‘NCIS’: Why Gibbs’ Past Left Fans Questioning Agent McGee’s Memory

by Suzanne Halliburton

NCIS fans are aware of the dark past of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. And some of them were surprised that the show’s characters didn’t seem to remember it.

Yes, Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, is capable of vigilante justice. You might not see it on NCIS, but it’s in his backstory, which has been mentioned in several plotlines.

When Gibbs served in the Marines, he was a husband and father. He knew his wife, Shannon, from back home in Stillwater, Pa. Together, they had a daughter, Kelly. But about a dozen years before NCIS, as a show, began, Shannon witnessed Pedro Hernandez, a leader of a Mexican drug cartel, murder a Marine.

An NCIS agent named Kurt Mitchell took Shannon and Kelly into protective custody. Gibbs was deployed in the Middle East, so he couldn’t be there to protect his family. Hernandez killed Mitchell while Mitchell was driving with Shannon and Kelly. And both died in the crash.

Gibbs Found Out About Deaths While Deployed

Gibbs got the horrible news of the deaths of his wife and daughter. He stayed in the Middle East and was severely wounded in battle. As he recovered stateside, he visited the gravesites. And he met with another NIS agent who was investigating their deaths.

But Gibbs took justice into his own hands. He found Hernandez in Mexico and killed him. The USMC officer investigating the case closed it, once she heard the details of how Hernandez killed Gibbs’ family.

This all came out in NCIS season seven. Hernandez’s daughter, Paloma, was now in charge of the cartel. She wanted revenge so badly that she wore the bullet that killed her father as a charm on a necklace. Paloma kidnapped Gibbs and was going to force him to do her bidding. She even tried to kill Gibbs’ father. The season finale was called Rule 51. Shannon Gibbs inspired all those rules her husband writes down and keeps tucked away in a tin.

So, If NCIS Fans Knew Gibbs’ Past, Why Didn’t McGee Remember?

So given all this, NCIS fans, who love to watch the show in reruns, discussed why certain characters never seem to remember Gibbs’ backstory. On a discussion earlier this week on Reddit, fans were perplexed with McGee (Sean Murray) and his memory. They didn’t understand why McGee didn’t remember all the details in season 16 that were revealed in season seven.

In a thread called Gibbs’ Past, McGee’s Memory, an NCIS fan wrote:

“Did I miss something? Season 16 they reveal Gibbs’ past [again], and McGee takes it as if this was the first time he had heard it. They already went over this when Abby went to Mexico with McGee. Why did the writers give McGee this sense of amnesia over the case? Bishop and Torres, I get, but the original crew (Palmer included), were made aware of Gibbs’ actions.”

An NCIS fan replied: “McGee knew, but I think that might have been the first time he heard Gibbs personally saying (it) to him and not Abby or reading it off a paper. And that’s why he was shook.”

Another fan wrote: “Tim seemed to be the only one (next to Palmer, I think) to really not piece it together. Tim just seems sick of being in the dark in S16, and over the secrecy and not feeling “trusted” enough to be on the inside.”