TV’s most-watched scripted series, CBS’ NCIS, will mark its 200th episode this Tuesday at 8/7c by prompting the usually rock-solid Leroy Jethro Gibbs to second-guess past decisions and ask himself a big, “What if…?”
The catalyst for the introspection goes down in the never-before-seen diner where Gibbs grabs his morning coffee. On this fateful day, a confrontation with a gunman leads Gibbs to ponder “what the world would have been like had things [in his life] happened differently,” NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg tells TVLine. “He looks back on his time as an agent, and even prior to that.”
With familiar faces such as Mike Franks (played by Muse Watson) presenting Gibbs with possible alternate pasts and presents, Glasberg likens the illuminating hour to “It’s a Wonderful Life, or almost A Christmas Carol.” And as alternate timelines are assayed, the blasts from the past — including but not limited to Rudolf Martin as Gibbs arch enemy Ari Haswari — will be many.
“We’re doing some really cool things, not only with people we were able to get back,but also with visual effects,” Glasberg shares. “It’s the kind of episode I hope people save to their DVR, because they’re going to want to watch it multiple times. A barrage of faces and images come at you, and very quickly.”
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Series vet Michael Weatherly, who plays Agent Tony DiNozzo, attests that the landmark episode is a “head trip,” one punctuated by the aforementioned use of effects and maybe even some actual trips back in time.
“There’s a floating bullet, we have characters that get placed in sets they weren’t really in, we recreated a scene [from years ago] that was pretty intense,” he tells TVLine. “A lot of CGI stuff goes on, and it does blow your mind a bit.”
But the actual substance within the rejiggered pasts and multiple timelines is what stands to really get fans talking.
For example, Weatherly reveals that in one timeline, “Abby and McGee have a different kind of relationship than they do now.” He also notes that in one reality, Gibbs has a different neighbor in the NCIS squad room, “So as I was watching, I went, ‘Oh, is that the guy who would have been ‘me’ if it wasn’t DiNozzo [sitting there]?'”
And because Ziva in one scenario had never been under Gibbs’ tutelage, Weatherly says, “You get a real glimpse into the hellcat she might have become without that guiding hand.”
Making the tapestry of alt timelines even more tangled is the fact that they are separate and not necessarily connected. Meaning, “If one of the characters had a baby in one of the timelines that was of one gender, five scenes later the gender of the baby could be different,” Weatherly posits. “That’s the degree to which things have been subdivided.” He adds with a laugh, “It’s almost quantum theory!”
As for how DiNozzo himself differs in any of the timelines, his portrayer only offers up a singular word: “Married.”
But make no mistake, this is a Gibbs-centric hour, and if what happens with the NCIS team leader can make Weatherly get misty, all bets are off.
“Without question, the most remarkable alternate timeline, truly, belongs to Gibbs,” the actor promises. “Mark Harmon does a scene in the basement that is so…. Well, I did cry several times watching this, and I did not anticipate that. “
Weatherly calls the aggregate events of the hour “impactful,” because “you realize that after living with the characters [for so long], when you see them not behave the way you anticipate them to behave, it’s off-putting. But Gary did a great job of getting people unsettled and then raising the stakes.”
Says Glasberg in closing, “For a diehard fan, [Episode 200] will be a lot of fun. We definitely thought it through!”
For even more on Episode 200, read: NCIS Team Teases ‘What If?’ Episode No. 200: ‘It’s About a Pivotal Moment That Gibbs Faces’