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NCIS Season Finale Review: Until Death Do They Part

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This may not have been the best NCIS season finale, but its ending will surely go down as one of the most talked about. The final two minutes, as advertised, rocked the very foundation of the show.

The ninth season-ender was a slow-builder, even a little disjointed, for much of the hour, only to culminate in a poignant, heart-stropping sequence of events that the team may never recover from.

Ducky's collapse no doubt left millions of viewers in stunned silence as the screen faded to black with the serene sounds of the waves crashing on the beach. In the wake of Dearing's diabolical terrorist attack on NCIS, the casualties are yet to be determined, and the repercussions will be felt for a long, long time.

Gibbs and His Team

"Til Death Do Us Part." The episode's title carried an ominous double meaning, with the juxtaposition of Palmer's nuptials and the manhunt for Dearing, whose intentions slowly came into focus.

The vengeful Navy father, a deranged mastermind capable of out-gaming even Jamie Lee Curtis' Dr. Ryan, Dearing (Richard Schiff) had spent the last month exposing military vulnerabilities he felt needed to be revealed, thoroughly confounding Gibbs & Co. every step of the way.

Tonight, however, the motive was different. Justice.

From his kidnapping of Vance and relaying the disturbing message in the sacrophagus, to blowing up Larson's house, to pulling the strings and springing Ryan's husband from prison, and being one step ahead of the team in regards to Cole's "escape," Dearing seemed to operate too seamlessly.

How is anyone that good? Even Ryan couldn't believe it, and bailed. Many in the audience were likely a bit surprised when her connection to Dearing was revealed as little more than bait, a distraction to keep the team guessing and allow him to penetrate their defenses for the ultimate payback.

Richard Schiff is a great actor, even it's hard to fully buy Dearing's motive compared to that of NCIS villains past. It's TV, and he's formidable if nothing else. As the case slogged on and the end drew near, it became a question of when, not if, he would strike, and what would be left in his wake.

Palmer's wedding was an afterthought for most of the hour, but played a vital role nonetheless, offering some terrific lighter moments NCIS is known for even with the agents on highest alert.

It's too bad Jimmy didn't have a traditional wedding and that the team wasn't present for some real "happy time," but the strength of their bond was never more evident. They're together, even when apart.

Jim Palmer Photo

The final scenes, while tragic, were powerful in the way they illustrated the closeness of this group, no matter what perils await. These men and women stand tall, and with each other. 'Til death do us part.

The exchange of wedding gifts in the office was really sweet. Well, except for Tony's. Contempt may be a good movie, but negative points for the obvious re-gifting, no matter how likable you are.

Palmer asking to exchange vows quickly with Breena to return to his "family," and the fact that she agreed, was wonderful. Jimmy's got himself a keeper, it looks like. And Ducky ... words fail me.

Had he not encouraged Palmer to go through with the wedding, they might have both stayed in D.C. Had he not gone proudly with his protege to Florida, he wouldn't have gotten that phone call.

Perhaps the mention of his will, as mentioned in "Playing With Fire," was more of a hint than we realized. It's still uncertain if Ducky will survive, but that heart attack looked severe and the beach secluded.

Sometimes, characters die to serve the greater purpose of the show (see Mike Franks' "Swan Song" last season), and losing a family member sadly makes the show more realistic. Uncertain personnel situations are also a consideration.

Still, I hope this wasn't a gratuitous cliffhanger done for the mere sake of it.

He just signed a new contract for two additional seasons, so it's not unreasonable to hold out hope, but if this was indeed David McCallum's final appearance, the acting great will be missed dearly.

The news that triggered Ducky's heart failure, of course, was the attack on NCIS. The status of other team members is equally unclear, but although Ducky mentioned "the deceased," you have to think they'll survive.

Probably.

Palmer himself could even be at risk. Was it established that he left Florida?

In any case, how appropriate was it that Gibbs shielded Abby from the blast, while Tony and Ziva were trapped in the elevator together (why they didn't take the stairs is another matter).

Speaking of Tiva, those were some knowing looks while discussing Palmer's wedding, weren't they? One of my favorite scenes of the night. They may never become romantic, but they are definitely loved ones.

McGee took the explosion more head on ... hopefully his injuries will be just that. Injuries.

It takes a lot to forever alter the fabric of NCIS, and while Dearing achieved that, it's only a matter of time (I'm thinking mid-late September) before Gibbs follows his own advice to Vance and hits back. Hard.

Gibbs would 100 percent take a bullet for Vance, by the way. That was a good joke, but untrue.

Despite playing a major role in this arc, Ryan left abruptly with her son before the attack, scared silly by the release of her ex. Unless there's more to it, we've probably seen the last of her character.

Scott Wolf's Cole, who as a member of the Phantom Eight, sold Dearing the information he used to attack Naval vessels, found a measure of redemption, at least going out on the side of the good guys.

"Til Death Do Us Part" had some flaws, but the entire season-ending arc was first-rate, with terrific performances by the cast members tonight in particular and a cliffhanger that left us on the edge of our collective seat and with much to discuss in the months ahead as we await the start of Season 10.

Besides a miraculous recovery by Ducky and everyone else surviving the blast, what more can you ask for, right? Thanks for another great season, NCIS, and we can't wait to see you in the fall.

What did you think of tonight's NCIS season finale? Will our beloved characters make it out of this alive? Share your comments, thoughts and predictions with us in the comments below ...

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (2495 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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How can David McCallum possibly be written out. I fell in love with him in my youth when he was in The Man from U,N,C,L,E, and his charecter is about the brsinest people working for NCIS. I truly believe that viewing figures will go d9wn when Ducky and Ziva go... Please dont write them out.

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I missed the "bit show" when Ziva and Tony consumate their love for each other. I was ill with no TV. I had previously read that Ziva's character would leave NCIS. All I want is a dvd with that final show. As I have previously noted, "If Ziva leaves, I leave". I will never watch another episode of this disgusting departure of a character whom I considered the very BEST of the NCIS troupe. No Mas!!!!!!! Just make that last episode available on dvd. I don't care what it costs. It will be my last moment of EVER watching NCIS again.
Sara Parsons

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This is my very favorite show. I will not believe that you all in production land are going to "kill off" all our favorite actors on here. That would classify you as sociopaths. Make people love someone and then take it from them? You must be smarter than that.

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I feel the same way as Jeff. I can't deal with any more deaths of the show's characters: Kate and Jenny were enough! I like the suspense of the show. If another main character dies, I will stop watching the show, forever.

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@ Remae

Totally understand that....

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I think if "Ducky" goes, so do I. I constantly miss the new shows, but watch USA every time NCIS plays over and over. I have not been so addicted to a show since Star Trek (original series). Sorry guys,(I was ok with Kate,and with Mike), but if "Ducky" goes, the t.v. goes off and I stick with the computer---I've just been looking for an excuse to get rid of as much cable as possible!! Hundreds of stations, and I'm down to one program. I mostly resent having to pay to watch commercials, but I tolerate with NCIS--Great cast!Great Show, usually good stories and easy to follow.

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May NCIS rest in peace!After tonights episode with Ducky dying, the ratings will never be the same !!!!!!!!!!!

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Is there a possibility for Ziva and Tony to become intimate am stuck to this because of am hoping that it will happen eventually because they are so close now that am not expecting any thing less the chemistry between them is high

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Are family watches NCIS every week,If Ziva leaves the show no one can replace her character, We will find another show to watch on Tuesday night.Also we will not be watching any more rerun's.This is such a good show it SUCK'S to lose her character.

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If they kill off any of the characters, it should be ryan. She doesn't fit very well with the series at all. Jamie lee is an ok actress but she definitely can't do thsis series well. She doesn't pull it off right. Too sympathetic for the fact of her ex husbamd? That's a shitty role for a navy show about catching thie people who mess with soldiers. Just wat too stupid. Bad idea on tat one. Wish they kept lauren holly. She was better in the series. Had an element of more than just one pathetic woman trying to stay safe from an ex. Really guys.........

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I CERTAINLY HOPE DUCKY HASN'T BEEN KILLED OFF, I WANT TO SEE ALL OF THE FAMILY BACK AND BREATHING. IF THERE NOT IT WILL CHANGE THE WHOLE SHOW AND NOT FOR THE BETTER, I HOPE I CAN SAY SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER.

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