Have There Been Too Many Losses in Too Few Episodes in ‘NCIS’ Season 18?

McGee Bishop Gibbs NCIS Season 18 Episode 9
Spoiler Alert
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 18, Episode 9 of NCIS, “Winter Chill.”]

NCIS has said goodbye to and lost agents and family members over the years, but it feels like Season 18 has been one gut-punch after another. Not that we’re counting, but so far there have been two deaths, a major exit, and a life-threatening injury…in the span of just a few episodes.

The news of the first death comes in Episode 7 (which brings the NCIS world into pandemic times): Medical examiner Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) lost his wife, Breena (Michelle Pierce), to COVID. Not only is he now a single parent, he couldn’t say goodbye to her due to pandemic restrictions. The team instead gathers to help Palmer say his farewell — a letter he’s written to his wife, which he reads out loud.

In the very next episode, Maria Bello‘s character, forensic psychologist Jack Sloane, exits the series. She lives (thankfully), but after going to Afghanistan to help a woman who helped her when she was held captive, the agent chooses to stay to be where she feels she’s most needed. She and Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), who’s with her overseas, finally kiss after a very slow-burn relationship.

Joe Spano NCIS Season 18 Episode 9 Fornell

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That amount of loss would be plenty. But the hits just keep coming in Episode 9. Gibbs’ old friend and ex-FBI agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) shares his plans to move to Costa Rica — setting up yet another goodbye — only for it to end with a gut-wrenching twist. Fornell’s daughter, Emily (Juliette Angelo), who has been battling addiction, dies after a relapse.

The only bright light? Forensic Scientist Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) doesn’t lose her mother, who goes to the hospital (also in Episode 9), too. Her mom passes all the tests.

This all comes after the season kicks off with an emotional blow for viewers and Gibbs: The boss shooting one of his agents, Timothy McGee (Sean Murray). Once we catch up to that point in time (in Episode 5), we learn it’s to save his life: There’s a bomb on the plane McGee is approaching. The agents are also worried that one of their own, Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), is on board, including after it explodes (until she limps over, safe).

Gibbs Shoots McGee NCIS Season 18

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Everyone lives, and McGee and Gibbs clear the air — it was a necessary shoot. But at the time, especially as Gibbs has to shoot not once but twice, and later sits in McGee’s hospital room after, it’s another utterly heartbreaking moment when all realize how easily he could have died. Bishop notes that McGee is one of Gibbs’ best friends as she worries about their boss’ reaction after the fact.

As we said, there have been deaths — and utterly heartbreaking ones — over the previous 17 seasons, starting with Special Agent Kate Todd’s (Sasha Alexander), by recurring baddie Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin) in Season 2. There have been stretches of episodes where things haven’t been easy for the agency. For example, look at what Jonas Cobb, aka the Port-to-Port Killer, played by Kerr Smith, put them through at the end of Season 8. when he killed Gibbs’ old boss Mike Franks, played by Muse Watson, and Special Agent Levin, played by Alimi Ballard.

But this feels different. These losses haven’t been done to the team. Yes, Gibbs has to shoot McGee because of a criminal’s actions, but it’s something he did. Breena died due to COVID and Emily her addiction. Jack chooses to leave. For the most part, in the past, the agents had someone they could go after to bring to justice. This season, that’s not the case.

Consider this: The season’s not over yet. Coming episodes could bring more tragedy to the team. With the way things are going, that’s pretty much what we’re expecting. And for a show this far in its run (it’s closer to its end than not), there’s only so much gloom that the characters — and fans — should have to endure.

NCIS, Tuesdays, 8/7c, CBS