Tag Archives: Donald Bellisario

How to introduce new NCIS team members

The most disappointing thing about the lack of a new NCIS episode this week was how little disappointment I felt. Where once I would have waited for a new episode with baited breath, and would have been quite upset at a delay (I’m guessing we might have to miss next week too, for some reason…), I barely minded. All I felt was that I had expected to watch something that evening, and I had a slot to fill.

So I watched Silver War, episode four from season three. It’s where Ziva becomes the new member of Gibbs’s team. We’ve already met her, but this is when she starts work.


Silver War was never a popular episode with me, so I’ve watched it less than many other episodes. But hindsight is a beautiful thing, and it was amazing how great I thought it was. Well written, and reasonably well acted. It has a lot of little sub plots, which give it some depth. And whatever you thought of Ziva, she was well introduced. She behaved like a creditable addition to the team, albeit a foreign newbie. No particular hang-ups that disturb the pace, and the viewer isn’t left wondering what on earth possessed them to create Ziva, or to hire Cote de Pablo to play her.

NCIS was still having to prove itself back then. Presumably that’s why they took care in choosing a replacement for Kate. They needed to persuade fans that this was good.

It’s a pity they forgot this. I’m almost tempted to say we need Donald Bellisario back.

I love the way DiNozzo comes into work to attend to his morning ablutions. Jenny Shepard’s reaction to Gibbs giving her his coffee. The involuntary ‘bath’ for McGee and Ziva. The latter’s dangerous driving. The way Ducky actually doesn’t remember the beautiful doctor, or falls into her trap.

Abby © CBS

OK, there were inconsistencies. Clearly DiNozzo Sr has never been into Civil War Reenactment, but it fitted the plot, so he was. Abby has been given orders to dress properly. She is devastated, but recovers unusually quickly after that. And you knew from the fact that Gibbs handed Ziva her weapons back that they’d be needed.

But, looked at from the height of season 14, this was one fabulous episode. The way things are going, I’ll be sticking to season three.

(Photos © CBS)

Bye Ziva

My suspicions that Cote de Pablo was on her way out have been confirmed. There will be no more Ziva for NCIS fans, apart from what’s necessary to ‘get rid of’ her character. Let’s hope they can do it tastefully.

The dramatic departure of Kate was not ideal. Admittedly, it made for very good viewing, but I wonder if they’ve regretted it since. Death is so final, unless you are Sherlock Holmes or Bobby Ewing. And they way they have found Kate substitutes suggests they wouldn’t have minded a resurrected Agent Todd every now and then.

So what will they do about Ziva? We’ll find out at the end of September. I’m guessing the news about Cote de Pablo not renewing her contract came now, when they will be getting together after the summer holidays to film the first episodes.


Personally I felt the role of Ziva was getting worn out. I like her, but something about all that happened to her and through her made me wonder how long she had left. Eight years is a big chunk out of anybody’s life, and I’m thinking she feels her body clock ticking. Have a family, or continue on what is one of the most successful shows until it’s too late?

Cote’s fellow ‘young ones,’ Sean Murray and Brian Dietzen, may share mid-November birthdays with her, but they have wives to do the pregnancy bit for them and they have been able to enjoy fatherhood, while still doing what they do on NCIS. The same goes for Michael Weatherly who has got married again and who also did not have to choose between bump or career.

I’m not sure NCIS has got that much longer to go before it’s grown out of what made it special. Better to leave while it’s on top. Recent casting for the LA spinoff makes me doubt they’ll get a Ziva replacement right. Clichéd characters, not to mention plot, have taken over from the freshness ten years ago. Come back Donald Bellisario, all is forgiven?

(Photo © CBS)

Seeing Red

They could always kill her. Paris Summerskill. The name alone is enough to bring me out in a rash. Thing is, when they piloted NCIS: LA they had to remove and later kill the female boss. They can’t do the same again. She needs to die – or resign, I suppose – in part 2 of Red.

NCIS Red Team

But enough of dear Paris for now.

It’s the spin-off idea I’m wanting to mention. I still feel LA is the weaker sibling of NCIS, except that this last year the writing has been better for LA. I suspect it’s because Shane Brennan is giving it most of his attention. And now he has come up with Red, the travelling NCIS unit. (Which doesn’t at all look like the Hollywood take on Rejseholdet. Oh, no.)

Nothing wrong with either spin-offs or stea… borrowing ideas. But I understand that Donald Bellisario – the wily old fox – had it written into his contract that he had rights on stuff that might happen later, even after he was got rid of. And whatever your opinion of his effect on NCIS or his departure, a contract is a contract. That he’s already rich enough not to need any spin-off related money has nothing to do with it.

(But, I do feel another spin-off might be taking spinning too far. On the other hand, a company that sits on the most popular show will want to get a larger piece of the cake if they can. I still feel small is beautiful. NCIS was best at the beginning. Bigger isn’t better.)

(Photo © CBS)

NCIS beginnings and ends – Hiatus and Shalom

Close on the heels of the death of Kate comes Gibbs lying injured in a hospital bed. I mean, as episodes Daughter tries to avoid watching because they are just so sad… Both parts of Hiatus are sad, but they are also funny and enjoyable, while being dramatic and quite upsetting in many ways.

Gibbs and Ziva

That’s what good writing is. I know I keep coming back to this, but it’s true. So once you overlook the sight of Gibbs biting back a sob when he realises (again) that Shannon and Kelly are dead, this is fun. The drama doesn’t feel synthetic.

As I’ve said before, Abby’s monologue in front of the ICU nurse is priceless. Director Shepard is good in the same spot, but Abby is wonderful. Ziva’s threatening the ship’s captain is just right, and our first look at Mike Franks wears well.

On to Shalom at the beginning of season four and we return to Franks and his Mexican paradise. Camila brings the phone a second time, mirroring the call in Hiatus. It’s the first time we have seen a relaxed and almost normal Gibbs, and he does another ‘Mark Harmon thing’ by being on the roof, mending it for Franks.

Seeing Ziva both vulnerable and strong works well, and I’m glad she called in Gibbs’ debt so soon. As for her girl-on-girl fight at the end, it was rated 18 on YouTube at the time, which is ridiculous, but shows how good it is. The mirroring of Kate and Ari when Ziva is lured to follow the motorbike is another excellent move.

Did I mention good writing?

And we like Gibbs with a beard. The shirt is borderline, but the beard is just right. Could we have the good old days back, please?

(Photo © CBS)

NCIS beginnings and ends – Reveille and See No Evil

Season one of NCIS ends fairly strongly, although you need hindsight to see where it might lead. There is the mirror effect at the end of season two, which you won’t know about if you watch in the right order.

Written by Donald Bellisario and featuring Ari for the second time, it’s strong and annoying at the same time. DiNozzo’s stupid fascination for the fake Swede is irritating, and I have never felt easy with Ducky’s description of the old case which upset Gibbs.

But Ari is good, and his relationship with Kate was always interesting. I keep wondering what would have happened if they’d lived.

Kate and Ari

Since this episode was shown not long before the start of season two, the cliffhanger wait was reduced. And there wasn’t even much of a cliffhanger, unless you’d got as worked up about Ari as Gibbs had.

Which is lucky, since See No Evil was pretty good, but had no real connection to Reveille.

My main problem with See No Evil, is that it can only be watched once, and work. When – or if – you watch it again and you know what happened, it loses all credibility, and the feelgood factor of how the team worked the rescue seems pointless.

It is also a little too sugary on ‘kid with disability.’ Fine, let her be both pretty and talented and courageous. But why be surprised?

This was the start of Kate and DiNozzo being mean to McGee, and I hated them through most of season two, because they went from almost normal (for television agents) to childish and petty.

Kate and McGee

But the heatwave and the air conditioning breaking down is used with great effect. Putting the computer in autopsy to keep it cool is a ‘cool’ move. Having two endings is also effective. First the obvious one, and then the real one. But as I said, you can only use that trick once.

(Photos © CBS)

NCIS beginnings and ends – Yankee White

I’m doing a beginning-to-end survey of NCIS. It’s a tough job, but someone has to sacrifice their summer for such a worthy project. One summer isn’t long enough to watch every single episode while we wait for season ten, and since I had some issues with the ending of season nine, it seemed like a good idea to go back to old endings and see how they connect with their subsequent beginnings.

But first we need to deal with Yankee White, the 40 minutes that began my new life as a nerd. OK, there were the JAG episodes, but they almost don’t count.

It is all down to Donald Bellisario, whose writing of the first seasons is second to none and which made NCIS what it is. There may have been problems later, and maybe things weren’t perfect, but you can’t fault the writing.


There is much that makes Yankee White stand out. Although looking back, you see the discrepancy of Fornell and Gibbs meeting for the first time. But that’s OK. Also, Gibbs is not as Gibbsy as he became soon after. Nor is Abby fully formed. But the then Director is great, and DiNozzo is likeable. And Ducky is more assertive.

You can’t help but love a plot set on Air Force One, with a pretty passable George W Bush. Perhaps someone really should have thrown themselves in front of the President’s diet. The Secret Service come across less well than you’d expect, although that could have been intentional, I suppose.

Some shows need a few episodes to prove themselves. NCIS was loveable from the word go.

Yankee White - Kate, Ducky and Gibbs

I’m still loving it, but they will need to pause and think about what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be Bellisario writing, but it does need to be someone else good. Changing backgrounds as happened with Gibbs and Fornell is also OK. But someone writing for season ten needs to know what happened in season five.

(Photos © CBS)

The spider web tattoo

Around here we like to give people what they want. Within reason.

Gibbs and Abby © CBS

Who’d have guessed people would clamour quite that much after spider tattoos? But you are, and you are most likely here because you want one. The sensible ones will only want it for dressing up, and we all want to dress up to be Abby Sciuto, don’t we?

Abby © CBS

It’s not easy finding good photos of Abby with a clear view of the spider on her neck. Ever dutiful, I have taken it as my task to go through some episodes of NCIS to grab a tattoo as soon as I see a good one.

McGee and Abby © CBS

I don’t think it counts as stealing. Mr Bellisario should be pleased we like his creation so much. Just borrowing.

Abby © CBS

Being a little short on time, I have decided to publish photos bit by bit. After all, watching almost 150 episodes would take a while, even for a dedicated soul like the witch.

Gibbs and Abby © CBS

So enjoy these while you wait. Halloween is almost here.

(Photos © CBS)

PS You might also enjoy these Abby pictures from season two.