“I’m not going back, Tim…. I’m not going back home.”
With that declaration from Gibbs, made while peacefully casting a line into an Alaskan bay, CBS’ NCIS this Tuesday night announced series lead Mark Harmon’s exit after more than 18 seasons.
Harmon reportedly was ready to hang up Gibbs’ cap after last season, but learned that if he did so, CBS might not renew NCIS at all. As such, he agreed to return in a limited capacity. TVLine later reported that Harmon was expected back for only “a few” episodes.
Sure enough, in but the fourth episode of Season 19 — after he, McGee et al solved the case of a contract killer hired by a conglomerate to clear the way for an environment-poisoning copper mine — Gibbs decided not to take back his badge, gun and job, when offered by Director Vance, but stay put in “the middle of nowhere,” in Alaska, where this multi-episode arc had most recently led him.
NCIS showrunner Steve Binder said in a statement, “As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
What did you think of Harmon’s/Gibbs’ sendoff? Vote in the poll below, revisit some of the episode’s best moments, and then sound off in the Comments!
BOAT MYSTERY, SOLVED!
Phoning McGee, who had slipped away to Alaska with Gibbs to follow a new lead, Agent Parker remarked that he had checked the AWOL Gibbs’ house “and something tells me he’s not coming back” — as he stared at the infamous opposite wall, which had a huge hole busted in it. A hole big enough to remove a boat.
GIBBS' BOAT DREAMS STAY AFLOAT
On the way to talk to murder victim Libby’s father at a marina, Gibbs expresses his admiration for one “helluva boat” they pass by — but McGee think he’s kidding, since the vessel in question is in rough shape. But surely one of Gibbs’ rules is “Gibbs never kids around.”
In speaking with the father of Libby the murdered reporter, Gibbs indicates that he, too, has suffered the loss of a child. “How do you get through the days?” asks Mr. Alonak. Gibbs bows his head, then admits, “Some days I don’t.”
'THANK YOU, LEON. FOR EVERYTHING'
In the first of several goodbye scenes presented as flashbacks, we see Vance meet up with Gibbs at the diner, to deliver a small shopping bag containing… a nifty sat phone, to use when in Alaska. What followed was Gibbs choking out a goodbye to his longtime friend and colleague — though his dunking of his old clamshell phone in his coffee nearly upstaged the entire scene. “It had a good run,” indeed.
'I APPRECIATE YOU MORE THAN YOU KNOW'
In the second goodbye flashback scene, Ducky stops by Gibbs’ house just as he’s about to get a ride to the airport. After commenting on his basement’s “airy” decor, Ducky expressed his worry, saying that “milestone events” such as losing team members, job loss and near death “stack up on each other and build internal pressure.” Gibbs said what needed to be heard — “There’s nothing to worry about, Duck” — before admitting that he has been “searching,” though he’s not sure for what. Before heading off to Alaska, Gibbs gave Ducky a big hug, saying, “You are a great friend. I appreciate you more than you know.”
'MOVEABLE WALLS, PULLEY SYSTEMS...'
The final and very best meta commentary on the long-running mystery of Gibbs’ basement came during Torres’ goodbye flashback. When Gibbs was surprised to hear that people wonder how he gets his boats out, Torres insisted there were many theories, most of them “nuts.” He rattled off a few, including “moveable walls, pulley systems, your house has a coal tunnel underneath….”
Things then got serious when Gibbs asked how Torres himself has been doing since… well, you know… before telling Nick he is “one hell of an agent” and “a good man.” A bit of parting advice from Boss? “Don’t let this job become all that there is,” he said. “Take care of you, pal.”
AGENT PARKER COMES AROUND
When Agent Alden Parker shows up in Alaska to scoop up Gibbs (on charges of abducting a murder suspect and such), Gibbs — who himself tipped off Parker to his location – manages to get the G-man to stand down, if only long enough to prove that the Sonova CEO ordered the killings. “The
victims’ families need answers, the people of Noktok Bay deserve to keep what’s theirs,” Gibbs argued. When Parker questions whether Gibbs & Co. actually believe that they can go up against a billion-dollar company and win, Gibbs plainly responds, “Yeah. We do. The job’s not done.”
THE FEDS GETS THEIR (WO)MAN!
Engaging in a bit of theater, Gibbs and McGee were in the midst of confronting the Sonova CEO with proof of the damning-but-hidden environmental impact report when a “call” from Director Vance interrupts and orders them to stand down. Agent Parker, posing as the CEO’s driver, then follows through on the arrest after seeing which secret partner (a murder victim’s husband) the panicked CEO immediately tried to phone.
MARCIE GETS A PIECE OF THE ACTION
With the CEO’s secret partner identified, journalist Marcie (played of course by Pam Dawber) resurfaces to lure the man into an NCIS trap, gloating he is now angry he will have to do his “own wet work” and then finding a certain honor in him calling her a “bitch.”
EVERYTHING ABOUT THE LAST 10 MINUTES
Gibbs marveling at the land they saved, and then forcing McGee to cuff him. Agent Parker defying his bosses by letting Gibbs go free, after FBI vet Fornell vouched for the his old friend. Vance informing the team that Gibbs was offered his job back, but declined. There was a lot to love about the episode’s final act.
But the very final sequence, during which Gibbs not only took McGee fly fishing in Alaska but also opened up like seldom before — speaking about his father and childhood — was so powerful and laden with emotion. Especially when Gibbs talked about fishing, but wasn’t really. “You have to find your rhythm; not mine…. Be patient. It’s about progress, not perfection,” he told the senior agent to whom he was about to turn over the keys to the proverbial car. “Once you know the basics, the rest comes from inside.”
McGee, bless him, failed to pick up on several hints and grew confused when Gibbs didn’t hop aboard the sea plane that arrived to get them. “I’m not going back, Tim…. I’m not going back home,” Gibbs stated, explaining that “this sense of peace, I have not had this since Shannon and Kelly died. And I am not ready to let it go.”
...BUT MOSTLY THAT LAST HUG
“I could not have hoped for anyone better to watch my back for the past 18 years than you, Tim,” Gibbs told McGee, once his intention to stay in Alaska became clear. (A wee bit of DiNozzo erasure? Discuss!)
Gibbs then pulled his No. 2 into the biggest of bear hugs, saying, “I love you” — and McGee in turn said, through tears, “I love you, too,” before boarding the sea plane and leaving Gibbs behind. In peace.
What did you think of Gibbs’ sendoff? Vote in our poll above (or at this link), then sound off in the Comments!