Life Before His Eyes
|"Life Before His Eyes"|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Tony Wharmby|
|Written by||Gary Glasberg|
|Original air date||February 7, 2012|
"Life Before His Eyes" is the 14th episode of the ninth season of the American crime drama television series NCIS, and the 200th episode overall. It originally aired on CBS in the United States on February 7, 2012. The episode is written by Gary Glasberg and directed by Tony Wharmby, and was seen by 20.98 million viewers.
During a routine stop in a diner for his morning coffee, Gibbs faces a gunman. He then suddenly finds himself inside a spectral version of the diner where he sees various characters from the past and present, both living and dead. He meets Mike Franks, who tells him that this is an opportunity for him to reflect on his past actions. He shows him an alternate future where Kate hadn't died, where Kate and DiNozzo are married with a newborn baby, but as a result Ziva stays with Mossad and is eventually arrested by NCIS. Gibbs then meets his mother, and he reaffirms that he had always loved her. Disgraced NCIS Agent Riley McCallister then appears and questions Gibbs' decision to murder Pedro Hernandez. Gibbs has Mike show him the future where he couldn't kill Hernandez, and it is revealed that he would have left NCIS and become a broken, reclusive alcoholic who pushes away any attempts to reach out to him. Finally, he meets Shannon and Kelly, who show him a future where they had never died. Gibbs would have stayed a Marine, but would have been killed in action overseas. Through this experience, Gibbs learns that he should not regret the choices he has or had not made.
This experience is related to a case one day before the shooting, where a Petty Officer and civilian contractor are found shot aboard a drydocked warship. They were attempting to steal the ship's military hard drives and sell them to the Chinese. However, the third accomplice, Michael Rose, eventually balks and is forced to kill his co-conspirators in self-defense. Michael's son, Steven, pleads to Gibbs that his father was trying to do the right thing, and he was just misguided. Gibbs decides not to help Michael. On the day that Gibbs is shot, he draws his pistol but refuses to fire when he realizes that the shooter is Steven. Steven fires, but only hits Gibbs in the shoulder. Steven is subdued by several bystanders and he apologizes for shooting Gibbs. The next day, McGee tells the rest of the team that he turned down Director Vance's offer for a promotion to Okinawa since he feels there is still a lot of good he can do where is right now. Despite being injured, Gibbs returns to work, freshly inspired by his near death experience.
"Life Before His Eyes" is written by Gary Glasberg and directed by Tony Wharmby. Glasberg got the idea of how to make the episode back in July 2011, and wanted it to be an episode for the fans. "In all of its quirkiness, "Life Before His Eyes" was meant to be one thing - a gift to the fans. Believe me, we know it was a departure from the usual formula. An intentionally unique idea because we all felt episode #200 couldn't be 'just another NCIS'". One big part of the episode was all of the "what if"-stories, which showed some alternative development if Gibbs' didn't do what he did. "Our 200th episode was a fun opportunity to get a glimpse of what could have happened or could be in the future". "Gibbs is given an opportunity in a millisecond to see what the world would have been like if key moments in NCIS history and lore had unfolded differently. We've taken some of those moments and we let people see them unfold differently."
An alternate reality scene between Tony and Ziva was advertised before the episode aired, in which Tony meets Ziva while interrogating her. Michael Weatherly commented that the scene would, in part, show the negative effects of Ziva having never known Gibbs: "You get a real glimpse into the hellcat she might have become without that guiding hand." However, most of the scene was later cut due to time constraints, and Weatherly subsequently tweeted "Where's the big Tiva interrogation in Ep200? Fans were misled.-We Shot a longer scene but it was edited down! Show biz is tough!"
A lot of familiar characters are shown in the episode, some who died years ago. The return of Kate Todd, Mike Franks, Ari Haswari and Jenny Shepard, and how some of these characters still could have been a part of the show made it a special episode. CGI footage is used to incorporate appearances from the ghost of Lauren Holly's Director Jenny Shepard and an Alternate Universe version of Special Agent Caitlin Todd, played by Sasha Alexander. "We’re doing some really cool things, not only with people we were able to get back, but also with visual effects."
This is the second episode (after Season 8's "A Man Walks Into a Bar...") to feature clips of all the main characters on the show.
"Life Before His Eyes" was seen by 20.98 million live viewers following its broadcast on February 7, 2012, with an 12.7/19 share among all households, and 4.2/11 share among adults aged 18 to 49. A rating point represents one percent of the total number of television sets in American households, and a share means the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the program. In total viewers, "Life Before His Eyes" easily won NCIS and CBS the night, while the spin-off NCIS: Los Angeles drew second and was seen by 16.27 million viewers.
As the 200th episode of the show, it was heavily promoted by CBS in both commercials and social networks. TV Guide Magazine had a big interview discussing the coming episode with the cast and crew.
Steve Marsi from TV Fanatic gave the "Life Before His Eyes" 5 (out of 5) and stated that "Life Before His Eyes was not only an NCIS benchmark, but a crossroads for the characters that made these 200 episodes so good; a reflection on where they've been, where they might have gone, and where they're headed." Alan Sepinwall from Hitfix called the episode "an unabashed love letter to the fans" and David Hinckley from Daily News used it as an example of the way the show reveals the characters' backgrounds in "bits and pieces" by "peeling a little more off [Gibbs'] onion".
- Seidman, Robert. "Tuesday Final Ratings: 'NCIS,' 'Glee,' 'The Biggest Loser Adjusted Up; 'Raising Hope' Adjusted Down". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Glasberg, Gary. "Season Nine: "Life Before His Eyes"". CBS. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Glasberg, Gary. "Exclusive: Q & A with Executive Producer Gary Glasberg". CBS. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Bryant, Adam. "NCIS Celebrates 200 Episodes with an Emotional "What If?" Story". TV Guide. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Shen, Maxine (January 31, 2012). "Bizarro ‘NCIS’". New York Post. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- Mitovich, Matt. "NCIS Episode 200 Explores Alt Realities: Who Comes Back? Who Is a Hellcat? Who Has a Kid?". TVLine. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
- Mitovich, Matt Webb. "NCIS Episode 200 Explores Alt Realities: Who Comes Back? Who Is a Hellcat? Who Has a Kid?". TV Line. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Porter, Rick. "TV ratings: 'The River' starts modestly for ABC, 'NCIS' 200th scores for CBS Tuesday". ZAP 2 it. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Stelter, Brian. "Quiet Series Celebrates a Milestone Few Others Reach". The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Willman, Chris (January 19, 2012). "NCIS: No Curbing its success". TV Guide Magazine, page 12-16.
- Marsi, Steve. "NCIS 200th Episode Review: Again, For the First Time". TV Fanatic. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Sepinwall, Alan, "Review: 'NCIS' - 'Life Before His Eyes': It's a wonderful life, Gibbs", Hitfix, retrieved March 19, 2013
- Hinckley, David (February 13, 2013). "With little fanfare, the steady procedural 'NCIS' has become a massive hit for CBS". The Daily News (New York). Retrieved May 21, 2013.