If you’re a long-time fan, you’re probably aware that “NCIS” (which stands for “Naval Criminal Investigative Service”) is heading into its 19th season this fall. The long-running and highly-rated action drama follows a team of investigators led by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) as they investigate crimes that involve the Navy and Marine Corps. 

Looking forward to the season 19 premiere? You’ve come to the right place! BuddyTV is here to fill you in or refresh your memory about what happened in season 18 and what to expect in season 19, as well as where and when to watch. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know About “NCIS”

Wondering who left the show and who the newcomers will be? Want some hints about where the storyline might go after last season’s cliffhanger ending? Keep reading! 

What Happened Last Season?

“NCIS” kicked off its 18th season with an episode titled, “Sturgeon Season.” A total of 16 episodes in season 18 aired on CBS between November 2020 and May 2021, which is the shortest number of episodes in a season since the show’s debut. Here, we provide a summary of what took place so you can get filled in if you missed it or refresh your memory before season 19 airs this fall. 

Season Overview

Season 18 began with Leroy Jethro Gibbs secretly helping out Agent Tobias Fornell in his search for the head of a drug ring that supplied drugs to Fornell’s daughter, resulting in her overdosing. The first episode gets its title “Sturgeon Season” because Gibbs claims to be sturgeon fishing to explain his time away from the rest of his team. 

Subsequent episodes follow that plot arc, with Fornell going undercover at a fast-food restaurant in episode three and eventually going missing, and Gibbs finally bringing the rest of the team in on the case for a climax in episode five. 

The season opener also followed the case of a missing body in the autopsy room. A dead body in the NCIS headquarters basement in episode two shed some light on Gibbs’s past and what brought him to the agency. Additional episodes found NCIS investigating deaths connected to treasure hunting, an escape room, a freezer truck, an open house, a hit-and-run, and an explosion. 

Eleanor Bishop and Nicholas Torres end up trapped in abandoned jail cells after a shootout, the team goes international in a search for a bus full of missing girls in Afghanistan, and Gibbs takes in an abused dog during a temporary suspension after a confrontation with the dog’s former owner. 

As the season drew to a close, the team encountered the NCIS Regional Enforcement Action Capabilities Team (REACT) and a hostage situation, while Gibbs teamed up with journalist Marcie Warren for an off-the-books cold case investigation that has them tracking a serial killer. The season ended with episode 16, “Rule 91,” which was the name of Gibbs’s newly completed boat and a reference to his rule, “When you decide to walk away, don’t look back.” 

Key Moments (Spoiler Alert)

Here are some key happenings during the season to be aware of moving forward:

  • Fornell’s daughter Emily dies of a drug overdose during a relapse.
  • Dr. Jacquieline Sloane makes an exit from the series, but only after sharing a goodbye kiss with Gibbs.
  • A dose of COVID-19 makes an appearance during the second half of the season with Dr. Jimmy Palmer grieving the death of his wife due to the virus and team members being temporarily assigned as COVID-19 officers for an event.
  • Eleanor Bishop makes a planned exit from the team under the guise of being a disgraced agent to enter an undercover role.
  • Gibbs’s newly completed boat blows up at the end of the final episode. Gibbs swims away from the wreckage, leaving viewers with a cliffhanger.

Cast Members With Leading Roles

The primary cast members include:

  • Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs: An NCIS Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) of the Major Case Response Team (MCRT) assigned to the Washington Navy Yard, Gibbs is a tight-lipped former Marine with strong leadership and investigative skills.
  • Sean Murray as Timothy McGee: An NCIS Senior Special Agent, McGee is second in command of MCRT and an MIT graduate with exceptional computer skills.
  • Wilmer Valderrama as Nicholas “Nick” Torres: NCIS Special Agent Torres is likable, unpredictable, and regularly takes on undercover assignments. 
  • Emily Wickersham as Eleanor “Ellie” Bishop: NCIS Special Agent Bishop focuses on international threats and preparedness.
  • Maria Bello as Dr. Jacqueline “Jack” Sloane: An NCIS Senior Resident Agent and Operational Psychologist, Sloane often plays devil’s advocate to Gibbs.
  • Brian Dietzen as Dr. Jimmy Palmer: As chief medical examiner for NCIS, Palmer runs the morgue.
  • David McCallum as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard: An NCIS historian, Mallard is a retired medical examiner who still helps the team.
  • Diona Reasonover as Kasie Hines: As a forensic specialist for NCIS, Hines — formerly Mallard’s assistant — helps the team with her strong forensic skills.
  • Rocky Carroll as Leon Vance: As the NCIS director, Vance is in charge of the overall operations of NCIS.

Additional cast members making a repeated appearance in season 18 include:

  • Joe Spano as private detective and former FBI Senior Special Agent Tobias Fornell
  • Margo Harshman as Department of Defense (DOD) Intelligence Analyst Delilah Fielding-McGee, (McGee’s wife)
  • Pam Dawber as investigative journalist Marcie Warren 
  • Laura San Giacomo as Dr. Grace Confalone
  • Nick Boraine as NCIS target Merriweather 
  • Adam Campbell as young Ducky
  • Sean Harmon as young Gibbs
  • Hugo Armstrong as NCIS Inspector General Eugene Coyle
  • Juliette Angelo as Tobias Fornell’s daughter, Emily Fornell
  • Elayn J. Taylor as owner of Ziva’s private office and former CIA Operative Odette Malone 
  • Victoria Gabrielle Platt as NCIS Special Agent Veronica Tyler 
  • Jack Fisher as Gibbs’s old neighbor, Phineas
  • Karri Turner as Phineas’s aunt, Micki Kaydar

What to Know About the Upcoming Season of NCIS in 2021

A few new members will be joining the cast in season 19, including Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight and Gary Cole as FBI Special Agent Alden Park. You may remember Law from her appearance on the last two episodes of season 18. She is also well-known for her role as Nyssa al Ghul in the CW series “Arrow.” Cole is famous for his many roles as a cold, calculating authority figure, including appearances on other dramas, including “Wanted,” “Suits,” and “Chicago Fire.”

Missing are Mario Bello as Agent Sloane, who made an exit in the middle of season 18, and Emily Wickersham as Agent Bishop, who recently confirmed she’s leaving the cast. The Hollywood Reporter has also indicated that Mark Harmon will only appear in a few episodes this season, as he’s perhaps looking to eventually exit altogether.

When Will the Next Season of “NCIS” Start?

Whereas season 18 was delayed and shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, season 19 is set to premiere on Sept. 20, 2021, although it’s unclear how many episodes it will contain. Note that this is the first time the show won’t be premiering on Tuesday. Instead, it resides in a new time slot on Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST. (Note also that the new series “NCIS: Hawaii” is set to air right afterward, at 10 p.m. EST on Mondays.)

What Could Happen During the Next Season?

Probably the most pressing question going into season 19 is who blew up Gibbs’s boat and what will happen next, after that cliffhanger ending from season 18. Gibbs had been hunting for a serial killer with journalist Marcie, and the latest on that front was that the serial killer was onto him. It could be that the boat explosion was a ruse so that Gibbs could play dead while continuing to track the killer. 

Some viewers might wonder if they’ll get to see Bishop in her new undercover role this season but, as mentioned, the actress has announced that she isn’t returning in season 19. Of course, with Gibbs reportedly appearing in only a handful of episodes, it’ll be interesting to see how that gap is filled and how the team carries on without him. At this point, anything could happen. 

Where to Watch the Next Season of “NCIS”

“NCIS” airs every Monday at 9 p.m. EST on CBS. If you use a cable provider, you can also watch on the CBS website after entering your login information. Those without cable can access the show via various streaming services, including YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and fuboTV. If you can’t watch live, the show is available for streaming on the next day on Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access).

Other platforms provide access to the entire series. These include Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, and Vudu. Netflix currently has all episodes through season 15 available for streaming. You can also watch a selection of past episodes for free with Pluto TV, NBC, or CBS. 

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Andrea Basse

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV