NCIS has never shied away from pop culture references in the past; with a character like Tony DiNozzo, who is basically a walking, talking pop-culture reference, it’s hard to avoid. He’s referenced James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Hannibal Lector, to name only a few.
DiNozzo is always ready with a fun movie tidbit or reference to lighten the mood; mostly, he just succeeds in making his coworkers groan and give him dirty looks. But, there are a few instances where the references don’t come strictly from DiNozzo, but rather are integrated into the episode as a whole.
According to Looper, in season 3 episode 17, titled “Ravenous,” the show makes some poignant Pulp Fiction references. Die-hard fans of the classic Quentin Tarantino film will likely pick up on them, but they’re easy to miss.
‘NCIS’ Featuring Jack Rabbit Slim’s
In “Ravenous,” it’s actually Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo, who makes the reference; at a store in Shenandoah National Park called Jack Rabbit Slim’s, Ziva points out that the name is a reference to the restaurant Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega go to in Pulp Fiction. DiNozzo, being the movie expert, commends Ziva for knowing the reference.
With waitstaff dressed as famous movie stars and booths fashioned out of classic cars, Vincent describes Jack Rabbit Slim’s as a “wax museum with a pulse.” He begs Mia to choose somewhere else so he can get a steak, and Mia tells him to stop being a square by drawing a square on the screen with her fingers. The now-iconic dance scene also takes place at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, where Mia and Vincent enter and win a twist contest. The scene has gone down in movie history because of the juxtaposition of “their seriousness and the lack of play on their faces versus the play in their bodies,” choreographer Lauren Yalango-Grant told Open Culture.
While the Jack Rabbit Slim’s in NCIS isn’t a restaurant, and while it isn’t decked out in 50s and 60s memorabilia, it is of this author’s opinion that DiNozzo and Ziva would look absolutely perfect doing the twist.
In the same episode, NCIS forensic scientist Abby Sciuto receives a gift from special agent Gibbs. When she opens the box, it emits a golden glow. Viewers don’t get a chance to see what the gift actually is, and Abby remarks, “This is so Pulp Fiction.”
This is a direct reference to Marcellus Wallace’s suitcase; every time the suitcase is opened in the film, it radiates a glow from inside. Audiences never learn what is in the suitcase, and it forever remains a mystery.
The inclusion of so many movie references helps to ground the show in reality; it shows that these agents don’t live in a vacuum. They go home from work and watch movies just like us, and they make countless references to them in their daily life (looking at you, DiNozzo.) Truly, character building at its finest.