Mark Harmon starred as Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS for 18 seasons and over 400 episodes. It’s safe to say that the character experienced more than his fair share of heartbreak during his nearly two-decade run. Here are the ten most heartbreaking moments from Harmon’s portrayal of Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
10. In ‘NCIS’ season 11 Gibbs bids farewell to Ziva.
Cote de Pablo decided to leave NCIS at the start of Season 11. As a result, her character Ziva David had to say goodbye to Gibbs, who had become a father figure to her during her time at NCIS.
Fans found it difficult to watch their final phone call because as soon as Gibbs heard Ziva’s voice, he realized the former Mossad agent would be staying in Israel and would not be returning to NCIS. Fortunately, the two were reunited in Season 17.
9. Tobias Fornell’s daughter Emily d1es at the age of nine.
Season 18 was a difficult one for the NCIS team because it saw the departures of two characters — Emily Wickersham’s Agent Bishop and Maria Bello’s Jack Sloane — and the d3aths of two others.
It was heartbreaking enough to watch Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) deal with his wife’s d3ath as a result of C0V1D. However, NCIS fans were forced to cry when Gibbs’ close friend, FBI Agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano), lost his daughter Emily to a drug overdose.
Gibbs actually left the cr1me scene he was working on to sit with Fornell in the trauma center’s waiting room, hoping for good news. But it never arrived.
8. Agent Kate Todd’s untimely d3ath was the eighth sh0cking event.
The season 2 finale titled “Twilight” was the first time NCIS truly sh0cked fans. When Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander), a Secret Service agent Gibbs had hired, was tasked with protecting Gibbs from t3rr0rist Aria (Rudolf Martin).
Ari shot and k1ll3d Kate from a neighboring rooftop in front of Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo after she saved her boss from the first att4cker (Michael Weatherly).
7. Why does Gibbs listen to only five songs?
During Season 5, forensic scientist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) buys an iPod for each member of the team. When she enthusiastically explains how much music Gibbs can download to it, he responds with a heartbreaking “I only listen to five, Abs.”
It is later revealed that the only five songs Gibbs listens to are piano recordings of his late daughter Kelly.
6. Diane’s D3ath
Gibbs has been married four times, and he surprisingly had an ex-wife in common with Fornell — Diane, played by Melinda McGraw. She only appeared in a few episodes, but her d3ath was no less brutal or heartbreaking for fans or Gibbs. To make matters worse, he witnessed Diane’s d3ath by gunshot. He did the same thing with Agent Todd.
5. Gibbs is shot in the season 12 finale of ‘NCIS.’
Season 12 of NCIS concluded with Gibbs being shot by a boy in Iraq while investigating the Calling t3rr0rist group. The season that followed began with Gibbs fighting for his life in the hands of surgeon Dr. Cyril Taft (Jon Cryer).
Fans saw Gibbs struggle to confront his emotions and cope with his near-d3ath experience, despite the fact that he obviously survived.
4. Gibbs’ father d1es, and Jackson d1es.
The most recent appearance of Gibbs’ father Jackson, played by Ralph Waite, on NCIS was in the season 11 episode “Better Angels.” Waite d1ed in real life only a few weeks later.
Gary Glasberg, the show’s then-executive producer, wanted to honor The Waltons star with a special episode titled “Honor Thy Father” for the season 11 finale — a heartbreaking episode about Gibbs losing his father.
“We had a very real thing happen to us off-screen.” We had lost someone we genuinely cared about. “And now it was time to let Leroy Jethro Gibbs say goodbye to his father, too,” Glasberg said at the time to Entertainment Weekly.
3. The untimely d3ath of Gibbs’ best friend, Mike Franks
NCIS made it clear for several seasons that Gibbs’ oldest and closest friend was former Supervisory Agent Mike Franks (Muse Watson). That’s why the season 8 episode “Swan Song” was so moving.
After being stabbed at the end of the episode, Mike becomes the latest v1ctim of the Port to Port K1ll3r. Even though he was already sick and dying and Gibbs was preparing his casket, seeing Gibbs lose his friend in such a heartbreaking way was almost too much for fans to bear.
However, this was not the last time fans saw Mike. He reappeared several times in later seasons as “Ghost Mike,” a manifestation of Gibbs’ subconscious as a result of his own lingering guilt and despair over his friend’s d3ath.
2. Gibbs’ memory fades
Gibbs is severely injured in a ship bombing at the end of NCIS season 3’s two-part episode “Hiatus.” He has severe memory loss as a result of the expl0sion, and he doesn’t recognize anyone from NCIS. Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) and Dr. Ducky Mallard are the only exceptions (David McCallum).
It’s heartbreaking to see Gibbs fail to recognize anyone from his team. But when the episode delves into Gibbs’ past, it becomes even more heartbreaking.
1. ‘NCIS’ Season 3 reveals how Gibbs lost his wife and daughter.
Gibbs also relived the painful memories surrounding the d3aths of his wife Shannon (Darby Stanchfield) and their 8-year-old daughter Kelly (Mary Mouser) while he was in a coma in the special two-part “Hiatus” episode.
Shannon and Kelly were k1ll3d when a member of a Mexican drug cartel shot and k1ll3d the Marine who was driving the vehicle they were in, according to fans.
Gibbs carried the loss of his wife and daughter with him through every episode of NCIS. Fans could see it written all over his face — until, in season 19, he finally found peace in Alaska. He will, however, always have a broken heart because he lost the two people he loved the most in his life.
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