‘NCIS’: Did Fans Unveil the Reason Behind Gibbs’ ‘Rule 12’?

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Matt Carr/Getty Images)

For nearly 20 years, Mark Harmon has been leading his team on the popular CBS series, “NCIS.” As a result, fans of the show have come to know a lot about his character, Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

If you’re a fan of the show, you know that his character is unapologetically blunt, who’s also a man of few words. Yet, as a team leader, he’s developed leadership that instills a deep sense of loyalty in his team.

Additionally, since we were first introduced to Gibbs, we’ve also learned more about his past, where he grew up, and his relationship with his father.

Although Gibbs chooses his words carefully, he’s famous for the 51 rules he has for himself and his team. The rules relate to different aspects of the job and cover everything from never letting suspects sit together to always being as specific as possible when you tell a lie.

The Story Behind Gibbs’ Rule 12 From ‘NCIS’

These rules all serve a specific purpose, and Gibbs supposedly has a reason for each set’s boundaries. Those reasons may be logical, or they may have come from his own experience as an NCIS agent or even from his time in the Marines.

Some fans even theorize that Gibbs created rule 12 because of one specific experience from his past. Rule 12 proposes that you should never date a co-worker. You may remember this rule from Season 1, which debuted in 2003. 

However, Gibbs never clarifies why the rule exists, to begin with. Still, some fans on Reddit suspect that Harmon’s character created it in the wake of his experience with Jenny Shepard, a former NCIS director that Gibbs had an affair with. In 1999, the pair shared a romance four years before the show’s debut.

Together with the fact that Jenny breaks off their relationship to pursue her career and because he can’t commit to their future as a couple, it may explain why Gibbs now believes it’s essential that agents never date one another.

Although there are times when his team breaks the rule, Gibbs’ heartbreak may justify why it was created in the first place. He knows that it can lead to problems with a group and lead team members to resent one another. 

However, it’s hard to follow up all of Gibbs’ 51 rules back to an experience from his past, yet in the case of Rule 12, its reasoning seems reasonably straightforward.