Fall TV Preview

NCIS Will Start Season 18 With a Backwards Time Jump — Find Out Why

NCIS Season 18 COVID Storyline

CBS’ NCIS will jump back in time — to November of last year  — and then stay there for a bit, when it kicks off Season 18 later this fall.

TV’s most-watched drama left off with a powerful ersatz season finale, in which Christopher Lloyd guest-starred as Pearl Harbor survivor Joe Smith. That episode closed with Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) inviting McGee to grab and seat and get an earful of his own war stories, from Kuwait. Gibbs then traveled to Hawaii for the ceremonial interring of the recently passed Joe Smith’s remains.

But when NCIS returns with new episodes sometime in November (by current estimations), following a “big and intense” cold open the show will jump back in time to when Gibbs mysteriously went off the grid in Season 17’s eighth episode.

“We had an episode last year called ‘Musical Chairs,’ where Gibbs disappears from the squad room to go on a mission, and then he shows up at the end of the episode with a black eye,” co-showrunner Steve Binder reminded during TVLine’s in-depth Fall Preview Q&A. At the time, Gibbs upon resurfacing never offered up a clear or verified answer as to where he had run off to, but Season 18’s early episodes will fill in some blanks.

“We are going to pick up Season 18 with that mission that Gibbs was on, back in time,” Binder explained. And as a result of this timey wimeyness, “We’re in a pre-COVID world for a little while,” circa November/December 2019.

Once the multi-episode arc exploring Gibbs’ mysterious mission is complete — during which the rest of the team will be seen back in D.C., dealing with weekly bodies/cases — “We’ll be in a COVID world at that point,” Binder said, though those episodes may not air until February.

As previously reported, offshoot NCIS: New Orleans will address the pandemic directly via a Loretta-centric storyline, while NCIS: Los Angeles, I hear, will be addressing COVID but not overtly.

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