‘NCIS:’ The Gibbs Rule Mark Harmon Remembers Is Disturbing

Any NCIS fan can tell you that there is a master list of all the Gibbs rules in existence (though only a few are frequently cited in the series). From “Never let suspects stay together” to “never take anything for granted,” with over 50 Gibbs rules running the show, it would be impossible for Mark Harmon to keep them all stored in his immediate recall.

Agent Gibbs – sometimes relying on his rules for practical reasons and other times neglecting them for “the cause –” is quite a “complex” fellow, as Harmon himself once explained. He’s happy in the job, but lies “alone at night,” Harmon told Larry King. The character has his rules – developed over a life lived – and each one serves its purpose. While some exist for the job, others seem to exist to prevent the fracturing of Gibbs’ psyche.

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon | Photo by Hannes Magerstaedt/Getty Images

Mark Harmon sat down with Larry King to discuss Agent Gibbs, NCIS, the success the show has seen, and more. During his interview, Mark Harmon explained that he knows some of the Gibbs rules off the top of his head, to which Larry King responded, “like?” Mark Harmon answered without hesitance, and, out of all Gibbs rules to remember, his answer may surprise you.

The Gibbs Rule Mark Harmon can recall: “Always carry a knife”

During a portion of the interview, Larry King goes through a handful of questions directed at Mark Harmon on Twitter. One of the questions was, “Do you have a list of all the Gibbs rules, including the ones that haven’t yet been mentioned on the show?”  Mark Harmon explained that he does not have a list, but knows “there is a list. A big list.”

Mark Harmon tells Larry King that he knows some of the rules on the list. When King asked which one, Mark Harmon replied: “Always carry a knife.” Both Harmon and King proceed to laugh; however, you can’t help but feel surprised by Harmon’s calm and collected nature when responding.

Harmon’s response is not a bad answer by any means: you may need to cut a seatbelt to save someone’s life, or…you may need to stab someone to death. The latter thought likely enters most minds. In an age in which we are bombarded with violent media coverage, can you blame us? And based on the awkward ensuing laugh by both parties present during the interview, King and Harmon shared the very same thought.

While most viewers likely expected him to say, “Never get personally involved in a case” or “never date a co-worker –” two rules that seem to more strongly typify the series and its various narrative arcs – he went with a darker option.

The likely reason Mark Harmon remembered this Agent Gibbs rule from ‘NCIS’

While slightly disturbing, Gibbs is always prepared, which could be why Mark Harmon remembers this rule: it accurately reflects Agent Gibbs’ need to be ready for anything and accurately predict outcomes.

Let’s give Mark Harmon the benefit of the doubt, and assume he’s not a violent guy with a mind directed at death. Though he once played Ted Bundy, Mark Harmon doesn’t seem like the charming serial killer type.

Mark Harmon has been playing Agent Gibbs for years, and when it comes to understanding a character, he likely knows Gibbs better than any other character he has portrayed; thus, choosing “always carry a knife” serves to represent his ability to channel the character, before channeling a specific rule.

Harmon likely thought of Gibbs, and then remembered the rule, not the reverse. Meaning, this response may not necessarily be disturbing; rather, it may serve to represent Harmon’s all-encompassing mental image of the man he has portrayed for sixteen seasons.