Gary Glasberg on Shocking ‘NCIS’ Deaths: We Wanted to Shake Things Up

"NCIS" stars Cote de Pablo, Rocky Carroll, and Mark Harmon (Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS)

NCIS” took a bold action on its return from its holiday hiatus and launched 2013 with a two-part episode that was literally a killer and saw the deaths of Ziva’s (Cote de Pablo) father Eli David (Michael Nouri), head of Mossad, and Jackie Vance (Paula Newsome), the loving wife of “NCIS” Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll), at the hand of an assassin.

As confirmation that sometimes it pays to take a risk, this week “NCIS” delivered 22.86 million viewers — ranking it as the 2012-13 season’s No. 1 entertainment broadcast.

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“I don’t think people saw them coming,” Executive Producer Gary Glasberg tells in an exclusive interview. “To do a story like that at a time of year other than at the beginning or end of the season was a little unusual, but I wanted to jump start things a little bit and get people going and I think it worked.”

As the head of Israel’s Mossad, Eli’s life was constantly in jeopardy as he had accrued many enemies while securing the safety of his country, but Jackie’s death was sadly collateral damage. She was a stay-at-home mom with two kids, who will definitely feel the effects of her death.

“One of the things I wanted to touch upon was when people do what our team does for a living as NCIS agents, it is easy to forget that there are civilian casualties that go along with it,” Glasberg says.

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But in addition to making that point, Jackie’s death gives the 10-year-old series a chance to explore new territory and new storylines now that Vance is a widower.

“Rocky Carroll and I have been talking about this shift for a long time and how that would affect his character, where we could go after, how it affects his home life and his children and how that affects work,” Glasberg adds.

It will, of course, also be a very trying time for Ziva. She had a love/hate relationship with her father, but at the end of the day — as is true with a lot of people and their families — she loved him. Her grief is compounded by the fact that Ziva has a very complex family history, including the loss of her sister and having had to kill her half-brother Ari. And now, her father was betrayed — shot to death — by a man who was like an adopted son to him.

“It certainly raises the point of who she can trust and who she holds close,” Glasberg says. “She has her NCIS family and it impacts her relationship with Gibbs [Mark Harmon] and with Tony [Michael Weatherly]. Tony really stepped up in this last episode and that will continue to happen. The complexity and fun of the Ziva/Tony relationship will continue.”

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While Vance takes some time off to grieve and try to come to terms with the fact that it was his invitation to Eli to have dinner at his home that lead to his wife’s death, Greg Germann, who has been introduced as the Deputy Director, is taking over the running of “NCIS” and his way is definitely different than any of his predecessors. But not to worry, Vance will be back.

“I don’t want people to think Greg coming in is replacing Vance in any way,” Glasberg makes clear. “That is not the case. This is true in the real world of NCIS as well. This is a very close-knit organization and people really do have their backs. I wanted to touch on that as well.”

“NCIS” is one series that doesn’t hesitate to kill off a major cast member as was proven when Kate (Sasha Alexander) was killed by Ziva’s brother Ari in the Season 2 finale. But these days with shows like “The Walking Dead” killing off cast members willy-nilly, it is to be wondered if it has upped the ante for other shows to follow suit, hence these two additional “NCIS” deaths.

“I don’t think about it that way,” Glasberg says. “I am a big ‘Walking Dead’ fan, too. I look at as an opportunity to keep story and momentum going. I am a big fan of rattling the cage and shaking things up periodically. I like to surprise viewers and I like to have things happen that you wouldn’t expect. For me, that it is what it is about.”

“NCIS” airs Tuesday nights at 8/7c on CBS.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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