NCIS Round Table: Can McGee Really Be a Team Leader?

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On NCIS this week, Bishop got a dose of reality when she participated - and failed - in a training program. 

Agent Borin made an appearance during that same training exercise, only to be teamed up with Gibbs in what would lead to an investigation into piracy when a man was found floating near their ship.

Tony told Borin that his "dalliance" with Pendergast is over, and McGee became McGibbs for a while, on NCIS Season 12 Episode 5.

Join TV Fanatic panelists Christine Orlando, Michelle Carlbert, Kathleen Wiedel, Tanya Moat, David Taylor and Douglas Wolfe as they debate and discuss all of this and more...

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How would you sum up this episode, in a few words or a sentence?

Christine:  Making Up the Rules as You Go.

Michelle: They Call Me McGibbs.

Kathleen: Keep Digging That Hole, McGee.

Tanya: Captain Gibbs.

David: The Love Boat... Not!

Doug: The Beta Testbed.

What was your favorite scene or quote?

Christine:  There were two. First, Tony referring to Borin as the "Julie McCoy" of their training mission. It made me wonder how many viewers out there still remember The Love Boat. Second was Gibbs and Borin realizing that what they were seeing in the water was a person. I couldn't help but smile when they both simultaneously yelled, "Man overboard!"

Michelle: Since I'm going to gush about McGee below, I'll use this part to gush about Tony a bit. I really liked how he interacted with Borin in this episode. For a second there, I thought Tony was going to let her take over the negotiation. Instead, they shared the role equally and played to their different strengths as they worked on the situation.

Kathleen: It was really funny how Gibbs was totally unimpressed with the pirates from right off the bat - they were busy trying to be intimidating, waving guns around and all, and Gibbs wasn't taking any of it. Specific scene-wise, I'm going with the last hijacker holding a gun on the petty officer, and Gibbs informing him that he was going to either let her go and Gibbs would disarm the bomb, or Gibbs would shoot him and then disarm the bomb. Bonus points go to Gibbs having already disarmed the bomb!

Tanya: I always love it when Borin plays with our NCIS crew. Lots of great scenes already mentioned. I'll pick the little punch to the shoulder Borin gave Gibbs after he conveniently forgot to let her and Tony know that he already disarmed the bomb. She's probably the only person who could do that to him without a returning head slap. A small gesture but just shows how much of a family they are.

David: The "Julie McCoy" reference made me laugh too.  However, McGee channeling Gibbs as he walked into autopsy, complete with a large cup of coffee, was the clear favorite for me, and it only got better from there with his clipped (but not mean-spirited) replies to Abby.

Doug: I liked the scene involving Bishop going through the testing exercise. We now know that she struggles with abstract, out-of-the-box thinking - and I see that as a good thing, as it solidifies her as an agent who has room for improvement. She's always been matter-of-fact about her abilities, neither bragging nor shying from them. You get the sense that she didn't realize that she had any blind spots. Well, congrats, rookie - you have a major one. Her reliance on her research capabilities and ability to retain what she reads is sometimes impractical or of no value when there's trouble afoot and she has to figure out a solution that's not in the books.

What didn’t work for you and why?

Christine:  Ellie Bishop not knowing the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek! I lost all respect for her in that moment. She redeemed herself slightly by actually going home and watching The Wrath of Khan but she's got a long way to go.

Michelle: The only part that didn't work for me was McGee's reluctance to become team leader. It felt so out of character for him since we have seen him get upset when Tony has been put in that role. I thought he would jump at the chance to run a case himself, so his reaction left me a little confused.

Kathleen: I'll second Michelle - McGee's reluctance seemed a bit odd, especially since he's already been a team leader (and even called "Boss") by the computer guys downstairs, back when the team was broken up during the search for the mole back at the start of Season 6.

Tanya: The captain being stabbed and needing to be airlifted off his hijacked ship. Um, really? So the pirates let him leave with Borin when they are still trying to fake out NCIS that they are part of the crew? And Gibbs and Borin don't question him about being stabbed? Seemed odd to me.

David:  I have a different take on the Star Wars / Star Trek thing.  Bishop not knowing the difference didn't bother me so much; what got me was McGee EXPLAINING the difference (ie, mythology vs. science). I felt like I was listening to "Sheldon Cooper" from "The Big Bang Theory" (another show I like very much, but that's a different posting).  So now McGee has three personalities?

Doug: I have a major problem with this episode but since I'm going to discuss that below, let me pick the other odd thing that didn't work - that being the scene where Gibbs and Borin both spot a dead guy in the water. The likelihood of them doing that, and finding a guy who went overboard from a ship that's 60 nautical miles away just teases the imagination to one point away from ridiculousness. That's needle in a haystack stuff.  Actually it's worse. The more I thought about it, the more it bugged me.

What are your thoughts on McGee as the acting NCIS boss?

Christine:  He made up a rule! Can he do that? Seriously, though. Way to go McGee. I thought he did an excellent job. Perhaps he was a little too McGibbs but hopefully that's because it was his first time in the boss' seat and he was mimicking the best. If he gets to do it again I'm sure he'll come into his own with the job.

Michelle: Once McGee got past balking at it, he made a spectacular boss, just as I knew he would. Gibbs, Tony and McGee all do things their own way and yet they all have similarities. When you learn under Gibbs, you can't help but to emulate him when you are in the hot seat yourself. I thought it was great that McGee once made fun of Tony for channeling Gibbs when he had to be team leader and then McGee turned around and did the same exact thing. Tony made up his own rules too, so I have no problem with McGee doing the same. I think it's all part of the role.

Kathleen: I'm guessing that Gibbs's leadership style is contagious, because Tony got all Gibbsian, too, when he was team leader briefly at the start of Season 4, during Gibbs's brief retirement to Mexico. Though Tony's rules were his own, he didn't try to add on to Gibbs's! Oooh, the impudence, McGee!

Tanya: I loved McGibbs! He did great and his emulation of Gibbs was spot-on. If you want to be someone else, Gibbs is a good person to mimic. And creating his own rule, such a sly move! I'd love it if they kept the rule and referenced it later.

David:  I'm with everyone else on this--McGee got his chance and he crushed it!  When you can "spook" the goth persona that is Abby Sciuto, you KNOW you've done something right.

Doug: I'm going to be the lone wolf here and disagree with all of the other panelists.  (Though "Gibbsian" is a cool new term.  Thanks for that, Kathleen! I can't wait to find another good use for it.)  If there's one thing we can say about McGee it's that he's always been portrayed as a guy who wants to be taken seriously. Yet continually, he has fallen for the tricks often played by Alpha Dog #2 - Tony.  He's the guy who continually struggles to assert himself, only to be taken down a peg or two by Tony and occasionally even by Gibbs. So, as Michelle and Kathleen said in the last question - his reluctance to take on the role of team leader wasn't consistent. Except perhaps for the fact that it highlighted his insecurity. 

I see that insecurity being played out in his choices to emulate Gibbs.  While it was startling and really well done, it was also indicative - to me anyway - that he will never be alpha.  He'll always be the follower, the young kid who constantly seeks the approval of others by acting like his hero, Gibbs. This would have been a good opportunity for him to assert himself and use his own personality to good effect.  The fact that he chose to be McGibbs just says that he has nothing of his own to offer.  To be fair, it more likely means the writers just wanted to have a bit of fun, and saw an opportunity.  Either way, I didn't like it.

Now, let's take a look at scenes from NCIS Season 12 Episode 6, "Parental Guidance Suggested."

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter

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NCIS Season 12 Episode 5 Quotes

Abby: Gosh I just got chills.
McGee: Why is that?
Abby: You're just changing, right in front of our eyes. Your gruff manner, your clipped replies. You're no longer McGee. You're McGibbs.
McGee: What? That's....wait, what?
Bishop: It's true. Ever since Tony put you in charge, you're like...channeling him.
McGee: Stop it.
Abby: You got it. Boss.

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.