‘NCIS’ Fans Found A Giant Loophole in Agent Gibbs’ Rules

Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is a character who is easy to admire. Mark Harmon, who plays Agent Gibbs on the long-running CBS hit NCIS, is a fan-favorite character for his loyalty, determination, and quick thinking.

One trademark characteristic of Agent Gibbs are his famous “rules.” Throughout the run of the show, the character makes fleeting references to his rules. Sometimes they’re enlightening, other times they make no sense. But observant fans have noticed a contradiction in Agent Gibbs’ rules.

What are Agent Gibbs’ rules?

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon | Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

Viewers who love the show and have watched it religiously from the very beginning are quite familiar with Gibbs’ habits, philosophy, and moods. But the most memorable aspects of Gibbs’ worldview are his “rules.” Yes, Gibbs, due to all his experience, has come up with a set of rules that he shares with newbies, friends, employees, and sometimes strangers. 

Gibbs has rules that work in every situation. At first, some may not have been paying attention to these words of wisdom from an experienced detective who knew his way around the crime world. But, then viewers and Gibbs’ team began to notice that Gibbs’ platitudes were, in fact, worth tucking away in their collective memories. As for the show’s audience, for the most part, they seemed to hang on Gibbs’ every word, as well.

A complete list of ‘NCIS’ rules by Agent Gibbs

There are a total of 69 rules, and counting, but fans have yet to hear all of them. They’re revealed out of order, as Gibbs sees fit. And, considering there are two number 1 rules, it’s not far-fetched to say Gibbs might be winging it. Here’s a list of Agent Gibbs’ rules on NCIS, so far:

Gibbs’ Rule #1: Never let suspects sit together.

Gibbs’ Other Rule #1: Never screw over your partner.

Gibbs’ Rule #2: Always wear gloves at a crime scene.

Gibbs’ Rule #3: Never believe what you are told. Double check.

Gibbs’ Other Rule #3: Never be unreachable.

Gibbs’ Rule #4: Best way to keep a secret. Keep it to yourself. Second best, tell one other person—if you must. There is no third best.

Gibbs’ Rule #5: You don’t waste good.

Gibbs’ Rule #6: Never say you’re sorry.

Gibbs’ Rule #7: Always be specific when you lie.

Gibbs’ Rule #8: Never take anything for granted.

Gibbs’ Rule #9: Never go anywhere without a knife.

Gibbs’ Rule #10: Never get involved personally on a case.

Gibbs’ Rule #11: When the job is done, walk away.

Gibbs’ Rule #12: Never date a co-worker.

Gibbs’ Rule #13: Never involve lawyers.

Gibbs’ Rule #14: Bend the line, don’t break it.

Gibbs’ Rule #15: Always work as a team.

Gibbs’ Rule #16: If someone thinks he has the upper hand, break it.

Gibbs’ Rule #18: It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission.

Gibbs’ Rule #20: Always look under.

Gibbs’ Rule #22: Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation.

Gibbs’ Rule #23: Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.

Gibbs’ Rule #27: Two ways to follow someone. First way, they never notice you. Second way, they only notice you.

Gibbs’ Rule #28: When you need help, ask.

Gibbs’ Rule #35: Always watch the watchers.

Gibbs’ Rules #36: If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are.

Gibbs’ Rule #38: Your case, you’re lead.

Gibbs’ Rule #39: There is no such thing as a coincidence.

Gibbs’ Rule #40: If it seems like someone’s out to get you, they are.

Gibbs’ Rule #42: Never accept an apology from somebody who just sucker-punched you.

Gibbs’ Rule #44: First things first, hide the women and children.

Gibbs’ Rule #45: Left a mess I gotta clean up.

Gibbs’ Rule #51: Sometimes you’re wrong.

Gibbs’ Rule #62: Always give people space when they get off an elevator.

Gibbs’ Rule #69: Never trust a woman who doesn’t trust her man.

The two Agent Gibbs rules that don’t make any sense

Rule 6 is, “Never say you’re sorry.” Some fans find this rule a bit hard to swallow. After all, we make mistakes, and our moms said we should apologize when we did so. Especially coming from someone as honorable as Agent Gibbs.

But then, rule 6 directly conflicts with rule 18: It’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Here, Gibbs mentions forgiveness, which is exactly what he advises against in rule six.

Then, there’s rule 51: Sometimes you’re wrong. To take rule six as a command and rule 51 for face value, then is Agent Gibbs saying that you’re wrong but you should never apologize?

An amalgamation of the comments from fans about this rule ended up sounding like this: Gibbs believes apologies should be used only occasionally and have a distinct purpose. He would probably also say that a change in behavior is more important than an easy, “I’m sorry.”