Michael "Mike" Franks was an NIS/NCIS Supervisory Special Agent who was the original leader of the Major Case Response Team and who was also directly responsible for helping Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs become an NCIS Special Agent.
In the 1990s, Franks was the head of the NIS (soon-to-be NCIS) Major Case Response Team that included Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Before joining NIS it is revealed in a flashback during the Season 3 episode, Hiatus Part 2 (episode) that Franks had served in the Vietnam War. Special Agent Franks resigned from NCIS in 1996 because of disagreements over the handling of the investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing, especially that all Clinton did was "toss a couple of cruise missiles" at terrorist camps.
After his retirement, Franks relocated to Mexico although he still on occasion provided unofficial assistance to NCIS as illustrated by his assistance in Hiatus Part 1 (episode), Hiatus Part 2 (episode), Faking It (episode), Iceman (episode), Judgment Day Part 1 (episode), Judgment Day Part 2 (episode), Deliverance (episode), Outlaws and In-Laws (episode), Rule Fifty-One (episode) and Spider and the Fly (episode)
Mike assisted Gibbs during his investigation into the death of Private First Class Emelio Salazar in the Season 6 episode, "Deliverance".
In Episode 7.6, "Outlaws and In-Laws", Franks was attacked at his Mexican home by two mercenaries hired by his daughter-in-law's mother, an Iraqi matriarch who had disowned her daughter for getting pregnant by Liam O'Neill, Franks's murdered son. The mercenaries were killed, and in order to clear his name, Franks deposited their bodies on the "Kelly", the wooden sailboat that Gibbs gave Franks's granddaughter, who was also Gibbs's goddaughter and sets them afloat, hoping that the Navy would find the boat and that NCIS would help him solve the mystery of why the mercenaries were after him.
Gibbs discovered that Leyla was the one who originally shot the mercenaries, in order to protect Franks and her daughter, but Franks shot the bodies again to make it appear that he shot them, and not Leyla. It was considered self-defense, and Gibbs, Franks and Leyla's mother were all brought together to resolve their differences.
It is revealed in "Pyramid" that Franks was dying of an unnamed illness associated with his lungs; most likely cancer.
Also in the same episode, Franks was given a proper burial with the Three Volley Salute. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs was a pall-bearer. It is shown that Gibbs either decorated the casket with wooden adornments, or made the entire casket himself rather than buying it. One question that is so far left unanswered is, "Why did Gibbs ask Franks to come to DC?"
Mike Franks was married, but was separated from his wife who is deceased, having died many years ago. When they separated after six months of marriage, Mike was unaware that his wife was pregnant with their son. Many years later Mike's son, Liam, traced his whereabouts and located him in Mexico.
Two years later Liam was murdered by smugglers, while attempting to bring his Iraqi fiancée and their child to the United States. Mike rescued Liam's fiancée and his grandchild from the smugglers. The fiancée, Leyla, and his granddaughter, Amira, live with Franks in Mexico. Leyla shoots and kills two mercenaries, who were sent by her mother to bring her back to Iraq, but Franks protects her by claiming responsibility for their deaths (Episode 7.6), and her mother ends up visiting Leyla, Amira and Franks in Mexico.
As Season 7 drew to a close, Mike's beach home was attacked by men belonging to the Reynosa Cartel and Col. Merton Bell with Bell himself personally leading the assault. But Jason Paul Dean who was secretly working for the Cartel and had formed a friendship of some sort with the leader Paloma Reynosa realized that Bell was going to kill Franks, something that both he and Paloma were unwilling to let happen. Dean took matters into his own hands by murdering Bell with Bell's remains later being decapitated although it could be presumed that Cartel members did this in on Paloma's orders. In the gunfight, Franks fled to safety but lost his right index finger which Dean successfully obtained. He also decided to disguise Bell's remains as those of Franks while keeping the fact that Franks had escaped a secret for the time being.
A few days later, Gibbs arrived at the area and Dean knocked him unconscious before bringing him to Reynosa. In the meantime, Franks who had escaped would later head to D.C to help Gibbs, the team, Vance and also Jackson Gibbs destroy the Reynosa Cartel once and for all.
- "I figured I got one more fight left in me. You want it?"
- —Franks challenging Jonas Cobb to a fight during in the Season 8 episode, Swan Song.
Franks died in the Season 8 episode, Swan Song (episode) after being stabbed by Lt. Jonas Cobb- (The "Port to Port" Killer). Having originally arrived in D.C to help the team with their current investigation, Franks while at Gibbs's house during a very stormy night opted to step outside for a cigarette. While outside, he "sensed" Cobb lurking outside and challenged Cobb to a fight.
Cobb had a scalpel in his hand and approached Franks with the later getting into a fight with one another. Despite Franks wounding Cobb by shooting him in the leg, Cobb eventually gained the upper hand and stabbed Franks in the chest before fleeing with the scene, having stolen Mike's firearm too.
Gibbs, having heard the gunshots rushed outside and found Franks lying on the ground in the pouring rain. He then cradled Franks's body and mumbled, "Oh, Mike" in disbelief.
During the episode, Gibbs began hallucinating that Franks was still alive as a means of helping him cope with Franks's death. After the events that ended with Cobb's death, Franks was buried with full military honors with Gibbs being a pallbearer while Abby, DiNozzo, McGee and Ducky along with Franks's daughter-in-law and granddaughter attended the funeral.
In a letter that Gibbs found after Franks's death, it was later discovered that Franks was dying from a terminal illness, presumably lung cancer and as such, had a few months left to live.
- "Oh, Mike."
- —Gibbs while cradling Mike's body after discovering that his mentor is dead in the Season 8 episode, "Swan Song".
Franks and Gibbs had a close relationship as demonstrated by the following examples: First, Agent Franks met Gunnery Sergeant LJ Gibbs when Gibbs accosted him in his NIS office demanding information on the killer of Gibbs's wife and daughter. Franks then went to the men's room intentionally leaving a file on his desk containing the identity and location of the killer (from the Reynosa gang) of Shannon and Kelly. After which, of course, Gibbs exacted revenge. Second, Franks brought Gibbs into NIS.
Subsequently, Franks called Gibbs "Probie," which, as Gibbs pointed out to Timothy McGee, was a sign of affection and respect. Third, when Mike's mortally injured son was removed from life support and allowed to die, only Gibbs was present at the hospital with Mike Franks and Gibbs was present at the bar to help slay the killers of the men who shot Mike's son. Fourth, when Gibbs was severely injured as the result of an explosion Mike Franks assisted in the efforts to help Gibbs's recovery. Fifth, when Gibbs decided to retire from NCIS albeit temporarily, he lived with Mike Franks at Franks' house in Mexico. Last, he came out of retirement to help Jennifer Shepard shield and protect Gibbs in "Judgment Day," and after Jenny's murder Mike helped Gibbs to avenge William Decker and Jenny's death. It is plausible to assert that Mike views Gibbs like a second son.
Gibbs was haunted by memories of Franks after he found Franks dead outside his own house in the Season 8 episode "Swan Song". As a result, Gibbs also began seeing Franks's ghost as the two relived the events that had led to Franks arriving in the U.S and his death.
Gibbs and the rest of his team were devastated by the situation and tried to piece together the events that took place up to his death during the hunt to find the P2P killer.
It was revealed during the Season 8 finale "Pyramid" that Gibbs was the one who built Mike's coffin.
Franks had at times questioned DiNozzo's abilities as an Agent, for example when Tony was tasked with guarding Franks, who made a thinly veiled comment about his relative inexperience saying he had seen his hands, as noted in "Faking It."
Eventually Franks came to respect DiNozzo for his courage and gained a measure of confidence in his abilities.
In the beginning, Franks expressed some disbelief that a woman like Jenny had become the NCIS Director but later grew to accept it. He even came to her aid during Judgment Day Part 1 (episode) where she personally called him to Los Angeles, stating that since Gibbs trusted Franks with his life, then that was good enough for Jenny herself. Franks even helped her investigate the death of a retired NCIS Special Agent and finished off the assassins who had been hired to kill Jenny.
Like the others, Abby was devastated when she learned of Franks's death and was even seen crying while attending his funeral in Pyramid (episode).
Vance and Franks's relationship was originally hostile as in Judgment Day Part 2 (episode), Vance had misgivings about Franks coming to aid Jenny Shepard in her unofficial investigation into Decker's death although in the Season 8 episode, Swan Song (episode), when Vance introduced Franks to Erica Jane Barrett and Trent Kort, he called Franks a "legend", hinting that their relationship might have gotten better over the years.