A MAN OF MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
An essay about Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Contains spoilers for: Seasons One, Two and Three
Written: July 2006.
NOTES: Unfortunately, NCIS is a show with a number of inconsistencies in it relating to the timeline and characters. In order to deal with these, I have used what is for me the more logical version. Therefore, some views expressed might not be consistent with other fans views of the show.
BACKGROUND TO NCIS
NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Services. This means that they investigate crimes connected to or involving Naval or Marine Corps personnel. More than one person refers to them as ‘Navy Cops’.
CHARACTERS FEATURING IN NCIS
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs - Senior Field Agent
Doctor Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard - Medical Examiner
Special Agent Anthony (Tony) DiNozzo - Field Agent under Gibbs
Special Agent Caitlin (Kate) Todd - Field Agent under Gibbs (Seasons One and Two)
Special Agent Timothy McGee - Field Agent under Gibbs (Appeared in eight Season One episodes and became full-time Field Agent at the beginning of Season Two)
Office Ziva David - A member of Gibbs's field team. She is Mossad agent sent to NCIS to act as a liaison officer between NCIS and Mossad. (Season Three)
Abigail (Abby) Sciuto - Forensic Scientist
Gerald Jackson - Ducky’s first assistant (up to Bête Noire - Season One)
Jimmy Palmer - Ducky’s second assistant (from Split Decision -Season One)
Tom Morrow - NCIS’s Director (Seasons One and Two)
Jennifer Shepard - NCIS's Director (Season Three)
Special Agent Tobias Fornell - Gibbs’s opposite number at the FBI
Ari Haswari - An enemy of NCIS
SPECIAL AGENT LEROY JETHRO GIBBS - THE BEGINNING
"Gibbs is a man of more questions than answers."
Dr. Donald 'Ducky' Mallard from Hung Out To Dry.
I first 'met' one Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) in December 2004 when a dear friend of mine sent me copies of the NCIS episodes that had been aired in America.
On a purely physical and shallow level, I was struck by his looks. Tall (six foot), extremely handsome (I've always liked older men), with silver grey hair and the most amazing dark blue eyes I have ever seen. I felt he exuded ability, intelligence, charisma, passion, and that there was far more to him than met the eye.
My reason for watching the show in the first place was due to the presence of one of Mark Harmon's co-stars, David McCallum (who plays Ducky). I admit I never expected to be so captivated and become so involved with another character.
Little did I know!
SPECIAL AGENT LEROY JETHRO GIBBS - THE MAN
Leroy Jethro Gibbs (never known by the name 'Leroy') is NCIS’s Senior Field Agent. He is, in the words of Ducky (Gibbs's oldest and closest friend) ‘a man of more questions than answers’. And it is true; he is. The mystery and more questions than answers surrounding him, is not helped by the quite blatant canon inconsistencies concerning his tenure with NCIS and his friendships.
He is an only child (My Other Left Foot), his father is dead, and he has no uncles (The Bone Yard). He claims in SWAK that he has never had a cold, the flu or suffered from any allergies.
He was a sniper with the United States Marines, who saw active duty in Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Storm. He also spent time with the Military Police, and was honourable discharged with the rank of Gunnery Sergeant. From a comment he made Call of Silence, it appears it was his choice that he never became an officer.
GIBBS: “Ernie, you did what you did to save the rest of your patrol. No other reason. Come on, Corporal. Let a Gunny buy you dinner.”
YOST: “You were never an officer?”
GIBBS: “Oh, hell, no.”
YOST: “I knew there was something about you I liked.”
He has been decorated many times, including with the Purple Heart. He has also been awarded various commendations during his time with NCIS, but he has never attended a ceremony to collect them himself.
His actual age is unknown, but given his career history he is most likely in the region of 49/50 when the show began in 2003.
His actual tenure with NCIS is one of the show's inconstancies. However, it is safe to say that he has worked for the organisation for at least fifteen years. He does not play politics, and has little time for fools or people whom he believes are behaving like fools. He is not likely to rise any higher within NCIS, despite his top rate skills, nor would he wish to.
In the opening episode of Season Three, Kill Ari, he and Director Morrow have a conversation about Director Morrow's own promotion.
GIBBS: "Well, who'd be replacing you, sir?" (They make eye contact and Director Morrow smiles, causing Gibbs to react in abject horror.) "Not me!"
TOM MORROW: "Much as I like you, Jethro, I would not shoot NCIS in the head."
Gibbs's relief is palpable.
Throughout the first two seasons we are told that he has been married and divorced three times, and learn that all the divorces were far from amicable. None of the marriages could have lasted very long as they must have taken place within an eight or nine year period (Hiatus and The Curse). In fact from a comment made in Hiatus, the implication is that the marriages and divorces in fact took place within a four or five year period, which is almost certainly not possible given the laws of the State, thus it is yet another inconsistency.
We do not learn the names of any of his wives during the first two seasons. Indeed, at times the methods used to keep these names a secret are extremely convoluted. In The Curse, when Ducky is talking about Gibbs's third wife, whom we later discover he introduced to Gibbs, he refers to her as 'your third wife'. We later discover that the third wife was called Diane, but even by the end of Season Three we have not discovered the names of his first two wives.
We do know that all of them had red hair, and at least two of them physically attacked him. Number two hit him with a seven-iron, (Eye Spy), number three with a baseball bat (The Curse). He pays alimony to all three wives; lost his house to one of them; number two emptied his bank account before leaving him (Twilight), and number three gets drunk on their anniversary and constantly harasses him by phone (Hung Out To Dry). One of his wives is a permanent resident in one The Jackson - of the city's exclusive, expensive hotels (Left For Dead).
At the beginning of Season Three, we have a reference to a wife and daughter, whom apparently no one in Gibbs's life knows about. Given the way he talks about his ex-wives, together with some minor clues given in Seasons One and Two, it seems possible that there was another wife with whom he had a child, and that this marriage didn't end in divorce. Other hints concerning this are dropped throughout Season Three. The truth is revealed in the finale of Season Three (Hiatus), and it is confirmed that his first wife was called Shannon, they had a daughter called Kelly, and that they were murdered by a Mexican drug dealer whilst Gibbs was serving in Desert Storm. Shannon was also a redhead. Gibbs managed to obtain information pertaining to the killer's whereabouts, and using his skills as a Sniper, shot and killed him.
The redhead 'obsession' is not confined only to his wives. During all three seasons, he is seen from time to time with a mysterious redhead, about whom we learn nothing of any significance. It is also revealed in Season Three that he had an affair, at the time when his third marriage was falling or indeed had already fallen apart, with a then member of his team Jennifer Shepard. She returns to NCIS at the beginning of Season Three as the Director. We also learn that although their affair seemed to be extremely passionate, it appeared to be almost entirely sexual, and that although he seems put out that she was the one who ended the affair, he no longer entirely trusts her. Any other woman in whom he shows even the remotest interest is a redhead.
Gibbs is considered the best interrogator and investigator in the business, and he seems to be gifted with infallible intuition. As a result, he can break just about anyone. He is able to adapt his style of interrogation to suit the person whom he is interrogating, and it swings from almost not overly intelligent, warm, friendly, one-of-the-guys, to ice cold, deadly, steel. He’s extremely skilful with firearms, both at close range and at a distance. He can use and read American Sign Language, and is proficient in Russian.
He also relies on his 'gut', basically his instincts gained from his years as an investigator, to tell him when something is right or wrong; when someone is lying or telling the truth, etc. He trusts his gut over most things, even going with it rather than the hard evidence in front of him. He does not believe in coincidences.
From Family Secret
GIBBS: “You know what I think about coincidences.”
ABBY: “Equatorial pygmies know what you think about coincidences.”
He is building a boat in his basement, by hand without the use of power tools, and it is revealed that it is not the first one he has started. He was building one during his marriage to Diane, and he destroyed it when the marriage ended. It also appears from a flashback that he was building another boat during his marriage to Shannon. He has only one television in his house, which is in the basement, and has little interest in that other than as a source of news.
He is addicted to caffeine and is rarely seen without a Styrofoam cup of strong, black coffee in his hands. One of the best ways to get on the wrong side of Gibbs is to 'mess' with his coffee. He has been known to ignore a person who inadvertently knocked it over for several hours. However, despite this apparent addiction, his hands are completely steady and his aim is always accurate.
Off-duty he drinks either once again strong, black coffee or high-proofed bourbon, referred to once by Tobias Fornell as ‘paint stripper’.
He has a series of 'rules', which he leads his team to believe are Marine rules. However, there is at least one occasion when a member of his team quotes one of the rules to a serving Marine, and receives a blank look. Nevertheless, it does appear that at least one of the rules do come from his Marine background, as when asked about 'Rule 23' the Marine does indeed give the 'correct' response - ‘Never mess with a Marine’s coffee’.
These rules do on occasions seem a little fluid, with the same number being quoted for two different rules; also the same rule (at least in inference) being attributed to two different numbers. Therefore, the inference is that they are, at least in the most part, Gibbs's own rules (or one he has learnt during his time at NCIS), that he sets out to teach his agents. They are not, however, written down, nor does he tend to mention them until they are either broken or in danger of being broken.
He is somewhat of a luddite when it comes to popular culture as well as anything technical. In Untouchable at one point he said, “Yeah, I know what it is. It's one of those memory doo-da things for the computer.” His attitude to something not working is to smash it on the desk, or hit it, and he has destroyed several mobile phones and computers this way. He appears to know nothing about modern music, films, television programmes or anything else remotely recent and/or popular. Although he does reveal a liking for the film Air Force One (Yankee White), and does make references to older popular culture from time to time.
He also has, no doubt due to his age, weaker eyesight than he once had, and sometimes struggles to read small print, unless he holds the paper out at arms length. However, he does not like having to wear his glasses.
He hates being addressed as ‘sir’, by anyone with whom he works. In The Curse he says, “Do not ‘sir’ me, I work for a living. Gibbs.”
SPECIAL AGENT LEROY JETHRO GIBBS - THE ENIGMA
First impressions of Jethro Gibbs are that he is a hard taskmaster, who expects complete, unquestioning loyalty from his team. He appears harsh, morose, uncaring, distance, aloof, unfeeling, reticent, a man who needs no one, and wants no one to rely on him, other than to do his job. He seems to have few friends, close or otherwise. He tends to be reticent, and is reluctant to reveal his feelings.
He appears not to care about anyone or anything, and doesn't want or expect people to care about him. He seems intolerant of anyone who doesn’t share his view of the world, and has a habit of smacking the field members of his team around the head if they do or say something foolish. He does what he has to in order to get the job done, no matter what the cost, and he is not averse to breaking the rules to suit himself. More than once he refers to himself as a bastard; in fact in The Curse he insists that the second B in his surname stands for bastard.
And all of these things are, at surface level true. But that is only one side of Gibbs, the side he wants people to see. What he actually is, is far more complex and dichotomous, and thus makes him a better agent, and a far deadlier adversary.
His ability to read people is frighteningly accurate, and he knows that the members of his team need handling in different ways. His ways of dealing with them varies subtly and overtly from person to person.
He also seems to be omnipotent, appears to know what is going on at any time, even if he is not present, and has the habit of silently appearing behind people. No doubt this is a skill he learnt in the Marines and has honed to perfection ever since. He usually saves this sneak attack for his agents. However, in Family Secret he kept appearing in Autopsy, before Ducky had called him, leading to the following exchange.
GIBBS: 'You wanted to see me, Duck?'
DUCKY: "Yes, I did. I was just about to call you." (He puts down the phone.) "It’s no wonder DiNozzo is always looking over his shoulder."
He is morose, aloof and tough, yet he can also be very charming in an understated way, and has a somewhat evil sense of humour. He is also capable and very intelligent, although he hides his intelligence when it suits his purposes.
He doesn't invite friendship or closeness, yet his longstanding friendship with Ducky is clearly extremely close and very intense. When Gibbs cares about someone, he cares deeply, even if he isn't always overt about his affection.
He is a hard taskmaster who is often unforgiving of people's mistakes. However, he also drives himself as hard, if not harder than he drives his agents, and is equally as unforgiving, if not more so of what he perceives to be his own mistakes.
In Bête Noire, he allows himself to be goaded into shooting Ari Haswari, who had held Ducky, Kate and Gerald hostage and seriously wounded Gerald, in the chest, rather than following his instincts and going for a headshot, as would be the norm at such close range. As a result Ari, who is wearing a bulletproof vest that when struck gives off smoke, thus providing a diversion, escapes. Gibbs, shot in the shoulder himself by Ari, does not forgive himself, and is later seen in the basement of his house, firing bullets from a revolver into the photograph of Ari. And after this event he retreats into himself even more than usual, and is merciless with the demands he makes on himself and his team.
Although on the one hand he does appear intolerant of anyone who doesn’t share his view of the world, on the other hand he cares deeply about what he perceives to be injustices.
He does indeed do what he has to do in order to get the job done, breaking rules and in effect bullying witness, the criminals, people in general, in order to get what he wants. Yet at the same time he’s also prepared to cover up things that might cost people their careers, if it is not pertinent to his enquiry.
One example of this is in Lieutenant Jane Doe, when a Naval enlisted man, being questioned by Gibbs in relation to a double murder, reveals that he is involved in a homosexual relationship with a highly ranked Naval Officer. This information is not relevant to Gibbs’s enquiry, thus Gibbs ignores the information, once he has checked the man’s alibi.
Other examples of this appear in Season Three where in one episode he tampers with evidence in order to save a Marine's career, (Family Secret) and in another, he and Ducky decide to conveniently 'lose' a body, so that the Marine's widow can continue with the plans to have his ashes scattered at sea (Headcase).
The loyalty he expects from his team, he gets; yet it is not a one-sided bargain. For an apparently harsh, uncaring man, he displays a fierce loyalty to those he deems worthy of it. Despite driving his team hard and appearing not to care about them, when they need him, when they are in trouble, he is there. And this passionate caring is not just kept for his team.
In Enigma, he risks his career and his life to help clear the good name of one of his former commanding officers, when the man is accused of stealing funds. During the events he pushes his team away, has secret meetings and phone calls, and won't involve them at all. The team are perplexed by his behaviour and feel that it is because he doesn't trust them. However, Ducky explains to them that is not the case at all; quite the opposite. Gibbs is trying to protect them. He is prepared to risk his life and career, but he doesn’t want to let the team do the same.
In The Bone Yard, Tobias Fornell is accused of being a mole and he is arrested. Gibbs goes out of his way, again risking his life and career if his instincts are wrong, to clear Fornell's name.
In Probie McGee shoots and kills a man whom he claims had a gun. The man is revealed to be an undercover Police Officer, and no evidence of a gun can be found. Director Shepard decides to allow the investigation of McGee to go ahead, despite being reminded by Gibbs that in Paris she did a similar thing and he covered up for her. The team, driven by Gibbs, set out to prove McGee's innocence. Gibbs is positive from the beginning that McGee did follow procedure, did identify himself, did everything possible before firing at the man. Once the team have found the person they believe responsible for killing the policeman (his own partner), Gibbs, again breaking protocol (McGee having been suspended from field duty), and risking his career, gives McGee his own back-up gun and take him with him.
In Frame-Up DiNozzo is accused of murdering a woman whose body was found at Quantico, and despite all the evidence pointing towards his guilt, Gibbs assumes that he is not guilty and sets out to prove his innocence.
In Bloodbath when Abby's life is threatened, and it is discovered that she had to take out a restraining order on an old boyfriend, Gibbs's says to the man, '”The only reason you are still standing is because I didn't know about you until today.”
In The Meat Puzzle, Ducky is threatened and kidnapped, and the chances of him being found alive are very slim. Gibbs, to the shock of his agents, blames himself, insisting that he should have put two agents to protect Ducky and his mother. A frantic search begins, and when they track down a potential suspect, Gibbs threatens that if his friend is harmed in any way that he will pull out all of the man’s teeth. There is no doubt at all that he is completely serious, in fact there is little doubt that pulling out the man's teeth would be the least painful thing Gibbs would have done.
When the apparently uncaring, distant, doesn't like anyone man, cares, the last thing he is distant and uninvolved. When Jethro Gibbs cares about and trusts someone, he cares passionately and trusts them absolutely. There are no half measures.
Despite working for an organisation where women can be field agents, carry guns, go undercover and be equal to men, Gibbs displays an element of wishing to protect women, beyond the protection he gives to anyone else on his team. Kate's death hits him harder than the death of one of his male field agents would have done. Indeed Ducky sums it up when he says that in their eyes women will not be equal until they are dead. Gibbs has lost men before, but he has never previously lost a woman team member. Kate is the one member of his then field team to whom Gibbs does not deliver head slaps. However, he does head slap Ziva, Kate's replacement, which seems to show that the does not regard Ziva in the same light as he does Kate.
Gibbs also knows how to read his team to perfection; despite appearing unforgiving of their mistakes or omissions, he also knows when to push and when to wait.
In Bête Noire, Kate had the opportunity to stab Ari, and fails to take it. Gibbs is not present, but Ducky obviously shares the information with Gibbs soon after the events have ended. Rather than challenge Kate about it at the time, Gibbs waits several weeks, letting Kate recover from the ordeal of being kidnapped and facing possible death, and also allowing her to deal with what she would no doubt regard as her failure.
In Lt. Jane Doe, Ducky holds out on his friend when he alone sees the mark on a dead woman's neck. He makes investigations of his own, before admitting what he has done. The team clearly expect Gibbs to explode and give Ducky a severe reprimand. However, to their evident surprise, Gibbs is far more perplexed than angry, that his friend would do that to him. And he knows that Ducky must have a good reason for what he did. Gibbs's knowledge of his friend proves accurate, as he follows Ducky down to Autopsy and Ducky explains his reasons for withholding the information.
SPECIAL AGENT LEROY JETHRO GIBBS - THE RELATIONSHIPS
His obsession with redheads is an interesting aspect of Gibbs's personality. Why is he only attracted to redheaded women? Why did he marry four of them? Why does he only ever date them?
One possible theory is that because Shannon was a redhead and he has never, in one way, recovered from her murder, that ever since then he has been seeking to 'replace' her.
Another possible theory is that it relates back to his mother, about whom we know nothing; just as we know nothing, other than the bare facts mentioned above, about the rest of his family. Maybe she was a redhead and either died when Gibbs was very young, or abandoned her husband and son, and subconsciously ever since then Gibbs has believed that unconditional love can only be found with another redheaded woman.
On the face of it, knowing what we do about the man, I would find neither of these theories to be a strong possibility. Despite him killing Shannon and Kelly's murderer together with evidence during Season Three that he does still miss them, he doesn't seem the kind of man to be driven to that extent by the past. However, as these things aren't always within the conscious control of the individual, it is possible that either, or indeed both, of these theories do form all or part of his redhead obsession.
On the other hand there might be no rational or irrational reason that he is only attracted to redheads. It might even be purely coincidental that all four wives have been redheads, Jenny Shepard is a redhead, the mysterious woman is a redhead, and the only women in whom we see him how an interest are redheads.
One thing does seem certain: his apparent obsession is not good for him or his health. With the exception of Shannon, who did not chose to leave him, and the mysterious redhead, all the other redheads with whom he has been involved have treated him extremely badly, lied to him, used him, hit him and generally made his life very unpleasant.
The other intriguing fact concerning his choice of women is what is it about him that seems to drive him towards marrying women with a tendency of violence towards their partner? Or is it something in Gibbs himself that drives hitherto non-violent women to turn aggressive on him? We don’t know whether ex-wife number one hit him, but we do know that both ex-wives two and three did.
His three failed marriages is another interesting aspect of the man. Why did he remarry and divorce three times? Again, was he seeking/hoping each time to replace Shannon? Or is he searching for something else?
Given the three marriages and divorces the question as to whether his marriage to Shannon would have survived, had she and Kelly not been murdered, also has to be asked. From flashbacks of their life together, they appear to have been a very happy family. However, based on his subsequent record, one has to wonder if the marriage would have lasted. The odds on it lasting, given what we know about him, are certainly not the greatest in the world.
With the exception of the handful of appearances of the mystery redhead, and some flirting with redheads he meets during his investigations, one of whom he invites to his home and soon discovers to be a murderess (Doppelgänger), and the discovery in Hiatus of Shannon and Kelly, the only relationships we see him involved in are those he was with his team and fellow Federal agents.
The Field Team
His relationship with his field team is one that swings from boss and mentor to that of High School Principal. He clearly rates them and their abilities, as he is not the kind of man to keep someone around whom he believes incapable of doing their job.
Tony DiNozzo irritates him most of the time, which probably explains why he is the person to receive that vast majority of head slaps and incur the famous Gibbs's glare. Gibbs once said to Kate about DiNozzo, “You may not admire his methods, but you've got to love the results.” (Witness).
DiNozzo has been a member of Gibbs's field team for the longest, and despite the constant irritation, Gibbs must see his abilities. It is DiNozzo to whom he hands his badge and gun, and in effect the team, when Gibbs resigns from NCIS at the end of Season Three, plus he has kept him as a member of his team for over three years. DiNozzo addresses Gibbs as either 'Gibbs' or 'boss'. In turn Gibbs mostly addresses him as 'DiNozzo', but uses ‘Tony’ on occasions.
Timothy McGee seems to bemuse, confuse and occasionally irritate him, albeit not in the same way as DiNozzo does. His treatment of McGee is generally more gentle and patient than his treatment of DiNozzo. McGee is a geek, and Gibbs often fails to follow what McGee is talking about. Although you sometimes get the impression that he wants to shake McGee, Gibbs has a great deal of time for the young man. He also tries to get him to toughen up and stand up for himself more, when DiNozzo is teasing him.
He does head slap McGee, but not to the same extent as he head slaps DiNozzo. At one point, in Iced when DiNozzo has been relentlessly teasing McGee about the possibility of him being gay, Gibbs throws McGee his own shaving cream and quietly says, “You're trying too hard.” Also when Gibbs is leaving NCIS, at the end of Season Three, he tells McGee that he is a good agent, and not to let DiNozzo tell him otherwise.
At first McGee has a habit of addressing Gibbs as 'sir', which Gibbs hates, but as his tenure with the team gets longer and his confidence grows, he mostly manages to curb himself of the behaviour and addresses Gibbs as either 'Gibbs' or 'boss'. In turn, apart from two occasions, one when Gibbs is being super nice in Kill Ari, and another when Gibbs is leaving NCIS in Hiatus, when he calls McGee 'Tim', Gibbs always refers to McGee by his surname or on the odd occasion, when trying to get a point over, ‘Special Agent McGee’.
Kate Todd was a Secret Service Agent, used to guarding the President of the United States, when Gibbs and his team met her. Although she had never done investigative work before, he spotted the potential in her immediately, as when she informed him that she had resigned, he offered her a job. He trained Kate and taught her a lot. He seemed to genuinely like her, even when her and DiNozzo's bickering really annoyed him.
On the face of it, despite not being a redhead, Kate appeared to be the kind of woman to whom Gibbs could be attracted. However, although he seemed to protect her more than DiNozzo or McGee, pushing her out of the way on at least one occasion (Marine Down), Gibbs never showed anything other than a professional interest in her. Kate always called Gibbs by his surname, never picking up the habit of the male agents of calling him 'boss'. Apart from one occasion, when he seemed particularly angry with her and he refereed to her simple as 'Todd', Gibbs either calls her 'Kate' or ‘Agent Todd’.
Ziva David, despite the fact that she saved his life, he does not fully trust. He never wanted her on his team, she was foisted on him by Jenny Shepard, and he does not appear to like her. He respects some of her abilities, indeed he uses them on more than one occasion, however, other of her methods seem to trouble him to an extent. Nonetheless, despite him never wanting her on the team, and knowing that she tells Jenny things about the team and in turn gets information from Jenny, he does go out of his way to try to teach her about investigative methods, team work and other skills outside of those she has learnt with Mossad. Ziva, apart from at the end of Hiatus, when he is saying goodbye to everyone and she calls him 'Jethro', either addresses Gibbs as 'Agent Gibbs' or 'Gibbs'. In turn he alternates between 'Officer David', 'David', or less often 'Ziva'.
Tom Morrow was clearly liked and deeply respected by Gibbs. Gibbs knew exactly where he stood with Director Morrow, knew when he could push an issue, knew when his boss would back him, and knew when it was he who had to back down. Director Morrow left Gibbs to get on with his job, to run his team with the minimal of interference, and as such could get Gibbs to see things his way and to follow his instructions, even if Gibbs did not particularly want to. It never appeared to be a chore for Gibbs to go to see his Director. The relationship was an easy one, with clear mutual respect and affection on both sides. Tom Morrow alternated between ‘Agent Gibbs’, ‘Gibbs’ and ‘Jethro’ when addressing Gibbs. In turn Gibbs always called Tom Morrow 'Director Morrow', 'Director', or 'Sir'.
Jennifer Shepard is the complete opposite to Tom Morrow, and as such the relationship is fraught with far more difficulties than just their failed affair. Gibbs does not appear to have the level of respect for her that he should have, and certainly does not respect her as he did Tom Morrow.
GIBBS: “Ass kissing on the hill is a skill.”
JENNY: “So is castration.”
GIBBS: “I wear a cup!”
GIBBS: (to Jenny) “You may know how to kiss ass but you don’t know how to protect it.”
JENNY: “I am not a Junior Agent.”
GIBBS: “No, you're a Junior Director.”
She interferes a lot, and he has stood up to her on more than one occasion pointing out that she is no longer a field agent, and that it is his team. He respects her skills as an agent, and tells her that she was a good agent. However, he does not like the way she bows to political pressure without any attempt to find another solution. He did not like the way she refused to stand by McGee, he does not like the fact that she foisted Ziva on him, nor the fact that she makes new rules and appointments without consulting him, and it is clear that he no longer trusts her. Something happened in Paris, beyond their affair, and it appears that the 'something' relates to him not trusting her. However, he is also not above being nice to her, bringing her take-away dinners, when he particularly wants her to do something he knows she won't want to do. He gives her the term 'Madam Director' when she first arrives and it is a term that sticks and is picked up by other members of the team. She calls him ‘Jethro’, ’Gibbs’ or ‘Agent Gibbs’. When addressing her he tends to call her 'Jenn', occasionally he’ll call her 'Director Shepard' or 'Director'.
They have what appears to be a love-hate relationship with one another, but are clearly also long-standing friends. Gibbs trusts Fornell implicitly, even when he is at odds with the FBI. They have a mutual 'interest', insofar as Fornell married Gibbs's second ex-wife, despite Gibbs warning him not to. He lets Fornell talk to him as a friend, and lets him get reasonably close to him. He knows that if he does need help that Fornell will be there, even if it means going against his own agency's desires. And Gibbs will do the same for Fornell. They argue in public, keeping their respective teams on their toes, and have clandestine meetings in Gibbs's 'office' - the elevator with the emergency button pushed to stop it mid-journey. There is no overt affection shown by either man for the other, the nearest they come to showing they care, apart from risking their lives and/or careers for one another, is when they become 'Jethro' and 'Tobias' rather than 'Gibbs' and 'Fornell'.
The Autopsy Assistants
Gerald Jackson was always fairly relaxed, laid back and easy going around Gibbs. He seemed unfazed by Gibbs's anger or irritation. He called him Gibbs, and Gibbs, on the rare occasion Gibbs actually addressed Gerald directly, he called him Gerald.
Jimmy Palmer is far from relaxed, laid back or easy going around Gibbs. He seems to be in awe of Gibbs and at first barely spoke to him, and when he did he usually made a mess of what he was trying to say. Later on he seems to relax slightly and at times almost rambles on. He usually calls Gibbs ‘Special Agent Gibbs', 'Agent Gibbs' or 'Sir', except for one time when he just uses Gibbs's surname. Gibbs, when he addresses him directly, calls him 'Palmer'.
Abby is Gibbs’s surrogate daughter. He clearly loves her, has a great deal of time for her, kisses her head, cheek or finger on several occasions, and lets her hug him. He buys her birthday presents and takes her out to dinner for her birthday, he also brings her a constant supply of Caf Pow. He often gets lost when she launches into techno speak, especially when she and McGee are doing a double act. He occasionally has Sign Language conversation with her, usually at DiNozzo’s expense.
He is more tolerant of her bounciness and going off on a tangent then he is with any of his field team, but he will snap at her when he needs her to calm down. He is very protective of her, taking her side when Director Shepard tries to impose a dress code on her, and also arguing that she does not need an assistant. Woe betide anyone who dares to threaten her.
GIBBS: “Why didn't you come to me, Abby?”
ABBY: “Because, Gibbs, I wanted him restrained. Not beaten to a pulp with a baseball bat!”
GIBBS: “Nobody's going to hurt you Abby.”
ABBY: “You're just saying that to make me feel better.”
GIBBS: “Is it working?”
ABBY: “Yeah. Could you say it again?”
GIBBS: “No one's going to hurt you, Abbs.”
Abby is one of two people who regularly see the softer, gentler side of Gibbs. Abby always calls Gibbs 'Gibbs', apart from one or two occasions when she is trying to wind him up when she uses something like 'Special Agent Gibbs, sir'. Gibbs calls her 'Abby' or 'Abbs'.
Dr. Donald 'Ducky' Mallard
Ducky is Gibbs's oldest and closest friend. The exact length of their friendship is not known, as it is another one of those canon inconsistencies. However, it is safe to say that it has lasted at the very least ten years, and more likely considerably longer.
Ducky is the only person with whom Gibbs seems to have a normal relationship all of the time. The caring and affection they have for one another is clear for all to see, and their friendship is extremely close. There is also a heightened degree of trust on both sides. They have a seamless working relationship, often using shorthand terms and asking and answering unfinished questions that seem to leave even DiNozzo baffled. They also, on more than one occasion, work a suspect, playing a faultless two-handed act, which is clearly non-rehearsed, but also obviously something they have done many times before.
Gibbs treats Ducky differently from the way he treats anyone else, even Abby, and his relationship with Ducky has probably helped shape his caring side. It is also with Ducky that some of Gibbs's more dichotomous tendencies are shown.
Gibbs is a man who demands information in the exact way he wants it, at the exact time he wants it, and it should be concise and the point. Indeed, when his agents fail to conform to his expectations, his displeasure is easy to see. However, he allows Ducky to ramble on for what, by Gibbs’s standards, is an age, with his stories until he says, in his fondly exasperated ‘Ducky’ tone, ‘Duck’. Ducky can manipulate Gibbs in a way that no one else would even dare to do, will argue with him when necessary and will stand up to him - and Gibbs lets him.
Gibbs also shows on more than one occasion that whilst it is perfect acceptable for him to get exasperated with Ducky and his stories, or ask him questions about things he knows Ducky would have done, it is not tolerable for anyone else to do so. DiNozzo falls foul of this on several occasions, and is treated to the famous ice cold, harsh steely, unblinking stare. (Left For Dead) and (A Weak Link).
Ducky nearly always calls Gibbs 'Jethro', only occasionally addressing him by his surname. In turn Gibbs, apart from two occasions when he is clearly worried about Ducky and showing it in his own inimitable way by addressing him as 'Dr. Mallard', always calls Ducky 'Ducky', or more often his own personal shortening of 'Duck'.
SPECIAL AGENT LEROY JETHRO GIBBS - WHAT KEEPS ME HOOKED
Gibbs is a fascinating man mainly because he is far from the first impression of 'what you see is what you get'.
He is a multi-dimensional character, complex, hard to understand, impossible at times to predict, a man whose greatest strength - his deeply compassionate, although well hidden, nature - is also quite possibly his greatest weakness.
He is a man whom it takes a little time to really appreciate, as without looking into his character, it is all too easy to see him as what he tries to appear to be. I never tire of trying to figure him out.
I write about him, putting him in a romantic and sexual (slash) relationship with his oldest and closet friend Ducky. This is not the main pairing, however it is the pairing that I see and the pairing that keeps me writing, reading and captivated. I read about this pairing and also from time-to-time enjoy reading Gibbs-centric gen stories. I do not read, nor have I any interest in reading, about him in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with any other character from the show.
Although I am an avid viewer of the show as a whole and thoroughly enjoy the episodes and care deeply about virtually all of the characters, Gibbs is one of the main reasons that I keep watching.
I've studied Psychology and enjoy trying to analyse him and his motivations. However, part of me hopes that he will never be completely figured out, nor will we find out too much more about his past. The 'more questions than answers' is part of the Gibbs charm.
The Official CBS Site
Go to NCIS Character Essays
Go to NCIS Index Page
Go to Home Page