‘NCIS’: How Knight and Palmer’s Relationship Breaks a Day 1 Gibbs Rule

by Suzanne Halliburton

For 19-plus NCIS seasons, Leroy Jethro Gibbs quoted his own personal rules of life. He’d cite them at will. And he’d sometimes swat Tony DiNozzo on the head to make a point about his edicts.

But now that Mark Harmon has retired from the show, are Gibbs rules still a thing? We’re thinking that two characters are about to break Rule No. 12 in season 20. That’s never date a co-worker. And Gibbs trotted out that rule near the end of season one, back in late February, 2004. So it’s set in stone.

What do you think Gibbs would say about the budding relationship between Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and Jess Knight (Katrina Law)? Jess is a relative newcomer, so Gibbs’ rules are probably just an urban myth to her. She joined the NCIS team late in season 18. But Palmer knows all about Gibbs’ rules. He heard enough of them working as Dr. Ducky Mallard’s assistant. Jimmy was both in awe and intimated by Gibbs. Would he really break such a rule? Well, the heart does want what it wants, Gibbs be damned.

Mark Harmon as Gibbs had so many rules when he served as special agent in charge on NCIS. (Cliff Lipson/CBS)

Gibbs had so many rules. He’d write some of them down and keep them in a tin can near his bed. Some are really simple. Rule No. 1 — “you don’t waste good.” That’s basically, know the talents of the people around you and don’t waste yours or their time.

There are some that are very specific. “Never go anywhere without a knife.” Or “never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation.” Some reference Gibbs’ obsession with coffee. “Never mess with a Marine’s coffee if you want to live.”

Then there are just your basic words to live by from the NCIS special agent in charge. “If it seems like someone’s out to get you, they are.” That’s kind of like rule No. 36: “If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are.” He also likes to watch the watchers. And he tells his agents to always look under.

DiNozzo and Ziva had a baby together on NCIS. But nobody knew until both Cote de Pablo and Michael Weatherly left the show. (Sonja Flemming/CBS).

But what about the rule about office romance? NCIS made quite a big deal out of Jimmy and Jess getting together. Jimmy’s wife, Breena, died of Covid in season 18. In “season 19’s “The Helpers,” Breena came to Jimmy while he was hallucinating because of a biotoxin. And Breena gave Jimmy permission to move on. So why not date Jess, the beautiful, smart and tough agent and Torres’ partner? The two decided to date in the season 19 finale. Season 20 premieres Sept. 19, so we should learn if Jimmy and Jess still are a thing.

Torres and Bishop kissed at the end of season 18. But Bishop quit her job to go deep undercover. (Bill Inoshita/CBS)

But throughout the previous 19 NCIS seasons, did all the agents even pay attention to Gibbs and his office romance rules? DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) always seemed to push the boundaries. He did get involved with E.J. Barrett, much to Gibbs’ chagrin.

And although we never saw it on screen, DiNozzo and Ziva (Cote de Pablo) were sweet on each other. Hello, Ziva moved back to Israel and had DiNozzo’s baby. Then in the season 18 finale, we saw Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) and Bishop (Emily Wickersham) kiss. But Bishop walked out of Torres’ life and into a deep undercover assignment.

So maybe rule No. 12 was mostly for Gibbs’ gruff show.