‘NCIS’: Here’s Which Season Mark Harmon Says the Show Caught Its Groove

by Suzanne Halliburton

Mark Harmon has entertained and thrilled NCIS fans for 18 years. But as the guy who plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs looked back at the series, he thinks one season really clicked in.

That’s when NCIS found its groove.

“We didn’t find it until year seven or six,” Mark Harmon told Parade magazine in 2019. “And we’ve been there ever since. That’s because of the fans.”

And for the fans, Harmon said, “Thank you. I don’t ever take it for granted.”

So what happened in season seven of NCIS? Everything. As season six closed, Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) returned to work as a Mossad (Israeli Intelligence) agent. But she was kidnapped and tortured so that the bad guys could glean some NCIS intel.

NCIS Season 7 Dealt with Drug Cartels and Gibbs’ Backstory

Gibbs helps rescue Ziva in the premiere of season seven. And Ziva becomes full-time NCIS.

A lot of the season dealt with the drug cartels in Mexico. Merton Bell, a mercenary and former Army colonel, came into play. By the end of the season, Gibbs was kidnapped by the daughter of Pedro Hernandez, a drug dealer he shot in the head two decades before. Hernandez was responsible for the deaths of Gibbs’ wife, Shannon, and daughter, Kelly. Season seven provided details of this complicated back story.

Hernandez’ daughter was Paloma Reynosa. And she was the head of the Reynosa Cartel. She had been seeking revenge against Gibbs since her father died. She even wore the bullet, which killed her father, on a chain around her neck. Reynosa told Gibbs if he didn’t do her bidding, she’d kill everyone he loved. Paloma even tried to murder Jackson Gibbs, Gibbs’ father.

Paloma’s time on NCIS came to an end when she was accidentally killed by her brother.

The end of season 7 was named Rule 51. That’s when NCIS fans learned that Gibbs writes rules down as they come to him. He keeps the pages in a tin somewhere in his home. So what was rule 51? “Sometimes you’re wrong.”

The NCIS season also helped launch its first spinoff — NCIS: Los Angeles.

Now, flash forward to season 18. It ended with a gaping cliffhanger involving Mark Harmon and Gibbs. He’s on suspension, but working a case of a possible serial killer. Gibbs finally moved his boat out of his basement and was driving across a lake on a beautiful day. Then the boat blew up. Cameras pan over the debris. Gibbs must be dead, right? But as the finale ends, we see Gibbs swim away. So he either faked his death or got damn lucky he survived the blast. There are reports that Harmon wants to scale back his role in season 19.

Meanwhile, NCIS repeated as the most-watched drama on TV for the 2020-21 season. The show averaged 12.6 million viewers an episode. The only TV programs that beat NCIS in the ratings were sports-related — Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football.