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.


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 ...


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.


I agree with Suzi Q on 8 I think. Re-Tony and Ziva in lift. They like the rest of the team were the last to leave. Maybe one walked in and the other one followed.People do stupid things in the heat of the moment.Looks like some damaged backs as a result.


I have to say i love Ducky and his stories i am glad he be back, do not want any of the regular cast to die they all play a part in making it work together, even Vance and Gibbs, now the Ryan story she just needs to stay gone, did not inhance the show at all in fact made it worse


Ok first they are not a family they are coworkers and you can tell they don't trust each other look at Ziva and all the horrible things she has done to Tony over the years. NCIS need to kill a woman off that when NCIS was good when they would kill the woman off


My favorite show on tv is NCIS. It is one of the few shows left on TV that is clean enough to watch with the family. I love the season finally! I venture to guess that the one leaving the show is Ducky. Only because he was acting strange in one of the episodes leaving Gibbs as the executor of his estate. That was a clue, at least to me. I hope the rest of the characters stay. I look forward each week to watch the show.


I really like Gibbs and Ryan together. They seem like a really good fit! Will be SOOO disappointed if Ducky doesn't pull through. Didn't miss Kate because I like Ziva so much more, but I was sad when Mike died. Can't wait for next season...


characters get killed off for various reasons: pursue other career in real life, failure to renew a contract, and of course, generate debate among viewers. A tragic ending always result in a most dramatic and memorable moment, it's the writers and producers' job to keep us viewers intrigued. Unfortunately, keeping all of us hanging is part of the tactic, albeit the obvious 'cruel and unusual' punishment.


Until I read your review, I did not know that McCallum signed for 2 yrs. I agree they may still kill him off, but that would be costly for the show. So I was relieved to hear that there is a good chance Ducky will survive. Although he played the heart attack very well, I was worried and shocked at that scene. I liked this finale very much. I actually liked JLC's character, not for Gibbs though, and I also think that there is something more to her that will destroy that relationship for sure. But I think she plays Dr. Ryan very well. I'm not a Tiva fan, and will never be, but I do like that Tony and Ziva do have deep feelings for one another, I just don't want the walking down the aisle kind. I agree that this team is very much family, and loved that Jimmy pointed that out and his finance stuck by him when he wanted to change their wedding plans. They are cute together. It will be a long summer trying to figure out what happened to each. I think a 2 hour opener should be done also.


I think the first episode should be 2 hour special then the writers will have more time explain what happened after the explosion and how the characters feel after such a big ordeal, and most of maybe some Tiva when Tony and Ziva were trapped in the lift


I've usually commented on the episode by now but so much happened and I had to rewatch it do many times and just keep being mind blown by what they did. I am wondering if they will bring up or bring in any of the family members we have seen so far (Tony's dad, Gibbs' dad, etc). I mean these people are all one big family really. In the episode, I actually had a smaller crying moment before Ducky on the beach, it was when Palmer had to realize that the team wouldn't be able to come to his wedding. He understood but you could tell it got to him and that it bothered the team they couldn't be there. One big lovable family who all need to come out this alive and stronger than ever. Four months is gonna be murder!!!


I am soooo upset! Why do the writers have to leave us with such a bizarre and tragic ending of the season?? Cliffhangers are one thing, but almost killing off most of the team is totally unacceptable! And making us wait for months to get some resolution is cruel and unusual punishment for being good and loyal fans of the show. What if we can't see the first new episode? What if I can't remember all the details of this last "to be continued" fiasco? I don't think it is right to make the audience wait for months for closure!

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