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NCIS fans in tears over glimpse at David McCallum's tribute episode in new season 21 trailer

The show returns to CBS on February 12


Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer and David McCallum as Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard on NCIS © CBS Photo Archive
Nicky Morris
TV and film writer
January 26, 2024
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NCIS has released a full-length trailer for the upcoming 21st season of the CBS show, revealing a glimpse at David McCallum's tribute episode. The actor, who played Dr. Donald 'Ducky' Mallard from the very first episode, passed away in September at the age of 90. 

Halfway through the trailer, Brian Dietzen's character, Dr Jimmy Palmer, is seen looking deeply upset as he peers over what could be Ducky's body. David's voice plays over the moving clip, saying: "Yesterday is over. Change is the essence of life."

WATCH: NCIS teases Ducky's goodbye in season 21 trailer

Fans were left in tears over the heartbreaking clip and took to social media with their reactions. "As soon as David/Ducky started talking my eyes watered. What a man, what a character! This season looks incredible! I know Brian's episode will be absolutely gutwrenching but beautiful," penned one person, while another added: "Made me sad hearing Ducky's voice. Miss him and David McCallum, who brilliantly portrayed him."

The tribute episode, which was co-written by Brian alongside executive producer Scott Williams, will air on February 19 and will see the team learn of Ducky's passing and reflect on their memories of him. Teasing the upcoming episode, co-showrunners and executive producers Steven D. Binder and David North told TV Line: "And true to Ducky's meticulous and compassionate nature, even after he’s gone, he still manages to solve one last crime with the team."

David McCallum as Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard in NCIS© CBS Photo Archive
David McCallum passed away in September 2023

The new trailer also reveals a glimpse at one major storyline revolving around Special Agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), who threatened to kill a mystery figure from his past in the season 20 finale. 

The ending moments of the trailer see Torres being escorted out of NCIS HQ by police. In a pre-recorded video, Torres tells his team: "If you're watching this, I've been arrested. I know you'll want to help me, but don't."

wilmer valderrama ncis© CBS
Agent Nick Torres is arrested in the season 21 trailer

Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) then asks what the charges are to which Alden Parker (Gary Cole) responds: "Murder", sparking concerned looks from other agents.

So what exactly happened with Torres at the end of season 20?

In the final episode of series 20, Torres went undercover in prison on a mission to get information out of incarcerated Yuri Valkov about the Russian spy plot and impending terrorist attack. 

Wilmer Valderrama and Gary Cole in NCIS © CBS
Wilmer Valderrama and Gary Cole star in the series

While in jail, Torres recognized a mystery character from his past – an older man seen visiting an 18-year-old inmate. After completing the mission, Torres headed to the man's house and pulled a gun on him, saying he wanted to watch him die. 

The episode ended on a major cliffhanger with viewers left in the dark over whether Torres actually killed the man. But judging from the new trailer, things aren't looking good.

NCIS season 21 premieres on CBS on February 12 at 9pm.

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