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NCIS: The best episodes of every season

NCIS best episodes
The best episode of every season of NCIS. Pic credit: CBS

NCIS is in the middle of its eighteenth season, meaning there have been a full 17 years of great episodes that keep it the most-watched procedural on television.

With NCIS Season 18 underway, there is always time to go back to watch the past seasons, which include some of the best television out there today.

The fact that CBS All-Access has it all in one place, and even adds new episodes after they air live, makes it easy to watch anything you might want to relive again.

However, with 401 episodes and counting, that is a lot of time to devote to the television series.

The good news is that we have compiled a list of the best episodes from each season of the show based on IMDb fan voting, so you can catch the best of the best anytime you want.

Here is a look at some of the best NCIS episodes of all-time, one for each season so far.

Season 1 – Bete Noire (e16)

NCIS Bete Noire
Mark Harmon in NCIS: Bete Noire. Pic credit: CBS

The 16th episode of the first season of NCIS introduced a new villain, although no one knew much about him at the time. In Bête Noire, someone breaks into NCIS headquarters in a unique manner.

A foreign agent gains access when he sneaks into the autopsy room in a body bag and then takes Ducky hostage. This was the first appearance of Ari Haswari.

This is also one of the first times that a bad guy gets away, as Ari escapes and remains on the loose until Season 3, killing Kate at the end of the second season.

Season 2 – Call of Silence (e7)

ncis Call of Silence
Mark Harmon and Charles Durning in NCIS: Call of Silence. Pic credit: CBS

The Season 2 episode of NCIS, titled Call of Silence, presented a very personal story.

An older man (Charles Durning) comes into NCIS headquarters and asks to be arrested for murder. When pressed, he said he believes he killed a fellow soldier during World War II.

The problem is that he is a war hero and a Medal of Honor recipient. It takes some investigating before the team realizes he isn’t guilty and then finds they need to convince him of that fact.

Season 3 – Kill Ari (Part II) (e2)

NCIS Kill Ari (Part II)
Rudolf Martin and David McCallum in NCIS: Kill Ari (Part II). Pic credit: CBS

In the NCIS Season 2 finale, Ari did the unthinkable. He shot and killed Caitlyn.

It was a shocking moment because the main characters on weekly procedurals don’t die, so killing a major character changed the show’s dynamic (and this would repeat several times over the next 16 seasons).

In the second episode of Season 3, the team finally stops Ari, and he pays for his crimes when his own sister shoots him. That sister is Ziva, and she becomes a member of the team at this point.

Season 4 – Dead Man Walking (e16)

NCIS Dead Man Walking
Brian Dietzen in NCIS: Dead Man Walking. Pic credit: CBS

In Season 4, the team had to solve its more bizarre case. A Navy lieutenant shows up and asks the team to help solve his murder.

That sounds strange, but he was exposed to radiation poisoning, and he needs them to find out who poisoned him and bring them to justice.

The team then worked hard to figure out who was responsible, but the lieutenant’s damage was too much, and he died.

The part that hit the hardest was that Ziva had watched him running all the time and promised she would never forget him as he died holding her hand.

Season 5 – Judgment Day: Part II (e19)

NCIS Judgment Day: Part II
The cast of NCIS in NCIS Judgment Day: Part II. Pic credit: CBS

Someone killed Jenny, the NCIS Director, in Season 5, and the team took it personally.

This was the follow up to her murder, which was in a diner shootout where she killed almost all her assailants before dying, but there was evidence of one other person there.

Mike Franks was the missing person, and he informs Gibbs that Jenny was there to protect Gibbs. By the end of the episode, new Director Vance breaks up the team.

Season 6 – Heartland (e4)

NCIS Heartland
Michael Weatherly in NCIS: Heartland, Pic credit: CBS

In Season 6, the murder of a marine behind a bar leads the NCIS team to Stillwater, where Gibbs’ dad lives.

The investigation of the case, including a marine from Stillwater that survived, is intercut with Gibbs and his dad’s relationship, which was broken but mended by the end of the episode.

This was the start of Ralph Waite’s occasional appearances as Jackson Gibbs, who quickly became a beloved character on the show.

Season 7 – Truth or Consequences (e1)

Truth or Consequences
Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly and Sean Murray in NCIS: Truth or Consequences. Pic credit: CBS

Season 6 ended with Ziva captured and tortured in a Somali prison camp. This Season 7 premiere told her rescue, setting it up almost like a puzzle.

Little by little, viewers were thrown into a situation where Tony, McGee, and Ziva were all held captive and tortured without any idea of what happened.

The show flashbacked throughout to catch viewers up to date before Gibbs showed up in a heroic rescue. This was a massive and explosive premiere for the new season, and it was impossible to beat the rest of the year.

Season 8 – Baltimore (e22)

NCIS Baltimore
Michael Weatherly in Baltimore. Pic credit: CBS

Episodes that feature Tony in the main role are always fun, and in Season 8, NCIS took time to try something different.

For one episode, NCIS became an episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets.

Tony’s old partner from his days in the homicide division was murdered, and he returns to try to help solve the case. He could go because the team was looking for the P2P killer, but this was a copycat case.

Season 9 – Till Death Do Us Part (e24)

NCIS Till Death Do Us Part
David McCallum and Jamie Lee Curtis in NCIS: Till Death Do Us Part. Pic credit: CBS

Till Death Do Us Part was the finale of Season 9.

This was when the team was in a battle with Harper Dearing, arguably their most dangerous and deadly villain on NCIS.

Director Vance was abducted and hidden in a tomb and a car bomb detonated in the Navy Yard. Things were getting out of control, and the season ended with everyone trapped in the offices except Ducky.

Ducky had a heart attack on a beach when he is called to autopsy bodies and believes it is all his beloved NCIS companions.

Season 10 – Shabbat Shalom (e11)

NCIS Shabbat Shalom
Michael Nouri and Cote de Pablo in NCIS Shabbat Shalom. Pic credit: CBS

Shabbat Shalom is another heartwrenching episode for NCIS.

Ziva’s dad is in town, and he and his daughter sit to have dinner with Director Vance and his wife, Jackie. That is when tragedy struck.

An assailant shot up the house during the dinner, killing Ziva’s dad and Vance’s wife. The guilty party was a Mossad deputy director, and this kicked off the rest of the season, where the team was in a relentless pursuit for revenge.

Season 11 – Honor Thy Father (e24)

NCIS: Honor Thy Father
Mark Harmon in NCIS: Honor Thy Father. Pic credit: CBS

Five seasons after introducing Gibbs’ father, Jackson, the elder Gibbs died in Season 11.

This was a bittersweet episode because actor Ralph Waite died in real life, and the series paid tribute to him with this episode, featuring his death.

Gibbs returned home to deal with his father’s last wishes as the team dealt with a case. He then found his life in danger, as someone came gunning for him at his dad’s home.

Season 12 – Check (e11)

NCIS: Check
Mark Harmon and Jeri Ryan in NCIS: Check. Pic credit: CBS

One of the show’s running jokes is about Gibbs’ numerous ex-wives, all with red hair and all-dominating personalities in their own right.

In Checks, both of his living ex-wives show up to confront him, and at least one of them is a suspect.

The case in this episode is also very noteworthy. Someone is committing murders based on past NCIS cases, and one of the murders is a bullet in the head of Gibbs and Fornell’s ex-wife, a duplicate of the murder of Caitlyn in Season 2.

Season 13 – Family First (e24)

NCIS: Family First
David McCallum, Brian Dietzen and Pauley Perrette in NCIS: Family First. Pic credit: CBS

Arguably, the most popular NCIS episode of all-time came in Season 13 with Family First.

This was the episode that marked the end of the road for Anthony DiNozzo on NCIS. The week before, he watched as the farmhouse Ziva was in exploded.

That is when everyone is told that it was confirmed that Ziva died.

Then, a shocking moment happens. Mossad Director Orli Elbaz shows up at NCIS to see DiNozzo and introduces him to a survivor of the explosion, a little girl named Tali — Ziva and Tony’s daughter.

Once the team killed Trent Kort, the man who killed Ziva, DiNozzo realizes what he has to do. He quits NCIS and takes his daughter to Paris because he knew Ziva loved Paris.

Season 14 – Keep Going (e13)

NCIS: Keep Going
Brian Dietzen in NCIS: Keep Going. Pic credit: CBS

Jimmy was front and center in Keep Going, and this is clearly the best NCIS episode ever to feature the medical examiner.

A military man is killed in a hit and run, and his son decides he was a failure and tries to commit suicide. However, before he jumps from the balcony, Jimmy goes out after him.

The two then sit together, and Jimmy tells him stories of his NCIS career and how each team member meant something to him, without knowing they bugged them and could hear everything he was saying.

Season 15 – Two Steps Back (e22)

NCIS: Two Steps Back
Pauley Perrette in NCIS: Two Steps Back. Pic credit: CBS

In Season 15, Reeves dies when he protects Abby from a mugger. This episode has the team dealing with saying goodbye to Reeves while Abby is in the hospital, struggling for her life.

It turned out that it was someone that Abby helped put away years ago who hired a gunman to kill her.

In a flashback heavy episode, the deaths that have occurred on the series play in the team’s minds.

The real gut punch came at the end when Abby decided she couldn’t go on with NCIS. She wanted to leave to help run a charity that Reeves always want to start but never got around to.

Season 16 – She (e13)

NCIS: She
Emily Wickersham in NCIS: She. Pic credit: CBS

This is the NCIS episode in Season 16 that changed everything.

A malnourished girl is found hiding on base, and Bishop realizes that she has never been outside before. All the girl would say is that her mother helped her escape.

It was a 10-year-old NCIS case that was ruled a suicide by the mother, but then Bishop and Torres realized the investigation never ended, and Ziva was always working on it.

Emily follows all of Ziva’s clues and finally breaks the case and saves the kidnapped woman after all these years. However, when she confronts the kidnapper in the hospital to read a letter Ziva had promised to read to him, she learns someone already read it to him.

Ziva is alive.

Season 17 – The Arizona (e20)

NCIS: The Arizona
Mark Harmon and Christopher Lloyd in NCIS: The Arizona. Pic credit: CBS

The Season 17 finale The Arizona dealt with the Pearl Harbor bombing and starred the iconic Christoper Lloyd.

The episode starts with an admiral returning home to find his home broken into and his daughter’s Purple Heart missing. When the NCIS agents find it, it is in the hands of Joe Smith (Lloyd).

When he gets Gibbs into the interrogation room, he explains he was on the U.S.S. Arizona and he wants his ashes returned to it when he dies.

Everyone who dies who served on it gets their ashes placed there, but they have to prove they were on it, and he faked his enlistment under his brother’s name to get in when he was 16. He wants the NCIS team to help him prove he was there so he can return to where he feels he belongs.

Shawn S. Lealos


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