The much-talked about final four episodes are finally upon us, and for fans of CBS' kooky clan of Naval criminal investigators on NCIS, that means we get to see the backdoor episode to the planned spinoff featuring Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J.
Chris and LL show up in tonight's episode, "Legend Part 1," and in next Tuesday's "Legend Part 2." But contrary to published reports, the spinoff—which has yet to be picked up (wait for after the May 20 CBS Upfronts in New York for that)—is not titled NCIS: Legend, according to show runner Shane Brennan.
We caught up with Shane to give us the lowdown on what's in store for these explosive last episodes of the season and what the spinoff is all about...
Ziva's Wild Ride: "It's an emotional rollercoaster for Ziva [Officer Ziva David, played by Cote de Pablo], but it's also physical. It's the most physical she's been, and Cote does all her own stunts. It gets very intense, and Ziva's character is taken right to the edge emotionally in these last four episodes. She is in extreme jeopardy, and no one can help her. It's the nature of the work she does. Basically, Ziva's loyalties are tested, and she is forced to make some life-changing choices, both professionally and emotionally."
Tony's Tragic Tale: "[Michael Weatherly's Special Agent Tony DiNozzo] has his own set of problems in these last four episodes. Tragic things happen to Tony and Ziva together, and to them separately as well. It definitely does not end up OK for either Tony or Ziva."
Michael Rifkin's Return: "Michael Rifkin [Merik Tadros] was set up in the first episode this season in the Moroccan bar. He didn't utter a word. Then we revisited him twice with photos and phone calls. On [tonight's] episode, he arrives on the scene, and he definitely speaks. He's handsome, charming and dangerous. And he's also clearly someone Ziva really cares for."
Jaime Murray's Role: "She comes in the second-to-last episode of the year. She's a strikingly attractive woman, and she causes some jealousy, but not between the people you think. Let me say that Abby [Pauley Perrette] gets jealous in that episode."
Legend's Meaning: "Legend is a word coined by the East German secret police, the Stasi, and it means deep background. If you're going undercover, you need to have a legend, a backstory that holds up under scrutiny. The new show, which takes place in Los Angeles, takes a look at what it's like to be an undercover agent. That is, how it differs from NCIS. No one from NCIS is moving over to this new show. We'll announce the spinoff title when the show gets picked up."
Chris O'Donnell's Character: "Chris plays Special Agent Callen, who has worked undercover for CIA, FBI and DEA, and he's been fired by all of the agencies. He's very good at what he does, but he doesn't like to be told how to do his job. And he's found a home here because Louise Lombard [who plays Special Agent Lara Macy] understands his value and his worth, and she knows he can be a loose cannon, but is willing to work with him." (Fun fact: Callen speaks Russian.)
LL Cool J's Character: "LL plays Special Agent Sam Hanna, the only married member of the team. Sam is married with four kids and is a former Navy SEAL. He's very close with Callen; he's like his big brother, and he looks out for him and protects him. He's a wiser guy—an older guy with a different perspective on the world."
Louise Lombard's Character: "We set up straight away that there is tension between Louise's character, Lara Macy, and Special Agent Jethro Gibbs [Mark Harmon]. You will go, 'Oh my God' and you'll get goose bumps. There is an emotional connection between the two of them that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. We learn more about Gibbs through Macy. They go back 18 years. I'm not going to eliminate romance and not going to confirm romance. They could've worked together."
NCIS' May 19 Finale: "These four episodes are really four finales in a row. Everything is designed for the fifth episode in this arc, which is the first episode of next season. Over the summer, people are going to wring their hands and wonder what's going to happen. The first episode next season will be unexpected. People's expectations of what they see in the first 30 seconds will be stood on their head."
What do you think is going to happen to Tony and Ziva? How does the spinoff sound to you? Chat about it below and sneak a peek at the season finale in our Snapped on the Set: TV gallery.