How ‘NCIS’ Premiere Just Set Up Ducky Tribute Episode

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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS Season 21 premiere “Algún Día.”]

It looks like NCIS is giving us ample time to prepare for the tribute episode for the late David McCallum and his character, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, with the premiere ending with the set-up for it.

After the episode focuses on Nick Torres’ (Wilmer Valderrama) situation and how the man he wanted to watch die after the hell he put himself and his family through when he was a kid ended up dead—TV Insider now has an aftershow, NCIS: Case Closed, which will delve into all of that (with Valderrama this week), up after the West Coast airing—it ends with a call stopping the team just as they’re about to head out to a crime scene.

“Woah, woah, woah, slow down,” Alden Parker (Gary Cole) tells Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). Then, “Oh my god.” The rest of the team can only hear Parker’s side of the conversation. “What’s going on?” Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) asks. “Of course, we’ll be right there,” Parker says before hanging up. “What is it?” McGee asks. The episode ends with Parker clearly bracing himself to deliver bad news to the team, which has to be that Palmer found Ducky dead, as has been shown in one of the pre-season promos.

McCallum last appeared onscreen in the last two episodes of Season 20, videoing in from a stop on his 35-city lecture tour in Scotland to help the team with the case. Following McCallum’s death in September 2023, it was revealed that the CBS drama would be paying tribute to him in its 21st season. In the second episode, “The Stories We Leave Behind,” airing February 19, as NCIS mourns the loss of Ducky, the agents find comfort in working on one of his unfinished cases involving a woman whose father was dishonorably discharged from the Marines. The episode was co-written by Dietzen, whose Palmer was introduced as Ducky’s assistant in Season 1.

“The case was important to Dr. Mallard. In [investigating it], they’re going to relive their memories of a coworker and a man who meant so very much to them,” co-showrunner David J. North told us. As a result, the team asks, “What would Ducky do?” He added, “Brian shed tears writing it; the cast and crew shed tears shooting it.”

If we’re already bracing ourselves, as the team must be at the end of the Season 21 premiere, something tells us everyone will be shedding tears watching it, too.

NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS

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