Rather than closing out its seventeenth season in a traditional fashion, NCIS was forced to cap off its various storylines early after productions started shutting down due to the pandemic. That change-up led the CBS drama's creative team to reconfigure how they wanted Season 18 to open up, which resulted in several opening episodes taking places in flashback form. To kick everything off, however, NCIS delivered a season premiere cold open in which Mark Harmon's Gibbs was responsible for shooting Sean Murray's McGee, and then casually never revealed why it happened. But it's possible answers are coming soon!
While nothing is certain just yet, CBS revealed that NCIS' midseason premiere will actually be a double-episode affair when it arrives in mid-January 2021. We'll talk about the first episode a little lower, but the second episode's synopsis theoretically sounds like it could lead into the explanation for why Gibbs was in sniper-mode when Season 18 began. Here's the synopsis for Episode 5:
'Head of the Snake' – Gibbs and Fornell’s crusade to find the head of the drug ring responsible for Fornell’s daughter Emily’s overdose comes to a climax. Also, Gibbs and Vance finally let the team in on a case that has dangerous implications.
Sure, it might be a stretch, but realistically, just about every case that Gibbs' team deals with has dangerous implications. It's a dangerous job, and criminals aren't particularly sympathetic to law enforcement. So the fact that this synopsis is stating it directly must mean the threat looms larger than those that generally occur from week to week.
So, in theory, Gibbs and Vance's announcement could set a plan in motion that would lead to the events that kicked off the Season 18 premiere. If that's the case, and the midseason finale seemed to indicate it might, it would presumably mean that Gibbs did indeed intentionally shoot McGree, though probably only in order to fool someone else. That, or something happened that really pissed Gibbs off and made him shoot McGee a handful of times simply to teach him a lesson. I really don't think this latter idea is the case, but this whole flashback case is obviously stressing Gibbs out.
Meanwhile, the first episode of the night will be titled "Sunburn," and you can check out what to expect from that installment below.
'Sunburn' - McGee and his wife Delilah’s (Margo Harshman) Bahamian vacation turns into a high-stakes mission when a case NCIS is tracking of a dead escape room manager has ties to the island. Also, Gibbs fears the worst when his search for Fornell leads to blood.
Well, at least McGee isn't suffering from any gunshot wounds while on vacation, even though it doesn't sound like his hotel stay will be the most peaceful one. Something from this ep might even factor into the premiere's mysterious cold open. Maybe Gibbs is super jealous of McGee's Bahama digs.
However it goes, that episode has the distinction of being directed by Vance himself, Rocky Carroll. As well, both episodes feature guest-starring turns from Margo Harshman as Delilah, though she's only noted in the one.