‘NCIS’ Fans Notice a Huge Plot Hole in Mark Harmon’s First Appearance on ‘JAG’

by Jacklyn Krol

Roughly 17 years later, NCIS fans discovered a somewhat major plot hole.

Fans will recall that NCIS was first introduced through JAG and is technically its spinoff. During the Season 8 JAG Episode 20 entitled “Ice Queen,” things begin to fall apart for the character of Gibbs and his backstory. During one scene, he told Harm, portrayed by David James Elliott, that he was at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service for 19 years. This would have meant he joined the team that was previously known as NIS back in 1984.

Let’s flash forward to Season 3, Episode 24, “Hiatus: Part 2.” During the episode, we learn more about Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ backstory. Viewers are told that he entered NIS following the deaths of his wife and daughter back in August 1991.

Now, which year is it? It seems to be unclear however some flashbacks seemingly point it to be in 1991. The seven-year gap was most likely just a missed detail in the writers’ room as the detail was first pointed out in JAG, not NCIS.

‘NCIS’ and The Three Pilots

Why does NCIS have three pilot episodes? The answer is rather simple yet complicated.

Some fans may have spotted a tribute to JAG in the opening credits scene during the first thirteen seasons. The brief scene showed a car driving from an episode of JAG, the mid to late 90s naval drama. This was from the episode entitled “Ice Queen,” as mentioned above. This was first intended to be the pilot episode. This later just turned out to be an introduction into the world of NCIS. Another JAG episodes entitled “Meltdown” was also originally planned to become the first crossover episode of NCIS.

Although both episodes eventually premiered, it wasn’t the official debut of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Creators used footage from both episodes to create a new episode, “NCIS: The Beginning.”

Fans and creators later dubbed it the “two part backdoor pilot” for the series. Fans can watch the episodes that first aired in 2003 on CBS and their corresponding All Access application/streaming service. Watch Season 8 of JAG, episodes 20 and 21 for the full picture.

Only four series regulars appeared in the debut pilot episode. Only two of them are still on the show to date. Series regulars Mark Harmon (Gibbs), Michael Weatherly (DiNozzo), Pauley Perrette (Abby), and David McCallum (Donald Mallard) were on the episode.

Guest stars included in the episode featured: Robyn Lively (Vivian Blackadder), Alan Date (Thomas Morrow), Zoe McLellan (Jennifer Coates), Faran Tahir (Amad Bin Atwa).