Leon James Vance (born July 9, 1963) is the current Director of NCIS 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 which was revealed in the Season 8 two-part episodes, Enemies Foreign (episode) and Enemies Domestic (episode).
It was some time when attending the war college that he came up with the general idea of what later became Operation Frankenstein.
Vance's first mission under Agent Riley McCallister was to assassinate Anatoly Zhukov, the Russian arms dealer but for some reason, the mission failed and Zhukov escaped the country, dying eight years later in Paris at the hands of NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs who was on a mission with Agent/future NCIS Director Jennifer Shepard and Agent William Decker. During the mission Vance had his first encounter with Eli David, who at the time was suspended from Mossad which ultimately grew into a lifelong friendship.
After the mission McCallister inserted false information into Vance's file in an effort to derail his career but the attempt failed. At some point, Vance continued working for NCIS and during his time as a field agent, encountered assassin Lee Wuan Kai 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"; then in Tokyo in 1991; and then in Sierra Leone, Paris and New York City.
Vance eventually got married to Jackie Vance and while raising his children, later rose to the position of Assistant Director, second to NCIS Director Jenny Shepard.
NCIS Season 5
Vance made his debut appearance in the Season 5 episode, Internal Affairs (episode) where he arrived at the main NCIS Headquarters in Washington D.C. where he assisted with the investigation into the death of René Benoit aka "La Grenouille".
In the aftermath of the investigation which resulted in Shepard being suspended from NCIS, Vance temporarily took over the day-to-day running of the agency which saw him take charge of the cases in In the Zone (episode) and About Face (episode).
Presumably, a few days prior to Judgment Day Part 1 (episode), Vance stepped down, resulting in Jenny Shepard taking charge once again.
However, a few hours later, after receiving word of Shepard's death from SECNAV, Vance flew to the crime scene and also personally conducted and oversaw the processing of the abandoned diner which had held the gunfight that had resulted in Jenny's death with Agent Anthony DiNozzo and Mossad Liaison Officer Ziva David assisting him which happened during Judgment Day Part 2 (episode).
A few hours later, Vance also became the new and permanent NCIS Director with Owen Granger presumably succeeding as the Assistant Director in California while Jerome Craig later became the Deputy Director of the NCIS Washington D.C. branch.
Vance's first order of business was to reassign DiNozzo, Agent Timothy McGee and Ziva to other positions while giving Gibbs a new team composed of Agents Michelle Lee, Brent Langer and Daniel Keating.
NCIS Season 6
In Last Man Standing (episode), the Season 6 premiere episode, Vance revealed to Gibbs that he hadn't broken up Gibbs's original team because of Jenny's death but because there was someone in NCIS who was illegally selling state secrets to an unknown source.
Gibbs insisted that his original team was not at fault with Vance agreeing and then telling Gibbs that one member of his new team was the mole.
When the mole hunt ended with Brent Langer dying, Vance brought Ziva and McGee back and in Agent Afloat (episode), later reassigned Tony as well, resulting in the original Major Case Response Team returning to their original positions.
In Cloak (episode), it was revealed that Vance had been given the position of NCIS Director by promising SECNAV Phillip Davenport that Vance himself would clean up the messes that Jenny had left behind during her tenure as NCIS Director and it was also finally revealed that NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee was the real NCIS mole, confirming Gibbs's suspicions while leaving the entire NCIS agency stunned and in disbelief.
A few hours later, having acquired new information from Abby and McGee, Gibbs chose to leave Ziva behind in Israel which soon led to an intense confrontation between Gibbs and Vance.
NCIS Season 7/NCIS: Los Angeles Season 1
In Truth or Consequences (episode), the Season 7 premiere episode, Vance approved of the operation to avenge Ziva which later became a rescue mission after it was discovered that Ziva was still alive.
In Killshot (NCIS:Los Angeles) (episode), Vance arrived in the Office of Special Projects in Los Angeles after learning that an old enemy of his, North Korean assassin Lee Wuan Kai with his obsessive behavior concerning everyone including Henrietta Lange.
After Kai began shooting at a target, OSP agents G. Callen and Sam Hanna intervened, using their combined firepower to gravely injure Kai, leaving Kai wounded but she later escaped, fleeing to Washington D.C. which later brought her back onto Vance's radar with Gibbs's team being dragged into the investigation as well.
Things eventually came to a head with Kai taking Jackie hostage and stating that she wanted Vance to kill her to order to end the pain she had been experiencing due to Kai having been an assassin since she was very young with Jackie eventually being the one to kill Kai.
Like Gibbs and the other NCIS agents, Vance was left devastated when NCIS Special Agent and the former head of OSP, Lara Macy was found dead in a campfire in Annapolis. It was later discovered that Macy had been murdered by disgraced Army Ranger Jason Paul Dean who at the time was supposedly working for Colonel Merton Bell although it was also discovered that Dean had killed his previous employer, choosing to side with Paloma Reynosa, the head of the Reynosa drug cartel instead.
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.
NCIS Season 8
During a few episodes, Vance and Eli began working together in secret to bring all the players involved in the Amsterdam operation together for the purposes of uncovering the truth behind the operation with things coming to fruition in the Season 8 two-part episodes, Enemies Foreign (episode) and Enemies Domestic (episode).
Unfortunately, during the conference, McAllister 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.
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 creating an 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 but 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.
NCIS Season 9
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 later 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 eventually made a full recovery although he was left shaken. He later gave the order to evacuate the NCIS building and was presumably in the building when the bomb went off.
NCIS Season 10
Left shaken by the bombing and believing that he caused it, Vance then made 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.
NCIS Season 11
In Honor Thy Father (episode), in order to ensure that Gibbs had time to grieve for his father's passing, Leon had him leave to grieve as well as gave strict orders for the MCRT unit to not contact Gibbs under any circumstances. However, Gibbs eventually learned what was going on in the case from DiNozzo when it reached an unexpected development, resulting in Gibbs telling off Vance for keeping him in the dark about the case.
NCIS Season 12
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).
- Vance is the longest serving NCIS Director in the series, having been in the position of Director for nearly six years.
- Vance is the first African American NCIS Director in the series.