James "Jimmy" Palmer is the current assistant to NCIS Medical Examiner Donald Mallard. Palmer was originally scheduled to replace Gerald Jackson as Ducky's assistant after Jackson temporarily resigned after being shot in the shoulder by Ari Haswari but hours after Caitlin Todd's murder, Gerald who had been taken prisoner by Ari yet again left NCIS for good, resulting in Palmer gaining the Medical Examiner Assistant on a permanent basis.
Palmer assists Ducky both in the field and in the morgue. Jimmy is frequently nervous, but very proficient in his field of study.
A running gag in the series revolves around Jimmy irritating those around him by making an awkward or insensitive comment at an inappropriate moment. This occurs most frequently at crime scenes.
In the early seasons of the show, Jimmy is rather clueless and awkward when it comes to women, but he's shown as growing a lot in this arena. In Season 4 he has a secretive relationship with Agent Michelle Lee, which he ended sometime prior to the beginning of Season 6 because he felt he was being used which became a reality once Lee was exposed as the NCIS mole.
As of the Season 7 episode Mother's Day (episode), Jimmy is dating a beautiful blonde named Breena Slater who works as an embalmer.
Throughout his work at NCIS, Jimmy is know by his colleagues to be a terrible driver with his sense of direction being much worse. He often gets lost, and is an incompetent driver. Often Ducky gets annoyed at this trait. Most NCIS agents prefer to drive with him anywhere but the drivers seat.
In Season 4, it is revealed that he has mild diabetes which he regulates using insulin, something previously unknown.
In the Season 5 episode, Dog Tags (episode), it is revealed that Palmer spent two summers working as a veterinary assistant.
Jimmy's mother's first name is Eunice, as seen in About Face when he writes an e-mail to her. His brother's first name is also revealed to be Clark.
It has been revealed that in addition to going to medical school, Palmer has hopes of becoming an NCIS Special Agent as seen in the episode, "Bounce", when after Tony departs, Palmer puts on an NCIS cap and says, "That's Agent Palmer".
In "Pyramid", Palmer was one of the three people along with CIA agent Trent Kort and NCIS Special Agent Erica Jane Barrett to be taken hostage and tortured by serial killer, Lt. Jonas Cobb but after Cobb's death at the hands of both Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Leon Vance, all three were rescued.
In Extreme Prejudice (episode), it was revealed that Palmer was the one who had discovered Ducky on the beach after the latter had suffered a heart attack and as such, Palmer remained by Ducky's bedside. As a result, Ducky was sidelined to recover from his heart while Palmer became the acting Medical Examiner in charge.
In Phoenix (episode), Ducky was finally cleared to resume his duties as the official Medical Examiner much to Palmer's relief.
Relationships with Colleagues
Unlike Gerald in season one, Jimmy is actually interested in Ducky's stories, often asking about what happened next. Jimmy also seems somewhat interested in Ducky's habit of chatting with the dead bodies. When Jimmy asked why, Ducky told him that it helped to build a relationship with the corpses. Jimmy later tried it himself, until he was scared by Abby.
Jimmy cares deeply for Doctor Mallard, which he demonstrated in his own way at the conclusion of the Season 6 episode, Broken Bird (episode). Jimmy related to Ducky why there is no J Street in Washington D.C., saying that the founding fathers did not want anyone to get lost. This scene also demonstrated that Jimmy had learned from Ducky's question at the beginning of the episode: "Why is there no J street in Washington?"
Jimmy also has a lot of respect for Ducky, and places a lot of importance on what Dr. Mallard thinks of him. When he and Dr. Mallard were re-assembling three dissected bodies, Jimmy went to a lot of trouble to explain why he placed a great toe with a corpse's hand (the person had lost his thumb, and subsequently had a toe-to-thumb transplant) because he didn't want Dr. Mallard thinking that he had mistaken a toe for a thumb.
Ducky's relationship with Jimmy is akin to the relationship that exists between a father and a son. In this way Ducky's and Jimmy's relationship parallels the relationship between Gibbs and DiNozzo, with the elder mentoring the younger: Ducky through his stories, and Gibbs through his rules. To a certain extent Jimmy is developing Ducky's trait of storytelling while working on cases, as demonstrated in the Season 6 episode, Dead Reckoning (episode) when Jimmy and Ducky engage in a discussion about harmony.
This was shown further in the Season 7 episode, Ignition (episode) when he talked about past experiences involving squirrels while performing an autopsy on a dead squirrel.
Special Agent Tony DiNozzo
It was revealed in the Season 6 episode, Bounce (episode) that DiNozzo confides in Jimmy and asks of him a degree of guidance and advice, when he requires assistance with a case, very similar to how Ducky interacts with Gibbs in the Season 6 episode, Collateral Damage (episode).
Dinozzo's nickname for Jimmy is "Autopsy gremlin" which he calls him often and makes jokes around the name.
It is also implied that Jimmy and DiNozzo occasionally hang out outside of work, as Ducky asks Jimmy in the Season 3 episode, Silver War (episode), "Have you been hanging out with Agent DiNozzo again?" when Jimmy jokes about sleeping with women.
Agent Michelle Lee
Jimmy had an intimate relationship with Michelle Lee, as demonstrated in the fourth season episodes In the Dark (episode) and Angel of Death (episode) In In the Dark (episode), Ducky found a bra inside a drawer. Jimmy then received a phone call which appeared to be from Michelle, asking if he had also found her panties.
However, Jimmy related to Gibbs and Director Vance during the mole investigation in the Season 6 episode, Last Man Standing (episode) that he ended the relationship because he felt he was being used which later turned out to be true.