‘NCIS’ Season 19 Premiere: What Happened to Gibbs After His Boat Exploded? (RECAP)

Sean Murray as McGee, Katrina Law as Knight, Wilmer Valderrama as Torres in NCIS
Spoiler Alert
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Blood in the Water

Season 19 • Episode 1

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS Season 19 premiere “Blood in the Water.”]

Just because Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) survived his boat exploding doesn’t mean he’s OK. After all, there’s still the matter of that serial killer he’s been hunting — and now seems to be hunting him, given what happened to his boat — as NCIS Season 19 begins (in a new time slot!).

But first, his (former) team — remember, he was indefinitely suspended in Season 18 — needs to find out what happened to him. And since Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) can’t work alone, following Ellie Bishop’s (Emily Wickersham) exit for an undercover op, Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) has plans to fill the gaps. But how do they feel about their potential new team member?

Read on to find out if Gibbs survived the premiere.

Just What Was Going on Between Bishop & Torres?!

When Torres stops by Bishop’s following their farewell kiss, the place has been cleared out. In fact, there are already people checking it out … including Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen)?! No, the medical examiner is just there meeting Bishop’s landlady as a favor to the former agent and is completely in the dark, about where she went and the gun that Torres has been storing in a vent in her bedroom. (Hmm, that’s certainly telling about what may have actually been going on between them.)

“Guess you guys just blew right past the toothbrush phase,” Palmer quips. All he knows is Bishop was heading to the airport to catch a flight out of the country when they spoke the night before. Torres claims he’s fine. Everyone knows that’s a lie. But how long can he keep telling himself and others that, especially since she’s disconnected her number?

Wilmer Valderrama as Torres in NCIS

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This Case Is Very Personal

McGee and Torres are called to the scene of the boat explosion once the connection is made to Gibbs. McGee notices signs of a pipe bomb, and the Rule 91 sign confirms it’s Gibbs’. While they’re onshore, divers find a body, but inside the bag is a young woman: the serial killer’s latest victim. As for Gibbs, there’s no sign of him, but “it’s not like Gibbs just absorbed back into nature, right?” Palmer says.

While McGee has no idea what rule 91 is, he does know 39: There is no such thing as coincidence. Gibbs’ boat exploding and the woman, whose body was dumped at least two weeks ago, have to be connected. But when McGee asks Torres what he has on the victim, the other agent hasn’t even looked at the reports. “I know that you and Bishop were … closure,” McGee begins, suggesting he take a step back. Torres insists he can do his job. But with everything going on — Gibbs missing, Bishop gone — is it any wonder the two get their frustrations out by yelling at each other in the middle of the bullpen?

Katrina Law as Jessica Knight in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

After that, Vance insists they get some help and suggests a probie. They have someone better in mind: Jessica Knight (Katrina Law). She joins them in checking out the only location unknown to them that Gibbs brought the bug tracker from Kasie (Diona Reasonover) to: the office space of investigative reporter Marcie Warren (Pam Dawber). She’s not there, but someone else has been searching the place.

Where’s Gibbs?

Meanwhile, Gibbs is in rough shape and sort of manages to swim to shore, but he’s been impaled in his side and collapses, with blood in the water (hence the episode title) around him. When he comes to, he’s in a barn, someone’s done an amateur job of bandaging his side, and the door is padlocked.

Just as he manages to pry open the door, a woman, Thelma (Katherine Cortez), stops him with a rifle in hand. Her husband, Virgil (Dave Florek), is a retired veterinarian and was the one to patch him up. He seems a bit more trusting than Thelma, who assumes Gibbs must be mixed up in something (possibly a local gang) considering how they found him, his boat exploding, and the fact he insisted on “no cops” before passing out.

Pam Dawber as Marcie Warren in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Thelma has a bit of a hard time believing he’s an agent, but Gibbs doesn’t care if she shoots him or not because he’s too focus on calling his friend (Marcie) to warn her she’s in danger. It’s not until Thelma confirms for herself a county sheriff who stops by is a fake cop (Gibbs knows, based on the placement of his star) that she seems to begin warming up to their guest.

That’s when Gibbs calls Marcie, just as she’s met the team at NCIS. He has her put McGee on the phone long enough to tell him to keep her safe before hanging up without sharing anything else.

Thelma and Virgil tell Gibbs about Sandy, the girl who delivers their groceries but has gone missing. Her boyfriend, Lonny, is abusive and part of the local gang. Though Virgil worries that there could still be a sliver of wood in his side that could cause internal bleeding, Gibbs sets out to the north shore (where the gang activity is and where the serial killer dumped his latest victim), with Thelma’s rifle and the couple’s motorcycle.

Pam Dawber as Marcie, Sean Murray as McGee, Wilmer Valderrama as Torres in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Is the Team Getting Back Together?

Marcie fills the team in on her and Gibbs’ investigation, and Kasie determines the latest victim was dumped near an abandoned ranger station. There are fresh tracks, so somebody’s up to something there.

Gibbs has just started checking out the ranger station when the team bursts in. But he doesn’t want their help. “Not my team,” he reminds McGee. “Suspended, remember?” Coming to find him wasn’t about the badge, but about him, his agent argues.

The station is filled with cans with meth hidden inside gasoline, as they discover. Soon after, the fake cop and Lonny show up with their gang for their stockpile. With Gibbs set up as the team’s sniper, Knight steps outside, claiming to just be looking for gas. While they’re all focused on her, the team surrounds them and Gibbs shoots out the vehicles’ tires so no one can drive off.

Sean Murray as McGee, Katrina Law as Knight, Wilmer Valderrama as Torres in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

There’s just one problem: The fake cop may be a drug trafficker, but he’s not the serial killer. He was just sniffing around the couple’s property to find out if they told any of the police in the area about his business. So the serial killer is still out there, but will Gibbs be part of the investigation? Vance says it’s up to him.

Based on rule 91 (after looking at his old notes) — “When you decide to walk away, never look back” — McGee worries that Gibbs had no plan to return “to anything, at least not until he finds his serial killer.” But the team knows he’ll get himself killed if he does that on his own.

And so McGee tracks Gibbs down as he returns the rifle to Thelma. “Rule 91 sucks,” he tells his boss. “Because it is in direct violation of rule 1: Never screw over your partner.” And while Gibbs may argue he’s not his partner, “the team is your partner, and you not being a part of it is screwing us over,” McGee explains.

“You don’t need me,” Gibbs says. McGee agrees, but “we are better together. … Boss, you know I’m right. You have to. You built us. Now we got a serial killer to catch, but in order to do that, we need to be a team. We need to be your team.”

So what does Gibbs have to say to that? “I’m proud of you. … Keep pushing, McGee. You always keep pushing.” Does that mean he’s in? “What do you got?” Gibbs asks.

This serial killer doesn’t stand a chance with the team working together, but we can’t help but wonder what Gibbs will do after this case is closed.

NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS