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NCIS brought Season 17 to an abrupt end back in April due to the same production shutdowns that forced much of the entertainment industry to a standstill, but the Season 18 premiere is fast-approaching. Unlike many other big shows that are finally returning this fall, NCIS isn't going to dive into the COVID-19 pandemic that has changed so much in recent months. Season 18 will begin with episodes set back in the Season 17 timeline. With the weird start to Season 18, I think NCIS really needs to focus on relationships.
First, let's look at just how weird of a start NCIS fans are looking at with Season 18, which will be shorter than usual. According to NCIS co-showrunner Steve Binder to TVLine, the new season will pick up during the mysterious mission that Gibbs was on during the eighth episode of Season 17 and "we’re in a pre-COVID world for a little while." Episodes set in a world already hit by COVID might not air until February 2021.
It's not clear how NCIS will ultimately handle the time jump to the COVID world, but Season 18 is definitely getting off to an unconventional start, and there are limits on what can happen early on when it comes to the plot. NCIS can't contradict the second half of Season 17 with how it starts Season 18, right? And if the story can only get so wild, then I think relationships are where the biggest developments can happen.
There are two relationships in particular that seemed especially dynamic during Season 17, but ultimately came to nothing. The timing of the Season 18 episodes set in the past of Season 17 could actually mean development for both pairings, although one duo is more likely to get together and stay together than the other. Good news for fans of Bishop and Torres!
The pairing is arguably the closest thing to a Tiva 2.0 that NCIS has come up with ever since sparks started flying between Tony and Ziva, and all signs point toward more Bishop/Torres in Season 18. NCIS executive producer Frank Cardea has explicitly compared their relationship to Tiva, and he revealed that the show intends to pursue the relationship that they have and enjoy with each other. Wilmer Valderrama, who plays Torres, teased the show doing something "different" with Bishop and Torres.
Throw in that NCIS arguably was building to something between them toward the end of Season 17 and that NCIS could flesh out their relationship without contradicting the timeline, and I think NCIS would be passing up a unique opportunity to develop their fan-favorite relationship if the Season 18 focus is on plot over character. Assuming Gibbs will be primarily focused on his own plot and the rest of the team will be focused on the cases of the week, perhaps Bishop and Torres will have larger parts to play overall.
Fans shouldn't expect grand love confessions and them falling into bed together since there were no indications of that in the second half of Season 17, but progress could and should be made. Besides, a happy ending is probably not on the horizon for the other will they/won't they relationship of NCIS. Unfortunately, even diehard shippers shouldn't go into Season 18 expecting to see Jack become the fifth Mrs. Gibbs, and not just because Gibbs has to work on himself before being ready for a relationship.
Maria Bello is leaving NCIS as Jack Sloane in Season 18, reportedly after eight episodes. The show is planning on giving her a "worthy" ending, and that presumably won't involve a long-lasting relationship with Gibbs unless a lot is going to happen off-screen. None of this is to say that NCIS can't make the most of their dynamic before she departs, however, and an image from the upcoming Season 18 premiere reveals that they'll spend some time together and look pretty happy while doing it:
Of course, NCIS has plenty of relationships that are intriguing without romance, and I fully expect Bishop/Torres and Gibbs/Jack to be enjoyable even if sparks don't fly more than usual to start Season 18. We already know that the milestone 400th episode will focus on Ducky and Gibbs' relationship over the many years of their friendship, and NCIS is an ensemble series. I'm just hoping that the show takes advantage of the opening to develop characters and relationships more in the Season 17 timeline before moving beyond in 2021.
Tune in to CBS on Tuesday, November 18 at 8 p.m. ET for the Season 18 premiere of NCIS. Called "Sturgeon Season," the premiere will see Gibbs and Fornell trying to track down the leader of a drug ring that had supplied drugs to Fornell's daughter, while the team faces a case of a missing cadaver. For some additional viewing options now and in the coming weeks, check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule!