'NCIS' Season 18 Premiere: Why Did Gibbs Shoot McGee?

The NCIS Season 18 premiere on Tuesday featured a shocking scene where Gibbs (Mark Harmon) shot McGee (Sean Murray), and fans are still trying to wrap their heads around it. The new episode was titled "Sturgeon Season," and it may go down in history as one of the most intense installments the series has ever seen. So far, fans and critics can only speculate about why Gibbs shot McGee, but there are some strong guesses going around.

The episode started with McGee trying to hold up a private jet, while Gibbs watched through a sniper rifle. In order to stop McGee, Gibbs shot him once in the arm and once in the leg, incapacitating him while hopefully not threatening his life. This was apparently a flash-forward, since the shooting never came up again for the rest of the episode, suggesting that the scene will come back around later in the season with more context. That will be a first for NCIS, which typically works as a procedural and keeps the long-term storylines to a minimum.

According to a report by Newsweek, the writers of NCIS showed this flash-forward intentionally to indicate that the main events of the episode are taking place in the past. In that way, they are able to avoid setting the show during the coronavirus pandemic, since most viewers would rather have a break from it while they are watching their show.

Fans and critics seem comfortable assuming that Gibbs was not trying to kill McGee, and that he hit his extremities on purpose. Gibbs is an experienced sniper, and also a loyal teammate to McGee, even if they are at odds in this future scene.

Fans now have their eye on every subtle move in the main episode for signs of how these events will lead to Gibbs shooting McGee. One fan tweeted about how the episode seemed to focus particularly on the relationship between Gibbs, McGee and Fornell (Joe Spano). They figured this means Fornell will somehow be involved in the plane incident.

"They will have gotten close to head of the snake but he's threatening to kill someone or the person on the plane is or has Fornell," they wrote. "Gibbs probably had to shoot McGee to stop him."

On the other hand, some fans are questioning whether it really was Gibbs who shot McGee. Since he was hit from far away, it is possible that another sniper was trained on McGee, and Gibbs was only watching through the scope. As evidence, they point out Gibbs' famed sharp-shooting skills, figuring he would never miss. Some also speculate that Gibbs is faking his death in this scene in order to go undercover, or perhaps that this is the end of an undercover mission in the distant future.

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Whatever the case, it is clear that the NCIS writers will tease this mystery for a while. The show airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

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