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How Gibbs Broke One Of His Own Rules On NCIS

People change. All of you reading this aren't the same person now as you were 18 years ago, so it stands to reason that on long-running TV series, characters would go through their own transformations as well. Fans seem to think Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) may be done as the lead on NCIS going into season 19, but he's left us with more than enough stories to become one of the most engaging TV characters of the 21st century, growing every step of the way. 

Gibbs has bucked the trend a lot of series have of keeping a character stagnant for extended periods of time. At the beginning of the run for NCIS, Gibbs was estranged from his father, Jackson (Ralph Waite), but on season 6, the two gradually started making amends, forming a bond in the process. It made Jackson's unexpected death in season 11 all the more impactful because audiences got the chance to see their relationship come full circle.

However, there are other changes Gibbs has made over the years that don't add up as much for fans. A natural character arc is one thing, but when someone explicitly says they have a rule they follow and then subsequently breaks said rule, it raises a few more questions. 

Gibbs dates his co-worker, Jenny Shepard, after saying he doesn't date co-workers

Gibbs has been married four times in the past, so while it may seem like he's not particularly picky about who he gets entangled with romantically, he has expressed some lines he won't cross. The most explicit of these came in the season 1 episode "Enigma," where he states that he doesn't date co-workers. In general, it's a pretty good rule to have, unless your names happen to be Jim and Pam. That's why it was so weird when he began dating Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) in season 3. 

Shepard's another special agent for the NCIS, so the two quickly bond and fall in love from their shared experiences. It's just not meant to be, though, and their relationship becomes strained in season 4 upon Leroy realizing that Jenny's been keeping secrets from him in relation to their line of work. Gibbs retiring momentarily only to get back into the saddle probably didn't help things, either. All of this resulted in the two of them going their separate ways, which may have been for the best, seeing as how Jenny was killed off in season 5 so that actress Lauren Holly could pursue other projects.

One could argue that Leroy breaking his rule shows how much of a connection he had with Jenny. Maybe in another life, the two were truly meant to wind up together, but forces beyond either of their control resulted in tragedy. Ultimately, Gibbs is in a dangerous line of work, so him avoiding romantic connections with his co-workers is probably about more than avoiding awkward conversations with HR. It allows him to avoid heartbreak brought on by any sudden, unexpected deaths.