NCIS Season 10 Report Card: A-

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Gibbs is about to kill someone; and the rest of his team has resigned. Perhaps this wasn't as dramatic a cliffhanger as the end of NCIS Season 9, but it still rates as fascinating. And at least Ducky isn't out on a beach somewhere dying, so there's that. 

DOD Investigator Parsons isn't through with Gibbs yet either. And we have to wait until the fall to see how it all goes down. Looks like the writers have done a brilliant job at keeping us on the hook.

That said, it's time to take a look back at NCIS Season 10. Read on for more in this TV Fanatic Report Card...

Ducky Takes the Lead

Best episode: "Shiva" set the bar for the rest of the season.  In it, we got to see a heartbroken and vengeful Ziva, and a strong and very silent and wise Tony. His serious behavior was such a departure from the norm that it stood out as exceptional. 

I feel like the joker is a front that he always displays, possibly in an effort to ensure people don't get too close to him. Maybe the writers intended that for him, especially given what we learned about his apartment, how he keeps it, and the fact that he rarely lets anyone into it.  With the death of Eli David, Tony seemed to drop all pretense and clownish behaviour and came to Ziva's side like the dependable and strong friend he always was. I think there's a genuine love there - not sure yet how romantic it is, but it seems to have started as a strong friendship that is now something north of "friend."

This, despite the episode Damned If You Do," where he found himself in a sort of friend zone with Ziva. 

Anyway, the episode wasn't about romance: it was about him being the stand-up guy who would fight at her side, if need be, and support her in whatever way she needed.  His line What can I do? What do you need? said it all.  

Even bringing her back to his place, with no overtones of romance, was an excellent move. He instinctively knew she should talk with someone, and that it should be someone she could trust, someone she's known for a long time. And so he surprised her by bringing her friend Shmeil to his apartment as well. 

Finally, his parting words to her at the airport completed the episode, when he said, in Hebrew You are not alone.

That was an excellent and moving episode.

Worst episode: This one was difficult to determine. The writing for NCIS all season has been consistently good, so it's hard to pick out one that was bad, never mind "worst".  That said, I think maybe the weakest one would be "You Better Watch Out," featuring Tony's father. 

We've seen their family dynamic before, so the story was somewhat of a repetition of that, as Tony Senior invaded Tony's space and then made out with the woman across the hall - in Tony's bed. Not only that, he did so while knowing full well his son doesn't bring any dates home, ever. Tony Junior explained to him that he considered his home a sanctuary and Senior just ignored that. I felt Tony's frustration, but as mentioned - it was a repetition of earlier father-son friction. Maybe with this episode over, NCIS can retire the "my dad was the worst guy" meme.

The other thing about this episode was that we were introduced to a fascinating character in the person of Special Agent Ashley Hunter, played so well by Danielle Bisutti.  Her character was so curious and provocative - my one complaint was that we didn't see more of her, or learn more about her. I hope the writers bring her back, maybe even as a regular - her mystery would add to the series. 

Best character: The team works so well together as an ensemble that it's hard to pick just one.  Gibbs has always been Gibbs: silent, powerful, the alpha. Tony is the butt of jokes, but he too is strong, even though he isn't yet seen to be the leader that he is, except by Gibbs, who recognized and acknowledged it in a much earlier episode. Completing the alpha group would be Vance, who has always been somewhat abrasive, but is now more understanding and a heck of a lot more supportive than he ever has been.

Ziva has a strength to her as well, and even McGee has managed to stand up to bullies like Bodnar when needed. Palmer is a great guy who, like Tony, has been somewhat of a lovable clown. And Ducky is consistently dependable: there are very few surprises with him.

This leaves us with Abby. 

She lights up every room into which she walks, and manages to coax a smile out of Gibbs on occasion - along with a loving peck on the cheek. The team relies on her high intelligence, curiosity and expertise for every case they take on; she knows this, yet it doesn't go to her head. You would expect such a person to be aloof but instead she is very approachable.  I like the fact that she has a hard time even saying rough words of vengeance, even against such loathsome characters as DOD Investigator Richard Parsons.  The peek we got into her childhood this season showed us that she was always like this: curious, caring and extremely intelligent. What's not to like? She gets my vote as the best character of the season.

Worst character: This one (unlike "worst episode') was a no-brainer. Richard Parsons is the villain we love to hate. Arrogant, self-important, and an outright hypocrite. He's the one guy that every person on the team had no problem despising. This speaks to the writing and to Colin Hanks' great acting abilities, as he played the guy to perfection:  affable and funny at first, yet calculating, intelligent, manipulative and ultimately ruthless - the very characteristics of a successful sociopath.  

The way in which he handled Ziva and Tony blew me away:  his calculated move to interview her in the interrogation room, knowing full well Tony would watch from the observation room - and even planning it all out so that he'd "run into them" while they were near the rooms, was brilliant. He played Ziva so well too, raising the rhetoric and accusation level until Tony had no choice but to intervene. 

And then doing it all as a ruse to distract from his real target - Gibbs. Masterful and repulsive. Watching him was like watching a disaster movie - it was almost impossible to look away.  He was the best "worst character" ever, I think, precisely because he was such a snake. I doubt this is the last we'll see of him.

Biggest surprise: I think that would be the shooting of Eli David and Jackie Vance during Shabbat dinner at the Vance household in "Shabbat Shalom."  Ziva was so angry at her father for killing a reporter that she was ready to bar him from her life.  And that was just about to happen as she phoned Gibbs to let him know that her dad was the murderer, when the shooting went down.  The episode was as stark as it was riveting.

Most predictable show feature: The clown brothers: Tony and Palmer. 

In earlier seasons, Tony wasn't quite such an easy target yet lately that's all he's been. We know he has a quiet strength and that he would go to the wall for his friends. Yet week after week we rarely see any of it.  I doubt the writers will ever have him give up that part of his personality but...maybe they could use the jokes a little less? It's truly enjoyable watching the silent sentinel do his thing.

Palmer's awkward comedic moments are a bit of a drag too. I think the writers need to flesh him out more. We saw more of his caring side in "Detour," as he refused to leave Ducky's side, even when ordered to do so. 

The awkward clown moments have seen their day. Time for a new narrative.

Best line for the season:  Tony has a lot of great lines. The man is a walking joke book - and I mean that in a good way.  However, given the fact that it's so unusual for him to say anything that is acidly hilarious, the honor this time has to go to Ducky.  When he received a snide question from Bodnar: And whose grandfather would you be?, he replied with a straight face Well that depends. Who's your grandmother? I literally laughed out loud at that one.

Hopes for Season 11:  I really liked the notion of Gibbs being the sniper again. I don't know if it would mess up the show's formula too much but it would great to see him and the team engaging in more black ops scenarios. 

The second thing that comes to mind is our need to resolve the Tony and Ziva thing once and for all.  This season has resulted in what has to be the world's longest foreplay between them. Word is that the "friend zone" thing at the last episode wasn't the final word on their relationship.  So okay - the viewers have tolerated the writers' need to play for a long time now. Time to either open the door right up, or slam it shut.  Tony and Ziva need to kiss and make up (out) already.

Since Shabbat Shalom, I wondered if the writers would be able to maintain the high state of anxiety for the team; whether they would be able to meet the bar set by that episode, and they have shown that they not only can, but thrive on doing so. So my hope is that the momentum is maintained, and that they find a way to raise the stakes even higher for NCIS season 11. We have Vance who is single, Palmer and his wife who are adopting a baby, the team which has resigned, and Gibbs playing the sniper. There's a lot of material with which to work: I can't wait to see what happens next.

Now, over to you. What grade would YOU give NCIS Season 10?

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter


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NCIS Quotes

I'm more of a Super-Mario guy, myself.

Captain Wescott

McGee: You and Zoe broke up?
Tony: You heard.
McGee: Why didn't you tell me?
Tony: Well the break-up bug's going around. Didn't want you to catch it.