Most weekly procedural shows are predictable, to put it nicely. Even when a villain is pushing the heroes to the limit, it is the good guys who win in the end.
While NCIS always ends with the good guys winning, it is very different than other procedural shows. The good guys on NCIS don’t always survive.
There have been shocking deaths. There have been shocking reveals. There have been beloved characters that died or left the team completely.
It might be why NCIS has remained one of television’s highest-rated shows for almost two decades. Anything could happen.
Here is a look at 10 of the most shocking moments in NCIS history, ranked.
10. Abby learns Gibbs is a murderer (Season 7, Episode 22)
It was not shocking to viewers that Gibbs murdered Pedro Hernandez, the man who killed his wife and daughter from a sniper position. The show revealed this back in Season 3.
However, no one in the world of the show knew this, and if they did, they didn’t say anything about it.
In Season 7, that changed. Abby was investigating a cold case, and her findings revealed to her that Gibbs murdered Pedro Hernandez. This seemed like it was going to lead to Gibbs finally facing his crimes.
However, Abby chose not to tell anyone — not even team members — and Gibbs’s secret remained outside of a select few, including Vance.
9. Gibbs testifies against Fornell (Season 15, Episode 7)
For many years, Gibbs and Fornell were friends and even shared the same ex-wife. While they feuded at times, it was always NCIS vs. the FBI, which was nothing personal.
In Burden of Proof in Season 15, Gibbs had a tough decision to make. An old case came back to haunt Fornell when a man named Gabriel Hicks claimed the NCIS framed him for murder years before.
It turned out he did go to prison when evidence was falsified against him, but it was Fornell who did it because he knew Hicks was guilty.
Gibbs took the stand and testified against Fornell, getting Hicks released from prison, and the FBI forced Fornell to resign. Later in the season, Gibbs helped prove Hicks was guilty despite the overturned verdict.
8. Explosion almost kills Delilah (Season 11, Episode 12)
In the Season 11 episode Kill Chain, the NCIS team searched for a stolen drone that could aid a terrorist organization.
This was when the team was trying to catch Benham Parsa, the leader of the Brotherhood of Doubt, but they failed to stop the terrorist act.
That was when Parsa sent the drone to bomb the Conrad Gala, an event that Timothy McGee and his girlfriend Delilah attended. Timothy was outside when the drone hit, while Deliliah was inside and was hit with shrapnel.
Delilah ended up in a wheelchair after this, but it all ended well as she and Timothy ended up marrying and having children.
7. Gibbs gets shot (Season 12, Episode 24)
Gibbs dodged a lot of bullets in his life, but things did not go well in the Season 12 finale.
The team was in Iraq, and Gibbs was separated from them. He found a suspicious girl and followed her. That is when Daniel Budd, the leader of the Calling, phoned DiNozzo.
However, one of the young boys that the Calling recruited to serve as a member walked out and shot Gibbs twice, ending the season on that note.
The next season started with Gibbs fighting for his life and dreaming of the past moments and traumas over the years. Gibbs was drastically changed when he returned.
6. Eli and Jackie both die (Season 10, Episode 11)
The NCIS team always put themselves in the path of danger, but only a few times did that come back to hurt those they loved. One of those moments came in the Season 10 episode, Shabbat Shalom.
In that episode, Ziva and her father Eli were having dinner with Leon Vance and his wife, Jackie.
While they were eating dinner, Ziva gets up and leaves the house to call Gibbs. While she is talking to Gibbs, someone opens fire on the house, killing both Eli and Leon’s wife, Jackie.
The murder was ordered by Ilan Bodnar (Oded Fehr), Eli’s deputy director.
5. The team is split up (Season 5, Episode 19)
Season 5 offered two majorly shocking moments to end the season.
First, NCIS Director Jenny Shepard died in a shootout, and then the team had to figure out what happened under nee Director Leon Vance.
Gibbs concluded that it was a former assassin that Jenny tried to kill nine years ago. Gibbs killed the assassin’s lover, so she returned for revenge.
Gibbs and Franks ended up killing the assassin and then burned down Jenny’s house to cover up her death. Vance responded to this by breaking up the team at the end of Season 5.
He sent Ziva back to Israel, moved McGee to cybercrimes, and assigned Tony to the USS Ronald Reagan before giving Gibbs a new team to lead.
4. DiNozzo meets his daughter (Season 13, Episode 24)
First, the team learned that Ziva David was dead when her farmhouse was blown up. Just as Tony was starting to breakdown, he got even more shocking news.
Ziva had a daughter named Tali, and Tony is her father. He remembers back to his moments with Ziva and admits that he has never been anybody’s everything before.
DiNozzo ultimately chooses to leave NCIS to become a father.
3. Abby is shot and leaves (Season 15, Episodes 21-22)
Abby leaving NCIS was expected, but the way it happened was extremely shocking.
Abby was with Reeves in the episode One Step Forward after they solved a case and helped a homeless vet. However, when they left together, a mugger approached them.
Reeves gave his money to the mugger, and when Abby offered to help him, the mugger pulled the trigger.
Reeves died and Abby ended up in the hospital. It turned out that the mugger was hired to kill her by a man that Abby put away years prior.
By the end, Abby chose to leave NCIS for London to help start and run a charity that Reeves always wanted to open.
2. Ziva is alive (Season 16, Episode 24)
Ziva’s death was not on this list, although the episode where it happened was due to Tony’s daughter. That is because Ziva was not dead. With her body not found, it wasn’t as shocking as it could have been.
Then, in Season 16, there were hints that Ziva was still alive. While the hints were there, it was still a shocking moment when Gibbs was in his basement, and Ziva walked down the stairs.
Ziva was alive. She was mad because Gibbs never came to find her, but she was there to protect him because he was in danger.
This was a short return for Ziva David to NCIS, and it was a huge surprise that had fans happy to see her back from the dead.
1. Caitlin Todd dies (Season 2, Episode 23)
The first moment on NCIS where one of the main cast members died was the most shocking.
Not only did someone die, but it was a massively distressing moment as Caitlyn was shot in the center of the forehead, ensuring that the show couldn’t miraculously save her in the next season.
It was Ari who shot and killed Caitlyn on NCIS, and he remained on the loose until his own sister Ziva showed up and killed him later to save Gibbs.
With Caitlyn dead, murdered violently, NCIS proved that anything could happen and no one was safe.