'NCIS' Season 19 Premiere Reveals What Happened to Gibbs

After an explosive cliffhanger, the CBS procedural returned to a new night (and time) answering the biggest looming question.

Warning: Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Monday's season 19 premiere of NCIS.

What happened to Gibbs? 

On Monday's season 19 premiere of NCIS, titled "Blood in the Water," the biggest question looming over viewers all summer was finally answered. Following the fiery finale that left the fate of suspended NCIS team leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) up in the air, the first episode back revealed that Gibbs (somehow) survived the brutal explosion on his boat. Bloodied and very gravely injured, Gibbs watched the wreckage at the lake unfold from afar. 

As the rest of the team -- led by Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) and Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), and new "temporary" team member Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) -- embarked on a frantic search for Gibbs after learning there were no signs of survivors, the outlook looked grim. But others, like Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), held out hope that Gibbs was still alive: "This is not how it ends." Sure enough, he was right as Torres and McGee learned Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) had outfitted Gibbs with an electronic bug finder the day before the explosion and she secretly installed a tracking device.

During all this, Gibbs made fast enemies (later friends) with an older couple, who believed him to be less than legit, while he tried to recover from his wounds. All that mattered to him was that the serial killer he and journalist Marcie Warren (Pam Dawber) were tracking was brought to justice, their dangerous mission to find the killer the cause of Gibbs' near-death experience.

With Marcie's life potentially in danger, Gibbs made his first connection with the team, who called Gibbs over the phone to tell him that Marcie needed to be kept safe. (The team also discovered Gibbs and Marcie's romantic relationship, but that's beside the point.) Just as Gibbs was about to have a showdown with some shady suspects who were pretending to be sheriffs and drug-buying, McGee, Torres and Knight interrupted his plans for an unlikely reunion. Of course, with the foursome back together again and Gibbs leading the charge, it wasn't going to be pretty for the bad guys.

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Afterward, when the dust settled for a brief moment in time, Gibbs and McGee had a significant heart to heart about where things stood with the team -- and GIbbs' mission to catch the serial killer terrorizing him and Marcie. Technically still suspended at NCIS, Gibbs seemed to allude to the passing of the baton to McGee, though his protege wasn't quite ready to take the mantle. At least, not yet.

"Rule 91: When you decide to walk away, never look back," McGee recalls one of Gibbs' old rules, believing that the NCIS vet may not be coming back -- not until he found the serial killer. 

"Rule 91 sucks," McGee tells Gibbs. "Rule 91 sucks because it is in direct violation of Rule No 1: Never screw over your partner."

"I'm not your partner. You see a badge?" Gibbs says calmly.

"The team is your partner and you not being a part of it is screwing us over," McGee says with urgency, prompting Gibbs to tell him, "You don't need me."

"You're right. While you were on suspension, we did our job. We made it work, we did it well. But you know what, we're better together," McGee argues. "Boss, you know I'm right. You have to. You built this... Now we got a serial killer to catch, but in order to do that we have to be a team. We need to be your team..."

It's at that split-second moment a hint of a smile appears on Gibbs' face. "I'm proud of you... Keep pushing, McGee... You always keep pushing."

"Does that mean you're in?" McGee asks, hopeful that Gibbs is back. Sure enough, he gets his wish -- for now.

"What do ya got?" Gibbs asks.

The premiere episode also addressed the aftermath of Emily Wickersham's departure from NCIS following last season. Her character, Bishop, seemed to have been planning her exit from NCIS for a while, though she kept her plans close to the vest -- only notifying Palmer after she skipped town to tie up any loose ends on her behalf. The reality of Bishop's abrupt absence -- her number suddenly no longer works -- sends Torres on a bit of a tailspin and it'll likely affect him for the foreseeable future.

NCIS airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For more, watch below.

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