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Warning: spoilers ahead for the January 8 episode of NCIS**, called "Toil and Trouble."**
NCIS has returned to the airwaves for the second half of Season 16, and it kicked off 2019 with a potentially game-changing twist. Trailers for "Toil and Trouble" revealed that McGee and Torres would be arrested for their actions on the case of the week, with Mitch Pileggi of The X-Files fame guest-starring. What few fans could have seen coming was the reveal that one member of the NCIS team could very well leave the unit by the end of Season 16. Is McGee on his way out?
McGee is one of only four major characters left from the beginning of the series, and his departure would be a big blow after Pauley Perrette left as Abby at the end of Season 15, which also saw the death of another member of the team. Normally, McGee would be on my list of characters least likely to be written out of NCIS, but the events of "Toil and Trouble" give reason to doubt and even wonder if fans should prepare to say goodbye. McGee has a big job opportunity that would take him away from NCIS.
Most of McGee's storyline in "Toil and Trouble" saw him dealing with being arrested by the Secretary of Defense and forced to explain himself (along with Torres) and what happened in a dangerous case involving a lethal chlorine gas that was supposed to have been destroyed long ago. The first clue of McGee's potential departure was easy to overlook and almost seemed like a joke at McGee's expense.
A package from tech company Splendifida arrived at McGee's desk, and Bishop began to tease him that he did some late-night online shopping. McGee distractedly commented that his wife had deactivated their credit cards after 11:30 p.m. to prevent such things from happening, and he seemed genuinely unsure of what the box of tech goodies was doing on his desk. As we saw later, this reaction may not have been 100% genuine.
When waiting on Kasie with Torres, McGee began going through his Splendifida box, which contained a drone, a pair of VR goggles, and a wristwatch with a hidden camera and hidden knife that Torres immediately admired. McGee explained that he'd emailed the company the previous month after he noticed some glitches and software bugs in a robotic dog he (supposedly) got his twins for Christmas.
Was it kinda believable that the company sent him some freebies to thank him for his help and/or apologize for the issues with the robot dog? Sure. Why not?
Well, as McGee's closing scene with Kasie revealed, Splendifida wasn't sending packages of free tech out as a thank you or an apology. Kasie had called the company in the hopes of scoring some freebies for herself in exchange for testing them for bugs, but the company told her that they didn't give away tech... except for when they're courting prospective employees. Yes, McGee is being head-hunted by a huge tech company.
McGee excitedly told Kasie that he was being offered a whole lot of money to leave NCIS and join Splendifda, and he was clearly excited by the offer. When Kasie suggested that he was going to move on from NCIS to make the big bucks at the tech company, McGee wouldn't commit either to staying or leaving. He did get Kasie to promise not to tell any of the others, but she raised the point that their coworkers are all detectives dedicated to solving complicated crimes. How long until the secret comes out and McGee has to make a decision?
At this point, the only way I can really see McGee leaving NCIS as a regular is if actor Sean Murray is ready to leave. Abby is no longer around because Pauley Perrette was ready to move on from the series, and DiNozzo was written out to accommodate Michael Weatherly's readiness to leave. Perhaps the offer from Splendifida is how NCIS is aiming to write out Murray without killing him off or giving him such a permanent-feeling exit as the one DiNozzo received.
Sean Murray has been playing the same role for 16 seasons; perhaps he's ready for something new. It could even make sense for McGee to leave NCIS at this point. He has ended up in some especially dangerous situations in recent seasons, and "Toil and Trouble" saw him in danger of incarceration from his own government. He's the father to two young kids now, and he has responsibilities to his family. If the danger of his job gets to be too much for the family, he may feel the need to retire from NCIS and take a safer job. The fact that the job offers a huge paycheck would just be a perk!
All of this said, it's difficult to imagine NCIS without McGee, as he's been one of the rocks of the show for me as the show continued without Abby. The will-they-won't-they relationship between Torres and Bishop -- which seems to be a lot more when-will-they now that Torres seemingly came close to expressing some feelings in "Toil and Trouble" after cancelling Bishop's date without her knowledge -- is entertaining, and Kasie has been a fun addition, but I know I would miss McGee, and I can't be the only one.
Despite rumors that Mark Harmon was leaving NCIS due to health issues, Gibbs is sticking around, and Harmon has more in the works at CBS. We shouldn't panic that McGee is definitely leaving, as nothing is certain at this point. His determination to keep the job offer a secret does probably mean some drama moving forward when the rest of the NCIS team inevitably figures out what's going on.
Tune in to CBS on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET for new episodes of NCIS. Next week will see Gibbs reunite with an old family friend for a road trip in search of a missing military ID bracelet. Back in D.C., the the team will deal with an infamous drug dealer. For some alternate viewing options, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule.