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NCIS Scenes Acted So Badly We Can't Forget Them

The police procedural "NCIS" is one of the most popular franchises and longest-running scripted shows in broadcast television history. With 20 seasons and counting, "NCIS" continues to deliver the drama and excitement that drew audiences in from the very beginning. One important aspect that keeps a series running for this long is its ensemble cast, and "NCIS" has one of the most recognizable. Even as characters come and go and new ones are introduced, loyal fans continue to stick around and show love for a series that's been a part of their lives for years.

The quality these actors bring to the show is clear, but, after over 400 episodes, there are bound to be a few scenes here and there that don't live up to the series' reputation. Of course, it's difficult to criticize someone's acting when the things that constitute good and bad are subjective. At the end of the day, there's a reason "NCIS" has been on the air for more than 20 years, but no actor is perfect all the time. So, let's have some fun as we laugh and cringe at these "NCIS" scenes that were acted so badly we can't forget them.

Abby attempts to play an MMORPG

This first scene takes us way back to the beginning of Season 1. In Episode 4, "The Immortals," a 19-year-old naval seaman is found dead at the bottom of the ocean wearing a sword and weighed down with chains and weights. Signs point to suicide, but not everyone's convinced. As the NCIS team investigates deeper, Abby finds a character charter in the victim's pocket linked to a massively multiplayer online role-playing game — MMORPG for short. While the rest of the team is perplexed by the concept, Abby seems to be the only one who knows a lot about these types of games.

The specific scene in question occurs when Abby looks further into the game called "The Immortals" by playing it herself. According to Abby, if she can infiltrate the castle's stronghold, she can open a log that lists all the characters who have played "The Immortals," taking them one step closer to nailing down a suspect. All this is clever in theory, but Abby has a hard time pulling off the gaming lingo convincingly. Are we sure Abby has the skills to proceed this far into a game she's never played before? The acting comes across as contrived by how she mindlessly clicks buttons and half-heartedly tries to express her investment in the game. Giving Abby the benefit of the doubt, it's important to remember that this episode aired in 2003, so the average person's gaming and computer skills weren't exactly honed yet.

McGee confronts his grandma

It's not that often that someone from the NCIS team is connected to a crime, but it actually happens more often than you'd think. It's even rarer for an agent's family member to be involved. However, in Season 9's "The Penelope Papers," McGee's grandmother Penny becomes a primary suspect in the murder of a Naval Reserve lieutenant. This was the second time one of McGee's relatives was connected to a crime — his sister was suspected of murder in the Season 4 episode "Twisted Sister."

While the team investigates Penny's involvement, McGee takes a personal approach to his interrogation tactics. What should've been an emotional moment between grandson and grandmother falls flat due to the bland acting. The exchange ends with Penny almost getting hit by a car before McGee grabs her out of the way. However, the action fails to create tension. Perhaps we can chalk this scene up to a lack of chemistry between the actors and an underwritten character in Penny.

Over-the-top dog person

A highly controversial NCIS scene occurs in Season 5, Episode 12, "Dog Tag," when McGee shoots a dog in self-defense. It's awful, but that's not the only scene from this episode that is forever engraved on our minds for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, the gunshot is only a flesh wound, and the dog is brought back to headquarters to be tested for evidence. When Abby is made aware of the situation, she first empathizes with McGee and his painful animal-inflicted wound, but when McGee reveals the dog was shot, Abby quickly switches her attention to the canine.

Abby then realizes it was McGee who shot the dog, and she berates him for his actions. Abby's defense of the dog is hard to watch. Even the biggest of dog lovers among us would know better than to chew out a co-worker who has just been attacked by a dog, especially in a professional setting. Coincidentally, actor Pauley Perrette, who plays Abby, reportedly fell out with series star Mark Harmon over his dog — the animal is said to have bitten a crew member while on set, and the ensuing conflict apparently led to Harmon and Perrette refusing to appear on screen with each other, per Vanity Fair.

Ducky's serial killer girlfriend

In Season 9, Episode 6, "Thirst," NCIS medical examiner Ducky has difficulty separating his personal life from his professional one after meeting a new love interest online. The woman is Dr. Mary Courtney, and she couldn't be more perfect. She's beautiful, intelligent, and kind, volunteering her time to those in need. Meanwhile, Ducky and the team are investigating a potential serial killer who's already gone after three men, and they seem to have all died the same way — water intoxication.

During one of Ducky and Mary's dates, Mary reveals she killed them all as an act of love for Ducky. It's a shocking and unearned turn of events. Why would a doctor and volunteer activist murder three people for a stranger's affection? Mary shows no signs of this behavior throughout the entire episode until the big reveal at the very end, making the acting feel out of place. It's the kind of scene you can't shake afterwards, and not for the right reasons.

The NCIS is hacked

One of the funniest scenes in all of the series is easily the hacking scene in Season 2, Episode 5, "The Bone Yard." It's not that the scene is played for laughs, but rather so serious that it's hard not to crack a smile. As Abby uses the computer to identify a dead body, nonsensical pop-ups begin to flood her screen. In her words, she's being "majorly hacked." The hacker is too good for Abby to keep up with her counterattacks, so McGee jumps in. The two start double typing on a single keyboard, as if that makes any sense.

The pop-ups continue, and the tech talk between Abby and McGee only gets more cringey. McGee has never seen code like this, for Pete's sake! The solution: Gibbs proudly unplugs the monitor, and we're supposed to believe that this puts a stop to the hacking. Again, it's the early 2000s, so we can cut the unrealistic acting some slack, but the whole scene feels like one big joke played by the "NCIS" writer's room.

Tony's attempt at witty comebacks

If you're looking for some more cringe-worthy action, look no further than Season 6's "Deliverance." Ziva and Tony partner up and go out into the field looking to question some suspects in the murder of an 18-year-old marine. He was killed in the neighborhood he grew up in — a lower-income area filled with gang violence. A disastrous scene unfolds when Ziva and Tony pull up to the neighborhood and approach three intimidating men.

The two approach the confrontation with light-hearted banter, but in an attempt to make this serious moment comedic, Tony delivers some severely unfunny one-liners for the entirety of the arrest. It just doesn't stop — from his first Ricky Martin joke to his last one about Popeye not eating his spinach, it's painful. The exchange ends in an arrest, but more importantly, it proves that Tony should stick to his day job.

Tony and Ziva held at gunpoint

The dynamic duo of Tony and Ziva are at it again in Season 3, Episode 13, "Deception." They search the house of an abducted naval officer — by breaking and entering, of course. Everything is going smoothly until neighborhood security comes barging in. He aims his gun at the intruders, but Tony and Ziva are unimpressed, practically laughing in the guy's face. That doesn't exactly feel like the right move when you're the one at the end of the barrel, regardless of what you might think about neighborhood security.

The cockiness and entitlement aren't a good look for these two, but nevertheless, they get the upper hand and pin the security guard to the ground. Now the gun's on him, and they have the last laugh, but the guy was just doing his job. It's hard not to feel bad for him, but viewers were probably too busy feeling sorry for themselves, because the whole scene is woefully acted and cringe-worthy beyond belief. It's definitely not a moment to remember, both for the characters and for the audience.

Abby's nervous breakdown over a candy bar

Abby's spunky personality is either an enormous appeal or a drawback to her character, depending on who you ask. Most of the time, her quirkiness gives her a unique edge and perspective, but sometimes, it can be painful to watch. In Season 4, Episode 17, "Skeletons," Abby is having guy troubles and instead of leaving her personal problems outside of work, it consumes her every second she's on the screen.

The opening scene is the worst of it. Abby is having a hard time with the snack machine and asks the team for a new dollar so she can get the candy bar she wants. Her childlike acting comes across as a temper tantrum. The reaction is likely supposed to be comedic, but unfortunately, it's just uncomfortable to watch. Even the other character's reactions indicate this whole interaction probably should've been left out of the script.

Teens beg for jail time

It's a right of passage for an amateur actor to play a suspect or victim on a crime show at some point in their career. While it may feel unfair to judge their acting when they're just starting out, it's hard to ignore two teens in particular who appear in Season 11, Episode 15, "Bulletproof." Now, the teens aren't in any serious trouble, but Tony believes they may know something that could help shed some light on the team's ongoing investigation. They decide to question the teens, and what unfolds is a scene you want to forget in a hurry.

During the questioning, it's hard to focus on anything other than the acting skills of these two teens, which are just as bad as their young and dumb personas. The two are under the impression that serving jail time looks good on college applications, so they beg for some kind of sentencing for their petty crimes. It's beyond stupid, and anything but convincing. The exchange is short but drags on due to the subpar acting. This interrogation won't be leaving our minds for a while.

Quinn opens up about her past

Special Agent Alexandra "Alex" Quinn joined the team at the beginning of Season 14, only for her to leave at the end of the season. Because of this short timeframe, audiences don't get to learn much about her, leaving her to be pegged as a least favorite character among certain viewers. "She shows up with secret issues, does nothing and leaves," Redditor u/ClownfishSoup said. "At one point I had forgotten that she left the show.. I had to think back to her 'leaving episode' to even remember that she was on the show." Her most memorable moment was a scene that was acted to badly that you'll want to scrub it from your memory.

During Season 14, Episode 5, "Philly," we finally get some insight into Quinn's past. Unfortunately, what should've been an eye-opening emotional moment falls flat due to the acting. In the scene, Quinn opens up to Gibbs about the traumatizing time a friend was killed. What bothers her the most is that she blames herself for the death. The flashback should be heartbreaking, but because we only just met Quinn, it fails to deliver the emotional impact the show was hoping for. Gibbs also chimes in with some obvious advice that doesn't seem to contribute anything to this forced piece character development.

McGee guides Gibbs to a hacker's mainframe

Yet another video game is hiding something sinister deep in its coding in Season 8, Episode 16, "Kill Screen." A dead marine leads the team to uncover a video game programmer named Snyder's master plan to spread his hacking program hidden within his popular game "Fear Tower." This encrypted data can only be found when a player accesses a kill screen after hitting a high score. With enough downloads, national security could be jeopardized. Martin from the Pentagon's private security already knew about this hacking and had been sweeping it under the rug to avoid looking bad. One thing he couldn't cover up: Snyder.

The team catches the suspect, but the Pentagon is still at risk of a major cyber attack. The only way to put a stop to it is to access the physical mainframe and shut it down. Back at headquarters, tech master McGee guides Gibbs to the mainframe against the clock, but the acting in the scene is so cheesy that it's hard to take any of this seriously. McGee ends up treating this grave moment as if it were an actual video game, ruining the suspense of it all. It's just another example of the show coming off as a bit square when it comes to gaming-related plotlines.

Forced sexual tension between Gibbs and Margaret

Defense attorney Margaret Allison Hart makes appearances here and there throughout the show's run, but other than her quick wit and attention to detail, there isn't much to her character. In her first appearance in Season 7's "Ignition," Margaret accompanies her client Victor — a main suspect — during his interrogation and goes head-to-head with the all-powerful Gibbs.

Margaret puts him in his place like no one has done before, and the weird part is that he seems to like it. The whole scene is an obvious setup for a potential romance, but the lack of chemistry makes for an uncomfortable interaction. It's a tale as old as time — the beautiful defense attorney and the hot-headed special agent. In other words, it's predictable. The two at odds is definitely a fun spectacle to watch as Gibbs' power comes into question, but the forced sexual tension and terrible acting we can do without.

Painful prologue

Like most crime shows, "NCIS" follows the same formula every episode, starting with a prologue of someone finding a dead body they'll be investigating. Most of them aren't exactly award-winning performances, but one that particularly stands out for its bad acting has to be the opening sequence of Season 1's "Minimum Security."

In it, a biker couple is broken down on the side of a quiet road. While the man works on the motorcycle, the woman insists she needs to get home as soon as possible before her dad gets worried. Just then, a car drives by, and the man signals for him to stop. Except, the car keeps driving and runs right into his bike. Plot twist: the driver is dead, so we can forgive him for his negligence. As for the bad acting, now, that's unforgivable. You'll have to suspend your disbelief to all new levels if you're going to believe that these two biker lovebirds know each other. The acting is well below what we're used to seeing in the show, even by prologue standards.

Abby tries to prove that Tony is innocent

Before McGee's sister and grandma were suspected of murder, Tony went through his own legal trouble in Season 2's "Frame-Up." After a woman is found murdered, all forensic evidence points to Tony, but the team doesn't believe it for a second. Why would Tony murder a random woman and leave the evidence on a Marine Corps Base? He's, of course, being framed, but the tricky part is proving it. As expected, Tony is having a hard time with this, and, unsurprisingly, Abby is just as shaken up. She loves forensics just as much as she loves Tony and feels one love has betrayed the other.

Along with the rest of the team, Abby makes it her personal mission to prove Tony's innocence. During one scene in the lab, as Abby combs over every piece of evidence twice over, her quirkiness is played up just a bit too much yet again. Her acting comes across as unstable. The whole speech about finding the man who framed Tony and crucifying him has to be one of the weirdest monologues in "NCIS" history.