NCIS season 16 finale: What are the stakes for Mark Harmon’s Gibbs?

NCIS - DaughtersThe NCIS season 16 finale on Tuesday night may be the most important one for Gibbs in years. We worry about overstating the importance of “Daughters,” but it is impossible not to. This is the story that will establish the future course of the rest of Gibbs’ life.

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Through most of this past episode (entitled “Lost Time”), we saw Gibbs in the midst of one of his greatest struggles with morality. This is an enemy that he can’t just arrest or assign one of the agents to take out; this is an enemy that lives within him. It’s his own battle with right and wrong and the ghosts from his past. He killed someone in cold blood — his reasoning may be understandable and, depending on who you ask, justified. The problem is that it’s not in the code of law and just a few episodes ago we saw him chasing after a judge that was getting his own form of vigilante justice so he’s been questioning why it’s not okay for that judge to execute things the way he did but it’s somehow okay for Gibbs? For years, he was able to handle it by just burying it deep inside, never speaking about it and with that, never really having to face what it means. Unfortunately, that luxury is gone. The toothpaste is out of the tube and the agents have all metaphorically brushed out their mouths with it. (That’s kind of a gross analogy, but may as well see it through.)

Then, right when Dr. Confalone starts to make Gibbs feel okay, the crisis for Tobias Fornell enters the fray and it will have a very familiar feel to it for Gibbs. Joe Spano is back, as Emily Fornell finds herself in grave danger due to an overdose and Fornell wants to take out the person responsible. All of a sudden, Gibbs now faces again another issue where the different forms of justice are in a collision course with each other. If the token “bad guy” can’t be put into handcuffs, could they be put into a body bag? There’s a moral, professional, and personal trade-off that we’re preparing to plague his mind since Gibbs is not going to suddenly turn into Judge Dredd.

The personal stakes – If Fornell was a normal person he did not actually know, Gibbs’ investment in the case would be different and now that rule ten was burned in a fire Gibbs has effectively given himself permission to get personally involved in cases. Fornell is a dear friend, and Emily is the daughter of Fornell and Gibbs’ own ex in Diane Sterling, who is also going to be making an appearance on Tuesday (even if she’s dead). If he doesn’t go hard enough in this investigation, he risks letting down one of his few close friends. If he doesn’t commit an act of vengeance himself, then there’s always a chance that Fornell does it instead. Then, there’s a chance that Gibbs has to arrest one of his few friends. These are stakes that matter to Gibbs — at times it may seem like he is some sort of diner-loving, boat-building, crime-stopping machine, but he’s got a soul and a heart that he exposes to few people. Fornell is one of them so how he feels and handles this case really matters.

The professional stakes – If Gibbs bends the rules, he could easily be out of the job or worse — if someone finds out, he goes to the slammer. Or, Gibbs sends himself to the slammer and Dr. Confalone isn’t there to help talk him off a ledge. This is a case that could test the reputation of NCIS as an organization and also Gibbs’ status as a leader of it. We think that the agents still trust him, but we can’t exactly act as though they view him an identical way to what they once did. They’re worried about him, and Gibbs going off-book now could mean that they are less obliged to listen to either him or his rules in the future. If he can’t keep track of some of them — or of course the very laws that make up this country — what’s to stop them from following his lead? They’ve certainly done that before.

The worst fear within this episode

That Gibbs commits an act in “Daughters” that is so extreme, it causes him to lose his job. Mark Harmon has a contract for next season, so we don’t see him rowing on a boat off into the sunset. Yet, we do think that there are still reasons to worry that after “Daughters,” the show may no longer be fundamentally the same. There really is a lot on the line and that’s one of the reasons why this season of NCIS has been so exceptional.

For some other insight into what could be coming…

Read the full synopsis of “Daughters” alongside some other info over here. Meanwhile, let us know in the comments what you’re expecting from this episode, and how you are anticipating that this finale will conclude. (Photo: CBS.)

This article was written by Jessica Carter and you can follow her on Twitter here.

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