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Featured TV on DVD Review: NCIS: Season Eleven

August 18th, 2014

NCIS: Season Eleven - Buy from Amazon

During Season Ten of NCIS, it rose to first place in the ratings. That's impressive for any show, but it is doubly so for a show that was a decade old. However, Season Eleven saw its ratings decline a little, falling back to third place. Is this a sign that the show is finally showing its age? Has the quality also dropped from last season?

The Show

As usual, season ten ended with a cliffhanger. Special Agent Gibbs was being hounded by a DOD investigator, Richard Parsons, played by Colin Hanks, who was convinced he was a dirty cop, or if not dirty, a rogue cop. It would be impossible to argue Gibbs doesn't, on occasion, go off book to solve a crime. In order to protect Gibbs, Gibbs was sent on a mission, thus putting him out of reach of the investigation. Meanwhile, the rest of Gibbs' team, DiNozzo, McGee, and Ziva, quit in protest over the investigation. What we quickly learn is that an Pakistani extremist has been doing business with Americans in order to stage terrorist attacks in the United States to drum up business for security, construction, etc. By the end of the episode, the team is back together, except for Ziva, who was in Israel and has gone deep off the grid. The character bits with Ziva were the best part of the first two episodes, while the mystery failed to click, because the surprise twist was too easy to guess. Worse still, and this is a major spoiler for the rest of the season, but one that is unavoidable to discuss in this review. Ziva David doesn't return to NCIS.

For the next few episodes, we have mostly stand-alone episodes. Under the Radar involves Special Agent Vera Strickland, who is there for two weeks to process out. She's retiring. Unfortunately, she is teams up with DiNozzo, who has a reputation for being a target for trouble. There is also a mystery involving a navy wannabe-pilot who might be planning something really big. In Anonymous Was a Woman, Special Agent Susan Grady is the potential Ziva replacement of the week. Susan Grady used to have a thing for McGee so this could be uncomfortable. The mystery involves the death of an illegal immigrant who is using the identity of a dead Navy officer. Delilah Fielding plays a prominent role in Once a Crook. She's not taking over for Ziva, but she's McGee's girlfriend and she and Abby don't get along too well. She's protective of McGee. CGIS Agent Abigail Borin returns in Oil & Water and she's a potential Ziva replacement. Better Angels has Agents Gibbs' father wanting to take his son to meet the pilot who saved his life in World War II, but they have trouble finding him. Alibi has Carrie Clark as the Ziva substitute for the week, but there's a twist. She's not an investigator coming in to help the case, she's the lawyer defending a suspect in a hit-and-run. The marine who is a suspected has an air-tight alibi, he was killing someone else at the time. Carrie Clark can't tell the team, because that would break client attorney privilege, so she has to point them in the right direction without actually saying anything. I can't say how she does so, because it is a spoiler, but it is well done.

Disc three starts with Gut Check, which is where things fall apart. Without Ziva, NCIS lacked the spark that it had for so many seasons. The first episode of disc three introduced Eleanor Bishop, who is the permanent replacement for Ziva. Eleanor Bishop doesn't mesh with the team. That's no insult to the actress, but the writers made her superwoman so she would be an asset to the team, but they turned her into a Mary Sue instead. The overall quality takes a huge hit as a result. There are still some interesting episodes worth talking about, on the other hand.

Devil's Triad involves a mystery... obviously. However, the real story is Senior FBI Agent Tobias Fornell is back with his ex-wife, Diane Sterling, and their daughter, Emily Fornell, turns to Gibbs to break them up. Kill Chain, Double Back, and Monsters and Men all deal with Benham Parsa, so spoilers. Dressed to Kill has the return of Robert Wagner as DiNozzo's father. Crescent City is a backdoor pilot for NCIS: New Orleans. Not looking forward to a full season of those bad accents. Delilah gets the focus in Page Not Found, which makes it one of the better episodes. It also features guest appearances from Olesya Rulin and Julia Cho who played Charlotte Lu in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Alleged deals with rape, which makes it topical, as the military is dealing with that issue.

Disc Six starts with Shooter, an episode that deals with a marine photographer who is supposed to testify in a court martial, but disappears. In The Admiral's Daughter, DiNozzo has to go to Paris to get the party girl daughter of a Navy Admiral, Amanda (Meg Chambers Steedle). However, when he gets there, it's a lot more complicated than that. The season ends with Honor Thy Father, which deals in part with the death of Gibb's father. It is a bittersweet episode, as it honors Ralph Waite, who died earlier this year.

Like I said, the show is weaker than it was last season as the changes to the personnel negatively affected the quality of the show. Perhaps the cast will gel more and / or the writers will get a handle on the new character next season.

The Extras

Extras start with audio commentary tracks on one episode on Disc One. Disc Three has a four-minute featurette on the 250th episode. Disc five has a 15-minute featurette on the new spin-off, NCIS: New Orleans. There is also an audio commentary track for the first part of the two-part backdoor pilot. Disc Six has the bulk of the extras, including an audio commentary track on one episode. There are seven featurettes, starting with a 24-minute long overview of the series. There is a five-minute long tribute to Ralph Waite. On the Record is a six-minute look at the recording of "Under the Sun" by Michael Weatherly. Finding Ellie Bishop is an eight-minute look at the creation and casting of the new character. In the Stills of the Night is a three-minute featurette on the crime scene photography used in the movie. Background Check is a four-minute featurette on the the background actors, which is a topic that is rarely addressed. The final featurette is about Senior FBI Agent Tobias Fornell and the actor who plays him, Joe Spano.

The Verdict

NCIS: Season Eleven is the weakest in the show for at least seven seasons. It is still a good show and I hope it will bounce back next season, but it is not a great show this season.

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Filed under: Video Review, Colin Hanks, Mark Harmon, Roma Maffia, Melinda McGraw, Pauley Perrette, Salli Richardson, Joe Spano, Robert Wagner, Ralph Waite, Michael Weatherly, Margo Harshman, Emily Wickersham, Olesya Rulin, Juliette Allen-Angelo, Sean Murray, Diane Neal, Cote de Pablo, Jackie Geary, Julia Cho