It's no mystery at this point that NCIS had not planned for the now-final Season 17 episode to be the official finale, with lockdown-related delays causing the CBS drama (and many more) to end prematurely. While it's perhaps not the most ideal situation, the NCIS co-showrunners are making the best of it, since the episode now set as the finale is such an important installment, and a pretty unusual one at that.
With the beloved Hollywood icon Christopher Lloyd guest-starring as a supposed Pearl Harbor-surviving soldier, NCIS is eschewing its usual narrative path and expected crime drama standards. Here's how showrunner Frank Cardea put it to TVLine:
After 17 years on the air, it's pretty awesome that a show like NCIS can still find stories to tell that haven't been tackled a million times already, while also bucking its own conventions in the process. Granted, NCIS fans might not be as plentiful on a yearly basis if the show just featured Gibbs & Co. starting a Meals on Wheels knockoff and visiting nursing homes, but it will hopefully be just fine to have the team trading corpses for...Christopher Lloyd.
Even getting Christopher Lloyd involved with the story was an unusual occurrence for NCIS, in that he was the ideal actor for the part in Frank Cardea's mind. In his words:
Christopher Lloyd will be joining NCIS as the simply named Joe Smith, a bitter 95-year-old who aims to be interred at Pearl Harbor when he dies, with claims that he was serving on the battleship Arizona during the time of the infamous attack on December 7, 1941. However, a quick search finds no one named Joe Smith was serving on the Arizona at the time, so it's up to the team to figure out if Joe is lying about his past, or if there's something else at play. (Which presumably doesn't involve lots of mysterious killers.)
The importance of getting this story out was big for Frank Cardea and others in the cast and crew, with the idea of crafting a Pearl Harbor episode floating around NCIS' writers room for years. Time is definitely of the essence, however, since there are so few survivors left to pay respect to. Just as the episode was coming together in February, one of the three survivors (Don Stratton) passed away.
Frank Cardea told TV Insider what almost happened with the episode, and sounds optimistic about the episode being viewed as a proper season finale. In his words:
Speaking of NCIS' 400th episode, which will now be a part of the yet-to-be-ordered Season 18, the co-showrunner dropped a very interesting detail about it recently that should make it one worth fans' wait. Hopefully so, since it'll be a longer one, given we're only in April.
With a presumed jump in the nightly ratings, given this is the last episode of the season, NCIS will air its finale on Tuesday, April 14, at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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