Gibbs Rules: NCIS Quotes to Live By!

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NCIS' Leroy Jethro Gibbs lives life by a set of rules. Now you can too!

In honor of NCIS Season 10 premiering next week, TV Fanatic has compiled (and is asking for your help with) a list of the many indespensible pearls of wisdom our fearless leader holds dear.

The extent to which they're unwritten, fluid or changing is subject to debate, but Gibbs' rules - not all of which have been revealed, and more of which may still be added - have been a constant since Season 1.

The number of rules was long believed to be around 50, with a 51st added with strong significance in the Season 7 finale. However, a 69th rule was dropped out of nowhere in the middle of Season 9.

There have been examples of Gibbs and the team breaking the rules (3, 6, 12), and there are two different rules for #1 and #3, anomalies attributed to Gibbs' friend and mentor, the late Mike Franks.

According to executive producer Shane Brennan, Gibbs' lives his life by the rules he's had in place since he met Shannon, but Mike told him he didn't need dozens of different rules, just three golden rules.

Rules 1-3 for Franks and Gibbs are therefore distinct; Gibbs' #2 hasn't been revealed, that we know of. With those disclaimers, we've put together a list of the NCIS rules Gibbs & Co. have used over the years.

Leave a comment with corrections and/or any Gibbs rules we missed! On to the list ...

At home with Gibbs

Rule #1: Never let suspects stay together. (Season 1 Episode 1, Mike Franks)

Rule #1: Never screw over your partner. (Season 4, Episode 14, Gibbs)

Rule #2: Always wear gloves at a crime scene. (Season 1, Episode 1, Mike Franks)

Rule #3: Don't believe what you're told. Double check. (Season 1, Episode 1, Mike Franks)

Rule #3: Never be unreachable. (Season 3, Episode 13, Gibbs)

Rule #4: The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person, if you must. There is no third best. (Season 4, Episode 11)

Rule #5: You don't waste good. (Season 8, Episode 22)

Rule #6: Never apologize. (Season 7, Episode 12, but referenced previous times without a number attached)

Rule #7: Always be specific when you lie. (Season 1, Episode 23)

Rule #8: Never take anything for granted. (Season 3, Episode 10)

Rule #9: Never go anywhere without a knife. (Season 1, Episode 13)

Rule #10: Never get personally involved on a case. (Season 7, Episode 21)

Rule #11: When the job is done, walk away. (Season 6, Episode 24)

Rule #12: Never date a coworker. (Season 1, Episode 15, and referenced on other occasions)

Rule #13: Never, ever involve a lawyer. (Season 6, Episode 7; Gibbs is said to have other rules involving lawyers, but according to Tony, this is the "umbrella" one)

Rule #15: Always work as a team. (Season 5, Episode 5)

Rule #16: If someone thinks they have the upper-hand, break it. (Season 8, Episode 24)

Rule #18: It's better to seek forgiveness than ask permission. (Season 3, Episode 4)

Rule #22: Never, ever bother Gibbs in interrogation. (Season 4, Episode 10)

Rule #23: Never mess with a Marine's coffee if you want to live. (Season 2, Episode 9)

Rule #27: Two ways to follow: First way, they never notice you, Second way, they only notice you. (Season 7, Episode 15)

Rule #35: Always watch the watchers. (Season 8, Episode 22)

Rule #36: If feels like you're being played, you probably are. (Season 9, Episode 1)

Rule #38: Your case, your lead. (Season 6, Episode 16; Season 10, Episode 3)

Rule #39: There is no such thing as coincidence. (Season 7, Episode 21)

Rule #40: If it seems someone is out to get you, they are. (Season 7, Episode 22)

Rule #42: Never accept an apology from someone who just sucker punched you. (Season 9, Episode 16)

Rule #44: First things first. Hide the women and children. (Season 7, Episode 23)

Rule #45: Gibbs remarks, "Left a mess I've got to clean up," which Tony later comments is basically Rule #45 … clean up your own mess. (Season 7, Episode 24)

Rule #51: Sometimes you're wrong. (Season 7, Episode 24, titled "Rule Fifty-One")

Rule #69: Never trust a woman who doesn't trust her man. (Season 9, Episode 7)

Unwritten Rule: You do what you have to for family.

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David van

I thought Rule #6 was never say you're sorry, not never apologize. I hope this gets changed/corrected.


I dont remember which episode it was but gibbs once told tony " rule #?? "some rules are made to be broken"


Rule6# is Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness with the exception being in Smoked from season 4 where Gibbs' says it's okay to apologize to a friend to Ducky. @Robb It means that it was first mentioned in season 1 episode 1 but however it is Mike Franks rule not Gibbs' rule. That why Gibbs' or Franks has their name next to rules 1# to 3# as 3 of them are Franks and the other 3 are Gibbs'.


I agree with Dee. I also heard an episode list #1 as "never say you're sorry" with the proviso that you can say you're sorry to friends, though I don't know
which ep it was, and with Michael, who said that #51 was "sometimes you can trust lawyers" which I assume was from "rule 51"


I keep a journal handy to record the rules I hear. These are some that I recorded that I didn't see on your list.
#3 DiNozzo said Never underestimate your opponent
#8 Never Assume
#1 Supercedes all others
Abby said All #40's are for Emergency Use Only (that goes with Rule #44)


I thought Tony mentioned a rule but i don't remember what number or episode.
Always wear a belt.
Does anyone else remember that one?


Rule 23 in Gibbs's Rules is "Never mess with a Marine's coffee if you want to live


Rule #1 is never screw over your partner. And Mike Franks didn't show up until the end of season 3 when Gibbs was injured. He wasn't in Season 1 Episode 1 as claimed by the first rule...


Rule 51 according to NCIS facebook page is now Sometimes Lawyers are okay


Gibbs comes across as a tough, no-nonsense Federal Agent who has a sense of humor. Under his tough exterior he has a set of rules he lives by and we're given a look at one of the reasons for his inner strength of character. This is perhaps the mortar that holds the team together and commands such loyalty.

NCIS Quotes

McGee: Rule number 70 - keep digging till you hit bottom.
Abby: McGee! There is no rule 70.
McGee: Well, I--
Abby: You just made up a rule. This McGibbs thing has really gone to your head. I don't even recognize you right now.

Well tie me up and call me Loretta.