Leon James Vance (born July 9, 1963) is the incumbent Director of NCIS (agency) who replaced former Director Jennifer Shepard after Shepard died in the line of duty in the Season 5 finale episode, Judgment Day Part 1 (episode).
In 1991, Vance was recruited into NCIS while attending the Naval War College by Special Agent Whitney Sharp. It was some time when attending the war college that he came up with the general idea of what later became Operation Frankenstein. His first mission was to assassinate Anatoli Zhukov, the Russian arms dealer subsequently killed by Gibbs in Paris. The mission was orchestrated by Special Agent Riley McCallister. During the mission Vance had his first encounter with Eli David, who at the time was suspended from Mossad. After the mission McCallister inserted false information into Vance's file in an effort to derail his career, the attempt failed.
It was revealed in Pyramid (episode), the finale episode of Season Eight, that Vance had been involved in a black operation named Frankenstein which involved training Naval officers under inhuman and intense training which was borderline torture, all for the purpose of creatingan assassination team for the Navy and the CIA. Vance masterminded the operation while Trent Kort was the training officer and team leader, and Phillip Davenport, the Secretary of the Navy at the time authorized the operation.
Unfortunately, the operation turned Lt. Jonas Cobb of the USN into a crazed serial killer hellbent on getting revenge for taking part in the program and also against those responsible for designing the program in the first place.
After many years of service he became Assistant Director of NCIS, and later succeeded Jennifer Shepard as Director after she was killed. It is believed that Owen Granger succeeded him as the Assistant Director in California.
One of Vance's first acts as Director was to reassign Leroy Jethro Gibbs's team as part of an attempt to catch an NCIS agent who was leaking information about US military plans. Vance reformed Gibbs's team when the suspected mole, Agent Brent Langer had been killed.
When Director Vance was informed of Gibbs's suspicions concerning Agent Michelle Lee , Director Vance authorized the operations that led to Agent Lee's exposure and the eventual death of the domestic terrorist that was using her to gather information.
In the episode, Cloak (episode), it was revealed that Director Vance was promoted to full Director of NCIS, with the specific mandate by the Secretary of the Navy to in his words 'clean up the mess left by Director Shepard.'
During the events related in the episod, Broken Bird (episode), Trent Kort gave Gibbs a file on Director Vance, the nature and contents of the file are unknown. In episode 6.18 "Knockout" Gibbs revealed to Director Vance that the CIA gave Gibbs a file concerning the Director, after the Director appropriated both Ziva and McGee to conduct a questionable investigation into the death of a former marine who had close personal ties to Director Vance.
Gibbs also counseled Director Vance to avoid the errors that his predecessor Director Shepard had made because, she used the Director's office as a tool to further her own agenda at the expense of the agency. In response Director Vance told Gibbs to keep the file because, it would serve to keep him honest. Later Gibbs showed the file to Former Secretary of the Navy Phillip Davenport, who told him that the file was not authentic.
Director Vance accompanied Gibbs and the MCRT to Israel after the death of Michael Rivkin and approved Gibbs's decision to return to the States without Ziva. Regardless of this he authorized the rescue mission that extracted Ziva from Somalia.
Vance is also responsible for founding the Office of Special Projects which is located in downtown Los Angeles and specializes in undercover work. In addition to that, he's also appeared to the OSP team by G. Callen via conference-call and has even gone to The Office of Special Projects Building in person.
Several months later Director Vance became the target of the North Korean assassin Lee Wuan Kai. Vance had encountered Lee several times: first in Prague where she had killed Vance's partner in 1984 (even though Vance didn't join NCIS until 1991, as revealed in the Season 8 episode, Enemies Domestic (episode); then in Tokyo in 1991; and then in Sierra Leone, Paris and New York City before finding her again in Los Angeles while he was assisting the Office of Special Projects with an investigation. After Kai began shooting at a suspect in the investigation, Special Agents Callen and Hanna shot at her as she escaped. Kai was wounded, but managed to escape. When Kai made her way to DC where the MCRT there resumed tracking her down, she broke into Vance's house. She was then shot and killed by Jackie Vance.
During this period Vance and Eli David were working in concert to bring all the players involved in the Amsterdam operation together for the purposes of uncovering the truth behind the operation. Ostensibly the players were gathered to participate in a leadership conference involving the review of selected case from tenures of all previous directors, except Jenny Shepard who had been murdered two years previously.
During the course of the conference Riley McCallister attempted to murder both Vance and Eli David but things didn't work out as Vance was left injured and Officer Amit Hadar was killed in the explosion with Eli gone missing. Vance mortally wounded McCallister by stabbing him in the abdomen with a knife that Gibbs had given him for protection against a second attempt, though McCallister did enough damage to keep him in the hospital for a good while afterwards.
When a terrorist plot made by Harper Dearing involving Navy Vessels and what seemed to be defective artillery shells was discovered in the Watcher microchip that was retrieved, Vance was called back to Washington in order to indefinitely postpone the exercises, until it was later revealed to be a goose chase set up by Dearing by exposing the leading president of Dorado Investments of embezzlement via a fake terrorist blueprint.
However, shortly thereafter, Abby reported that Vance attempted to walk from the airport instead of waiting for a cab and had disappeared, implying that the real purpose of the goose chase was to lure Vance to Washington so Dearing could have him abducted and brought to him.
Vance was eventually alive and well and even survived Dearing's bombing attack on NCIS HQ but was left shaken as Vance believed that he had caused the attack by driving his car which had the bomb in it onto the Navy Yard. The trauma of this belief also resulted in him making sure the HQ was back to it original state in an almost obsessive manner although he later discussed his feelings to Miles Wolf in the Season 10 episode, Recovery (episode).
At some point afterwards, Vance, during an investigation regarding an attempted assassination on FBI agent Tobias Fornell from a Navy officer, informed Gibbs and Fornell that Diane Sterling was actually an IRS investigative agent (they had earlier arrested her after she made a false implication when questioned about a crime scene), and that the three of them will work together to solve the case. After the case was solved, he implied that he was considering to make them a permanent unit. However, when they left his office before he finished, he smirked, hinting that he wasn't being serious about it.
However, he would later experience personal tragedy shortly thereafter as during Shabbat Shalom (episode), Jackie Vance, his wife, attempted a date night with Vance, but the unexpected arrival of Mossad Director Eli David forced him to postpone it.
Tragically, on that same night, both Jackie and Eli ended up dead from a drive-by shooting by Roland Ames. Eli succumbed to his injuries and died straightaway while Jackie died during surgery, leaving both Vance and Ziva devastated.
Less than a day later, in Shiva (episode) and struggling to come to terms with Jackie's death, Vance's anger got the better of him so much so that SECNAV Clayton Jarvis had to personally step and ask Vance to step down while appointing Deputy Director Jerome Craig to the role of Acting Director. Vance almost and unintentionally almost revealed the true circumstances surrounding Eli's death although NCIS had been ordered by the State Department and the President to not reveal the death for a full 24 hours at the risk of having the Middle East become unstable again.
During his leave of absence, Vance also uncovered some things that caused him to wonder whether he even knew his wife as well as he had believed, and decided to return to the NCIS to take his mind off it, although Gibbs eventually convinced him to go back to his leave of absence until he was fully confident that he was ready to go back to director duties, and also thanked Ziva and Tony for babysitting the kids during this time.
Eventually, Gibbs informed him that his late wife's separate bank account (the reason why Vance was disturbed in the first place) was actually created in the event of her husband's death, especially after the NCIS bombing, and cited personal experience from his own wife and daughter as how he knew. He eventually fully returned as Director of NCIS, and had Abby help his kids with a science project. He also plotted with Ned Dorneget to get back at Tony with a huge invoice after the latter tricked Dorneget into thinking he had to study for a then-long-retired examination process.
Later, in Seek (episode), Vance attempted to hire nannies to care for the kids while he was working at the NCIS building, although each one ended up refused because, although they were fairly qualified, he feared that hiring one would have him accept and forget Jackie's death, although a heart-to-heart talk between himself and Ziva, as well as meeting Maria, had him reconsidering.
Relationship With Other Characters
Leroy Jethro Gibbs
Vance and Gibbs were introduced to each other by Riley McCallister. He seems to have a knack for reading Gibbs like a book, and can hide anything from Gibbs by not having any personal connections to Gibbs. During the last two years the amount trust and respect developed between two men is considerable as demonstrated by Vance's concealment of Abby's report on the murder of Pedro Hernandez and his subsequent designation of Gibbs as Acting Director after being incapacitated in Enemies Domestic (episode) saying "You're in charge, Gibbs." although Gibbs said he wasn't Leon but Vance replied with, "I trust you". Despite this, Vance put Agent Barrett as lead of Gibbs' team and when results are dim, he blames Gibbs.
In Aliyah (episode), he questioned whether Gibbs wanted to be Director after challenging him. Gibbs said he didn't want to be director, but that he wanted to trust who was. It was revealed in the season 8 finale that the reason Barrett had been put in charge had nothing to do with Vance and was in fact because she was the niece of the Secretary of the Navy.
Vance also was sometimes annoyed with Gibbs regarding his obsession with his deceased wife and daughter, although he later came to understand what it was like when Jackie was killed.
Director Vance seems to have close ties with Mossad, like his predecessor Director Shepard. The evidence of this can be found in the Season 6 premiere episode, Last Man Standing (episode) when Director Vance advancing his request to have Ziva reassigned to Gibbs team, he called Director David, "Eli" to which, Director David responded "Use her well my friend."
Also, in the Season 6 finale episode, "Aliyah", Eli David and Vance reminisce about working together in Amsterdam many years previously.
Director Vance doesn't like it when Abby calls him Leon. He does care for her on some level which he revealed when she was threatened by Alejandro Rivera by telling him that he would get hurt if he didn't leave the building. When Alejandro, unimpressed, asked "By who?", Vance answered "By me" which shut Alejandro up.
- Vance's birthday is just one day after his actor, Rocky Carroll's birthday which is on July 8th. Also in real life, Rocky Carroll shares his birthday with Michael Weatherly (Anthony DiNozzo).
- Is the longest serving NCIS Director in the series, having been in the position of Director for nearly six years.