- Gibbs is still more aligned with his team. In the pilot, he rides in the truck with his two other officers. He carries a camera and takes photos himself. He is beside them rather than above them. He is their teacher. He is deferential to the Director in that he calls him Director and is scrupulously polite, as if to a commanding officer, even whilst disagreeing and making his view clear.
Jethro's history: the time line is difficult to sort out
- When a character in an episode mentions "Hicksville" territory in the Midwest, Gibbs says he comes from "just west of there"..
- His father flew a "P51" Mustang - a very fast fighter plane - and had Betty Gable painted on it, so he must have been in military in WW2, at least.
- We were first introduced to Gibbs and the show N.C.I.S. in "Ice Queen" from an episode of the hit TV series JAG.
- Gibbs is the lead agent in the team (Many refer to him as "Boss"). He defines his job as teaching his team "The Rules" and of course fighting crime (Naval and USMC crime mostly).
- As well as his love of black coffee (which seems to be a blend only he and Jenny can enjoy), he has an affection for smacking his subordinates on the head (including himself in Family Secrets).
- It seems that only Jenny and Abby have not suffered this fate as yet. He doesn't slap Ducky and only Ducky has done it to Palmer. Ducky complains that Palmer seems to enjoy it. Gibbs observes the territorial rights of other bosses over their subordinates. He rarely head slaps McGee, because McGee is very compliant and seeks approval (and Tony does it to McGee anyway). For Gibbs, threats, stares and pointed questions are enough to control McGee. There does seem to be a decrease in head slapping overall as the team evolve into what Gibbs wants them to be. Shaken by Agent Kate Todd's death, Gibbs even put a moratorium on head slapping: his first head slap to Tony after Kate's death was a signal that the 'old' Gibbs is back.
- The back story on Gibbs is muddled and the time line is inconsistent. The writers appear to have toughened up his character's back story as Mark Harmon has developed the role and to provide more scope for his past coming back to haunt him. Dates, jobs, relationships, locations, length of service, dates of divorces, etc are all jumbled.
- An example of the back story inconsistency: The writers have changed the back story on Gibbs and Fornell completely: in the pilot episode, (Yankee White,1.01) they do not know each other by sight: in later episodes, they have known each other for years and shared an ex-wife. The new back story is much more interesting, of course, yielding more reasons for interaction with Fornell. Fornell, when framed, turns to Gibbs as his 'only friend'.
- Back story can also be hard to discern due to the use of metaphors. For instance, Gibbs says he comes from a long line of 'horse traders', but this merely means that he knows how to ask for more than he wants. So that when he 'compromises', he ends up with what he wanted in the first place. For example:He gets a JAG lawyer to obtain a search warrant on weak 'probable cause' by asking for an illegal database search which the lawyer must decline. The lawyer agrees to the search warrant as the lesser of two evils
- With three agents to cover the manual work, Gibbs slips more and more into acting as General instead of Sergeant.
- At the start of the Season of Change: The death of Kate has unnerved Gibbs. When he is feeling lost, he is kind to his team. Instead of smacking DiNozzo on the back of his head when Tony reported that they could not find the casing that killed Catlin, he noticed DiNozzo was soaked from the rain and told him to change his clothes. The arrival of Ziva David provides a focus for his anger. He learns that to trust her with his secret about his dead wife and child. He learned to respect her after the conversation regarding his wife Shannon and daughter Kelly. Towards the end of the first episode, he switches to a more reasonable mode with her as she demonstrates justice without a bias towards her own people. Eventually, he owes her his life but acquires another secret to keep. A secret only Ziva David and Gibbs share. The secrets solidified the trust and loyalty between them. The bitterness of the Ari episode has made him harder, once he gets his confidence back.
- He began to show his seniority when Jenny Shepherd becomes Director. With Jenny Shepherd around, he has the chance to pit himself more equally with the Director of NCIS. His relationship with the former Director was much more of a non-com officer to a General, but with Jenny, it is more a peer relationship, colored by their previous affair in Paris. He calls the Director a variety of titles, according to his mood: Director, Madam Director, Ma'am, Director Shepard, Jenny, Jen. She rejects the overuse of Madam Director and insists on being called Director when pulling rank on Gibbs. He never calls her Ma'am and reminds others about that.
- During season 3: The arrival of Ziva, a trained killer, like himself, gives him a new dynamic. He finds himself having to set boundaries on Ziva. He has learned to show kindness since Catlin's death. He is no longer the most extreme hard nose in the room. His friendship with Fornell grows stronger. His seniority lets him play with the system. Fornell and he have to trade trust. They both enjoy the same things; (bitching about their shared ex-wife being one of them).
- At the end of season 3: He is angry enough to turn his back on NCIS and his team and go to Mexico with Mike Franks.
- At the start of the Season of Secrets: Gibbs is not prepared to return to his job. The transition begins with him helping Ziva (given that she never needs help) survive a frame up, then helps Fornell deal with an escaped convict who manipulates Fornell with his love for his daughter. Thus both episodes force him into rescuer roles: (it was the inability to prevent disaster that made him leave: now he is doing rescues and undoing disasters.) It is as rescuer/redeemer that made he decide returns to NCIS. McGee was in obvious delight to see his return.
- During the season: Gibbs takes on the role of wise old man as Jen takes on the role of dementedly revenge-driven nutter. Gibbs has to give counsel and experience being on the outside of secrets. He knows that Ziva and Jen share information, and he knows that Tony and Jen are working on something but he doesn't know quite what is happening. With the arrival of Hollis Mann, Gibbs also has to face having a private life again and letting someone into his emotional space. That is a challenge.
- By the end of the season, he knows that something big is brewing, and that it is more complicated than it should be. He is watching and observing. Gibbs risks everything by hacking the feds for information on Jen's secrets to protect her from the federal vultures circling overhead. Giving McGee 'get out of jail free' card shows that he knows what is at stake, but he does it anyway. He also learned to be show passion because of Hollis Mann.
- At the end of the first episode, Gibbs can see there may be trouble ahead. It is not of his making and he cannot prevent the pain that is coming both Tony's and Jen's way.
- Second episode: Tony is hurting but Gibbs pushes Tony hard, even though he know that Tony is in 'stay or go' decision mode. Gibbs is the tough love parent who doesn't need men's room conversations to see the significance of that letter in the fire at the end.
- Third episode: Gibbs faces his ex-loves and effects a reconciliation with the ex-wife, is roasted by the ex-lover/current boss and has to face up to the significance of Shannon/Kelly grief as the stumbling block on his current relationship with Mann. Mann learns of Kelly and Shannon and Mann realizes what it means, and that he couldn't even mention them to her. Writing on wall. The closing scene, with Hollis Mann listening to the cassette tape of Kelly and Shannon is heart-wrenching for the characters as well as us. It shows the pain Gibbs still feels years after their death... enough pain that Mann chooses to leave Gibbs and move to Hawaii. Gibbs can't let go of Shannon or Kelly, even though it causes him to lose promising relationships
- Fourth episode/Fifth episode/Sixth episode: just action
- Seventh episode: Gibbs sees what Kelly could have been like had she lived, by seeing Kelly's best friend. He finally shares memories of Kelly with another who loved her and this seems to lift some of the burden of grieving alone. He has a near-death encounter with Kelly who gives him permission to go back and live, knowing he is loved and forgiven for not being there to save Shannon and Kelly. Instead of opening Kelly's time capsule, he decides to bury it where it was, perhaps a sign of his effort to put his grief to rest since he does it with a smile.
- In the first episode, Gibbs is has a whole new team consisting of Agent Langer, Keating, and Lee. In the last episode of the previous season we see Leon Vance (now director due to the death of Jenny Shepard) reassigning Ziva, Tony, and McGee, leaving Gibbs with a new team. Now with his new team, Gibbs is puzzled why Director Vance broke up his team, but later learns that Director Vance has reason to believe that one of the new members of Gibbs' team is betraying their country.
- We learn that Gibbs was born in Stillwater, Pennsylvania. His mother is deceased, his father Jackson Gibbs is still alive, whom he calls by his first name. Father and son became estranged when Jackson turned up at Shannon & Kelly's funeral with a date.
- At the end of the episode "Heartland" we also learn that his first wife, Shannon, was also from his hometown and they met at the train station when he was leaving for the Marine Corps.