THE SERIES “NCIS”
WHEN | WHERE Season 15 finale Tuesday at 8 p.m. on CBS/2
Everybody's expendable, goes the old saw, but surely not everyone on “NCIS.” If Donald Mallard (David McCallum) were to go, there'd be a meltdown in NCIS Nation. If Mark Harmon's Gibbs left, there'd be no “NCIS.” In fact, other stars have left and the show has gone on, most notably DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) in 2016 and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) earlier that year.
Stars always come and go on series. Everyone is expendable. Yet Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) — yes, Abby — feels like the exception here, along with "Ducky" and Leroy Jethro.
In the closing seconds of last week's episode, “One Step Forward,” Abby and MI6 agent Clayton Reeves (Duane Henry) are confronted on the street by a mugger. When Abby offers to help him, he becomes infuriated and fires his gun — but at whom? It appears that Reeves stepped in front of Abby at the last second. Nevertheless, Tuesday's episode — “Two Steps Back” (CBS/2 at 8 p.m.) — will in fact be the final “NCIS” episode for Abby, and Perrette, after 352 of them. An episode promo offers a grim prognosis. (CBS did not make the episode available for review.)
Fans first met her back in 2003, on “NCIS' ” backdoor pilot, which aired during the eighth season of “JAG.” She instantly popped. “That middle picture there,” she said to DiNozzo, pointing out some gruesome piece of evidence with a bright smile. “That's an ice pick to a cerebellum!”
“You need to get out more,” her old pal advised. Abby never seemed to get out at all. Week after week, year after year, she was right there in the NCIS lab, finding some clue, making some brilliant deduction, offering some peerless insight that cracked the case open by the last commercial break. Abby must have had a private life well known to superfans. That life was never quite front and center on the show, possibly because it might have freaked out “NCIS' ” generally older, generally more conservative fan base. Can you imagine them following her late at night to Club Heaven and Hell or Little Miss Whiskey's Golden Dollar or some other hot goth club in the Beltway? Can you imagine how'd they recoil if they got the real story behind that spiderweb tat on her neck?
Instead, we got the safe Abby, the wonderful Abby, the genius Abby. “You're like an angel in platform shoes,” Reeves told her last week. We mostly got that Abby too.
Abby Sciuto was a careful visual construct too — with Perrette explaining on last week's “CBS Sunday Morning” send-off story that her hair is actually blond. This was especially important because the NCIS office was otherwise filled with man-boys who wore ties (sometimes) and joked around. They'd all blend together. Abby especially offset cool, gray Gibbs. She was the splash of color. He was the splash of no-nonsense.
Obviously Abby was the “kid sister” of this family constellation, but that detracts from her real contribution to this long-running drama. Perrette offered this succinct appraisal on “Sunday Morning”: She "made science cool and attainable for young women.”
TV can make a positive difference in this world, or it should. Abby Sciuto and Pauley Perrette can leave with an assurance that they actually did.