner, that's pretty high up there.
    • Season 9 concludes with a real whopper. Harper Deering'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 is on the other end, he suffers what appears to be a heart attack and collapses. We have no idea if he or anyone else is dead.
      • Word of God confirms Ducky lives in an interview with Gary Glasberg.
  • Bottle Episode: "Trojan Horse" takes place largely in NCIS HQ, aside from a few location shots of Paris and a hospice.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted, as the show generally keeps a tight count on the number of rounds any individual team member fires. Whenever they're shown firing all their rounds, they're also usually shown switching out the empty clip for a spare (like McGee does when pinned down behind the car in Season 2's "Twilight").
  • The Boxing Episode: Season 6 Episode 18 "Knockout". Director Vance uses the NCIS team to investigate the death of a boxer.
  • Brain Bleach: Season 4 Episode 5 "Dead and Unburied": Tony wonders if a victim of a murder who apparently had three fiancees was special Down There, unfortunately for him the instruments were in a state of extreme decay. Tony asks Ducky if there is a psychological way to unsee something.
  • Brains and Bondage: Abby.
  • Break-Up Bonfire In Season 5, Tony throws the letter of his Love Interest into a bonfire after the relationship went way, way, way south due to him Becoming the Mask.
  • 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.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyers: All of Team Gibbs! You have Abby the Perky Goth Lab Rat; Gibbs the regularly-does-stuff-that-would-get-a-real-agent-fired-if-not-arrested guy; Tony, the sexual harassment Karma Houdini; Ziva the weapons nut (including any motor vehicle), and Ducky, who uses any excuse to wax poetic about his past and tells amusing but irrelevant anecdotes to his corpses... as he's dissecting them. This even freaks Gibbs out. And, of course, "Elf Lord" McGee. At this point, they're in flipping bunny suits.
    • Which is why they often have to watch their mouths around each other.
    • Justified in Ducky's case; talking to the corpses preserves their humanity and helps him keep sane.
  • Butt Monkey: It depends on the episode, but usually it's McGee for Tony, and Tony for multiple characters.
  • California Doubling:
    • A few episodes make reference to Shenandoh National Park, but the terrain and scenery don't match the real thing.
    • One episode has them in a trailer park in Arlington, Virginia, an area with no trailer parks.
    • The Season Six finale features scenes at an airfield in Israel clearly shot at Sacramento. Look for the USCG Hercules behind Ziva at the end.
    • In another episode, where Tony pretends to be a convict to trace artifacts smuggled out of Iraq, they end up in a storage facility across the street from the WalMart in Lynchburg, VA; such a facility doesn't exist.
    • Another episode has members of the team follow a lead in Arizona. In clear view behind them when talking to a local cop, Kirk's Rock.
    • An episode from Season 9 ends with the team racing to a football stadium to stop an attack on some high ranking military members in attendance. The overhead shot of the stadium is of Ever Bank Field, which is in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Call Back: All the way to JAG in Season 6 with Tony being Agent Afloat on the USS Seahawk a ship commonly seen in the parent series.
  • 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.
Tony (after getting his first Dope Slap from Gibbs): Did you just physically assault me? ...Don't do that again.

  • Can You Hear Me Now?:
    • 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.
  • Captain Ersatz: In-universe. McGee works on the side as a book author, and he bases the characters in his books after the members of the team; LJ Tibbs-Gibbs, Lisa-Ziva, Tommy-Tony. He even has Lisa and Tommy as the Official Couple.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Tony is framed for murdering a woman and is held by the FBI because all signs seem to be pointing to him. McGee strolls past the jail cell playing a harmonica, then gives it to him as a "present". Tony later gives it to Agent Fornell (who was in charge of the case at FBI) when he leaves jail. Fornell instantly plays the harmonica to complete Tony's tune.
  • Cargo Ship: Invoked; Abby loves "Major Mass-Spec":

Abby: Ohhh, I love this machine! (to Gibbs) If Major Mass-Spec were a guy, I would totally marry him and bear his little mini-Mass children.

  • The Cast Showoff:
    • When some kids overthrow their football near a crime scene, Gibbs, before returning it, tells one of the kids to go long, and then he throws a perfect spiral. Keep in mind, Mark Harmon was a starting quarterback for two years with the UCLA Bruins and his father was actor and quarterback Tom Harmon, who was the first Michigan Wolverine to win the Heisman Trophy. Another bit that can be related to this is why Gibbs makes boats: Mark Harmon was a carpenter once before he started acting.
    • Cote de Pablo did theater and musicals before joining NCIS, and gets to show off her singing chops in "Last Man Standing", when Ziva performs a rendition of Tom Waits' "Temptation" while undercover as a singer in a Moroccan nightclub. The song is included on the 2-disk NCIS soundtrack album.
  • Catch Phrase: A few.
    • Gibbs: "Ya think?", "What's the point, McGee?", "Yeah, Gibbs."[1], and "That's a good question, [Character]. Why don't you find me an answer?"
    • Tony, McGee: "On it, boss."
    • Abby: "I hate it when he/she/they does/do that."
    • Gibbs' "Never apologize; it's a sign of weakness." is used by multiple characters over the course of the series.
  • Cat Fight:
    • Season 4 Episode 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. Rather than breaking it up, Tony yells "Girl fight", and McGee proceeds to film it.
    • Ziva and Abby get into one in the first "Hiatus" episode; see Intimate Healing below for the resolution.
  • Caught on Tape: The premise of the episode "Dead Reflection".
  • 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 Naive Newcomer, then during Season 2, he became The Smart Guy and around Season 4, developed into The Lancer.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the Pilot episode, which takes place on Air Force One, Gibbs makes several references to the 1997 movie, Air Force One. This contrasts with Tony later being the one who makes movie references.
    • In the episode "Minimum Security", Tony claims ignorance of both Shane and The Maltese Falcon (as well as drawing a complete blank on Alan Ladd). Some movie buff.
  • Character Outlives Actor: Victoria Mallard, Ducky's mother. She had appeared in two episodes; Season 2's "The Meat Puzzle" and Season 3's "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 Season 7 Episode 17 "Double Identity", Ducky says she passed away a month prior.
  • 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 Flash Back 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.
  • 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.
  • The Chessmaster: René Benoît.
  • Choke Holds: One victim of the week died of this.
  • Christmas Episode: In the tradition of JAG, NCIS started doing these in Season Six.
  • 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...
  • Coast Guard: In "Jurisdiction", the CGIS (Coast Guard Investigating Service) features in a major way.
  • 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 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).
  • Cold Sniper: What Gibbs is best known for.
    • In the Season 7 opener, he takes out the terrorist holding Tony, McGee, and Ziva hostage from something like a mile away... and walks in the door about 15 seconds later.
    • Averted, however, when he took revenge for his murdered wife and daughter. Hard to be emotionless after that.
    • Ari is portrayed as one.
  • The Commandments: The fifty-or-so Rules that Gibbs uses to run his team.
  • The Consigliere: It's revealed in one episode that whenever Tony is left in charge of a case, he secretly has meetings with Palmer to help point him in the right direction whenever Tony feels that he's lost on what to do next.
  • Contamination Situation: The penultimate episode of Season Two, "SWAK".
  • 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 both "Bete Noire" and "Trojan Horse".
    • A particularly meaningful one occurs when Ziva returns to the office after 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".
    • "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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cool Boat: Gibbs always seems to be working on one in his basement; it's implied to be therapeutic for him.
    • Complete with in-universe Fridge Logic on how he gets the finished boat out of the basement. Knocking down one of the walls is mentioned a few times, but it's never confirmed.
  • Cool Old Guy: Gibbs, and to a lesser extent, Ducky.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Subverted. 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!

    • "Frame-Up" (Season 3 Episode 9) had lab assistant Chip attacking her with a knife while she was unarmed. By the time the others rush down to her lab, they find that she has hogtied Chip with duct tape all by herself.

Abby: Now can I work alone?

  • Crusading Widower: Gibbs.
  • The Cutie: Abby, occasionally.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Reynosas vs Gibbs.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Season 8 two-part finale was pretty much the darkest episode to date, as it dealt with a serial killer that was the result of Operation Frankenstein, a Navy project to create the ultimate assassin, and none of the usual comic relief exists.
    • Inverted by the fact NCIS in the series evolved from the NIS, Naval Investigative Service, which is depicted as being a covert, CIA/NSA-like entity that is shown conducting assassinations and "red tests" (agents being given assignments with the aim of them committing their first kill), and in one Season 8 episode is shown recruiting Leon Vance in a manner similar to how Sydney Bristow is recruited by SD-6 in Alias. Although modern-day NCIS is shown doing covert operations (particularly Tony's season-long deep undercover op), things like assassinations have so far not been part of the usual mandate. The spin-off, NCIS:Los Angeles, restores some of the NIS trappings, such as having a somewhat secret base of operations.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Monkey-wrenched every which way in "Kill Ari".
    • We see it again after (and even some before) Mike Franks gets killed.
  • Death 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 Glare: Gibbs, bordering on Once an Episode in earlier seasons.
    • Don't forget 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 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.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The show was originally named "Navy NCIS", despite the N standing for Navy. This was most likely done to prevent confusion with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, something which the series lampshades occasionally.
  • Determinator: Gibbs becomes one toward finding Ari over the course of the second season. A repeated motif is the one monitor on his desk that's dedicated to running a facial recognition program on Ari. After Ari briefly kidnaps Kate, Gibbs starts displaying Ahab-ish tendencies, which DiNozzo lampshades.
  • Did Not Do the Research:
    • Let us not forget "The Immortals" and its rather stupid portrayal of MMORPGs. There's a Artistic License Ships subset from the same episode; the ship therein is mentioned to be a Spruance-class destroyer. The external establishing shots clearly show an Arleigh Burke; look for big AEGIS phased-array radar panels on the superstructure.
      • Actually, some MMORPGs do have high scores of a sort. Usually in the form of achievements and special events (who kills the most of this or that monster, who gets through a certain dungeon in the least amount of time, who collects a certain number of special items first...).
    • Related to the above computer example, Abby was once playing The Godfather on the PC without using the mouse... which you need to aim.
    • In the first episode, Gibbs says, "Three years before 9/11, Clancy wrote a book where terrorists hijacked a plane and crashed it into the Capitol Building." The book in question, Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy, was published 7 years before 9/11 and the plane wasn't hijacked by terrorists.
      • Though this could be deliberate: Gibbs is well known for his hit-or-miss insights when it comes to pop culture.
    • A halfway example: In "The Good Wives' Club", part of the evidence involves a particular species of beetle. They get the beetle right, but use the wrong image.
    • Pretty much anything involving liquid nitrogen in the episode "Code of Conduct".
    • In the Season 3 episode "Head Case", the M.E (not Ducky) stated that a 40 year old man died of arteriosclerosis causing a thromboembolic event resulting in a myocardial infarction. Unless he was 60 and his coronary arteries were suddenly undergoing fibrinoid necrosis, he died from ATHEROSCLEROSIS. Completely different pathological process (atherosclerosis -> rupture of atheroma -> thrombus formation -> embolus -> occlusion of coronary artery -> ischaemia and subsequent infarction of cardiac muscle). Medicine'd.
      • Also, Ducky mentions that the guillotine was created by French doctor Louis-Joseph Guillotin during the French Revolution. This is patently false: the guillotine was already used in Scotland in the 12th century.
    • "Hiatus (Part 1)": Pin Pin Pula does NOT mean "rice paddy dike" in Tagalog. At its closest, Pula = red. Pin Pin might be a nickname.
    • On the Headscratchers page, someone makes a complaint about Jimmy Palmer's lack of a medical degree. This is a legit complaint as a medical degree and certification as a pathologist (which usually comes 3-8 years after obtaining the degree) are required for this job.
    • In the episode "Toxic", McGee and Tony are attempting to do work in Abby's lab using Ethidium Bromide. As McGee has a Biomedical degree, he should know that Ethidium Bromide is highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) - it even says so on the bottle - and he should have used gloves and proper disposal. Not only that, but when Abby sees that it has poured on the floor she makes him clean it with just tissues. Even if McGee somehow didn't know about the carcinogenic nature of the chemical, Abby surely should have and should have told him. On top of that, Ethidium Bromide doesn't suddenly fizz up like they showed, making this scene the most cringe-worthy ever for anybody who has worked in a lab.
    • The episode "Kill Screen" is full of this. McGee makes nonsensical comments about MMORPGs (high scores?!) and the Hollywood Hacking is atrocious.
    • In the episode "Ships in the Night", the murder suspect is arrested for having sex with a 17 year old girl. The age of consent in DC and the neighboring state of Maryland is 16 (it is possible that the tryst happened in Virginia, where the age of consent is 18, but this wasn't mentioned in the show).
    • A minor one happens in "Trojan Horse": one of the speaking request Gibbs volunteers the director for is for Hondo Middle School in Hondo, TX. The only middle school in Hondo TX is called McDowell Middle School.
      • It is, however, very likely that Gibbs was making the entire thing up to bug Director Shepard.
    • "Reveille" features a terrorist who rides a Ducati 749. However, the sound dubbed over is from an inline-4 motorcycle. Ducati almost exclusively uses v-twins, which give a very different sound.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Season 7 Episode 7 "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.
  • 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.
  • The Don: René Benoît.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir"!: Gibbs, right down to the "I work for a living" crack. It makes sense; he was a gunnery sergeant, which is a non-commissioned rank.

Abby: Thank you, sir.
Gibbs: Don't call me sir.
Abby: Thank you, ma'am. *walks off*
Gibbs: *smiles a bit*

      • If you call Ziva "Ma'am"...
  • Dope Slap: Gibbs' favorite form of non-verbal discipline (besides his Death Glare), to the point that his team calls it the "Gibbs Slap". As he explains to Ducky in an early episode (paraphrasing), "A slap in the face is humiliating; on the back of the head, it's a wake-up call." It's revealed in a later season that Gibbs, as a probie, got the same treatment from Mike Franks; this is subverted in the episode "Hiatus Partt 2".

Franks: You got old, Marine.
Gibbs: Have you looked in the mirror, lately?
Franks reaches around to slap the back of Gibbs' head, but stops.
Franks: If you weren't just in a coma.

    • Gibbs isn't the only one to use it; it's been done by both Tony and Abby on McGee, Tony on Ziva, Ziva on Tony...even characters on themselves when Gibbs is not around, but they know they've done something monumentally stupid. Gibbs has also done this to himself after he compromised evidence to let a Marine (who normally wouldn't have gotten in, due to health reasons) avoid confessing to a crime he didn't commit. In an episode where Gibbs had Trauma-Induced Amnesia, Ziva takes his hand and uses it to slap her own head, which triggers his memory recall.
      • Occasionally, they dope-slap themselves in Gibbs' presence just to save him the trouble, usually preceded by a "This one's on me, boss."
    • In one episode, the team had to attend a mandatory Sensitivity Training seminar. Tony casually asked if it would be okay to receive such a slap from a coworker, and received the predictable reply that it was workplace harassment. Cue a round of shifty looks from the entire team and a hasty backpedal from Tony when the presenter asked if such a thing had actually happened.
    • Gibbs even slaps Palmer in one episode as a form of congratulations. Abby is confused as to how liquid nitrogen used to kill the victim had traces of food in it, and Palmer is the one to suggest that the nitrogen was delivered via the victim's thermos. It's worth noting that Gibbs had just congratulated Abby with his customary kiss on the cheek and a "well done, Abbs", as is typical, and Palmer then leaned forward as if expecting the same. Of course, this is after the episode that revealed that Palmer likes such treatment... which is probably why it was used as congratulations.
    • It's also shown to be a sort of term (or slap) of endearment. Gibbs won't bother to head slap you unless he knows you're worth it. This is demonstrated in one of the early Ziva episodes where Gibbs gives her a lighthearted version and she takes it as a sign that she belongs to the team.
    • The amount of dope-slapping has been toned down as of late, because it's been reported that fans of the show were doing it to Michael Weatherly in public.
  • Double Agent:
    • Agent Lee.
    • A conversation between Gibbs and Vance implies that Ziva was this as well, something that was treated as pretty much a given by everyone in her first season.
    • NCIS attempts to have Jonathan Cole act as this to them regarding Harper Dearing in the Season 9 finale, which Cole agrees to in exchange for a lighter sentence when he gets back to prison. Unfortunately, Dearing was Genre Savvy enough to realize what the NCIS was planning to do, so he instead has a waitress deliver the cellphone to Cole for him and then communicate with him via phone and relay a message to Gibbs.
  • Double Standard Abuse (Female on Male): Subverted in Season 3 Episode 14 "Light Sleeper". The initial suspect in the murder of a Korean woman is her Marine husband. Their neighbor claimed she frequently heard them screaming at each other, leading her to believe that husband was abusive. However, the husband reveals to Gibbs that she was the abusive one and proves by lifting up his shirt to reveal a large burn mark where she hit him with an iron. He's actually taken seriously and released.
  • Double Tap: The show has almost without exception invoked this; both here and in real life, Federal agents never fire only once or twice. They will keep shooting you until either you fall down or they run out of bullets, whichever comes first.
  • Dress Code: Forcing Abby to follow one makes her so uncomfortable that it actually hurts her analytical skills.
  • Dress Hits Floor: Ziva in "Under Covers".
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty:
    • Gibbs has shifted into this mode more than once to intimidate suspects, especially if they're Marines.
    • Season 3 Episode 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.
  • Dropped a Bridget On Him: 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.
  • Dude in Distress: 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.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Mike Franks.

My name is Mike Franks! I figure I got one last fight left in me!... You want it?

  • Easter Egg: In one episode, the team finds a voice synthesizer speaking individual words, including "...yankee, white...". "Yankee White" is the pilot episode.
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: One of the sub-plots of Season 2 Episode 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.
  • Emergency Impersonation: Ducky impersonates the deceased arms dealer to try to capture La Grenouille.
  • Empathic Environment: After Ari kills Kate, it is constantly raining as the team grieves for her and Gibbs blames himself. After Ari is himself killed and Gibbs comes to terms with it, it becomes sunny again. This is actually a favorite trick of the director. In "Swan Song", a major Tonight Someone Dies episode, the characters repeatedly comment on how it is they think it's going to rain.
  • 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.
  • Everybody Is Single: Though Gibbs has been married four times, 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 and two kids.
    • In Season 7, Palmer actually has a (offscreen) girlfriend that everybody knows about.
      • Not to mention the onscreen fling between Palmer and Lee.
    • In Season 9 opening episode, it is pointed out that Palmer is getting married the following spring and is mentioned in the following episodes. If its happening on screen, it would mean all the characters are gathered in one place - coincidentally around the time for the season finale....
    • 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.
  • Everything Is Online: Seriously. Everything. Including pacemakers.
  • 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 crew-cut 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.
  • 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*


  • Fair Cop: Arguably 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.
  • False-Flag Operation: The whole point in the end of "Devil's Triangle".
  • 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.
  • Fan Service: Abby, mostly. At times, Director Shepard, especially after wardrobe started putting her in tight skirts and sweaters. And let us not forget Ziva in the Season 6 opener [dead link]. And there's also the pic of Kate in the wet T-shirt contest, plus numerous butt shots from Tony's POV.
    • One of the most blatant instances of potential fan service (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.
    • 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 accidentally 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 that's heavily implied to have sunk or at the very least severely damaged the ship.
  • Feuding Families: The Reynosas vs Gibbs and his father and teammates.
  • Film At Eleven: In one episode, Gibbs doesn't show up and the rest of the team suspects something happened to him (he lives alone and no one would know, after all). Tony, in his usual style, parodies the concept, complete with desk lamp shade and a coincidental ZNN news report in the background.

Tony:In a tragic story of obsessive hobbying turned deadly, an NCIS agent was discovered in his basement, crushed between a large homemade boat and an even larger bottle of bourbon. (dramatic pause) Film at eleven.

  • First-Name Basis: Gibbs's father, Jackson, is the only one who addresses him by his first name of Leroy. Everyone else who doesn't call him by his middle name of Jethro
  • Five-Man Band: It depends on the episode.
  • Foreshadowing: This is actually a standard feature of the show. The two-second black and 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 lead up 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.
  • Frame-Up: In the Season 9 premiere "Nature of the Beast", Tony DiNozzo 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.
    • Also, 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.
  • Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: Abby.
  • Fridge Horror: Of the in-universe type. The team finds 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: Just think...if he hadn't fallen down that chimney, she would have just kept killing for who knows how long.
Gibbs: I'll do you one better.
Fornell: (chuckles) I doubt it.
Gibbs: How did the toe get in his stomach?

  • Funny Background Event: In Life Before His Eyes, if you look at the foreground carefully, you can see Ari and Leon Vance are playing chess.
  • Gay Aesop: Season 8 Episode 12 "Recruited".
  • Genre Savvy: Tony. Pity it's sometimes the wrong one.
    • There's also Harper Dearing from late Season 9, and its for this reason that he ends up succeeding at the end of the season.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Tony and Ziva are investigating and decide to try the back door of a house. Ziva advises him to be prepared, he suggests shoving her through the cat-flap -- crouching down by it at the exact moment a cat rushes out. Tony starts backwards and draws his firearm, cueing the line "Don't tell me you're afraid of a little pussy... cat, Tony!"
    • Ziva also gave us this nice one: "Does a bear sit in the woods?"
  • Girlish Pigtails:
    • Abby, occasionally.
    • Child genius Angela in Season 7 Episode 9 "Child's Play".
  • Give Away the Bride: When Ziva is considering marrying Ray, everyone assumes Gibbs would walk her down the aisle. It does not happen, and never will. Marrying Ray, that is, not Gibbs walking her down the aisle. Still holding out hope for the second bit.
  • Give the Villain a Hero's Funeral: NCIS decided to do this with The Mole Agent Michelle Lee, after learning that she was blackmailed into her role. When her handler uses her as a Human Shield against Gibbs, she signals for Gibbs to shoot her, sacrificing her life in the process. Despite knowing how much information she compromised, NCIS covers up the treason and gives her a funeral with full honors.
  • The Glomp: Abby, usually to Tony and McGee (especially if they're injured, which seems to be a minor Running Gag).
  • Glove Snap: Tony does this comically quite often.
  • The Government: Interagency cooperation (and competition) comes up a lot. And Benoît? He was working with, or for, the CIA.
  • Grade School CEO: A bit character from one early episode runs a nightclub while still in high school.
  • 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 Gibb's basement during Season 4's "Shalom", and Gibbs has also been shown cleaning his gun a few times.
  • Halloween Episode: "Witch Hunt", "Murder 2.0", and "Code of Conduct".
  • Hannibal Lecture: Jerry, a witness in a murder investigation, points out several characters' psychological problems (Abby doesn't admit she likes Tim because she's Married to the Job and doesn't want to risk him being The One and missing out; Gibbs shows that he misses his late wife by keeping his house better than a single man who's never home or locks his door should; Ziva most definitely has feelings for Tony), however, it appears he's just really good at reading people and really bad at reading the atmosphere. He later atones by helping Tony rig a surprise Christmas confetti bombardment.
  • Happily Married: Vance.
    • Gibbs' first marriage was, from all evidence, happy...not so much since then.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Page 57 from Season 3 Episode 4 "Silver War". Tony shows Ziva an FHM/Maxim-esque magazine called "GSM".

Tony: You want something to read?
Ziva: What do you have?
Tony: (pulls out magazine) GSM. It's a men's magazine. Most women find it objectifies them.
Ziva: (pulls out same magazine in Hebrew) I read it on the plane. I especially liked the article on page fifty-seven. In my experience, it works every time.
Tony: (checks his copy with the inside facing away from the camera) I always thought that was an urban legend.

  • Hearing Voices: Subverted in one episode. A woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia after she said was hearing voices. The reveal? She was being assaulted via a remote audio transmitter so that she would be declared insane.
  • Her Codename 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.
    • Colonel Mann is the only exception to this rule so far for Gibbs. They did have a relationship, but then she realized that he'd never be able to forget his wife and daughter. She moved to Hawaii after breaking it off with him (and even she's a suspiciously reddish shade of blonde!).
    • McGee fell for a redhead in a coffee shop. She turned out to be an assassin.
    • Ducky and Dr. Jordan Hampton.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Amnesiac Gibbs' reaction to his Mentor telling him about 9/11.
    • Tony goes into one in the Season 7 premiere when he thinks Ziva is dead.
    • Everyone when Mike Franks is killed in "Swan Song". Everyone also had one when Caitlin Todd is killed as well.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Agent Cassidy, who saves the team from a suicide bomber.
    • Agent Lee when she decides that Redemption Equals Death.
    • Subverted by Agent Todd. She takes a bullet to save Gibbs' life, but is saved by her Kevlar vest... and then gets head-sniped by Ari.
    • Jonathan Cole ends up doing this to disarm the bomb in the Season 9 finale. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to start disarming the bomb before Dearing activated it. Also qualifies as a Redemption Equals Death.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: For just being former NCIS partners, Franks and Gibbs seem awfully close together. When Gibbs was retired, he actually went to live with Franks in Mexico, and they bickered like a married couple.
    • The place that Franks has is one they used to stay at when they would go fishing in Mexico -- so they even went on vacation together at one point, apparently.
    • Gibbs and Ducky
    • Gibbs and Fornell. They also share a common ex-wife.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Eli David. Though not a Complete Monster 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.
  • Hollywood Atlas: In series premiere "Yankee White", the Wichita County Coroner shows up to fight for the body. Wichita County, KS is in the far western part of the state. The city of Wichita is in Sedgwick County. This was most likely done so as not to confuse those who don't live in "Flyover Land".
  • Hollywood Hacking: McGee and Abby.
  • Hollywood Healing: Consistently averted; characters who suffer injuries at the end of one episode are typically still sporting the signs of them in the next one... except glaringly in season one when Gibbs recovered from grenade fragments in the shoulder between episodes.
    • Played painfully straight in the 200th episode, where Gibbs is shot in the shoulder at the beginning. At the episode's end, set the very next day, he's perfectly fine.
  • Hollywood Nerd: McGee and Palmer.
  • Hot Amazon: Ziva.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ignorance Is Bliss
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Justified in Season 7 Episode 9 "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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Age: Ziva David is less Improbable Age and more Impossible Age. She joins the show in her early twenties, supposedly after she's graduated high school, served her two years in the IDF, attended college, applied for Mossad, become immediately tapped for inclusion into an elite and highly competitive special operations unit with a training period of several years, and still have enough time to become "an experienced agent" with multiple missions under her belt. And this is at a age the youngest CIA intelligence officers would be beginning training (it's worth pointing out, however, that she is the daughter of the Director of Mossad, and it is heavily implied that she was all but raised from the cradle to be a Mossad operative).
  • 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.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • The killer mentions the man who (supposedly) shot the lieutenant will get away. "How did you know she was shot?"
    • Season 7 Episode 7 "Endgame" has Amanda, McGee's love interest for that episode, coming to visit him at work. The next morning, McGee reveals to her that he never told her where he works. It turns out she was hired to kill the North Korean assassin the team is trying to catch.
  • Initialism Title
  • Innocent Innuendo: Numerous instances... along with the not-so-innocent kind.
  • 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 inter-generational 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 couple times, Tony disciplines them in the office area:

Tony: Abby! Front and center. You too Ziva. Let's go! I know what happened.
[Abby and Ziva start talking at the same time]
Tony: Hey! If there's going to be any bitch slapping on this team, I'll do it. Clear? Good. Now shake hands. Shake.
[Abby and Ziva reluctantly shake hands]
Tony: There we go. That wasn't so tough, was it? Now how about a little hug? Big buddy hug. Come on.
[Abby immediately hugs Ziva, Ziva slowly reciprocates]
Tony: Now a deep tongue kiss.
[Abby and Ziva punch him in the chest at the same time]
Tony: OOF! Now we feel better.

  • Iron Lady: Director Shepherd.
  • 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.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Joked about in Season 7 Episode 11 "Ignition".

Ziva: There's nothing good on the internet anymore.
McGee: Yeah, I think that internet thing has just about run its course.


  • 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.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Kate Todd. And mid-sentence, talking sarcastically about never expecting to live to see something, to boot.
    • The murderer suffers the exact same fate not 2 episodes later, at the hands of his own sister, no less.

Ari: Sorry to spoil your --{{[[[Boom! Headshot!]] BANG!}}]

    • Mike Franks. Like Jenny Shepard before him, it was a choice between going down swinging or letting disease do it and preferring the former.
    • Also recurring characters Paula Cassidy (Season Four) and Agent Lee (Season Six).
  • 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 recognizes what the plant is, but decides not to tell him.
  • The Lab Rat: Abby, sometimes McGee.
  • The Ladette: 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!

  • Layman's Terms: Gibbs does this about Once an Episode.
  • Locked In A Shipping Crate: Tony and Ziva in "Boxed In", to capitalize on the UST.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: In one episode, a panicking suspect tries to run, leaving behind his high-powered hunting rifle, right next to Gibbs, the Marine Corps sniper. Not that that would have been bright to do that under any circumstances, but still. It should be noted that it was very highly insinuated that Gibbs let the suspect go so that he would have an excuse to shoot him in the ass. Cue Tony and McGee wondering, "You don't think he did that on purpose...?" "No... no, of course not", and Gibbs just doing a badass walk with a huge smile on his face.
  • Long List: Ducky's list of interests when he joined Facebook.
  • Long Runner: NCIS has been renewed for its tenth season.
  • 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.
  • Magical Database
  • Magnetic Hero: Gibbs. But "he only uses his powers for good."
  • Malaproper: Ziva (the ESL variety) which is a Running Gag on the show; she speaks English perfectly, except for idioms, which she constantly gets wrong and is usually corrected by Tony. What's strange is that she actually has a remarkably good grasp of American pop culture. That and her level of English proficiency mean she shouldn't get nearly every single idiom she uses wrong. It's eventually revealed that Ziva was using a For Dummies book to memorize pop culture cliches from by rote, especially movie lines. And it's hinted in a later episode that she was, at times, playing dumb to get people off-guard (and yank Tony's chain). Possibly a Retcon, though.

Ziva: It'll be like shooting fish in a pond.
Tony: Fish in a barrel.
Ziva: Why would fish be in a barrel?
Gibbs: How'd you get on?
Ziva: I hit a stone wall.
Tony: Brick wall.
Ziva: No, it was definitely a stone wall. I backed the car into it.

  • Male Gaze: From Tony's point of view, natch.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Season 4 Episode 6 "Witch Hunt", a Halloween episode. A mother lays the smack-down on a kidnapper after learning that her daughter is safe. Ducky even lampshades the trope.
    • Season 7 Episode 6 "Outlaws and In-laws" had Mike Franks' daughter-in-law shooting down a pair of mercenaries trying to kidnap her daughter. Franks even names the trope directly.

Franks: Never underestimate a mama bear when her cub's in danger.

  • Manly Tears: Tony after Agent Cassidy's death.
  • Meaningful Funeral: New Orleans style.
  • Meganekko:
    • Director Shepard whenever she wore glasses, skirting into Hot Librarian territory.
    • The episode "Singled Out" featured a geeky-looking Navy lieutenant as the victim who fit this trope, and in the same episode, Ziva falls into the trope when she goes undercover as a geeky girl resembling the Navy lieutenant.
    • Abby, in the few times when she wears glasses.
    • Male example; Jimmy Palmer. Agent Lee definitely thought so.
  • Memetic Badass: Gibbs is an in-universe example. When asked what the most awesome cage fight opponent for Gibbs would be, McGee and Abby casually discard such foes as Godzilla and Mothra, and decide (however unintentionally) that Gibbs vs. Gibbs would be pretty much impossible to top. At least once, Abby has put forth the theory that Gibbs has magical powers. Tony once compared Gibbs arresting God to The Thing arresting The Hulk. Even diseases know better than to mess with Gibbs, as proven in "SWAK".

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.
  • Missed 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Munchausen: Ducky.
  • Murder.Com: "Murder 2.0".
  • Must Have Caffeine: Gibbs needs coffee to get through the day to the point where McGee has an Oh Crap moment when he accidentally knocks over and spills Gibbs coffee. Abby prefers the Big Gulp-esque drink, Caf-POW.
    • Also, the terrorist who captures Ziva at the end of Season 6. His addiction to Caf-POW! is so great he has it imported, which winds up being how the team finds him.
  • My Beloved Smother: Ducky's mom, although she's suffering from Alzheimer's and can't really help herself.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: One episode featured a paranoid submariner who killed himself by suffocation when he realized NCIS was closing in. They stow his body in the freezer... then they realize he has a cold-activated nerve-gas bomb in him. Solution to the problem? FIRE HIS CORPSE OUT A TORPEDO TUBE. And all topped off with a Crowning Moment of Funny:

Gibbs: You know what our top priority is now, Chief?
Chief Of the Boat: Getting all the ice cream back in the freezer.
Gibbs: Exactly. *chuckles*

  • Myth Arc: All main characters (except McGee for some reason) have had important involvement in one. However, the dual episode "Enemies Foreign"/"Enemies Domestic" brought this to a level bordering on Continuity Lock Out: To wit, the earliest referenced event in the series is (former) NCIS Director Morrow's retirement, linked to Vance's promotion; the earliest chronologically referenced event in the series continuity is probably Vance's recruitment, which is essentially linked to Eli David's rise into the top seat of Mossad.
    • The cherry on top is definitively the link the entire affair has with the Season 5 finale and Gibbs's mission in Paris... also opening to question the relation between these episodes and Decker's "insurance policy" that Mike Franks took away (with the explicitly stated declaration that it was for Vance to read "in my will").

Gibbs (realizing the connection): Zukov? Anatoly Zukov?
Agent Sharp: Yeah, that's him... Wait a minute, that's him. What... you think he came back to clean after himself [for failing to kill Vance]?
Gibbs (head leaning down): No, he's long gone.
Agent Sharp: You sure?
Gibbs: Yes, I'm positive.
(Gibbs flash backs to the well-known Paris mission with Jenny, where Gibbs terminates Zukov)

  • Mythology Gag: In the Season 7 episode "Moonlighting", while Gibbs and Fornell are watching McGee questioning a witness inside the conference room via camera, Fornell is suprised that they have a security camera inside the conference room. He then asks nervously if they also have cameras inside the elevator now.
  • Name McAdjective: Tony's many nicknames for McGee, which he picks according to the circumstances. Examples include "McGoogle", "McBackstabber", and "McRomeo". This once confused McGee when Tony compared the condition of a body to the (discontinued) McDLT sandwhich. McGee thought it was another nickname that he didn't get.
  • Neat Freak: Agent Jardine.
  • Needle in a Stack of Needles: Ziva describes the task of finding a stolen defense system in a room full of computers as "looking for a needle in a needlestack." It was on what looked like an obsolete laptop with a suspiciously fast boot-up time; the guts were state-of-the-art.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Not an in-universe example, but Michelle Lee definitely felt this way about Jimmy Palmer.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer:
    • Much to Gibbs' annoyance, Abby loves to beat around the bush before giving her discovery. She claims it's because she's alone in the lab all day and if she didn't give a full explanation, Gibbs wouldn't appreciate the trouble she went through.
    • Ducky also has a habit of digressing into random reminiscences, though Gibbs is more prone to cutting off his babbling than Abby's.
    • McGee is also frequently guilty. Hilariously lampshaded somewhat in one episode:

McGee: All right. I think I know what happened here.
Tony: Oh, twenty bucks says McGee's about to say something nobody understands again!
McGee: The GPS coordinates came bundled in a proprietary packet. Since it was a beta, I thought--
Gibbs: I'm starting to think you can't help yourself, McGee.

    • In "Baltimore", Gibbs actually throws away one of McGee's reports because of the technical jargon he used.
  • New Old Flame: Tony's ex-fiancee Wendy shows up mid-Season 9. Whether she'll be the Romantic False Lead, or the actual Love Interest, remains to be seen.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Abby, who completely alone can process forensic evidence for the whole building or has a relationship with someone with the required speciality. However, several episodes have featured her showing stress or fatigue from the demands of her job, so this isn't completely a God Mode Sue situation.
    • To a lesser extent Ducky, who is now The Medic, performs autopsies, and generates philological 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.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The start of Season Four, when we were told that Tony had been regularly visiting Ziva's apartment, alone, at night, for no given reason. What were they doing?
    • Many of Ducky's stories get cut off before we get sufficient detail, becoming these. For instance, there was a story about a bachelor party that Gibbs would really rather he not tell Palmer about.
    • In a recent Halloween-themed episode, Abby complained that costumes were no longer allowed in headquarters after "last year's Jonas Brothers Incident". All we learn is that it involved McGee in tight jeans, which Abby insists wasn't a good look on him.
    • During a flashback in "Truth or Consequences", Tony recalls being in a funk without Ziva on the team and only hearing cliche conversation pieces from the other team members. One of those conversations was Gibbs telling the team to get ready for this bizarre incident that is not discussed in greater detail afterward:

Gibbs: Some idiot smuggled a koala onto a submarine, grab your gear!

    • In "Ships in the Night", the whole team is shown working long hours, cut to Abby's lab where there are no less than eight empty CaffPows sitting on her workstation, and another one in her hand.

Agent Borin: Is this a record?
Abby: No, we don't talk about the record.

  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted. Long term health problems from [spoiler]Tony being infected with the bubonic plague[/spoiler] are referenced seasons latter, even after the infection itself is no longer present.
  • No Sense of Direction: Ducky. He blames his assistants but he's always the one giving directions.
  • Not Proven: In one case, the perpetrator 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.
  • Not So Harmless: Perry Trent, C.P.A., in the episode "Dead Reckoning". That one U.S. Marshal might be OK. The other one... not so much.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Characters who get shot are still recovering several episodes later, and even a hit to a bulletproof vest leaves a painful bruise. One supporting character (Gerald, Ducky's original assistant deliberately shot through the ball-and-socket joint in his shoulder by Ari, never fully recovers from his injuries and retires on a disability pension.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: In most of the interrogations of suspects, the issue of lawyers doesn't come up, but it does happen occasionally. This is a crime drama afterall.
    • Oddly enough, despite what has been implied on a few episodes, military personnel actually have more protection from self-incrimination than civilians. Not only do the 5th and 6th Amendments apply equally to them, they are also covered by Section 31 of the UCMJ, which has almost identical language in it.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Ducky", whose real name is Donald Mallard. About the only person who calls him "Dr. Mallard" are his assistants, while his mother is the only person to consistently call him "Donald".
  • Other Me Annoys Me


  • Pac-Man Fever:
    • Played painfully straight in "The Immortals" (see Did Not Do the Research above).
    • Subverted in "Bete Noir", when Gibbs asks if Kate and Tony checked the computer of the man whose house they were sent to search. Kate says he didn't even have a Game Boy. Tony points out a Game Boy is a handheld system, and she's thinking more of an Xbox or PlayStation 2.
    • 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.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Gibbs.
    • Mike Franks can be considered a Grandpa Wolf.
  • 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'. The people this threat is used on are those who really, really would 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 gunpoint.
    • Ducky has also broken several people just by explaining anatomy to them (e.g. "this is how we cut your torso open", and "this is what happens to your skull when a bullet enters the back of your head").
    • Tony, meanwhile, prefers to annoy suspects into submission. He's very good at it; in the season six finale he manages to get the better of Ziva's father (Eli David, the director of Mossad) this way.
      • Bonus points because Tony was the one being interrogated, and still managed to get Eli to spill more than he did.
    • Even McGee gets in on this.
      • In one episode, he informed a suspect that, as a known member of a gang suspected of terrorist ties, the Patriot Act says that he can be held at their discretion, and he doesn't have to be charged with anything, ever. Whether it's true or not doesn't matter, since the guy believed it. And Gibbs once used McGee as a blunt weapon for the same purpose; he had McGee come in and dryly rattle off a list of consequences, his banal, matter-of-fact delivery making them far scarier than any emotionally delivered threat.
      • McGee also had the luck of interrogating a teenage bully...the same kind that picked on him in high school. McGee basically gets buddy buddy with him, discussing the fun of tormenting geeks, then goes scary real fast when he reveals he was the geek in high school, and now he has the gun, badge, and paperwork know-how to make the bully go away for a long time, and he's going to enjoy it. We still don't know if he was serious.
    • It's so prevalent that the team actually bets on what kind of interrogation strategy Gibbs will use next.

McGee: So how do you think he's going to break her down? What's the style?
Tony: He's leading with the Creepy Uncle, but I think he's going to with the Father Figure You Can Trust.
McGee: Nope, that doesn't feel right. I'm gonna go with the classic, in your face Gibbs, The Intimidator.

      • They do the same thing when Tony is interrogating a suspect. Gibbs wins the bet.
      • In one of the first Season 7 episodes, as they're breaking in a possible replacement for Ziva, Tony starts speaking in tandem with Gibbs while observing.
    • Lampshaded in "Murder 2.0" when the suspect is literally sweating and complaining about how hot it is in the interview room while Gibbs is just talking to him, leading Tony to comment with pride on Gibbs' skills. Turns out the suspect had been poisoned, causing extremely elevated blood pressure and a shortly-ensuing heart attack.
    • In at least one episode, Gibbs and Fornell double-team an interrogation.

Gibbs: The worst mistake you made...
Fornell: You tried to shoot our agents.
(Fornell gets up and takes off his jacket)
Gibbs: Hey, let me hang that up for you, Tobias
(Gibbs tosses Fornell's jacket over the security camera while Fornell rolls up his sleeves)

  • Person as Verb: Tony, frequently.
  • Pet the Dog: Any time Gibbs is shown interacting with children, and his more gentle moments with Abby.
    • Used in a literal sense at one point. Gibbs sat on a park bench in the pouring rain because he put the dog that was sleeping under the bench in the nearby gazebo so it wouldn't get even more wet. He wouldn't sit in the gazebo with it because it smelled like... well, a wet dog.
    • Another literal one with McGee and Jethro (nee Butch), the German Shepherd he shot (in self-defense). McGee was wary of Jethro for the whole episode; at the end, when Jethro is vindicated and Abby's landlord has said "no dogs", Abby makes an impassioned speech to a reluctant Tim about how Jethro is the dog McGee has been wanting to get for a long time. A later episode shows that Abby did eventually succeed in this little campaign, and McGee has a very loving relationship with the dog.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Tony in the first few seasons. This gets lampshaded early on, with the trope even mentioned by name (that one about McGee though).
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot:
    • "Legend" is a pilot for NCIS: Los Angeles.
    • NCIS itself was born from the JAG two-parter "Ice Queen/Meltdown".
  • 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.
  • 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 perpetrator's suicide.
  • 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.
  • Punny Name: Donald Mallard - a mallard is a duck... in other words, Donald Duck. Lampshaded time and again in the series as the explanation for his nickname, Ducky.
    • The first NCIS Director in the series, from the JAG pilot to the start of Season 3, was named Thomas Morrow. Or rather, "Tom Morrow"... tomorrow.
  • Rapid-Fire Typing: Anything can be done by quickly typing on the keyboard - which, strangely, always generates the same sound effects. In one episode, the computers in Abby's lab are attacked by a hacker. The best way to respond? Both Abby and McGee rapidly hit keys on the same keyboard to literally type fast enough to fight the hack. It's still ineffective, until Gibbs comes up with a simpler solution; unplug the computer.
  • Rare Guns: In one Season Eight episode, a Webley Revolver is the murder weapon.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Kate's death was either because Sasha Alexander wanted to have a child, which wouldn't have worked into the episodes very well or because she was exhausted by her role.
    • Pauley Perrette's nightmarish divorce from ex-husband Coyote Shivers may or may not have been the basis for the plot for "Bloodbath", where the team has to deal with Abby's stalker ex-boyfriend, but the parallels are impossible to deny.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: Inverted. McGee and DiNozzo are capable of killing, and Gibbs is an expert, but Ziva boasts about her talents enough to make everyone, including the male characters, mildly uncomfortable.
  • Rear Window Witness: "Witness".
  • 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.
  • Red Herring: In "Obssession", the viewers are led to believe that the culprits are PMC goons, when in fact it's an ex-KGB operative that's responsible.
    • Similarly, the opening of "The Engagement Part 2" had DiNozzo arriving at the church with the chaplain and her father asking what the result of the mission to rescue Flores is, and the scene then cutting to the interior of a Marine transport plane with Gibbs and the others inside looking at a marine burial coffin, leading the viewers to believe that they failed their mission and Flores was killed. However, the episode later reveals that they actually succeeded in their mission, and the marine burial coffin actually belonged to her commanding officer, who was killed in action by a gunshot to the neck.
  • Red Herring Mole: Brent Langer.
    • The entire Season 8 finale/Season 9 opener dealt with this: DiNozzo was assigned to track down someone leaking NCIS secrets (involving Watcher microchips), and the target is seemingly Special Agent EJ Barret. It is later revealed to be Special Agent Simon Gade, but then not only did he reveal that he was actually framed, but the entire thing was actually staged as a trap to kill all of them, although only Gade actually bit the dust, as Barret, while wounded, went into hiding, and DiNozzo was hospitalized with amnesia that was presumably brought about from getting grazed in the head.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Reverse Mole
  • 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.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The team frequently run into jurisdiction issues with the FBI and other government organizations.
  • 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.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In "Cracked".
  • Rule Number One: Gibbs's various rules, cited by the characters throughout the show. Later revealed in flashback to have been inspired by his first wife, on the day they met. The Season 7 finale has him adding "Rule Fifty-One". Ziva has requested that Gibbs write them down; only for Tony to rebut this by pointing out that while most are for day-to-day use, only the ones in the forties are reserved for emergencies.
    • There are actually two Rule Number 1s, and two Rule Number 3s. Word of God is this was intentional. While Gibbs has his own rules, his mentor Mike Franks told him he only needs three golden rules. The other Rule Number 2 has yet to be revealed, and the writers are letting the viewers determine which are Gibbs' rules, and which are Franks'.
    • CGIS Abigail Borin a Distaff Counterpart to Gibbs, unsurprisingly, has her own rules. Her rule number one is "Never make excuses".
  • Running Gag: Many.
    • In fact, they've evolved over the years.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Caitlin Todd doesn't appear in the Poorly-Disguised Pilot; she gets introduced in the first actual episode as a secret service agent who transfers to NCIS for Episode 2.
  • Sensitivity Training: Treated by the characters as a form of endurance trial.
  • Sergeant Rock
  • 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 II)".
  • 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 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.
    • Tony ships Bibbs - Gibbs/Abigail Borin. Borin doesn't agree.
  • Ship Tease: Tony/Ziva and McGee/Abby are two shipping groups the writers especially love to mess with. However, McGee/Abby was canon before their breakup and might come back per Word of God. Tony/Ziva has yet to go beyond Ship Tease (granted, the sheer mass of Ship Tease there is so large, it's verging on upstaging the Great Attractor).
    • This one's even messed with in-universe. Tony and Ziva are together in McGee's metafiction. See Write Who You Know below.
    • Even in-universe alternate-universe timelines! While Tony/Kate obviously can't happen, there's still hope for McGee/Abby.]]
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out: So, so many.
    • Several to other Donald P. Bellisario shows:
      • Tony uses the alias "Stringfellow Hawke" at one point; also, Caitlin Todd's first name is the same as an Airwolf character.
      • In one episode, the team finds a massive collection of lunchboxes in a murdered officer's bedroom, which included Airwolf, and Magnum, P.I.-themed boxes, and presumably other Bellisario creations. And when Tony must provide an alibi for his evening, he says he was home watching Magnum PI, and describes the specific episode.
      • Yet another crops up when searching a suspect's house in one episode, and Tony finds, among a full collection of Hawaiian shirts, a red one he claims to be an official Magnum PI shirt.
    • "Hiatus (Part II)" has Tony at one point say, "I have a better chance of hooking up with Jessica Alba than these guys do of infiltrating Sealift." Michael Weatherly, the actor who plays Tony, costarred with Jessica Alba in Dark Angel, and was engaged to her.
    • Gibbs shares a middle name (Jethro) with Admiral Chegwidden from NCIS' parent series, JAG.
    • The first episode is one big shout-out to Air Force One, right down to reusing the sets and Gibbs specifically mentioning the movie by name and reasoning that not only would the weapons be stored in the same place as they were in the movie, but that the terrorists would infiltrate by a similar manner.
    • One episode's supporting characters are a huge Shout-Out to G.I. Joe. There's FBI agent Courtney Krieger (Cover Girl), as well as Carl Greer (Doc), Shannon O'Hara (Scarlett), Marvin Hinton (Roadblock) alias Frederick LeClair (Recondo), Robert Graves (Grunt), George Barny (Grand Slam), and Blaine Parker (Mainframe).
    • Amusingly, in one episode, McGee stepped into the victim's computer hideout and exclaimed "this is like the TARDIS!"
    • Actually, far too many to list, as Tony is almost guaranteed to make at least one TV or movie reference every episode.
      • Normally, the team is not familiar with most of Tony's movie references. However, when he loops a video feed to save a room of hostages, everyone calls him out afterwards when he tries to take credit, knowing which movie he stole the tactic from.
      • Arguably, the joke here is that Tony had forgotten the film-inspired origins of his idea and is actually convinced he thought it up himself. Look at his expression (unless Anthony DiNozzo is a better actor than, say, Michael Weatherly...)! Of course, none of the rest of the team believe him for a moment.
      • In the second episode of Season 4 "Escaped", Ziva and McGee go to extreme lengths to avoid the word "fugitive" to keep Tony from connecting the situation to The Fugitve. Tony eventually comes to the connection on his own and monolouges his own foolishness while Ziva and McGee whisper to the side:

Ziva: What happened? We have been avoiding mentioning the Fugitive for days.
McGee: He figured it out for himself.

      • In the very early episodes, Gibbs is the one who is movie savvy.
    • One Halloween episode has the team being mistaken for lousy CSI: Crime Scene Investigation cosplayers.
    • In "Secrets", one of the neighbourhood-vigilante superheros being interrogated exclaims "Why on Earth 616 would I kill a fellow superhero!?"
    • When Tony refers to assistant coroner Palmer as "the autopsy gremlin", Gibbs' response is telling Tony to not get him wet.
  • Shut UP, Hannibal: In "Enemies Foreign", the Palestinian terrorist tries to lecture Gibbs about his war. Gibbs' response is basically "Yeah, you're right. Where's the other terrorist?"
  • Silver Fox: Gibbs.

Abby: I'm pregnant, McGee. Twins. Haven't told the father yet. It's Gibbs. I know it's wrong, but something about his silver hair gets me all tingly inside.
*Tony walks in at the end of Abby's line*
Tony: Excuse me for a second, I think I'm going to vomit.
Abby: I'm joking, Tony. Except for that part about Gibbs' hair. That is really hot.

    • Also:

Abby: [To Gibbs] Well my silver-haired fox... Gibbs... sorry.

  • Similar Squad:
    • In "Doppleganger", a Metro PD team gets involved in the case, whose members are ridiculously similar to the NCIS team, right down to the Gibbs Slap.
    • The team has also run into "child versions" of DiNozzo and Gibbs, respectively.
    • In "Jurisdiction", one of the CGIS investigators is a red-haired female version of Gibbs. Tony is the first to notice and the others are all rather amused. Gibbs is apparently the only member of the team that is not aware of this.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Delilah seeks out McGee for this reason. Bonus for Geeky Turn On.
  • 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.
  • Something They Would Never Say: 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.
  • Sorry I Left the BGM On: In "Power Down", a scene in Abby's lab starts out with her music, but ends with the music slowing to a stop as the CD player runs out of battery.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: In the first episode with Ari, after he shoots Gerald in the shoulder, Kate clearly calls him a fucking bastard, only the first word is conveniently drowned out in a sudden cry of pain from Gerald. Kate also swears in the first episode. When she attacks Gibbs in the bathroom, she calls him an asshole through clenched teeth while sobbing.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In "Newborn King", the soundtrack of choice is "Silent Night" during a scene which is anything but silent: Gibbs is helping a marine give birth, while Ziva is having a shootout with some bad guys in the next room.
  • Southies: See trope entry.
  • Spin-Off: Of JAG, with its own spin-off, and yes, it's being troped.
  • Spoiler Title: "Trojan Horse"; "Aliyah", via Bilingual Bonus; "Shariff Returns"; "Kill Ari", the title of the two-part Season 3 opener.
  • Staggered Zoom
  • Stock Footage: Largely averted. For a show involving the US Navy, its hardware doesn't really feature all that much, although earlier seasons had many an obvious stock clip of various ships and sometimes planes.
    • But it is liberally used in the 200th episode to fill in for past NCIS characters who can't make it to filming. I'm looking at you, Kate and Jenny.
  • Stuffed Into the Fridge: Invoked by Ari, who kills Kate and deliberately goes after Shepard and Abby just because it would cause Gibbs more pain. The show has a bad record of killing female main/recurring characters and current male characters' love interests. To date, Kate, Paula Cassidy, Jenny, Michelle Lee, and Lara Macy, although Kate's actress, as well as Jenny's, wanted to leave the show of her own accord.
  • Subtext: Beginning with the Season Five finale, Tony and Ziva's conversations are becoming increasingly subtext-heavy.
  • Talking Through Technique
  • Talking to the Dead: Mostly Ducky, as he says it "helps to reciprocate"; other characters have been known to do it as well.
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted.
  • Team Dad: Gibbs.
    • This is most obvious with Abby. He treats her as a daughter surrogate (even more or less threatening to spank her at one point), and she's acknowledged that he's like a father to her.
    • Gibbs has also taken this role with Tony. In one episode, Gibbs even got on a suspect's good side by comparing the game he was playing to one that his "son" Tony liked to play as well. Cue a rather odd if semi-pleased look from Tony himself, who had been listening in with the rest of the team.
    • Ziva's recently admitted that Gibbs is more of a father to her than her biological one. He's since acted accordingly on her behalf.
  • Team Pet: Abby.
  • Techno Babble: Let's just say that if you know anything about computers, you'll want to turn your brain off whenever Abby or McGee is talking. Anything.
  • Ted Baxter: Tony.
  • 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!

  • Ten-Minute Retirement: Gibbs in Season 4.
  • That One Case: Ducky in "Lt. Jane Doe".
  • That's an Order: Though it's easy to forget because of his behavior, Tony is the most senior agent on Gibbs' team. He jokingly orders McGee to do scut work all the time, but there have been several situations where he drops the Ted Baxter 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.
  • 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?

Abby: You're not Gibbs, Tony.
Tony: You're right. Acting like Gibbs doesn't make me the boss, being senior agent does. And if drinking coffee, staring, and whacking the backs of your heads helps me to lead this team... live with it.

    • McGee at the beginning of "Dog Tags" and at the end of "Caged".
  • Too Kinky to Torture:
    • Implied with Abby in "Bloodbath":

McGee: Now, you stay here and don't answer the door, or I will tie you up!
Abby: Really?

    • Also, Jimmy "Autopsy Gremlin" Palmer. When he helps Abby solve a problem, Gibbs gives Abby a peck on the cheek and Jimmy a Gibbs slap. He looks just as pleased at this as Abby.
  • 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.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Gibbs after getting blowned up in the Season 3 finale, and DiNozzo in the Season 9 premiere after getting shot. They both get better.
  • Trojan Horse: "Trojan Horse".
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback
  • True Companions: Put Gibbs in the "Team Dad" role, and the cast starts to look a lot like a standard sitcom Five-Man Band. Do not hurt a member of Team Gibbs. They will hunt you down. And they will end you.
  • Tyke Bomb: A plot point of Season 7 Episode 7 "Endgame" involving a North Korean assassin who was raised, along with other young girls, for the purpose of being so.


  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment:
    • Gibbs uses the elevator (emergency stopped, of course) as his own private conference room, so this results in many of these.

Boss using the elevator as an office again?

    • In one episode, Gibbs essentially put McGee in "time out" by forbidding him from leaving the elevator as a punishment for a major screw-up.
    • In the "Abby's ex is stalking her" episode, Abby eventually hides in the elevator because she read some statistic that elevators are about the least likely place to die in the United States. Subverted when she realizes that the average person spends just a minute a day in an elevator, and if she moves into one, her chances increase thousandfold.
    • In Season 7, a massive power outage causes McGee and Ziva to be stuck in the elevator together all night.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Fornell died 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.

  • Unfortunate Names:
    • "La Grenouille" translates to "The Frog", a very old nickname for people from France.
      • It's noteworthy that La Grenouille's real name is René. In Latin America, Kermit the Frog is named La Rana René (or René, the Frog).
    • It's absolutely no surprise that someone with a name like Donald Mallard should have picked up the nickname "Ducky".
  • Unorthodox Holstering: Largely averted, as the team members almost always wear their sidearms on their "strong side" hip[2] 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 gun[3], 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.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Tony and Kate to some degree.
    • Tony and Ziva, four seasons and counting.
      • 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 the "fake" porn manning the camera.
      • 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...
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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:

[[spoiler: Boone: Hey, do you think she screamed, when he cut out her tongue, Jethro?
Gibbs: I don't know. Why don't you ask her yourself?
*cue agent Cassidy walking into the room and Boone's giant grin melting into shock*
Cassidy: I'm afraid your lawyer's going to miss your execution tomorrow.
Tony: He's kinda dead.
Gibbs: Enjoy hell.
Boone: *insert breakdown and screaming here*]]

  • Vomiting Cop: An amnesiac Gibbs, being brought up to speed on recent history, succumbs to this trope when his old mentor tells him about 9/11.
  • "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.

  • We Named the Monkey "Jack":
    • Season 2 Episode 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.
    • Season 5 Episode 13 "Dog Tags" has another Type 1. A military police German Shepard that Abby has to examine for evidence, who she names Jethro.
  • Wet Sari Scene: A Nipple-and-Dimed (by pouring water) photo on one when a drunken Tony discovers strait-laced Kate once entered (and won) a wet T-shirt contest. He never lets her live it down. She doesn't get a chance to because Ari doesn't let her live three episodes later.
  • 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.
  • "What Do They Fear?" Episode: "B ête 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 Kept You?: Frequently.
  • Who Dunnit 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 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.
  • 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 them take down Ziva in a fight.
  • Working with the Ex: Seasons Three through Five had Director Jenny Shepard and Special Agent Gibbs, who had formerly been lovers.
  • Write Who You Know: McGee's based a series of thriller novels he's written on his coworkers and miscellaneous civilians. He is a best-selling author, under the Pen Name of "Thom E. Gemcity". Despite his picture being on the back cover, he's almost never recognized. This causes problems when a Loony Fan starts killing people based on actions taken by their fictional selves in McGee's next book (the killer had been reading McGee's typewriter ribbons to get a sneak peek). In that episode, McGee finally admits that he bases the characters in his books off the NCIS team (after the content of his latest book had been revealed, he'd made it a point to deny the similarities).
    • This gets lampshaded in the episode "Friends and Lovers", when the team has to investigate a high-class nightclub. Rather than make up a celebrity to get into the place, they simply send in McGee using his "Gemcity" identity, complete with a trio of female admirers (Ziva, Abby, and Michelle Lee).
  • X Days Since...
  • You! Get Me Coffee!: Regularly.
    • Played with in the "Doppelg änger" 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. 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.
  • You Know What They Say About X...
  • You Need to Get Laid: Gibbs' team tries to find him the perfect woman in the ninth season episode "Safe Harbor" so he will stop making them work nights and weekends.
    • Gibbs told Tony he'd made a mistake in blowing off his ex-fiancee for Christmas brunch in the ninth season episode "Newborn King".
    • Tony and Ziva often push Tim McGee to ask out a girl and Tony once arranged a date for Tim.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Lt. Roy Sanders in "Dead Man Walking".
  • You Taste Delicious: During the aforementioned sexual harassment training, Ziva notices Tony not paying attention, and licks him. He promptly jumps up and draws everyone's attention.
  • Zettai Ryouiki: This is one of the staples of Abby's wardrobe.
  1. his default phone answer
  2. (specifically, outside-the-waistband paddle holsters, oriented to "FBI forward cant")
  3. (Get your mind out of the gutter)