The Harrison Ford Thriller Reference You Missed On NCIS

If there's one thing the intrepid agents on "NCIS" have become known for (aside from catching criminals), it's their abiding love for making pop culture references. Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) makes numerous movie-related references and quips as a result of his film buff background, and the show itself has referenced other television series (particularly those created by "NCIS" creator, Donald P. Bellisario) and films over the course of its 18 years on the air. The show even began its ongoing pattern of movie references in its pilot, though, its earliest pop culture nods came courtesy of none other than Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

While viewers have come to know Gibbs as the tough, stoic, and wise leader of the modern-day NCIS, the character shared a lot more in common with DiNozzo in "NCIS" Season 1 than he might care to admit. Indeed, Gibbs wasn't afraid to throw out the odd pop culture reference or two at the start of "NCIS," and in the show's debut episode (titled "Yankee White"), he even shows his admiration for director Wolfgang Petersen's classic thriller, "Air Force One."

The NCIS pilot's very specific movie reference

In "Yankee White," a Navy Commander dies aboard Air Force One and the NCIS team is called in to investigate the case in order to determine if the commander's death was an accident or the result of foul play. During the episode, a reporter steps into the president's office aboard Air Force One for an interview, and Gibbs points out there was a movie made starring Harrison Ford where terrorists disguised themselves as reporters and took the president and his staff hostage. The "NCIS" character even notes that the Secret Service agent who betrays the president in the movie is also named Gibbs.

These are references to "Air Force One," a 1997 thriller film in which a fictional United States President named James Marshall (Harrison Ford) is held hostage on the film's eponymous aircraft by a group of terrorists from the nation of Kazakhstan. Led by a fanatical former Soviet officer named Igor Korshunov (Gary Oldman), the group takes the president and his staff prisoner in an effort to free the recently deposed dictator of Kazakhstan, Ivan Radek (Jürgen Prochnow). Unfortunately for the terrorists, Marshall has no intention of cooperating with the terrorists, and as a combat veteran and recipient of the medal of honor, he has the skills needed to ensure they get off his plane. It's essentially "Die Hard" on Air Force One, and is, thankfully, an exciting action thriller in its own right.

A connection hidden in plain sight

Another interesting link between "Air Force One" and "NCIS" is the sets used for "Yankee Candle" were originally created for use in "Air Force One" (via Fandom). This is handwaved in the episode itself by Gibbs pointing out the similarities between the plane in the film and the "real" Air Force One. It's a fun moment that allows for some subtle and playful breaking of the fourth wall for all of the eagle-eyed audience members out there who might spot the similarities between the two titles.

In the series' early years, the "NCIS" writing team hadn't quite decided on making Gibbs into the gruff but caring leader he'd eventually become, so he shared the rest of the team's penchant for banter and pop culture references. While this would change and Tony DiNozzo would later become the show's resident go-to guy for pop culture references, the fact that Gibbs of all people made such a spot-on and amusing reference in the "NCIS" pilot episode shows that, even in the beginning, Gibbs was always the master.