NCIS Season Finale: Water Never Forgets

at .  Updated at . Comments

The final episode of NCIS Season 11 was a perfect vehicle to honor the memory of Ralph Waite, who played Gibbs' father, a man we've seen too little of over the years.

NCIS Season 11 Episode 24 also provided a heck of a glimpse into Gibbs' character and how he handles grief.   Whereas Vance needed those two months off to process his wife's murder, Gibbs' catharsis is work. He summed it well when he told Vance: This job. It's all I have.

I feel sad for the man. While his passion for his work is obvious, the absence of a partner to share his life with seems stark. 

Maybe it's too late for him. Maybe he's been doing the work for too long. Perhaps he wouldn't welcome any major changes at this point. 

Good on the writers for not only handling Jackson's death in a nuanced manner, but in providing an exciting NCIS criminal investigation story to go with it. For a while there, it seemed like this was going to be a season cliffhanger, with Gibbs' life in the balance. So there was some relief when they managed to tie up all of the loose ends toward the last part of the hour.

Two story points in particular made this episode rock:

  1. The revelation that the arson and escape attempt was all about Gibbs. Parsa's old gang and Rivera wanted to move heaven and earth to get revenge on him.
  2. The realization that Lateef Mir was not your average run of the mill terrorist, that he had gone to great lengths to provide some misdirection through some false DNA. I always like it when NCIS faces a truly challenging enemy like this. Of course, no enemy is a match for Abby's incredible forensic skills.

There were two face to face confrontations that stood out as electric: the first happened between Gibbs and Vance. 

These two guys have been without rancor since the death of Vance's wife, backing each other up and supporting each other. The depth of their love for each other really came through strongly with their head-butting scene.

Vance just wanted some peace for Gibbs so that he could mourn, while Gibbs just wanted to get back to the only thing he loves in life, the only thing left to him now: his job.

I guess Gibbs won that one, since his next scene - the confrontation with Rivera  - would have meant he had gone directly against Vance's orders to go on administrative leave.

The hatred Gibbs and Rivera had for each other was very tangible - smiles and calm banter notwithstanding. Out of the many great NCIS quotes for this episode, this one stands out as powerful, honest and brutal:

Alejandro: You think I'm dirt? You think my father was dirt?
Gibbs: Damned right I do

I really liked that whole scene, particularly when McGee showed Rivera the footage of what had to have been a drone strike against the remaining leadership of the Brotherhood of Doubt.

The most poignant part of the finale was the final photo just before the credits of Mark Harmon and Ralph Waite, arm in arm in front of a car, with the caption "In Memory of Ralph Waite. A Gifted Actor and our Friend." The song playing in the background was Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart."

Final notes:

  • Palmer and Breena are going to not only have their own child, but they're going to adopt as well!
  • Bishop showed understanding and compassion with her suggestion that the team share their memories of Jackson Gibbs with her.
  • Gibbs has a new after-work project.  It looks as though he is going to re-create the toy boat he and his dad worked on, only on a much larger scale. 
  • Seems doubtful that we've seen the last of Alejandro Rivera. A man that full of all-consuming hatred - with the finances he still controls - won't stop until he or Gibbs is dead.

There were a lot of great scenes in this final episode. Which was your favorite?


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
  • 4.8 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (115 Votes)

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



What model was the Dodge behind Ralph Waite and Mark Harmon in the tribute picture?


Gibbs, with great care, setting the boat on it's stand and beginning to sketch the blueprints for it's full size counterpart.


I don't like agent Bishop. She is not a great addition to the show. She cannot fill Ziva 's void. I read somewhere that Ziva will be back from time to time in season 12, but not as an agent but as Tony's girlfriend. I hope it's true.


you know what they say don't believe everything you read


At the funeral who was the man to Gibbs' right? A friend of his dads? A past colleague? For a second I thought it might be Billy De Williams.

@ Eric

It was Billy Dee Williams. He plays Leroy Jethro Moore, Gibbs' namesake and friend of his father. His only other appearance was in Season 10 Episode 5 "The Namesake".


I vote for the funeral. It was a gentle and loving goodbye. We will all miss Ralph Waite and his great talent. Goodbye, Jackson Gibbs.


Only 25 seconds into what was supposed to be a tribute to Ralph Waite [Jackson Gibbs] and watching McGee schlep some drinks through a bar while being hit on, we are greeted one again with Gary Glasberg's girl. And for the next 40 plus minutes, we have to endure her sitting on desks [do not eat your lunch there] and acting through her facial expressions that run the gamut from A to A. Why Glasberg chose to let his Bishop upstage the tribute is not clear. Since episode 9, in which the Bishop character debuted, Glasberg has been trying to convince viewers that he made the right decision. He seems transfixed with her. Viewers did give her a chance in the three episode tryout, but after that viewers lost interest and the ratings dropped by nearly 25 percent. As for Mr. Waite, he did what every good actor does. He disappeared into his character and became Jackson Gibbs. It would have been classy had someone from the executive team given a small eulogy after the end of the episode.

@ Zack B

'He seems transfixed with her' this coming from the guy who profusely comments about Bishop every single post.

@ Zack B

Ziva fans such as yourself truly are the first to start problems. People like you would kill a baby and use its skull as a drinking cup if that was the only requirement to bring your goddess cote depablo back.

@ Dean

You are a sad, strange person.

@ PatrickC

Its been said.

@ Zack B

Wow, you truly are obsessed with Bishop. She was hardly in this episode. As for sitting on the desk, Who cares.


Them bringing back the cartel storyline aka the worst storyline in ncis history was horrible. Why bring back something that was so universally hated. Just ugh.


If you want to see Ziva, go to the funeral scene. As the flag is being folded, watch Gibb's face as he looks left (in Ziva's direction). He almost smiles. As he takes the folded flag to his chest, the camera pans right. Tony is looking up and his eyes are looking out of their left corners. Ziva's face is framed between Tony and Bishop. She is the lady in the black hat. You should have been able to "thin slice" her from the wide angle funeral picture on this site. The cliffhanger is "what's next?"

@ Joe fan


@ Zack+B

How about you watch your tone you moron

@ Mikey

Oh the irony


Favorite scene was between Tony and Vance. Tony can take the lead thank you very much. Love strong Tony and loved that he went over Vance's head and contacted Gibbs when he found out who was involved. Thought Tony should have been closer to Gibbs at the gravesite but otherwise a wonderful episode.

@ SPot13

Love a competent and in-charge Tony! I was disappointed he wasn't closer with Gibbs right after Gibbs got the news and then also in Stillwater. Also disappointed there was no Fornell.


Why are you upset with Cote. She showed up for the funeral and paid her respects. This is the cliffhanger ending that some thought was missing.

@ Joe Fan

You're hallucinating. Or just trying to stir the pot. And GG is clearly on record that there would be and is no cliffhanger this year.

@ Joe Fan

The last episode for CdP was #2 this season. She has not been in ANY OTHER EPISODE... including the season finale.

Tags: ,

NCIS Season 11 Episode 24 Quotes

Rivera: I have freed the devil's men. And they hate you as much as I do. Sooner or later, they will strike.
Gibbs: The only one who escaped was Lateef Mir. That's him. They let you watch TV in here? You should turn on the news tonight. You'll see his picture. Your picture. It'll be great.

Gibbs: Cal, do something for me?
Cal: Sure. Anything. You want me to lock the back up?
Gibbs: I want you to take the store. Cheers. It's what dad would have wanted.
Cal: But I... I'm not... I mean, I don't even know how...
Gibbs: Just do the work.
Cal: I will.