“This isn’t Gibbs’ team anymore, is it?” Special Agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) pointed out in the latest NCIS episode, which directly dealt with the impact his former boss (Mark Harmon) leaving had on him.
In one of the biggest TV exits in recent years, Harmon left the CBS procedural just four episodes into the current season. Rather than return to work, the indefinitely suspended agent chose to stay in Alaska after wrapping a case and see what life held for him there. The assumption was that Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), the most senior member of the team, would take over as its leader. But he didn’t want the job, and instead, it went to Alden Parker (Gary Cole), who was fired from the FBI for not arresting Gibbs.
So how has NCIS handled having a new team leader and how Gibbs’ absence is affecting everyone? We take a look at that, then ask you to let us know what you think in a poll below.
Parker as the Boss
It hasn’t been an easy transition for Torres (the others seem to be handling it just fine), but there also haven’t even really been any moments of conflict during which Parker has had to assert his authority. In fact, even in “Fight or Flight,” when Torres’ attitude should have been a problem with his bosses, nothing came of it. Instead, Parker just let him be and asked the others how to best handle the situation. (They had Brian Dietzen’s Dr. Jimmy Palmer talk to him, getting to the heart of the matter: Gibbs, the man he saw as a father figure, leaving.)
Was that best way to handle it? These are experienced agents, so all Parker has had to do is dole out assignments (though McGee has also swapped with Katrina Law’s Jessica Knight as a senior member of the team). Right now, it seems like all Parker’s doing as team leader is the extra paperwork. Until we see him and the team truly tested — which they skated over as a possibility with “All Hands,” it’s still hard to truly evaluate the agents under new leadership.
The Team as a Team
The team has gone through more than a few changes over the years, after the series began with Gibbs and Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), who met Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) in the premiere. And each time someone has died or left and someone new has come in, it’s taken some time for them to feel like a team again. (The most memorable team will likely always be Gibbs, Tony, McGee, and Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David.)
With “All Hands,” in which Torres and Knight were captured and Parker set out to rescue them, then McGee helped save him with a Star Trek reference, they seemed to take a step towards being a team, but there’s still that sense of these people just being coworkers. Sure, Parker has made an effort to get to know them and spend time together outside of work, but it’s not the same as when it felt right for the team to be the only ones attending McGee and Delilah’s (Margo Harshman) impromptu wedding, not their own families. It’ll take quite a while for this team to feel like that, if it ever does.
Though — and because? — McGee knew Gibbs the longest, he’s been handling his exit the best. (Knight didn’t know him, so she has understandably had zero problem with the transition.) But Torres has been the complete opposite, from the moment McGee didn’t bring Gibbs back with him from Alaska. “How could you leave Gibbs behind?” he asked, before blaming Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) for letting him move on.
Then in “Fight or Flight,” he acted like he was perfectly fine if he had to part ways with the team. “We’re colleagues, we’re not friends. We’re supposed to have each other’s backs on the job, and that is it,” he said, surprising Knight because “I’ve only been here for a minute, and I know that’s not how Gibbs’ team works.” But “this isn’t Gibbs’ team anymore,” he argued.
“You feel abandoned, you feel left behind,” Palmer understood, because that was how he felt when his wife died. “Sometimes people leave. Even fathers. And it’s got nothing to do with you. … You have to open yourself up to getting hurt again if you ever want to heal.” That’s still an ongoing process for Torres, and until we see what that means for him going forward — will he open himself up to the others? — it’s hard to judge it just yet.
Meanwhile, for Palmer, who, despite how long he knew Gibbs, did not get a goodbye in Harmon’s last episode, this was just another loss in too many for him lately, between his wife and Bishop (Emily Wickersham). While he didn’t volunteer to cage fight for a case like Torres, Palmer did try to fix the pain by holding onto the past, like the old NCIS van and the idea of Ducky (David McCallum) returning permanently.
For forensic scientist Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover), she began questioning her own safety, especially since just before Gibbs’ departure, she was held hostage — and he was the one to save her. “It’s on me when strike three happens,” she explained, ultimately choosing not to buy a gun.
It was only after Gibbs was gone that McGee and Palmer learned of the legacy he’s left behind — for years, now. Each received $10,000 from an anonymous donor (earmarked for Palmer’s daughter), and Vance revealed they were the newest members of the Leroy Jethro Gibbs College Scholarship Club. Gibbs donated to him, too, when his kids were the same age as theirs.
“It’s in memory of his daughter Kelly,” the director explained. “When she was young, he started a college fund. When she died, Gibbs never closed the account. In fact, he kept adding to it. Since then, he’s helped a lot of agents’ families. Kids all going to college in Kelly’s honor.”
Because Gibbs was such a big part of the show and for the team – especially McGee and Torres — it makes sense that he’s not forgotten (they can’t even stop the elevator without referring to the man whose move that was). But how do you feel about the mentions and how the CBS drama has handled his exit? Let us know in the poll below.
NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS