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.
Not much is known about Mike's life but it is revealed that prior to joining NIS, he served as a Marine and had even been in the Vietnam War.
Mike 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.
In the 1990s, Mike later joined NIS and eventually became the head of the NIS (soon-to-be NCIS) Major Case Response Team that included Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
In 1996, due to 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, Mike resigned from the NIS/NCIS team for good and handed over his badge to Gibbs who after Mike's resignation became the new leader of the team.
After retiring, Mike relocated to Mexico and was called back to D.C. to help Gibbs who had been caught in a bomb blast regain his memory during the Season 3 finale episode, Hiatus Part 1 (episode) and Hiatus Part 2 (episode).
Following the Cape Fear which was blown up by terrorist PinPin Pula, Gibbs joined Mike in Mexico for a time before returning to Washington D.C. where he eventually returned to the NCIS team, becoming the leader again.
Mike aided the team during Faking It (episode) which concerned a case from where Franks was an NIS agent and Iceman (episode) where the team discovered that a Marine, Liam O'Neill was actually Franks's long-lost son. Liam eventually died from injuries sustained as a result of a confrontation against some smugglers who he had sought to bring his Iraqi fiancée and their daughter to the United States.
Mike rescued Liam's fiancée and his grandchild from the smugglers. The fiancée, Leyla, and his granddaughter, Amira, later lived with Franks in Mexico.
Mike also returned to aid NCIS Director Jenny Shepard albeit secretly during the Season 5 finale episodes, Judgment Day Part 1 (episode) and Judgment Day Part 2 (episode) where he later returned to Mexico, having gotten possession of William Decker's insurance policy.
In Outlaws and In-Laws (episode), Mike and his family came under attack by two mercenaries who had been hired by Shada Shakarki, Leyla's mother to bring Leyla and Amira after Leyla's family had disowned Leyla for carrying the baby of Liam, Mike's dead 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.
As Season 7 drew to a close, Mike's beach home came under attack from men belonging to both the Reynosa Cartel and Colonel Merton Bell with Bell personally leading the assault. However, one of Bell's men, Jason Paul Dean who was secretly working for the Cartel realized that Bell intended to kill Mike.
Dean took matters into his own hands and murdered 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 Paloma.
In the meantime, Franks who had escaped later headed to D.C to help Gibbs, the team, Vance and also Jackson Gibbs destroy the Reynosa Cartel once and for all which ended with Paloma dying and her brother, Alejandor being arrested for her murder which occurred during the Season 8 premiere episode, Spider and the Fly (episode).
- "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.
Having originally arrived in D.C to help the team with their current investigation, Franks while at Gibbs's house opted to step outside for a cigarette despite the fact that there was a storm and it was raining heavily as well. While outside, Franks "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 upon doing so, stabbed Franks in the chest, the wound killing Franks instantly. Cobb later fled the scene, having gained possession of Mike's firearm during the fight.
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.
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.
Following the successful closure of the case that concluded with Cobb's death, Franks, having been a Marine was given a funeral with full military honors. Gibbs was one of the pallbearers and also later revealed to be the one who had personally designed and handcrafted Franks's coffin.
The funeral was a small affair with DiNozzo, McGee, Abby and Ducky, all of whom had known Franks during the years attending to say their final goodbyes to their friend with Franks's daughter-in-law, Leyla Shakarji and Franks and Gibbs's own goddaughter, Amira attending as well.
Even though he was dead, Ghost Mike still regularly appeared to Gibbs, most notably in the Season 9 episode, Life Before His Eyes (episode) and again in the Season 10 finale episode, Damned If You Do (episode). He also appeared in the Season 11 episode, Anonymous was a Woman (episode) where it was revealed that he was part of a human smuggling operation, which had fallen apart after his death.
- "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.
In "Anonymous was a Woman", it was revealed that Mike had come to Gibbs some time before the events of Swan Song and left a Muslim girl with him. He then attempts to convince Gibbs to sign a form to fly six more girls to the United States, which Gibbs refused to do, causing a rift between the two of them, especially after the girls were killed in a car bombing. However, they seemed to have forgiven each other before the events of Swan Song. Gibbs made this up to Mike by flying the women that had been living in the shelter currently to the United States.
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.
- Franks is left-handed, a trait he shares with Gerald Jackson and Timothy McGee.
- Franks wielded a Smith & Wesson SW1911PD as his personal sidearm with a Heckler & Koch P2000 SK being his back-up gun.
- Franks was the second major character to die and have a terminal illness. The first was Jennifer Shepherd.