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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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I think the writing has been going downhill sine GG took over but the main character chemistry kept the show great. Now that Ziva is gone it became evident that the team was holding the show together. It is especially the case with Ziva who had the most compelling storylines such as trying to figure out her identity as an American Israeli, her past as an assasin, and her relationship with a father who sent her to her death. Also her growing relationship with Tony, her second father Gibbs, and the bullpen dynamics with Tony and Tim made the show interesting.
There are thousands of actors in Hollywood but there are only a few with the gravitas, screen presence, and charisma to carry a show. Once you get one of them you whatever it takes to keep them. It is a shame that CBS did not recognize her role as the emotional anchor of the show.

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@ Maria

Maria, your comment stated the show as it was and as it is now! I absolutely feel as you do, and CBS really did an injustice to the whole show...I no longer watch...after many years of looking forward to each episode, now the thrill is gone!!

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@ mimi gallaghr

NCIS is a dead show walking. The ratings might not have plummeted yet even though none of the episodes post-Ziva have gotten more than a 3.1 rating whereas the first two of the season with Ziva got a 3.6 and 3.5. However since the show has died creatively I expect a big drop in the ratings eventually. The viewer's loyalty to NCIS is disappearing. Mine already has.

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@ Maria

Ratings will go down in the spring like it always does, go to the NCIS Wikipedia Page after March the ratings go down to 18 and 17 million viewers and sometimes in May it gets episodes that drop down to 16 million viewers. The one fact that you are right about the important over all number is the Demo Number and NCIS only had above a 4 this season for the premiere episode.

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Oh dear. What has happened to our favourite show indeed? Personally, I think GG needs to hire some decent writers who firstly must watch every season from the beginning. Then maybe they'll understand the real reason the show was what it was in the first 5/6 seasons. The writing is pretty sketchy, story lines just do not do the team justice anymore. McGee is so wooden in his delivery of just about anything he does. Gibbs looks ready to kill anyone ALL the time. Tony. Well. GG was completely honest with that comment he made after She Who Will Not Be Named left, saying that they didn't know how to write Tony anymore. WTF for sure. A couple of really good episodes then nothing! And Bishop? Think Maddie Tyler from 'Requiem'. One fabulous piece of writing. The majority of this season should've been WTF cos it really was. Most of the time. :-(

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I'm getting tired of all this Ziva talk. She is gone. Bishop is here noe. I like her. Sitting on desks and eating all over the offoce is her thing. And Gibbs gets it. He doen't mind and because Bishop is new she isn't scared of Gibbs like McGee and DiNozzo. Why should she? She hasn't seen that side of him. As for characters changing, they all have. The first seasons Gibbs was in a better mood, almost flirting with Kate. And he was charming to women. Tony was cooler and Abby was much thougher. Abby has turned in to a childlike person. Tony is a bit more goofy but still smartbut he has become more scared of Gibbs than he was in the first seasons. McGee has grown up. Ducky is the only one who has remained the same.
I have the feeling that a lot of people won't give Bishop a fair chance because the are still pining over Ziva and Tiva. I miss Ziva too but for me Kate was much better. Also I like thant we don't get the work romance stuff now. Has ruined shows before.

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@ hege

I'm with you - I think the Bishop character is amusing. As far as the people complaining about how the interaction between the characters has changed, that's to be expected when any new member joins any kind of established team - you feel them out and determine what your comfort level is with them. As I recall, Ziva wasn't exactly welcomed with open arms by the team when she first came on board either. Cote De Pablo made her decision - she left the show and it's done. To sit here and cry about "waaah, I can't watch it anymore" is just ridiculous. As far as I'm concerned, NCIS is just as enjoyable as its always been.

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NCIS is now a boring, awkward show at best! The scripts are poorly written. I have been a devoted fan for 10 years and the show this season doesn't seem the same after Ziva's departure, it has become unrecognizable.This Bishop new girl just doesn't fit the show, the chemistry is lost, the interaction between Bishop and the other characters is boring, she doesn't have the uniqueness of all the others on the team, she's upsets the complete flow of the show! Wrong move,CBS.

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@Janie royall: It doesn't happen very often on this particular website, but sometimes I wonder if television reviewers watch the same program that their readers watch. But I suppose it's all in how you interpret things. @LucyAppa: The same thing occurred when Lisa Edelstein left "House." The "Huddys" and "Anti-Huddys" were still cyber-duking it out six or eight months after her departure. 'Shipping does nothing more than bring out the worst in some people; they tend to defend their opinion(s) with anger and hostility, all over imaginary characters on a television show. Shameful.

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@ Non-Plussed

hello! well after CUddy left the show was awful and I watched its painful death spiral. all because they picked Lisa Edelstein as the one to shaft with a salary cut. shame on them.

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@ LucyAppa

and for the record I was completely Huddy neutral. couldn't care less.

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If Ziva was still on the show do you really think Tony would be treated better . I bet he would still be ziva slave boy.

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I really do not see the problem with Bishop. I think she is perfectly fine. And I completely disagree with Tony character being destroyed. Did you guys not see how concerned he was for McGee? His character has been improving.

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I like bishop she a American girl and everyone that love American love her

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@ Mike

Are you kidding?

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I love that GG is so fascinated by his own creation bishop. I'm glad he is. But I'm not, and neither are a lot of other people I know. Just in conversation, when I have talked to people who say they watch ncis, no one I know says the show is nearly as good without ziva. The chemistry just isn't there, IMO. Some people weren't even really ziva fans but think it's boring now. And no one can believe Gibbs is being as weird as he is. And why did tvf say that they keep mentioning ziva? I haven't heard them do that. Very weird. I am just hoping they can do someone thing before the whole show goes down the drain.

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@ Janey royall

GG was also fascinated by Dr. Ryan but he at least did a good job of listening to fans and writing her out quickly. This time he will probably stick with this character until the show tanks.

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@ Janey royall

isn't it interesting that 6 months after Cote de Pablo announced her departure, people are STILL buzzing about Ziva? she was pivotal to the show, and I truly think the network didn't appreciate it. her departure was so abrupt and bizarre it left a huge gaping wound.

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@ LucyAppa

McGee's girlfriend was just paralyzed yet most of the chatter right now is about Ziva (Bishop gets a lot of negative chatter but she is related to the Ziva topic because she is the new agent) It says a lot about the state of the show and most fans really care about regarding the show.

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I don't know what's happening to my favorite show.....and I don't know who these people are anymore since Bishop appeared....it's like she's the boss, sits on floors, desks, etc., and eats whatever she wants to. And it feels like everybody's phoning it in these days. I want my show back, I want to see Gibbs headslap some sense into Bishop, to see Tony tell Bishop to respect the desk and for McGee to tell Bishop to learn to work with the team.

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@ Zoyarose

I want the real Gibbs and the real Tony back. The ones I fell in love with over many years. Not these wax figures.

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

Never assume. (Season 9, Episode 21)

Rule #8
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