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NCIS Season 10 Report Card: A-

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Gibbs is about to kill someone; and the rest of his team has resigned. Perhaps this wasn't as dramatic a cliffhanger as the end of NCIS Season 9, but it still rates as fascinating. And at least Ducky isn't out on a beach somewhere dying, so there's that. 

DOD Investigator Parsons isn't through with Gibbs yet either. And we have to wait until the fall to see how it all goes down. Looks like the writers have done a brilliant job at keeping us on the hook.

That said, it's time to take a look back at NCIS Season 10. Read on for more in this TV Fanatic Report Card...

Ducky Takes the Lead

Best episode: "Shiva" set the bar for the rest of the season.  In it, we got to see a heartbroken and vengeful Ziva, and a strong and very silent and wise Tony. His serious behavior was such a departure from the norm that it stood out as exceptional. 

I feel like the joker is a front that he always displays, possibly in an effort to ensure people don't get too close to him. Maybe the writers intended that for him, especially given what we learned about his apartment, how he keeps it, and the fact that he rarely lets anyone into it.  With the death of Eli David, Tony seemed to drop all pretense and clownish behaviour and came to Ziva's side like the dependable and strong friend he always was. I think there's a genuine love there - not sure yet how romantic it is, but it seems to have started as a strong friendship that is now something north of "friend."

This, despite the episode Damned If You Do," where he found himself in a sort of friend zone with Ziva. 

Anyway, the episode wasn't about romance: it was about him being the stand-up guy who would fight at her side, if need be, and support her in whatever way she needed.  His line What can I do? What do you need? said it all.  

Even bringing her back to his place, with no overtones of romance, was an excellent move. He instinctively knew she should talk with someone, and that it should be someone she could trust, someone she's known for a long time. And so he surprised her by bringing her friend Shmeil to his apartment as well. 

Finally, his parting words to her at the airport completed the episode, when he said, in Hebrew You are not alone.

That was an excellent and moving episode.

Worst episode: This one was difficult to determine. The writing for NCIS all season has been consistently good, so it's hard to pick out one that was bad, never mind "worst".  That said, I think maybe the weakest one would be "You Better Watch Out," featuring Tony's father. 

We've seen their family dynamic before, so the story was somewhat of a repetition of that, as Tony Senior invaded Tony's space and then made out with the woman across the hall - in Tony's bed. Not only that, he did so while knowing full well his son doesn't bring any dates home, ever. Tony Junior explained to him that he considered his home a sanctuary and Senior just ignored that. I felt Tony's frustration, but as mentioned - it was a repetition of earlier father-son friction. Maybe with this episode over, NCIS can retire the "my dad was the worst guy" meme.

The other thing about this episode was that we were introduced to a fascinating character in the person of Special Agent Ashley Hunter, played so well by Danielle Bisutti.  Her character was so curious and provocative - my one complaint was that we didn't see more of her, or learn more about her. I hope the writers bring her back, maybe even as a regular - her mystery would add to the series. 

Best character: The team works so well together as an ensemble that it's hard to pick just one.  Gibbs has always been Gibbs: silent, powerful, the alpha. Tony is the butt of jokes, but he too is strong, even though he isn't yet seen to be the leader that he is, except by Gibbs, who recognized and acknowledged it in a much earlier episode. Completing the alpha group would be Vance, who has always been somewhat abrasive, but is now more understanding and a heck of a lot more supportive than he ever has been.

Ziva has a strength to her as well, and even McGee has managed to stand up to bullies like Bodnar when needed. Palmer is a great guy who, like Tony, has been somewhat of a lovable clown. And Ducky is consistently dependable: there are very few surprises with him.

This leaves us with Abby. 

She lights up every room into which she walks, and manages to coax a smile out of Gibbs on occasion - along with a loving peck on the cheek. The team relies on her high intelligence, curiosity and expertise for every case they take on; she knows this, yet it doesn't go to her head. You would expect such a person to be aloof but instead she is very approachable.  I like the fact that she has a hard time even saying rough words of vengeance, even against such loathsome characters as DOD Investigator Richard Parsons.  The peek we got into her childhood this season showed us that she was always like this: curious, caring and extremely intelligent. What's not to like? She gets my vote as the best character of the season.

Worst character: This one (unlike "worst episode') was a no-brainer. Richard Parsons is the villain we love to hate. Arrogant, self-important, and an outright hypocrite. He's the one guy that every person on the team had no problem despising. This speaks to the writing and to Colin Hanks' great acting abilities, as he played the guy to perfection:  affable and funny at first, yet calculating, intelligent, manipulative and ultimately ruthless - the very characteristics of a successful sociopath.  

The way in which he handled Ziva and Tony blew me away:  his calculated move to interview her in the interrogation room, knowing full well Tony would watch from the observation room - and even planning it all out so that he'd "run into them" while they were near the rooms, was brilliant. He played Ziva so well too, raising the rhetoric and accusation level until Tony had no choice but to intervene. 

And then doing it all as a ruse to distract from his real target - Gibbs. Masterful and repulsive. Watching him was like watching a disaster movie - it was almost impossible to look away.  He was the best "worst character" ever, I think, precisely because he was such a snake. I doubt this is the last we'll see of him.

Biggest surprise: I think that would be the shooting of Eli David and Jackie Vance during Shabbat dinner at the Vance household in "Shabbat Shalom."  Ziva was so angry at her father for killing a reporter that she was ready to bar him from her life.  And that was just about to happen as she phoned Gibbs to let him know that her dad was the murderer, when the shooting went down.  The episode was as stark as it was riveting.

Most predictable show feature: The clown brothers: Tony and Palmer. 

In earlier seasons, Tony wasn't quite such an easy target yet lately that's all he's been. We know he has a quiet strength and that he would go to the wall for his friends. Yet week after week we rarely see any of it.  I doubt the writers will ever have him give up that part of his personality but...maybe they could use the jokes a little less? It's truly enjoyable watching the silent sentinel do his thing.

Palmer's awkward comedic moments are a bit of a drag too. I think the writers need to flesh him out more. We saw more of his caring side in "Detour," as he refused to leave Ducky's side, even when ordered to do so. 

The awkward clown moments have seen their day. Time for a new narrative.

Best line for the season:  Tony has a lot of great lines. The man is a walking joke book - and I mean that in a good way.  However, given the fact that it's so unusual for him to say anything that is acidly hilarious, the honor this time has to go to Ducky.  When he received a snide question from Bodnar: And whose grandfather would you be?, he replied with a straight face Well that depends. Who's your grandmother? I literally laughed out loud at that one.

Hopes for Season 11:  I really liked the notion of Gibbs being the sniper again. I don't know if it would mess up the show's formula too much but it would great to see him and the team engaging in more black ops scenarios. 

The second thing that comes to mind is our need to resolve the Tony and Ziva thing once and for all.  This season has resulted in what has to be the world's longest foreplay between them. Word is that the "friend zone" thing at the last episode wasn't the final word on their relationship.  So okay - the viewers have tolerated the writers' need to play for a long time now. Time to either open the door right up, or slam it shut.  Tony and Ziva need to kiss and make up (out) already.

Since Shabbat Shalom, I wondered if the writers would be able to maintain the high state of anxiety for the team; whether they would be able to meet the bar set by that episode, and they have shown that they not only can, but thrive on doing so. So my hope is that the momentum is maintained, and that they find a way to raise the stakes even higher for NCIS season 11. We have Vance who is single, Palmer and his wife who are adopting a baby, the team which has resigned, and Gibbs playing the sniper. There's a lot of material with which to work: I can't wait to see what happens next.

Now, over to you. What grade would YOU give NCIS Season 10?

 

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

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Every time.. Just because you have strong critiques or disagreements with an episode of NCIS (been a viewer since the pilot!) you dare not say it or the NCIS fanatics pounce! Was this the best season? Yes, in many ways it was.. SHIVA , Shabbot Shalom were without a doubt the best two episodes of the season. The worst moment: "The friend zone" - enough Gary G, give us Tiva. We are done being 'friend blocked' I noticed this last year and again this season, the characters themselves seem bored with their work -- now, could this be the fact that the actors as well are finding the need to move on? Yes, I think so. The writing I find not as sharp, and the actors not as quick -- almost saying their lines by 'rinse and repeat' . McGee's character -- do something, anything!
Jimmy ---- waste of time
Ducky -- did he even do an autopsy? Abby! What a refreshing joy to see the "Abby" of season 1-2 - more centered and emotion in check. I love 'this ' Abby! Gibbs- Gibbs character has been , over the past two years, stepping back in the plots and the emotional rescues..its time..and I think this next season a big transition for all. Overall: B

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Oops, didn't realize I had a character limit. I know the show needs humor, and Weatherly and Dietzen are probably the most reliable comedians, but the humor could be a little more sophisticated. And I agree that it's time for the writers to deal with the Tony/Ziva situation. Given the extent to which each has revealed intense feelings for the other, it's not believable that these two would continue to hang back. I don't know whether it's cynicism or cowardice holding the writers back, but it's beginning to warp the characters and the storyline itself. I think putting the two together would be less disruptive at this point than trying to continue the tease. It's disheartening that the executive producer's reference point is shows that have been off the air for 20 years or more and not the current successful ones. So here's hoping that Glasberg gets the message or some courage and puts these two together soon. It'd be nice to see these characters happy for a change.

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I'd rate the season somewhere between a B+ and an A-. I agree with most of the writer's opinions. The season had several really terrific episodes, including Shabbat Shalom, Shiva, Berlin, and Double Blind. Double Blind in particular lived up to its name, with Parsons's real agenda being obscured throughout most of the episode. I also thought the Shell Shocked episodes handled an important and timely topic with sensitivity. On the downside, I agree that the Senior shtick is worn out, although I'm glad that he wasn't involved in an investigation this time. Damned if You Do was yet another finale that didn't quite jell. And I'm also tired of the Tony/Jimmy clown show. It's particularly jarring in that these characters perform so well in other situations, and I think over the seasons the show has done a wonderful job in developing Palmer's relationship with Ducky. Ducky's the real leader on the show, guiding his student along and appreciating without rancor or envy Palmer's growing mastery and blossoming personal life. I know that Weatherly and Dietzen are great comedians and the show needs its humor. I just think the humor could be a little more sophisticated. And I hope the writers finally gather up the nerve to deal with the Tony/Ziva situation. The dance has gone on for long enough, and it's just not believable that these two characters, each having revealed so much intensity of feeling for the other, would continue to hold back. I don't know whether the problem is cowardice or cynicism, but it's starting to warp the characters and the storyline both. Putting them together would be less disruptive at this point and it would open the possibility of some of the main characters actually having some happiness outside the squadroom. It's disheartening that the showrunner's reference points continue to be shows that went off the air over 20 years ago and not the more successful shows of today. But perhaps Glasberg's gotten the message and some courage.

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@Sam - It's just aggravating that Tony doesn't seem to be written as having any serious relationship moments with anyone but Ziva now. Ziva had many moments and entire episodes that allowed her character to interact with other team members. I know that she too has a fanbase, but Tony and his fans have been getting the middle finger for some time now, while the Ziva/tiva (which is all about Ziva) demographic is shamelessly pandered to. Tony really has become not much more than an irritant to Gibbs, the team butt monkey, and a flattering purse to accessorize Ziva and her numerous melodramas.

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I'd definitely give this season an "A". "Shabbat Shalom", "Shiva" and "Berlin" were some of my favorites of all time. I'm lolling forward to season 11.

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@Michael Still peddling that line, eh? Well, the ratings show that Season 10 was one of the best ever. Guess your view will have to be part of the minority report.

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@Erin Yes, but as she is a favorite with a lot of viewers, you may have to work on developing your tolerance level for her. I suspect that she and Tony will continue to have a lot of scenes together.

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How about a Ziva lite season 11 if she comes back since Ziva was front and center most of this one? How about no more family members involved in cases? How about no more Mossad stories for Ziva and no more ghost stories for Gibbs? How about letting Tony and Gibbs have some case related episodes where their relationship and agenting skills are the focus? The only two serious scenes they had the whole season were about Ziva (of course). How about giving us a couple fun Tony/Abby scenes? And yes - how about some competent, dangerous, heroic Tony, instead of the weekly Tony butt monkey moment? Don't glue Tony to Ziva for any and all serious scenes this season. He needs to get to have his own stories. Can you tell I'm seriously sick of Ziva?

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Best episode "Seek" Worst "shell Shock 1 and 2. Loved the whole season but I am not a fan how NCIS often ends a season with a cliffhanger and the big arcs where the whole team is in danger. I hope Tiva never happens. I am afraid it could ruin the chemistry within the team. A- from me too! Would get A if they hadded dropped the cliffhanger.

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While I don't agree with all of your picks, I do like what you said about Tony being so much more than the butt of the joke and the clown. With the exception of Shiva and Double Blind, his character was mostly devolved and used as the go-to humor moment this season. What a waste of Michael Weatherly's talent and a diss to Tony fans.
Also, Tony's father was the show's original "bad father", dating back to comments made in S1 onward. It was McGee's and Ziva's fathers that pushed the theme into over-kill. That said,I've had enough of the team's family as part of the case.
And while I like all the characters to varying degrees, Abby has suffered the same fate as Tony's has these past few seasons, with being moved backward. Let them both grow up and move forward in S11, please!
Thanks for an interesting review.

NCIS Quotes

McGee: All right. Well you should probably know that Abby and I used to date?
Bishop: Ew. Like, each other?
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: Wait - isn't that a violation of rule 12, never date a....
McGee: It was a long time ago. After we'd broken up, one night I went to her lab. Found a scribbled piece paper; a list. Potential boyfriends had to fulfill certain conditions by a pre-arranged date or else, goodbye.
Bishop: Such as.
McGee: Things started off relatively normal: opening the door for her, flowers, putting the seat down. Then around number 8, it gets uh...
Bishop: What?
McGee: Does she know you have these?
Bishop: Does she know you have these?
McGee: Yeah she wasn't happy when she found out.
Bishop: These are all very specific.
McGee: Yeah.
Bishop: These ideas apply to you?
McGee: No those rules weren't in place when we were together. At least I don't think so.
Bishop: What's with the two month cutoff? Abby's sabotaging herself. I've seen stuff like this before. We have to talk to her.

McGee: Rule number 70 - keep digging till you hit bottom.
Abby: McGee! There is no rule 70.
McGee: Well, I--
Abby: You just made up a rule. This McGibbs thing has really gone to your head. I don't even recognize you right now.