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NCIS changed the game in some big ways in the final episodes of Season 15 thanks to the departure of Abby and the tragic death of Clayton. The show will head into its sixteenth season without two characters who had been pivotal in many different arcs over the years, and the show will undoubtedly look quite different in the next season as it progresses. Now, the NCIS bosses have spoken out about how the show will move on after the losses of Abby and Clayton. Showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven Binder shared this:
We're going back to that core group of four people. There are other characters. There's Jimmy [Brian Dietzen] in autopsy, Diona Reasonover will be in the lab, Ducky [David McCallum] is around, Vance is upstairs, and so is Sloane, but we will rely more on that core group of people who live together in the squad room.
Instead of focusing on the relatively large group of significant characters on the series -- including newcomer Diona Reasonover, who is stepping in for Abby -- in Season 16, NCIS is going to focus on the core group of agents. Gibbs, McGee, Bishop, and Torres will be at the center of the action. That's not to say characters like Jimmy, Ducky, and Vance (once his fate from the big Season 15 cliffhanger is resolved) won't be around, but the focus will be on the four primary agents, much as it was back in the early days of NCIS.
Although that explains how NCIS business will carry on in Season 16, it doesn't quite clarify how the characters will personally respond to the loss of Abby and Clayton. One member of the cast has revealed a little bit of how the characters will struggle without Abby. The bigger question may be how the rest of the team will carry on without Clayton. Obviously he wasn't as major a character as Abby, who was on board from the very beginning of the series (and even before, thanks to the backdoor pilot on JAG), but the door is open for Abby to return. Clayton was killed defending Abby, so he won't be able to come back.
Frank Cardea addressed the question of how the characters will deal with the loss of Clayton in Season 16, saying this:
In the first couple of episodes, we certainly deal with the Clayton loss. It's brought up a couple of times and how our characters are adjusting to it.
Now, despite how heavy NCIS can get what will all the murder and crime and occasional mayhem, it's not a series constantly filled with doom and gloom. NCIS always finds a way to provide some humor, and the death of a major character runs the risk of casting a gloom over the entire series for at least a while. Well, as it turns out, viewers don't need to worry that the death of Clayton and the characters' adjustment to it means the complete absence of lightness.
Yes, Steven Binder went on in the interview with Parade.com to explain how NCIS will find some humor despite the darkness at the end of Season 15:
The glib answer that I always give when people ask me those questions is that's the rub. That's the climb and that's the skill. That's always been the show: How do we marry these dead bodies in their worst possible position with humor? My answer to that is that's life. I always reference Terms of Endearment when they're discussing the cancer and then someone does a spit take and it's one of the funniest moments in the script. If you can do a spit take during someone revealing they have cancer, you can do anything and that's how we do it. We look for truth and truth is often funny.
Tune in to CBS on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET to catch new episodes of NCIS. The new season promises to send a couple of characters behind bars, and romance is brewing for another pair. For other important premiere dates (including the other two series in the NCIS franchise), swing by our fall TV premiere guide.