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The Best NCIS Season 3 Episodes According To IMDb

The original "NCIS" has been on the air since 2003, and currently it's in the middle of its 19th season–with a twentieth already on the way (via Deadline). In that time, "NCIS" has aired 433 total episodes and counting. Whether you're embarking on the series for the first time, or you're planning a rewatch, it might be useful to have a list of the show's strongest episodes.

"NCIS" Season 3 kicked off in September 2005, and it's one of the strongest overall seasons in the series. After spending the first two seasons establishing the tone and figuring out the character dynamics, Season 3 is when "NCIS" finds its footing. Creator Donald Bellisario called Season 3 the "season of change," (via DVD Talk), but the biggest changes were really just refinements to the formula that made the show stronger. "NCIS" Season 3 introduces multiple new characters who would go on to become fan favorites, and their stories would become part of the show's foundation.

Most episodes of "NCIS" usually fall into one of two categories. Either they're a "case of the week," with a new villain and a new mystery to solve; or they're more character-driven, based on the personal lives of the agents on the team. The highest-rated episodes of Season 3 are a blend of both.

Fans really enjoyed the two-part Season 3 premiere

Season 3 of "NCIS" started with a bang, as both episodes in the two-part season premiere are tied for the highest score on IMDb, at 8.7 out of 10 stars each. They're called "Kill Ari, Part 1" and "Kill Ari, Part 2."

The two-parter picks up where the Season 2 finale left off. At the end of Season 2, the NCIS agents were pursuing a rogue Mossad agent named Ari (Rudolf Martin) who set up a terror cell operating in the United States. Season 2 ended with Ari killing NCIS Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) with a sniper rifle, then escaping. When Season 3 begins, fans are treated to a whole two episodes dealing with the aftermath.

Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is bent on revenge, but almost nobody believes that Ari actually pulled the trigger. Then, the NCIS team gets a new director, Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly), who also has a romantic past with Gibbs. During the pursuit of Ari, NCIS works with his Mossad handler Ziva (Cote de Pablo), who's later revealed to be Ari's half-sister. The episodes include tons of twists and turns, and the audience is never quite sure how it will play out until the very end.

It makes sense why these episodes are so highly rated. When Ziva guns down Ari to save Gibbs, it's a defining moment in the series and in their working relationship. Ziva goes on to become a key member of the NCIS team, and many more episodes of "NCIS" are devoted to her and her backstory. The Ziva episodes are some of the highlights of early "NCIS," and they all started here.