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The Mark Harmon Filmography References You Missed On NCIS

Lead actor Mark Harmon has starred in 408 episodes across 18 season of NCIS. His tenure as Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs has likewise included appearances on series precursor JAG and spinoff NCIS: New Orleans, making the total number of TV episodes in which he's portrayed the character even higher. While some might know Harmon from elsewhere, such as his roles in Freaky Friday or The West Wing, NCIS has largely defined his filmography if only due to the series' sheer size.

That said, years before NCIS, Harmon was well-known for something else entirely. Harmon was a prodigious football quarterback in college and played at a high enough skill level to be scouted by the NFL. Following his senior year in 1974, Harmon ultimately walked away from his football career to become an actor. Thus, despite the extent to which Gibbs has come to define Harmon's career between then and now, his filmography includes 29 years of work prior to his first appearance as Gibbs on JAG. NCIS' producers were well-aware of this fact, including some winks and nods to Harmon's past work throughout NCIS' run.

Blasts from Mark Harmon's past

One episode to reference Mark Harmon's past work is the 10th episode of season 2, titled "Chained." In it, the NCIS team is on the hunt for a collection of Iraqi antiques stolen by a man who turns out to be a serial killer. Throughout the episode, Gibbs receives a number of calls asking about a Volkswagen car he's supposedly selling. In response to one of those calls, Gibbs asks, "Do I look like someone who would drive a bug?" While the answer to that question may indeed be no, the line is meant to evoke Harmon's role as serial killer Ted Bundy in TV movie The Deliberate Stranger. The real-life Bundy famously drove a VW bug, which was replicated for the film. Furthermore, the reference is thematically appropriate, given that the NCIS episode is about tracking down a serial killer.

NCIS also references Harmon's past work in "Blowback," the 14th episode of season 4. Entirely unrelated to its plot involving sales of illicit weapons, Gibbs attempts to complete a crossword puzzle at one point in the episode. During the activity, he asks Tony if he knows of a TV drama with an eight-letter title. Tony's answer is medical drama St. Elsewhere, on which Harmon played a supporting role for three of the years it was on the air. While the reference is ultimately made in a throwaway line, its inclusion nevertheless raises some questions. Either the version of St. Elsewhere that exists in the NCIS universe includes no such role, or somewhere in the world of NCIS is an actor named Mark Harmon who looks virtually identical to Agent Gibbs.