You’ve now had a chance to watch NCIS season 17 episode 20, and it’s fair to call “The Arizona” one of the most emotional installments in quite some time. It told a story about honoring World War II veterans through the lens of Joe Smith (Christopher Lloyd), a Pearl Harbor survivor desperate to be interred alongside many of those who lost their lives so many years ago. It took much of the episode for his identity to be verified, but Gibbs (Mark Harmon) fought hard for him — especially after a powerful scene where Joe explained what it was like being there on that day.
In the end, Joe passed away, but enough proof was gathered so that he could be laid to rest and honored among so many others. This was a story about never forgetting, and remembering that the sacrifice of these brave individuals matters so many years later.
For some more video thoughts on this NCIS episode, be sure to watch our discussion below. Remember to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube so you don’t miss our weekly NCIS videos and also view our series playlist.
In part 2 of our interview with executive producer Frank Cardea and co-executive producer/episode writer Gina Luctia Monreal, we go through the big moments of this episode — plus also look towards the future including the 400th episode and if more story is possible featuring Ziva (Cote de Pablo). Remember that you can read part 1 of this interview here.
One of the two moments that really stuck with us from this episode was seeing that discussion between Gibbs and Joe, where Joe is recounting all of his experiences the day of the attack. What was it like putting that together?
Gina Lucita Monreal – That was one I wrote and re-wrote about twenty times. When I wrote the first draft, it was probably two and a half pages long, which is very long for a show like ours. I knew I was going to have to pull some things out and move some things around. What I really tried to do was take those accounts that I had read, and just pull the most emotional and human parts that I could see. Many of these men were talking about the smell, the sound, and that visceral feeling. If I could put that into the words, our viewers may be able to feel what it was like to be there.
Christopher Lloyd had such a beautiful performance in getting that across, and Mark’s presence and listening in that scene is one of the most beautiful parts of the show. The way that he’s hearing Joe is how we hope we’re all hearing our vets. We hope those stories are resonating and we see that on Gibbs’ face.
The other moment that really stands out to me is when Gibbs decides to confide in McGee about his own experiences. What made him the right person for that conversation?
Monreal – To me, McGee was the perfect choice. They have such a father/son relationship. McGee came on as a probie, and I believe that was your character Frank…
Cardea – I created him! 17 years ago.
Monreal – We’ve seen such a growth for the McGee character, and Gibbs was there every step of the way. You can see the pride in Gibbs’ eyes as McGee accomplishes something new, which he has been doing these past few seasons. To see them come together in that way was such a father/son moment that feels earned with all of the seasons they’ve been together.
Before we conclude this, let’s give a little bit of love to all of the NCIS crew, who all worked under very unusual circumstances to get post-production on this episode done. It finished right before filming was forced to shut down due to the health crisis and everyone was committed to bringing this story to life.
I know there were certainly many more episodes planned for this season before filming shutdown. Are you looking at using those ideas and bringing them forward into the next season?
Frank – This was our 20th of 24 planned episode. There are four more episodes — three of them are completely written, and the other one is along the way. They will be shot. Episode 22 was going to be our 400th episode. It’s going to be shot now as episode 2 [of a potential season 18]. Episode 21 was a day away from starting production — the sets were built and the stages were locked. It’s like a time capsule up there. When we get back, that will logically be the one we shoot first.
But, we do have a lot of flexibility this fall because of a lot of lead time. The one that is shot first won’t necessarily be the one that airs first. 400 will probably still air as 400.
So a lot of the plans that you had for the 400th episode will go unchanged?
Cardea – Oh yeah. The 400th is about how Ducky and Gibbs met almost 20 years ago. It’s going to be a great episode. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to shoot it as it was written.
Gina, since I have you on the call, I know how involved you were in the Ziva arc from the ‘She’ episode onward. How do you feel about that whole experience looking back?
Monreal – It was such a joy to have Cote back. For me, I’m a fan of the show too, and there were a lot of unanswered questions with the Ziva departure. It was really fulfilling to be able to answer some of those questions and see her interact with our new team member and give a little bit more closure to the story.
Cardea – It was a great experience, and I think it was a great experience for Cote too. I would love to see that explored more in the future, and find out where she and Tony are.
Monreal – There’s always more story to tell.
I know there are a lot of people out there who love the various potential relationships on the show, whether it be Gibbs/Sloane or Bishop/Torres. Are you hoping for opportunities to play around with those more?
Cardea – Absolutely. I think the audience loves it and we love writing it. We will play with those things — I think ‘play’ is the operative word.
What did you think about this NCIS episode, and was it a fitting end to the season for you?
Be sure to let us know right now in the comments! Meanwhile, be sure to also stick around in the event you are interested in some more news pertaining to the franchise. (Photo: CBS.)