But first, a SPOILER ALERT, because this preview simply cannot avoid revealing who all survived the explosion — not that the well-reported re-signing of several cast members over the summer left anything up in the air.
“That’s just the nature of the business,” showrunner Gary Glasberg shrugs when asked about Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, Pauley Perrette and David McCallum each making headlines by inking new deals, effectively affirming their characters’ mortality. “All I can do creatively is tell the best stories I can tell and make it work.”
And one story Glasberg has on tap has been years in the percolating — and it may be time for it to boil over. As previously reported, Agents Tony DiNozzo and Ziva David, who have always managed to keep each other at arm’s length, will inch ever closer together, starting during their isolation in an elevator after the explosion, and then beyond.
“They’ve been through extraordinary circumstances together, so it doesn’t necessarily require the explosion,” Weatherly says of the catalyst for the new closeness. “There’s a real, plain-spoken, straight read between them, so they don’t have to jump through hoops. When she watches Tony does his stuff or he watches her hide behind that barricade of an Israeli assassin princess mentality, they both clock it, they know it and they can move around each other. It’s a great relationship.”
A relationship that’s on track to blossom. “This is the year. Trust me,” Weatherly tells us. “This is the year.”
Glasberg says he pulled the trigger on the new trajectory for “Tiva” after he and his team watched Weatherly and costar Cote de Pablo work through the season premiere’s elevator scenes. “The consensus was to do that more of that this season, to peel back some layers and find little moments — and [ever since then] we’re finding opportunities I think the Tony and Ziva fans will really enjoy.”
For a procedural entering its 10th season, the time may be right to travel down that road. Besides, doesn’t Glasberg kind of owe “Tiva” fans that much? “I do, don’t I?” he responds with a wink. “And believe me, we think about that – about where we are in the arc of the series. It’s time, so let’s see what we can do.”
For Gibbs and the entirety of his “family,” however, the reverberations of Harper Dearing’s attack on their back yard promise to be sobering.
The Season 10 premiere picks up two hours after Vance’s car was bombed, and despite all those spoilery contract re-signings, the aftermath “is more significant than I think a lot of people thought it was going to be,” Glasberg promises. “There are casualties, there are injuries…. It really rocks their world and it will emotionally carry over the trauma of it throughout the season.”
For Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon), “This is his family, and nobody messes with the family,” Glasberg reminds, “so this becomes very personal between him and Harper Dearing (Richard Schiff). A line was crossed by bringing that bomb onto the Navy yard, and Gibbs will deal with things in his own way.”
Others at NCIS will deal with the aftermath partly with the help of a crisis counselor (Crossing Jordan‘s Steve Valentine) who shows up next week. Abby, for one, will suffer nightmares after the ordeal, so “Gibbs sort of helps her reach out to her brother in helping her get through that.”
Ducky, meanwhile, “has to take a mandatory step backwards” after his heart attack scare “and figure out what his role is going to be” moving forward. That in turn tees up an “eye-opening experience for Palmer (newly promoted series regular Brian Dietzen), who really has to step up his game,” says Glasberg. “I’m very pleased with the way that [story] is unfolding.”
As for McGee, the premiere plants a seed for the possible introduction of the character’s elusive father. “It won’t happen until the later part of the season, but I think were going to get into a little more of the McGee family,” Glasberg teases. “Sean [Murray]’s always game to tackle whatever we throw at him, so yeah, we’ll scratch a little deeper, absolutely.”
Fans of TV’s most watched drama series can also expect the “extended NCIS family” to be sprinkled throughout Season 10, including Ralph Waite (in an episode introducing Leroy Jethro’s namesake, played by Star Wars‘ Billy Dee Williams), Robert Wagner (expected to return as Anthony DiNozzo Sr. for a Christmas episode) and Michael Nouri (likely reprising his role as Eli David early in the new year).