‘NCIS’ Producers Reveal They Cried While Writing and Shooting Mark Harmon’s Final Episode

by Shelby Scott

Leroy Jethro Gibbs actor Mark Harmon bid fans an emotional goodbye during NCIS‘s season 19 episode, “Great Wide Open.” His heartfelt parting with longtime agent Timothy McGee had fans in hysterics during and afterward. However, we’re also not surprised to know that Mark Harmon’s final episode had a similar effect on NCIS‘s writers and producers. Nearly a year following Harmon’s final episode, NCIS showrunners revealed that many crew members cried while writing and shooting “Great Wide Open.”

According to Parade, Gibbs’ final episode, “Great Wide Open,” was written by NCIS executive producer David J. North and co-executive producer Brendan Fehily. The inspiration behind the episode came from one of Gibbs’ final rules: Rule #91.

As many NCIS fans recall, Rule #91 is relatively simple—When you decide to walk away, never look back. In speaking about “Great Wide Open,” Fehily said, “I cried writing it and then I cried shooting it. To see Sean [Murray who plays Timothy McGee] in that river at the end and get really emotional…If you turned the camera around on a lot of the crew, there were tears in their eyes.”

The writer also spoke about the impact the storyline had written on a page versus acted out between cast members.

“It’s one thing to write it,” he continued. But it’s “another to see it in front of our face coming to fruition, everything that we wrote.”

Fehily concluded, “I was as pleased as I had been for any single episode I wrote or been a part of.”

Mark Harmon Speaks Out About His ‘NCIS’ Exit

Much like his character Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Mark Harmon appears to be a man of few words. After departing NCIS last fall, Harmon never actually addressed his exit himself. Instead, fans of the CBS series had to wait to see the bonus features on the NCIS Season 19 box set to hear what he had to say.

In his appearance on the bonus features, Harmon said of his exit, “What has always drawn me here [to NCIS] is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging.”

He said of the character “Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with, ‘I’m not retired.’ The character is living in Alaska as far as I know.”

But why Alaska? NCIS executive producer Steven D. Binder spoke a little more on that decision.

“It just didn’t feel right to see [Gibbs] retired and shopping at the grocery store, working in his basement, and playing checkers in the park,” Binder explained. “It just didn’t seem right to put him actually anywhere, so we ended up putting him nowhere.”

Instead, NCIS writers gave Gibbs a brand new life. They give him a life more isolated than he’s used to but one that is quiet and simple. Longtime fans know Gibbs’ exit fit his personality perfectly.