NCIS Season 16 Episode 16 Review: Bears and Cubs

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It was either the worst luck or the best luck that fell upon Palmer on the most embarrassing moment of his career.

That moment was the return of Ducky, offering inside headquarters not one but three men Palmer admired on NCIS Season 16 Episode 16.

When he went against his better judgment to help his father-in-law cover up a murder, knowing he had two other father figures to lend a hand kept Palmer on the straight and narrow.

Ducky is Back!! - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

It appears I'll be the person accompanying you for Ducky's journey out of NCIS.

His return was weeks early and wholly unexpected, throwing Palmer right off his game. 

Palmer was already in a bit of a panic at the arrival of his father-in-law, Ed, at the exact moment he was about to admit to Gibbs that the supposed bear attack that took their baby-faced victim was staged.

Ed: This was a bear.
Palmer: What?
Ed: Say it was a bear, please. I promise you, Jimmy, it's a matter of life and death. Call it a bear, please.

Lying to Gibbs was one of the worst moments of his life, and it weighed on him as he tried to figure out his next move.

Jimmy and Dad - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

Ed's story was ridiculous but nowhere as insane as the whole case turned out to be as it progressed.

Supposedly, Ed gambled away $50k and the only way he could get out of the debt was to clean up someone else's murder by means of burning the body.

Related: Get CBS All Access via Prime Video Channels for Hit Shows, Exclusive Originals & Live TV!

But something in Ed kept him from burning the body, and that something was tied directly to his son-in-law. He kept thinking that if a body of a Navy man got found, it would end up under Palmer's care and Ed might have some sway over the autopsy.

A real shock came to Palmer when he learned the poker game Ed played in which he lost all of the money was also attended by DiNozzo Senior. 

Palmer and DiNozzo Sr - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

But Palmer could use the help, so he called him in to help out.

It's always nice to see Mr. Hart (hey, I'm old!) join the team to help solve a case. Old Hollywood still has its pull, you know?

So it all came around that not only was Palmer lying to Gibbs about the murder, but Ed was lying to Palmer about it, too. He didn't have gambling debts, his son, Stevie, had them.

Stevie isn't a good kid because Ed allowed him to get through life with his aid. Instead of Ed watching his son fail and find his way back, Ed paved the way, so the getting was easy.

DiNozzo Sr. Returns - Tall - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

From what I've heard (and if you've been reading, you know I'm an NCIS newbie), Palmer used to be a lot less professional and worthy than he has become of late.

Palmer is a guy who had to pull himself out of a life marred by his terrible father who died when he was 10, and he worked his butt off to get where he is now.

Related: NCIS Review - Once Upon a Tim

That's why pulling the wool over Gibbs' eyes was so difficult for him to do. His father wasn't one to be envied, but Palmer knows that his mentor, Ducky, and Gibbs are worth the admiration.

Palmer's chat with Torres in the elevator was cute. They both see Gibbs as a leader and father-like. Why else would they talk in such a tongue-twisting way about the man?

Palmer: I knew the second that I told him that he knew. Worse off, he knows that I know that he knows.
Torres: Well, you know that he knows, he knows that ... never mind. Why did you lie?

A Tale of Two Dads - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

I was kind of shocked they did so much alone before Palmer told the truth and enlisted his coworkers to help him rescue Stevie and find the murderer of not one, but suddenly two men.

Palmer is just lucky that he's such a good guy because if he had been a problem in any way recently, there's no way Gibbs would have let him get off so easily for lying to him. 

There wasn't a mention of Gibbs' rules, but there has to be one about lying. Do you know the rules by heart?

Dead Body Alert! - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

Palmer's relationships with three men got scrutinized during the hour. While he felt horrible about lying to Gibbs, his job history gave Gibbs reason to trust him even when he wasn't earning it.

But Palmer gives off an aura of confidence that he might not always feel. That much was evident by the comments Ed made about Palmer. It also spoke to why Palmer was so easily swayed by his father-in-law when he was in distress.

Related: NCIS Review - She

Palmer has been waiting for the moment he became another son to Ed, but he considered for a minute there that it would never happen. The two have wasted time they could have spent bonded, but Ed's assumption of Palmer's easy life forced Ed to pick sides in his own family.

It didn't stop Stevie from running into Palmer's arms instead of his dad's upon his release from his kidnapper.

A Tale of Two Dads - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

Honestly, watching NCIS is delightful. For a show based around murders, there is very little that upsets the psyche while watching.

The only people who usually don't get happy endings are related to the victims, and those are often not the focus of the investigation.

That lack of focus could be why Ziva took it so personally and scribbled all of her thoughts on the victims and their families down in a series of journals.

With this case, for example, there was a larger theme at play about father figures. Not only did Palmer come into his own and earn the position of Chief Medical Examiner, but is father-in-law effectively convinced a criminal's father to give him up and hold him accountable for his actions.

That's something even Ed had a hard time doing, so there were lessons all around. 

Kassie and Jimmy are All Smiles - NCIS Season 16 Episode 16

After Palmer cleaned up the body so Jordan's father could see him, not much else got said about them. 

Related: 23 Characters Who Prove The Mind is the Best Weapon

It was more important for Ducky to share his thoughts on watching Palmer in action and to admit to Gibbs his future wouldn't include NCIS.

One thing I am certain of, my future will no longer include NCIS. Jethro, I've done all I have to do. It's time for Dr. Palmer to be the permanent Chief Medical Examiner. I'm sorry. Goodnight.


What was initially a rather charming hour led to what might be the end of Ducky's tenure with NCIS.

He might have performed his last autopsy, or he might not have. I do know he'll be back for NCIS Season 16 Episode 17, but whether he'll suit up and assist in any way remains to be seen.

Are you ready to say goodbye to Ducky for good? Or was it always OK he was off-screen because you knew he'd be returning?

What character would you like to see receive a deep-dive exploration for the next character-driven case?

Should someone have said something to Senior about the recent Ziva activity? Maybe check in about DiNozzo?

Hit the comments and share with me your thoughts on the episode, Ducky's retirement, daddy issues, and what I'm getting wrong.

You know I love to hear all about this new show to me. And if you'd like more of Ducky when he was more active, you can watch NCIS online right here via TV Fanatic.

Bears and Cubs Review

Editor Rating: 3.25 / 5.0
  • 3.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.3 / 5.0 (40 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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NCIS Season 16 Episode 16 Quotes

Ed: This was a bear.
Palmer: What?
Ed: Say it was a bear, please. I promise you, Jimmy, it's a matter of life and death. Call it a bear, please.

Bishop: I swear, McGee, your case summaries read more like a good book.
McGee: Thank you. I try to do more than just the backspin.
Bishop: This one is a real page-turner -- it's got mood, intrigue, emotion.
Torres: And a typo. Either that or you misspelled a word. Either way, I caught it.
McGee: Which word is that?
Torres: Weather. As in, "Our agents did the best to weather the storm."
Bishop: I see it! You spelled it "w h" as in "whether or not."
Torres: When, in fact, it should be "w e" as in, "how's the weather?"
McGee: Or as in, "I doubt whether anyone would care either way."
Torres: I care. Am I just anyone?
Bishop: And there is a third way, "w e th" as in bellwether, as in castrated ram.
McGee: Why would anyone say "we'll castrated ram this storm?"
Bishop: I'm just pointing out the nuances of the English language.