Since we’ve known him, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs has never possessed what could reasonably be called a light and joyous heart. He’s too weighed down with his losses, his responsibilities, and his memories. But the NCIS 13th season premiere shows us a Gibbs who’s broken by the life he’s led and the people he thinks he’s let down. Thankfully, the damage done by one child is partially repaired by another one — with a little help from a new Duckie.
Last season, we left Gibbs in Iraq with multiple gunshot wounds courtesy of wee Luke, a pawn of (or player in?) The Calling, a group of kids co-opted by the suavely accented Daniel Budd to engage in global terrorism.
A barely conscious Gibbs is lucky to be rushed aboard the USS Daniel Webster because that’s where Dr. Cyril Taft (Jon Cryer, sporting no hair) has set up shop. Of course, the NCIS team stateside is devastated to learn about Gibb’s injuries, but it leads to this meta moment from Abby: “Gibbs has his very own Ducky performing his surgery.” John Hughes sees what you did there, NCIS, and he approves.
Anyway, Taft, a decorated Gulf War surgeon, is both the best possible and worst possible person to perform surgery to remove the shattered bullet from Gibbs’ chest. Best possible because, well, he keeps our Leroy alive. Worst possible because my word, is that man a chatterbox. A steady stream of cheerful patter spills from Taft’s mouth as he works, allowing him to assure his bemused medical staff, “No worries; I got this” without actually saying the words. Were he alert enough, Gibbs would haaaaaaate it. However, when his patient starts to flatline, Taft is as unflappable as Gibbs himself when facing a crisis.
In fact, Gibbs and Taft have more than cool-headedness in common: Taft and his wife lost their son to leukemia two years ago, which is why he ships out on aircraft carriers. The busyness keeps the depression at bay.
Gibbs isn’t so lucky in this episode. Unconscious and undergoing surgery, he walks with his long-dead daughter, Kelly, through a dream state, where he unburdens himself as she scolds him.
“You don’t have good days now,” she says. “You spend too much time thinking about the past.”
She tells him to knock it off and think about the future. “There are too many people counting on you.”
But poor Gibbs, with his chest cracked open, tells her he’s not sure he can continue to be there for the people who count on him every day. Kelly wants none of that, though, and urges him to fight back.
“If you don’t stop the bad people, who will?” Listen to the little ghost girl, Gibbs.
NEXT: DiNozzo finally gets his payback