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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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Honestly, Ducky isn't my favorite character so i wouldn't cry if he died, but i do hope everyone lives. As for Dr. Ryan, her mind games piss me off a lot but she is a good addition to the show. And for Tony and Ziva, they're sooo in love, but i like it as it is, i don't want them to date. It's just nice watching them quietly flirt during the happier moments of the show, ya know? And i swear, if Abby dies i will personally shoot the director! SHE CANNOT DIE!!!!

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I want Ducky back!!! i was really ticked off when Mike was killed off... so I hope they don't let Ducky die.

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Jimmy would not leave for Florida without ducky or at least telling ducky that he was leaving to go back. Nor would he get married with ducky being there for the wedding without letting him know the plans. I think Jimmy will find him and hopefully save him. I think Sean/ McGee may be out. In the face and blow back force nailed him the hardest. Do we know that Cole blew up with the bomb or did he escape only to reek havoc for the team and Jethro another day? Also, Ryan leaving as abruptly as she did I know fear can change a person but she's the head brain gamer could she be more involved with Dearing that we know at this point? So many questions with no definitive answers and a very very long summer ahead.
Maybe Dornigan will get a bigger role or more appearances. Can't wait for the dvd to come out. Will there be more phantom 8 members come out of hiding?

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ducky has renewed his contract its on yahoo the story about him renewing so he most likely wont die they always have extra scenes written as for the 3 remaining characters who knows if anyone of these characters doesnt renew then the 10th seson will no doubt be the last

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I think show is becoming too unrealistic in that so many tragedies in one small unit unlikely especially in one small unit. Never happy ending they stole Jimmy's wedding from him. Although sure contracts will decide very stupid to me if they don't do everything needed to retain characters who exist. Dinamics are perfect. Why mess with a good thing as long as you have a choice. I watch for episode by episode and character interaction not personal tragedy. I get that kind of drama in my own life. As for Gibbs. Any 'mate' they find for him that is more combative love and not the dynamics he lost with his first love and daughter is short changing him for sure. Gibbs deserves better. He does not need another divorce. No matter what character leaves I am not convinced I will go on watching. Will not be NCIS. Sounds more like a soap opera to me. Sorry.

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I was totally upset to see what happened to DUCKY!! and not knowing how the rest of the team made out. I hope everyone survived. Love this show!!! Can't wait until September....

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I hope Palmer did in fact come back to the Navy Yard and I hope he comes upon Dearing and take him out for hurting his "family." What a great way for the Autopsy Gremlin to really become one of the team! And, while McCallum has experienced health issues in the past, I pray Ducky returns. The team's just not the team without him. Then again, we've lost Kate, Jennie, and Mike and we still tune in every Tuesday night.

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Gah, I hate it when writers don't at least Google a subject! Thoroughbreds race, Morgans do not, TB/Morgan cross is not common and would never ever race. AngloArabs are Thoroughbred/Arabian crosses not Thoroughbred/Morgan.

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Wow more comments than usual. I know why though. This is still the best show on the air. I had the same feeling, NO NOT DUCKY!!!!! Not one to read the end of a book first, I had to read the spoiler for season 10 because like it or not a show as good as this causes the characters to grow on you and Ducky is one of my favorites. I'm sure there will be some deep thoughts in his future but when his Mom died that started for him.
Age appropriate or not I would like to see someone else besides JLC for Gibbs. I still say bring the Army colonel back.
Even reading the spoiler, I look forward to the next season because I obviously love this program.

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I read where Duckie contract was renewed for 2 more years. So he will be
a spirit aroung all the time or he lives.