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NCIS 200th Episode Review: Again, For the First Time

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"We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

Tonight's milestone episode of NCIS showed viewers a side of Leroy Jehtro Gibbs we've never seen before, which was the point, as the bulk of the action did not actually take place, other than in his mind.

I have not seen the 1998 film Sliding Doors, upon which "Life Before His Eyes" is loosely based, but I'm intrigued after Gibbs' introspective journey proved to be funny, moving, and surprisingly complex.

Only by looking back at the decisions he's made and the wide-ranging ripple effects that followed could our fearless leader truly understand the scope of what he's accomplished over the decades.

Seeing his life, in a sense, again for the first time.

Gibbs would love to live in a perfect world, to have it both ways. Wouldn't we all. But it doesn't work that way, as he learned time and again. That said, Gibbs wouldn't have his world any other way.

Gibbs and Mike

The filming style and the presence of familiar faces, past and present, going about their business in the diner gave the episode a surreal aura, one which could have fallen flat had it not fulfilled a grander purpose.

Leave it to old, wise Mike Franks (Muse Watson) to talk the original Probie through this out-of-body experience, one that reintroduced memorable characters and rehashed monumental NCIS events.

Mike's "Swan Song" last spring was another unconventionally brilliant installment, so it was only appropriate that Gibbs' longtime friend and mentor played something of an otherworldly role this time around.

With the help of Mike and others, Jethro came to the realization that everything that's happened and every choice he's made - even those with tragic results - has brought him to where he is now.

A simple message, but nonetheless profound. It doesn't work that way. We heard those words often as Gibbs relived not saving Kate, Kelly and Shannon, only to consider what good resulted from such devastation:

The team coming together. The criminals and terrorists locked away. The families given closure after suffering unspeakable losses. Gibbs' own family being spared that inevitable, dreaded knock on the door.

His choice. His life.

Utopian, it's not, and there will always be mistakes and what-ifs. But for a man who gets up every day with the purpose of protecting and serving others, it's hard for Gibbs to have many regrets in the end.

The alternate-reality scenes were near-perfect, offering terrific "here's to the fans" moments while dovetailing with the broader narrative and without dragging on so long as to feel like contrived, cheesy filler.

That's a tough line to walk and while some fans may have wished for a boilerplate episode - I was more than a little skeptical of the concept headed into the hour - it was executed flawlessly.

There were clear parallels between the case of the week, involving a father who did what he thought was just, despite the moral gray area he clearly crossed, and Gibbs' own contemplation.

Without that case and how Gibbs' lessons at the diner applied to it, this story would not have resonated, but Gary Glasberg's teleplay and Tony Wharmby's direction struck the right balance.

Life Before His Eyes Pic

Gibbs' rendezvous with Shannon and Kelly was the night's emotional high point, as well as his personal turning point. His loss would instead have been their loss, and NCIS would never have known Gibbs.

It felt like 2005 again with a flashback to Kate's demise, only to give way to a glimpse of what might have been. Think she really would have gone on to marry and have a child with DiNozzo?

Interestingly, in the other alternate universe, where Tony did not appear, Kate's baby was of the opposite gender, likely alluding to the fact that Tony wasn't in the picture in that scenario.

Seeing a married Tony wasn't just a gimmick, either, as we've witnessed him yearning for more out of life this season, and are about to meet the woman he was once engaged to marry, Wendy.

McGee-Abby fans were no doubt loving that couple's role, too, but unlike Kate, they're still around and very much fond of one another in reality. Might this be a gateway to something more?

Fortunately, he's not taking the job on Okinawa. What did Tim mean when he said he had more to accomplish here? He didn't have time to elaborate, but he couldn't mean just professionally.

"Life Before His Eyes" was not only an NCIS benchmark, but a crossroads for the characters that made these 200 episodes so strong; A reflection on where they've been, where they might've gone, and where they're headed.

For Gibbs, he's finally let go of the guilt. For the rest, we'll have to wait and see.

The screen faded to black with a thank you to the fans who've made this the #1 drama on TV in recent years. With episodes like this, the fans owe the actors, writers, producers and crew thanks as well.

A few closing thoughts and observations - and please, add your own below, because there are almost too many to list after such a head-spinning hour - before turning it over to your comments:

  • I loved seeing Gibbs' father (Ralph Waite) as well as young Gibbs (Sean Harmon) and Matteson, from this season's "Engaged", even if they were mostly on the periphery.
  • It goes without saying, but Mark Harmon was outstanding tonight.
  • Gibbs' mom was a redhead, too? Somehow not surprising.
  • Did Sasha Alexander actually film that scene, uncredited?
  • Tony calling faux Ziva "Tiva" in the interrogation? Classic.
  • Who knew Palmer had abs like that, indeed.
  • ROLFING?

What did you think of tonight's NCIS? Discuss below!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (468 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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Thanks, Gigi. I was just trying to get in to correct that. You are right, it was Shannon and Kelly's funeral that his father brought his girlfriend to, which is why Gibbs and his father were estranged for so many years, Shannon was the one who tried to keep them together.

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@kat loved your comment i really think michael is not from earth.

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Zia...totally agree with you, except I think the funeral Gibbs was referring to was Shannon and Kelly's, not his mother's. :)

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@Idyo.....It was said by Gibbs' mother that his father looked at other women because he was tired of changing her sheets. Meaning she had been ill and was bedridden. She died. Also in the past years Gibbs was angry at his father for bringing one of his girlfriends to his mother's funeral. As for the episode, I thought it was great. Gibbs looking back, hopefully will have him cope better with what has happened. His mother being a redhead did not go unnoticed. As far as Tiva, I am not a fan of it happening. The mentioning of it in the show, I do not think was a desire by the show to have Tony and Ziva get together, nor was it a slap in the face to those who do want a Tiva to happen. It was just an inside joke, that most fans would understand and recognize. I'm looking forward to the next 100 episodes.

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lydo...big fan?? I think not... If you were, you'd most certainly know what happened to Gibbs' mom. Go back and watch Heartland and you'll find out. Obviously, this show was a little too complicated for you to follow...probably should stick with the Kardashians or something a little less challenging. And Mike Franks was one of the best parts of NCIS and this episode.
This was an awesome episode. We'll get back to the good old cases next week, but this was a great way to say "thank you" to the fans and really showcase the talented cast, crew, and writers who put this show together every week!!

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Big fan but HATED this show. Stupid. Obfuscated. Hate Muse. Always hated him. Why did Gibb's mother leave? Died? Bolted?

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Great show. A 'what-if' episode was appropriate for a major anniversary. Everyone played the usual good role, but the big surprise - Who would guess Palmer had abs? I would like to see a bigger role for Jimmy Palmer as I think Brian Dientzen is a talented actor. You didn't need to take off most of his clothes to show us his attributes.

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@Janet, don't you just love the tidbits that Michael contributed to us on here. CBS wants the Tiva toned down, WTH Michael?!?! Really, do you honestly think they would alienate a big pack of fans. Plus, I don't think CBS has any control over the stories at NCIS. Need to invent a time machine for @Michael so he can travel back to season one.

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everyone has the right to there own views but when @michael keeps writing lie after lie i just cant keep quiet what is wrong with her tiva will keep on growing till the end when they finally get together so please michael if you cant write a decent comment and a truefull comment dont write.

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You know according to TV guide CBS has told NCIS to tone down on Tiva so i wonder if that why we saw less of them, and the reason Ari didn't speak is because the actor sound he lost how to do the voice

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