100 best NCIS episodes

Written by:
June 21, 2018

100 best NCIS episodes

In the early 2000s, the success of multiple versions of "CSI" and "Law & Order" proved that TV audiences were hungry for procedural shows that tackled a new crime every week. "JAG" on CBS couldn't quite accomplish what its competitors could, but in 2003 it launched a spin-off: "NCIS," a show about special agents in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigating crimes in the Navy and Marines. When the show first premiered, its viewership barely cracked into the top 30 in that week's most-watched TV shows. Fifteen years later, NCIS is the fifth most popular show on TV, averaging close to 17 million viewers per episode.

To honor its reign as the second-longest running drama on television (Law & Order: SVU holds the top spot), Stacker put together this list of the 100 best NCIS episodes so far. IMDb user ratings helped narrow the show's more than 350 episodes down to the top 100. Any episodes with identical ratings were ranked in order of which one had more total votes. Read on to see where your favorite episode ranks!

Click here to see the 100 best "Seinfeld" episodes of all time

#100. Rekindled

Season 9, Episode 21
Air date: April 17, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.2

When a fire broke out in a Baltimore warehouse, NCIS teamed up with an arson investigator from the Baltimore Fire Department to figure out why a stack of secret Navy documents was found next to a corpse. The case had ties to the mysterious Watcher Fleet and hinted that more trouble was to come.  

#99. Patriot Down

Season 7, Episode 23
Air date: May 18, 2010
IMDb rating: 8.2

The burned body of a former NCIS agent was found on a beach, sending Gibbs (Mark Harmon) to Mexico to investigate a colonel gone rogue. During the investigation, Gibbs was kidnapped by what he thought was one of the colonel’s henchmen, but he later discovered an even more sinister plot at play.

#98. Gone

Season 10, Episode 8
Air date: November 27, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.2

NCIS took on human trafficking in this episode about an attempted kidnapping that resulted in the death of a Naval officer. Two girls were the targets of the kidnapping, but only one was taken, and Gibbs and his team were able to stop the kidnapped girl from being sold into sexual slavery just in time.

#97. The Namesake

Season 10, Episode 5
Air date: October 30, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.2

Just three episodes before “Gone,” “The Namesake” started with the murder of a Naval petty officer who owned a fancy sports car well beyond his means. The investigation led Gibbs to a pawn shop where he found a Medal of Honor, which had belonged to a close friend of his father and the man for whom he was named and was illegally up for sale. While Gibbs discovered more about his personal history, the team traced the murder to a college student who mistakenly thought the petty officer was the man who stole his billion-dollar idea.  

#96. Lost & Found

Season 5, Episode 9
Air date: November 20, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.2

In this Season 5 episode, a group of Boy Scout-esque “Youth Rangers” visited NCIS Headquarters, and McGee (Sean Murray) discovered that one of the boys in the group was actually a missing person. The team searched for the boy’s father and discovered that he was wanted for murder.

#95. Power Down

Season 7, Episode 8
Air date: November 17, 2009
IMDb rating: 8.2

There was big trouble in D.C. when the power grid for the entire city went down. When the NCIS team discovered a dead USO worker, they had to track down the killer the old-fashioned way, without electricity. Ultimately, the deceased entertainer turned out to be an undercover NSA agent who had access to some highly coveted technology.

#94. Internal Affairs

Season 5, Episode 14
Air date: April 22, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.2

The tables were turned when NCIS was the target of an FBI investigation into the death of La Grenouille, which was a major storyline in Season 4. Gibbs led NCIS in a private investigation to uncover the real murderer and exonerate NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly), although the episode ended with all signs pointing to Shepard as the true killer.

#93. Enemies Foreign

Season 8, Episode 8
Air date: November 16, 2010
IMDb rating: 8.2

The first installment in a two-episode storyline, “Enemies Foreign” delved further into the relationship between Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) and her father, Eli David (Michael Nouri), the head of Israel’s intelligence service, Mossad. The NCIS team was charged with protecting Eli David from Palestinian terrorists while he was in town for a conference.

#92. Gut Check

Season 11, Episode 9
Air date: November 19, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.2

When a covert listening device was found in a pen carried by the secretary of the Navy, NCIS went into overdrive to track down the source. The owner of the bug demanded $10 million as a ransom to return the info he obtained through the pen, but NCIS was able to find him thanks to NSA analyst Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham), who was offered a joint duty assignment with NCIS (and a recurring role on the show).


#91. Housekeeping

Season 9, Episode 12
Air date: January 3, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.2

EJ Barrett (Sarah Jane Morris) returned to NCIS in “Housekeeping,” a story full of intrigue and double-crossing. Agent Casey Stratton (Scott Wolf) had been after Barrett, and NCIS was able to trap him after discovering that he was actually a secret black ops agent in cahoots with other governmental figures. Romantic storylines also took center stage when Ziva had to decide between the affections of Tony and Ray.

#90. Dagger

Season 6, Episode 9
Air date: November 25, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.2

The followup to “Cloak” (No. 43 on this list), “Dagger” continued the story of Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira), who had been forced to trade secrets to save her kidnapped daughter. Working with NCIS, Lee helped Gibbs to try to prevent a top secret document from being stolen. Together, they captured the man who forced Lee to become his spy, but things went awry and both Lee and the spy were killed by NCIS.

#89. Angel of Death

Season 4, Episode 24
Air date: May 22, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.2

The grand finale of Season 4 was “Angel of Death,” the biggest reveal in the La Grenouille storyline to date. After dealing all year with the fallout of the Season 3 terrorist attack, Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) finally got to meet La Grenouille in the flesh, and it was revealed that he was actually the father of DiNozzo’s girlfriend, Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson).

#88. Twenty Klicks

Season 12, Episode 1
Air date: September 23, 2014
IMDb rating: 8.2

Season 12 started with a bang–or, more accurately, a crash. Gibbs and McGee were escorting an NCIS computer scientist back to the U.S. from Russia in a helicopter when their chopper was shot down. While the NCIS team back in D.C. did everything possible to get its compatriots back safely, the Russian government was less than helpful in the investigation.

#87. Murder 2.0

Season 6, Episode 6
Air date: October 28, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.2

This Halloween episode was a little spookier than most NCIS episodes, as it featured a serial killer who liked to brag about his murders by posting them online. The team found who they thought was the culprit, but Gibbs realized it was a setup and identified the real killer, saving a female singer who was made to look like she was responsible for the crimes.

#86. Chained

Season 2, Episode 10
Air date: December 14, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.2

In pursuit of stolen Iraqi antiquities, DiNozzo went undercover as an escaped prisoner. But things were not as they appeared in terms of the criminal he was supposed to be shadowing. When DiNozzo went missing, the rest of the team had to find him before it was too late.

#85. The Meat Puzzle

Season 2, Episode 13
Air date: February 8, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.2

A “meat puzzle” is a crass way of explaining the process of identifying human remains, but Chief Medical Examiner Ducky (David McCallum) was tasked with just that when he had to discover the identities of several bodies found over several months. After a break in the case, Ducky started to figure out who the “meat” in question belonged to, and he found out that the dead bodies were all people who testified in a trial that he himself testified at. Fearful that he might be the next target, Gibbs assigned a protection detail to Ducky, but he was kidnapped anyway.

#84. One Shot, One Kill

Season 1, Episode 13
Air date: February 10, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.2

In this episode, a sniper was taking out Marine recruiters with a single bullet each. Gibbs and his team had to join forces with the FBI to track down the killer, and once they discovered his calling card (a white feather), the hunt was on. Gibbs went undercover as a Marine recruiter to catch the sniper and, thanks to help from the FBI, he gets his man.

#83. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Season 11, Episode 1
Air date: September 24, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.2

The Season 11 premiere got everyone’s attention with a bomb that killed the secretary of the Navy. The aftermath of the Season 10 finale had the team broken apart, with Ziva in Israel and the rest of the team in the U.S. While the team was being investigated for its role in the events of Season 10’s finale, NCIS realized that someone was trying to assassinate each member of the team all one by one, leading DiNozzo to travel to Israel to try to keep Ziva safe.

#82. Life Before His Eyes

Season 9, Episode 14
Air date: February 7, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.2

It’s a rare feat for any show to make it to 200 episodes, but NCIS celebrated the milestone by breaking out of its standard format and telling a story in a very different way. In the NCIS version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” team leader Gibbs was shot at a diner, causing his whole life to flash before his eyes (hence the title). He got to see how his life would have played out if he had made different choices, and he was quite surprised with the results.

#81. High Tide

Season 15, Episode 11
Air date: January 2, 2018
IMDb rating: 8.3

The very first episode of 2018 had Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) and Bishop working undercover as a mercenary criminal duo trying to catch drugrunners out of Norfolk, Virginia. There was a boat explosion, Bishop pretended to be a prostitute and Torres took on the assumed identity of a man named Luis. It was all very sordid and ended with the suggestion that Bishop and Torres could be spending some personal time together in the very near future.

#80. Handle with Care

Season 15, Episode 16
Air date: March 6, 2018
IMDb rating: 8.3

Drew Carey guest starred as a retired Marine accused of poisoning active-duty Marines when cyanide was found in one of the care packages he sent to soldiers. The NCIS team worked diligently to clear his name. Carey was actually in the Marine Corp Reserves from 1980-1986.

#79. Burden of Proof

Season 15, Episode 7
Air date: November 7, 2017
IMDb rating: 8.3

Gibbs decided to launch his own investigation when a felon claimed the NCIS framed him for murder. In the meantime, the team got a new member when former FBI agent Fornell (Joe Spano) joined the squad.

#78. Two Steps Back

Season 15, Episode 22
Air date: May 8, 2018
IMDb rating: 8.3

“Two Steps Back” is the continuation of “One Step Forward” and the final appearance of Abby Sciuto, a main cast member since the very beginning. The episode revolved around the aftermath of an attempted robbery which left Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry) dead and landed Abby in the hospital. The mugger turned out to be a hitman looking to settle an old score, and Abby ultimately left NCIS to bring Reeves’ body back to England and set up a non-profit in his honor.

#77. Something Blue

Season 14, Episode 23
Air date: May 9, 2017
IMDb rating: 8.3

The penultimate episode of Season 14 featured the lead up to the wedding of McGee and Delilah (Margo Harshman), which proved to be a little more than they could handle and landed Delilah in the hospital. Separately, the team headed out into open water to figure out why a seemingly healthy petty officer was found dead on his ship.

#76. M.I.A.

Season 14, Episode 18
Air date: March 14, 2017
IMDb rating: 8.3

The NCIS team agreed to reopen a cold case to appease a dying sailor in this Season 14 episode. The man claimed a death ruled as an accident was actually a homicide, and Gibbs and his team set out to investigate the truth.

#75. Charade

Season 13, Episode 20
Air date: April 5, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.3

Identity theft was the crime of the week in “Charade,” and DiNozzo dealt with the issue firsthand after his identity was stolen. The thieves used DiNozzo’s identity to blackmail U.S. senators, which did not sit well with NCIS.

#74. After Hours

Season 13, Episode 17
Air date: March 1, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.3

A simple case of self defense seemed like an easy case to close, but things started to unravel after work when McGee and the rest of the crew started to realize there were too many holes in the story. As the details started to come out, it became clear that the alleged victim was actually the murderer.

#73. Sister City, Part I

Season 13, Episode 12
Air date: January 5, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.3

“Sister City, Part I” was an NCIS crossover episode of epic proportions. Involving both the casts of “NCIS” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” the major case involved  five people found poisoned to death on a private plane. To add a wrinkle into the mix, Abby’s brother Luca was the caterer for the flight and could be behind the poisoning. The continuation episode, “Sister City, Part II,” was an “NCIS: New Orleans” episode that aired the same night.

#72. Incognito

Season 13, Episode 3
Air date: October 6, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.3

One thing is for certain: the NCIS folks love to go undercover to catch criminals. In this episode, a Marine contacted Gibbs about a case and then wound up dead only hours later. To catch the crook, McGee and Bishop had to go incognito as a married military couple.

#71. Blood Brothers

Season 13, Episode 10
Air date: November 24, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.3

The 2015 Thanksgiving episode really hit home the importance of family. The main plotline found the secretary of defense calling NCIS to track down the only living sibling of a sailor with leukemia for a bone marrow transplant. Meanwhile, Bishop’s heart was broken when she realized her boyfriend was cheating on her, and she headed home to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving to spend time with her family.

#70. Lockdown

Season 13, Episode 5
Air date: October 20, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.3

Claustrophobia took effect as Abby Sciuto went to a pharmaceutical lab to understand why a strange compound was found in the blood of a dead Naval captain. Once there, she got trapped and held hostage in the lab that was taken over by armed men. Abby went full Die Hard and tried to save the day on her own, but ultimately had to rely on the NCIS team to rescue her.

#69. Cabin Fever

Season 12, Episode 15
Air date: February 17, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.3

The villain of Season 12 was Sergei Mishnev (Alex Veadov), a terrorist who murdered Gibbs’ ex-wife and committed various other atrocities. In “Cabin Fever,” FBI agent Fornell was grieving heavily over the death of his wife (at Mishnev’s hands), and Gibbs left his investigation to help Fornell. The team discovered that Mishnev was related to another terrorist seen on the show, Ari Haswari, and Fornell got the ultimate revenge on Mishnev.

#68. Cadence

Season 12, Episode 14
Air date: February 10, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.3

This episode drew on DiNozzo’s earlier life as the team headed to his former military school to investigate the murder of a Marine. On a softer note, Bishop invited Gibbs, DiNozzo and McGee out to dinner with her boyfriend.

#67. Playing with Fire

Season 9, Episode 22
Air date: May 1, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.3

The explosion of “Rekindled” continued into “Playing with Fire,” in which Gibbs and crew were still investigating what happened aboard the USS Brewer. The team figured out that the fire was tied to an earlier arson attack, and they started to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

#66. Canary

Season 10, Episode 14
Air date: February 5, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.3

Nearly 22 million people tuned in to the see the NCIS team capture the second-biggest cyber criminal in the world. Once captured, the team figured out that he was actually part of a much bigger plot. There was also an ebola subplot in the episode when DiNozzo and Ziva happened upon a victim of the disease.

#65. Berlin

Season 10, Episode 21
Air date: April 23, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.3

The connection between the Mossad and NCIS continued with this episode set in Berlin. Ziva was still mourning the death of her father while she and DiNozzo tracked down some missing diamonds and a criminal on the run before winding up in a terrible car accident.

#64. Detour

Season 10, Episode 16
Air date: February 26, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.3

Directed by Mario Van Peebles, “Detour” opened with the mysterious death of a Navy lieutenant and transformed when Ducky and Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) were kidnapped during the investigation. More twists emerged as the dead lieutenant was outed as a Cuban spy and the kidnapped team members managed to escape and then capture their captors.

#63. Parental Guidance Suggested

Season 12, Episode 6
Air date: October 28, 2014
IMDb rating: 8.3

The wife of a Navy SEAL was found dead, and the plot thickened when the team realized she was a forensic scientist hunting for answers on a mysterious case involving a convicted serial killer. This also marked the first appearance of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms Agent Zoe Keates (Marisol Nichols).

#62. Enemies Domestic

Season 8, Episode 9
Air date: November 23, 2010
IMDb rating: 8.3

The followup to “Enemies Foreign” (No. 93), this episode began with the aftermath of a terrorist attack that injured NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll). A major revelation came when it was discovered that Vance has known Eli David (Ziva’s father) for years. More connections were revealed, and the action-packed episode ended in another thwarted attempt on Vance’s life by way of a former colleague.

#61. Semper Fidelis

Season 6, Episode 24
Air date: May 12, 2009
IMDb rating: 8.3

NCIS teamed up with ICE and the FBI when an ICE agent wound up dead at the home of the secretary of the Navy during a poker game. Later in the episode, DiNozzo came face to face with Mossad Agent Michael Rivkin, and DiNozzo’s attempt to arrest Rivkin turned into a brawl that got out of hand.

#60. Twisted Sister

Season 4, Episode 9
Air date: November 21, 2006
IMDb rating: 8.3

What do you do when it looks like your sister killed someone? That’s the plot of “Twisted Sister,” in which McGee’s younger sister showed up and thought that she might have murdered a member of the Navy, although she didn’t remember anything. McGee tried to figure out what happened while the rest of NCIS looked into the death of another sailor that might have been connected to McGee’s sister.

#59. Spider and the Fly

Season 8, Episode 1
Air date: September 21, 2010
IMDb rating: 8.3

Season 8 opened with some major Mexican cartel drama as Gibbs’ father got into a confrontation with the head of the cartel and she, in turn, went after everyone in Gibbs’ NCIS crew. As the cartel expanded their influence in the U.S., the NCIS team had to devise a plan to ensnare the leader using her own brother.

#58. Bloodbath

Season 3, Episode 21
Air date: April 25, 2006
IMDb rating: 8.3

The bloodbath in this episode’s title refers to a hotel room covered in blood and body parts that was discovered by a couple near a Naval base. When the NCIS team investigated, they learned that the crime scene wasn’t as straightforward as it seemed and discovered that somebody was trying to set up Abby because she was about to testify in an embezzlement trial.

#57. Grace Period

Season 4, Episode 19
Air date: April 3, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.3

This marked the last episode for Paula Cassidy (Jessica Steen), an NCIS criminal profiler who previously interrogated detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The story followed Cassidy’s team as they investigated a tip that led to the death of two team members. Blaming herself, Cassidy ended up sacrificing her life to stop a suicide bomber that would have killed more NCIS agents and several Muslim clerics.

#56. Bait

Season 3, Episode 18
Air date: March 14, 2006
IMDb rating: 8.3

School violence is the theme of “Bait,” in which the son of a Marine came to school with a bomb strapped to his chest. Gibbs stepped in as the hostage negotiator and, after a long standoff, was able to diffuse the situation.

#55. Honor Code

Season 3, Episode 7
Air date: November 1, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.3

When a Naval lieutenant commander was kidnapped for a set of encryption keys, Gibbs stepped in to look after the kidnapped man’s son. It started to look like the officer was in on the job, but Gibbs thought otherwise, and the whole NCIS team ended up watching the boy while they solved the case.

#54. Chimera

Season 5, Episode 6
Air date: October 30, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.3

When a dead body was found on a Naval research ship, the NCIS crew was baffled as to why the entire ship was abandoned. After some deep digging, they discovered that the ship was actually transporting a dangerous Russian warhead, and they had to thwart a Russian plot to steal it back.

#53. Last Man Standing

Season 6, Episode 1
Air date: September 23, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.3

The premiere of NCIS’s sixth season picked up four months after the dramatic ending of Season 5, which left former NCIS Director Jenny Shepard dead and the whole NCIS team disbanded. The entire episode played like a spy novel with agents going undercover, a missing (and later dead) informant, and moles being discovered among the ranks of NCIS. In the end, Gibbs got his own team back, and justice was served.

#52. A Man Walks Into a Bar...

Season 8, Episode 14
Air date: February 8, 2011
IMDb rating: 8.3

A Naval commander was found dead in his stateroom, and the NCIS team investigated while dealing with a psychologist who insisted on examining everyone involved. Ultimately, it was revealed that the murder was actually a suicide, and the crew members covered up the suicide out of respect for the commander, who decided he couldn’t bear life outside of the Navy after being confronted with forced retirement.

#51. Reveille

Season 1, Episode 23
Air date: May 25, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.3

The first season of NCIS ended on a high note as Gibbs obsessed over the terrorist from earlier in the season who took a shot at him, but whom Gibbs managed to escape (NCIS fans later know him as Ari Haswari). When Haswari came back into the picture, the situation escalated entirely, and Special Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) was kidnapped.

#50. Nature of the Beast

Season 9, Episode 1
Air date: September 20, 2011
IMDb rating: 8.3

The Season 9 premiere was packed full of intrigue as DiNozzo suffered from serious amnesia after coming under attack during a mission for the secretary of the Navy. DiNozzo had to remember who shot him to stop a covert mission to sell Naval intelligence to the highest bidder. This was the first episode that revealed the existence of the “Watchers,” a classified fleet of Naval vessels.

#49. Yankee White

Season 1, Episode 1
Air date: September 23, 2003
IMDb rating: 8.3

The very first episode of “NCIS” (called “Navy NCIS” at the time) introduced the world to Gibbs, Abby, Tony and Duck with a story about a mysterious death on Air Force One with the nuclear football at stake and a possible assassination attempt on the president of the United States. As a template for all future episodes, this was the first of many mysterious deaths that turned into way bigger problems than they first appeared to be.

#48. Date with Destiny

Season 15, Episode 24
Air date: May 22, 2018
IMDb rating: 8.4

The latest season finale found the NCIS Major Case Response Team (MCRT) investigating a bomb threat on a Naval destroyer while new team member Jacqueline Sloane (Maria Bello) was certain that a British humanitarian worker was actually one of the men who held her in captivity in Afghanistan. She was proven to be correct, and the episode ended on a major cliffhanger with the terrorist kidnapping NCIS Director Vance and taking him out of the country.

#47. React

Season 13, Episode 15
Air date: February 16, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.4

In yet another NCIS kidnapping episode, the secretary of the Navy’s daughter was taken, and the NCIS squad had to partner with the FBI to get her back. One of McGee’s childhood friends, also an NCIS agent, joined the case and lent some specialized tactics to the mission.

#46. Reasonable Doubts

Season 13, Episode 19
Air date: March 22, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.4

A journalist in the Navy’s Department of Public Affairs was killed, and both his wife and mistress accused each other of doing the deed. Separately, a homeless woman claimed to be DiNozzo’s half sister. A lot of fact finding occurred in pursuit of the truth throughout this episode.

#45. 16 Years

Season 13, Episode 7
Air date: November 3, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.4

The “16 Years” of the title refers to the amount of time that had passed between the death of a Naval officer and when his son was convicted of murder. The NCIS team found new evidence that suggested the son may not have been the murderer after all. Ducky also revealed that he’s a part of a secret group that tracks cold cases, and the 16-year-old murder case is one of them.

#44. Grounded

Season 12, Episode 9
Air date: November 25, 2014
IMDb rating: 8.4

Season 12’s Thanksgiving episode had a little “Die Hard II” in it thanks to a storyline that centered on being stuck at Dulles Airport while a terrorist threat loomed. After discovering a dead air marshall, DiNozzo and Bishop had to get to the bottom of a terrorist plot.

#43. Cloak

Season 6, Episode 8
Air date: November 18, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.4

The precursor to “Dagger” (No. 90), “Cloak” was basically a to-catch-a-spy story. Tony and Ziva had to break into a secret facility as a test, and Abby was outed as a spy. In truth, it was all a setup and the real spy, NCIS Agent Michelle Lee, was finally caught.

#42. Pyramid

Season 8, Episode 24
Air date: May 17, 2011
IMDb rating: 8.4

Season 8 featured a season-long plot about the “Port-to-Port Killer” who operated on both sides of the Atlantic. Pyramid,” the season finale, found the killer luring Ziva into a trap and then turning his attention to high-ranking Navy personnel (including the secretary of the Navy) who he deemed responsible for turning him into a killer. The Major Case Response Team tracked down the killer–a former Navy officer–and dispatched him with bullets, leading the secretary of the Navy to resign and be replaced by Clayton Jarvis (Matt Craven), who immediately assigned DiNozzo a classified mission.

#41. Baltimore

Season 8, Episode 22
Air date: May 3, 2011
IMDb rating: 8.4

NCIS turned into “Homicide: Life on the Street” as DiNozzo went back to Baltimore, where he spent years as a cop before joining NCIS, because his old partner died. While the Port-to-Port Killer was suspected, it turned out that there was a copycat killer on the loose.

#40. Rule Fifty-One

Season 7, Episode 24
Air date: May 25, 2010
IMDb rating: 8.4

The last episode of Season 7 and the continuation of the Reynoso cartel storyline, this blockbuster finale had team leader Gibbs kidnapped and brought to Mexico as penance for killing Paloma Reynoso’s father. The episode ended with Paloma meeting Gibbs’s father Jackson, and fans spent a whole summer wondering what she’d do to him.

#39. Damned If You Do

Season 10, Episode 24
Air date: May 14, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.4

Another season finale: this time it was Gibbs who faced major jeopardy in the aftermath of his arrest for obstruction of justice. The Department of Defense was gunning for NCIS as the MCRT tried to figure out how a Navy SEAL died. The episode ended with Gibbs going rogue months later and catching a crooked FBI agent in his crosshairs.

#38. Hiatus

Season 3, Episode 23
Air date: May 9, 2006
IMDb rating: 8.4

This was the first of two consecutive Hiatus episodes and the story, written by show creator Donald Bellisario, made up the Season 3 finale. Gibbs tried to get in contact with an undercover agent, and they both wound up on a Turkish boat that exploded. Gibbs survived but remained in a coma for the entire episode and flashed back to painful moments in his life. Eventually he woke up, but he didn’t remember his longtime colleague, Ducky.

#37. Swan Song

Season 8, Episode 23
Air date: May 10, 2011
IMDb rating: 8.4

Just before Season 8 concluded with “Pyramid” (No. 42), this episode gave viewers a more in-depth look at the Port-to-Port Killer, whose identity and motivation was revealed by Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher). Gibbs’ former mentor Mike Franks (Muse Watson) tried to take down the Port-to-Port killer but ended up losing his life in the process.

#36. See No Evil

Season 2, Episode 1
Air date: September 28, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.4

The second season of NCIS opened with “See No Evil,” a kidnapping story with a cyber-ransom twist. The wife and blind daughter of a Navy captain were taken, and a $2 million ransom was demanded through his computer. Gibbs and his team tracked down the hacker, and McGee was rewarded for his work by getting promoted to join the team full time.

#35. Extreme Prejudice

Season 10, Episode 1
Air date: September 25, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.4

More than 20 million people tuned in to see the tenth season premiere and, as a reward, they got a tale of revenge. Continuing the Navy Yard bombing storyline of Season 9, NCIS and the FBI were on the hunt for Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff). Dearing managed to kill four FBI agents as they looked for him, and Gibbs finally took him out after a violent confrontation.

#34. Devil's Trifecta

Season 10, Episode 9
Air date: December 11, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.5

The interpersonal drama ran thick in “Devil’s Trifecta” as FBI Agent Fornell and Gibbs had to work with their mutual ex-wife, Diane Sterling (Melinda McGraw), an IRS agent on the heels of a big identity theft scam. With fake IDs in fish shipments, corpses in freezers and fake marriage proposals, this was one of the wilder NCIS episodes.

#33. So It Goes

Season 12, Episode 3
Air date: October 7, 2014
IMDb rating: 8.5

This episode gave Ducky the spotlight as he returned to England to investigate the death of a childhood friend who somehow had a list of Navy sailors with him when he died. Flashbacks figured heavily into “So It Goes,” as Ducky recounted how he got where he was in life.

#32. Frame Up

Season 3, Episode 9
Air date: November 22, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.5

DiNozzo was the key suspect when a pair of legs were found on a Marine Corps base. While forensics evidence confirmed that he was the murderer (he was framed, hence the episode’s title), Abby worked overtime and proved Tony’s innocence.

#31. Aliyah

Season 6, Episode 25
Air date: May 19, 2009
IMDb rating: 8.5

“Aliyah” refers to the Jewish act of returning to Israel, and in the Season 6 finale, that journey was made by Ziva, who got caught between her roots in Mossad and allegiance to the NCIS team that accompanied her to Israel. After some soul-searching, Ziva stayed in Israel and re-joined Mossad, who sent her to deal with Somali terrorists who immediately captured her.

#30. Hiatus

Season 3, Episode 24
Air date: May 16, 2006
IMDb rating: 8.5

The Season 3 finale is the second “Hiatus” episode and started with Gibbs just waking up from his coma. His memory was gone from 1991 onward, and the team tried to jog his memory because he was the only one with details of an impending terrorist attack. As the Navy closed in on PinPin Pula (Burt Bulos), the terrorist who tried to kill Gibbs, Pula detonated a bomb, killing Navy SEALs and more, which led Gibbs to turn in his badge and retire to Mexico with his mentor.

#29. Dead Man Walking

Season 4, Episode 16
Air date: February 20, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.5

When a Navy lieutenant showed up with radiation poisoning, the NCIS crew had to figure out who poisoned him. The twist was that the man was an inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and only two people knew what his next secret mission was supposed to be. The team discovered it was nearly impossible to find out who wanted to stop him without knowing where he was heading.

#28. Dead Letter

Season 13, Episode 23
Air date: May 10, 2016
IMDb rating: 8.6

Season 13 ended with a four-episode arc involving British MI6 forces, Mossad and criminals posing as good guys. “Dead Letter” was the penultimate episode of the season and the storyline. It began with Fornell recovering from an ambush attack while NCIS tried to protect the targets of British spy Jacob Scott’s hit list. When it was revealed that Scott was being framed, NCIS discovered that one of their own, Trent Kort, was the real criminal.

#27. Neverland

Season 12, Episode 24
Air date: May 12, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.6

The last episode of Season 12 gave NCIS fans a major cliffhanger to ponder over the summer of 2015: would Gibbs survive being shot in the chest? The events that led up to the shooting involved a worldwide terrorist organization known as “The Calling,” which recruited teenagers to join its movement via the internet.

#26. Stop the Bleeding

Season 13, Episode 1
Air date: September 22, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.6

“Stop the Bleeding” picked up where “Neverland” left off: with Gibbs fighting for survival after being shot. DiNozzo teamed up with a CIA agent, and they traveled across the globe to shut down The Calling. By the end of the episode, Gibbs was back on his feet and ready to fight more crime.

#25. Seek

Season 10, Episode 18
Air date: March 19, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.6

One of the few dog-centric stories in NCIS canon, “Seek” is about a U.S. military dog handler who was assassinated while on the job. His wife didn’t believe the story that he was killed by the Taliban, so NCIS investigated and discovered that he died at the hands of a government contractor. The soldier’s dog, Dex, was integral in solving the case and ended up wounded in the line of duty, meaning he could retire and live with the soldier’s widow full time.

#24. Shiva

Season 10, Episode 12
Air date: January 15, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.6

In this episode, there were two major deaths that required shiva, the Jewish act of mourning the dead. Both Eli David, Ziva’s father, and Jackie Vance, wife of NCIS Director Leon Vance, died at the hands of a Swedish mercenary. The Major Case Response Team spent the episode tracking down the responsible parties and then were finally able to bury the dead.

#23. Past, Present, and Future

Season 11, Episode 2
Air date: October 1, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.6

In this episode, Ziva was still mourning the death of her father in Israel, and though DiNozzo flew out to try to convince her to come home, she had already decided to leave her old life behind and stay in Israel. Meanwhile, Gibbs and his team pursued the terrorist that killed the secretary of the Navy, found a business who was partially responsible and exonerated themselves in the process. One interesting element of this episode was a flashback to the Season 10 finale and the revelation of what came right after, which had previously been a mystery.

#22. Under Covers

Season 3, Episode 8
Air date: November 8, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.6

“Under Covers” played out like a Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie, as two married assassins were found dead before they could carry out an assassination at the U.S. Marine Corps Ball. Gibbs sent Ziva and Tony undercover to pretend to be the married couple in order to find out who the target was and who hired them, but new information came to light that threw the whole operation into jeopardy.

#21. Judgment Day

Season 5, Episode 18
Air date: May 20, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.6

This season finale came during the abbreviated fifth season, which only had 19 episodes due to the Writers’ Guild strike. The first of a two-parter (in which both episodes aired the same night), “Judgment Day” was the last storyline featuring NCIS Director Jenny Shepard, who feared for her life after seeing a man from her past at the funeral of an NCIS Special Agent. After calling in former agent Mike Franks to help investigate, Franks and Shepard were on the receiving end of an attack by four hitmen, and Shepard died of her injuries.

#20. Bête Noire

Season 1, Episode 16
Air date: March 2, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.6

“Bête Noire” translates loosely to “pet peeve,” and the use of “noire” (“black” in French) here was fitting because this episode’s most shocking revelation was that terrorist Ari Haswari had sneaked into NCIS disguised as a corpse in a black body bag. Haswari took NCIS team members captive, and Gibbs came to the rescue before being challenged directly by Haswari.

#19. Saviors

Season 13, Episode 8
Air date: November 10, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.7

The NCIS team headed to Africa when South Sudanese terrorists attacked and kidnapped a group of volunteer doctors. DiNozzo reunited with his ex, Jeanne Benoit, in South Sudan, while Gibbs started experiencing strange medical symptoms back home.

#18. Honor Thy Father

Season 11, Episode 24
Air date: May 13, 2014
IMDb rating: 8.7

The final episode of Season 11 found the NCIS crew tracking down escapees from the Navy’s floating version of Guantanamo Bay. Gibbs had to separate from the group when he found out that his father passed away after having a stroke.

#17. Kill Ari (Part II)

Season 3, Episode 2
Air date: September 27, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.7

This episode marked the conclusion of the “Kill Ari” storyline (the first part is next at No. 16), and Gibbs was increasingly determined to exact revenge on terrorist Ari Haswari after he murdered NCIS team member Kate Todd. Haswari ambushed Gibbs at his own house, but before he could kill the team leader, a Mossad handler–the newly introduced Ziva David–put a bullet in Haswari’s head, saving Gibbs and forging a relationship that would grow much stronger over the course of the series.

#16. Kill Ari (Part I)

Season 3, Episode 1
Air date: September 20, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.7

Season 3 opened with the aftermath of Season 2’s “Twilight” cliffhanger (see No. 10) that left Kate dead. Gibbs wanted to track down Haswari for vengeance. Lots of casting changes occurred in this episode as NCIS Director Tom Morrow (Alan Dale) announced that he’d be replaced by Jenny Shepard, and Mossad (and future NCIS) agent Ziva David made her first appearance on the show, defending Haswari as an innocent man.

#15. The Lost Boys

Season 12, Episode 23
Air date: May 5, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.8

“The Lost Boys” was the precursor to “Neverland” in the (loosely) Peter Pan-themed two-part finale for Season 12. The title refers to the children and teenagers recruited by “The Calling,” an international terrorist group that did its recruiting online. As the NCIS MCRT tried to track down the terrorists, Special Agent Ned Dorneget (Matt L. Jones) was killed when a bomb went off at a hotel in Egypt.

#14. Check

Season 12, Episode 11
Air date: January 6, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.8

In “Check,” a copycat was on the loose recreating old NCIS crime scenes. Gibbs went through some serious personal drama when both of his ex-wives, Diane and Rebecca (Jeri Ryan), showed up to confront him.

#13. Shabbat Shalom

Season 10, Episode 11
Air date: January 8, 2013
IMDb rating: 8.8

NCIS lost two characters in “Shabbat Shalom,” the first episode in a long story arc in which Ziva said goodbye to her father. Leon Vance lost his wife, Jackie (Paula Newsome), when an unknown assailant shot up a dinner at the end of the episode. Ultimately, Ziva and the NCIS team learned that a Mossad deputy director was behind the attack, and the rest of the season focuses on their pursuit of the man.

#12. Till Death Do Us Part

Season 9, Episode 24
Air date: May 15, 2012
IMDb rating: 8.8

The end of Season 9 is explosive–literally. In pursuit of eccentric businessman-turned-terrorist Harper Dearing, NCIS Director Vance was kidnapped and hidden in a tomb, a car bomb detonated and trapped the NCIS team in the Navy Yard and Jimmy Palmer didn’t know if he should go through with his wedding. The episode ended with almost everyone trapped in their offices and Ducky having a heart attack on a beach.

#11. Requiem

Season 5, Episode 7
Air date: November 6, 2007
IMDb rating: 8.8

This episode played with time more than most NCIS stories, as the beginning of the show featured a shootout on a dock and then flashed back to 24 hours earlier. A former friend of Gibbs’ late daughter thought she was being stalked by her Marine ex-boyfriend and went to Gibbs for help. After the girl disappeared, NCIS discovered that the Marine was part of a plot to embezzle aid money, and Gibbs tried to negotiate the girl’s release.

#10. Twilight

Season 2, Episode 23
Air date: May 24, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.8

The Ari Haswari storyline hit its lowest moment during the Season 2 finale as Gibbs was personally targeted by Haswari and placed under protective watch. Haswari was determined to be the leader of the terrorist cell the team had been hunting, and a shootout ensued while the terrorists tried to launch a drone. Kate Todd was shot through the head, marking her last live appearance on the show (she appears in flashbacks later in the series).

#9. Spinning Wheel

Season 13, Episode 11
Air date: December 15, 2015
IMDb rating: 8.9

In this more personal episode, Ducky was forced to relive the pain of losing his half brother as a child when a man showed up claiming to have information that the boy never died. With the holidays coming up, the NCIS team sprang into action to get more information while Bishop and her beau decided the fate of their relationship.

#8. Heartland

Season 6, Episode 4
Air date: October 14, 2008
IMDb rating: 8.9

“Heartland” had the NCIS team traveling to Gibbs’ hometown when a group of Marines was attacked outside a bar. In Stillwater, Pennsylvania, the audience met Gibbs’ father Jackson for the first time, and he tried to patch things up with his estranged son. As the MCRT got closer to the truth of the bar attack, Gibbs’ car was blown up along with all the evidence inside, but DNA from the scene pointed them to the real culprit.

#7. SWAK

Season 2, Episode 22
Air date: May 10, 2005
IMDb rating: 8.9

Anthrax panic came to NCIS when DiNozzo opened a letter containing a white powder. The entire office was put into quarantine as McGee and Gibbs left to track down the source of the letter.

#6. Call of Silence

Season 2, Episode 7
Air date: November 23, 2004
IMDb rating: 8.9

Guest star Charles Durning played a retired Navy corporal who confessed to a murder he committed during WWII at Iwo Jima. As the NCIS team formed a closer bond with the man, they tried to recreate the crime to determine his innocence.

#5. Judgement Day: Part 2

Season 5, Episode 19
Air date: May 20, 2008
IMDb rating: 9.0

“Judgement Day: Part 1” ended with the death of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard, and the second part of the finale that aired the same night dealt with the aftermath. The NCIS squad tried to track down the killer, who they discovered was a hitwoman who Shepard almost assassinated nine years earlier, and trapped her in a setup. By the end of the episode, newly named NCIS Director Vance disbanded Gibb’s team and sent the members to other posts around the globe.

#4. Scope

Season 13, Episode 18
Air date: March 15, 2016
IMDb rating: 9.0

An American couple was attacked in Iraq with a sniper rifle connected to a wounded Special Ops soldier. Gibbs tried to connect with the soldier and figure out how the attack on the couple was connected to the ambush that left the sniper wounded in the first place.

#3. Truth or Consequences

Season 7, Episode 1
Air date: September 22, 2009
IMDb rating: 9.1

The premiere of Season 7 picked up where Season 6 left off, with Ziva being tortured in a Somali prison camp. “Truth or Consequences” told the four-month story of her rescue, with DiNozzo and McGee ultimately winding up tortured in the same Somali camp where Ziva was held. Gibbs saved the day when he shot the captor, and the whole team returned back to America, safe and sound.

#2. Keep Going

Season 14, Episode 13
Air date: January 24, 2017
IMDb rating: 9.2

While most NCIS episodes deal with kidnapping, terrorists or murder, this mid-Season 14 gem dealt with a crime of a more personal nature: suicide. While investigating a hit and run, Jimmy Palmer saw a man on a ledge about to jump and joined the man to keep him safe and encourage him to keep living.


#1. Family First

Season 13, Episode 24
Air date: May 17, 2016
IMDb rating: 9.3

The most popular episode in NCIS history, the Season 13 finale also featured the finale of the Tony DiNozzo character. NCIS teamed up with MI6 and the FBI to track down the escaped British spy who was trying to take out NCIS agents. This episode was the last of a four-episode arc that began with “Return to Sender.” 

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