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NCIS Made A Masterful Reference To Office Space, And Of Course Gary Cole Was Involved

Warning! The following contains spoilers for the NCIS episode “Starting Over.” Read at your own risk!

When NCIS brought in Gary Cole to portray Alden Parker, the bigwig who stepped in to replace Mark Harmon’s Gibbs following his exit from the task force, the Veep vet had some big shoes to fill. But his tenure has been impressive so far, and the CBS procedural scored some major comedy points with an unexpected (but constantly hoped for) reference to one of Cole's most celebrated films, Office Space. While we didn't see Jennifer Aniston guest-starring to show off any flair, NCIS found a simple but no less masterful way to reference Cole’s pitch-perfect performance as one of cinema's most nerve-grinding bosses, Bill Lumbergh.

The moment came right at the beginning of "Starting Over," as the NCIS team complained about their menial daily duties. But when Parker casually griped about  one particular piece of paperwork being his least favorite, it sent off a wave of Office Space-shaped glee that not even McGee and Knight's correction could stamp out. Check out the exchange below:

  • Parker: Yeah, what I’d give to never have to file another TPS report.
  • McGee: You do know it’s a TBS report, right? A Transbuereau synopsis?
  • Parker: What’d I say?
  • Knight: A T-P-S report.
  • Parker: Ah, old habits. Weird. [Takes drink of coffee.]

The joke might’ve gone over the heads of some NCIS fans who might not be so familiar with Mike Judge's stellar satires, but Office Space fans know what’s up. Gary Cole’s character Bill Lumbergh mentioned “TPS reports” frequently, and frequently badgered Peter (played by The Flash’s Ron Livingston) about whether or not he'd filed them. The NCIS exchange was clearly a nod to the 1999 cult classic, and Parker’s quick sip of coffee afterward felt like an exclamation point on his successful homage to an iconic comedy character that he's only reprised in HipChat ads back in 2015. Lumbergh always had that coffee cup in hand.

The moment even earned another brief nod later, only to show that Alden Parker was a quick learner. While Knight complained again of having to sift through the paperwork, Parker made a point to stress “TBS report” to show he wasn’t confusing the names anymore. Such a show of competence would’ve glossed right over Bill Lumbergh in Office Space, but McGee and Knight seemed to appreciate Parker was making the effort to get it right. 

If anyone had a theory that Bill Lumbergh went under a new name and is now leading the NCIS, this definitely bolstered such pop culture speculation. Of course, the thread connecting the two characters at this time is looser than the screws in poor Milton's head, and this is assuredly just a fun easter egg more than anything. Personally, I’m hoping it’s just the first of many and that we’ll get to see Torres losing his shit over needing a stapler, and maybe even a scene with Torres and Kacie absolutely demolishing a computer and/or fax machine with baseball bats. Hell, I’d even love Parker's boss to show up and ask him, "What exactly would you say you do here?” but perhaps that’d be overkill. 

NCIS airs on CBS (opens in new tab) on Mondays at 9:00 p.m. ET. It’s just one of many returning shows on primetime right now worth checking out and probably one of the only broadcast shows utilizing Office Space references in 2022. To be fair, though, The Mandalorian also had a reference to TPS reports in 2020; sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mandos, amirite?

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.