‘NCIS’ by the Numbers as Franchise Hits Landmark 1000th Episode

NCIS is gearing up to ring in a special milestone with the April 15th episode as the franchise reaches 1,000 episodes overall. But how does it all break down? Below, we’re revealing how each of the current and former spinoffs contributed to the flagship’s upcoming installment.

The Brief: “What makes NCIS so damn special?” That question is furiously put to Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) by his estranged son, Jared (Spence D. Moore II), in the NCIS franchise’s 1,000th episode. Launched in 2003, NCIS has four spinoffs and two highly anticipated shows coming — NCIS: Origins and a Michael Weatherly–Cote de Pablo project nicknamed NCIS: Europe.

The younger Vance makes his query when the two cross paths at his mom’s gravesite. Vance’s wife was killed by terrorists in 2013, and Jared can’t comprehend why his dad is so dedicated to a job that put their family in danger.

Make that puts: Vance is soon in peril and the team under attack by an enemy from the past. “We’ve heard this baddie’s name before,” exec producer Steven D. Binder told us at a celebration on the set. “As in some of our better episodes, our people risk their lives for each other. We pay homage to the O.G. NCIS and the other series.”

Guest star alert: Assisting via satellite feed are Los Angeles agent Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) and Hawai‘i boss Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey). The cavalry also includes a longtime NCIS ally, former FBI agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano).

In a scene we observed, forensic scientist Kasie (Diona Reasonover) reviews evidence with Torres (Wilmer Valderrama). Jared, desperate to help, has slept there overnight. “Kasie connects with Jared and becomes a mentor in a way,” Reasonover says.

Valderrama hints it all gets explosive, promising “a big, big set piece; all of us are involved.” And one agent does something new: “We see McGee in a position you’ve never seen him in in 20 years,” spills Sean Murray. Says Gary Cole, who plays team leader Alden Parker, “We witness some fragility of what this job entails, the obstacles that could pop up unexpectedly.”

Jared does learn why NCIS is so damn special. It’s the same reason fans keep coming back, despite cast changes. Says Katrina Law, aka Agent Knight: “[This hour] hits on what NCIS does best, which is the family connections that hold us together.”

The Brief: The Big Easy’s brassy, buoyant spirit infused the franchise’s third title, shot memorably on location. In fact, lead Scott Bakula once told TV Guide Magazine about a great only-in-NOLA moment: “being in the middle of the Mississippi River, captaining a tugboat!” His honest boss Dwayne Pride was based on a real New Orleans lawman, retired naval investigator D’Wayne Swear, who served as a consultant.

Over seven years, Pride and the team saved their beloved city from torpedoes, the plague, a sniper, terrorists, bombs, hackers, and beaucoup shady characters. But the series’ long run also allowed producers to delve into layered personal stories, like Pride being haunted by childhood trauma involving his convict dad, Cassius (Stacy Keach). Fans experienced heartbreak, notably the shocking 2019 death of Agent Christopher Lasalle (Lucas Black), but also joy. Which is how the show ended, with Pride marrying lawyer Rita Devereaux — played by the actor’s real-life wife, Chelsea Field.

The Brief: “In Australia, everything can kill you,” executive producer Morgan O’Neill cracked to TV Guide Magazine when the Oz-set new kid on the block arrived last year. Down Under has proved plenty perilous for tough NCIS Special Agent Captain Michelle Mackey (Olivia Swann) and her savvy partner-in-crime-fighting, Australian Federal Police Sergeant JD Dempsey (Todd Lasance). After locking horns, the American and the Aussie warmed to each other. But all may be undone thanks to JD going rogue in the finale — crikey! Good news for fans left in suspense: Sydney was just renewed!

The Brief: NCIS said aloha to the franchise’s third offshoot and first female special agent in charge, hardworking divorced mom Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey), in 2021. “I feel like I’m in a movie: Platoon meets Jurassic Park,” Lachey told TV Guide Magazine at the time. Before shooting on lush Oahu began, production held a traditional Hawaiian blessing. The island culture has defined the series, with unique cases involving paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) and Pearl Harbor survivors. Tennant’s team, a blend of mainland transplants and locals like surfer Kai Holman (Alex Tarrant), has welcomed other NCIS franchise agents for joint ops. And now L.A.’s Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) is on the island!

The Brief: For a thrilling 14 seasons, the first spinoff’s Office of Special Projects hit the sunny streets of L.A. to chase down a rap sheet of baddies from Russian mobsters to psychotic serial killers — even an office mole. Under the management of no-nonsense Henrietta “Hetty” Lange (Linda Hunt), ex–Navy SEAL Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) and loner Grisha “G” Callen (Chris O’Donnell) were special agents with banter as quick as their draw. But both had endured pain: for Sam, a wife murdered by a terrorist; for G, a rocky childhood in foster care and a brutal secret program to train kids in spycraft.

Fans rooted for romance between team members Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) and Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen), whose entertaining undercover missions included posing as cult members and suburban marrieds. The cast was equally tight. O’Donnell says, “The first day on set, the original NCIS cast came in. They were like a family. I remember looking at Dani and LL thinking, ‘Are we ever going to get as close?’ Sure enough, we did.”

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