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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Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (627 Votes)

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



Gibbs didn't kill Fornell. Ziva, Tony and McGee probably are vacationing xD Abby must be having a nervous breakdown. CdP isn't stupid and WILL COME BACK! WE HAVE FAITH IN HER! And that was a waste of a an ending.. BUT STILL LOVE THE SHOW!


@Michael It was not proven whether Ziva's hit to his neck was the cause of his death or not. Secondly, he was a criminal who was resisting her attempts to get him down to wherever she was taking him. Once again, we did not see what happened in the elevator that led to that altercation. We do not know what the suspect did to her that led her to having to restrain him. Those are the facts.


@none To make comments about a real person's physical appearance as you did by stating that Cote de Pablo's face was getting fatter and fatter and that she looks tired is mean and rude. We are not here to comment on a real person and what they look like. We are here to talk about the show. I must assume that you must be drop dead gorgeous or perhaps you were voted one of People Magazine's Most Beautiful? What would we say about you and your face if you were on TV every week? If you don't like a character, that is fine but you do not need to attack the actress who plays her. If you can't say anything nice, don't say it at all.


Weak Season ender. Gibbs clearly did not shot Tobias. Most likely Gibbs and guy he was with stopped a sniper from shooting another person in the motorcade as we see a dead body in the wearhouse (sniper) Gibbs was taking the gun to kill a back guy most likely if the sniper failed. Gibbs team quit as to help Gibbs on what ever mission he was on since this seams a black ops type thing. After it is over Homeland will pull strings to get them jobs back. Not a good cliffy IMO.


@ Nan......ojala tengas razon, no niego que puedo estar obsesionda con TIA, pero nada me haria mas feliz.


@ilovetv... Sean Murray actually played 2 key roles on Jag.. one was that son of a doctor that AJ dated.. not Harm.. among other things, he totalled AJ's SUV carrying weed.. the other was a marine in Okinawa who was accused of rape but it was not true because the girl was a hooker... I was waiting for Tony to remember AJ and ask how that guy they accused of murder was ( Harm) in the NCIS pilot embedded in JAG 10+ years ago... But alas, not to be.. It would have been a cool Easter Egg to old fans of JAG who are also fans of this show.. Many of the folks behind the scenes of NCIS also worked on JAG... Less so NCIS-LA...


For those saying this might tie into NCIS LA as cool as that will be I think their doing the samething with NCIS LA and NCIS that they did with NCIS and JAG and giving them their own world. So I gibbs is on these mission who will be in charge of MCRT?


As for Gibbs shooting Fornell, I'm thinking he is having another nightmare. Of course they will bring back Ziva, McGee and Tony...who's going to be on the show if they don't? Of course, I'll watch the next season. This is one of the best shows CBS has as they seem to be getting very stupid and cancelling shows and trying to replace them with idiotic "reality" shows. Loved the scene where Franks comes backing fishing with Gibbs. I was always disappointed that they killed him off anyway. Also, I fully expected Ziva to punch Parsons in the elevator. Should just turn Abby loose on him for a little while.


My first comment so here goes. Gibbs wouldn't kill fornel would he? so it's made me think who would be the person coming out of the car that gets killed. What about if the CIA have now decided to kill someone from Mossad? Like the new Director of Mossad for example. Then blame it on the other side and say they were getting revenge because of Kazmi's death. That way they could have both sides fighting each other over murders that neither side did. This way they can pay attention to what's happening on home soil. Just an idea!


I thought this was a horrible way to end the season. I think the writers are running out of ideas, which is why they dragged this story line out way too long. I was reminded about how frustrated I was at the end of Soprano's, with the screen going black. Corny cliffhangers? The show has had the team split up as the finale before, and what they did with that was corny as well. I feel as though the last ten minutes of the episode was the coming attractions for next week way to end a season.

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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.