This exciting NCIS season finale provided a fitting tribute to Ralph Waite.
NCIS Season 11 Episode 24 also pitted the jailed Mexican cartel boss Alejandro River and the remnants of the Brotherhood of Doubt terrorist group against Gibbs as they conspired to kill him.
Join TV Fanatic panelists David Taylor, Christine Orlando and Douglas Wolfe as they discuss this last episode of NCIS Season 11...
How would describe the episode in three words or a sentence?
David: I think the title said it all. "Honor Thy Father."
Christine: In the immortal words of Jackson Gibbs, "The World Is Bad Enough as it is. You've got no right to make it any worse."
Doug: Work/Life Balance According to Gibbs
What was your favorite scene or quote?
David: I had two: Tony's "feeling" Gibbs after ignoring his call; and Gibbs "serving it" to Rivera.
Christine: The team remembering Jackson and sharing stories with Bishop. Specifically McGee's, "He was the only one who could do the Gibbs stare at Gibbs."
Doug: I had two as well The first was the Gibbs/Vance confrontation. They used to fight like that before, each unwilling to bend to the other. Two alpha dogs mixing it up - and for all the right reasons.
What, if any, were the problems that you saw in this episode?
David: I didn't like Tony bailing during the briefing to inform Gibbs. It seemed rude and unprofessional to me, despite Tony's good intentions.
Christine: 'd really hoped for more flashbacks of Ralph Waite as Jackson Gibbs. For an episode meant to honor both the character and actor's passing, it felt a little light on actual footage of him.
Doug: I'm with David. Tony abruptly leaving during the middle of an MTAC briefing was the only real speed bump to an otherwise great episode.
Tony took the lead for much of the Brotherhood of Doubt/Rivera investigation. Does this foreshadow a desire by Vance to consider elevating Tony? Or was that just a one-off? Why?
David: I hadn't considered that, though Tony's certainly proved himself capable in the past. I think this might indeed be a litmus test though I wonder though if his "running" to Gibbs is gonna be a strike against him now.
Christine: Tony has run his own investigations in the past. I simply think that as second in line it is expected that he can step in and run things in Gibbs absence. I don't think there's any foreshadowing, or at least I hope there isn't.
Doug: It's a great opportunity for Vance to see how well Tony can do with his own team. Despite that, I think it will only serve as a one-off, for two reasons:
- Tony ultimately blew it by going against orders and calling Gibbs. Even though his intentions were righteous, because Gibbs' life was in danger, it negates his leadership. (I hasten to add: that would be according to Vance, not me.) I think Vance would have expected Tony to go to Vance first, and explain why he wanted to contact Gibbs.
- Gibbs said it himself: his job is his life, and vice versa. It's the only thing he has. So if Tony is to lead his own team, it would have to be somewhere else. And we all know that's not likely to happen.
What do you think of Gibbs' coping style? Healthy? Unhealthy?
David: This is going to sound awful, but I'm going to say "unhealthy." He takes refuge in a dark basement (though he does build a nice boat), sleeps on his couch, barely cooks for himself, and now he can't separate from his job even after the death of a parent and his (presumably) last close relative. I know plenty of workaholics, but even they take a break when someone in their family dies.
Christine: Everyone deals with grief differently and for Gibbs, work is his safe zone. That's where he feels in control when everything else falls apart. I don't know if it's healthy or unhealthy but it didn't seem abnormal to me.
Doug: I agree with David on this one. What we saw in Vance's office seemed entirely unhealthy to me. Vance couldn't understand it, for good reason. That type of coping style is alien to him, as it is to many of us. We would never expect Gibbs to fall apart, but still, everyone has that point where they need to go away and deal with important harsh issues. The death of a beloved parent certainly would qualify. I'm sure many of us have seen strong people who thought they could handle unbelievable stress, only to fall ill later.
We can see that Gibbs wasn't exactly handling it well too: he got distracted time and again.
Isn't it funny that he could so clearly see the need for Vance to take a break, and for McGee to handle the stress of the bombing, yet not see any need for him to take some time off? Why not go away; go into the woods; or start up a woodworking project for a while?
Was Vance off-base in wanting the team not to contact Gibbs?
David: No, but in retrospect, Vance assumed Gibbs was like himself, and he discovered otherwise.
Christine: I agreed with Vance to a point. Gibbs definitely needed the time away to deal with things but when the case turned personal I think Vance went too far in trying to put Gibbs on administrative leave. Vance was personalizing Gibbs' loss and although similar, losing an elderly parent and losing a wife are different.
Doug: While I don't think Vance was off-base, I do think he unintentionally disrespected Gibbs. The better approach would have been for Vance to lay the law down prior to Gibbs going home. He could have told Gibbs not to come back for a month or whatever, and let him know that his team was not to contact him about work-related stuff either. He should have argued that Tony was perfectly able to run the ship until he got back. I doubt Gibbs would have objected to that.
What are your thoughts on how the writers handled Waite's passing?
David: Well... I'd have liked to see more of Waite in the flashbacks since I don't recall seeing many episodes where he was featured. However, I think they more than made up for it with that last photo.
Christine: I found it odd that they used the younger version of the character in flashbacks when the episode was about honoring Ralph Waite's passing. It was a good episode, I just think they could have focused more on the Jackson Gibbs we knew.
Doug: I too would have loved to have seen more of the elder Jackson - because that involved Ralph Waite, instead of the actor who played the younger Jackson. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the producers scoured the archives to try and figure out what Waite footage they had, and tried to determine how they could re-engineer it to fit the narrative for the finale. Even the one they had - about the gun - was fairly bare bones.
I was glad to see that last picture of them too.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.