Binge Watch These 16 Emotional ‘NCIS’ Episodes for a Good Cry

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Over NCIS‘ 14 seasons, the team has lost people. It’s the nature of the job. They put their lives on the line every day. But sometimes those aren’t the most emotional episodes. Sometimes the ones that come after are. Sometimes it’s the episode that reminds you of those who have died.

Here are 16 emotional NCIS episodes to watch if you’re looking for a good cry.

Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2 – “Kill Ari”


These are prime examples of tough episodes following a character death. After Kate was killed in the final scene of the season 2 finale, the following season’s two-part premiere picked up in the moments immediately after. The team was grieving their loss and remembering their fallen teammate, while hunting down her killer.

Season 3, Episodes 23 and 24 – “Hiatus”

Following an explosion during a case, Gibbs thought it was 1991 — and he had just lost his first wife, Shannon, and their daughter, Kelly, something that had been news to the rest of the team.

Season 4, Episode 19 – “Grace Period”

NCIS introduced NCIS Special Agent Paula Cassidy in season 1’s “Minimum Security,” and she would pop up a few times before her death in this episode. After losing her team to a suicide bomber — on an assignment that should have been Gibbs’ team’s — and blaming herself, she ended up making the ultimate sacrifice.

Season 5, Episode 7 – “Requiem”

Kelly’s best friend, Maddie, went to Gibbs when a guy wouldn’t leave her alone. That led to Gibbs remembering his daughter, Maddie being kidnapped, Tony diving into the water to save both Gibbs and Maddie, and Gibbs hearing his daughter telling him to “go back” and she loved him.

Season 5, Episodes 18 and 19 – “Judgment Day”

Like with “Kill Ari,” the team had to mourn the loss of one of their own — Jenny Shepard — and work. Knowing that she wouldn’t have had long even if she hadn’t been killed didn’t make her death any easier.

Season 8, Episode 14 – “A Man Walks into a Bar …”

The team finally had their psychological evaluations done by one Dr. Rachel Cranston, who, it was revealed near the end of the episode, was Kate’s sister. She got to meet those closest to her sister when she died, see where she worked and, in a moment of closure, stand where Ari stood when Ziva shot Kate’s killer. It’s an episode I can appreciate every time I rewatch it.

Season 8, Episode 23 – “Swan Song”

Mike Franks’ last episode (alive) started with him prompting Gibbs to tell him what happened from the beginning, leading up to Mike’s arrival, and it featured enough foreshadowing that by the time he was killed, it was inevitable.

Season 9, Episode 14 – “Life Before His Eyes”

The show’s 200th episode asked “what if?” and showed a few possible scenarios for key moments from the past: What if Kate wasn’t killed? What if Kate and Tony had a kid? It was also the only opportunity in which Gibbs could share scenes with his mother, Shannon and Kelly.

Season 11, Episode 24 – “Honor Thy Father”


It might have been a season finale, but it was a quiet one, as Gibbs went home after finding out his father had died. In one of the flashbacks, Gibbs’ mother told him something his grandfather used to say: “Water never forgets. Anyone with a boat named after them will live forever.”

Season 12, Episodes 11 and 15 – “Check” and “Cabin Fever”

The worst way to be reminded of how friends died might very well be to have their murders recreated. The absolute worst way? To have an ex-wife killed in the same way as a fallen teammate. “Check” saw Diane, Gibbs and Fornell’s wife, killed in the same way as Kate (by Sergei Mishnev) after Gibbs realized too late the trap they had walked into.

A few episodes later, “Cabin Fever” saw Gibbs take Fornell to a cabin to help his grieving friend, who revealed that he and Diane had gotten into a fight the night before she died. He had said that rekindling their relationship was a mistake, and those were the last words she heard from him — not that he loved her.

Season 13, Episode 1 – “Stop the Bleeding”

After Gibbs was shot twice and rushed into surgery, he saw Kelly in his in-limbo experience. “Just let me look at you,” Gibbs said upon first seeing his daughter. “You got old,” she told him, to which he heartbreakingly replied, “You didn’t.”

Season 13, Episode 18 – “Scope”

The show’s 300th episode might have been as close to perfect as it can get and was one of the series’ most powerful. Gibbs was the right person to try to get through to a Marine being treated for PTSD, and “Scope” ended with guest star Taye Diggs’ unforgettable performance of “Hallelujah” with the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior band over a montage that included Gibbs leaving behind his couch for the bedroom he still referred to as “ours” (meaning his and Shannon’s).

Which of these emotional episodes hit you the hardest? Are there other heart-wrenching episodes we missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

NCIS season 14 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.

(Images courtesy of CBS)

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