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‘NCIS’ Season 19 Episode 5 Recap: The Real Reason McGee Refused to Take Gibbs’ Job

‘NCIS’ is back and for the first episode in the post-Mark Harmon era. In episode 5 of season 19 – ‘Face the Strange – Harmon’s presence is still felt throughout the team as they struggle to move on without their former leader. So, what is the real reason that McGee refused to take over Gibbs’ job?


  • ‘NCIS’ is back and stepping into the post-Mark Harmon era.
  • The entire team is struggling to deal with Gibbs’ absence.
  • Why did McGee (Sean Murray) really refuse the job?
NCIS stars Sean Murray and Mark Harmon from the NOVEMBER 13, 2020 episode "Toil and Trouble"
Mark Harmon and Sean Murray on ‘NCIS’ | Bill Inoshita/CBS via Getty Images

NCIS is back for Season 19, Episode 5 “Face the Strange” — the series’ first episode of the post-Mark Harmon era. Leroy Jethro Gibbs may be gone, but he’s still a major topic of conversation among his team. Will they be able to move on without him? And, why did McGee (Sean Murray) refuse Gibbs’ job?

The ‘NCIS’ team deals with the loss of Gibbs’

The episode picks up right where the last one left off, with McGee returning from Alaska alone. Kasie (Diona Reasonover), Vance (Rocky Carroll), and McGee seem to be okay with Gibbs finding happiness in Alaska. But Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) doesn’t want to accept the fact that Gibbs is gone. And he really didn’t like it when former FBI Agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) showed up in the big orange room.

The last time Torres saw Parker, he wasn’t an ally. Torres didn’t get to witness Parker’s work in Alaska, but Gibbs did. The team doesn’t know it, but it was Gibbs who recommended to Vance that Parker take his job.

A case of the week with zombies?

Parker tells the team at NCIS that he isn’t interested in taking over for Gibbs, and he’s not staying because he has Simon & Garfunkel tickets. But when Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) alerts the team that a zombie Navy officer has appeared from the ground, McGee tells everyone to grab their gear. That includes Parker, who tags along at the request of Director Vance.

At the crime scene, the zombie is no more. When the NCIS team arrives, the victim is dead. The team identifies him as Petty Officer Bolton. After loading the body into the coroner’s van, Parker tells the team “it was a blast” but he’s ready to go. At that exact moment, the van explodes.

Why did McGee refuse to take over the ‘NCIS’ team?

As Ducky (David McCallum) and Jimmy examine the body, they discover there was a bomb inside of him. The charred remains produced a badly damaged USB drive for Kasie to work on, which reveals that Petty Officer Bolton was a hacker who sells his services on the dark web. While also being a coder for the US military. After reviewing his posts, they discover that Bolton’s politics started turning radical right before he died.

In the meantime, Torres confronts Vance over offering Gibbs’ job to Parker. Torres thinks everyone is giving up on Gibbs too easily. He also thinks that if anyone should take his place, it should be McGee.

Vance tells him that Gibbs shockingly recommended Parker to take over. And, he also revealed that McGee turned the job down. When Torres asks McGee why he said no to Gibbs’ job, he explains that the job is all-consuming and it changes you. He can’t let that happen to him because he has a wife and children. Gibbs also doesn’t like the paperwork and the lack of time in the field.

The DOD assigns Agent Parker to work with Gibbs’ team

Parker keeps trying to get away to go to his concert, but the case keeps him at NCIS due to orders from the Department of Defense. He continues to work with Kasie, McGee, Torres, and newbie Agent Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) on the exploding Navy man.

The investigation leads Kasie to the discovery that the late Petty Officer had won the lottery four times. Including once after his death. The forensic scientist continues digging and finds his female accomplice, so the team brings in her for questioning.

Agent Parker continues working the case with ‘NCIS’

Parker is the one who questions the female accomplice, who insists she and Bolton aren’t terrorists who are trying to sneak a bomb inside a guarded military location. They weren’t recruiting radicals, either. Instead, they were just trying to hack the lottery and split the money.

She’s telling the truth, and the team realizes this after they discover that Bolton didn’t swallow the bomb materials. Instead, they were surgically implanted via a pacemaker battery. This discovery leads them back to a previous suspect from earlier in the investigation. And while they are interrogating that top secret level stenographer, Parker suddenly has a hunch.

Gary Cole’s Agent Parker replaces Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs

Parker runs into the interrogation room to ask the suspect if he’s had recent surgery. He said he had the battery on his pacemaker recently replaced. Which causes the team to rush him down to Ducky and Palmer’s lab. The duo performs emergency surgery to remove the bomb, and the team cracks the case.

The team at NCIS learns that a mobster named Toptoni used Petty Officer Bolton to hack the stenographer’s medical records because he had access to top secret military locations. They used the officer as a guinea pig to test the walking suicide bomb. But when it didn’t go off, they buried him thinking he was dead.

However, the bomb materials had leaked into his system and poisoned him, so they had buried him alive. Which is why viewers saw the Navy zombie at the beginning of the episode.

As the case wraps up, Vance talks to Parker one last time. He notes that there never was a Simon & Garfunkel concert, and Parker confesses that he didn’t want to seem eager or interested in joining the team. He also tells Vance that he’ll take the job.

Will ‘NCIS’ make it without Mark Harmon?

Gibbs may be gone from NCIS, but Harmon is still at the top of the credits. And Gibbs’ name is still being spoken repeatedly. Can the long-running procedural survive without the character that people have tuned in to watch for 18 seasons? Will fans accept Agent Parker as the new team leader?


‘NCIS’ Season 19: All the Signs Mark Harmon Is Being Replaced By Gary Cole — Despite CBS’ Denials

It appears that the next few episodes are crucial for the future of NCIS. If TV’s most-watched drama loses millions of viewers over Harmon’s exit, will the show survive past season 19? Will fans want to watch this new team after so many changes? Showbiz Cheat Sheet will definitely keep an eye on this developing story.

NCIS airs Monday nights on CBS.