Who’s in Charge? A Look at Leadership on ‘NCIS,’ ‘NCIS: LA’ & ‘NCIS: New Orleans’

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The three NCIS series may be part of the same universe, but they are very different — especially when it comes to who’s in charge in D.C., L.A., and NOLA.

You wouldn’t think so, given that Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) is the NCIS Director, but given his series regular status on the mothership, he is primarily associated with and leads Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) team at the Navy Yard in D.C. Any involvement with the teams of the spinoffs has been sporadic at best or off-screen, with his in-person appearances mostly confined to early episodes of each series.

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But everyone has to answer to someone (eventually — sorry, Gibbs, Pride, and the entire L.A. office), and so we’re taking a look at how NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, and NCIS: New Orleans each handle leadership.


Everyone answers to the agency’s director (now Vance), whose office is right upstairs in D.C.’s headquarters. While the person in that role has changed over the years — remember Tom Morrow (Alan Dale) and Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly)? — that has not.


But the team itself answers to Gibbs, and when he’s not around, they usually look to the Senior Field Agent, formerly DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and now McGee (Sean Murray). (Of course, Rule #38 — your case, your lead — sometimes comes into effect as well.) That rank usually only comes up when necessary (like when one of them wants to get out of a certain job).

But overall, NCIS is the most consistent when it comes to leadership, both in rank (director) and person (Vance and Gibbs).

NCIS: New Orleans

The crossovers with NCIS do help to make New Orleans feel a bit more connected to the main office, and that includes operating under Vance’s command, though Carroll hasn’t appeared since Season 1 Episode 5 (“It Happened Last Night”).

When the series began, Pride (Scott Bakula) led the New Orleans team, but in Season 5, he was promoted to Special Agent in Charge (SAC) and began working out of the Southeast Field Office (with occasional drop-ins back at his old haunt). It was a move that necessitated bringing in someone new to fill his old position: Hannah Khoury (Necar Zadegan).

(Skip Bolen/CBS)

It was also a good move for his character, as Bakula told TV Insider. “Pride doesn’t have to have his thumb on every decision, weigh in on every call, and ask every second of every day after the team,” he said. “He doesn’t have to do everything all the time.”

Despite the new job title for Pride and new person in charge of the NOLA team, not much has changed for NCIS: New Orleans in this regard either.

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NCIS: Los Angeles

And then there’s the L.A. team, which not only feels the most removed from the original series of the franchise, but is also the one with the most inconsistency when it comes to who’s in charge.

While Carroll has appeared in 10 episodes, his last guest spot came in Season 6’s “Praesidium” and even with storylines in which his involvement would have only benefited — the mole hunt, Hetty’s capture in Vietnam, Mosley’s family drama resulting in all their names being put on a cartel hit list — it’s felt like the Office of Special Projects has been left to its own devices.

For the most part, the team operates on its own, with Callen (Chris O’Donnell) as its leader. Hetty (Linda Hunt) is the operations manager, but between her time in Vietnam and her absence for the majority of Season 10, we haven’t seen her assume that role in quite some time.

Instead, since the team lost Assistant Director Granger (Miguel Ferrer), it’s been a revolving door of people (and titles) in charge at OSP.

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Executive Assistant Shay Mosley (Nia Long) came in, and it always felt like she was one step away from shutting down the L.A. office, even when they rescued her son from his father in Mexico.

Then we had Deputy Director Louis Ochoa (Esai Morales), who seemed to be the most on the team’s side since Hetty and (eventually) Granger. After him came Special Prosecutor John Rogers (Peter Jacobson), who first came to L.A. to investigate the team’s unsanctioned mission in Mexico and then stuck around and endeared himself to the team by the end of Season 10.

(Erik Voake/CBS; Monty Brinton/CBS; Michael Yarish/CBS)

Due to these changes, we wouldn’t be surprised if someone new pops up at the beginning of Season 11, either to (help) lead (depending on Hetty’s presence) or seek to shut down the team, yet again.

Vote in the poll below and sound off in the comments with your thoughts on leadership across the three shows.

NCIS, Season 17, Fall 2019, CBS

NCIS: Los Angeles, Season 11, Fall 2019, CBS

NCIS: New Orleans, Season 6, Fall 2019, CBS