NCIS Honors David McCallum: Ducky’s Top 11 Episodes Celebrated in a Touching Tribute

NCIS honors David McCallum, well known for his role as Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, who died at the age of 90 in September 2023. Season 21 recognizes both his character and the actor’s work. Brian Dietzen, who plays Dr. Jimmy Palmer, co-wrote the February 19 episode, which commemorates McCallum by spotlighting Ducky’s greatest moments. The memorial seeks to strike a mix between sadness and celebration, focusing on the actor’s significant contributions to the show.

In “Bête Noire” (Season 1 Episode 16), rogue Mossad officer Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin) infiltrates autopsy by hiding in a body bag, taking Ducky and his assistant Gerald (Pancho Demmings) hostage. Despite the tense situation, Ducky maintains control and adapts to the circumstances until help arrives. This episode introduces Ari, who later deals a devastating blow to the team by k1lling Kate (Sasha Alexander).

“Meat Puzzle” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Sure, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of this episode is the body parts in barrels and Ducky and Palmer putting them together, but we also enjoy returning home with Ducky, especially because it means seeing his mother (Nina Foch) and her corgis.

“Broken Bird” (Season 6 Episode 13) – In a rare glimpse into Ducky’s emotional history, a woman accuses him of k1lling his brother at a cr1me scene, triggering a journey into his past. Serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, Ducky volunteered in a refugee camp where he encountered a man named Mr. Pain. Ducky cared for Mr. Pain’s torture victims, including the woman’s brother. It’s revealed that Mr. Pain had been torturing Ducky, using the woman’s brother to break him. Facing Mr. Pain years later, the truth emerges: Ducky ended the suffering of the woman’s brother to spare him from a slow, agonizing death at Mr. Pain’s hands.”

In “Phoenix” (Season 10 Episode 3), despite recovering from a heart att4ck, Ducky refuses to stay idle. He uncovers discrepancies in an old autopsy, leading him to take charge of a case per Gibbs’ Rule 38. Highlights include a heart-to-heart between Gibbs and Ducky in Gibbs’ basement, and Ducky’s unique interrogation technique using the suspect’s vital signs, accompanied by a touch of singing.

“Detour” (Season 10, Episode 16)
Ducky and Palmer’s return to NCIS with a body is anything but routine, as they are kidnapped and forced to perform an autopsy at a cabin in the woods. Despite being pursued into the woods by the crew, they successfully escape.

In “So It Goes” (Season 12, Episode 3), Adam Campbell debuts as a young Ducky, uncovering the death of his old friend Angus. The episode delves into Ducky’s past and reunites him with a lost love, shedding light on a past falling out.

In Season 13 Episode 11, “Spinning Wheel,” a surprise twist reveals Ducky’s previously unknown younger brother, Nicholas. Their heartbreaking tale involves separation in childhood, Ducky believing Nicholas dead, only to reunite later in life. Despite Nicholas living in a nursing home with early onset Alzheimer’s, the reunion brings a bittersweet resolution, showcasing McCallum’s acting prowess.

In Season 14 Episode 10 of “The Tie That Binds,” a discovery of Ducky’s old address on a victim leads to flashbacks of his younger self catching his mother hiding a man in a closet. Ducky reflects on the decision to send the man, who ran cons, away, questioning whether it deprived his mother of love. Eventually, he learns his mother did find romance in her later years.

In Episode 400, titled “Everything Starts Somewhere” (Season 18 Episode 2), the CBS procedural explores the origin of Gibbs and Ducky’s relationship. The episode intertwines a case from their past with a current one, showcasing the evolution of their bond from its inception to the present day.

Ducky has limited screen presence in “Kompromat” & “Black Sky” (Season 20, Episodes 21 and 22), but his video contributions are critical to the case. During a lecture tour in Scotland, he provides insights, including a smart reference to “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” As McGee points out, Ducky remains unrivaled, to which Ducky meekly says, “I do what I can.” His one-of-a-kind knowledge comes in handy yet again.

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  1. He will always be my favorite on NCIS. Did I miss the airing of those episodes? Didn’t see when they would air. Glad to have the DVD’s of the series anyway.

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