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"You killed my Ducky!"
That's what a woman said to me shortly after the season 9 finale aired in May. I assured her there was never an absolute indication Ducky had actually died from that massive heart attack. Of course, David McCallum did play the moment brilliantly in the pounding surf. Nonetheless, we never intended for him to truly pass. The goal was to somehow bring Ducky closer to the very lost souls he's been speaking to on the autopsy table since NCIS premiered over two hundred episodes ago. Stand by for a really touching story arc for Ducky in the weeks to come. Several days after the finale, David called me ecstatic over the response he was getting. "People on the street think Dr. Mallard is deceased," he chuckled. "This is going to be fun. I am going to have the most glorious summer." David was literally giddy and I was happy to help.
BOOM! That was a big explosion in May. Enough to knock McGee to his feet. Enough to leave Tony and Ziva stranded alone in an elevator for hours after the blast. Enough to shake things up, literally, emotionally and figuratively. Like every season opener, this episode had to wrap up one story and launch several others. Ziva's father, Eli, called to check on her. McGee talked about his dad, the Admiral. And don't forget Gibbs measuring his basement as he prepared to begin building something new. Each is a thread you'll see again as the coming season progresses. But the primary target of "Extreme Prejudice" was Harper Dearing, masterfully played by Richard Schiff in an understated, incredible performance. He hurt Gibbs' family and now he had to pay. For the actual take-down scene at the end, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to show Dearing's resolve that it was time for him to die. He knew Gibbs would figure out where to find him. It was the hunter and the hunted facing off. And, somehow, Gibbs says so much by barely saying anything at all. In that last moment before Dearing is killed, Gibbs only says the the word "no". One word. Thank you, Mark Harmon, for starting the season off on a magnificent note.
The performances of the rest of the cast are equally terrific - Michael, Cote, Sean, Pauley, Rocky, David and our new series regular Brian. How fortunate am I to have such a gifted cast. I want to thank Tony Wharmby for his wonderfully insightful direction of this opener. And Greg Gontz for editing the heck out of it.
Most of all, I want to thank the greatest fans in the universe for sticking with us these 10 seasons! We do this for you. I have to warn you, there will be some unexpected surprises this year. You're in for an emotional roller coaster. Strap in and enjoy the ride. The writers and producers are as excited about this season as we've ever been. And it's my privilege to be a part of it.