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Why Fans Weren't Interested In This Vance-Centric NCIS Episode

TV series are ensemble-driven by design. Having many compelling characters makes it easier to sustain many seasons of storytelling. A show like NCIS is primarily a police procedural, relying on a new case each week to drive the story. But even police procedurals still need a cast of characters whom the audience find interesting, if not likable. NCIS has aired 18 seasons with a 19th on the way, (not to mention its two spinoffs, NCIS: New Orleans and NCIS: Los Angeles). Eighteen years of murder mysteries can get repetitive if someone's not growing as a person, too.

But there have also been times when NCIS has featured too much character development. The series has periodically devoted entire episodes to the backstories of its main characters, and they've been hit or miss. The season 6 episode, "Knockout," involved a case that hit close to home for NCIS' director, Leon Vance. (Rocky Carroll). But it's also the lowest-rated episode of the series on IMDB.

Here's why "Knockout" wasn't quite a knockout.

How much Vance is too much? This much.

Leon Vance first appeared on NCIS during the show's fifth season, back when he was still assistant director of the NCIS, and there was always something mysterious about him. The next season, the show explored his origins in "Knockout."

In the episode, Vance and the NCIS traveled to Chicago to investigate the death of a Vance's old friend, a boxer named Tyler Owens. While looking into Owens' past, Vance's wife, Jackie, told the team that Vance had also been a boxer before joining the Marine Corp. Vance once told his wife that he was discharged from the Marines due to a detached retina he sustained while boxing. That was how he ended up in the NCIS.

Only it wasn't that simple. Vance claimed Owens had also served in the USMC, but there was no record of his service. Then, Gibbs had Ducky reexamine Owens' body, and Ducky discovered that Owens also had a detached retina. Most likely, Vance and Owens once switched identities after Owens' boxing injury left him unable to serve in the Marines. The show didn't outright state it, but fans picked up on it.

And that was that. The show never returned to the "Vance isn't really Vance" storyline, so it never fully explored his motivations, nor did it explain how he's been deceiving the NCIS for so long. In the end, it didn't make much of a difference for Vance the character. And for a character-driven episode, that's a problem.