Why NCIS Bringing Back Former Cast Members for Any Ducky Tribute Episode Is Much Easier Said Than Done

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Though TVLine has made a case for why any number of cast members/characters from NCIS‘ past could/should return for any possible on-screen tribute to the late David McCallum, there are also very valid reasons why that RSVP list might turn out to be quite limited.

Heading into its 21st season come February 2024, CBS’ NCIS cast now boasts zero original cast members, seeing as — if you get technical (and people do) — Sean Murray (who plays McGee) and Brian Dietzen (Dr. Palmer) did not become series regulars until Seasons 2 and 10, respectively. (Rocky Carroll made his debut as Vance in Season 5, and joined the cast in Season 6.)

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As such, from go, any episode that might aim to give McCallum/Dr. Donald Mallard a proper sendoff will be light on colleagues who actually worked alongside McCallum/Ducky for more than a third of the well-watched series’ run.

That is why, when speculating about any “Ducky tribute” episode (no official plans have been announced, yet), there have been cries of, “Well, Mark Harmon/Gibbs has to be there!”

“Yes! And Michael Weatherly/DiNozzo!”

“Ooh, a perfect time for a #Tiva reunion, if Cote de Pablo comes back…”

“But don’t forget Emily Wickersham! We need closure on Bishop’s exit!”

“Can we also get visits from some ghosts of dead characters, too??”

Yeah, you can see how this can get very out of hand.

The fact is that — any scheduling/availability issues aside — you can’t simply “bring back” Gibbs. Or DiNozzo. Or any of the above. No matter how much their presence might be warranted for this occasion.

NCIS Ducky Final Episode Cast Returns Harmon Weatherly
NCIS Ducky Final Episode Cast Returns Harmon Weatherly

Farewell, Ducky: Which NCIS Vets Should Return?

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I mean, you can absolutely bring back Gibbs — especially if Mark Harmon knows about it. But then you’ll have to commit some dialogue/screen time to coaxing updates out of the team’s taciturn former leader.

Ditto Weatherly/Tony and de Pablo/Ziva, who have not shared a scene together in more than a decade (but presumably reunited off-screen after de Pablo’s most recent solo visit). An appearance by Tali’s father or both her parents will consume much storytelling oxygen, since fans of that primetime supercouple will want/need to know how their unconventional family unit is faring.

And if Ellie Bishop resurfaces after abruptly peace-ing out on NCIS — including Nick, her apparent boyfriend…? There will be those demanding some i’s be dotted and t’s get crossed on that front.

(Update: Some of y’all keep saying I “skipped” Abby/Pauley Perrette; she of course was covered here, and Abby would not be a hard character to bring back.)

What that all adds up to is, if you accommodate even two of the aforementioned returns, suddenly this Very Special Episode is a lot less about David McCallum and Ducky, and more about “Boss, what kind of fish are you catching in Alaska?” and “Sooo, might Tali get a little brother or sister anytime soon?”

Is that a trade-off you’re willing to make, all in the name of a well-attended trip down memory lane?

Or do you see some other option that brings back many of the above but successfully “cheats” us on proper catch-ups?

Me, I could be content with a Case of the Week that thoroughly vexes Dr. Palmer as he mourns a recently passed Dr. Mallard. But it’s flashbacks of wisdom imparted over the years, by Ducky, that helps Jimmy near single-handedly crack the case, ahead of a proper memorial for his mentor.

How do you think NCIS could best — but realistically — mark the passing of David McCallum?

Want scoop on NCIS, or for any other TV show ? Email InsideLine@tvline.com, and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line!

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