NCIS recap: Goodbye to Gibbs (and Mark Harmon)
So that's how you get a boat out of the basement.
This seasons-long mystery is solved in Mark Harmon's final episode as the star of NCIS, which finds Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs finding a little peace after decades of struggle. Are you ready to say goodbye with me?
The episode opens with Parker kicking down the door at Chez Gibbs to serve an arrest warrant, and that's where we discover a big ol' hole in the wall of Gibbs' basement. It wasn't done with Gibbs' usual finesse, but it's certainly big to navigate a boat through.
It's also a pretty clear sign that Gibbs has skipped town, which is confirmed when he touches down in Alaska and orders McGee to grab his gear. How much do you love that Gibbs is going on this last mission with the sole remaining member of the OG agents — and not just any member, but the very first probie?
Their first stop in Naktok Bay is the fishing boat owned by Tunu Alonak (Wayne Charles Baker), the father of freelance writer/LeMere victim Libby. He and Gibbs bond over the shared pain of losing a child, then Tunu says Libby wrote an article about what an environmental catastrophe the Sonova mine would be.
Although she died before she could publish it, Tunu's sure she would've saved a copy someplace secure. He also asks that her body be returned home for a proper burial.
Back in D.C., Vance declines to help Parker locate Gibbs, the suspended agent who stole a government vehicle and kidnapped a suspect who died under mysterious circumstances.
We then cut to the first of many Gibbs goodbyes (Gibbs-byes?) of the hour. Vance meets Gibbs at the diner and gives him a sat phone and the use of McGee on the final leg of his quest. Gibbs dramatically drops his old reliable cell phone into his cup of coffee and briefly chokes up as he thanks Vance for everything.
The second Gibbs-bye of the night belongs to Ducky, who interrupted Gibbs as he's running out the door with his gear. Ducky tells Gibbs he's worried about him, and Gibbs confesses that he's been searching for something without knowing what he's looking for. He then hugs Ducky and calls him a great friend.
Good grief, was the NCIS set just flooded with tears during the filming of this episode?
In Alaska, Gibbs and McGee interrupt Sonova CEO Sonia Eberhard at the groundbreaking ceremony for the copper ore mine. She claims not to know Libby and says an environmental impact study declared the mine project to be perfectly safe.
This, of course, is a lie. Libby's watch has a QR code engraved on the back, and it contains her article, which reports on the original study warning that the mine would have catastrophic consequences on the entire Naktok Bay area.
Libby's notes indicate that her source was another LeMere victim, the research biologist who conducted the original study. Torres arranges for the man's wife to bring his laptop to a session with Marcie (hi again, Pam!), who's also worried about Gibbs.
Flashback to Torres driving Gibbs to the airport. He says he knew about Gibbs's basement boat before he even moved to D.C. Ha! Gibbs gives his blessing to Knight joining the team and tells Torres he's a good agent and a good man, cautioning, "Don't let this job become all that there is. Take care of you." Voice of experience there, Torres. Please listen.
In the present, Kasie hacks her way into the biologist's laptop and finds his report with Eberhard's signature on it. Unfortunately, they can't tie her to the payments to LeMere, which means she might be working with a partner.
Before Gibbs and McGee can jump on that angle, Parker shows up to slap handcuffs on Gibbs. Gibbs is fine with it — he doesn't want to flee the long arm of the law, after all — but McGee begs Parker to give them time to arrest Eberhard and stop the mine.
Parker's unconvinced… until he is. He agrees to let them take down the CEO of a billion-dollar company, and then Gibbs is coming with him.
But Parker gets a call from the FBI deputy director, who's clearly jealous of Gibbs' charm, effectiveness, and glorious head of hair. He demands Parker do the job he's there to do and bring Gibbs in.
Gibbs and McGee are about to arrest Eberhard when Vance calls and tells them to stand down. She smugly hops into a waiting vehicle and tries to make a quick call on her way out of the country. But surprise surprise, the driver's Parker. He grabs her phone to see if she was trying to call the accomplice who actually made the payments to LeMere.
Remember when I apologized to dead Jen's husband last week for suspecting him of being involved in her murder the week before? I should've trusted my gut! He's the person Eberhard tried to call, and NCIS arrests him thanks to Marcie's bravery in setting up a meeting with him. The man owned land in Naktok Bay, and Eberhard offered to pay him millions for it if he'd get the opposition out of the way. He hired LeMere, and when Jen found out, her name went on the list.
The arrests put a stop to the mine, and Gibbs takes satisfaction in making such a meaningful difference to an entire community's way of life. He then orders McGee to arrest him. So many people handcuffing Gibbs tonight!
But Parker cuts Gibbs loose. He was already uneasy about his boss's attitude, and an old FBI colleague convinced him that Gibbs doesn't belong behind bars. Refusing to testify about Gibbs' vehicle theft costs him his badge by the end of the episode, but it's the right thing to do.
Even before Parker said it, we all knew that the colleague he'd talked to was Fornell. But what a bummer not to see the Gibbs/Fornell goodbye! Ditto Palmer; I'd have loved to see the empathetic Jimmy saying goodbye to the man who'd played such a large role in his life.
We do see Gibbs visit Libby's father, who's preparing a potlatch ceremony to honor his daughter's life. (Side note: How great to see Native characters, Native actors, and Native traditions included in this episode!)
Tunu offers Gibbs a Springfield rifle as part of the potlatch tradition of giving away personal wealth, and Gibbs returns Libby's watch to Tunu. Her father's proud that she was able to stop the mine even after her death, and he takes comfort that she'll lives on in nature, and in him.
Cut to Gibbs and McGee fly fishing. Gibbs encourages McGee to find his own rhythm, focusing on progress, not perfection. They're clearly not talking about fishing, and it's a lovely passing of the torch.
Gibbs reminisces about fishing with his father, although it's tinged with regret that he didn't take more chances to do it. Then he breaks the news to McGee that he's not going back with him. He's still not sure what he's looking for, but Alaska's brought him a sense of peace he hasn't felt since Shannon and Kelly died.
Next, Gibbs tries to make the audience cry a little more by telling McGee, "I could not have hoped for anyone better to watch my back for the past 18 years than you, Tim." They hug and tell each other they love each other.
So McGee flies home alone, and Gibbs stays in the water, casting his line with a smile on his face.
- Like the hole in Gibbs' basement wall, Mark Harmon's exit tears a hole in the fabric of the show as it's existed for 19 years. Although he's no longer an NCIS regular, executive producer/showrunner Steven D. Binder released a statement that may relieve a few fans: "As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out."
- On a storytelling note, Gibbs was right. The show sent him off with a twisty case that allowed him to have a hugely positive impact on the lives of an entire community. It was a fittingly grand yet optimistic send-off.
- How are you doing with this major show shake-up, friend? Are you ready for a post-Gibbs NCIS?