As it was nearing the end of production for its seventeenth season on CBS, NCIS was set to deliver quite the momentous milestone hour of TV, with the all-too-rare Episode 400 likely planned to serve as the season's antepenultimate installment. Unfortunately, the sometimes grisly crime drama had to call it quits along with the rest of the entertainment world, so fans won't get to see the historic moment that NCIS was planning to deliver. But hey, at least co-showrunner Frank Cardea gave an early hint of what's to come.
Speaking ahead of Episode 20, which will now be serving as Season 17's official finale, Frank Cardea shared a big detail about what fans would have seen (and will presumably still see if and when the installment gets filmed later in the year). Here's what he told TVLine:
[Co-showrunner Steven D. Binder wrote] a very interesting script about how Gibbs and Ducky met. . . . We had special things planned for it, CBS was throwing a big party for us… But it will happen.
Sounds like NCIS was getting set to take a trip to bygone eras in order to give fans an origin story to the long-held friendship between Mark Harmon's Leroy Gibbs and David McCallum's Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. Their relationship predated the NCIS characters' introductions whenever the project was spun off from JAG back in 2003, so it'll be interesting to see exactly where and how things kicked off between the two.
I sincerely hope Nintendo's Duck Hunt would be a timely reference so that it can get included. As well, it would rock if Gibbs was indeed right about Ducky looking like The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Illya Kuryakin as a younger man, as untimely a reference as that might be in 2020.
To make it clear, it was more or less confirmed that the plan is still on to bring Episode 400 into the next batch in the fall, even though CBS still has yet to officially order up Season 18 for NCIS. But it's a no-brainer that the network will bring the beloved show and most of its high-viewership dramas back in the fall and beyond, so there's very little to worry about there.
Frank Cardea said that sets were built and a lot of other prep work was done for Episode 399, which was two days away from filming when the network temporarily pulled the plug on projects. And here's what he had to say about the milestone ep's future.
400 was set to shoot next, and we will probably still shoot it as 400 and air as 400.
Losing that celebratory episode for Season 17 was a pretty rotten deal by any stretch, considering this was the season that brought Cote de Pablo's Ziva David back into the team members' lives. (For more than just the Season 16 finale tease, I mean.) It's certainly possible that the creative team would have found a way to work de Pablo into Episode 400, or even whatever the original finale plans were. Here's hoping we'll see some of that, along with whatever other highlights Frank Cardea and Steve D. Binder want to throw into the mix, in the presumably imminent Season 18.
Though David McCallum decided to slow things down a few years ago on the acting front, his Ducky Mallard is still regularly a part of Team NCIS. So one can only wonder what will happen between him and Gibbs in the present day that inspires a look back at their initial meeting. Here's hoping that Season 18 renewal is coming soon.
NCIS will air the finale to the truncated Season 17 on CBS on Tuesday, April 14, at 8:00 p.m.