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NCIS Showrunner Scoop: Moving on from Ziva, Wrapping Up Parsa & More

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NCIS Season 11 has been one of change, new directions and new faces.

And it could’ve all crashed and burned like a conspirator’s bomb.

Instead, the show has recovered well from the departure of Cote de Pablo’s Ziva and the impact that development had on core relationship of Ziva and Tony.

The addition of Emily Wickersham as Ellie Bishop has been a positiv thing mostly because she’s not so much as a replacement for Ziva as she is a new, interesting character for the NCIS team and the series itself. Bravo!

At the Television Critics Association press tour yesterday, I sat down with showrunner Gary Glasberg to talk over where we’re at in this season and where we’re heading, including why he and Mark Harmon may soon be spending time in New Orleans..

The Stolen Drone

TV Fanatic: You guys have gone over this big hurdle with Ziva gone and it seems to be working really well.

Gary Glasberg: It's kind of great. I'm fascinated by...Season 11 should be like you come in and put it on auto-pilot and it's been anything but that. So to be hit with what we started with, which was Ziva's departure, and then all the effort that went into finding Emily and creating Bishop…

I think that overall the response has been fantastic. There'll always be a group of people who continue to really hold on, and I appreciate how connected they are to Ziva but I don't think I could have asked for this transition to work any better, honestly.

TVF: The fact that you’re still bringing up Ziva's name, how do you navigate when to stop doing that or when you don't need to do it as much? Is there a gauge for that at all?

GG: I feel like, internally, we all feel like it's necessary to move on. We recognize in life that people might comment or look back or say, ‘Ziva would have done this,’ or ‘Ziva would have done that.’ Is there an opportunity to do that? Yeah, once in a while. But I also feel like it's a little bit of a mine field in that every time you revisit a character like that, it brings your existing cast back, and they're not allowed to grow, and so it's important for all of them to move on in a lot of ways.

There's an interesting dynamic, a brother-sister sort of dynamic that's there between Tony and Bishop. You know, the connection between Bishop and Gibbs, I think, is different than anything that he had with Ziva. We're pleased with it. And off-camera, too, the chemistry and the support that Harmon and Weatherly and Pauley and the rest of the team have offered to Emily has been fantastic. And we'll experiment and find things and continue to figure out who she is.

TVF: Will we get more personal stories with her and get to know her life outside of work?

GG: No, it'll get there. We know that she's married. We know that she's from Oklahoma. I'd love to meet her parents at some point, or a parent. We know that she's got a large family, a bunch of brothers. I'd love to meet them. I know that the husband, who's also at the NSA, is a big part of who she is, and we'll certainly touch on that at some point, but the beauty of NCIS is sort of doling it out in little bits and pieces and touching on it and then walking away from it for a while and coming back, so we'll get there.

TVF: In regards to this week’s episode, our review brought up whether Tony flirting with Martinez was too soon, not because of Ziva but because of McGee's story. Thoughts?

GG: It's such a tightrope, and everyone responds to Tony differently. At some point, we have to let Tony be Tony. And part of his defense mechanism is flirtation. And so wherever he is psychologically, to look at a woman or comment to a woman or spend time with a woman may not be what you're interpreting on the surface. There's usually something else going on with him, it's just the nature of who he is.

TVF: Is there more of Martinez coming?

GG: Right now, we don't have anything written, but I think the consensus was that she was fun. So if the opportunity comes up and we can make a connection through a case, then I'd be happy to have her come back.

TVF: The whole Parsa story, that arc, is that going to be with us for a while or is that just kind of a contained arc?

GG: After [NCIS Season 11 Episode 13], there's one more, and then it wraps itself up in a really significant, cool way and I'm about to go into the editing room and start working on that. I'm pleased with it. It was a fun sort of villain to launch at the beginning of the season. It's not going to carry all the way through to the end, but we'll certainly tie it up in a way that I think people will be satisfied with.

TVF: Will repercussions from the end of that arc, will we see that, moving forward? Does it have any kind of big impact?

GG: It absolutely affects Gibbs. It affects Bishop in a huge way. And of course, the repercussions of what happened between McGee and Delilah will continue further into the season.

TVF: What can you tell me about where we’re heading with Delilah and McGee and how her recovery will impact their relationship?

GG: Adding this to any relationship is a tremendous amount of weight on both of their shoulders. She has to figure out what her life is going to be like. He now has a relationship with someone who's been through something tragic and is dealing with changes and who they are and how they're going to move forward. I think it's real and I think that they'll come at issues and problems as they surface. I'm excited about it. I feel like it's not something that you see on television very often. To have a disabled character will be unique for us, it will be a challenge but I think all the writers are willing to rise to the occasion and give it a shot.

TVF: I know she's very busy, but Susanna Thompson, any more with her? She has such a nice chemistry with Mark.

GG: That worked out well, didn't it? I'd love to have her come back. You know, it was funny. It had been so long. And we approached her, and I think she was a little hesitant, just wondering what it was that we were planning. And then when she saw the script and how we wanted to use her, she came and played and was excited, and it went great. She told us she had a fantastic time. So I think it would be fun to have her back again, but we'll have to see when and where…I was very lucky in that because of the relationship between CBS and the CW, we were able to figure something out. But scheduling-wise, she would go shoot up there for a few days and then she'd come back to us. It was a little bit of a juggle.

TVF: I know over the years Gibbs has had different romantic things, whether it's Jamie Lee Curtis or other people. Will Gibbs have any romance the rest of this season?

GG: This season, because of all of the change and the adjustment and the things that were being introduced, we didn't feel like this was a season to sort of get him involved with someone, but it's always a fun story arc, and Mark's always game. It'll happen again.

TVF: Where are you and Mark with the spin-off?

GG: I've written two episodes that will air sometime the end of March. Both scripts are written. I'm really excited about it. The characters are rich and fun and different, and it mixes the Washington with this New Orleans world in what I hope is a unique and different way. We haven't cast yet. We're just starting the process. There's a lot of work to do. I'm going to go down there next week for a day or two. It's all just beginning and ramping up, and people seem to be enthusiastic, and hopefully, we'll come up with something good.

TVF: Can we expect all of our NCIS people to be in those episodes, or do you think you'll give some of them a breather just because there will be new people coming in?

GG: The way that the scripts are structured, they don't all go [to New Orleans], but they are all in the episodes. So there's business going on in DC and then there's business going on back there, and there's a lot of inter-cutting that happens.

TVF: What does the rest of the season hold, including the 250th episode. Any guest stars to talk about?

GG: We're in prep on the big DiNozzo senior 250th episode, so we're excited about that. After that, I don't think I have anybody really, guest-wise, lined up yet, but I know I've got some roles coming up that should be fun. And then also, the writing staff and I are about to sit down and start arcing out the final four episodes of the season.

So yeah, it's a bit of a roller coaster ride from this point forward because I've got an episode that starts prepping Monday, and then right after that, we start prepping New Orleans. So there's all the work that goes along with that. And then I come back from those two episodes, and then I think we have one or two episodes, and then we'll launch right into our final arc. So it's going to be an interesting run.

TVF: For the 250th, do you approach it as more of an homage to the 250 episodes or do you think of it as a way to kind of shift gears a little bit for whatever's coming next?

GG: When we did Man Walks Into a Bar, that was really an homage and that was something we understood could be different and should be different. This is really just a really sort of a fun, traditional episode of the show. It's a milestone. It's a fantastic milestone. We're happy with how things are going and want to keep it going. We figured bringing back Mr. Wagner was a fun nod to things, and he actually did the 150th. So yeah. So we figured, well, this is a good time to do it.

NCIS Season 11 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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D O NOT.like the new girl..PERIOD!!!

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This season has been perfect, everything fan have been asking for

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Hate to disagree, Mikey, but chemistry is EXACTLY that: it is an instant attraction or affinity between two or more substances or, in this case, people. If some people here aren't feeling it now, then they probably never will. On the other hand, others here DO think New Girl is fitting in just fine with Old Cast. Besides, the human race is famous for building entire civilizations on snap judgments and non-critical thinking. As for me, I stand with the "wait and see" crowd. And Keith makes a good point: reality is overrated.

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People, chemistry doesn't become golden with the snap of the fingers. Give it some time. And every character is still acting the same as they always have been. In fact I would say Tony and Abby have improved. And stop saying NCIS is no longer the number one show anymore. Ziva leaving has done very little to affect the ratings.

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@ Mikey

Actually it isn't, 'The Big Bang Theory' is. It's getting 24 million viewers a week, between live and the 7 Day DVR Number. And the all important 18-49 Demo Number, which sells ads for the network, is in the upper 4's or at 5 most weeks. 'NCIS' is upper 2's to 3, which is horrible, horrible for a Demo Number. And I will point out that 'Sunday Night Football' gets 25 million live viewers a week. Also please go into the NCIS WIkipedia page for ratings from Season 7 until this year, on the ratings on the second half of the season, which starts in January, this is the first time since Season 6, that 'NCIS' had a January episodes under 20 million 'Live Viewers', it was 19.72 with a horrible 3.0 Demo number. This time last year, 'Shiva' had 22.8 million viewers and the following week 'Hit And Run' got over 22 million viewers also. So it's down 3 million viewers from this time last year.

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@ Mikey

Hey now - we cant have any reality like that here... its supposed to be all irrational loathing that Cote left, and the new girl is horrible...

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@ KeithH

look up entertainment weeklies top 100 for the first half of the season for reality.

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I have been watching ncis for years, and loved the show, and with Ziva, it got an energy and chemistry that made it very special! Now, with Ziva gone, the show has lost its excitement and luster, and I have tried to give the new female addition a positive outlook, it is impossible...that special element is gone...she does not bring anything to the show for me. I may watch older shows, but I do not find the show as well done with a character that brings little to the mix! How foolish management of these networks are...I personally love the crew as it was, not as it is...a viewer gone!! I appreciate the years /til now!

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Is Gary Glassman crazy? I am sure he insulted Cote when they were
negotiating salary. I am sure that he didn't do right by Cote and made it
seem her fault that she left. She was the dynamite and the glue that
held the show together. Bishop is a peuny person that has no personality and doesn't show any respect for Gibbs. How can this work. Gary have you noticed that NCIS has dropped out ot the top show, in fact it is no longer on the grid period. Beg her and get Ziva back. I have all the DVD's from the beginning. I like Kate but Ziva was better with all her energy. You have spoiled the show, I don't feel like watching anymore, Take the advice from a 74 old lady...You had the best show and don't destroy it anymore.

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@ Rosemary

@Rosemary - Why exactly are you sure that Gary Glasburg insulted Ms. de Pablo? Do you have even one shred of proof or are you still in the anger faze of your loss and are throwing around wild, unsubstantiated accusations? NCIS is still on top and as a matter of fact, many episodes are up around 1 million viewers from the same time last year. Ziva's character became the show's main focus, and Ms. de Pablo left at the last possible moment, so of course the show is struggling a bit with how to move on. I continue to wish that they would give Tony a really good arc, since he had become merely supporting cast in the ongoing Ziva melodramas and the team joke. I too hope that they tone Ellie down a bit as I believe that they are trying too hard and I certainly don't want another situation where it becomes all about the wonder skills, traumas, and dramas of "the girl". I am hopeful that they'll find their groove with the new character and that NCIS will return to being about a TEAM, each with unique and important skills, who work together and solve interesting crimes.

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@ Rosemary

Totally agree Rosemary. I am a 70 year old Gramma, and Gary has spoiled the show, and I too don't look forward to watching it like I have for 10 years. Wonder if Gary has read the NCIS Facebook page, or is he living under his own little cloud? I understand Cote de Pablo is gone, however, bringing in this new character who acts far younger than my 18 year old granddaughter just isn't working. This was a major bone head decision in the casting, and we the audience have to live with it or just not watch anymore. Oh well, I have ten seasons on DVD which are far more enjoyable than season 11 has been thus far. Doubt I will buy the season 11 set. So sad....

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@ Rosemary

Rosemary you're not just wrong you're wrong at the top of your voice! And his last name is Glasberg, And he had nothing to do with Cote's departure, neither did Mark Harmon. Cote left because she wanted to. She's shooting a movie right now, you think she'd be doing NCIS and a movie in south america at the same time? Do you think that either the movie or the show would adjust their schedules around one person? Get real. Cote's doing what she wants to do the cast is cool about that, they've had to move on and we need to get over our obsession with one character,learn to embrace the next one to sit at the desk or walk away. What's done is done,

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@ Rosemary

How are you "sure" that he insulted Cote? How are you "sure" that he didn't do right by her? You can't possibly know what went on in those negotiations.

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@ Rosemary

Um no. NCIS is still in the top list of shows. Everysingle episode has been number one of the night and has been number 1 to the number 3 in the week. Just as it has always been.

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@ Mikey

Everyone seems to forget that NCIS was in danger of cancellation before Cote arrived. As a post-syndication fan I definitely would not have been compelled to watch NCIS if Ziva had not been there. I think NCIS added millions of viewers because of the new team dynamics with Ziva.

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@ Maria

It was never in danger of cancelation. Stop rewriting history. NCIS took off because of syndication, and those episodes started with Kate, not Ziva. It rose to the top in season 6, might as well credit the arrival of Vance for its success. Syndication is why NCIS is where it is today not because of one character.

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@ Mikey

LOL but what's up against it to beat it you Mikey. LOL of course it's #1 for the night. But it's #15 in the all important $$$$$$ making 18-49 Demo Number. And after the 7 Day DVR Number comes out, it's #2 behind 'The Big Bang Theory'.

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@ Kris

also if you note entertainment weekly the top 100 shows 2+ NCIS is #1 its tops football!

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@ Kris

It's still the #1 drama week after week, and very often the #1 show period, It's even beaten Sunday Night Football at least once this season. In the Demo it's never been #1 and that includes +7. Last week it was the 3d most watched show live after the Golden Globes and Play off Football. Not bad for a show with a cast that no one seems to like anymore.

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@ Rosemary

Rosemary, I sit in your aisle...you said what I now feel about this show that was so good, it was difficult to wait for the next one. Now, I rarely watch...you said it all! Thanks...

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Poor Emily, she has been put in a bad situation. She will have to go back to wherever she came from. The writers need to be fired or at the very least made to watch every episode of the previous years to get why the viewers LOVED the show then and for the most part hate it now. Please, please, please fix the writing now, bring back the real Tony who was such a great investigator, bring back Ziva, come on guys, get with it, just do the right thing and quickly.

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@ Sally

Really, Tony is better now than in years past, the writers are the same, some go back to the shows beginnings, Its all about the one who will not be mentioned for you all. As I said Tony is a great investigator and leader and now a great human being, and the show is all about teamwork as before. THere are still trials and tribulations just like before, they just don't feature that certain someone who will remain unmentioned . She left, enough said.

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@ guest+

I appreciate what you are saying, but must respectfully disagree. We may never see eye to eye about Ziva leaving, but almost everyone has to admit that the writing this year is off the pace from years past.

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@ Sally

Then we disagree, the writing is as good as before, the shows ratings are consistently at the top in total viewers, it is also tops in 19-49 in its time slot. In fact the ratings this year have been more consistent. Considered one of the few bright spots in episodic TV as far as retaining viewership this year. Even Blacklist slid this week badly without the Voice lead in. I just don't understand how people can continue to whine for something that cannot happen, at least not this year. Next year anything is possible, but to slam the writing well its just your opinion too. 19.8mill disagree or are just too lazy to change the channel.

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@ Sally

I've watched since the beginning, and I don't think the writing is off.

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What I find so amusing is how differently everyone responds to the changes. Some attack over physical appearance , some make claims the dynamic has changed, Abby child like, Gibbs angry, Tony goofy,immature,etc, or Tony would never cook for a friend? What's he in a mens' support group for? Bishop pushes everyone aside. WHy doesn;t Gibbs slap her down? Really people? Abby is far more mature than in years past. If you haven't noticed most unnatural blonds have dark eyebrows. Gibbs has always had an undercurrent of anger which he's tried to temper over the years, as experience has bitten him in the butt at times. Tony, what can you say, he's growing up before our eyes and yet still has the ability to be the cut up we love him to be. HE's been showing his leadership regularly, but being kinder whole still funny. Bishop is a work in progress, an extremely bright puzzle geek, who's mannerisms while to some could annoy,,,I seriously doubt that we haven't all met someone like her, driven to find answers, so focused they might well walk into a wall, and not notice. She's not an agent, she's not a probie, she's on loan from the NSA, why would Gibbs interfere with her process, if that's how she gets her answers. She also doesn't have all the answers, both Gibbs and Tony came up with answers in their heads before she could finish talking it out. THat is what exemplifies teamwork which is what this show has always been about.

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@ guest+

But it's #15 in the 18-49 weekly demo number, upper 2's and 3's are horrible for advertisers they don't make money off of it and neither does the network. I don't see Tony doing much of anything other than standing around and watching Bishop solve the case, sorry. And I could not stand Ziva's character was so glad that Cote left. And I agree folks should quit picking on Emily's appearance. I do have gripes about her character, but I'll blame that on the writers, because after all Emily does not writer Bishop's lines.

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@ Kris

Except for TBBT all series TV is in the 2's to 3's in the demo,or worse. the last Blacklist is in the mid 2's for its latest that's a huge fall from the 3.5 for the previous episode. That means that NCIS will be #1 this week again, for dramas.THe +7 is unimportant to advertisers as fast forward is expected, commercials just aren't seen. SHIELD is barely pulling 2.2, a very expensive show to produce yet it is expected to survive into next year. NCIS makes huge money for CBS and the advertisers love it because they don't ask obscene amounts for the advertising, and compared to crap like GLEE. Ad time for NCIS has been in the 150000 to 160000 for years, 230000for GLEE? Really? 250000 for Simpsons of Family Guy? who's getting the bargain? Yes we think that its the advertisers who set the rates, but no its the networks, NCIS is the deal. One hour of quality time spent with a nice cast, who care about their product. Why else would viewership increase in the half hour measures week after week. Generally doesn't happen for any other one hour show.

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@ guest+

Thank you for helping me to understand more about Bishop. I feel I can now look at her in a new light.
Tony should be a woman's dream. He is serious or funny when needed, is trying to develop more as a mature adult and even knows how to cook.

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@ Carol

you're welcome and so right about Tony. He's becoming such a great guy. Still fun, but realizing the limits exist. Love when he vocalizes his inner monologue.

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@ guest+

I roll my eyes, don't find it funny. Tony has not been funny since Season 5.

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So many comments about hating how the show is now and yet 20 million tune in every week...

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@ hege

19 million viewers tuned in last week and in years past during the beginning of the 2nd half of the Season which starts in January, 'NCIS" always got 20 and 21 million viewers a week until the end of February, it got 21 Million for 'Shabbot Shalom', 22.8 Million for 'Shiva'. 22 Million for 'Hit And Run', 21 Million viewers for 'Canary', 21 Million viewers for 'HereAfter', 21 Million Viewers for 'Prime Suspect', 20 Million Viewers for 'Detour'. If anything from a year ago it's down 4 million viewers and the demo number is down from last year also.

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@ Kris

The money making ratings are down. Last year's second episode, Shiva, got a 3.9 and this year's second episode only got a 3.0. It is a 23 percent drop from last year. This season only one Ziva-less episodes has gotten a 3.1 and the rest are below that. The two Ziva farewell episodes got a 3.6 and 3.5.

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@ Kris

Yes last year was unique, and couldn't likely be duplicated no matter what. All TV is looked at with relative disinterest now, that NCIS should feel that way to some , especially the disenfranchised, not surprising either. But it was 20.8mil last week not 19mil, and while they didn't pull off a followup bigger audience for the second part, lets face it Ziva angst was always more compelling than anything with the guys. But I got tired of Ziva angst. I'm glad they handled Hollis and Gibbs the way they did, it was sweet, caring but not overplayed. They parted friends again. I'm looking forward to Mcgee and Delilah's story playing out, because it may deliver more hope than angst and pain.

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I know characters come and go, but the departure of Cote has very much effected the dynamics of NCIS. There is no longer the fun repartee and zingers among the characters. After 10 years I expected Tony to grow up a bit; I didn't not expect him to lose his sense of fun and sense of humor. He has no one to bounce off. He had that with Kate and Ziva so it's not so much that I miss the characters, I miss the relationships among the characters. I do miss Ziva because of her energy, depth of character.and back story. Maybe that will evolve with Emily. She's a slob. I also agree with Abby becoming more childlike. She needs to grow up and not be treated like Gibbs' daughter. As for Gibbs - why has he become so angry? He's always been gruff but there was a humanity before.

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@ tvland

I enjoyed your comments, and no longer look forward to viewing ncis. CBS has not only changed the dynamics of the team, for me the plots and chemistry are gone!

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@ meems

I have no idea what is CBS's goal but if they wanted to keep the show for a long time they should have kept their younger cast members happy, especially MW, CdP, and PP. I think it would be perfectly natural for MH and DM to retire and the younger members could have kept it going for many more years. They already had a good dynamic going when Gibbs retired to Mexico at the start of the fourth season. At this point they have just written themselves into a corner that if MH wants to retire they will not be able to survive with the show because the dynamics are not there anymore. It is just not business savvy at all to shorten the life of your show.

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@ Maria

Michael Weatherly is 45, and Pauley is 44, their middle aged people. This show is Mark Harmon's vehicle he is the star, the rest are ensemble supporting characters, if he leaves there is no show. Everyone with the exception of Mark, and I believe Michael and Pauley are replaceable, we're on our second female 4th chair resident, there's been 3 Directors. Characters come and go but the replacement one has to be written correctly and not written to be all over the place and take on where Ziva left off as the series resident Mary Sue.

NCIS Quotes

You know what your grandpa used to say? Water never forgets. Anyone with a boat named them will live forever. How about that?

Ann Gibbs

[voiceover] Anyone can achieve their fullest potential, who we are might be predetermined, but the path we follow is always of our own choosing. We should never allow our fears or the expectations of others to set the frontiers of our destiny. Your destiny can't be changed but, it can be challenged. Every man is born as many men and dies as a single one.

McGee
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