Television’s most watched scripted series, CBS’ NCIS, will have Jethro Gibbs travel down assorted roads not taken when the 200th episode, airing Feb. 7 and titled “Life Before His Eyes,” explores some “What If…?” scenarios à la the 1998 movie Sliding Doors.
NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg, who got the idea for the landmark episode over the summer, tells TVLine, “It very much is about a pivotal moment that Gibbs faces, and it literally looks back at key moments through nine years of NCIS where decisions had to be made, and had people gone in one direction instead of another, how the world would have ended up.”
In revisiting the past through a new lens, Glasberg says there will be “familiar faces, old faces, and faces the fans didn’t think they’d see again…. It was a lot of fun. It was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun.”
But in addition to some blasts from the past, the “alt-reality” adventure — which takes place in large part at the heretofore never-seen diner where Gibbs gets his morning coffee — will serve up fresh takes on familiar relationships. For example, viewers will see Tony and Ziva meet for the first time under very, very different circumstances, in a timeline where Kate’s NCIS desk was never freed up.
“For the first time, I didn’t know what was going to happen [in a scene],” Michael Weatherly says of the encounter. “I literally had to concoct in my mind seven years of ‘What if there was no Ziva in Tony’s life, how would he have been different?’” And Cote de Pablo did same. “The character that she brought into the room was so different from her normal Ziva,” Weatherly reports. “And I came in with my own tweak” — though not rocking “a full Tom Selleck ‘stache,” as he had hoped.
Such revamped relationships and odd proverbial bedfellows are served up for all of the long-running characters. “There are some real weird, dreamlike juxtapositions,” Rocky Carroll tells me, though Vance is still the officious NCIS Director. “There are a lot of surreal, ‘How did we all end up at the same table?’ kinds of moments, and the audience is going to love that.”
There are also some truly shocking moments, including one that comes in a scene Glasberg screened for the press at the Television Critics Association winter tour on Wednesday afternoon. In that clip, in the aforementioned under-a-bridge diner, Gibbs is approached by a hooded stranger toting a pistol. And just as Jethro begins to ID himself, a shot is fired from someone’s gun.
All told, Glasberg tells me, Gibbs comes away from the illuminating episode with “the realization that the decisions he has made were meant to be. And as he looks around NCIS, he realizes that this is where he should be.”