Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and Tony (Michael Weatherly) say good-bye (CBS Photo).
By DEB SAINE
I doubt Gary Glasberg & Co. could have done anything that would have left me happy about the direction NCIS will be taking now that Tuesday’s episode, “Past, Present and Future,” has aired on CBS.
Not unless the ending had turned out to have a mother of a twist and been one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets of 2013 — in other words, not unless I would have smiled and said, “I did not see that coming,” as Ziva boarded the D.C.-bound airplane with Tony. Instead, Tony turned as he was about to board and waved good-bye to Ziva, who was still standing on the tarmac at a Tel Aviv airport.
Of course, it didn’t help my level of agitation that the second Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) stepped off the elevator and into the bullpen with Tomás Mendez (Costas Mandylor) in tow, and I knew Mendez would be the bad guy the team had been searching for all along. I knew that instant Mendez would wind up being the one in Gibbs’ crosshairs.
I caught myself thinking, “OK, then, let’s get on with it. Where’s Ziva?” It didn’t help that I already was annoyed about de Pablo’s lack of airtime in last week’s episode, “Whiskey, Foxtrot, Tango,” (brilliant title, by the way) when we only got to see a current image of the beloved junior special agent on a computer screen.
So if I’d already figured out Mendez was the villain, I knew that other fans probably had figured it out, too. That and I knew I couldn’t be the only one watching the clock and wondering why, by 15 minutes past the hour, Ziva (Cote de Pablo) had yet to make more than a half-second appearance.
A quick scroll through Twitter using #NCIS and #FarewellZiva confirmed my suspicions as various strangers tweeted the same question. I guess I should’ve tweeted #WheresZiva. After I wrote about being ticked that there’d only been a “blink and you missed it” Ziva moment as my Facebook status, my friends concurred.
It would be more than another 10 minutes before we finally got to see her in the flesh. I suppose I should’ve felt grateful, but I didn’t. I felt shortchanged. And I felt that long after the final credits had rolled.
I was happy, however, that Ziva David did not end up lifeless in a pool of blood the way Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander) had at the end of the season two finale and Jenny Shephard (Lauren Holly) at the end of the season five finale.
I understand that de Pablo’s decision to leave the show was unexpected and came shortly before production of the 11th season got underway in July.
Two weeks before the Sept. 24 premiere, Glasberg, an executive producer of the show, released an open letter to fans in which he wrote, “The amazing resolution you’re going to see is pretty damn heart-wrenching, and we’re incredibly proud of it.”
“Prepare yourselves for a moment in television history. Images that will end up in the archives. I couldn’t be happier with how my NCIS family stepped up and did some of the most emotional work we’ve ever done.”
A moment? He was right about that. It did feel like a mere moment because of the short amount of actual airtime de Pablo spent on screen.
Was the episode heart-wrenching? Given the fact that viewers would be saying good-bye to Ziva David after eight seasons, of course it was heart-wrenching.
Some of the most emotional work ever? Maybe. Maybe not. It was difficult not to cry with Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) as he and Ziva stood head-to-head in the vineyard near the home where she’d been born, and he choked on his words as he spoke about fighting for her, begging her to come home. “I just want you to come home with me,” he said.
A moment in television history? Images that will end up in the archives? The history of the series, yes. The archives of the network, of course. But in the broader sense of television history? Only time will tell.
In a statement released in July, de Pablo said, “I’ve had eight great years with NCIS and Ziva David. I have huge respect and affection for Mark (Harmon), Gary, Michael, David (McCallum), Rocky (Carroll), Pauley (Perrette), Brian (Dietzen), Sean (Murray) and all of the team and CBS. I look forward to finishing Ziva’s story.”
And then we didn’t hear from de Pablo again for another two months. In an exclusive interview with TV Guide the day of the premiere, de Pablo said, “As far as my decision to leave, that’s a personal thing, and I’d rather leave it at that ... The idea of leaving was not something I toyed around with for a long time. It was an overwhelmingly hard thing — at times, terrifying.”
But she also said, “I’m not of the belief that you just take off and leave fans hanging. A lot of people don’t get the privilege of going back to a set and being able to say goodbye to people. I left under my terms, and that was wonderful.”
So knowing that, maybe I read too much into some of the dialogue. But I’d like to believe that throughout those last 30 minutes of the episode, I learned a
Maybe I learned how Harmon as well as his character Leroy Jethro Gibbs felt about losing de Pablo and her character in an exchange Gibbs had with DiNozzo:
“You want me to give up on Ziva?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Are you giving up on her?”
“I didn’t say that either ... If Ziva doesn’t want to be found, you aren’t going to find her. I’m saying you should respect that.”
And maybe I learned that de Pablo wasn’t completely comfortable with her decision to leave the show but knew it was time to move on. After Ziva has buried her new “I Will” list, Tony asked, “Feel better?” And Ziva said, “No, but it’s a start.”
Then, in their final scene, maybe that conversation summed up everything:
“There’s still time for you to change your mind ... What am I gonna tell people?”
“That you were right, I have to start over.”
“OK, you and I both know that’s not going to be enough for Abby.
“Tell her that I am honoring Gibbs.”
“‘Stop this for him.’”
“Of course! Gibbs.”
“I want to make him proud. He taught me to follow my heart. And I know that I have to ... I have to do this alone. I have to let go of everything, or I will be pulled back to where I started. Tell Abby that for me. She will understand.”
“I will. So, what about Gibbs? You gonna call him?”
“I don’t know ...”
“You’ve gotta call the guy.”
“I don’t know if I can.”
“Oh, it’ll be fine. You know how he is on the phone – functional mute. You’ll hardly know he’s there. He’s a good listener.”
“Tony, you are so ...”
“Handsome? Funny? What?”
Of course, Tony isn’t the only person who is loved. So is Ziva. And, so is de Pablo, who will be missed. Terribly.
Like I said at the beginning, the only thing that could have made me happy about this episode was Ziva changing her mind and boarding that plane with Tony.