‘NCIS’ Has Three Pilot Episodes: Here’s the Bizarre Reason Why

by Jacklyn Krol

Why did NCIS have three pilot episodes?

The show is in its nineteenth season, the type of longevity that is rare in television. Another aspect that is unusual, is the fact that the show had three different filmed episodes for the pilot. For those unaware, a pilot is the first episode to introduce fans to a series.

Eagle-eyed fans noticed that for thirteen seasons, the opening credits featured a shot from an episode of JAG. NCIS is technically a spinoff of the mid to late 1990s Navy drama. But that isn’t the only connection that the shows share.

The brief shot of a car driving in the opening credits was from the JAG episode entitled “Ice Queen.” That episode along with another episode, “Meltdown,” were both intended to be NCIS pilots. Instead of the first two pilots, creators cut both episodes to turn it into a single JAG episode entitled, “NCIS: The Beginning.” This meant to crossover the two stories and create another series.

At the end of the day, “Ice Queen” and “Meltdown” served as the “two-part backdoor pilot” for the show. The episodes aired in 2003 during Season 8, episodes 20 and 21. The episodes were written by Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill.

So, who appeared in the episodes? Series regulars Mark Harmon (Gibbs), Michael Weatherly (DiNozzo), Pauley Perrette (Abby), and David McCallum (Donald Mallard) were featured.

Robyn Lively (Vivian Blackadder), Alan Date (Thomas Morrow), Zoe McLellan (Jennifer Coates), Faran Tahir (Amad Bin Atwa) also guest-starred in the episodes.

The Latest ‘NCIS’ Spinoff

After the success of NCIS series, New Orleans and Los Angeles, CBS is adding another spin-off. NCIS: Hawai’i will begin filming next week. The tropical-set investigative show will star Vanessa Lachey. Lachey will play the lead character, Jane Tennant. This also marks the first NCIS series to have a female leading the show.

Yasmine Al-Bustami will portray team member Lucy while Jason Antoon will play Ernie, the cyber intelligence analyst. 

Tori Anderson will play the role of Kate. Her character is a go-getter attempting to work her way up in the industry. The announcement teased that she has a mystery her fellow coworkers will discover.

“Couldn’t be more excited to join this historic franchise AND the first female led one!! Hawai’i here I come!!” Anderson wrote on Instagram.

Kian Talan will play one of Jane’s children named Alex. He is the oldest at sixteen and is described as mature and a good kid. He is still dealing with the recent divorce of his parents and learning to cope with the family’s separation.