From my limited understanding, generally police-type agencies partner an experienced senior agent/detective with a junior one.

However, at the end of "Men In Black" movie, Agent K announces that he's ready to retire and he has been training Agent J as replacement:

I haven't been looking for a partner. I've been looking for a replacement.

Now, Agent J is a brand new green rookie - he was hired just a couple of days before (based on my understanding of movies' timeline); and doesn't know anything; see the scenes with Agent K explains obvious beginner type stuff to J, including how to identify a bug, or general methods and mission of MIB, or hell, the starting-off on the job:

Kay: Cool, whatever you say, slick, but I need to tell you something about all your skills. As of right now, they mean precisely... dick.

So, how come Agent J ends up being the senior partner once Agent K retires, instead of being partnered up with another senior agent till he stops being such a rookie?

NOTE: I'm specifically asking about the very end of MIB1, where Agent J is a senior partner to agent L - not about eventual MIB2 where J is obviously more experienced and more likely qualifies to be a senior partner.


5 Answers 5


I don't have any concrete canon information to back this up, but:

My guess would be that there are a limited number of people who they (the MiB org) would consider as a field agent, as the field agents likely get exposed to a slew of more exotic experiences than the people who work on base. Therefore they would need people who can handle all the weirdness on a constant basis and not break down. Secondly, they would also want an agent that is already familiar with the retiring agent's patrol region; in this case NYC and the surrounding area. This would limit agent's getting lost when on duty or making cultural gaffes when trying to make up new histories for the people they flash.

Considering the two above points, which may or may not be valid, it may take a considerable amount of time to find someone who can work in the field. After all, by the start of MiB2 agent J had retired a number of candidates and was in the process of washing another. Zed, while upset at having lost another candidate, was not overly discouraged, which would seem to indicate that it was not uncommon for it to take a while to find agents. Add to this that the field agents seem to work in pairs (at the start of MiB there was only K and his partner) there just may have not been another unpaired senior agent available in the NYC area.

  • +1 - it makes sense - upon thinking, it's plausible that they just didn't have anyone else. If you can find any sort of "semi-official" #s estimate for active MIB agents, from any source, to back this theory up, I'll accept the answer. Apr 12, 2011 at 20:54
  • @DVK unfortunately it would seem my Google-fu is not strong enough for that
    – Xantec
    Apr 18, 2011 at 19:35
  • 1
    I asked that as a question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/2844/… Apr 21, 2011 at 15:25

Agent J was accepted into the MiB - despite the obvious advantages of all his competition - because of his skills.

K's statement that his skills meant 'dick' was a way of telling the newbie "Listen, punk, don't think you're hot shit. You're still too green." It was not a way of saying, "Everyone else here is just as good."

J is still among the best of the best. He lacks book knowledge, but he has good instincts, a strong leadership drive, and a charismatic personality that allows him to function effectively in situations where he isn't entirely sure what to do. While he may make mistakes on occasion, he DOES learn from them.

The situation faced in MiB1 is portrayed as a fairly serious one. J is integral in stopping it, learning a significant amount of the upper-tier fieldcraft in the process.

Most likely, J was partnered with L, and they were teamed up with a more experienced pair 'to train L' (and, by osmosis, J) with J as nominal leader. By the end of L's tenure in the MiB, J would have gained the experience required for his actual position.

Zed didn't get to be the leader of the MiB by being oblivious to personality types, the subtleties of complex social interactions, and the need for experience. J was hand-selected by his best field agent as his most likely successor, and Zed would have taken care to put him into situations where J could make mistakes without causing problems - helping him gain the experience he'd need.

As we can see in MiB2, it apparently worked.

  • God...I can't type a short answer, can I?
    – Jeff
    Apr 12, 2011 at 20:39
  • +1 for long answer... well actually for a good one :) The fact that Zed initially didn't want J at all and had to be convinced by K is what led me to question his suitability as a senior partner. Apr 12, 2011 at 20:56

This is dealt with in the official novelisation. Although the film cuts immediately to the next scene, in reality there has been a pretty reasonable gap since Jay flashy-thing'd Kay. During this interregnum, Jay has evidently been receiving one-on-one tutoring from Zed and has become something of an expert in MiB's daily operations:

The summer was winding down, he'd learned a whole bunch of stuff from Zed in a real short time, and things were looking better. No more bugs, at least, the A's and B's had taken their galaxy and gone home. At least the world didn't depend on his next move. Not today, anyhow. Now, he was doing a little research


"How long do we keep doing this? I mean, without letting the secret out?"

"Long as the neuralyzers work, I guess."

"Come on, Jay. You know what I mean."

He nodded. Yeah, he knew. He shook his head. "I don't know. Kay and I weren't together too long and not really much into policy, being kinda busy and all. We're just the street cops. I guess we just keep plugging the holes in the dike until somebody upstairs decides the world is ready to know there really are aliens among us."

Although she's extremely book-smart, obviously Elle is going to be the junior partner in their team given her relative lack of policing experience.


One answer: MiBII is five years after MiB. In that time, presumably J has gained enough experience to lead a team. K, by contrast is out of practice, and may need bringing back up to speed. For this purpose he was assigned to a partner he was familiar with.

Another answer: "If you're wondering how he eats and breathes, or other science facts, repeat to yourself 'It's just a show, I should really just relax'." Or rather the way in which it was arranged was chosen mostly for the convenience of setting up the film, and the logic of it may not survive too much close examination.

  • 1
    J became the senior partner (with Agent L - see the Dennis Rodman discussion) at the very end of MIB1. NOT five years later Apr 12, 2011 at 14:51
  • Fair enough, but I suspect that's another example of placing narrative desire to show progress and reward the character over any particular logical rationale. I think the reasoning for why K becomes junior to J still stands.
    – Christi
    Apr 12, 2011 at 15:07
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    just to clarify - it wasn't "J senior to K" in MIB2 that I was asking about - it was "J partnered with L and being 'senior'" at the very end of MIB1. Sorry for being unclear - I will update the question to stress that it's about MIB1 and not MIB2. I agree with your reasoning re MIB2. Apr 12, 2011 at 15:25
  • 2
    +1 simply for a very appropriate use of the MST3K intro!
    – Justin C
    Apr 12, 2011 at 21:14
  • OP was asking about the end of MIB, not the start of MIB 2
    – Valorum
    Sep 26, 2021 at 12:54

You could presume that Zed trusted Kay's judgement, I really do think its as simple as that. He probably had to do some formal training or something but I think it would take a special kind of person to be an agent and Zed and Kay could recognize it.

  • This feels like little more than guesswork. Can you offer any evidence to back it up?
    – Valorum
    Sep 26, 2021 at 9:32

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