'NCIS' EP Gary Glasberg talks season 8 finale (and teases season 9)

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Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

SPOILER ALERT! NCIS wrapped its eighth season last night, and with it, the Port-to-Port killer arc that not only buried recurring favorite Mike Franks (Muse Watson) but also forced the appointment of a new SECNAV (Secretary of the Navy), who’s already given Tony an assignment to handle a leak at the agency. Executive producer Gary Glasberg, who wrote the episode, phoned us to break it down. 

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I can’t believe E.J. survived that finale. Was there ever talk of killing her off?
GARY GLASBERG: You mean between the second to last episode and the finale?

Well, at that part in the story or at the end of the finale when Cobb [guest star Kerr Smith] had his three hostages.
Historically, NCIS has been known to kill off some its women, and this was an instance where we had decided as a group that we didn’t want to do that. We knew there was lots of jeopardy to be had, and hopefully it worked out well.

E.J. said she was leaving her “post.” So she’s leaving NCIS for good, or just for now?
She’s giving up her post in Spain and most likely probably taking a leave of absence, if not more than that, and then we’ll have to see where things end up for her.

And Gibbs left the door open for her to return.
The beauty of the world of Don Bellisario, and something that I’ve learned just in the time that I’ve been working here, is it’s really helpful and beneficial to leave dangling threads. This show is extraordinarily good at picking up things that haven’t been touched in awhile and revisiting them when we feel it’s appropriate.

What was it that E.J. removed from her dead agent’s body on the autopsy table?
It’s intentionally mysterious. It’s a little microchip and it will absolutely be something that will come into play next season.

When did the writers get the idea for Operation Frankenstein?
We started to talk about it early to midway through the season, and we had a sense of where we wanted the season to go and how it was gonna wrap up. We knew that Vance was facing some significant issues after “Enemies Foreign” and “Enemies Domestic,” and we recognized that his relationship with the Secretary of the Navy is a complicated one, and this was an opportunity to connect them both to an operation that they were involved with that could explain some of the layers of their relationship and some of the decisions that they’ve had to make. Operation Frankenstein was a concept that Vance came up with. SECNAV thought it was worth following through on. They attempted the project, and in many ways it was successful. But there was this one aspect that even SECNAV lost control of because of the CIA’s involvement. And then at the end of this episode, SECNAV recognizes the flaws in the program, recognizes that a lot of the weight of what happened falls on his shoulders, thus the analogy to the pyramid. And then the decision ultimately is his to do the right thing and resign.

So who now knows that Frankenstein was Vance’s idea?
I would imagine that Gibbs is probably privy to how a lot of this unfolded, and in some ways, that will even the playing field between Vance and Gibbs a little bit as they move into next season. My goal is to have the team, as well as Gibbs and Vance, really have to work together as a unit a little more in season 9. And now there’s the complexity of adding our new SECNAV [guest star Matt Craven], and he will bring a whole new level of complex decision-making to the way our group has to function.

That’s interesting, because NCIS always seems to end seasons by tearing the team apart. You wanted to bring them together.
Yeah. It was a very conscious decision on our part this season because usually you’re right, it’s the other way around. We thought going into the ninth season of the show, and because it seems that audiences really respond when the group has to band together, that it would be a nice change to enter a season from that standpoint instead of breaking them up.

Will they be banding together against the new SECNAV, or what will their relationship be like with him?
He’s not an adversary, it’s just that he has a different approach to things and there’s information that he’s privy to that will drive us through a lot of season 9. Politics and Washington are gonna play a big part in this next season. It will give us the opportunity to see another side of NCIS that we haven’t focused on quite as much.

The new SECNAV said there’s an agent at NCIS selling top secret information, and he handed Tony a folder and told him to handle it. It’s a character that we’ve already met?
Yes. And that story line will probably pick up in the season opener. That’s definitely something that will impact the team. I’m not sure yet how long it will go on, but it will definitely have ramifications that we’ll follow through for awhile.

We saw Mike Franks’ funeral at the end of the episode. So Gibbs made his coffin?
If you go all the way back to the mid-January episode called “Recruited,” that’s when we started to see Gibbs start to build something new in the basement. Based on the letter that Gibbs had been holding to from Franks, the suggestion is that that’s the time when Franks wrote to him and told him about his illness, and knowing it was terminal, that’s when Gibbs started to do this for his friend.

Ah, I love that. Killing Franks off was something you had in your back pocket and could use for maximum impact on Gibbs whenever you wanted. Why was now the right time to pull the trigger?
It just felt right for us. It wasn’t an easy decision for us. We love Muse Watson, we love the character, their relationship is very special and unique. The interesting thing is, we were very happy with the way that “Swan Song” came out and the use of Franks as this voice that spoke to Gibbs internally. The opportunity is there for that conscience or voice to return again at some point. So I won’t say that is the last time that you’re gonna see Muse Watson. Although it would be used sparingly, it’s the kind of thing that could have tremendous impact on Gibbs when we see him.

We saw Ray get the text message “Kort in Tel Aviv. Handle ASAP.” What are we supposed to take away from that?
Well, it’s supposed to leave you thinking, not only about the relationship of Ray Cruz to his fellow CIA agent Kort and what his assignment is, but also the fact that Kort is in Israel and how that relates to Ziva and her father. That’s something we’ll definitely return to, probably not in the season 9 premiere. Again, one of the highlights for me of working on this show is being able to plant new seeds and revisit them as the new season progresses.

Is there anything else from the finale you want to make sure fans picked up on?
I have a feeling that the diehard fans are gonna really enjoy the fact that Jimmy Palmer is engaged. There has never been an NCIS wedding, and that might be something fun that we can take advantage of later on.

As soon as he said he was engaged, I was worried he was going to die in that elevator.
No! Jimmy Palmer is an important part of this team, and we’re happy to have him.

I almost wish that elevator ride had been longer because I liked that suspense: You knew Cobb was going to do something, you just didn’t know when. Were you ever like, “I wish they had more floors to go so we could drag that out more.”
[Laughs] You know what’s funny, we actually talk about those elevator rides quite a bit. The reason that very often Tony or Gibbs will stop the elevator is because we just enjoy being in there. We take advantage of lengthy elevator rides as often as we can. Unfortunately the building isn’t 50 floors tall, or we’d be able to do that.

On the flip side of that, you had Cobb just walk into the hotel room and suddenly surrender. That must have been a great moment to write knowing fans would be like, “Wait, what just happened?”
I wanted it to be very unexpected and to take [the characters] by surprise as well. There’s a nice little moment where they hesitate because they can’t even wrap their heads around the idea that he’s walked in the way he has. So there’s a built-in pause that happens before they reach for their weapons that was just a nice little touch that the actors decided to do that I was really happy with.

We also saw a nice little moment between Abby and McGee when he was worried about her safety. Was does that mean for them? Is that forward movement?
They have a history together and an emotional connection, and I’m anxious to see what the new season might bring for the two of them. We’ll see as we go along and hopefully have some fun.

And Ziva and Ray left it that they’re still together. Sort of.
Yeah. Ziva and Ray are a little open-ended at the moment. There isn’t any closure to it. We’ll have to see where it leads, but I think he was pretty clear that he has a job to do at the moment, and that’s gonna be the primary focus for him.

Going back to the Tony origins episode, he mentioned that he’d just gotten engaged to a woman named Wendy in 2001 Baltimore. Will we find out what happened there?
I would say that there might be an opportunity in season 9 for us to learn more about what happened between Tony and Wendy.

Last question: Is there any chance for some kind of Navy SEAL episode next season inspired by the bin Laden takedown?
Look, anything specific to the Navy falls under NCIS jurisdiction. So whether we’re talking about the SEALS or any kind of Navy or Marine-related covert operation, it absolutely falls into our hands. So it’s definitely something to think about.

Comments (239 total) Add your comment
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  • Cyn

    No Tiva? Life is good!

  • oscarschoice

    I thought the finale was great. Although I have to say I was disappointed that in this instance, NCIS did not follow history and kill off EJ. I have watched all eight seasons & I dislike her character more than any other I’ve encountered on the show. I did like the other three newbies. RIP Levin – wouldnt mind seeing Cade again and I LOVED Ray. Hope to see more of Enrique. I am looking forward to season 9 and hope that there might actually be some TIVA next season. I think the number of TIVA fans is highly underestimated. The ones who yell the longest & loudest (and with multiple user names) don’t always speak for the majority.

    • KD

      So true–and thank you for saying that! TIVA all the way!

    • Alexm

      Multiple user names – works both ways. I’ve seen the Tiva people do it repeatedly too. I think support for Tiva is vastly over-estimated. Wherever I go online I see a lot of voices raised against it and they all lay out very compelling reasons why. And there’s no reason to assume they are ALL the same people anymore than there is to assume the supporters of Tiva are all the same people. It just isn’t as popular as its fans like to make out.

      And I’m very glad we saw no Tiva in the Season Finale. I hope they drop it for S9 and get back to telling good stories with a focus on the team dynamic which is what all those fans not utterly obsessed with Tiva have been clamoring for.

      • MaryD

        Alexm – agreed!

    • mims

      i agree, i hate that they were making this killing women off a season finale thing but with EJ that would have been an exception. i like ray but i’m not attached, just another detour on the route to tiva

    • diana

      Count me in as a Tiva fan .. I don’t watch NCIS much, but I would if there were more Tiva! This coming from a loyal “Bones” fan who has watched every episode.

      • Bobbie

        I am also a Tiva fan!

  • NCIS-Spidey

    I LOVED the Finale (Although judging from the comments on some sites I think I might be in the minority UNFORTUNATELY). In fact I think the WHOLE season has been great! Looking forward to season nine (And MANY MORE beyond that too, HOPEFULLY)!

  • greggfromnyc

    I love the suspense but who is a spy they are all family i thought

    • Kristina

      I think it’s going to be McGee or Ducky.

    • Kelley Butler

      I think it maybe E.J., that would explain Tony’s reactions and things he said to her during the season finale. It also may explain what Tony and the new Sec Navy talks may have been about, the fact that her and Tony were already seeing each other. Just a though also when Gibbs ask her after he told her he knew she was Sec Davenport’s niece, is there anything else she needed to tell him.
      Just saying.

  • Miz

    On the whole, this season finale was pretty good! I loved the Abby/McGee moment and Mike’s funeral was really touching. (The casket was beautiful.)

    I’m disappointed that EJ survived; I don’t like her. At all. And I’m not all that keen on Ray sticking around (emotionally) either. I’m not a hardcore ‘Tiva’ fan; heck, I’ve only recently moved out of the ‘I dislike Ziva, a lot’ stage. I just think that Ziva and Tony have too much chemistry and history for the show to keep walking the same chalk line for years on end.

    But, as long as I get some Abby/McGee actively breaking Rule #12 next season, the show could do whatever it wanted to everyone else and I’ll still be watching.

    • mike

      do you know the name of the song played at the funeral?

    • t Hunderd Ong

      Regarding ‘walking the chalk line’, I agree that it can be irritating for some fans. But, Harm and Mac walked the chalk for alot longer than Tony and Ziva. That turned out well.

  • Jake

    Have 0% believability in Tony keeping any secret from Gibbs or Ziva. Thought him being undercover in the past, and now this operation is just way out of his character to pull off with any kind of success.

    • KD

      Not true. He was undercover when he fell in love with Jeanne and never revealed it until the **** hit the fan and it came out.

  • AngelMoon Girl

    DEAR GOD ENOUGH WITH RAY AND EJ. I hated the finale. They were shoved down our throats and when Ziva got kidnapped the moment was ripe for a Tiva scene between Ziva and Tony! But no, they hardly interacted the whole episode and GAG Ziva practically begged for an engagement ring from Ray. She wasn’t even TALKING to him up until, like, five friggin minutes ago! UGH. Please, TPTB, enough with the angst. Why can’t Tony and Ziva catch a break and enjoy *each other* ever, huh? Why all these obstacles? I really hate GG’s description of season 9, sorry, boooring!

    • DevilSun Boy

      Some people completely disagree. I don’t like for my action/drama series to turn into a banal will they/won’t they series. That can be found anywhere. I don’t really care one way or the other about Tony and Ziva getting together but I do look forward to some new stories and directions.

    • mar

      I actually enjoyed Tony and Ziva in this episode. I loved how they comforted each other first when Ziva was worried about Ray and then when Tony was anxious about EJ. I also loved Tony’s comment to EJ about it being difficult (when Ziva was missing). yes the whole engagement thing was abrupt but I did notice that Ray was using key words for Ziva one of them being ‘promise’ we all know that what Ziva wants is something permanent and a promise does mean it has the possibility of it becoming permanent.
      So as a tiva fan I’m decided to look at the positive side, Tony and Ziva are made for each other in my honest opinion. And Ray Cruz is hiding a lot of important things.

      • Alice Maynez

        I agree and would love to see them together!!!!!!!

      • Bobbie

        I totally love tony and Ziva together!

    • Pat

      Completely agree.

      The idea of the P2P killer was good but EJ was unbelievable as a team leader and while Ray was better written, he seemed more like a plot contrivance than a watchable charater and Ziva going from not taking calls to wanting to be engaged to him in 5 seconds doesn’t make sense.

      It seems like some viewers will accept anything, no matter how badly written, that keeps Tony and Ziva apart.

      The chemistry between Tony and Ziva was one of the things I enjoyed about the show. They still have far more chemistry than Tony/EJ or Ziva/Ray but I’m getting increasing disappointed that the show teases and then shuts down, and then teases and shuts down again. I don’t like being played.

    • Alice Maynez

      I agree with everything you said. I hate the arrogance of the sec of navy. Wished he would have died. This last episode was the worst! There was a beautiful moment in the elevator with Ziva and Tony for a few seconds then Abby and Tim came in. Missed Gibbs though. No, this season was not what I expexcted. EJ should have been killed. I wrote a letter to Covert affairs which is starting up in Juse. I said” To’ Jai (Sendhil Ramamurthy)(Have you ever thought of getting on the NCIS show? You would be perfect with Ziva or(Cote De Pabuelo.) Cort of the CIA is old for her and no one else except maybe Tony (Michael W0) is too much into himself and unable to show her what she needs on a show like this. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE NCIS and all the characters that match like no other show on TV but I think you and Ziva would look perfect acting together. CIA NCIS ? Just think of what the writers could do with that combination. What do you think?)
      I am tired of Ziva being so alone. She needs someone she can count on just like everyone needs. And
      Tony? He is getting to old for her anyway,

  • bowlby4

    Have you noticed that they mention Don Bellisario in every interview since his lawsuit, but they never brought up his name before it.

  • Jason

    I don’t care anymore. I’m done with NCIS.

  • don

    Why was Ziva missing at Franks’ funeral? She cried at his dying, but skipped his burial?

    • Alice Maynez

      I think the writer went out for a drink to celebrate their failure. How could them leave Ziva out. She adored Franks

    • jan

      that’s a good question—————

  • Alexm

    I thought it was a weak, disappointing muddle of a season finale. I didn’t get the impression of them pulling together as a team but I really hope that is where GG is heading next season as it’s something a lot of us have missed.

    But the plot didn’t add up and make any sense and the DiNozzo ending seemed tacked on for shock value and at odds with what Glasburg is saying here about bringing the team together. I am not looking forward to them exploring the world of politics and Washington – that sounds dull beyond belief. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a back to basics of the team solving tight murder mysteries with some playful banter and a lot of friendship and affection. That’s what drew a lot of us in in the first place. Not the Tiva ship, which is widely hated, not shippy, romantic, soapy plotlines, not endless moles and spies within the agency plotlines, but light, occasionally angsty, military crime solving by a likeable, quirky team who bicker but clearly have each other’s backs and enjoy each other’s company.

    The show has gone a long way from its roots. Hopefully by referencing DPB, Glasburg is realising how much better the show was before the Shane Brennan era. I hope he can takes us back to that.

    • Kenneth

      I agree with everything you said! I thought I was the one thinking that that was a weak finale. I think the best finale still held by the season 5, followed by season 3. The conflict is just not enough, and I’m kinda disappointed in the way Cobb died. They could’ve done better than just shoot him. If he shot EJ, that would be more interesting. Not that I hate EJ though, I just think it’s necessary. I mean, why can’t the bad guy wins the battle? And Tiva, I’m not a shipper nor hater, I think the Tiva storyline has been dropped because the way I see it, they’re more like siblings now.

      And yes, the show has gone long way from its roots, I miss the old NCIS!

      • AltDave

        I’m with you, Kenneth. I like Ziva and Tony when they’re in that sibling-like mode of f***ing with each other and pulling pranks, but I just don’t see them together romantically whatsoever.

    • PETER GERDINE

      One question: Why tghe increased emphasis on relationships? Especially Tony’s falling in love. Takes away from the story line, which should be crime and the solving of it. I don’t dislike the banter and emotional content entirely, it livens things up, like dead bodies and autopsies, but it is turning the series into a soap opera, isn’t it? Your thoughts?

  • Deena

    S9 sounds interesting! I hope for more Tiva cos it’s clear that Tony loves her!

  • melissa

    Sorry,but that finale and the previous one are -in my opinion- on par for the worst. so over NCIS. Sick of ray, sick of E.J sick of the boring ass finales (seasons 3, 5 and 6 were great. escpecially 6, my favourite by far) they’re progressively becoming worse. Pick up your act, NCIS. So sick of Tony and Ziva dancing around each other too.

    argh. severely pissed off. so over ncis.

    • GoodWifeFan

      Ray was in two episodes…and had minimal scenes, but you’re sick of him?? Hmmmmmmm….

      • ks

        If you’re an Abby/Mgee fan, yea we are tired of him

    • Tori

      i completely agree! S7’s finale bored me to tears, and the premiere of S8 was even worse. In my opinion, the season finale’s for 2, 3, 4, and 6 were the best

    • Suncatcher

      RETURN OF THE INVASION OF THE (NCIS) BODY SNATCHERS!
      As I wrote last week, NCIS has not been the same since they brought in EJ and her crew. It totally muddied the waters for the original team. It edged them out of our line of sight completely. Then throw in Ray and knock off Franks and hello Cobb and good-bye half of EJ’s team and welcome a new SECNAV and, get Palmer engaged and Tony undercover and Kort circling Tel Aviv. Breathe in. breathe out. It was wayyyy too much. Glad we get a break till next Fall – and the NCIS writers can come to their senses! Yeeshkah!

  • Justin

    I really liked the season finale. However, this Tiva nonsense needs to stop. Tony and Ziva will never happen, people! Heck, it shouldn’t happen at all. They work much better as teammates, not as a couple. I see the feelings between them just like everyone else, but their constant arguments with each other would make the “relationship” fizzle, like freaking Huddy on House. I also like the idea of trying to mix politics and Washington into season 9. Different, interesting look in my opinion.

    • Justin

      Oh,and I’m also a fan of E.J. and Ray. Takes away from the Tiva crap.

      • Lilly

        I’m with you Justin!

      • NoChance

        I’m with you too Justin. No surprise here – I am not a shipper for any Team Gibbs couple. Big supporter of Rule #12.
        I wish for ‘NCIS’ to dare to be different than other shows. Don’t go the hookup route.

        Loved ‘Pyramid’ and that there was no T/Z (I’ve decided to stop using that silly non-word) was the icing on the cake.

      • editor

        JUSTIN why not just watch HOUSE and leave NCIS alone. Do you not know lots of relationships start at the workplace and Tony and Ziva have now been together for almost 7 years ….. HAH !!!

    • ummm

      How would you know? We’ve never seen them as a couple.

      They have far too good of chemistry to waste.

      Rule #5, was it? – Don’t waste good.

      • Jill

        Well said!

      • Justin

        Then, they should ignore rule #5. How about this quote: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Putting them together would break them.

      • Nat

        What about Rule 12: Never date a coworker?

      • Alice Maynez

        You are so right. Don’t try to fix what ain’t broken.

    • mims

      how do you know? i was using that reasoning as a basis for why their relationship would work. and Huddy didn’t work not because of the arguments but because house is incapable of holding on to something good when he has it and the fact that he’s a drug addict.
      perhaps i’d like EJ and tony if they even had a single argument, she didn’t even get jealous when tony was getting vex looking for ziva. just because a couple argues, doesn’t make them unhappy and just because they don’t argue, doesn’t make them a happy couple.

    • Pat

      Maybe it’s true that Tony and Ziva work better as team mates than as a couple.

      But we will never know until the show does it.

    • Deb

      Be careful what you wish for! Its the chemistry and sparks that are so interesting. If the relationship goes further it will be a disappointemt. Just like Abby and McGee. Their past together is well known but its the little comments and looks between them that keep us wanting more.

    • 88Keys

      I agree; I think the majority of fans don’t want TIVA anyway. I hate how it keeps getting shoved down our throats. I honestly don’t see any chemistry between them. I liked their flirty, testing-each-other-out vibe in season 3, but they have moved way beyond that now. Plus, this show is about a team working together, not sleeping together.

      • Alice Maynez

        You are so right They do have such great chemestry but it is getting late.

  • Chris

    The NCIS season finale felt like just another episode. It didn’t have the big moments that I have come to expect from the show. First time ever I think Ive been disappointed in the writing of the NCIS crew.

    • 88Keys

      I think NCIS does premieres better than it does finales. So I’ve come not to expect too much from the finales. Last season’s premiere wasn’t that great, but I feel like they had to wrap up the mess of the season 7 storyline and only had so much to work with. I’m just glad they ended it and moved on.

      • Anne

        Does any one know why vance quick to shred a page of his own file as soon as he became director of ncis?

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