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The theme of the season finale of NCIS is encapsulated in the title, “Family First.”
Some of us are lucky enough to be born into the family that is perfect for us. Others of us accumulate “family” as we pass through life.
Not everyone that we consider to be family is related by blood, but those bonds are no less strong than the ones that we feel for our actual blood relatives. Sometimes, we are closer to those with whom we share no DNA.
Such is the NCIS family, and as Michael Weatherly departs the series tonight after 13 years, we will see how the love of an “accumulated family” is just as strong and supportive as family members connected by blood.
Last week, the team watched in horror as video of the cabin owned by former Moussad leader, Eli David (Michael Nouri), exploded into flames.
DiNozzo’s (Weatherly) face reflected the fear that his one true love, Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), may have been inside. He grasps Ziva’s Star of David necklace, which he has held close to his heart ever since she left. It is (and always has been) clear, that no woman could fill the void left by her.
Like a well-oiled machine, Tony’s family (accumulated and blood) falls into line to give him the physical and emotional support to get him through this traumatic experience.
When he announces that he must leave, Gibbs (Mark Harmon), ever the supportive perfect surrogate father, backs him 100% with Gibbs-like pinpoint response. A simple “We know” from Gibbs tells Tony that it is acceptable to put his “real life” before his “work life.”
It is the response of a father, not a supervisor who only recognizes an employee as someone who is replaceable with the next resume.
Gibbs tells McGee (Sean Murray) to get Tony a flight, but the ever-efficient “little brother” already has done so within those few seconds and placed the boarding pass in Tony’s inbox.
McGee shows quiet, determined support by doing what he does best with those few words and on-point action that depict how much the character has matured over the years.
Ellie (Emily Wickersham), who never knew Ziva, but understands the pain of lost love, gives him a whispered push asking, “What are you waiting for?” It is clear that she does not want DiNozzo to live without true love, because she understands the hole that loss leaves in one’s heart.
In the few hours before his plane leaves, expect some painful farewells from Tony’s accumulated family.
Tony and Ducky (David McCallum) share a bond of being slightly off-kilter. Although Ducky’s sense of humor is much drier and Tony’s is quirkier, they love each other, bonded by their mutual respect, and dedication to the work.
They also have the tie that binds funny people who can deliver a joke. If Gibbs is the father figure, then Ducky is the favorite uncle who is there for support and reassurance, as well as supplying wise witticism.
Before he leaves, he hugs his favorite “autopsy gremlin,” Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). Palmer tries desperately to be one of the “funny people,” and his tendency to deliver a joke at the wrong time is a flaw with which Tony can identify. But DiNozzo’s maturity has lessened that tendency, and with a simple loving hug, he lets Palmer know that he has faith in the young man and in his success.
Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) always has shown support for DiNozzo and had no reservations about him running the team when Gibbs was incapacitated or away. Both Vance and former director, Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly), recognized that Tony could have run his own team in another city, but that DiNozzo stayed in D.C., preferring to put “Family First.”
But unlike Jenny or Caitlyn (Sasha Alexander) or Diane (Melinda McGraw) or Mike Franks (Muse Watson) or the others whom Tony included in his accumulated family who met with untimely ends, he still may have the opportunity to protect Ziva.
So Tony must leave this family and try to help the woman that he loves from the machinations of the deadly Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher) and other threats as NCIS, FBI and MI6 continue an international manhunt for an escaped British spy who is targeting current and former agents.
When Abby hugs Tony and says, “I’m really going to miss you, Anthony DiNozzo,” it is hard to distinguish if it is Abby or her portrayer, Pauley Perrette, who is choking back the tears.
The lines between acting and real life personal emotions also are blurred when Tony bids farewell to Gibbs. The scene shows the respect and love that the two men have for each other when Tony says, “I’d say thank you, but it doesn’t quite cover it, Boss.”
Back at Tony’s apartment, Anthony DiNozzo, Sr., (Robert Wagner) helps his son pack and tries to offer his son hope, but neither man is sure that hope exists.
There is a knock on Tony’s apartment door. Is it the driver who is taking Tony to the plane? Could it be the person who is killing off agents? Is it someone delivering bad news? Or, with this great loss of a character, dare we hope that the visitor represents good news?
While we wait, as in our previous article. we would like to celebrate Michael Weatherly and the 13 years of laughter, tears and inspiration he has brought to the audience.
We’d say “thank you,” but that doesn’t quite cover it.
Also appearing on NCIS tonight are Sarah Clarke and Duane Henry who may be joining the series as FBI Special Agent Tess Monroe and MI6 Officer Clayton Reeves, respectively. Other guest stars are William Duffy and Yorgos Karamihos.
“Family First” was written by Gary Glasberg & Scott Williams and directed by Tony Wharmby, three men whose combined talents could make Mount Rushmore cry, so have the tissues handy.