- "I'm not a Goth. I'm a scientist."
- —Abby while talking to Dr. Rachel Cranston in the Season 8 episode, "A Man Walks Into A Bar".
- "NCIS resident forensic scientist, heart and soul, a paradox wrapped in an oxymoron, smothered in contradictions in terms, sleeps in a coffin. Really, the happiest goth you’ll ever meet."
- —Anthony DiNozzo describing Abby in the Season 7 episode, "Truth or Consequences".
- "I am a scientist, McGee. Luck has nothing to do with it and/or us."
- —Abby talking to Timothy McGee in the Season 3 episode, Mind Games.
She's well-known around NCIS for her Gothic style of clothing, her addiction to the high-caffeine beverage "Caf-Pow," and her highly-energetic personality which has her often hugging everyone, sometimes going off-topic much to Gibbs's own annoyance and even talks fast while waving her hands.
According to Jenny Sheppard the mail-room employees call her "Energizer-Abby" as revealed in the Season 3 episode, The Voyeur's Web (episode).
She is also one of the few members of the team (aside from Donald Mallard) who can claim to be close friends with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs which is further indicated by the fact that she and Mallard are the only ones that have never received Gibbs's trademark head-slap although it should be noted that Agent Caitlin Todd, prior to her death, never received any of Gibbs's head-slaps either.
Abby was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and raised all over the southern United States. Both her parents are deaf and as such, she likes her music loud, as noted in the Season 1 episode, My Other Left Foot (episode) and the Season 10 episode, Phoenix (episode).
She has at least one sibling, a younger brother named Luca; also an Aunt Gert, and a niece.
However, in the Season 9 episode, Enemy on the Hill (episode) it was revealed that Abby was actually adopted, and that she has a biological brother. This left Abby confused and after running a strand of DNA from her mother's locket, she discovered that their DNA didn't match, leaving Abby distraught and wondering why her birth parents had given her up.
Abby claims that she first learned to drive a manual transmission when she was ten years old which she revealed in the Season 3 episode, Kill Ari Part 2 (episode).
Abby also excels in American Sign Language, because both of her parents were deaf, and she can also lip read, both of which become useful at various points in the series.
Abby graduated with full honors from Louisiana State University with a triple major in sociology, criminology and psychology. She earned her master's degree from Georgia State University in criminology and forensic science. She has implied that she has a PhD in chemistry as revealed during the Season 7 episode, Power Down (episode).
Despite her eccentricities, Abby is a top-class and highly dedicated forensic scientist who has described herself as a perfectionist on more than one occasion. She is almost never fazed by the problems the MCRT throws at her lab, and handles its work almost entirely by herself, often relying on Caf-Pow to help her get through the work although in Leap of Faith (episode) and Obsession (episode), it's shown that she tends to get very annoyed if her colleagues keep on nagging her.
In the first few episodes of Seasons One and Two, Abby regularly voiced her desire to have an assistant assigned to her lab due to the overwhelming amount of work that was usually given to her, but that never came to pass, possibly due to the fact that it was not in the NCIS budget at the time.
However, in Season Three, shortly after Jennifer Shepard was appointed Director of NCIS, she became alarmed by Abby's work habits and level of caffeine consumption, and so hired an assistant, Charles Sterling, to help Abby despite Abby herself and Gibbs protesting.
Unfortunately, despite attempting to work together, their working relationship did not last long and came to an abrupt and permanent end when Sterling was exposed for trying to frame Anthony DiNozzo for murder, and arrested, having even attempted to kill Abby after his true intentions were finally revealed. But she got the better of him and hog-tied him with duct tape before asking the team if she could work alone now.
After that, Jenny took the point and let Abby work alone from then on, a trait that Abby continues to do to this day although, in the Season Eight episode, Worst Nightmare (episode), it was revealed that she was still suspicious of new people being assigned to her lab, presumably after the Chip incident.
As revealed in Leap of Faith (episode), Abby hints that she has received several lucrative offers from private firms, but has always elected to remain with NCIS, because of her devotion and strong loyalty to the agency as well as her affection for Gibbs and the rest of the team.
During Toxic (episode), she was briefly attached to a top-secret government project that was code-named "Tarburst," ostensibly to fill the gap left by the project's chief scientist, Dr. Phillip Heller, who had gone missing under mysterious circumstances.
Tarburst's stated goal was to cure Afghanistan War Syndrome, but was later revealed to be aimed at developing biological weapons that could be used to perform assassinations of any kind without even exposing soldiers or other assets to life-threatening or dangerous situations.
Upon learning the truth, Abby, furious at how she had been manipulated into creating a biological weapon, eventually quit the project for good and returned to NCIS where she helped the team solve the case, arresting the true criminal responsible.
Afterwards, she lured McGee, DiNozzo, and Palmer to her lab under the guise of Gibbs so that they could clean it, which the three men had rather carelessly ruined during their attempts to fill in for her while she was off working on the project.
Personality and Habits
Abby is known for her Gothic style of dress and her dyed black hair, which she usually wears in short pigtails. She has been seen with her hair down and also tied up in buns.
Her style of clothing includes black dresses and t-shirts, mini-skirts, and goth jewelry. She often wears anklets and toe rings as well as finger rings.
She often feels uncomfortable when dressed in "normal" clothes, often referring to them as "monkey suits" and almost had a break-down when she was forced to dress in business casual in accordance to the NCIS dress codes that new Director Jenny Shepard had approved in Silver War (episode).
In Witch Hunt (episode), Abby wore an exact copy of the well-known dress that actress Marilyn Monroe had worn during the film "Seven Year Itch". To make her costume more realistic, Abby even wore a blonde wig complete with earrings while also painting her nails red and she had high-heeled white shoes as well. The costume she wore had her former boyfriend/lover, Special Agent Timothy McGee, and Abby's colleague DiNozzo stunned and only a head slap from Leroy Jethro Gibbs managed to get the two going again. This is also the only Halloween episode where Abby has been seen wearing a Halloween costume.
She frequently has to be counseled when putting on a suit for court appearances as revealed in Bloodbath (episode).
In recent years, starting with Season Eight's Spider and the Fly (episode), Abby was seen wearing tiny yet visible earrings in her ears and although they have since disappeared, she's been seen with a single piercing on her left or right ear.
She listens almost exclusively to Industrial rock/metal which she plays at very loud levels in her lab and gets annoyed if it's abruptly switched off as seen in the Season 2 episode, Witness (episode) when she gives out to Gibbs for messing with her music.
She loves bowling in her spare time, and claims to belong to a team of bowling nuns headed by a nun named Sister Rosita.
She has stated several times that she sleeps in a coffin. In the past, she has used a hearse for transportation though she says that at one point she owned a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, that her then-boyfriend tried to use to run over her as revealed in the Season 3 episode, Model Behavior (episode).
More recently, she has been seen driving a bright red 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe with the personalized license plate "4N6 CHIK" as seen in the Season 5 episode, Dog Tags (episode).
Her best friend in her lab is a stuffed hippo named Bert that farts whenever it is squeezed, often providing comic relief in tense situations. In the episode Till Death Do Us Part (episode), as Abby was evacuating before the bomb went off, she was seen carrying a jacket or a bag and Bert.
Despite being surrounded by the paraphernalia of death, Abby has a happy-go-lucky attitude and a very sweet personality. DiNozzo described her to Saleem Ulman as the "happiest Goth you will ever meet".
As revealed in Judgment Day Part 1 (episode), Abby has her own custom-made phone with the ring tone being some screeching crows.
As a result of Director Shepard dying in a shootout at an abandoned diner in California, Abby claimed to have developed a phobia of Los Angeles. Despite this, she went there to aid NCIS's Los Angeles office in catching a serial killer ("Random On Purpose").
Unfortunately, her first-ever trip to Los Angeles and The Office of Special Projects Building also proved to be her last as the murderer responsible later kidnapped Abby, intending to kill her.
Following that incident, Abby has not returned to LA to aid the team with any further cases nor has she had contact of any kind with the Los Angeles team, including her friend, Eric Beale, since then which could be due to Gibbs's unwillingness to let her go back to LA alone given possible security concerns or his worries about the possibility that she might be kidnapped and held hostage again.
As such, Abby has not appeared in any recent NCIS: Los Angeles episodes and it's possible that her appearance in the first Season was just a one-off.
Because of what had happened in Los Angeles and due to the ongoing Mexican Drug War, Director Vance assigned McGee to be part of her security detail when Abby accepted an offer to go to Mexico at the request of Alejandro Rivera during Borderland (episode), although Abby was dismayed at having McGee serving as her protection, having ironically expressed a hope moments before to the director's secretary, Pamela Cook, that McGee wasn't going with her to Mexico.
Abby is also an expert at poker as revealed in the Season 6 episode, Semper Fidelis (episode)
When the NCIS building came under attack from Harper Dearing in the Season 10 finale episode, Till Death Do Us Part (episode), Abby was seen grabbing her bag and Burt while attempting to flee the lab as well as a Caf-Pow but thanks to Gibbs tackling her to the ground just as the windows in the lab shattered from the intense explosion, they both emerged without any injuries although Abby later voiced her anger to Ziva David about the bombing.
However, in Recovery (episode), due to the attack, Abby's nightmares about being in the morgue which she beat in Bête Noire (episode) and which were presumably suppressed for nine or ten years have re-emerged with a vengeance, leaving her psychologically and emotionally traumatized.
Relationships with Colleagues
Leroy Jethro Gibbs
- "What do you got, Abbs?."
- —Gibbs upon entering Abby's lab to ask her for information on the team's current case.
Some fans think Abby has a father-daughter type relationship with Gibbs. There is a running gag between the two when Leroy Jethro Gibbs walks in just as Abby discovers something, which she theorizes has to do with a psychic link. She is usually excited when Gibbs comes into the lab, especially if he has a "Caf-Pow," an extra caffeinated beverage Gibbs apparently gets her when he is refilling his coffee. He gives them to her as a reward for good work or as a "bribe", but threatens to take them back if Abby hasn't found enough evidence for him.
Abby is also one the few people Gibbs will allow to work on his boats other than children, not shouting at her when damaging it in the episode "Bloodbath" due to the fact that she was drunk at the time.
In the season 5 episode, "Leap of Faith", Abby receives a bouquet of black roses from Gibbs for solving the case. While Tony remarks that the flowers should have been his, McGee and Ziva both agree that Tony should stop trying because “Abby will always be Gibbs's favorite.” Gibbs takes her out to dinner the night before her birthday annually. These examples could also support the alternative view that there is an undertone of romantic interest between the two, as discussed below. However, Pauley Perette stated in her interview on Australian television show Good News Week, she believes "Gibbs is like a father figure to her (Abby)".
Other viewers believe that she and Gibbs could have romantic feelings for one another. This view is based on the following evidence: First, one Valentines Day, Gibbs gave her a Caf-Pow with a stuffed "love you" on the straw. Second, Abby is extremely defensive against any accusation, joking or not, against Gibbs. In response to one such occasion, she declared that she can kill a person without leaving any forensic evidence. Third, in the season 5 episode, Leap of Faith, Abby receives a bouquet of black roses from Gibbs for solving the case. Fourth, Gibbs takes her out to dinner the night before her birthday every year. He once managed to sneak a gift into her office unseen even though she had been in the lab the entire night. While the rest of the team each gave her black roses, when she opened the large, gift wrapped box from Gibbs, it emitted a glowing light and she was impressed.
Also, Abby admitted in the Season 3 episode, Mind Games (episode) that "something about his silver hair gets me all tingly inside". Tony who had just come into the lab at the time reacted by saying, "Excuse me for a second. I think I'm gonna vomit". Seconds later, Abby reassured him that she was joking except for the bit about Gibbs's hair because she found that really hot.
- "I really liked you, Kate. A lot."
- —Abby talking to Kate's ghost in Kill Ari Part 1.
Upon joining NCIS, Kate and Abby became close, immediately forming a strong, budding friendship with one another due to the fact that at the time they were the only women on the team.
This first began in the Season 1 episode, Hung Out to Dry (episode), where after the two women had worked on a parachute's shrouded line, Kate, the newest addition to Gibbs's team, began talking to Abby about how she'd gotten into Forensic Science and from that moment on, the two struck up a friendship.
The two girls shared weekend vacations and frequent personal information. They often hung together and regularly mocked and teased Tony much to his dismay, solely due to the fact he always wanted to know what they were doing.
As seen in the episode, A Weak Link (episode), Abby confided in Kate about her current relationship with Tim McGee and Kate gave very helpful advice although for the duration of that episode, McGee and Abby were very frosty towards one another.
Like the others, Abby was left devastated by Kate's death, and as a result was initially cold towards Ziva, whose half-brother, Ari, had been responsible.
When Abby imagined herself talking to Kate after her death in the Season 3 premiere episode, Kill Ari Part 1 (episode), it was revealed that Abby had convinced Kate to get a tattoo. Abby's afterlife vision also showed Kate's ghost as a goth with white hair, telling Abby to put on her black lipstick while Abby looked at the picture that Kate had drawn of her. Abby kept that drawing of herself as a vampire bat that Kate had made for her on her desk.
Looking back on the friendship between Kate and Abby, they acted more like sisters, although Kate was the girlie girl and Abby was the metal goth.
Though Ziva David is tough, Abby treats her like a close friend. The two got into a slapping fight in "Hiatus Part One" but they made up thanks to Tony's efforts, although when he asked them to kiss each other, they reacted by punching him in the shoulder at the same time.
In the beginning, though, their friendship was unstable as Abby was still mourning Kate who had been murdered by Ari, Ziva's half-brother. Abby even resented Ziva getting praise and began saying her surname incorrectly just to irk Ziva, a trait that Paula Cassidy would use in the Season 4 episode, Grace Period (episode).
But the two soon became close friends. In one episode, Ziva presents Abby with a "Chocoholics Choice" cupcake as a thank you for allowing her to stay at her apartment while her home was being fumigated. The cupcake later went missing and it was soon revealed that McGee who hadn't eaten anything all day had in a moment of weakness promptly devoured the cupcake, using latex gloves in hopes of covering his tracks but Abby later found out and expressed her displeasure at what he had done. McGee also earned two head-slaps from Tony and Ziva for his actions.
In the Season 7 opening episode, Truth or Consequences (episode), Abby embraces Ziva in the squad-room after Gibbs, Tony and McGee came back from Africa, bringing a physically weak but alive Ziva with them.
Abby and McGee dated briefly during Season One. However they ended the relationship later in the season and have remained good friends ever since. Abby often jokes around with McGee, sometimes sexually. In one case, she said, "Remember, I am one of the only people in the world who can kill you and leave no... forensic... evidence."
In some instances, she becomes jealous when McGee projects his attention onto another woman. He also shows signs of jealousy when she is friendly towards other men.
In Pop Life (episode), Abby makes a comment about men "being fakes." When McGee is affronted, Abby responds to him with, "Your tat is real, and you don't disappoint me."
in the Season 1 finale episode, Reveille (episode), McGee is left stunned when realizes that he slept in a coffin and further more shocked when Abby remarks "Not just slept, hinting that they might have slept together.
In the Season 9 episode, Life Before His Eyes (episode), in one of Gibbs's alternative universes, it was shown that Abby and McGee were married to one another and that alternate universe version of Abby mentioned that she was happy with her marriage.
- "Hi, Leon. I'm just doing an experiment."
- —Abby talking to Vance in the NCIS: Los Angeles Season 1 episode, "Killshot".
Abby is one of the few people whom Director Vance permits to address him by his given name of Leon. This is Director Vance's way of demonstrating his respect for her abilities and her work ethic. The only other person allowed to address Director Vance by his given name is Gibbs.
Director Vance's respect for Abby's abilities was first demonstrated during the events chronicled in the episodes entitled Cloak (episode) and Dagger (episode) when only she was informed of the plan to trap the "mole" within NCIS prior to its being set.
This respect was recently reaffirmed when Director Vance called her in to facilitate and speed up the process of forensic analysis in a case being investigated by the team from the Office of Special Projects led by G. Callen, as chronicled in the NCIS: Los Angeles Season 1 episode, Killshot (NCIS:Los Angeles) (episode) which featured a crossover between the two shows although Abby and Vance were the only two characters from the main NCIS show to appear in the episode.
Behind the Scenes
Abby is played by American actress Pauley Perrette. Perrette shares many similarities with her character: she was born in New Orleans, and likewise has a Master's Degree in Criminology. Abby's claimed reason for her interest in forensics was borrowed from Perrette's life: both women lived near a wrecking yard, and becoming intrigued by examining the wrecks and guessing the causes of the damage done to them. Perrette studied for her character by touring the real NCIS offices and meeting with its forensic specialists.
It should be also noted that while Abby's hair is black, Perette is a natural blonde in real life.
One significant difference is that some of Abby's tattoos are Perette's own, but most of the others are fake, which require Perrette to spend at least forty-five minutes in makeup for a typical episode.
Among the confirmed fakes are the large cross that is sometimes seen on her back and the spider web on her neck which Perette has admitted to disliking in interviews and she also wishes for the writers to have a storyline where the tattoo is finally removed but it hasn't happened yet.
The cross is applied only in the episodes when Abby's bare back is exposed (such as Silver War (episode) and Witch Hunt (episode) while the spider web was added because Donald Bellisario wanted the character to have a tattoo that would be visible (almost) all the time.
However, now that Perette has gotten the tattoo of a flower on her back, the cross has stopped being used altogether as the flower has been regularly seen in various episodes of Season 8 and 9 of the show.
In addition to being an actress, Perrette is also a civil rights activist, and a published poet.