The ninth-season finale of NCIS (CBS, Tuesdays, 9/8C) ending with the explosion of a car bomb at NCIS headquarters, left the fates of Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ team, NCIS Director Leon Vance and forensics expert Abby Scuitto up in the air – and precipitated a heart attack that left Dr. Donald ‘Ducky’ Mallard lying, seemingly alone, on a beach. The show’s tenth season premiere, Extreme Prejudice, picks up shortly thereafter.
As Extreme Prejudice begins, we move through NCIS HQ to find Gibbs (Mark Harmon) with a discreet cut on his forehead, outside, watching the mop up with Vance (Rocky Carroll); Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva (Cote de Pablo) stuck in an elevator; Vance and Gibbs being approached by the Secretary of the Navy Clayton Jarvis (Matt Craven) and, finally, Gibbs going back inside to speak with a dazed McGee (Sean Murray). We also see Abby (Pauley Perrette) cleaning the lab and cut back and forth to a hospital bed containing Ducky (David McCallum) – and discover that Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) has been there waiting him to wake up.
In the aftermath of the explosion, the President orders the author of the explosion, Harper Deering (Richard Schiff, The West Wing), found and dealt with – with extreme prejudice. Schiff makes the dry, melancholy Deering both frightening and frighteningly relatable. The President’s orders bring FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) into the hunt.
In the course of the premiere, there are two time jumps – finding someone who specializes in not being caught is time consuming – and we see the characters moving from dazed and hurt, to angry and vulnerable and finally, back to a semblance of normalcy. The process is achieved through the chess game between Deering and those hunting him – he’s very clever and a surprising ploy nearly works before an equally surprising character makes an appearance.
One of the things that always separated NCIS from the host of forensics-based procedurals that followed in the wake of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is that, from the series premiere, the characters were as important as the procedural. The show has always played with the format in different ways which, in turn, has influenced other shows (including CSI!).
By now, we know these characters as well as some members of our own family, so it doesn’t take much to make their feelings resonate. Gary Glasberg’s script is lower in quip percentage here, but when they come, they are the punctuation that gives impetus to the drama – and lets us know that the characters are pushing through the pain and fear and carrying on carrying on.
Director Tony Wharmby has been with the show practically from the beginning and he knows exactly how to move an episode in the best way – for him, as with the writers, it’s about the characters and he finds ways to shoot character beats that don’t detract from the kind of pacing that keeps the show’s audience from changing channels during a commercial break.
Extreme Prejudice is a satisfying conclusion to the season nine cliffhanger and an above average episode of NCIS. Oh, and the answer to the question posed in the headline is given during the premiere.
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Photo by Sonja Flemming/Courtesy CBS