Tonight America’s most watched scripted television series “NCIS” will reach one of the greatest milestones a television show could possibly reach … its 200th episode. Most TV series never even get close to airing 100 episodes, let alone 200, and as TV’s most popular show “NCIS” really doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon. In honor of the series’ amazing 200 episode run, I’ve compiled a list of the show’s 10 greatest episodes from its nine seasons.
10. “Cloak” & “Dagger” – Season 6
“Cloak” and “Dagger” are two back-to-back episodes from season six of “NCIS” with “Dagger” featuring one of the most fantastic endings I’ve ever seen to a TV episode, and “NCIS” is used to fantastic endings. The ending of this episode is also one of the many reasons why Mark Harmon as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs is a grade A boss. Gibbs finds out that one of his agents is a traitor. That agent turns out to be Agent Lee (played by Liza Lapira), who at the episode’s end somewhat redeems herself by giving her life. The shootout at the ending of the episode is one of the series’ finest.
9. “Baltimore” – Season 8
I don’t think there has been another “NCIS” character that has matured as much in the series’ nine seasons as Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo. When the writers give DiNozzo a meaty storyline, and they do a few times a year, Weatherly is at the top of his game as an actor. The “Baltimore” episode from season eight is one of Weatherly’s finest performances as it’s an origins episode that shows how the brash Baltimore detective came to join Gibbs’ NCIS team.
8. “Kill Ari” Part 1 & Part 2 – Season 3
Terrorist Ari Haswari (played by Rudolf Martin) was the first big baddie on “NCIS” and to this day the most memorable, horrifying and greatest bad guy the series has seen. He was so great that he appeared over three different seasons of the show and his battles with Gibbs are epic. At the end of season two Ari killed one of Gibbs’ team members in Kate Todd (played by Sasha Alexander), so you just knew that Gibbs would stop at nothing to kill Ari, as the two-part episode title implies. In the end, Gibbs gets his revenge, but surprisingly is not the one to pull the trigger. That deed was done by Ari’s own sister and new “NCIS” cast member Cote de Pablo as Mossad agent Ziva David.
7. “Judgment Day” Part 1 & Part 2 – Season 5
“NCIS” has proven over its long and successful run that it’s not afraid to kill off main characters. In the two-part season five finale the show knocked off its second main character in its first half decade when NCIS Director Jenny Shepard, knowing she was dying of cancer, went out in a true blaze of glory taking on a group of Russian baddies. Her gunfight, which also included favorite “NCIS” guest Mike Franks (played by Muse Watson), was also one of the show’s best, which is pretty unique because you don’t actually get to see it. The second part of the episode also ended with one of the biggest shocks in “NCIS” history as Gibbs’ entire team is broken up by new NCIS Director Leon Vance (played by Rocky Carroll).
6. “Truth & Consequences” – Season 7
The entire season seven premiere episode “Truth & Consequences” is a prime example of why “NCIS” is such a great series – great excitement and on the edge of your seat type nervousness reigned throughout the entire episode. The very final image in the finale of season six was that Ziva was captured by a terrorist group and severely beaten, after returning to Mossad from NCIS. Season seven begins with Gibbs, DiNozzo and Tim McGee (played by Sean Murray) going to rescue Ziva. What ensues is one of the best cat and mouse games in “NCIS” history with another excellent performance by Weatherly and more badassery from Gibbs at the very end.
5. “Requiem” – Season 5
Every fan of “NCIS” knows the tragic story of Gibbs’ wife and daughter and it’s a storyline that pops up at least once a season. The best storyline involving this tragedy is “Requiem” from season five, in which Gibbs helps a former childhood friend of his daughter from an abusive stalker. Because she was close to his daughter he’ll do everything to protect her and this almost results in his death in one of the show’s most entertaining and heart pounding scenes in which Gibbs and the girl are submerged in a car underwater. DiNozzo must come to their safety in one of the most exciting stunt scenes you’ll see on TV. Four years later, this scene remains one of the series’ most memorable.
4. “SWAK” – Season 2
The final two episodes of season two of “NCIS” have both made the top four on this list, which must mean that the end of that season was awesome. “SWAK” is also another fantastic performance by Weatherly as DiNozzo that makes this list. Just about every “NCIS” character has had a close brush with death; some characters have had multiple brushes, at some point during the series’ run. “SWAK” was DiNozzo’s biggest brush with death as he contracted anthrax from a letter addressed to him that was sealed with a kiss (or a SWAK letter). Not only did Weatherly impress in this episode, but so did Sasha Alexander as Kate Todd.
3. “Bête Noir” – Season 1
“Bête Noir” during season one of “NCIS” was the episode that, in my opinion, really put the show on the map and showed me what this series was capable of. “Bête Noir” first introduced us to the dastardly Ari and gave what is probably still the greatest showdown in the series’ great run … the first shootout between Gibbs and Ari. The intensity of this scene, in which Ari shoots Gibbs through the shoulder and escapes was the first of numerous and highly entertaining nerve-wracking “NCIS” moments over the years.
2. “Hiatus” – Season 3
“Hiatus” was the season finale of season three, in which Gibbs has been in a coma after being involved in an explosion. It’s a very impressive performance from Harmon, especially as he’s forced to remember the deaths of his wife and daughter and has to remember horrible moments in his life, like 9/11. The season culminates with Gibbs realizing that a terrorist is going to blow up a U.S. Naval vessel, but a higher up doesn’t believe him. As the ship blows up, Gibbs quits “NCIS” and leaves for the beaches of Mexico. “Hiatus” also marked the debut of “NCIS” favorite recurring character Mike Franks as Gibbs former boss and closest friend.
1. “Twilight” – Season 2
Going into the season two finale of “NCIS” we all knew that one of the main cast members was going to be killed … but we didn’t know how and we didn’t know who. This premise led to the most nerve-wracking and intense episode of television that I believe I’ve ever seen and certainly is one of the greatest TV episodes of all time. After about 58 and a half minutes into the episode, we still didn’t know who would perish or how. Gibbs and his team of Tony DiNozzo, Kate Todd and Timothy McGee were all in a building taking enemy fire, while at the same time trying to stop a missile from blowing up a ship. McGee successfully stops the missile, but Gibbs, DiNozzo and Todd are still taking fire on top of the roof, when a shooter attempts to kill Gibbs. Todd jumps in front of Gibbs, saving his life, but was saved by her bulletproof vest. After Gibbs and DiNozzo help her to her feet a bullet from a sniper rifle, fired by the terrorist Ari Haswari, pierces through her forehead killing her instantly as a stunned Gibbs and DiNozzo look on. Almost seven full years later this is still maybe the most riveting ending to a television episode and season that I’ve ever seen.
“NCIS” can be seen locally on KTHV Conway Corp. Channel 11 on Tuesdays at 7 p.m.