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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 AM VERY HAPPY ALL OF THE NCIS ACTORS ARE COMING BACK THIS SEASON WE WOULD BE LOST WITH OUT THEM.I HOPE NCIS WILL CONTINUE ON T.V. I LOVE THEM ALL.I THINK THEY ARE ALL GREAT.

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The ending scene with Ducky collapsing in the sand was strange. First of all, what was he doing on the beach in his tux....and no one else there. I believe that that scene is going to be found to be a dream....or preminition by Duckey, feeling that his collegues were in danger. Subsequently, he will try to contact Gibbs to confirm his fears

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Ducky is NOT dead, all the main cast are returning, but Ducky will almost certainly be handing over the main 'doctor' role to jimmy whilst he recovers!

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Watching the first season of ncis (we have all seasons, and are adicted to ncis). We have found a couple of questions ?
1) Kate was former security to the President of USA. She resign her job because of a reationship with a co-worker captain on the same job. Ep 1 -Yankee White. Sounds like a Gibbs rule to me . Where does that leave Tony and Ziva??
2) Ducky has asked Gibbs to look after his estate. For he has no one to leave it to. Ep-2 Hang out to Dry , Duck says " He hasn't been up this high since hanging a pinnota for his nephew." so what has happen to duck's brother / sister and or families??
Just some unanswered questions or are they bloopers. ANY IDEAS?

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If Ducky goes, I go. I made that promise to myself like two years ago. I thought 'If Ducky ever dies, I will stop watching the show.' Also, they should bring back Torri Higginson as Jordan Hampton. ALLONS-Y!

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It's obvious to me that Ducky is dead unless Palmer gets a feeling that something could be wrong and goes to look for him or the caller calls him after Ducky could no longer answer. I doubt if Palmer would leave Ducky at the wedding and return to NCIS alone. I think they could have found a woman for Ducky. He might be a momma's boy but he is a decent man with a nice nest egg. Women have a hard time finding love after sixty but not men. I imagine her as an Administrator of School of Nursing or some other position in a hospital around 55 years old who has grown children. He needs someone who has had a full life but yet young enough to

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If "Tony" is coming back, why he is being shown on upcoming commercials for the Closer? Hope it's just a guest role. Love the show just the way it is. Hope it stays that way.

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@rodsteen main characters are in every episode ducky even though i have been a fan of DM for many years is not a main actor he is not in all the episodes and even when he is its only 5 or 10minutes so how can he be a main character.abby has more screen time but she is not a main player like it or not even though she is gibbs favorite doesnt mean she is a main character.the top 3 is what is shown at the start of the show first gibbs then tony then ziva.doesnt matter that ziva wasnt there at the beginingshe has proved herself and is popular with MOST fans.

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Gibbs is wonderful in this show I cry every time I watch Swan SONG i WATCH ALL RERUNS EVERY ONE ON NCIS has a special place in my heart so special and beautiful in there own way .But Jamielee well she needs to go. this show is John Wayne in a modern way love you all I would love to meet you all one day but in my dreams I just turned 63 so it won;t happen but I so look forward to your show and reruns.

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I have been thinking... Jimmy went back so he is not as big of a character as everyone else... So maybe he went inside (not showing on the TV) to help the others and was in a large blasting point and died. Ducky however has a large part in the show so he will survive. If he dies, the show rateing will go down and it could b the last season, but i dont c that happening. Ducky got the call it could be that Jimmy died and everyone else survived.