I have to be honest, I’ve sort of lost my way as far as NCIS goes. A loyal watcher for 11 of the 13 years, and then a casual watcher after that. It’s why I don’t do NCIS reviews here at The Geekiverse. After 11 years of Gibbs and company, the show has gotten a tiny bit stale, like all police procedurals do. Is it any wonder that Michael Weatherly, who was there since the very beginning, decided to call it quits? The same with Criminal Minds, Shemar Moore, who also left his show to pursue other things. How many different ways can you catch the baddies before the show gets stale?
Truthfully, the only reason I watched more recently was because of the characters. The stories had lost me. Gibbs comes in says “Grab your gear, we got a dead Petty Officer”. McGee proves Snowden right, a little hard nose interrogation, they solve the mystery, and the episode is over. It’s DiNozzo, McGee, Abby and Jimmy that bring me back week to week. Not even Gibbs, who has become one-dimensional in his grumpiness. And DiNozzo is the captain of the character team, and that was all on Weatherly. He is the guy that is worth watching week after week.
When it broke earlier in the season that Weatherly would be leaving I was not amused. I may have even said I wouldn’t watch anymore. That wasn’t some idle “I’ll move to Canada” threat. I just can’t imagine it being that interesting without DiNozzo. From the beginning, as a foil to Agent Caitlin Todd, tormenting older brother figure to Tim McGee, and most recently, love interest of Ziva David, it was DiNozzo’s antics that added the flavor to a pretty cookie cutter police procedural. What will NCIS life be without him? (More on that in a minute)
Finally, before I talk about the final episode, I want to mention that, as I think back over the years, my most favorite moments in the show all involve Tony DiNozzo. My absolute favorite is the episode where he is undercover as a hippy guitar player, and he sings his updates to his team. Cracks me up….every…single…time. Watching his relationship with his father, played by Robert Wagner, has also been a lot of fun.
Some thoughts about the episode, titled “Family First”. Here come the spoilers. It was good. Really good. Really sad, in a good way. I, of course, always assumed Tony’s exit would involve Ziva. Come on, NCIS isn’t some dark show. We can have happy endings, right? Apparently not. Apparently the only way off the show for a lead female character is in a body bag, even if it is a couple years after the actress leaves the show, they’ll still kill her off. Caitlin Todd – DEAD. NCIS Director Jenny Shepard – DEAD. Ziva David – DEAD. What the hell? This isn’t that show.
When rumors leaked a few weeks ago that Cote De Pablo would not actually return for the Tony’s exit, I was incensed. No. This is crap. And then at the end of last week’s episode, seeing Eli David’s farmhouse burning, I was definitely in denial. They can’t kill Ziva too. Not after Caitlin and Jenny. Come on. What purpose could that actually serve? Quite frankly, of the three, it was Jenny’s death that really served no purpose in furthering the show. Both Caitlin’s and now Ziva’s deaths actually served some theatrical higher purpose.
I actually loved that the bad guy in the end of this story arc was long time CIA dickhead Trent Kort. I loved that in the previous episode he upped the stakes by shooting the closest thing that Gibbs has to a best friend, FBI Agent Tobias Fornell. Kort had rubbed DiNozzo the wrong way since his character was introduced several years ago. He was the perfect villain for this powerful ending. If you are a longtime fan, who didn’t thoroughly enjoy the completely unrealistic scene where every one of the NCIS team completely unloaded their gun into Kort? A fitting end for that character.
Next let’s talk about the twist. Never once did I anticipate THAT big of a twist. A week or so ago, Weatherly teased that, even though Ziva wouldn’t be there in the episode, Tony and Ziva fans would be really happy. When the call came from Tel Aviv that Ziva was, in fact, dead, I immediately posted to Facebook the very spoiler free “No. No. No. Nope.” I actually think I gasped when I saw it. How in the hell could we be really happy about anything that happened next? Was her death all a lie to catch the bad guy? There can be no happiness.
And then came Tali. Two things made this completely unexpected twist work. One was the casting. Where in the world did they find this perfect little girl? She was brilliant in the role. Brilliant. Adorable. Perfect. The second was Weatherly. He handled this whole thing, his dead lover and surprise child, in a way that was totally unexpected. Still the smart ass, but there was definitely a grown up Tony DiNozzo there. He was immediately in love with Tali, and he never once made it seem as though she was unwanted or an inconvenience, like she might have been to a younger Tony DiNozzo. No, even though he was completely out of his element, DiNozzo was all in. He would absolutely put “Family First”.
The goodbyes. Ugh. While I wish there was more time for it, especially for his scene with McGee, it would have watered down the episode and probably felt much less satisfying. I still wanted a more personal goodbye for Tim, now the senior agent on that team. I also felt like it was a great choice to have his goodbye with Gibbs happen in Gibbs’ basement. They were touching scenes, and for a guy like me who tears up at a good Christmas commercial, they definitely tugged at the heart strings.
So, what’s next? For the team, it appears that maybe actors Sarah Clarke and Duane Henry will be joining the cast. I am underwhelmed by that possibility, not because they aren’t fine actors, but because the characters were nothing to get excited about. We already have a kind of flat character in Ellie Bishop. I will admit, however, that Jon Cryer’s addition to the show was a good one. Who knows, maybe I will be done with NCIS for good now. There is no shortage of other great things for a Grumpy Geek to watch on the tube.
For Weatherly, CBS recognized his talent, and as part of his NCIS exit, got him under a contract to develop a new series called Bull, which apparently is loosely based on the early career of now famous TV shrink, Dr. Phil. CBS wasted no time, as the show will premiere in the fall lineup. Have a peak at the first trailer. Not sure how sustainable the idea is.
Over the past 13 years I have certainly come to be a Michael Weatherly fan, so you can be sure I will give it a shot. I hope that Weatherly’s bank account is full enough that the success of this show doesn’t matter. I also hope that, his future career isn’t like those of guys like Matthew Perry or Alan Alda or Bradley Whitford, who played an iconic role for so long and then havn’t been able to get anything else good going since.
In the end, despite my waning interest over the last couple of seasons, I have enjoyed the ride with NCIS and with very special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. It’s never been time wasted. I’ve enjoyed the head slaps (a vastly underused form of critique today) If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s Weatherly’s goodbye to the fans of NCIS. The dude is nuts, so it is a fun watch.
+ Well written and ties up some long dangling ends
+ Several “I didn’t see that coming” moments
+ Very touching, and a few smiles
+ 50 or 60 bullets in Trent Kort
– Ziva…Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! Why can’t create female characters get off NCIS without dying?
– Wanted a little more out of his McGee good-bye
What did you think of DiNozzo’s Farewell? Leave me a comment below.
Pete Herr is the author of “10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two.