NCIS and the Oedipus Complex

Picture of someone dreaming

I woke up this morning with the strangest dream in my head. Somehow, I developed a final ever episode to the TV series, NCIS. Sort of. This episode, which involved Jethro Gibbs leading his final investigation, “answered” the key “question” that has persisted throughout the series: Why does Gibbs have a particularly special relationship with Abby, the forensic specialist, the most un-Gibbs person ever?

I have always thought that Gibbs saw Abby as a substitute for his daughter Kelly, who was killed as a child. Well, in my mind’s final episode of NCIS, it turns out that Abby actually is Kelly. In my head, obviously, Gibbs’ wife¬† got a divorce and moved with Kelly to Wiltshire, England. (Why Wiltshire, I don’t know – the only reason is that it came up in a conversation with someone else about something else a few days ago.). Gibbs is so distraught that he feels as if he has lost his wife and daughter for good, as if they have been killed. He obviously tried to fill the whole by continually remarrying and divorcing but it was never quite right. [It is interesting that in one particular case, he says to the murderer who killed his wife for cheating that if there's problem with your wife, you divorce her, don't kill her.] Somehow, Kelly, as a child, saw some pictures of a crime scene and decided that she wanted to work in forensics. Along the way, she changed her name to Abby and became a goth and, completely by coincidence, ended up working at NCIS.

Which begs the question, if Gibbs’ wife and daughter were never actually killed, then who did Gibbs’ kill? The back story to the series, mainly seen through Gibbs’ flashbacks, is that they were killed by a major drugs cartel based in Mexico in revenge for the younger marine Gibbs taking out someone in the cartel. Unfortunately, I woke up before my mind could reconcile my fantasy version of NCIS with the actually script. I do like the notion of Abby as Gibbs’ daughter but I think its more likely that she is a substitute for his daughter.

I have always believed, and neuroscience supports this, that the subconscious processes data after the conscious has given up on it. But the last time I saw NCIS was Wednesday night, I had the dream on Friday night/Saturday morning. I have noticed in the last few weeks of episodes that there seems to be a progression towards a points of moving on, as if we are coming towards the end of the series for good. Or maybe it is just the thoughts of coming to the end of my thesis that are predominant in my conscious mind and trying to tie all the loose ends together and answer the questions. In the process, it tried to answer the ‘Gibbs/Abby’ question in NCIS.

The connection with my phd is that my theoretical framework is based on a psychoanalytic reading of Hegel, where Freud’s Oedipus Complex – or at least my critique on it – plays an important part. In the Oedipus story, Oedipus fulfilled a prophesy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Freud takes the Oedipus story as a metaphor for the development of a child, in Freud’s case the boy. When the boy is born, its closest relationship is with the mother. It has to separate itself from the mother – be abandoned – in order for it to grow independently. After disidentifying with the mother, it makes up for the loss eventually by identifying with the father. In Freud’s theory, the boy desires to replace the father but it can only do so by killing him, something which, like Oedipus, it shies away from (the incest taboo). Because the mother is inaccessible, the male seeks a relationship with another female. Freud deals with the development of the male but the feminist critique of his theory is that it applies the female as well. In my NCIS dream, Kelly is separated from her father and Gibbs desires another female to fill the hole left by his wife. Of course, none of the women he subsequently marries can match up to his wife – they don’t even have the same hair colour as her. Well, except perhaps Colonel Mann. Is they only person who can fill it a substitute daughter? Perhaps, in the process of pulling the threads together, my brain was remaking the Oedipus Complex with modern-day TV characters.

PhD Student

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Posted in Anecdotes, phd, Rants
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