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.


NCIS is the best series ever. I cried when Ducky went down on the beach, and Gibbs protecting Abby, oh my gosh, very intense! All cast members hopefully survive for next season. Love them all, well almost all, Vance just doesn't fit in with the rest. Watch all the reruns,they are the best. Please let all cast members return.


I love NCIS and can't wait to see what happens next! I hope the new season will continue developing the main characters. I would like to see more about Abbey and some history about her connection with Gibbs. Yes, we all know that Abbey will always be the favorite...why? I'm still nervous about Ducky - a signed contract doesn't guarantee much! Losing his character would be a huge loss to the culture of the show, which I believe is what has made this show such a success. NCIS is unique, the main characters are believable and everyone works together like a family resulting in a sense of unity. After the terrorist attack it would be too easy for the show to be redesigned and imitate the pace and culture of other shows. That would be a mistake!!! I hope that doesn't happen!!!


Okay folks, think about this. Ducky has a spell on the lonely beach, but Jimmy knows where ducky is staying. Jimmy has decided to go back, so he will go after Ducky and all ends well. Just my take on it....Oh, I'm sticking with Gibb's wife & daughter coming back after being in the witness protection plan. The Cartel daughter & son of the man Gibbs killed were killed, remember, and there is no reason for them to hide now. It would be nice to see Kelly grown up...Just saying....


Janet - Your comment not only shows your bias to the three so called 'main characters' as you refer to them, but also your ignorance of just which characters ARE the main characters. Also, judging by your remark, I presume you believe that Dr. Mallard and Abby aren't main characters either. Let me remind you that the episodes of JAG from which NCIS was spawned, introduced us to Gibbs, DiNozzo, Abby & Ducky. So, going by fact, rather than a biased opinion, there are in fact four main characters, and Ziva is none of them! To add further fuel to the fire, McGee appeared as early as Season 1, Ziva didn't arrive until Season 3, which means he was an established character on the show even before Ziva made her guest appearance once Caitlin was murdered by Ari.
Also, to further jog your memory, here's a line from the show, (I apologise for not being able to readily cite the episode), spoken by Ziva herself - "Face it Tony, Abby will always be the favorite." Please tell me WHY the writers of the show would pen such a line for a 'main character' to utter about a supporting character?


Couldn't agree more with all the comments about Jaimie Lee. I personally love her work, and even at her age she still has a body to die for, but telling it like it is, a la Gibbs, she simply doesn't work! The best thing the writers can do as far as the current plot line is concerned is bring back Hollis Mann! It's inevitable that she's going to at least read about the bombing in the newspaper and at the very least make a phone call to find out who's alive and who's not, so the writers might as well bring her back if they're so determined to hook Gibbs up with someone! She was the perfect fit for him!


Gibbs is no wimp, and JLC makes him look that way so she needs to stay gone




I agree....cannot stand Jamie Lee Curtis...make it go away...yuk


Dear Director: Donald Paul Bellisario
I appreciate to watch in TV the series NCIS, but I was sad at the end of season 9. I would like to see the Brazil as a country with a best friend of the United States. I am a retired Police Major and I was worked many years as a firefighter department in my State and I was commander of a Firefighter Station in Santa Cruz do Sul City. Come and visit my country. Oorah!


It is nice to hear that I was not the only one not happy with the JLC character. I hope everyone will be OK. It was so hard to except the death of Franks. I keep hoping he will come back as a spirit advisor.

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