Life Before His Eyes is the fourteenth episode in Season Nine of NCIS and the 200th episode of the entire NCIS series.
During his traditional morning routine which consists of him having coffee at his local diner before heading into work, Gibbs finds himself later locked in a stand-off with someone. As such, Gibbs finds himself trapped in a life-or-death situation which forces him to question all the choices he has made during his life while flashbacks show the NCIS team working on their recent case: a dead Navy officer and a civilian on board a decommissioned Navy ship as well as a man who may be guilty of treason...
As Hank Williams's "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" plays in the background, the camera pans down under a bridge, revealing a diner underneath the bridge as a white truck pulls in.
As the truck's engine switches off, the driver gets out, revealing that it's none other than NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs who then greets Gladys and a Colonel as they leave the diner with Gibbs telling them to stay warm.
With the couple running off to quickly find some shelter due to the rain, Gibbs heads into the diner.
Inside the diner which resembles a diner from the 1950s, Gibbs and the waitress, Elaine exchange greetings.
Elaine tells him that he misses one Hell of an accident.
"A semi, huh?", Gibbs asks.
Elaine agrees, stating that the driver fell asleep and beat up his rig pretty bad.
Holding the cup, Gibbs nods, stating at least the driver is alive.
As Gibbs takes a sip, Elaine wonders if it's eggs easy.
Gibbs refuses, stating that it's just coffee.
Elaine tells him to finish that and that she'll brew him fresh to go.
"You're too good to me, Elaine", Gibbs remarks.
Elaine remarks that she's just waiting on a proposal, that's all.
As she heads back to the kitchen, Gibbs just laughs before taking a sip from his coffee.
Meanwhile, a masked individual rises from a seat and approaches Gibbs, his presence catching both Gibbs and Elaine's attention.
The individual then draws a gun.
Gibbs then draws his SIG, quickly identifying himself as a federal agent and that the person should put down the weapon, only for the individual to fire.
For a few seconds, there's a flash and everything goes completely white.
It then cuts to endless flashbacks of Gibbs's life consisting of him leaving Stillwater, joining the Marines, meeting Joan Matteson, meeting Shannon, his soon-to-be wife, the birth of their daughter, Kelly, Gibbs saying goodbye as he leaves for the Gulf, Kelly telling her father that she'll miss him, scenes of him fighting in Desert Storm, a Marine informing Gibbs that Shannon and Kelly are dead with Gibbs screaming "NO!", Gibbs meeting NIS agent Mike Franks who informs him that his wife and daughter died in the attack, Gibbs later exacting his revenge by shooting Pedro Hernandez in the head, Franks officially helping Gibbs become an NIS agent, the NCIS Headquarters, Gibbs and Vance meeting each other for the first time, NCIS Special Agent Caitlin Todd being shot dead as Gibbs and NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo look on, horrified, Ari Haswari, the man who killed Kate later being shot dead, Gibbs and Mossad Officer Ziva David confronting each other, Gibbs with NCIS Director Jennifer Shepard in the past as a couple and Gibbs as the agent and Jenny as the director, Tony helping bring Gibbs to the surface, Gibbs in a coma, Gibbs's colleague, Agent Christopher Pacci dead at the crime scene and then on a slab in the morgue, DiNozzo and McGee, Gibbs with Abby and then saying goodbye to her as he retires, Gibbs arriving at Franks's beach house in Mexico, Franks's coffin, Gibbs in the street holding Franks's body and the marine guard of honor at Franks's funeral.
It then shows several more clips of Gibbs either by himself or with the NCIS team from various episodes, eventually slowing down before it snaps back to show Gibbs is still standing there, holding his SIG yet the bullet is hanging in mid-air, having seemingly frozen in time.
Caught off-guard, Gibbs lowers his SIG and then glances around.
He sees his father, Jackson Gibbs sitting at a table with Jackson waving.
"Dad?", Gibbs says, stunned.
In the next table are Abby, Tony and Ziva, all of whom look up at Gibbs with Abby even waving.
At the table, Joan Matteson calls Gibbs's name.
"Matts?", Gibbs says, puzzled.
Suddenly, Gibbs pauses upon seeing his younger self in a Marine uniform walk past him and he watches as his younger self and Matteson embrace.
As that happens, a figure walks up to Gibbs.
It's Franks who then flicks to the bullet to one side.
"Mike?", Gibbs says.
Franks wonders how he looks.
"Alive", Gibbs replies.
"Hell of a thing, isn't it?", Franks says before he asks Gibbs or Probie what he's doing.
At Gibbs's puzzled glance, Franks reminds Gibbs hesitating like that and that Gibbs should have shot the man who held Gibbs at gunpoint.
"What?", Gibbs says. "I mean, that's it. It's over?".
Gibbs stammers that he wasn't done yet.
"That's the problem", Franks says. "Folks wanna help you see the things you've accomplished. Understand the choices you made".
He then tells Gibbs that this is Gibbs's life they're talking about.
It cuts to Gibbs who looks stunned.
Back in the diner, as a young girl approaches, Gibbs spots a bullet on the floor and picks it up.
- The scene where Caitlin Todd survives being shot dead by Ari Haswari is the alternate ending for the Season 2 finale episode, Twilight (episode). Prior to "Twilight" airing in May 2005, it was revealed that two separate endings had been filmed with the scene of Kate dying after Ari shot her being added to the end of the episode that aired on May 24, 2005 while the scene of her surviving later appeared in this episode.
- The footage of Kate in the hospital and saying, "What?" was actually CGI and archive footage taken from the Season 2 episode, SWAK (episode).
- Like the Season 7 episode, Flesh and Blood (episode) which was the 150th episode of the series, celebrations were held in honor of the TV series reaching its 200th episode while at the end of the episode, a title card thanking the fans for making it 200 episodes was shown.
|Leroy Jethro Gibbs||Mark Harmon||Special Agent in charge of the NCIS Major Case Response Team.|
|Anthony DiNozzo||Michael Weatherly||Senior Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.|
|Ziva David||Cote de Pablo||Junior Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.|
|Abigail Sciuto||Pauley Perrette||Chief Forensic Specialist of the NCIS Major Response Team.|
|Timothy McGee||Sean Murray (actor)||Special Agent of the NCIS Major Response Team.|
|Leon Vance||Rocky Carroll||Director of NCIS.|
|Donald Mallard||David McCallum||Chief Medical Examiner of the NCIS Major Response Team.|
|James Palmer||Brian Dietzen||Assistant Medical Examiner.|
|Senior Special Agent Tobias Fornell, FBI||Joe Spano||Senior Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.|
|Jackson Gibbs||Ralph Waite||Gibbs's father.|
|Michael Franks||Muse Watson||Gibbs's mentor who trained Gibbs to become an NIS/NCIS Special Agent. Died in the Season 8 episode, Swan Song (episode) after being stabbed by Lt. Jonas Cobb, the Port to Port Killer.|
|Shannon Gibbs||Darby Stanchfield||Gibbs's deceased first wife.|
|Kelly Gibbs||Sam Schuder||Gibbs's deceased young daughter.|
|Special Agent Christopher Pacci, NCIS||Tim Kelleher||An NCIS Special Agent and colleague of Gibbs. Died in the Season 1 episode, Dead Man Talking (episode) after being shot dead by Amanda Reed.|
|Private Joan Matteson, USMC||Jeananne Goossen||A young woman Gibbs knew during his days of training to become a Marine.|
|Dr. Ari Haswari||Rudolf Martin||Ziva David's half-brother and a terrorist responsible for the death of NCIS Special Agent Caitlin Todd. Killed by Ziva in the Season 3 episode, Kill Ari Part 2 (episode).|
|Former Special Agent Riley McCallister, NCIS||Michael O’Neill||A former NCIS Special Agent responsible for the death of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard and who died after Vance stabbed him.|
|Young Leroy Jethro Gibbs||Sean Harmon||Gibbs as a teenager. Played by Mark Harmon's teenage son, Sean.|
|Caitlin Todd||Sasha Alexander||A Secret-Service-agent-turned-NCIS-Special-Agent who died after being shot in the head by Ari Haswari in the last few seconds of the Season 2 finale episode, "Twilight". In alternate realities, she survived the events documented in Twilight (episode) due to Gibbs spotting Ari by the sun shining off the glass of the scope, or due to Ari's rifle jamming. She subsequently married Tony DiNozzo with whom she had a daughter named Kelly DiNozzo.|
|Jennifer Shepard||Lauren Holly||Former NCIS Director who was also Gibbs's girlfriend. Died in the Season 5 finale episode, Judgment Day Part 1 (episode)|
|Ann Gibbs||Clare Carey||Gibbs's mother.|
|Stephen Rose||Jordan Garrett||The seventeen year old son of Michael Rose who shot and wounded Gibbs in the shoulder.|
|Michael Rose||Mackenzie Astin||He was the prime suspect of a MCRT investigation of a double homicide. Rose confessed to the killing but argued that it was done to prevent an attempt espionage from going forward.|
|Elaine||Connie Jackson||A waitress at Gibbs' favorite diner, she is waiting for a marriage proposal from him.|
|Pedro Hernandez||Thomas Rosales, Jr.||The drug dealer who killed Shannon and Kelly Gibbs in order to prevent Shannon Gibbs from testifying in a drug case pending against one of his associates.|
|Doctor||Jeff Williams||In one alternate reality, he was the obstetrician who delivered the son/daughter of Special Agents Tony DiNozzo and Kate Todd.|