Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard was the Director of NCIS from 2005 until she was killed in action in 2008, dying from injuries sustained in a gunfight in an abandoned diner.
She is also the first NCIS Director to have been killed in the line of duty.
Jenny's father, Colonel Jasper Shepard was an official working at the Pentagon who was suspected of taking a bribe.
While under investigation, Colonel Shepard died with his death being recorded as a suicide.
However, circumstantial evidence exists that suggests that either Colonel Shepard faked his suicide. Or, in fact, that he was murdered, due to the "thumb tap" as Ziva called it on Colonel Shepard's hand, discovered after his death. This is witnessed in the episode "Internal Affairs". The question of her father's suicide, if it was or not, was never answered.
Jennifer's mother is believed to be unknown named but alive and in Los Angeles, California. It may be apparent that she had a sister named Heather as well. There was a screen cap from Hiatus that showed her speed dial list and it said Mom and then the number. Then below that Heather and then the number. Both numbers were in the same area code.
In 1999, while still an agent, Jenny worked with Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Agent William Decker on a covert mission in Paris involving the assassination of an arms dealer/hit man, Anatoli Zuchov, and his fiancee. Jenny was assigned the task of neutralizing Svetlana, the fiancee, while Gibbs was assigned to Zuchov.
While Gibbs accomplished his mission by gunning Zuchov, Jenny failed to neutralize Svetlana because she didn't have the emotional capacity at the time to assassinate someone and let Svetlana go, a failure that would ultimately cost Decker and Jenny their lives. Whilst in Paris she and Gibbs became lovers, remaining so during further assignments in Serbia, Italy and London. She eventually left Gibbs, apparently to further her career, but also because of his inability to commit to a future together.
Several years later, when Director Morrow left NCIS to become the Deputy Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, Jenny was appointed to succeed him as Director.
Her tenure as Director was marked by many accomplishments, including the death of the renegade Mossad agent Ari Haswari, the successful destruction of a terrorist cell as recounted in the episode Grace Period," the successful retrieval of a Russian Cold War-era nuclear warhead as documented in the episode Chimera, and the death of René Benoit, although unofficial, as well as the dissolution of his network.
Prior to her death, Director Shepard was diagnosed with a terminal disease, one of the symptoms of which was a loss of coordination. The exact nature of the disease was never revealed, but her white blood cell count was normal and she had high levels of the enzyme creatine kinase. There is a possibility it is Muscular Dystrophy; normal white cell count, high levels of CK and loss of coordination are a few of the symptoms, though Director Shepard showed none of that loss of coordination or of the muscle wasting that is the most recognized sign. Another possibility is Huntington's Disease.
Only Doctor Donald "Ducky" Mallard and Michael "Mike" Franks were aware of her illness, although, Gibbs had suspected that she was sick. She was killed in a shootout facing off against four men hired by a Russian assassin named Svetlana Chernitskaya to kill her.
According to the analysis of the gunfight, she put up a hell of a fight before she went down despite being outnumbered four to one although Gibbs claimed it wasn't "good enough". Jenny, Gibbs and Special Agent William Decker were on an op together in 1999. Gibbs was supposed to kill an infamous Russian hit man name Anatoli Zuchov (Svetlana's lover), which he did, and Jenny was supposed to kill Svetlana, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Svetlana had come for her, seeking revenge.
While Jenny brought down some of the men herself, Mike Franks, whom Jenny had asked for help tracking Svetlana, finished the job, although the hit men were all already either dead or injured. Jenny was credited with killing them all. Franks had been outside when the shooting began. After her death, Gibbs confronted Svetlana in Jenny's townhouse, and just as she pulled a gun on Gibbs, Mike Franks walked in and shot her in the back. Gibbs and Franks then set fire to the townhouse to cover up Svetlana's death and therefore Jenny's death as well. The story leaked to the press stated that Jenny was the female body found in the fire, and that she died of smoke inhalation.
Relationship with Gibbs
Jenny's relationship with Gibbs is quite complicated. Sometime prior to Jenny becoming Director of NCIS, she and Jethro had an intimate relationship. While this initially complicated and strained their relationship when Jenny became director, it later relaxed into mutual respect and some degree of strained trust. As Director Shepard pointed out in the third season episode Jeopardy, "Gibbs thinks of me like a wife." Even though he had been divorced three times prior.
Jenny and Gibbs struggled to trust one another. She sometimes ignored the chain of command by making Gibbs's team report to her before reporting to Gibbs. She also upset Gibbs when she assigned Ziva David to his team as a liaison officer without informing him first. Additionally, she interfered on a few occasions, and Gibbs told her he was not comfortable with her looking over his shoulder. She also recruited DiNozzo in her attempts to bring arms dealer René Benoit down for good while Gibbs was in temporary retirement, and did not tell Gibbs about it upon his return. Despite the tensions that stemmed from her appointment as Director, they remained close friends.
The closeness of their relationship was reinforced at several points during the series. When René Benoit visited Jenny at home, the only other person from NCIS present at the meeting was Gibbs. Also, Gibbs and the team went to great lengths to clear DiNozzo of charges and shield Jenny from murder charges during the FBI investigation into the murder of René Benoit. Jenny is also one of two people allowed to call Gibbs "Jethro" on a regular basis.
In the episode Judgment Day Part 1, Jenny asserted to Mike Franks that she considered Gibbs to be her mentor. After Jenny picked a lock successfully, Franks asked, "Gibbs teach you that?" She responded, "Gibbs doesn't teach. You watch, you learn." Also in that same episode, a conversation towards the end of her life was spoken She states, "I made some choices I'm not particularly proud of," Later on Mike says, "He let you go." Jenny responds with, "No, he didn't. He didn't fit into my five point plan." Mike says, "Back to choices, you made your bed." She answers simply, "What if I don't want to sleep in it?" That conversation towards the end of her life shows that she still had strong feelings for Gibbs and regrets ever leaving him. After her death, Gibbs found a letter in her house that she had started, all it said was: "Dear Jethro".
At some point, Jenny began to believe that René Benoit (a.k.a La Grenouille) was the man who had killed her father and believed he was responsible for the allegations made against her father which would later lead her to hunt him for ten years and recruit Tony DiNozzo to help her uncover his whereabouts. As a result, Jenny developed an obsession with arresting La Grenouille although she denied it on several occassions, claiming her personal feelings weren't clouding her judgment or getting in the way of her job.
Some believe that Jenny had a relationship with Benoit induced by him to get close to her father, Jasper. This theory maintains that the relationship ended badly and became the precursor to the undercover op Shepard forced Tony to engage in: do to Benoit's daughter the same thing that her father did to Jenny [but Tony carried it too far]. She somewhat alluded to this when she told Gibbs that her burning desire to go after "The Frog" had nothing to do with her father's death. When Gibbs asked about it, she ignored him. She also ignored Ducky on basically the same question. (see Blowback and Friends and Lovers)
Strong, determined, and fiesty, Jenny proved that she was often a force to be reckoned with during her tenure as NCIS Director.
For most of Season Three, she seemed determined to go against Gibbs's orders, even checking in to see what was going on during the cases he and his team were investigating and assigned Mossad Officer Ziva David to his team without consulting Gibbs on the matter, because she felt Ziva could learn a lot from him as Jenny had done in the past despite the fact that the team were still struggling to come to terms with the death of their friend and colleague, Special Agent Caitlin Todd.
During the course of Season Four Jenny began developing something of a powerful obsession with capturing Rene Benoit/La Grenouille, an international arms dealer who she believed had murdered her father, Colonel Jasper Shepard twelve years ago despite her father's death being ruled a suicide. Whenever questioned about the whole thing, she flatly denied that she was getting personally involved although it was obvious that it was beginning to affect her.
She even sent Anthony DiNozzo on a top-secret undercover mission to befriend Benoit's daughter, Jeanne, without informing Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Jenny did this in hopes that Jeanne would unwittingly betray information concerning La Grenouille and his operations that would result in his capture and arrest, a goal that she had been pursuing for a decade.
Season Five of NCIS, revealed La Grenouille's pre-existing awareness about the operation to arrest him and Tony DiNozzo's true identity and role within the operation. Realizing DiNozzo's cover had been compromised, and that his life was in danger, Jenny revealed the details of the operation to Gibbs, Ziva and McGee.
The revelations about the operation and DiNozzo's role led to a series of confrontations between Jenny and Gibbs. In the first Jenny told Gibbs that operation began during his retirement in Mexico and that it was need to know only, and that his return did not require him to be read into the operation. In a subsequent discussion Gibbs asked Jenny if she would have read in the team, and Jenny insisted that she would have done so only if it had provided a means of bringing down La Grenouille, suggesting that she cared more about capturing La Grenouille than whether knowing if Tony was actually alive or dead.
In a third confrontation between herself and Gibbs, Jenny also revealed that she blamed La Grenouille for her father's death although there was no evidence to support her claim with Gibbs also telling that she was allowing her personal feelings to cloud her judgment, something Jenny denied yet again. When DiNozzo returned to NCIS Headquarters alive after having been presumed dead in an explosion, Jenny seemed unwilling to take the full blame for the debacle and insisted that DiNozzo was at fault for having fallen in love with Jeanne in the first place.
Later on in the Season and during the episode "Internal Affairs", it was revealed that Jenny had probably killed La Grenouille whose corpse had been seen at the end of "Bury Your Dead" and later recovered by the FBI but Gibbs chose not to reveal his findings, merely stating "Long live the queen".
As Season Five drew to a close, Jenny was diagnosed with an unnamed illness that was slowly beginning to affect her. She later died in an abandoned diner from injuries sustained in a gunfight between herself and four assassins. It was later revealed that the assassins worked for a Russian woman named Stevlana/Natasha and that it was also connected to a mission in Paris that she and Gibbs had worked on together nine years ago.
Jenny was responsible for getting Abby several new appliances for her lab thanks to Jenny gaining more money for NCIS. Shepard was also instumental in bringing the various agencies together regularly to discuss problems - a tribute paid to her by Eli David in Season 8.
She also tried to have the agency submit to her own ideas which is seen when she tried to bring a dress-code into NCIS, something that sent Abigail "Abby" Sciuto into a panic.
She even hired an assistant, Charles Sterling who she assigned to work in Abby's lab, not realizing that Sterling had a long-standing grudge against Abby's friend and NCIS colleague, Agent DiNozzo whom he later tried to frame for murder. Luckily, Sterling was exposed and arrested while Jenny eventually agreed to let Abby work by herself from now on.
Her constant desire to be in the loop about everything led to her being disliked by other agencies. Gibbs often reminds Vance not to use his powers for his personal agenda, like Shepard did which resulted in a large mess being created and took a long time to clean up and caused Gibbs to be very weary of Vance when he took over from Jenny after her death.
Jenny Shepard used her position for her personal wars and did not understand the necessity of bodyguards as she often abandoned them. The last time she did this, she headed to Los Angeles with Ziva and Tony being assigned as her bodyguards while she attended William Decker's funeral.
Early on in her career, while on a mission with Paris, she was unable to bring herself to kill the assassin Natasha/Svetlana, resulting in her letting Svetlana go. This would later come back to haunt her when Svetlana sent a team of assassins after her and Mike Franks.
Despite killing all of them, Jenny eventually succumbed to her injuries and died in the diner while Franks escaped to safety but not before making sure that the people who had attacked them were dead.
Jenny had also admitted to Tony that she went too fast in her career and wished she had slowed down.