NCIS Recap: A Kiss Before Goodbye-ing -- What Grade Do You Give Cote de Pablo's Exit?

NCIS Ziva Last EpisodeIn the end, NCIS‘ Ziva David walked away from her badge not for fear of her future but to put her past behind her.

As Cote de Pablo‘s eight-year run came to an end this Tuesday night, it was revealed that at the start of the four-month time jump, Michael Weatherly‘s DiNozzo had made tracks for Israel to find his disappeared friend. There, he was met by both Mossad director Orli Elbaz (who’s probably not happy about Gibbs’ Captain Kirk ignorance) and Adam Eshel, both of whom assured the visitor they were on the same mission.

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How much Ziva’s welfare weighed on Tony’s mind was very evident through the first half-hour, first as he imagined her seated on the airplane next to him, then when Tony “saw” a young Ziva outside her childhood apartment. Across the hall, Tony and Adam chat up Dr. Deena Bashan, a childhood pal of Ziva’s, and she claims the women haven’t seen each other.

But soon enough, as Tony and Director Elbaz scrutinize security cam footage, they discover that Ziva and Deena had reunited, the day Ziva last texted Tony. Confronted with her whopper, Deena reveals that she was to be engaged to Ari Haswari, when Ziva killed her half-brother. Had any other NCIS agent come knocking, she may have played ball. NCIS Ziva Last Episode“But why should Ziva have the man she loves?”

Armed by Elbaz with the Mossad’s files on Ziva (as well as her Star of David necklace), Tony begins a months-long search that proves fruitless — or so he allows Gibba to believe, until it’s revealed that Ziva was at his side during that check-in with D.C. When Tony urges Ziva to come home, she roars, “You cannot beat down my door one moment and expect me to face my old life the next! You should not have come.”

Tony returns Ziva’s necklace to her, then observes, “You were looking back” as she went into hiding, visiting the place her mother was killed, her grandparents’ grave and ultimately the house where she was born. Ziva then relates her side of the guilt-ridden run-in with Dr. Bashan, saying, “How can I not think that for every man I killed there is someone out there crying? She was right, the center of all this pain is me. This is what I made myself.”

Tony brings out the “I WILL” list that Ziva made as a little girl and thought she had left buried: “The universeNCIS Ziva Last Episode is begging you to wipe the slate clean, and there’s plenty of room on the back of the list to start a new one. Maybe I can help you with that?”

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Later, Ziva buries an updated “I WILL” list by the olive trees, at which point Tony makes one final appeal: “You don’t have to do this alone…. Just come home. With me. I know you want to change; I can change with you.” With a kiss of her hand, he adds: “I’m fighting for you, Ziva.”

As the hour closes, we find ourselves at a small airport, at night — very Casablanca-like, as Weatherly tweeted some time ago — with Tony set to head back home. Alone. “What will I tell people?” “That you were right,” Ziva answers. “That I have to start over.” She says to tell Abby that she is doing this to make Gibbs proud (words she’ll appreciate). And if she doesn’t stand her ground, “I will be pulled back to where I started.” Tony invites her to call Gibbs personally, Past, Present, and Futurereminding that on the phone, “He’s a functional mute. A good listener.”

Before parting ways, Ziva starts, “Tony, you are so….” “Handsome? Funny?” Loved. They share a long, warm kiss, after which Tony walks away, shaking his head: “This is not easy… The hardest 180 of my life.” Tears stream down Ziva’s cheeks, and then a smile acknowledging a bittersweet affection, as Tony waves goodbye from the plane — where he starts his own “I WILL” list. And before the screen fades to black, we see Gibbs taking a call from the agent he visibly hates to lose.

Elsewhere in the episode, it is revealed — following a nifty bit of misdirection by way of a self-triggered explosion — that businessman/anti-terrorism advocate Tomás Mendez in fact is playing for the other, kill-happy side. And he’s about to take out another VIP when Gibbs — from the perch we saw him at in the Season 10 finale — shoots the cell phone trigger and Mendez… and apparently Fornell’s bum. But big bad Benham Parsa is still out there, Gibbs notes, “and he’s not alone.”