‘NCIS’: How Many Episodes Will Be in Season 20?

by Sean Griffin

SPOILERS: The Season 19 finale of NCIS ended with several huge revelations. First, we learn that Parker turned in his partner for taking bribes. We find out that somehow, that bribe money ended up in an off-shore account in Parker’s name. And we learn that the partner is murdered.

And then, what do we make of Viv? Even though Parker leaves with her at the end of the finale, we are left confused; she appears to be working for the same people who kidnapped her at the start of the episode. This Outsider article delves into fan theories circling the climactic Season 19 finale.

Since the Season 19 finale was so explosive, it has left fans even hungrier for NCIS’s twentieth season. Fans haven’t yet received an official announcement for a Season 20 premiere date. Hopefully, we’ll have that information sooner rather than later.

But there’s another question fans are asking: how long will the season be? If this were a question posed in, say 2018, it would be a no-brainer. However, nowadays, there’s really no telling. Why is that exactly?

Answer: COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Affected NCIS Filming

The pandemic of 2020 affected the amount of episodes in not one, not two, but three NCIS seasons. If you examine the last ten seasons of NCIS since 2012, you’ll find a steady pattern suddenly halt when coronavirus struck.

Season 10 (2012-13), Season 11 (2013-14), Season 12 (2014-15), Season 13 (2015-16), Season 14 (2016-17), Season 15 (2017-18), and Season 16 (2018-19) all had twenty-four episodes each. The network would release twelve episodes in the fall and the other twelve in the spring. They executed this schedule to perfection until the end of Season 17. Once the pandemic arrived, filming stopped immediately. Therefore, Season 17 numbered only twenty episodes instead of twenty-four. This article from Radio Times.com highlights how difficult it was for the cast and crew to film during the pandemic.

Sean Murray, who portrays Tim McGee on the popular series, spoke about the abrupt shift. “I remember coming on set that first day, and everyone’s wearing masks plus face shields,” he says. “You’ve got 17 or 18 years of associations in your head – how you walk from the trailer to the set, how you get breakfast – and everything is completely changed. It really threw us off for a big loop. We had to adjust; there was a lot of just nodding and pretending that we could hear each other.”

And as the pandemic raged on, it became worse for Season 18. Season 18 (2020-21) only had sixteen episodes. However, as conditions improved, it allowed last season to produce more episodes than Season 18. Season 19 contained twenty-one episodes.

However, with pandemic restrictions loosening and production getting back underway on most Hollywood projects, fans may have a return to the traditional twenty-four episode format on their hands. We’ll continue awaiting an official announcement and will keep you updated.