Recently named the most watched show in the world, NCIS has had quite the season as it saw a major and unexpected cast change in its eleventh season. As season 11 has been recently released on DVD and Blue-ray (in the US, that is) and season 12 is set to begin in a little over a month, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at season 11 and see how the season has been critically received.
First of all, I'll recap the season. While I could technically summarize every episode, I believe most of us watch this show because they are attached to the characters. Therefore, I will look at what the nine major characters have gone through in the past season, on what journeys they have gone. After that, I will have a critical look at these journeys and then at the season as a whole. Finally, I will look ahead at what season 12 is going to bring us.
Following the intense scrutiny he was put under by DoD IG Investigator Richard Parsons, Gibbs was asked to go to Iran after Secretary of the Navy Clayton Jarvis was killed in a terrorist attack. The meeting in Iran was an ambush, but Gibbs was fortunately saved by Parsons, who realised he was wrong and had the case against Gibbs dismissed. As NCIS, Homeland and the FBI continued to track down Parsa, the terrorist responsible for SecNav's death, Gibbs deducted that a businessman who was thought to be targeted by Parsa was actually allied with the terrorist. Gibbs attempted to and succeeded in stopping him and thereby prevented another terrorist attack, although this did come at the price of also shooting his friend FBI Agent Tobias Fornell in the ass. Sadly Parsa got away. After the whole story was over, Gibbs got a phone call from Ziva who told him she did not want to be reinstated as an NCIS agent.
Later on, Gibbs helped a bunch of Afghan women leave their dangerous country and come to the US. In doing so, he made up for a mistake he made a few years back when his old friend Mike Franks asked for help to get some other women out of Afghanistan, but Gibbs declined and the women were subsequently killed.
He also helped his father when Gibbs Sr. wanted to visit an old war buddy. While Gibbs questioned his father's motives, it appeared Jackson wanted his dying friend, who turned out to have been fighting on the other side, to know that he not only took many lives, but also made Leroy Jethro Gibbs possible. His father called him "the best man I know".
Gibbs then got a huge surprise as he found out his first ex-wife had reunited with her other ex-husband, AKA Tobias Fornell. The two had apparently gotten back together, much against the wishes of their daughter. The happy couple later asked Gibbs for his blessing.
Gibbs found himself next reunited with Special Agent Dawyne Cassius Pride, a co-member of the original Fed 5. Gibbs and Pride worked together to investigate the murder of one of the other Fed 5 members, who was killed by a serial killer. Doing so brought Gibbs to New Orleans, where the two found the killer and killed him.
At the end of the season, Gibbs got a setback when his father had a fatal stroke. During his grief, he was targeted by a member of Parsa's terrorist group. The remaining members had allied themselves with the Reynosa cartel, on behalf of Gibbs' old enemy Alejandro Rivera. Gibbs managed to wear off the attack and subsequently buried his father.
After resigning from NCIS, Tony was quick to make contact with his old co-worker Ziva who had traveled to her birth country Israel. Tony wanted to join her there, but was stopped after he was taken under attack in his own apartment. Realizing terrorist Parsa was behind it, Tony told Ziva to lay low. Following his reinstatement as an NCIS agent, he asked Adam Eshel to track down Ziva. With Parsons help, Tony found a safe house from Ziva's father. Once there, Adam found three dead bodies, Parsa's mercenaries, but no Ziva. Tony spent the next four months tracking Ziva down, eventually finding her at the house she was born in. He tried to convince her to come back with him to DC, but she couldn't and they said goodbye with a passionate kiss.
A little later, Tony got a blast from the past as he saw a man he worked with in his old Balitmore days. He helped solve a case and also had some heart-to-heart moments with Tony. Tony also overcame his insomnia.
It was also revealed that Tony had joined a support group because of the difficult year he's had.
A few months after that, Tony got a visit from his father who said he had some news to share with his son. McGee and Bishop later saw his father at a hotel room with a pregnant woman, making Tony fear the worst. However, Senior revealed that he was going to get married and the woman he was seen with, was actually his fiancée's daughter. Tony approved of the marriage, and his father asked him to help organize the wedding.
Tony had two difficult jobs at the end of the season. One involved protecting a rock star, who used Tony's apartment for one of his concerts. The other case brought him to Marseille, where he had to pick up the daughter of an American admiral. This, however, caused an international incident as Tony unwillingly became a wanted man in France. Fortunately, Tony and the girl, who was revealed to be a spy for the American government, got home all safe and sound.
After resigning from NCIS, Ziva traveled to her birth country Israel to explore her roots and do some thinking. After Tony got attacked in his apartment, she was told to lay low and went to a safe house of her late father. There, she was ambushed by Parsa's men, but managed to kill them all. Sadly, she got injured and went to her old next-door neighbor Dr. Deena Bashan for help. As Ziva started talking about the past, Deena revealed that she wanted to propose to Ziva's half-brother Ari right before Ziva killed him. Thinking that she was the center of all this pain, Ziva went AWOL and visited all places where her memories were before being eventually found by Tony at the house she was born in. He tried to convince her to come back to DC, but his attempts were unsuccessful. Ziva brought Tony to the airport, where they said goodbye with a passionate kiss. Afterwards, she called Gibbs.
Following his resignation from NCIS, McGee met with his girlfriend Delilah to talk about SecNav's death. Abby later came by, which made for an awkward moment between the three. McGee was later picked up by Fornell and the FBI for protection after Tony was attacked in his apartment. This made McGee safe from the imminent Parsa threat. He also got his NCIS badge back.
McGee later joined Gibbs to Afghanistan in search of a women's shelter. After a tense situation with some Afghan men, the two agents returned to the US along with all the women.
Delilah also helped the team in one of their cases. McGee was surprised to find out later that Abby and Delilah had become friends.
In the new year, McGee was reluctant to join Delilah to a gala where she was honored, but eventually McGee went along with her anyway. However, the gala was the target of a terrorist attack by Parsa. While McGee left the scene unscratched, Delilah was taken to the hospital where it was revealed that she was paralyzed. McGee struggled to come to terms with this, but eventually had to face the truth with Gibbs' help.
After Parsa's demise, Delilah came by the NCIS office to thank the team. McGee and Delilah both appeared to struggle with her paralysis, but eventually worked out some issues.
Sometime later, Delilah came upon a cover-up at the DoD and asked the NCIS team for help. After the case was solved, she accepted a job transition to Dubai. Even though McGee wanted her to move in with him, the couple maintains a long-distance relationship.
Being the heart of the NCIS family, we have seen a lot of emotional Abby this season. In the beginning of the season, Abby was seen worrying about her friends and co-workers. SecNav was killed, Gibbs went to Iran, Tony was almost killed in his apartment and Ziva disappeared. She continued to worry about Ziva as Tony was unable to locate her. We can only speculate how Abby reacted when she learned Ziva was not coming back to NCIS.
Although Abby meeting Delilah made for quite an awkward moment between the two, they were later seen working together and are even rumored to be friends.
Near the end of the season, Abby's heart was touched when the team investigated the rape of a female Navy officer. While the officer at first didn't want to admit that she was raped, Abby had some heart-to-heart moments with her after which she was ready to face the truth. Fortunately, the attacker was later apprehended.
A short time later, Abby was shocked to hear that a homeless man called Blue, who was a friend of hers, had died. While she was looking for his dog Dave, she found a young homeless girl named Emma who had the dog. As Abby spent some time with her, she discovers Emma is a runaway. After Abby helps Emma realize that her parents still miss her deeply, Emma calls her parents and they are reunited.
Abby was last seen standing by Gibbs' side as he buried his father.
Jimmy has devoted a large part of the season to his upcoming adoption. He was seen practicing changing diapers, signed the papers and eventually he and Breena met the parents of the unborn child. Everything was ready and then the mother had her baby. Sadly, after seeing her newborn, she decided she wanted to keep the baby after all, much to the dismay of Jimmy and Breena. Jimmy took the news hard, but Gibbs talked to him and said he shouldn't give up.
A few weeks later, Jimmy got a cryptic message from Beena involving an oven. While Jimmy didn't understand the message, Tony helped him to decrypt it: Breena has a bun in the oven! Jimmy is going to be a father! Even though the couple will likely shift their focus to their upcoming child, the adoption plans are still pretty much in play.
When the new Secretary of the Navy Sarah Porter is bugged during a confidential briefing, the team is surprised to learn that this event was predicted by a rookie NSA Analyst two years before. The analyst, Elanor "Ellie" Bishop, helped the team out to determine who was behind the security breach. After the case was solved, Gibbs discovered she had applied to NCIS years before. He then offered her the desk that was left empty by Ziva, which she accepted.
It was revealed a little later that Bishop has been tracking terrorist Parsa for years. This got Gibbs mad, as he is unwilling to work with people he can't trust. After they caught the terrorist, Parsa asked for some alone time with Bishop. However, he killed two guards and tried to complete his suicide mission. Before he could do that, he was shot by Gibbs. Gibbs then offered Bishop a permanent, albeit probationary place on the team.
As she continued to learn several things throughout the season, Gibbs brought her along to the NCIS New Orleans office. Bishop got a few weird looks from agent Pride due to her food associations and her habit of sitting on a table.
After the death of his wife last season, Vance's world was rocked again when his friend SecNav Jarvis died. He subsequently agreed to send Gibbs to Iran despite his concerns for Gibbs' safety. The team later deduced that Parsa killed SecNav and, under Vance's leadership, the hunt for him continued for several months before he was eventually killed.
Right before Christmas, Vance got a surprise visit from Lamar Addison, the father of his late wife Jackie. Vance believed that his father-in-law was dead, so he was reluctant to let him in. However, Vance later changed his mind and let his kids meet their grandfather.
Vance was of great help in the New Orleans case, although he did have some problems with agent Pride's style of work.
He was also the one to tell Gibbs that his father died. As a friend and due to his personal experience, Vance grounded Gibbs to let him deal with his grief.
During the past season, Ducky continued to be a friend to all team members. He especially remained a good friend and advisor to both Jimmy and Gibbs, standing by them through difficult times.
Review of the Character Journeys
As you can see from only looking at the length of the paragraphs, we can already tell that some characters got more storylines than others. Gibbs, being the main character, had no shortage of storylines (wow, I really did write a lot about him, didn't I?). While most storylines were pretty good, I would also like to see some focus on other characters. Especially Ducky is in desperate need of a good storyline, and fortunately it has already been confirmed that we will have an episode in season 12 that focuses on him. Abby could also use something, maybe something that would involve her long-lost brother? I would love for Abby to find out who her real, blood related parents are, but I also like to know more about her brother Luca and the parents who adopted her.
Speaking of adoption, Jimmy's storyline once again showed that no member of this team can ever find happiness (see also: McGee and Delilah). While this might indeed be a reflection of the reality, I would really like every team member to be happy. So please let Breena not have a miscarriage or something and get McGee and Delilah back together.
And yet, I do enjoy watching our characters go through these life-changing events. It makes for interesting storylines and good acting. I say within two to three seasons Bishop will lose either her husband, one of her brothers or one of her parents.
That also brings me to Ziva, whose exit I think was handled well given the circumstances. However, post-exit I think more attention should have been paid to her. While she was mentioned a couple of times, none of the team members tried to make contact with her (at least, not on-screen). Tony and Ziva kissed, but apparently Tony didn't want to speak to her again?! Abby, the so-called heart and soul of the team, did not try to call her? Ziva is dealing with her issues all by herself, the words "At lo levad" from last season seem far, and very far away.
Other than not calling her, I believe Tony's post-Ziva storyline has been quite believable. Especially in episodes 5 and 8 we really saw how he tried to deal with it. I also liked that Tony's father is getting married, and hope to see an actual, on-screen wedding.
Regarding Vance, I don't really have a lot to mention here. I would like to see a few more moments of his grief, like visiting his wife's grave. Just these little moments where the writers show us they have not forgotten about past storylines.
Nothing on Bishop either. We haven't really gotten to know her all that well, so I would like to learn more about her. While I'm still not completely used to her and she needs some more time to grow on me, I hope her character will be explored further in season 12. Perhaps we could meet one of her family members.
Season 11 started out pretty good in my opinion, with the premiere as my personal choice for best episode of the season. The episode basically had it all: terrorism, a death, the entire team being targeted, a mission abroad, and a missing team member. Ziva's goodbye episode was also quite good and was very emotional, though there were some things that I think should have been different. I enjoyed the first post-Ziva episode, "Under the Radar", but the next four episodes were a bit slow and uninteresting until episode 8, which had an interesting case. I also enjoyed Bishop's first episode and was eager to meet her. And then we got the funniest episode of the season, "Devil's Triad", featuring the return of Diana Sterling (or is it Fornell now?). Really, you don't need to watch any comedy to laugh out loud!
Unlike previous seasons, the final five episodes of the season had no arc. Instead, the episodes featured normal cases of the week. "Page Not Found" was another solid episode although I don't agree with the decision to put Delilah overseas. Episodes 21 and 22 were emotional episodes that touched on heavy subjects (rape and homelessness), which I think were handled quite well. The penultimate episode was an awesome episode, with various twists and great moments of action, humour and Tony. It was also one of the best episodes of the season. The finale, which paid tribute to Ralph Waite, was an emotional episode. I also enjoyed seeing Alejandro Rivera again after not having seen him for four years. And while I was initially reluctant to not having a cliffhanger at the end, I think it played out fine and it's a welcome change.
I am bad at giving grades, but on a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this season a 7 (which translates roughly to a C+/B-).
(Note: You can read review of individual episodes in my author box below by clicking on "All reviews". Reviews start at "Bulletproof" and end with "The Admiral's Daughter".)
Season 12 Preview
What we know so far from various teasers from actors, writers, directors and EP Gary Glasberg:
-The premiere, entitled "20 Clicks", will see Gibbs and McGee going to Russia, where they must face a crisis. The season opener will also introduce a Russian mercenary named Sergei Michnev (played by Alex Veadov), who will be a big bad on and off for the rest of the season.
-Episode 2 is called "Kill the Messenger" and has been written by George Schenck and Frank Cardea, and directed by Dennis Smith.
-The third episode has the title "So It Goes" and was written by Steven D. Binder. In the episode, Ducky and Bishop will go to England. We will learn about Ducky's past relationships and also learn why he has a penchant for bow ties. This will presumably happen through flashbacks, as Adam Campbell has been cast as a young version Ducky.
-In episode 4, Tony is going to meet a woman. This woman will be introduced via a case. Though unconfirmed, it is likely that this woman is FBI Special Agent Leia Pendergast (played by Setphanie Jacobsen). She is partnered with Tony for a case involving an international terrorist threat targeting Navy researchers. She is described as "flirtatious" and "adventurous" with a sense of humour. According to Christopher J. Waild, who has written the episode, they are shooting this episode right now.
-Speaking of McGee, the plan is to revisit the storyline with his father.
-Glasberg also plans on introducing viewers to Gibbs' ex-wife number 2, as well as meeting Bishop's husband Jake.
-Tony Gonzalez is set to make a guest appearance in an unknown episode, which has already wrapped filming (likely episode 2 or 3).
-There are plans to have a few characters cross over to the New Orleans spinoff. This involves Gibbs, Tony, Abby and Ducky, although it is unclear if they will all appear in the same episode. Just a few hours ago, Lucas Black tweeted that Michael Weatherly is set to join NCIS: New Orleans tomorrow.
-Also, Vance will make a few appearances in season 6 of NCIS: Los Angeles.
I am looking forward to season 12 and I hope you do too! Hopefully it's gonna be a great season. The season premiere airs Tuesday, September 23 at 8/7c.