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'NCIS': A different kind of season finale

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Ncis Recap 01
Sonja Flemming/CBS

NCIS is no stranger to the flashy season finale. Bombs, car crashes, cliffhangers, and the such.

But tonight’s season finale was a taste of something quite different for the show that in years past has proved its ability to shock and stun.

It centered on the death of Gibbs’ father, Jackson, who was portrayed by the late Ralph Waite. We were told for weeks that the episode would be a tribute to the actor — and that it was.

Gibbs found out at the top of the episode that his father had passed away and was soon confronted by the thing, I suspect, Gibbs fears the most: a lot of concern and attention. The gang felt for him, especially Vance, who we know has dealt with massive amounts of loss in the last few seasons. Vance even ordered Tony to leave Gibbs out of the investigation, which involved a ship explosion and the possible escape of two dangerous men, and one of them, named Mir, had connections to Parsa.

Gibbs did end up getting involved in the case — he was looped in when it looked like his old enemy Rivera might somehow be involved in the escape plan — and ended up having a big confrontation with Vance about how, as Gibbs saw it, Vance had ordered his team to “hold out” on him. It got a little heated, with Vance telling Gibbs that he was officially on administrative leave. Then Gibbs looked at him square in the eye and leveled with him: “This job is what I have.” Heartbreaking.

But so were a lot of things during the episode, particularly the flashbacks to Gibbs’ childhood. The scenes really highlighted the quiet yet strong relationship Gibbs shared with his father in a really sweet way. In fact, I thought they said a lot about the man Gibbs grew up to be and added a lot to the episode. (I also liked the moments Gibbs shared with Cal, the young man who worked in his father’s store and tried to help Jackson when he had his stroke.)

The case eventually got solved. Rivera had arranged the attack and instructed anyone who escaped to kill Gibbs. Two people came close — a hired gun and Mir himself. But Gibbs prevailed.

The end of the episode ended with a funeral scene — one that was as gutting as executive producer Gary Glasberg promised it would be. (We also got a peek, as he promised, of Gibbs’ next construction project — a boat.)

Like us all, I enjoy a good explosion, a big car crash, an OMG moment. But for a show like NCIS — which has been around long enough to give us 10 season finales of all that — I think it’s more than OK for the show to use its finale not to set up what’s ahead, but to honor someone who was such a big part of its past.