NCIS Season 11: Grade It!

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We're so used to seeing cliffhangers mark the end of an NCIS season that the lack of one this time around seems noteworthy.

On the other hand, when the intent is to provide a fitting send-off to such a well loved and well respected actor as Ralph Waite, Gary Glasberg made a good choice not to do so, as it would have diluted the tribute he and Mark Harmon intended.

It's time now to look back at the rest of NCIS Season 11.  Read our latest TV Fanatic report card, and then chime in with your own grade below...

A Woman's Murder

Best episode: Tough one.  NCIS Season 11 Episode 2, where Tony said goodbye to Ziva, was sad and important. In the end, though, the nod goes to NCIS Season 11 Episode 23.

This story revealed Tony as the serious, hyper-vigilant no-nonsense agent we've always known him as: quick on his feet, with an almost ruthless drive to get the bad guy. As if that wasn't enough, he was able to team up with Amanda, who revealed herself as an undercover operative for the Defense Clandestine Service after Tony bullied her into ending the pretense. 

This episode had everything: intrigue, rogue French agents... and enough action to keep us on the edge of our seat.

Worst episode: There was lots of clowning. resulting in painful moments for Gibbs in NCIS Season 11 Episode 10 .

Diane's return, coupled with a few unbelievable moments when people blurted out stuff they shouldn't have, made the episode a little less than appealing. 

If you'll recall, Abby burst into a room and started revealing some of Diane's salacious tweets while failing to notice that Diane, Tobias and Gibbs were all right there. She's supposed to be somewhat of a genius, yet didn't notice the group? That's a big mental burp, not consistent with the Abby character we all know and love.

The same goes for the scene where Bishop did something similar, breaking into a tense conversation and failing to realize the stark tension of the room.

Most interesting back-story: Hands down, the chronicles of Jimmy and Breena.

At first, they were going to adopt. Then they met the birth mother. Then the baby was born and the birth mother decided to keep the child.

Finally, Palmer found out that his wife was pregnant. And in the next episode, he let Ducky know that he and Breena are going to adopt anyway. These two clearly have hearts of gold.

Most unbelievable couple: McGee and Delilah. 

Tim has been taking one step forward and two steps backward with this woman all season long. Every time she raises her eyebrows at him, you have to wonder why she puts up with him at all.

The best thing he did for her was get her at least one skydiving lesson. That's the gesture of a guy who doesn't see her disability but her spirit and love for adventure. Too bad it's such a rarity on his part.

Now she's off on an assignment in Dubai - the announcement of which came just as he was about to ask her to move in with him. Their precarious relationship now seems even more unsure. Will it last? Can their relationship survive? We'll find out in season 12.

Most controversial character: Bishop.

Without a doubt, Bishop has been the object of a great deal of discussion, not only here at TV Fanatic but on fan sites everywhere. Some people (like yours truly) really like her, while a great many people simply do not. 

She's been criticized for her character: sitting cross-legged on desks, interrupting Gibbs and Tony with "the answer" and munching on food... all of which has appeared to be inappropriate behavior displayed in an investigative services office.

She's been criticized for not having enough character:  her eyes don't blaze at Tony like Ziva's did; she seems more even-keeled, without benefit of obvious humor (like Tony) or moments of anger or delight. 

She's been criticized for her youth, and for her physical appearance - notably her hair.  This is a woman who - along with the actress playing her - apparently can't do anything right.

Yet there have been her champions, too, people who've noted that the main benefit she brings to the team is her ability to contribute in unique ways to close NCIS cases. Her memory recall is above average and she's able to find ways to bring disparate facts together to find relationships between them. 

The decision to make the character a married woman was brilliant, in that it removed any possibility of a Tony-Bishop romance. Yet, how does she fit in the with team? 

McGee is the lovable geek, who is the butt of Tony's brotherly jokes. Abby is everyone's darling, especially Gibbs.  Palmer has a bromance going with Ducky. (Okay, maybe not a bromance, but certainly a familial connection with him, born of respect).

The only thing Bishop seems to have is a daughter dynamic with Gibbs. He gives her more leeway than almost anyone else in the team and seems to have taken her under his wing. 

Most welcome development: Tony's graduation from Clown College.

On NCIS Season 10, Tony mostly acted as a clown, doing pratfalls and becoming the source of derision and laughter. While some of what he did was comedy gold, many found his behavior disappointing.

Lately, he's grown into a steady, confident and sometimes deadly serious agent. It's been a welcome change.

Even the traditional Gibbs-slap scenes have been rare this season. Lately, we've even seen Gibbs smiling at some of Tony's jokes instead of frowning. 

While there is still the mentor to junior dynamic between them, that gulf has diminished and they are becoming more even-keeled as team mates.

Tony's penchant for peppering his conversations with movie references has gone from ridiculous to welcome this season. The writers have found a way to make this trait endearing instead of irritating. Bravo!

Overall show development: On the upswing.

The departure of Ziva has meant that the writers needed to shake everything up. The old tried-and-true team dynamics have changed and the predictable case-of-the-week formula has morphed into something new.

It used to be that the show opened with the discovery of a body - and then the team was called in to investigate.  Granted, some of that writing still exists, but more often now we're seeing stories that are developed in less than predictable ways. 

Look at NCIS Season 11 Episode 24, for example. That one opened with the team on a stakeout at a bar. Then the twists and turns of that story were amazing, and completely unpredictable.

While some dislike the idea of formulaic change, many more thrive on it. I think this bodes well for NCIS.

Hopes for Season 12: Less formulaic writing, with more opportunities for character development would be welcome. 

Let's have Abby get out of the lab more. Maybe she should have a romance with someone who proves to be less than ideal/lawful-abiding. 

McGee needs to shake off some of that geekiness with which he's been saddled. Just a thought: maybe he should grow a beard and struggle with depression.

Bishop is a wonderful character, but now we need to see some flaws. We need to see her character fleshed out more. Does she have troubles at home? Is there a reason we haven't met her husband yet?

Tony simply has to take the lead more. We must see his character fully developed as the former-cop Special Agent that he is (without the sarcastic reference to "very special Agent" that we've heard from him). Vance needs to give him more of the lead on special projects, perhaps.

My grade for this season: A.

YOUR turn, NCIS Fanatics. What grade would you give NCIS Season 11?

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


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NCIS Quotes

Tony: One other question, I know you're an expert in English history. And I was just wondering, have you ever heard of Archibald Drummond, the 17th Earl of Trent?
Ducky: The Earl of Trent. No, I can't say I have. Why?
Tony: I was just wondering. Thanks.

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.