‘NCIS’ Season 19 Premiere Recap: Is It Time For Mark Harmon’s Exit?


  • Mark Harmon is taking a reduced role in ‘NCIS’ season 19
  • Agent Gibbs is not the same after 18 years
  • CBS remains coy on the future of ‘NCIS’ after season 19
Mark Harmon returns as NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs for season 19
Mark Harmon on the set of ‘NCIS’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

NCIS is officially back for season 19, with Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs at the center of the action. After a summer filled with rumors that Harmon would have a reduced role this season, there was no indication in the premiere that Gibbs was going anywhere. With the exception of one comment from Tim McGee (Sean Murray).

Will Gibbs ever return to his team at NCIS? Or is it time for Harmon’s exit?

Gibbs was in trouble in the ‘NCIS’ season 19 premiere

The premiere episode titled “Blood in the Water” picked up at the exact same moment that season 18 left off — when Gibbs’ boat exploded. It was no surprise that he made it out alive, since that was teased in last season’s cliffhanger. But he wasn’t in good shape, thanks to the bruises and blood. And the wooden spike protruding from his abdomen.

When the NCIS team is alerted of the boat’s explosion, McGee and Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) attempt to track down their boss. As they explain to local law enforcement, Gibbs is “family.” But he’s nowhere to be found because someone is holding the Marine sniper prisoner in their barn.

Gibbs’ team meets Marcie Warren

Harmon’s real-life wife Pam Dawber had a four-episode arc at the end of season 18 as investigative journalist Marcie Warren. She is now back for the new season. And when McGee and Torres were on the hunt for Gibbs, that led them to Marcie and the serial killer case she and Gibbs had been working on.

Meanwhile, Gibbs tries to escape the barn where he’s being held after discovering that someone performed surgery on his wound. He meets his captors who are holding him at gunpoint — an older couple named Thelma and Virgil. Thelma is skeptical of Gibbs, while Virgil is a former vet who confessed to performing the surgery.

Gibbs is able to prove he’s telling the truth when a fake sheriff shows up to Thelma and Virgil’s property. She hands him her rifle, and he calls Marcie to let her know he’s alive. He also tells McGee to give Marcie protection 24/7 because she’s in danger.

Is it time for Mark Harmon’s exit on ‘NCIS’?

Gibbs and his team eventually reunite and work together to stop the fake sheriff who is actually a drug dealer in the area. There’s also another body found in the lake, which ends up being the serial killer’s fourth victim.

But as all of this is going on, there’s obvious tension between Gibbs and McGee. Not only has Gibbs ditched his team, but McGee has discovered what Rule 91 is — when you decide to walk away, don’t look back. Rule 91 was the name of Gibbs’ boat, and McGee doesn’t like it.

McGee tells Torres that he doesn’t think Gibbs is “coming back to anything” until he finds this serial killer.

When he confronts his boss, McGee tells him that “Rule 91 sucks” because it is in direct violation of rule number one — never screw over your partner. But Gibbs claps right back, telling McGee he’s not his partner.

“This team is your partner and you not being a part of it is screwing us over,” McGee says, but Gibbs tells him, “You don’t need me.”

Will Vance reinstate Gibbs?

McGee admits that while Gibbs has been suspended, the team has done their job and made it work. But, he tells Gibbs that they are better together.

“Boss, you know I’m right. You have to. You built us. We have a serial killer to catch but in order to do that, we need to be a team. We need to be your team. Say something,” McGee says.

“I am proud of you. Keep pushing me. Always keep pushing,” Gibbs tells him.

“Does that mean you’re in?” McGee asks. To which Gibbs replies, “What do you got?”

This is where the episode ends, so fans will have to wait another week to find out if Vance will reinstate the NCIS special agent.

Gibbs is not the same as he once was on ‘NCIS’

Gibbs was the main focus of the season 19 premiere, but that doesn’t mean he will continue to be the series lead as the season unfolds. Not only was he hesitant to go back to NCIS, but the character just isn’t the same as he once was.

When NCIS premiered back in 2003, Gibbs was a no-nonsense agent in his early 50s who had been married four times. He was a decorated marine who was passionate about his work, and had the skills that would allow him to survive any situation.

But in the season 19 premiere, the now 70-year-old Harmon looks every bit his age. And he didn’t have that Gibbs swagger fans know and love. Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) even joked about the thought of Gibbs having a romantic relationship with Marcie. Comparing it to the “mating habits of water buffalo.”

The Gibbs character is not the same, but it’s still not clear if his time on NCIS is coming to an end. Showrunner Steven Binder told TV Line that the focus at the moment is getting the band back together again after breaking them up at the end of season 18.

“I’d say that a lot of things are reported on the show that aren’t necessarily true. We are focusing right now on telling the best stories we can with the characters we have, and Gibbs is a part of that world, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job with that,” Binder said.

New episodes of NCIS air Monday nights on CBS.

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