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NCIS Season 18: Premiere Date, Cast, and Everything We Know

Expect a time jump, a milestone episode, and more

Malcolm Venable

Season 18 of NCIS is moving full steam ahead and is now officially scheduled to be back on screens late this fall. That means answers to big questions, including how Sloane (Maria Bellowill say farewell from the show, are just on the horizon -- not to mention the milestone 400th episode, airing not long after the Season 18 premiere. 

TV Guide spoke with executive producers Frank Cardea and Gina Monreal in April to get some insight into what we might expect, and more details have emerged since. Here's everything we know so far about Season 18, including what might be in store for Sloane, Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), and the rest of the crew. 

NCIS Season 18 premieres in November. CBS has announced that NCIS will return for Season 18 on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 8/7c.

The season will have fewer episodes than usual. Due to coronavirus production delays, NCIS (as well as a lot of other scripted CBS shows, including NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans) will have a shortened season, Deadline reports. NCIS will air 16 episodes this season.

The 400th episode has already taped. NCIS' big birthday episode is said to tell the origin story of how Gibbs and Ducky (David McCollum) became such great friends and partners. 

NCIS will jump back in time to last November. And it will stay there a while. TV Line reports that after an intense cold open, the show will jump back in time to when Gibbs went off the grid in last season's Episode 8. Co-showrunner Steve Binder told the outlet that the initial episode will explore what happened in the previous episode "Musical Chairs," where Gibbs disappears from the squad room to go on a mission and returns at the end with a black eye. Apparently, that's going to take place over a number of episodes, because when that storyline wraps up, it'll bring the show up to current times, including COVID-19 narratives. 

The cast is documenting table reads. Wilmer Valderrama's shared a snap of the cast's first table read on his Insta. The actor, who plays Torres, posted a screenshot on Sept. 5 that showed the bulk of the main cast, including Sean Murray, Diona Reasonover, Rocky Carroll, and of course Mark Harmon, Zoomin' as they read a new script. 

Gibbs will be a more emotionally open leader. As reported previously, Gibbs' experiences in the tear-jerking last episode will lead him to be more transparent about his emotions. Of course, emotional vulnerability is not something we've known Gibbs to be -- and it's doesn't mean "weak" either. "One thing about the Gibbs character," Monreal said, "he's constantly evolving." Added Cardea: "I think he's going to be taking some risks and chances he never would have taken before."

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Sloane is on her way out, but how remains a mystery. There's a longstanding theory among NCIS fans that Jacqueline "Jack" Sloane (Maria Bello) might be meeting her demise soon -- and recent news reporting Maria Bello's departure from the show prove those theories may have merit. According to the conspiracies, Sloane's would-be death at the end of the season would've closed it on a dramatic note, keeping Gibbs in an unnerved state that's more interesting for the series. Of course, Sloane dying is just one way she could leave: she could move away, retire, or numerous other outcomes. When asked back in April if Sloane might die as the show moves forward, showrunner Frank Cardea laughed it off. "We never talk about what we're going to do," he said adding that if word got out that Sloane's death was in the cards, they wouldn't do it. That likely means the team is crafting a number of scenarios to avoid the death fans saw coming a mile away. Then again, maybe they're planning a death so shocking it'll even surprise the fans who've been waiting on it!

A big milestone episode will be a flashback. NCIS was set to air its 400th episode this season, a monumental achievement the producers, writers, cast and crew had obviously been looking forward to. Though plans were put on hold, that whopper of a birthday is going to be celebrated as soon as possible, and the plans are for that episode to be a flashback. "It's about how Gibbs and Ducky met," Cardea said. "It's a case that brings them back. There are wonderful moments and we see how Ducky and Gibbs met under strange circumstances."

NCIS Season 18 premieres Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 8/7c on CBS. Past episodes are streaming on CBS All Access.

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