By Sandra Gonzalez
Updated September 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Warning: If you haven’t watched the 11th season premiere of NCIS yet, do NOT read on…

Tonight’s NCIS laid the ground work for the much touted Farewell to Ziva, and while the necessary story set-up resulted in less in-person appearances from Ziva (none, to be exact), it’s easy to see why it needed to be done. (As you may have heard a million times over since July, Cote de Pablo is leaving the series.) More info coming soon in a detailed recap. But meanwhile, here are some highlights Details, ahoy!:

The episode opened four months in the past at a D.C. event where we saw Parsons confront Tom Morrow about the case against NCIS. He protested the fact that Gibbs had gotten out of any trouble thanks to his team turning in their badges at the end of last season. Just after their conversation, a bomb blew the place apart, killing The Secretary of the Navy, Clay Jarvis and severely injuring Morrow.

This death and event served a couple of purposes in the end. But immediately, it lit a fire under Gibbs, and he was more determined than ever to find out more about the supposed new terror cell in Iran that was responsible for the bombing and connected to another case they had been working on that involved a dead (and headless) lieutenant. So he traveled to Iran to find out more. There, he found himself in the middle of a shootout, where he was saved by Parsons, of all people. Parsons, it turned out, had put together that someone was not committing bigs acts of violence for attention — it was an agenda. A Kill NCIS Agenda. When he figured it out, he rushed (all the way to Iran) to warn Gibbs.

When Gibbs realized Parsons was, in fact, a life-saving good guy, Gibbs warmed to him, but not everyone was as accepting. (Subtitle for this episode: Everyone Hates Parsons.)

Meanwhile, Tony was also targeted and his apartment was pumped full of bullets. Don’t worry, he made it out alive. Thankfully, the surprise attack came AFTER we got a chance to see Tony e-flirting with Ziva, who was in Tel Aviv “reconnecting” and “thinking,” she wrote on their chat exchange. Then awesomeness followed:

Tony: Thinking about?

Ziva: At the moment, you. You and a million other things.

Tony: Want some company?

Ziva: Yes. :-)

Tony: I’m on my way.

He even booked a ticket. (Awww!!) Of course, just when he was ready to leave, he was almost killed. (Note: Now I hate these baddies even more for Tiva-blocking me.)

After the attempted hit, McGee and Tony unofficially joined the investigation. (Unofficially because they were still de-badged.)

We soon found out, via Fornell, that someone named Benham Parsa was the one taking out agents and responsible for the bombing. Additionally, we later found out that the case wasn’t connected to Iran as they initially thought. It was a local cell who wanted to make it seem like Iran was responsible and they’d gotten help from the headless lieutenant’s commander to keep up the appearance of an Iran connection. (The commander sent the dead lieutenant on a bogus mission to Iran.) And he also dropped an additional bombshell: that Morrow has known about it for a while. When a VERY angry Vance confronted Morrow about it, Morrow denied being involved with the terrorists but admitted to being aware. He confirms that the next target was Ziva.

So the search for Ziva began and in a shocking move, Tony reached out to Adam to help track Ziva. Aided by some information given to him by Parsons (in a “peace offering”) about a farmhouse in Israel where Ziva might be, Adam did exactly that, but he didn’t find Ziva. Instead, he found three dead bodies. It turns out people had already gone after Ziva — and failed.

So as we left it: We know there’s a domestic terror cell after NCIS and they’re still on the loose. We’re also still not sure how Fornell eventually ends up in Gibbs’ crosshairs (as seen in the finale) but this is a majorly loaded plotline and I expect more twists. Also, the biggest unresolved issue: Tony and Ziva’s meet up! The preview for next week confirms we will see it, and the promo is BANANAS. This sums it up nicely:

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