NCIS Sneak Peek: Michael Weatherly’s Departure Begins… Prepare Yourself

“You need to prepare yourself,” are the ominous words spoken by the doctor when Gibbs (Mark Harmon) asks if Fornell (guest star Joe Spano) is going to die.

As everyone is aware by now, tonight’s NCIS is the beginning of the end of Michael Weatherly’s run as Very Special Agent, Tony DiNozzo, on the most watched television show in the world.

How does the audience prepare itself for the loss of one, but hopefully not two, of television’s most beloved characters?

First, let’s address the plot points for tonight’s episode, “Dead Letter.”

After the murders of former NCIS director Tom Morrow and several law enforcement agents, the team chases escaped killer, rogue British SAS agent Jacob Scott (guest star Vince Nappo), around the world.

Tony, working with Britain’s MI-6, left London and traveled to Russia in a joint operation between NCIS, the FBI and MI-6 to hunt down Scott, who surreptitiously escaped to the U.S.

Information led Fornell and Director Vance (Rocky Carroll) to London to protect Scott’s former boss, Jessica Terdei (guest star Sandra Nelson) who originally put Scott away and whose life is now in danger.

Returning to the States, Fornell and Jessica take refuge at Gibbs’s house, assuming it was safe. However, Scott beat them to the house and the pair is gunned down.

With Fornell fighting for his life, his daughter Emily (guest star Juliette Angelo) who recently lost her mom to an assassin’s bullet, turns to “Uncle Gibbs,” her only remaining “parent.” Gibbs instructs his team to find Jacob Scott and kill him.

NCIS calls in reinforcements for the job. Two characters will make their premiere tonight, FBI Special Agent Tess Monroe (guest 24’s Sarah Clarke) and MI-6 Officer Clayton Reeves (guest star Duane Henry). There is talk that these two characters may become part of the regular cast next season with the departure of Michael Weatherly.

And what of that departure? The good news is that Weatherly has a pilot in the works for CBS, so he still may be in our living rooms every week. The bad news is that the audience already is devastated.

The fact is that Weatherly has been playing Tony DiNozzo for 13 years. That is a big chunk of his career. We already know that he has a wide range of talent.

Besides being an excellent actor who can make you laugh and cry in the same moment, he is a singer and a wonderful director. Assumedly, he has a repertoire of creative abilities that he has yet to portray that would be “out of character” for DiNozzo. Actors must be able to explore options and make creative choices to become the best they can be at their chosen profession.

How the writers and producers choose to help DiNozzo make his exit is still a question. There is a flashback moment with Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and a horde of fans who want him to leave for Israel to be with his one true love.

Then, there is the feared option that he will be killed off in the line of duty. David Dayan Fisher returns tonight at the slimy, but sometimes-likeable CIA operative, Trent Kort, who may or may not have tried to blow up Tony’s car once upon a time.

Kort has been out of the picture for a while, but some of the more recent information about him came from a text message to Ziva’s ex, CIA agent Ray Cruz, that read “Kort in Tel Aviv. Handle ASAP.”

Perhaps Kort being in Tel Aviv is the answer to Gibbs’s question, “Ziva David. Why are you looking for her?”

Personally, I would be happy if DiNozzo exited to find Ziva or if he went to MI-6 to be the next James Bond. He looks great in a tux and does a great Bond. He could take Senior (Robert Wagner) with him and they could add a whole new level of “dapper” to Saville Row.

But however the exit goes down next week, I think, as the doctor warned, “you need to prepare yourself,” because that last headslap is going to be a blockbuster.

NCIS also stars Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray, Brian Dietzen, Emily Wickersham and the fabulous David McCallum, who may make a speech about Tony’s departure that will have me reaching for the tissues.

Guest starring on “Dead Letter,” also will be Damian O’Hare, Mia Barron, Adria Tennor, Taja V. Simpson and Kamal Jones. “Dead Letter” was written by Steven D. Binder and directed by James Whitmore, Jr.

NCIS airs tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS in the U.S. and on Global TV in Canada. Prepare yourself.

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