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NCIS: The Detail About Leon's Identity You Might Have Missed

Naval Criminal Investigative Service Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) has long since been an "NCIS" mainstay after debuting on the show's fifth season in 2008. In total, Vance has appeared in more than 330 episodes (via IMDb) and remains a key component of the series' core ensemble. That said, some "NCIS" fans think Vance's tenure is coming to an end, due to a particular Season 20 storyline suggesting that Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) might succeed Vance and take over the NCIS team's directorial role in the near future.

Vance, as it turns out, is not an entirely fictional creation. Rather, Vance is inspired by a real-life former NCIS member named Leon Carroll Jr. — no relation to the actor who portrays Vance, despite their sharing a surname — who serves as a technical advisor for the show. One major area in which the real Carroll Jr. and the fictional Vance presumably diverge is that Vance's trustworthiness is occasionally brought into question. Ultimately, Vance is a force for good throughout "NCIS," but nevertheless has become the focal point of storylines like one in which Gibbs temporarily doesn't trust Vance over a suspicious connection to Israel's Mossad agency.

The truth behind Vance's very identity is likewise called into question in a Season 6 episode that, in a moment some viewers may have missed, hints at the fact that Leon Vance may be an assumed identity and not, in fact, the name this character was given at birth.

Some fans think Leon Vance switched places with a friend of his

One fan on the "NCIS" subreddit started a thread titled "Leon Vance," asking users about the Season 6 episode "Knockout" in which the NCIS team investigates the death of one of Leon Vance's old friends. In this episode, Vance's wife Jackie (Paula Newsome) mentions that Vance was medically discharged from the marines after sustaining damage to his retina. It turns out, however, that Vance's friend underwent the exact retina-repairing surgery Vance's wife mentions, suggesting, at minimum, that the backstory Vance shared with his wife was actually that of his friend.

This tracks with another, similar thread in which a user cites some additional evidence of an identity switch, like the fact a woman refers to Vance by the nickname "Teek," which is far more reminiscent of his friend's name, Tyler, than his own.

In response, users are largely torn between three possibilities. User espgen, for instance, believes that Vance and Tyler indeed switched identities in order for Vance to earn acceptance into the military. Meanwhile, user Jax77874 theorized that Vance is who he says he is, but deployed his friend's history as a cover story. User mannionp similarly believes in these possibilities, but thinks that these were merely seeds for a larger story hypothetically slated for future installments that never came to pass. If Vance's exit is truly imminent, then the truth of his identity may remain a mystery that fans will simply have to embrace going forward.