On NCIS Season 12 Episode 3, an old school friend of Ducky comes back into his life via an employee who gets assassinated while driving to NCIS.
Gibbs then sends Ducky and Bishop to England to try and find Ducky's friend - and the show gives us a glimpse of who Ducky really is.
Who knew Ducky was such a cool cat back in the day??!? Join TV Fanatic panelists Kathleen Wiedel, David Taylor, Michelle Carlbert, Tanya Moat, Christine Orlando and Douglas Wolfe as they discuss the NCIS case that lead us to some answers about Ducky, his love life, and his wardrobe choices. Then jump in and join the discussion!
How would you describe the episode in a few words or a sentence?
Kathleen: Illya Kuryakin Rides Again!
David: When "Ducky" was "Donald."
Michelle: Ducky's First and Only Love.
Tanya: Disco Duck.
Christine: The Story of the Bow Tie.
Doug: The Train Ticket.
What was your favorite scene (and why)?
Kathleen: Hands down, my favorite scene was when Ducky was interrogating the world's worst PA after nicking his brachial artery. Guess the bad guy really never knew who he was dealing with, eh? He sees a 5'7" senior citizen, while we see the brilliant doctor who used to serve with the British SAS before being best friends with Ari Haswari's worst enemy!
David: While I certainly liked the scene Kathleen described, for me it was the retro dance scenes in the club (*cue the eye rolls*, but I don't care). I have a sort of fascination with that era and the music so that made the episode enjoyable for me.
Tanya: Don't worry, David, I loved the dance scenes too. My favorite scene was the end when Ducky explained why he never married. How he didn't want to repeat Gibbs' mistakes. Sniff. Sniff. It also made me wonder if that's why there has been little focus on Gibbs' love life and quest to find wife #5. His love life was more active in the earlier seasons, but maybe he's at peace now. Plus, he has his NCIS family to love and occasionally yell at.
Christine: I enjoyed Ducky's take on Gibbs and how he lost his soul mate and then nearly wrecked his life marrying over and over trying to find love again. That Ducky views Gibbs as a cautionary tale and it's part of the reason why he's never married.
Doug: Christine brings up a good point: many successful people often learn from others' mistakes more than their own. Although I don't know if I would characterize Ducky's lack of a love life as "successful". He might though, in that he never suffer through failed romances like Gibbs. Depends upon how you look at it.
My favorite scene was the same as Kathleen's: watching Ducky sit there without panic while the bad guy spoke about how he would kill Margaret slowly just made me smile. You knew immediately that Ducky had a plan, and you knew he had fulfilled his plan when he only made the brief cut and then sat back down, saying I can still save your life. That was gold. Ducky's the ultimate smooth operator, isn't he? And seeing the look on Margaret's face, as she suddenly realized how much of a badass he turned out to be was satisfying to see too.
Was there anything that didn't seem to work?
Kathleen: My only complaint, and it's a fairly small one overall, was that the old "suspect everyone with a British accent" strategy works all too well in this episode.
David: This time, I'm right in sync with Kathleen. The second Ducky asked "Is he worth dying for?" I flashed on the Brit from the earlier scene in the warehouse/loading dock and figured he was the true baddy. Another thing I couldn't figure out is how young Maggie, an attractive seemingly tall dark brunette, somehow ages into Alice Krige, a lighter, shorter brunette. A lot of shows and movies don't do this well and this was yet another example of that for me.
Tanya: My only quibble was having Ducky's friend not die in car explosion to only be dead in England. They never had a chance to clear the air (although his best friend keeping the scalpel said it all) so it just seemed pointless to me. It still would have made sense for Ducky and Bishop to go to England if he had died here.
Christine: I'm with Michelle on this one. Bishop felt like a third wheel during the entire investigation. I understand that Ducky isn't an agent and he needed someone but it just didn't work for me.
Doug: When Ducky and Margaret first sat down to discuss the case, and Ducky pulled out the pictures to ask her if she knew any of them, Bishop suddenly realized there was some kind of tension between them, so she took off to see the Big Ben. That was unprofessional - they were working on a case at the moment, not engaging in Old Home Week. She should have stayed until the questioning was done. Ducky isn't the professional investigator - she is. Sloppy writing, that.
What's your overall impression of Ducky?
Kathleen: It was wonderful to see a glimpse into Ducky's past, which absolutely informs his present. Why he wears bow ties, why he's never married... And that utterly ridiculous dance scene! Loved it. Plus, he gets to be totally awesome when he rescues himself and the love of his life with the old going-away present that his ex-best friend held onto. There was also the very touching moment when he mentioned not wanting to ruin his life the way Gibbs did in his attempt to recreate what he had with Shannon. Overall, this was an amazing Ducky-centric story that left me wishing we could maybe have some webisodes featuring young Ducky on some of his early adventures.
David: I was just glad to see that Ducky was a fun guy when he was in his 20s, instead of the very "serious" guy we know. Granted those experiences shaped his current personality, but it was just fun to know that he had a romantic past, and given how they left things, perhaps a romantic future.
Tanya: I loved seeing Ducky when he was young and carefree. And those little callbacks - from the guy at the train station who wouldn't stop talking when Ducky just wanted his ticket to learning why he wears bow-ties. And Ducky was HOT! Who knew? All in all, it added more layers to a fan favorite. Well done.
Christine: I love Ducky and I may love young Ducky even more. The music, the hair, the turtleneck. He's also a romantic at heart. What's not to like?
Doug: I've always liked Ducky, but this episode put a whole new spin on him. We now know he hates bow ties, and we know that he was the ultimate cool cat back in his time. He still is - only it's more hidden now. And there's still more to find out about him too. For example, he once told his friends I've had it up to here with cadavers. To be honest, if I never see another dead body again it'll be too soon. What's that all about? What was the incident that made him change his mind? I'm curious now.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.