When Cote de Pablo left NCIS after eight seasons and took the tough-talking Ziva David with her, the show’s central crime-solving team was short its female agent. The replacement they settled on in Season 11 was Emily Wickersham’s Ellie Bishop, an NSA analyst who appeared mid-season looking for an acronym change.
Wickersham, who looks like she’s in her twenties, is working opposite Agents DiNozzo and McGee (Michael Weatherly and Sean Murray, respectively); both the agents on her level look markedly older than she does. Ellie appears to be an obvious ploy to inject youth into the office: She works sitting cross-legged on the floor; she wears ripped jeans and plaid shirts; she listens to music at work. But, though she appeared out of place on NCIS at first, she quickly became the best part of the show.
1. She’s instantly coded as a Gibbsian hero.
She’s sitting on the floor working and listening to music when we first see her; a co-worker intentionally startles her. This is her first line: “I thought we discussed Rule No. 1, Flyn. When my earbuds are in, flash the desk light.”
She’s not only setting a boundary, she’s also laying bare the code she lives by, just like the older, masculine Gibbs (Mark Harmon). And since she lives by her own code, she’ll question Gibbs’ authority.
2. She’s a damn genius.
Her NSA boss describes her as a “reclusive data freak” — he calls her reclusive presumably because the writers of NCIS don’t know what “reclusive” means, but he calls her a data freak because she is smart as hell. She’s an excellent NSA analyst, and that’s because she’s a genius. She studies data and people intensely and predicts future events. She dreams up smart crimes and writes papers about them. She’s pleased when she’s right about stuff. A cocky lady — it’s so refreshing.
3. She asserts how much smarter than everyone else she is.
Gibbs tells her that M.E. stands for “medical examiner.” “This isn’t my first case,” she snaps back. Not intimidated by Gibbs: CHECK.
Like, for real.
Tony asks her a question about the case, and she asks, “Did you read my paper?” This is a classic dick move, and it is great.
4. She’s a scholar.
Telling everyone in autopsy, “I took the liberty of reading the Handbook of Autopsy Practice this weekend” is like saying, “Don’t feel threatened, just accept that I am better than you.”
5. She has a weird working style.
Sitting on the edge of a cubicle looking down at the desk below? You’re wacky but it’s OK, Bishop, because strangely, you’re challenging the status quo around here.
6. She has no emotional holes to fill.
As someone on Tumblr put it, “praise circle because ellie bishop doesn’t have daddy issues and her mom is still alive.” You can tell all this because she is happy to go visit her parents for Christmas and her mom sends her coffee cake. A woman who’s well-adjusted and doesn’t see Gibbs as a father figure or NCIS as a replacement for her family? I love it when female characters are successful without being pathological!
7. She’s the inappropriate one.
NCIS has decided to mostly abandon Tony DiNozzo’s sexual harassment of all the women around him (he refers to Bishop once as “Jeff Goldblum,” a male actor — she’s not a sex object). Furthermore, she’s violating his boundaries a little. She’s the masculine and inappropriate one, waiting for Tony in the men’s room. “We’re gonna need to establish some personal boundaries,” he says to her. HELL TO THE YEAH.
Bishop “food-associates” — she remembers things in connection with what she was eating at the time. This would be overly cutesy if she weren’t a damn genius.
In Bishop’s first episode, she tells the team, “Gut logic aside, I think we can all agree here that actual logic is better.” In more recent episodes, including last night’s season finale, Bishop’s role has been downplayed along with her mild insubordination and her arrogance. There have been ominous cues that Bishop, like the rest of the team, will swallow the Gibbs party line and stop questioning him. But perhaps in Season 12, Bishop will be back in full vainglorious force.