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The Gibbs Rule That No One On The NCIS Team Actually Followed

Over the course of the 19 seasons of "NCIS," fans have come to know the numerous rules of Special Agent in Charge Leroy Gibbs (Mark Harmon). From "never let suspects sit together" (Rule 1) to "always give people space when getting off an elevator" (Rule 62) and beyond, these are words that Gibbs lives by — and ones he encourages the members of his team to live by as well. 

For the most part, they're solid pieces of advice that his agents incorporate into their adventures as they investigate crimes involving the U.S. Navy. There is, however, one rule that the team is aware of but consistently fails to heed. That's Rule 12: "Never date a co-worker."

While initially seeming to be a sensible and reasonable prospect, the rule is one that the team has struggled with — to put it mildly. It's not always easy to live by Gibbs' code. 

A dicey prospect

While on paper and within a professional setting Rule 12 is completely sensible, it's also one the characters on "NCIS" frequently break. From Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) to Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherley) and Ziva David (Coté de Pablo), the NCIS team have coupled up (and split apart) over the years. While the relationships have never been a true detriment to the hard work they perform in the course of their investigations, they have been a source of interpersonal tension.

One would think that this rule would be a no-brainer to follow, as the work the NCIS team does entails no small amount of risks and the job requires a certain level-headedness in the field, a clinical detachment that the emotional attachments relationships entail doesn't really provide. So why is it that time and time again members of Gibbs' team seem to flunk this one rule over and over?

Drama mixing with duty

While there hasn't been an in-universe justification for it, the simple fact of the matter is that "NCIS" is a crime drama, and part of that drama must focus on both characters' personal lives and their relationships with others. A sure-fire draw for audiences is the age-old question of "will they or won't they?" Will this character and that character connect, or will they miss out on a genuine connection? That tension is a reliable trope of drama that works time and time again, keeping audiences tuning in for any hint of progress or fulfillment. Throw in the fact that people often don't heed even the best of advice given and you have a recipe for trouble — and good TV.

While Gibbs' rules are wonderful pieces of advice from a seasoned investigator, the truth is that the combination of weekly drama and people being people ensures that Rule 12 is likely never going to be followed to the letter on "NCIS." And when it comes down to it, fans are okay with that.