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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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I say, again, Gibbs needs a tender woman love interest (like his Shannon was). If they don't hire Cheryl Ladd (or a hot equivalent) then I agree with a previous commenter that Diane Neal (the CGIS leader) would be a good choice for a romance with Gibbs.
Jamie Lee Curtis needs to be shown the door. Her welcome is worn out.
Robert Vaughn needs to be hired for a story arc involving Ducky. Maybe he could be the doctor (a Navy Doctor - active or retired) who saves Ducky and who is later involved (directly or indirectly) with a baffling murder case.
Gibbs and Vance need to come to terms and end their sparring. Abby and McGee need to get married to each other. So, too, Ziva and Tony need to tie the knot. Ducky needs a permanent partner - bring Doris Day out of retirement!

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I would HATE to see any member of the core family die. They are the best cast on TV. If one or more of them die, I would not be able to watch the show any more.
As for Gibbs taking a bullet for Vance, he would, but only out of duty. He would never hesitate to take one for real members of the team, but Vance is not one of them. He (Vance) is the only main cast member that can be easily replaced.
It seems obvious that Gibbs does not trust Ryan, even though he doesn't mind sleeping with her. I feel her disappearence had to do with more than just her ex getting out of jail. I have felt for several shows that she is in cahoots with Dearing in some way.

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david m just signed on for two more years so he could be laid up for a while but will be back. agree that killing off mike frank was moronic, the episodes he was in were always the most interesting. making dearing into this superbad guy was over the top. no one is that smart or could do what he did including getting ryan's ex released, that part of this story arc was poor writing.

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Leave Ducky alone and let him get better. It was bad enough when Mike Franks was killed-stupid writers. I hope Ryan is gone-she was hard to understand and there was no chemistry between Gibbs and Her. It seems as if Tony's part was smaller-bad idea.

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Don't mess with the last good series on TV!!
Are the people behind the scenes so jealous of the characters that they have to "kill one off" just to show their power?
stupid,stupid, stupid!!

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My heart is so unsure it will not be the same if they dont bring ducky back i have seen every single episode of NCIS please dont change the characters they are all wonderful playing together

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I was thinking that Jimmy would become a target since even the team didn't seem to think he would be on Dearing's radar. I was TOTALLY unprepared for Ducky's collapse. Between this and the Grey's Anatomy finale I just watched, my stomach is going to be in knots all summer!

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I love this show and like I have said before it is the only one that all of my kids watch and then we call and discuss the show. This episode has to be one of the best but the sadest of all. I cried my head off, I can not believe what happen. I just saw it today because I had to work on Tuesday and none of my kids told me what happen, all they said was watch it and we are here for you. This is the best show of all, and none come close to it. Thank you CBS for this
but if they die I am not watch CBS anymore.

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I love this show like I have said before all of my kids see it and then we call each other to discuss the show, I had to work late on Tuesday so I could not see the show and none of my kids told me about the show, all they told me was to watch the show and they would be there for me. Boy I don't know if I can wait till next season, I cried my head off, I can not believe what happen, please someone tell me they are still alive, I cried and call my kids and all they told me that everything is going to be fine. This has to be the best show ever, nothing comes close not Hawaii 5-0 or NCIS Los Angelas.

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I love Ducky, but when the previews mentioned someone dying, I thought it might be him. David McCallum is late 70's (though he sure doesn't look it!,) and I thought he may be looking forward to some leisure. But he could come back, ala "Kate", appearing to give pearls of wisdom to his NCIS family.