“NCIS” may be a crime drama that is mostly serious, but the cast and characters can still have fun. Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) had a running bit in which he would smack his team in the back of the head — a fan-favorite running joke.
The show has been running since 2003, and currently has 19 seasons. This makes “NCIS” one of the longest-running TV shows in history. Because the show has been on for so long, it has changed a bit as the seasons go on. Gibbs’ head-smack was more prominent in the earlier seasons of the show, and is non-existent now, much to fans disappointment. The usually-serious character’s most playful moments were when he would do the head slap to Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly).
The slap first appeared back in the earliest seasons, and wasn’t in the script. The actor continued to do the smack as the seasons went on, turning it into a long-running joke in the show. In 2009, Harmon was asked if he finds himself slapping people on the head off-set — to which he answered no. The gesture must be saved for DiNozzo and McGee alone.
Fans ate this bit up, so much so that there is a YouTube compilation of some of the characters’ best head smacks. The video, titled “NCIS All Gibbs’ Head slaps Seasons 1-12,” runs at 6 minutes and 26 seconds, and currently has over 1.2 million views. Viewers in the comments stated their love for this bit. User Kayleigh Natasha commented, “‘It’s no fun, if you know it’s coming’ Gotta love a classic Gibbs head slap.”
Fans Miss Long-Running Head Smack Joke in “NCIS”
Even though Harmon had said he doesn’t smack anyone’s head in real life, fans kind of wish he would. YouTube user Deep commented, “I swear, If I could meet Mark Harmon in real life I’d pay him to slap the back of my head just for nostalgia laughs.”
So if the bit was so popular, why is it non-existent in later seasons?
The answer is because the characters who received the slap the most were McGee, and DiNozzo, who is no longer a character on the show. Weatherly left “NCIS” in 2016, after season 13. The tradition was between Gibbs and DiNozzo, and the part of the charm and humor of the action was the chemistry between the two characters. Although it is only natural for the bit to no longer be on the show because Weatherly is no longer there, it is still sad to have had to say farewell to a fan-favorite bit. However, the YouTube compilation allows fans to relive the joke whenever they would like.
Although the character and joke are both gone, “NCIS” is still going strong. Fans can tune into the season 20 premiere on Monday, Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. on CBS.