‘NCIS’ Boss Gary Glasberg Dissects 200th Episode’s Alternate Universe

by | February 8, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Interview, NCIS

Mark Harmon on NCIS (CBS)

Tuesday night’s 200th episode of “NCIS” — “Life Before His Eyes” — was the top-rated show of the night in viewers and key demos. It was an unusual episode in that it gave fans of TV’s No. 1 drama a look at what could have happened for Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the rest of his NCIS team if different decisions had been made.

“My goal with this episode was an homage to the fans,” says Executive Producer Gary Glasberg. “There is so much detail and so much history of ‘NCIS’ packed into this episode that I constantly recommend to people that they watch it more than once because there are little tidbits of things tucked into every nook and cranny.”

The episode began with a man wearing a hoodie at Gibbs’ favorite morning diner pulling a gun. A shot rings out and then we fade into the light as Gibbs takes a look back at his life and the choices he made — and those thrust upon — as we see an alternate universe of what could have been.

Take Glasberg’s Advice and Watch the Episode Again (or for the First Time) Below:

Glasberg spoke to XfinityTV the morning after the episode aired to talk about the choices he made for the episodes and the effects it will have going forward.

How happy do the ratings for this episode make you?
It is fantastic. I couldn’t be happier. This episode was a lot of fun and means a lot to us, it is great that so many people watched it.

Was there a function for “Life Before His Eyes” other than to entertain?
It was our looking back as a show — the writers, the producers, the actors — looking back and wanting to touch on specific moments as much as it was reaching out to the fans and giving them something fun to watch.

Will Gibbs internalize anything that he learned so that it might change him going forward? He seemed to be in a better place at the end of the episode. Will that last?
Gibbs is Gibbs at the end of the day, but I would like to believe he is evolving and he is not only looking at his life a little differently — not just from this specific moment but from other things as well. The more he looks back at his life, the more he realizes sort of what he needs. It can’t help but affect the character’s storyline as we move forward.

The decision to introduce his mom came out of the blue. How did you decide on that?
We realized as far back as “Heartland” that we had never seen his mom. We thought she was a key influential figure in his life and someone he lost very early. This was an opportunity to do something that may not come up again. We wanted to let people meet someone who was very important to him.

It seems you broke Rule No. 12 a lot — never date a co-worker — by putting Abby (Pauley Perrette) and McGee (Sean Murray) together and Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Kate (Sasha Alexander).
You have to remember, all of these are what we dub “what-if moments,” so even though some of the rules may bend a little, they are all scenarios of what could have been. In actuality, the rules haven’t been broken. It is the possibility of what could have happened if they had unfolded a little differently.

Do you have a favorite moment from the episode?
No. I am really thrilled with the way that this whole thing unfolded. There are so many elements to this, whether it was having actors come back at the last moment, optical effects that we were able to pull off, little surprises, and little hints and clues of things that were dropped in. It is a real puzzle. I think that comes across when you watch it. It was the sum of all the parts for me. Trying to encapsulate nine seasons into 42 minutes is beyond the challenge. I don’t know if we pulled it off, but I hope we did.

I was really happy you brought Ari back. But it looked to me as if most of the stuff with Kate was old footage and you shot around it to make it work?
Yes. Good for you. We did our best to freshen it up and use it a little differently. Sasha was not available for us at the time we were filming, but she very graciously let us use some material. Everything there is opticals, including the moment of her in the hospital with the baby. It was taken from another episode.

Do you think the message at the end is that what has happened is exactly what should have happened?
I think so. I hope that is true of my own life. I like to think that things happen for a reason and that, although Gibbs has experienced a lot of pain, loss and change in his world, at the end of the day he is still content with the world that he lives in.

My favorite line from the episode was : “You will be surprised how one decision ripples into another.” Did that come from you?
Yes. Things ripple. One thing affects another and even when we don’t necessarily connect the dots, I am a firm believer that change happens and, at the end of the day, we embrace it and make the most of it.