NCIS Season Finale Review: Clean(ish) Slate

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This was such a fascinating and frustrating NCIS episode, all at once.

The plot for "Damned If You Do" carried on from last week's tense beginning, with Inspector General investigator Richard Parsons gathering evidence in his efforts to have Gibbs indicted. His motivation was captured by this statement:

Parsons: I believe in upholding the law, Gibbs. And I'm tired of watching you break it. | permalink

Shaking of Hands

Turned out that Parsons wasn't nearly as altruistic about the law as he portrayed himself. Tony told Gibbs about evidence they found, which proved Parsons was a sleazy narcissist who kissed upper management rings while doubling as a blackmail artist. 

As the hour went on, Parsons finally put his finger on the one thing that could bring Gibbs down: his revenge murder of Pedro Hernandez, the man who killed Gibbs' wife and daughter. The only problem was the missing forensic report from Abby - which Parsons accurately figured out was conveniently lost in order to cover up Gibbs' involvement. 

As more evidence piled up (I knew Parsons didn't believe Ziva's story that Bodnar had "lost his footing") it seemed that the team - and especially Gibbs - were playing that old Star Trek "impossible test" scenario. It truly looked like there was no way out, and I wondered how the writers were going to bring Gibbs and the team back on safer ground in a logical and believable way. 

I think they had Gibbs giving us hints throughout. He was going to fight Parsons but not by his nemesis' rules. He even refused to take advantage of Tony's intel regarding Parsons. And the whole way through he seemed pretty confident that he'd never see the inside of a court. Two things come to mind when someone is that confident: either he has information that will make everything crystal clear such that no judge would hear a case against him (and that's not true: he did murder Hernandez)... or he could find another way out. 

Perhaps make a run for the border (unlikely) or find some other way not to be present when the time for court arrived. I must admit: that latter option had me a little worried.  The other thought that crossed my mind has to do with a concept some employ when it looks as though they can't win: you can't lose if you refuse to play. 

Gibbs is such a closed-mouth guy at most times and this time he clammed up even tighter than usual. And that not only frustrated the viewers, it frustrated his team as well:

Ziva: Gibbs you cannot do this alone. You have to let us help.
Gibbs: Hey - it is not your job!
Ziva: It is not about my job. This is about my family! | permalink

Meanwhile, the irradiated severed head of a Marine showed up on his wife's doorstep and the team had to leave Gibbs while they investigated it. I immediately thought:  "why would the writers introduce another case right now, right when we're all concerned about Parsons' witch-hunt?" 

Turns out this case has everything to do with what's going on with the team, as was pointed out to Vance in one of the many NCIS quotes from this episode. We still don't know exactly how the dead Marine figures into it - just that Tom Morrow assured him (us) that it does. 

We learned that it was the CIA who took advantage of the execution of Eli David by killing Arash Kazmi - so that they could blame it on Bodnar.  So that's one mystery solved.  Only 99 more to go.

Among the questions that need answering:

  • The CIA wanted to distract Iran and Israel from seeing the "real threat, here on home soil" as Morrow put it. Why? What's the real threat?
  • How does that threat tie into Israel and Iran?
  • Morrow alluded to a tie between the killing of Kazmi and Eli David, the dead Marine and NCIS' current problems (though he assured Vance that Parsons knew nothing about any of it and was proceeding on his own steam). What exactly is the connection? 
  • How does sending the severed head of the Marine to his wife play into any of it?
  • Why was the head irradiated? Tony suggested that it sends a strong message to "back off" - by why the radiation?  Couldn't the head itself be the message? And who sent it?
  • What's more threatening than Iran and North Korea?  Was Tom Morrow alluding to terrorist cell activities, and that they're more of a threat because of their immediacy?

Near the end, we saw a plan being hatched, offered up by Tom Morrow, that would, as Vance indicated, give them a clean slate. Right before walking into Vance's office, Tony, Ziva and McGee all agreed that if the situation were reversed, Gibbs would do the same for them.  

They then offered their resignations to Vance and "took responsibility for the accusations" so that Gibbs would be cleared. Only he isn't cleared, is he? The investigation into his activities is merely postponed. And note the wording from Vance: the team took "responsibility for the accusations," not "took responsibility for the crimes." That's important, as it makes everything grey instead of black and white, as Parsons would prefer. He can't build his career advancement on "grey."  He needs a solid win.

Finally we flash-forwarded to four months later with Gibbs working on his assignment for JSOC. He's in a darkened room overlooking a street somewhere, and there's a wounded man in there with him, urging him to "do it." He goes to the window and sets himself up with a sniper rifle and puts Tobias Fornell in his sights. Fade to black and - bang!

Final notes:

  • Palmer and his wife are adopting! 
  • Tony and Ziva had another "moment" and so for now it looks like Tony has waltzed right back into the friend zone. Later, when McGee told him to stop correcting Ziva, she said it's okay McGee, I can handle him myself and Tony replied yes she can. That sound you hear is the laughter of the writers, having fun with us.
  • The entire team found another spot to have a group meeting - this time in the elevator, and away from prying bugs. Dangerously hints at claustrophobia if you ask me, even though Abby enjoyed it and wanted to make it a regular occurrence.
  • Gibbs seems to be struggling with guilt over the death of Vance's wife - for which his subconscious dredged up the ghost of Mike Franks, both in the waking thoughtful world and in his nightmares. Or, more likely, it's guilt over all of the deaths that have happened on his watch.  Hence the "damned if you do" speech.
  • Lots of purging of documents in this episode wasn't there? Vance shredded Abby's damning report on Gibbs (finally!) and Gibbs found reason to burn a bunch of documents having to do with Franks.  While unsure about the contents of those files, we need to note that Mike Franks lived for a while in Mexico and was involved with the Payloma Raynosa story. Given Parsons' keen hunting nose, maybe it was better to burn every hint of the Mexico operation.
  • We still don't know what Gibbs hid in his basement when Tony arrived. Although we do now know that he built a sturdy and warm cabin out in the middle of nowhere.  Man that looked inviting, didn't it?
  • Our Criminal Minds Round Table is up!  Come over and let us know what you think about what we talked about.

What are your thoughts on the NCIS Season 10 finale? Do you think Gibbs actually shot and killed Fornell? What do you think Ziva, Tony and McGee will do, now that they're not working for NCIS? 

More importantly, what are Morrow's plans for bringing them back? What are your thoughts on the "real threat" that he mentioned?


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (627 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter



I do not believe that Cote de Pablo is asking for the same amount of money that Mark Harmon makes! So, who is this reliable source that you received this information from? Cote de Pablo usually gets bumped up to the same level that Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette and Sean Murray are making. Since she rotates a year behind them and has been on the show for 2 less years, this is a reasonable agreement. Those three were making about $125,000. per episode and went up to $170,000. per episode last season. I highly doubt that Cote de Pablo is asking for $700,000. per episode. Please do your proper research before you make such outlandish statements. MW, PP, and SM did not sign their contracts last year until July 11, right before season 10 started filming. I am sure the same will be true for Cote.


Cote de Pablo has not signed a contract to be Ziva next season. I read somewhere that shes holding out for more money wants what Mark Harmon is getting.
I know this will put some people off but I hope she doesn't come back. I am so tired of Masada It is suppose to be about NCIS not about the Israel secret service. The other original characters seem to have been almost reduced to nothing.


i think that fornell is not the target but a witness that need to die (false death) so fornell can put him in security the team will return like when they send them apart already at the start of a new season i think that gibbs and his bleeding companion just stop the true killers and shot the witness for his protection that can goes with the rules of apocalyptic season end and new season start?


I'm with you Just Keeping It Real. The show's writers don't seem to come up with cases that are plausible or interesting most of the time. Meanwhile, we have whatever happens to be Ziva's latest drama permeating everything. The only reason Tony gets any air time besides being butt monkey is to fan the tiva flames. The whole last half of the season as been one big Ziva soap story. I too don't plan on watching live anymore if CdP re-signs. G. Glasburg has made it amply clear that besides giving Ziva more stories and screen time than anyone else, his other top priority is to promote tiva.


@ Gina, muchas gracias, pierdo detalles importants en la traduccion. Es cierto que no me agrado como termiaron las cosas entre ellos, pero ahora soy mas optimista para la temporada 11 ( espero que De Pablo regrese)...(tambien siento lo de mi mala suerte en el amor jajaja, ya que!!!)




It's always hard to see the finale of this show because of having to wait for a new season and thank goodness there is another season coming. Love all these characters. I suppose I'm an NCIS fanatic because I really miss the days there's not an episode to watch whether it be a new one or reruns on USA. I suppose that's what makes a great show is characters developed in such a way you care about them and what happens to them. These actors are just perfect for the parts they play.
Of course Gibbs won't shoot Fornell, they're buddies. So looking forward to season 11.


I'm so done with this. I have been a fan of NCIS from the beginning. NCIS,back in its heyday was about the cases AND the characters. This is what made it a great show and attracted so many viewers to it. Now the cases and the solving of those cases has taken a backseat, and even in some episodes, is non-existent. It has degraded into a stylized soap opera. I truly feel the TIVA thing is forced. I really could care less about the "TIVA" moments. What happened to the stories that highlighted the unique skills and qualities of each character. Nowadays its,"Will Tony and Ziva admit the love for each other?" As each year progresses,I feel less and less the need to tune in. Granted, there were a few stand out shows this years, but for next season,I am more inclined to DVR NCIS and watch "Agents of Shield".


One thing that I hope is forthcoming in season 11 is that Parsons get his due, being rung up for the blackmail and influence peddling he uses to climb the ladder.
Also I would like to see more of agent Ned Dorneget, perhaps paired with McGee or even Tony in some upcoming episodes. Matt Jones does a terrific job and the chances here for comic relief are endless. I look forward to season 11, 12, 13...


No sé si encontraste las fotos pero acá está más o menos lo que dicen: Ziva: I care about our friendship too much. I do not want it to be awkward between us.
Tony: why would it be awkward?
Ziva: Because of Adam. Because. If it was not for this job, then I would…
Tony: Yeah. If it weren’t for this job. Sorry por tu mala suerte con el amor jajaja, oh y si creo q tony está enamorado de ziva y ella de él. Creo que me cortaron el mensaje anterior, solo tienen miedo a admitirlo y perder la amistad que tienen si algo no sale bien.

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NCIS Season 10 Episode 24 Quotes

Morrow: There's a connection between the death of that Navy Seal and what's happening with your team.
Vance: What kind of connection?
Morrow: The murder of Eli David opened a political can of worms that was much bigger than anyone expected.
Vance: Eli and Arash Kazmi wanted to forget a peace. But Bodnar killing them opened the door.
Morrow: Homeland and the CIA wait for chances like this, to stir the pot. Distract governments so that all sorts of recon can happen. The CIA needed Iran to believe Mossad was responsible.
Vance: Are you telling me that Bodnar didn't kill Kazmi?
Morrow: I'm telling you we did it, Leon. The CIA took out Kazmi that night so that Bodnar would end up being the fall guy. Iran and Israel could duke it out while we focused on the real threat. We're all so damned worried about Iran and North Korea when the real threat is here, on home soil.
Vance: It's a shell game isn't it? Keep people distracted.
Morrow: Leon you see why I wanted you to keep your distance?

Vance: Tom Morrow may have a solve. We pull it off this could all go away.
Gibbs: For all of us?
Vance: Clean slate.
Gibbs: What's the catch?
Vance: It might kill you.
Gibbs: So could a bag of clams.
Vance: [laughs] We sure picked one hell of a career didn't we Gibbs?
Gibbs: Got to make a living Leon.