These 3 Character Relationships Made ‘NCIS’ the Most Popular Show on TV

NCIS has been on the air since 2003 and continues to draw audiences spanning various demographics. The show — about a bunch of Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents — has managed to surpass its predecessor, Jag, becoming one of the most popular programs on network television

NCIS cast
NCIS cast | Michael Desmond/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

While intriguing and suspenseful storylines and long-gestating narratives play into the show’s success, fans don’t come back to see who the next week’s criminal is; fans return for the characters they have come to know and love. 

Over the years, NCIS has been a revolving door of up and coming and well-known actors; as one departs, another one enters to fill the void. However, some of the characters, who helped define the show’s early years, made the program what it is today. Specific character dynamics were so perfectly developed that the people on screen felt like friends and family. Below, find the three relationships that defined NCIS and catalyzed its ascension to a worldwide phenomenon. They are listed from least impactful to most impactful; however, even the first one on this list is extremely significant.

3. Abby and Gibbs 

Though the relationship between the real-life stars behind Gibbs and Abby may not be peachy at the moment, the two boasted an adorable father-daughter dynamic on NCIS for years. 

From Abby shouting, “Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs!” whenever she stumbled upon a clue and got overtly excited to Gibbs kissing her on the cheek as a sign of gratitude, the love between these two felt palpable from the start. 

Gibbs’ protective nature defined his specific relationship with Abby, and Abby’s deep concern for Gibbs’ well-being — both physically, as well as mentally and emotionally as a man with a troubled past — made for a perfect recipe. The age dynamic, as well as Abby’s youthful disposition, sold the relationship. 

2. Gibbs and Ziva  

Gibbs and Ziva also boast a father-daughter dynamic, but it’s much different than the one between Abby and Gibbs. Ziva feels very protective of Gibbs as well, and she knows she possesses the skill set necessary to protect and defend her boss (a boss who isn’t as young as he used to be). 

Season 17 has really pulled at the heartstrings concerning these two. When Ziva revealed she expected Gibbs to keep looking for her, and Gibbs explained he didn’t want to face continuous disappointment, it was impossible to hold off the tears.

Gibbs’ journey to trusting Ziva was not immediate, yet once trust was developed, a bond was forged, and loyalty defined their dynamic moving forward. Gibbs may not open up, but when he does, you can guarantee that love and loyalty will be the core emotions he experiences (whether or not he divulges the former). 

1. Tony and Ziva 

You cant have a list about character relationships in NCIS without mentioning Tony and Ziva. The two had a long-gestating romance, starting with a lot of humor and a great deal of bickering, yet ending with love and respect. From no, no, no to yes, yes, yes, you could feel the tension between these two pouring out of the television screen from the smart. 

Michael Weatherly (Tony) and Cote de Pablo’s (Ziva) chemistry was undeniable, and their romance made for one of the show’s most suspenseful storylines. The will-they-won’t-they saga went on for so many years, yet each season, fans got closer and closer to that fateful departure kiss.