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Gibbs' Worst Moment In NCIS Season 12

For 19 seasons, co-creators Donald P. Bellisario and Don McGill's widely-watched procedural "NCIS". has been inviting viewers to follow Mark Harmon's special agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs as he leads, mentors, and acts as the flawed but experienced rock for a ragtag team of naval criminal investigators. Starring Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, and Sean Murray, the series is well-known for putting its agents in tense situations that, while not be particularly realistic, manage to reel in ratings and viewers year-in and year-out. 

In addition to its successful procedural formula, part of the series' success is undoubtedly linked to its consistent focus on Harmon's Gibbs, a character as integral to the long-running show as Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson is to "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." As is the case for any veteran primetime character, Gibbs is not above reproach. Any fan who has seen any sizeable amount of the 400-plus "NCIS" episodes (via IMDb) knows Gibbs and other staple characters are bound to make their fair share of mistakes, and this is as true for Gibbs as it is for anyone else on the series. 

While some of those missteps are simply par for the course, others lead to some truly terrible and enlightening moments for the character. In Season 12, the dedicated leader ends up being at least partially responsible for one of his own worst moments. 

Gibbs makes a deadly mistake in the Season 12 opener

On "NCIS" Season 12, Episode 1 ("Twenty Klicks"), Gibbs and McGee (Murray) travel to Russia to help an endangered NCIS Systems Administrator, Iman Nazemzadeh's Kevin Hussein, escape to safety. Unbeknownst to Gibbs, the NCIS team's role in the Season 3 take-down and death of Mossad officer-turned-terrorist Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin) prompts Haswari's half-brother, fellow terrorist and Russian mercenary Sergei Mishnev (Alex Veadov), to seek vengeance. Mishnev downs the team's helicopter near the border of Finland and proceeds to hunt the trio through the thick Russian forest, eventually shooting Kevin in the leg. 

During the final confrontation, Gibbs gets the upper hand on Mishnev, shooting and, he presumes, killing him. For some reason, Gibbs allows McGee to usher him into an escape vehicle rather than "waste" the handful of seconds it would take to walk the handful of yards over to Mishnev's body to ensure he's actually dead. It's a mistake that will later prove fatal for one of the most important people in Gibbs' life, and one that did not go unnoticed by fans. 

As Redditor u/Northsidebill1 wrote on the series' subreddit, "When Gibbs finally shoots Sergei, he just gets in the truck with Tony and doesn't make sure Sergei is dead. That's just not smart." The fan also pointed out that Gibbs has multiple opportunities to shoot the terrorist, but chooses instead to aim at "the guys that Sergei was with." Notably, this Reddit user wasn't alone in their confusion over the experienced agent's poor decision-making skills, even in the heat of the moment.

Gibbs gives in to his rage in an attempt to rectify his mistake

In that same Reddit thread, multiple commenters agreed with u/Northsidebill1 about this Season 12 Gibbs moment. "It's one of the most irritating things for me," wrote u/Artewig2, who added that Gibbs "acts like that's the most ridiculous question" when he's later confronted about whether or not he confirmed Mishnev was successfully taken out. Reddit user u/OutsideSeason1 agreed with the thread's assessment, also calling Gibbs' misstep "stupid" and noting that he "could have saved Diane."

The fan is referring to the death of Gibbs' ex-wife, Diane (Melinda McGraw), at the hands of Mishnev in Season 12, Episode 11 ("Check"). Had Gibbs confirmed Mishnev's death in their first confrontation (which, again, would have taken him a few seconds) this Standard Issue Russian Bad Guy wouldn't have been around to lure Diane to a rooftop and off her. What's more, Gibbs' sloppy and emotionally-driven attempt to rectify his mistake after the fact only compounds and reiterates the baffling lack of logic he's demonstrated with regard to Mishnev and reveals that the agent is just as susceptible to his own worst impulses as anyone else. 

In "Check," when Gibbs locates Mishnev and his crew, he decides to barge in on them without waiting for back-up, despite being vastly outnumbered. Gibbs gets in a few unconstitutional, uncharacteristically rage-filled blows and attempts to end Mishnev once and for all, but he is quickly knocked out by henchman. The fury with which the team leader approaches his target is both visceral and difficult to watch, and once again, Mishnev gets away as a result of the agent's gross incompetence. "Mishnev was evil to Gibbs," u/Artewig2 concluded, "but Gibbs did a lot to himself."