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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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We cryed I did thats for sure , my husband had tears in his eyes , more so when Ducky fell to his knees , I gasped for air , I really fell apart , it was bad enough when Mike got killed & RED haird gail , please keep the home fires burnen , i sit here & watch nics , daily even the reuns keep me happy , thanks for the BEST Show ever . we truly miss it so hurry up .

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Hopefully all cast members will be back, I love them all. Please do not get rid of Ducky, He is the glue to that show when all else is going crazy. Love them all.

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Hello, I've been watching NCIS for the past year. I started from S1 to S9. I am deeply upset with the ending of this season. I do not know what I will do if all of the cast pasted away. What I do not understand is how did gibbs get there so fast? Anyways. I am hoping to see a new season of NCIS. This was very sad! D:.

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I watched ET last night (7/5/12) and they commented that "Abby", "McGee", and "Tony" have yet to sign contract for next year. Who do we contact for the powers that be and ask them to do whatever they have to to KEEP them on the show?? NCIS wouldn't be the same without them!!!!

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From reading the thead, I noticed some thinking in the lines of who's 'Main' cast and who's not. More importantly, that there's only 3: Gibbs/Tony/Ziva. Well, NCIS would be nothing with just the three of them, even if there are those who'd swear it's Gibbs as it should be all about Gibbs. If that were the case, it would be called the Gibbs show instead of NCIS. I doubt it would be such a success story.
So, to me, it's not a question about one being more expendable than the other.
Now, on to the explosion: why would it be lethal for McGee? The bomb exploded outside the building. There was a nasty blast with lots of glass fragments.
However, does anyone remember the bomb on the Cape Fear (Hiatus S03E23+24)? Gibbs had been in coma, not killed, and he'd been in the room the bomb went off.
So, anything goes in fiction.
I don't think anyone on the regular team will go.
And I definitely don't want to see my favorite Geek With a Gun McGee dieeeeeeeee!!!!! I'd be so upset.

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why would they kill off ducky or abs?gibbs has already lost so many loved ones on the show.kate,jenny,mike franks,langer nt to mention shannon n kelly.any more would b 2 much.also must gibbs have a love interest?4 wives r enaf!y nt hav a mysterious woman like in s1?seen occasionally n never heard.ziva was best as a kickass no emotions babe.a fatter mcgee,mo smiles.ducky holds the team together.everyone confides in him.from gibbs to palmer.i wouldnt mis ryan.tends to make gibbs a lapdo!ugh!GIBBS is nobody's whippn boy!

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Nooooo...Please don't kill off Ducky! I love his role on this show!

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ncis is one of my best shows on tv!! abby and mcgee just get together already your a great couple and with tony and ziva!!!!!!!!!!

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@ Brad, I truly hope that your “sources� are just winding you up and that David McCullum, is not sick in real life. Not that I do not trust want you are saying is true I just hope that it is a ploy to steer you away from what the writers really have going for next seasons plot lines. BTW; I heard Agent ABBY Borin will be back. I hope I spelled her name right.

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Hot of the Press, Apparently they killed Duckie off as he has throat cancer in real life and his health is failing, I'm told if you go back and watch the last 8 episodes of Season 9 you will notice a significant change in his voice. His voice has become very raspy, scratchy and deeper. David McCullum has tried to keep this out of the press and public eye until Season 9 finale has been shown and a small amount of significant time has passed. I hear from a good source he is getting the best of medical treatment and the actual severity and prognosis of his throat cancer is a kept a tightly personal secret for the moment, and if my source is once again correct, David McCullum we wish you (I WISH YOU) a speedy recovery and would like to personally add the show will not be the same without you, and me and my source thought you being injured in NCIS would of been a better option leaving the option open for you to return at a later date once you regain your voice and health, (Love u Duckie)

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