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.

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


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.


I'll just say "ditto" to all of the great, positive comments about the writing and the acting--both were superb! I will add this as an afterthought: PLEASE don't put Gibbs in a scraggly goatee again! I realize it was done to emphasize the depth of his despair and loss....but it was really NASTY lookin'!


You know I was worry because ever since The new Born King NCIS has not been itself but now it felt like it was season 1 and 2 NCIS it felt good to see the A team again Tony Kate Abby and Gibbs.


I thought last night show was the greatest i've every seen it tells like gibbs life from start to finish and all the character who have been on the show. It was good to see mike franks again and Shannon and Kelly the cast and writers and producers and all the other people who work so hard to make the show so great and the end was just super just right for the 200th show!!!!


First of all, Congratulations to NCIS on 200 excellent episodes! I love the show. i'm currently watching season 8 on DVD because of lack of television during that season. Gibbs would not be the Gibbs we love if he didn't make the decisions he made. I love how Mike Franks was there and his mother, and kelly and shannon. they all pointed out all the good he's done even though he lost them. the fact that tony and kate were married and having a baby threw me for a loop. they had chemistry when they worked together and to see that play out in a what if scenario, was awesome. McGee and Abby happy together was odd because i felt like they had more of a brother/sister bond than a romantic bond. the decisions we make today make us who we are tomorrow and in the future. very strong message in the episode there. I


Seriously who knew that Palmer had abbs, I loved that line as I was thinking the same thing. Palmer was looking pretty good there. Sasha and Tony, they were more like a brother and sister relationship, never felt that anything was really there, like a love connection. Still would love to see him end up with Ziva, I think that would be the "grown up" thing for Tony to do as he is working on his bucket list. I loved to see Gibbs at the diner and greeting people as he went in; nice to know that he doesn't sit at home by himself at night. Shannon started calling him Gibbs when she first met him. It was in a flashback when he went back home and they were waiting on the bus or train to leave. It is always great seeing Mike Franks, hated to see him leave but it too was a well done show.


this was very anticapated by me and the end was: aww, that was sweet! I loved it! But then again, I watch it every time it is on- even though I have seen it many times before.


@Sharon Hi Sharon! I always enjoy your comments. Don't worry; Wendy is NOT the "one that got away" from anyone. If Tony and Wendy were meant to actually be together, they would have gotten married,period . He wouldn't have let anything stop him from being with her if that was THE woman he truly loved. But Tony is not ready for the "Endgame" as far as a REAL relationship goes. He's still too busy trying to play the Aging Playboy andskirt-chasing college girls. I have no desire to see a 45-50 yr old man playing the field because he's too scared to settle down. As for Ziva, she deserves a man who's not AFRAID to be honest with himself and love her the way she deserves. If that's how they want to portray Tony, then Ziva can do 100x better than HIM!!


After having seen the previous 199 episodes I can honestly say that the 200th was by far the worst episode they've made.


Have to watch this multiple times, I think, to get it all - so much going on! So well done as always! For me the essence of the show can be summed up with Gibbs comment "who knew jimmy had such abs'! That's typical NCIS - notice all the little things and mention them!!! Here is to many many more episodes! Thank you NCIS for the hours of entertainment and professionalism!


I agree with challon, EXCELLANT!!! My husband was very tired last nite and said he thought this episode was going to be predictable, so he went to sleep. This morning he asked me how the show went, was it boring and predictable as he thought??? Ha, ha!!! The joke was on him, when I told him all the "what if's" he was so disappointed that he had missed this episode! I wish I had recorded it so I could watch it over, I know I missed some of the dialog. I only have two complaints about the show, they killed off Mike Franks, I loved that character, and the background music is so loud sometimes that I can't make out everything that the actors say. But NCIS is by far the BEST show on TV!!! And I LOVE Mark Harmon!

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