“Moonlighting” is the 20th episode of “NCIS” Season 7. Its plot hinges upon a team-up between members of the NCIS and the FBI, which becomes necessary to investigate the shooting death of Naval Petty Officer Scott Roebuck (Andra Fuller). At one point, as cases involving a dead body often do, the investigation requires the expertise of Chief Medical Examiner James Palmer (Brian Dietzen).
Over the course of multiple seasons of “NCIS,” DiNozzo refers to Palmer as “Autopsy Gremlin.” This nickname notably follows the conventions of some of the titular gremlins in “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” — for example, The Brain Gremlin is the film’s primary antagonist, whereas another gremlin named Daffy is often also referred to as “The Crazy Gremlin.”
DiNozzo’s “Gremlins” references really begin in earnest, however, when he jokes that Palmer, being like a gremlin, should be kept out of direct sunlight. This is one of three rules, originally explained in the first “Gremlins” film, which are necessary for owning a Mogwai, the benign creature that can transform into a gremlin if one of those rules is broken. Gibbs (Mark Harmon) responds “don’t get him wet,” referring to the films’ second rule.
Later on in the episode, upon noticing an allergic reaction Palmer experienced after getting a henna tattoo, DiNozzo remarks “dear god, someone fed him after midnight.” This is, of course, the third rule of Mogwai ownership, bringing the series of references to a humorous conclusion.