NCIS, a stalwart in the world of prime-time television, has not been immune to controversy during its impressive 20-year run as the seventh longest scripted U.S. series. With 20 seasons, 450 episodes, and several spin-offs, the beloved show has faced its share of ups and downs.

One of the most shocking moments occurred in the Season 2 finale, “Twilight,” when fans had to bid farewell to Special Agent Caitlin “Kate” Todd (Sasha Alexander). After saving Gibbs’s life, she was tragically killed by a sniper’s bullet to the head. The unexpected loss left viewers and on-screen characters alike in disbelief. The scene, featuring blood splatter on Agent Tony DiNozzo’s face, prompted strong reactions, with one Reddit user even expressing the need for a break after watching.

In the Season 5 finale, “Judgment Day Part One,” the death of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) added another layer of complexity. As the first female director, her demise during a gunfight marked a significant shift within the team. The revelation of her past romantic involvement with Special Agent Gibbs intensified the impact, leading to a series of events that included the disbandment of the team.

The departure of fan-favorite Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) in the Season 13 finale, titled “Family First,” stirred controversy. Rumored dead from a mortar attack, Ziva’s exit left a void for fans who cherished her dynamic with Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Cote de Pablo later revealed that subpar scripts led to her departure, adding another layer of disappointment for devoted viewers.

The emotional toll continued when Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) announced his resignation in the same episode, concluding his eight-year tenure on the show. The loss of the on-screen chemistry between Tony and Ziva further contributed to the controversy surrounding the departures.

Surprisingly, Ziva David made a reappearance in Season 16’s finale, “Daughters,” after four years in hiding. However, her second exit, devoid of a family reunion with Tony and their daughter Tali, left fans dissatisfied. Despite the hopes for a happy ending, Ziva’s farewell in front of elevator doors marked the end of a significant chapter in the show.

In 2021, news of Mark Harmon’s limited appearance in Season 19 raised questions about the future of NCIS. However, the series continued its success, now in its 20th season, showcasing resilience even without its leading character. The unanswered questions surrounding Leroy Jethro Gibbs left fans speculating, with showrunner Steve Binder emphasizing never to count out the iconic character.

As NCIS remains a ratings juggernaut, with “NCIS: Hawaii” and the original series both renewed, the show’s dedicated fan base can expect more drama and twists in the seasons to come. Despite controversies and character departures, NCIS stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of high-stakes, life-and-death television.

By chrysos