NCIS Season Finale Review: Clean(ish) Slate

at . Comments

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
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (627 Votes)

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


Josie leeds

First off, Gibbs ain't going nowhere. He will outwit sleazy, pompous ass Parsons without breaking a sweat. Shoot Fornell? Not likely--he's either not the target or has a top grade flak jacket on and will be cussing Gibbs for the bruises. CdeP WILL return--she's not dumb enough to walk away from this show. Tiva will wobble along as it has--the writers haven't quite milked this one dry yet. CBS execs may be terminally stupid, but their OCD fixation on the 18-49 demographic will keep this show alive as long as the writers don't screw it up and lose the loyal audience with dumb stunts. Will I be back in Sept.? Of course--if only to see how the writers squirm out of this mess.


A great season finale I loved it. When parson's was talking to ziva in the elevator I was just thinking how hard it must be not to hit him. I agree with Abby they need to have more group meetings like that there always fun. I'm wondering what ziva, tony, and McGee are going to now that they've resigned. I'm aslo wondering If Gibbs took that shot at fornel because it seemed like it was his job to take him out but he's also a friend. I can't wait till next season it should be good.


Has anyone thought of the fact that now that Ziva and Tony don't work for Gibbs - the no dating co-workers rule doesn't apply??? Loved the episode!


the lost Russian nuclear bombs after one was test detonated in the desert. Morrow and Vance would surely be aware of that mission as well.
7. My question for September, how does the rest of the team come back in? Or does Vance do his NCIS LA routine and deny that they resigned, that they accidentally left their badges on his desk and he kept them in a drawer for safe keeping?


1. The team will be back, just like after season 6.
2. Either Gibbs' shoots Tobias as a ruse, to secure a cover or some other grand op involving Fornell, similar to them faking his death in Season 2 Ep 5 to figure out the mole in the FBI, or he shot someone in FBI protection, as others have stated.
3. I had a STRONG feeling Decker's insurance policy was going to come back out into the open...but I didn't see it being burned. I was hoping to find out what it WAS.
4. Loved the opening scene with Gibbs and Franks fishing...and Franks shoots the fish with a 50 cal. Classic!
5. I didn't see this ending coming at all. I was expecting this to be more of a court room thing, similar to JAG, dealing with his case and Chegwidden screwing over Parsons through legal means. The team resigning and Gibbs going on a JSOC mission was not even on my radar.
6. Interesting the connection with Iran and a radiated head being sent back in the midst of NCIS LA's situation with Iran trying to purchase the lost Russian nuclear bombs after one was test detonated in the desert. Morrow and Vance would surely be aware of that mission as well.


Bodner DID kill Eli and Jackie, just not the Iranian guy who's car blew up at the end of that ep. We (CIA) did that.


Are you kidding me? Abby is immature and a liability to this show? Did you just start watching last week? Ziva is unimportant to the show? Really? The sexual tension between Tony and Ziva is central to this show and keeps a bunch of people returning! I'm betting there are viewers who cannot (or do not) follow all the nuances of the plot who watch only for that. other women in the show to trash? Who really believes that the resignations were not orchestrated? Becoming private investigators? IT IS A TV SHOW!!! It is called NCIS. It will all be resolved in the first 5 minutes next season...the resignations and who Gibbs shot at...that is. The interplay between Ziva and Tony? That will continue...keeps those people tuning in!!


Ok I don't get it. Did Bodner kill Ziva's dad or not? I don't believe for a minute Gibbs shot Tobias. Who is getting out of the car? This show was kind of slow but picked up speed the last 10 minutes. Well be watching next year.


OK, for the reviewer who wanted McGee to meet the Admiral instead of Tony. If they had done that the more appropriate comments would have been "Hello, Admiral", "Hello, Tim. How's your dad doing?". The two admirals would know each other so they would have met before.
The man who was with Gibbs in the last scene was the dead man's commanding officer so Gibbs must have stepped into the mission he was on. Since the head set off the Geiger counter I think it had something to do with nuclear weapons. Also, I think Gibbs was going to shoot the person Fornell was protecting, not Fornell.
Yes, Gibbs and Vance were both destroying documents - Abby's report as well as Mike's insurance so they're cleaning house.
I had guessed Gibbs was building a cabin in the woods when he was working on the wood burning stove in his basement. We did see him working on the rocking chair in the cabin at one point. But I am still curious about whatever it was he threw the cloth over when Tony walked into the basement.


Thought the show was good. I'm glad no corny cliffhangers. I guess the writers realize we are a more sophisticated audience.

Tags: ,

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.