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The Gibbs Dream You Might Have Forgotten About On NCIS

"NCIS" tends to be a very reality-grounded series. It doesn't take too many flights of fancy and it typically stays within the realm of its own action-based storytelling.

But every once in a while, the show allows itself to explore the bounds of its established reality. For its 400th episode, it delivered up what writer Gary Glasberg told CBS.com around the time of its release was "a gift to the fans." The episode took viewers into an alternate world where they got to revisit many of their old "NCIS" friends, and for a few moments, the boundary between the series' narrative reality and what could happen dissolved away, allowing the impossible to happen. Dead characters live, good characters go bad, and regrets are washed away — or turned into burr forever under Gibbs' (Mark Harmon) saddle.

What did this gift to the show's fanbase entail? Do you remember what Gibbs' dream revealed to viewers, which season it took place in, and who starred in it? Keep reading to find out.

Gibbs' dream turned into a nightmare for him

Gibbs' dream, which occurs in Season 9, Episode 14 ("Life Before His Eyes"), is precipitated by his facing down a robber at his favorite diner, where he's stopped by for a cup of coffee. He flashes back through his life and as he faces down the possibility of death, he is suddenly confronted with a wholly different version of the diner. In this dreamscape, he meets Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Franks (Muse Watson), who died at the end of Season 8. Franks informs Gibbs that he has been given an opportunity to reflect upon his past actions, and Gibbs proceeds to experience various realities in which his life — and those of others — took different paths. 

In one reality, Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) is alive, married to Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), and they have a young child. But undoing Kate's death by spotting Ari before he could shoot her results in Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) staying with Mossad. This makes Ziva a target of NCIS, which eventually apprehends her. After meeting with his mother and informing her of his love, he's given the opportunity to undo his revenge killing of Pedro Hernandez for the murders of his wife Shannon and daughter Kelly, but this results in an alcoholic, lonely future.

Shannon and Kelly themselves give Gibbs a chance to see what life would be like if they'd lived. But in that future, Gibbs dies because he stayed a Marine and is killed in overseas action. He realizes suddenly he shouldn't regret his actions. He also realizes that his assailant is the son of a man he declined to help in his previous day's case, even though the man may have been innocent. Gibbs comes away with only a shoulder wound. Now that's what we call a gift.