Tuesday night's episode of NCIS – the title was Chimera – was the 100th episode of the show. Now as we all know Donald P. Bellisario spun NCIS off from the immensely popular JAG. One of the most "beloved" characters on JAG was CIA Agent Clayton Webb (played by Steven Culp). He was there from the beginning, well at least the beginning of the show's run on CBS – he first turned up in the episode We The People which also introduced Harmon Rabb's long time partner and eventual fiancé Sarah Mackenzie. Webb was a suitably shadowy figure though he appeared in a lot of episodes. For a time he was even Mac's bed buddy (she did have a number of them). He'd turn up, sometimes as an adversary for Harm and Mac, sometimes as an ally. On the whole he tended to be a very frustrating person for our friendly naval lawyers. Eventually Webb died but like a good spook it didn't take. It was enough to end his relationship with Mac though, leaving the field open for Harm.
In Chimera, NCIS Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his team – Agent Anthony DiNozzo, Agent Tim McGee, Mossad Officer Ziva David, and Medical Examiner Donald "Ducky" Mallard – were sent to investigate a mysterious death aboard a naval auxiliary vessel, the USNS Chimera, only to find the ship entirely deserted (well almost). Left back at headquarters were forensic scientist Abby Sciutto and NCIS Director Jenny Sheppard. Gibbs and his team need to know what the Chimera's mission was but that's classified above their level, so it's left to director Sheppard to try to find out. She has to try to get the information from the mission's (apparently) over officious CO, Commander William Skinner. He's full of reasons why he won't tell The Director what's on the ship: the mission is "need to know" and you don't need to know; the mission is classified higher than her clearance level (which is Top Secret); and so on. But of course our Jenny is not one to let little things like that get in her way – she is after all someone who calls the Secretary of State "Condi," and she's only occasionally intimidated by Gibbs. So Skinner comes to NCIS with a file that supposedly explained the mission as "biological warfare research." That's bad enough, but as we later discover, it wasn't the "real" mission.
Now here's the thing: Commander William Skinner bears a stunningly suspicious resemblance to Clayton Webb. He also bears a stunning resemblance to Rex van de Kamp (Desperate Housewives), Speaker Jeff Haffley (The West Wing), Special Agent in Charge Fred Chambers (Traveler) and MACO Major Hayes (Star Trek: Enterprise) but unlike Toby I don't try to fit all TV into a single universe. The works of Donald P. Bellisario on the other hand are a different story. Particularly JAG and NCIS since the latter used the former for its backdoor pilot and Lieutenant Commander Bud Roberts (Patrick Labyorteaux) appeared in the show's second episode. The two shows are patently tied together despite what TV.com says ("Steven Culp had previously appeared on many episodes of "JAG" as CIA agent Clayton Webb. "NCIS" was a spin-off from "JAG," also created by Donald Bellisario. Several other actors have crossed over the 2 series, but in different roles. It would appear that despite starting in the same universe the 2 shows have gone their separate ways.") All of which has allowed me to come up with the "real" story.
Following Clayton Webb's "death" – which only a handful of people including his former fiancé and her new husband know was faked – Clayton Webb was able to return to covert operations. One of these operations involved the use of naval assets – the USNS Chimera – to recover a compact Russian nuclear device that had gone down with one of their submarines during the Cold War. Webb was inserted into the Navy with the identity of Commander William Skinner. His association with naval personnel, primarily with the Navy's Judge Advocate General Corps, gave him a sufficient air of authenticity to allow him to fit in. However, complications arose in the operation with the death of one of the crew members (possibly another CIA officer), Lieutenant Commander Satoshi Takada. Notification of this death leads to an immediate NCIS investigation. Now "Skinner" is in a bit of a panic. He knows it's likely that he'll have to go to NCIS headquarters, and he also knows that Ziva David is serving at NCIS. This is a problem because not only is Ziva a Mossad officer, she is also the daughter of the Deputy Director of the Mossad. While Ziva might have met Webb at least once, it's more likely that she has been briefed about Webb and would recognise him, so either he arranged for Gibbs and his team to be sent to ship or counted himself lucky that they were – most likely the former. With Ziva out of the way "Skinner" can now safely go to NCIS and give Director Sheppard the cover story, although he makes sure that he has to drag it out of him. Of course there are complications – the arrival of some state sponsored Russian pirates aboard the Chimera, but they are dealt with in a way that Gibbs suspected was also supposed to deal with his team, including Ziva David.