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Writing the season opener for the ninth year of a series is understandably challenging. We have close to 200 episodes under our collective belt. Should the opening episode be a Gibbs, Tony, Ziva or McGee-centric storyline? There were so many threads to tie up and so many new ideas to launch. What's going to happen between Ray and Ziva? Will we ever see EJ again? And WHO IS IN THAT PHOTOGRAPH?
After we wrapped season eight, I understandably needed a few days off. "I'm not going to think about it," I said poolside at a Las Vegas hotel. I was trying to relax. This was supposed to be my vacation. I went into the casino to play some slots. "For Pete's sake, Glasberg, don't worry about the story for the season nine opener now. Give your mind a rest." But I couldn't. The only way I could truly relax was to know what would happen next. So I ordered a pot of room service coffee, pulled a yellow legal pad from my briefcase and started scribbling. Cade is the one in the picture, but he didn't do it. The audience needs to think EJ is the one in the photo, but she isn't the traitor either. Yes, she took the microchip from Levin, but what if she did it for well-intentioned reasons? What if the whole thing was a set-up? Could I start the show in September and flash back to the entire summer showing Tony on his assignment? AND WHAT IF HE COULDN'T REMEMBER ANY OF IT?
I slumped over in my chair and stared out the window at the lights of the Vegas strip. "Wow. You really are tired," I laughed to myself. And then I realized, why not bring Dr. Rachel Cranston back? She could help Tony remember what he'd done. She and Gibbs could help him put the pieces together. And so NATURE OF THE BEAST started to take shape.
I knew, at the end of the day, Tony, EJ and Cade needed to all be innocent pawns in someone else's larger plan. And that's how Stratton and Latham (Scott Wolf and Phil Casnoff) were born. New villains for an exciting new season. Of course, they'll go away for a while and then resurface. That's the NCIS way. But it felt right. It felt appropriate. And with the help a brilliant cast and the best damn crew I could ever hope for, the episode took shape. Tony Wharmby directed it perfectly finding nuance and intricacy in every scene. Greg Gontz edited it with the precision and care of a surgeon. And Michael Weatherly....well, he came out of the gate like a thoroughbred. A brilliant performance that gets better with each viewing. Add an equally amazing performance from Mark Harmon, and clever, heartfelt moments from Cote, Sean, Pauley, Rocky, Matt, David and Brian and BANG - I became the luckiest showrunner in television. Toss in a dash of Wendy Makkena's dry, magical wit and you've got something undeniably unique.
We have A LOT of fun stuff planned for season nine. Stories you've been waiting for. Stories you won't see coming. Stories that will teach you things about our characters and stories that will just plain make you laugh or keep you on the edge of your seat. Cap that all off with the 200th episode of NCIS, a VERY special event in late January, and I can assure you I haven't been this excited about a season of TV in a long time. So keep watching. Enjoy. And I want to personally thank each and every one of you for being the best fans a television show could ever have.