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'NCIS' Ends With a Death

(Wednesday, May 18 03:17 PM)

By Kate O'Hare

LOS ANGELES ( The producers of ABC's "Lost" recently followed through with a threat to kill one of the major characters (and they may kill another), and now CBS' "NCIS" looks to be following suit. Although "NCIS" will be back next season, the cast may look a bit different after the second-season finale, airing Tuesday, May 24.

"Twilight" features the return of terrorist/double-agent Ari (Rudolf Martin), who previously appeared in the episodes "Bete Noire" and "Reveille," the first-season finale, which ended with Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) shooting Ari, but apparently not killing him.

Now Ari has come back and has Gibbs in his sights. According to series creator Don Bellisario ("JAG," "Quantum Leap"), by the end of the episode, a member of the NCIS team goes down, but he's not saying which one.


"I can't really comment on it," Bellisario says in an interview conducted on May 11, the day after the last original episode aired. "Somebody's going to go. That's the thing. The ending is going to be rather shocking.

"I haven't even let the network see the end of the show. They know what's going on, but I don't want it to get out. So we have shot two endings of the show."

Like many producers, Bellisario fears his secret will leak onto the Internet.

"Every time we put a script out," he says, "the minute it gets to the network and to Paramount Studios, it is online. So someone at our companies, at Paramount or the network, is feeding the information online. God help them if they're ever caught, because their asses will be fired."

Unlike "Lost," which had 14 principal characters, "NCIS" has a small core group. Under Gibbs are Special Agents Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) and Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), probationary agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), and forensics specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette).

Assisting Gibbs' team is medical examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum). He's had a couple of assistants, the most recent being Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen).

In "SWAK," the last new episode, which aired Tuesday, May 10, Tony was exposed to a potentially deadly virus, leaving him with only a 50/50 chance to live. He survived until the end of the episode, but ...

"Tony almost went last night," Bellisario says. "He came very close to going, and he may go next week as a result of that."

"Tony's still sick," Harmon says, also in a May 11 interview. "This is not over. What happened last night continues into episode 23, the finale. They're lined up, these two shows. You've got to listen to all the clues, and there are a lot of clues. I'm being honest with you. All principal characters are, in one way or another, potential. That's how Don set it up."

This situation is not new for acting veteran Harmon. "I joked about it last month. People were asking me about this, and I said, 'We're all personally hoping it's us, because we're all so tired, we're hoping we're going to get killed.'

"It was something that happened to me on 'St. Elsewhere.' Everybody thinks I wanted to leave that show. I didn't want to leave that show. Basically I said to them, 'Look, if I'm going to be walking down a hospital corridor saying hello to doctors, for seven years, knock yourselves out. Go ahead and put this character on his ear. Do what you want to do.'

"When I joined that cast, there were 14 principals. When I left, there were six. It's about invigorating the writers at the same time as you invigorate the cast. It's healthy for a cast to think that they might be expendable. I think it's good for the fan base, too."

Bellisario says he came up with this idea back in March, after returning from a trip to Australia.

"Nobody knew who was going," he says. "I didn't give them the last pages until we shot it. That's when they were informed. It had nothing to do with lack of performance or malfeasance at all. That's the furthest thing from it. Everybody on that show is very passionate about the show, and everybody works very hard.

"You'll be surprised who's going down. You may be wanting to kill me when this is all over."

© 2005 Tribune Media Services, Inc.