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Time to count your crocodiles, everyone: Ziva’s back, and so are her malapropisms!

NCIS season 17 beings with two men bickering over a sketchy back-alley cellphone deal when a sweaty, bloodied, desperate man carjacks them at gunpoint. It’s Gibbs, and he’s there with Ziva, who pauses to look forbiddingly over her shoulder before hopping into the stolen car and casually tossing two severed fingers on the dashboard.

It’s the best in media res opening the show’s had in ages, and we then jump to 18 hours earlier, when Ziva and Gibbs barely have time for a hello before gunfire tears through his basement. NOT THE BOAT, YOU MONSTERS.

They return fire, and the next things we know, McGee gets a call about a body in Gibbs’s basement. The team is alarmed that Gibbs isn’t on the scene, but his cell phone and hidden weapons are. The discovery of an old coal chute in his basement suggests his means of escape, and a scrap of un-Gibbs-y fabric inside the chute suggests he wasn’t alone.

"Out of the Darkness" - Ziva surprises Gibbs with a cryptic warning, prompting him to question why she remained underground for years while being presumed dead by family and friends, and what lead to her return, on the 17th season premiere of NCIS, Tuesday, Sept. 24 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Cote de Pablo as Ziva David, Mark Harmon as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Photo: Erik Voake/CBS ©2019 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Credit: Erik Voake/CBS

Bishop immediately heads to Ziva’s old office, where she recognized the fabric as belonging to a coat Ziva left there. She convinces landlady Odette to quit playing dumb and fill her in on the Ziva-sitch. Odette, who definitely has a backstory worth hearing about, confirms that Ziva was the true target of the farmhouse fire, so she faked her death and went deep undercover to keep her family safe. Bishop then raises the question we’re all asking: Does Tony know? “That’s not for me to say,” Odette replies. No no no, say, say, say!

McGee, aware that Bishop’s hiding something, pings her phone and finds her at Ziva’s office. When she tells him that Ziva’s alive, he does not take the news well. After all, Ziva was a sister to him. But Bishop follows him into the NCIS men’s room to remind him that when Ziva asks you to do something, you do it.

It’s why they end up lying to Vance about what they do and don’t know about the Gibbs situation, looping in Torres afterward about Ziva faking her death. “I didn’t even know this ninja, but this is like the biggest news of my life,” he declares. Unfortunately, he says it in an autopsy, where Palmer’s crouched under a table doing pipette-retrieval and hears everything. These people are bad at secrets.

And what of the woman in question? As she and Gibbs flee through a sewer, Ziva explains that a woman named Sahar is after her, and stopping her is the only path back to Tony and their daughter Tali. But she needs to do it alone, so she sends Gibbs off to a safe house until the danger’s passed.

On her own now, Ziva becomes disoriented and hears voices, one of whom is Adam Eschel, who helped her hatch the plan to fake her death. When she warns him that she’s too weak, Adam replies that weakness is not accepting help when she needs it.

This memory leaves Ziva clutching a handful of pills in one hand and an iridescent blue necklace in the other, which is how Gibbs finds her because of course, he didn’t leave her alone. Also, he found a gun with one bullet that somebody ditched in the sewer, which Ziva tells him to hold onto. After all, she resurfaced to warn him that his life was in danger from Sahar hoping to use him to get to her.

They leave the sewer to get on a bus, where Adam left an SD card for Ziva under a seat occupied by a latter-day Grizzly Adams. Gibbs is amused to be involved in a dead drop straight out of 1980, which Ziva says is rich “coming from a man with a black and white television.” Fair point. Ziva explains that Tali picked out the necklace for her and asks Gibbs what he’d do for just one more minute with his child. In Ziva’s case, it means fighting the demon of her anxiety, and because the pills that help control it also dull her senses, she’s fighting that battle alone right now.

When Grizzly finally gets off the bus, they realize he took the SD card with him, so they track him to an alley. Ziva leaps on Grizzly like a flying squirrel, but when he draws a gun, Gibbs shoots him dead. Thanks, whoever ditched that gun in the sewer! They hop in Grizzly’s car, and Gibbs takes them to a payphone, where he plans to call McGee to get him to decrypt whatever’s on the card. Ziva puts herself physically between Gibbs and the payphone, but Gibbs prevails and places the call.

When he does, he learns that Bishop used an NSA source to get a full name: Mira Sahar Azam, a POW in Syria who escaped one month before Ziva’s farmhouse blew up. He tells McGee that he doesn’t want him involved, but in the next breath says he’s sending an encrypted file, and oh yeah, there’s a body in the alley.

Naturally, McGee immediately extracts the information and sends Gibbs and Ziva to a downtown D.C. penthouse, where they find a man who’s decorated his office with a truly over-the-top display of swords. Ziva gives him her full name. He’s surprised and calls her an American hero, then tells them that “Sahar” is an alias.

He pulls off Tali’s necklace and asks Ziva if the jewelry represents her heart or her albatross. After all, Sahar wants her dead because of her albatross brother, Ari. Before they can exchange more information, gunfire bursts through the window and kills him and his men. Gibbs grabs a gun, and Ziva can’t extract her necklace from the man’s dead hand, so she cuts off his fingers.

At this point, McGee, Torres, and Bishop pull up at the address from the SD card and see Gibbs carjack the cellphone guy. And now we know that the meaningful look Ziva sent in the opening scene was directed at McGee, in a silent order to stand down. He’s reluctant, but Bishop convinces him to do as Ziva asked.

Meanwhile, Kasie and Palmer have used clues on the two bodies (bedbugs and ash in the lungs!) to determine that Sahar and her people are hiding in a fire-damaged diner. At this point, Vance realizes something’s up and cracks Palmer immediately. When he and Sloane confront the three agents about their omissions, Torres immediately says Bishop’s the guiltiest and he’s the least guilty, with McGee in the middle. But they dig in their heels and refuse to head to the diner out of respect for Ziva’s wishes. Vance blusters but allows it.

At the diner, Gibbs tries to talk Ziva out of killing Sahar, but Ziva says it’s the only way to keep her family safe. Oh, and also, when she asked Gibbs what he’d do for another minute with his daughter, she was talking about herself. You abandoned me!” she cries, hurt that he didn’t her question or death or come looking for her. Then Odette rolls up in a weapons-packed Range Rover. Tell us your secrets, Odette!

Using the stash, Ziva and Gibbs incapacitate the outside guards and get the drop on Sahar. And although Ziva’s anxiety flares up, she draws her gun and advances. Gibbs put himself between her and Sahar, who warns that if Ziva kills her, a U.S. senator will be dead by the morning. Gibbs knocks the gun out of Ziva’s hand, but she smoothly draws another, like the badass that she is, was, and always will be.

And with that, we’re to be continued…

Stray shots

  • What a bang-up way to kick off season 17! It’s beyond great to have Ziva back, and I’m greedy, gang. I want to see it all: her reckoning with Gibbs, her reunion with McGee, her introduction to Bishop, all of it. Also, is it too much to ask that they sneak Michael Weatherly onto set so we can watch Tony and Ziva reunite? And kiss? And hug Tali? WE’RE NOT ASKING FOR MUCH, NCIS, JUST EVERYTHING WE’VE ALWAYS WANTED.
  • Ahem. In other news, who knew the NCIS men’s restroom was so colorfully painted?
  • Kudos to the writers for having Ziva deal with anxiety. It’s a humanizing and all-too-realistic detail for a woman who’s lived the life she has. Which leads to my next question: where did she get that scar on her wrist?
  • Show of hands if you agree that the next spinoff should be NCIS: Odette.


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