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



Don't forget, this is when SB took over from DPB. Many of DPB's threads were dropped for SB's "moments" (which made no sense in context). SB believed audiences wanted moments, DPB was a storyteller. SB didn't like Jenny or Tony and it shows in spades - he was obsessed with Z, which is why a character who originally had a short shelf life was kept on and became the problematic focal point so often during his tenure to the detriment of other characters


As far as I recall, with departure of Code de Pablo the creator’s of the show were forced to throw away the whole script that was almost ready for the season 10. So they had to struggle their way during the whole year. Let’s be patient and give some time to work out what they’ve got, let see what comes next. As for Bishop, I like her, because she is so different from Ziva. This is my favorite show, thus I don’t want to give up so easily and wish them success.

@ Michael

Amen to that. What pisses me off is the hardcore ziva fans have the belief that the entire world revolves around them and that they believe they speak for everyone who is an NCIS fan/viewer. That shithead Grumpycat is a perfect example. They like the change or not fine they want to quit watching fine but bragging how their favourite character and being a fan of said character was the purpose of life is just a show of overinflated sense of self-importance.

@ Michael

I agree with you, except wasn't it the scripts for Season 11.


You are Grumpy!


It is obvious that the created of this poll is in complete denial of the poor performance of season 11. NCIS is the only CBS show that had such a big drop in viewers. And obviously you haven't done your homework, because there has only been two seasons that had such a major drop in ratings from the premiere to the finale-1 and 11! Many viewers admitted to continue watching NCIS this season ONLY because they hoped CBS would realize their mistakes and get Cote back (CBS walked away from negotiations, not Cote) and get rid of EW (who couldn't act her way out of a paper bag)! They will not be watching next season. The way the ratings are dropping, I wouldn't be surprised if NCIS doesn't even make it to the end of season 12! And don't send me an email reply. I'll just send immediately to the trash bin, which is where this season belonged, along with all the crap GG spewed to string Cote's fans along to keep them watching!

@ Grumpycat

'grumpycat' more like pissy bitch. 'And don't send me an email reply.' Why cuz you can't take it when others know youre wrong about eveything you typed? And that is what makes you a bitch.

@ Grumpycat

Either viewers stopped watching - in which case the showed registered a drop in viewership…..or they kept watching, hoping the show would improve - in which case the viewership was maintained. You can't have it both ways, @Grumpycat. You are entirely welcome to your opinions on the show, but don't expect anyone to swallow the idea that you speak for everyone. Your continual lack of logic is at least entertaining.

@ Douglas Wolfe

correct me if I am wrong but I believe season 7 was not very good.

@ Douglas Wolfe

Amen to that brother.

Mary rose
@ Grumpycat

Well you are wrong on two counts. One-Cote walked away. She missed home & wanted to work on other projects. You cannot do that with the hours that they put in. Two-ratings were down for most shows(not including newbies).

@ Grumpycat

Spoken like every other baby butchering ziva worshiper who thinks the majority of the fandom revolves around them.

@ Grumpycat

I will respond simply to refute your foolishness, for the record.GG never promised that Cote would return, that's the FB fantasy. Cote's rep walked from negotiations, and messed up the start of the season, that CBS is some how responsible is another FB fantasy. She didn't want to return. End of season viewship has dropped every year roughly the same amount, and it did for all shows.In fact NCIS demo rose for the final over what it had been running. The premiere for season 11 was far more widely watched because we all know it was how they were going to wind up Ziva's story,and of course all wanted to see. As for season 12 if they go back to the stories that made NCIS great in the first place, with a little personal turmoil occasionally, people will still watch. They watched before Ziva, after Jenny, with Vance, and now without ZIva,, as I said 10% left, and actually when the +7 comes in they still average over 20million, perhaps 21mil. Oh and don't let the door hit you on the way out, Grumpy.


Worst season ever. I'd give it an F for epic failure. This poll is obviously rigged, as viewership in the US has gone down from 20.02 for the premiere to 16.95 for the finale (which only got that high because of the tribute to Ralph Waite). The only time I've seen a drop anywhere near that big was in Season 1! So obviously, the majority of fans think this season sucked! I won't be surprised if season 12 premiere gets a rating of less than 16. The only people who seemed to like this season were the small minority who hated Cote! Hopefully, TPTB realize that and start catering to the majority of fans who liked her and not to the minority that hated her or season12 will be NCIS's last!

@ Grumpycat

"The poll is obviously rigged". LOL!!! I'm the one who created the poll but forgot to wear my black hat. And lets look at the (lack of) logic in your argument for a moment. If viewership for NCIS has gone down, it seems likely that those who left wouldn't bother reading reviews anymore nor would they vote in polls beneath those reviews, because what would be the point? They'd have no point of reference. I certainly wouldn't participate in a review poll of a TV program I no longer watch. So….any comments or polls undertaken by anyone would necessarily only reflect the views of those who are still watching the show . As for your projection: please feel free to check back in here at the start of Season 13.

@ Grumpycat

If what you're saying is true and Season 11 lost that many viewers, then why did CBS sign the entire cast for 2 years. It appears that CBS is looking forward to Seasons 12 & 13.

@ Grumpycat

Your name is a fitting one. THe fall in ratings occurs every year due to time shifting. And it has happened across the board for all shows. If your theory holds then Blacklist and AOS should also kiss it goodbye. A drop of 2 million hardly counts as most fans, in fact it accounts for 10%. That represents the Ziva faction I would guess. If the polls are accurate of even close to accurate, the your assumption would be that 70% hated Cote, which I can assure you is not the case. Most hate the way she bailed on her castmates, but that would be another question. Perhaps a poll should be run on that. All good things will eventually come to an end but I think NCIS will end on its own terms not yours.


I have loved season 11. It had a feel of older Season about it, like they went back to basics. I have loved Bishop joining , to me she has been a breathe of fresh air. And watching her learn shows just how good these guys are at their job. And just how much the take care of each other. And real feel for the Armed forces that they look after which to me has been lacking as we went too "secret spy" stuff. But actual issues that affect the Navy and Marines. And on a very personal level cause i love Tony and he is my fav character, the Tony of old is back. a smart policeman , who is funny and can lighten the load without being the butt of the jokes. But i have enjoyed all of them this Season which is a surprise cause i wasn't going to watch after last Season when they became the murderers but with the character of Ziva leaving, things had to change and i think they changed for the better.

@ guest

I agree with you, especially about Tony. It seemed like it was mostly individual cases Season 11 which made it more interesting.


it's incredibly tiresome. I was especially disheartened when the comments about the finale and saying goodbye to Ralph Waite was made all about Ziva/Bishop too. If people hate one person so much that the rest of the ensemble means nothin to them, then move on already. No one's being forced to watch. I didn't care for the way Ziva's character treated her teammates . And how anyone could watch the Admiral's Daughter and Honor Thy Father and not find things to love about NCIS is beyond me.


bishop is ok but it just aint the same without ziva

@ kevin

You're right - not the same without Ziva... it's better. No Ziva-angst.


In season 11 for the first time in all seasons that Gibbs never had any flashbacks on Shannon or Kelly

@ Billm

They actors, at least the girl who played Kelly, are too old. "Kelly" was in Body of Proof and no longer looks like a little girl.

@ Gaudior

That's the problem with kid actors. They have to leave eventually.

@ Gaudior

That make sense


The entire cast showed Grade A performances in Season 11.

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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.

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.