I didn’t watch NCIS the first two seasons. I was a die-hard CSI fan at the time and feared NCIS would be too much like CSI.
Then one night I caught the last 15 minutes of the last episode of season two. I saw this woman take not one, but two bullets for Mark Harmon (Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs).
Sure, what woman wouldn’t take a bullet for Mark Harmon?
Except for this woman, the second bullet was fatal.
I started watching because I had to know why this woman would take a bullet for this guy.
I purchased the first two seasons on DVD to catch up.
And fell in love with the characters.
Woefully, that last episode I caught the last 15 minutes of was Caitlin Todd’s (Sasha Alexander) Swan Song.
I love the show and have followed it since season three. But through the years I’ve noticed a distinct pattern: This show is not kind to its female characters.
First, there was Caitlin Todd. I’ve always lamented the loss of that character. She had spunk and was portrayed wonderfully by Sasha Alexander. But to this day Alexander will not discuss leaving the series. Yes, she was pregnant at the time, but that did not mean it was necessary to kill off her character.
Then there was Paula Cassidy (Jessica Steen). She appeared in six episodes between 2003 and 2007. Her character was killed off in 2007 in “Grace Period.” She was a source of consternation for both DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Gibbs (Mark Harmon) for different reasons. Since her character was not as prominent as that of Caitlin Todd no one has thought to ask Steen about her stint on NCIS.
And then there was Director Shepard (Lauren Holly) taking over at the beginning of season three when Director Tom Morrow (Alan Dale) left the show. His character wasn’t killed off – he just transferred to Homeland Security. Shepard was the first female Director of NCIS. At least fictionally. I don’t believe the real thing has ever had a female Director.
Director Jenny Shepard managed to stay with them for three years until her character was killed off at the end of season five in “Judgment Day Part II.”
In season six yet another female character gets zapped. Agent Lee gets herself entangled in espionage for the sake of her daughter. Of course, she gets killed in the process.
I almost stopped watching from the sheer frustration of seeing all those female characters getting bumped off.
Of course, the audience doesn’t know any details about the leaving of any of these actresses and we probably never will. But the decision to kill each of the characters was more than likely up to the writing/production staff.
But there is still Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen), Ducky (David McCallum) and Abby (Pauley Perrette) – the only surviving veteran female character on the show.
Speaking of Ducky, let’s not forget the passing of his mother. In this case, the actress Nina Foch actually did pass away, so that was something the show had little choice about. I take issue, however, with the way it was handled. Or rather, not handled.
Normally, when an actor on a series dies, regardless of how little she or he appeared, that person’s passing is acknowledged at the end of an episode. Usually something like “In memory of Nina Foch, 1924-2008” flashes up on the screen.
There was no such acknowledgement for Nina Foch at the end of the episode which reveals that Ducky’s mother has passed away. And that is where it should have been.
Nina was a Hollywood veteran with a long and illustrious film and television career. She appeared in many “B” films of the forties and fifties and taught at USC School of Cinematic Arts. A little acknowledgement was the least NCIS could have done.
True, she did appear in very few episodes but she was a very important part of Ducky’s life. Even when she wasn’t there, she was mentioned. Those of us who recall those episodes in which Nina Foch appeared may remember fondly her portrayal of Ducky’s dimentia-suffering elderly mother. She added humor to the drama.
Which is another thing which has slowly diminished in the series throughout the years: a touch of humor amidst the human tragedy. DiNozzo’s movie references have been drastically cut back, something I found funny as well as endearing.
I suppose it may have gotten old for them and it is supposed to be a sign of Tony’s growth. But I, for one, miss it.
In all fairness, there was one male agent who was killed in a most hideous manner. Special Agent Christopher Pacci (Tim Kelleher) in a season one episode “Dead Man Talking” was disemboweled by a transvestite searching for a camera chip Pacci had swallowed. Pacci was in very few episodes (only three that first season) and later appeared in a two flashbacks in 2011 and 2012. He was a very very minor character.
In comparison, it is a very poor comparison.
Then, of course, there was Mike Franks, Gibbs’s mentor who was killed just last season. He still makes appearances on occasion when Gibbs “talks” to him.
But now, Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is leaving NCIS. CBS executives have offered her more money to stay but de Pablo is determined to leave. I’m sure she has her reasons but, much like her predecessors, she’s keeping them to herself.
But it leads one to wonder: how are they getting rid of Ziva David? Will she transfer? Return to Israel? Get married? Turn up pregnant?
Will everything be left open so she can reprise her role on occasion?
Or will the ties be completely severed as NCIS, yet again, kills off another of its female comrades-in-arms?
I will watch to see what happens. I will wait to see who steps in to try and fill the intrepid shoes of Caitlin Todd, Paula Cassidy and Ziva David.
I doubt I will watch much longer.
This blatant display of misogyny is killing me.