“You mean to say you don’t miss this?”
Season 20 brings us to several milestones in the NCIS run. It has now become the longest running procedural in CBS history. It lags behind only the Law & Order franchise in sheer number of episodes. This season gets us to and beyond the 450th. This is also the first complete season that does not include the man who pretty much started it all. Yes, Mark Harmon has left the building, and Leroy Gibbs does not appear at all in this 20th season. Mark Harmon does indeed remain one of the show’s executive producers, but to what extent he is actually still involved I can’t speak to. I can tell you that he doesn’t show up on any of the production features, nor is he mentioned for any particular contribution or involvement. So this must have been a scary season for the cast and crew of NCIS. I’m not sure how they felt going into the year, but I suspect they were feeling pretty good for themselves and the show by the time it was over. After 20 years of being in production, after 450 stories having been told, somehow the show continues to get better with every year. Don’t ask me how they do it. All I can tell you is that you can catch the entire season on DVD with CBS Home Entertainment’s release of NCIS The Complete 20th Season on DVD.
I love the way the season begins. It’s straight off the Season 19 cliffhanger, and Agent Parker (Cole) has been framed for murder. The FBI is on his trail, and the team stands behind him even after he’s been benched to try to prove his innocence. The episode serves as a wonderful demonstration of how well Gary Cole’s character has inserted himself as the new leader of the team. When we see the level of loyalty here for not only a relative newcomer but the guy who many might have thought stepped over McGee (Murray) or anyone else on the team, it’s a clever way for the writers to communicate to the audience that this is the kind of relationship this team has, and once you’re family, you are family. Other shows talk that line, and it might be true to some extent or another, but this show doesn’t tell us. They show us. A sign of great writing and a real understanding of the questions your fans are going to be coming into this strange new season with. We learn a lot about Parker here. We know now that he feels he’s to blame that his former FBI partner was shot and ended up in a wheelchair. We also know that even when he’s at his worst, and he certainly is here, the team will call him out on his crap but still have his back. We see a very different side of Parker, because he’s short-tempered and lashing out. Cole’s performance is powerful, and I hope we get to see this dynamic for many more years to come.
There are two crossover events this season, and thankfully CBS has seen fit to include these crossover episodes from the other shows in the release. The first involves the sophomore season of NCIS: Hawaii. And they waste no time getting there with this hot first episode of the season concluding on NCIS: Hawaii. So far I haven’t warmed up to that series yet after seeing just the first season. I’m looking forward to a second chance when we get to that release. For now we start out finally catching our bad guy in Hawaii, and the season for both shows are off and running.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Robert Picardo kicks off the second crossover event that works in all three of the NCIS shows from this previous year. Once again it all starts on the mother ship where Picardo plays a long-time NCIS training professor who is about to retire. He gets a strange phone call which leads him to shoot himself just as agents from all over the world are reuniting here for his retirement sendoff. Most have fond memories of the guy and can’t reconcile his actions with the man they each thought they knew. Of course, with all of these agents in town to pay tribute, that includes Agent Tennant (Lachey) from NCIS: Hawaii and Agents Hanna ((Cool J) and Callen (O’Donnell) from NCIS: Los Angeles. The mystery eventually takes them to L.A. and a wrap-up once again in Hawaii. It’s the first time these three shows have contributed one story and will be the last as NCIS: Los Angeles has now ended. It’s a nice combination of story elements and talents and a pretty cool event. Reminds me a little of those Arrowverse crossovers the CW used to have for their DC characters.
Most of the episodes are standalone, but there is a small story arc that starts early and pays off in a two-part season finale. There are a series of Russian spies found in a few episodes, and they appear to have a connection to a senator. At first they break into her state-of-the-art safe to steal a hard drive that appears to only have personal photos. This happens in Episode 16, and Senator Miller (Brannagh) ends up having a bit of a romance with Parker. That leads to potential trouble when her name shows up later when a Russian agent kills folks stealing classified documents from a secure area by using her retina scan. It’s a big story that leads to some potential global terrorist attack and finding Torres (Valderrama) going undercover in a federal prison to get intel on the leader of the Russian agents. Inside he makes another contact that will lead to an unrelated cliffhanger featuring Torres in the final minutes of the season.
There’s still a lot of character development going on even after all of these years. They’re bringing the characters of Knight (Law) and Jimmy (Dietzen) closer as a couple, leading to a jealousy moment when a guy from Knight’s past shows up on a case and makes no secret he’d like to win his “Tipsy” back. Jimmy also has to contend with one of his medical school rivals who has become a television personality medical examiner and brings back bad memories for the usually bright Jimmy. Turns out the guy cheated him out of a job at the Mayo Clinic and got ahead only because of Jimmy’s help. Now he’s trying to make Jimmy look bad to his own team, and the blows put Jimmy’s usually unbreakable optimism to the test.
We meet Knight’s sister, and she’s another bit of drama, but she’s engaged to a guy who was just trying to get to Knight leaving a rather amusing hostage situation and a chance for that character to bond with Kasie (Reasonover). This was a highlight of the season for me. I’ve been having a ton of trouble warming up to the Kasie character. I can’t tell you why, but I really have found her somewhat abrasive. Maybe I just miss Abbey a lot. But I will say that her performance and chemistry here with Katrina Law really started a bit of a turnaround for me. She’s finally starting to grow on me.
David McCallum continues to cut down on the number of episodes in which he’s present. He’s still going strong for a guy who just turned 80. He has one of the more clever Easter eggs in the season. When he’s talking to Parker about the big Russian spy, he remembers the guy’s real name was something he remembered from an old television show. The name was Illya Kuryakin. The old television show was The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and that character was played by none other than David McCallum. My favorite reference of the season. I’m going to miss him when he finally decides to hang it up. Still, I expect the show will continue on fine when that happens. There isn’t much left of the show that premiered as a spinoff of Jag back in 2003, but they must be doing something right, because NCIS remains one of the best shows on television and has outlasted even the best of its own spinoffs.
You get all 22 episodes plus three crossover episodes on six discs. There is the traditional half-hour season summary and a few brief nods to the 20-year milestone on f/x, locations, and cinematography. NCIS will be back next season. Of course, those pesky strikes might have something to say about it all. “I don’t like the sound of that.”