‘NCIS’ season finale featured a huge surprise guest star

‘NCIS’ season finale featured a huge surprise guest star

‘NCIS’ season finale featured a huge surprise guest star

Bet you didn’t see that coming.

In the season finale of “NCIS,” the show welcomed back Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), a character who hadn’t been seen on the show since her 2013 departure.

Ziva’s guest appearance came at the end of an episode in which Gibbs (Mark Harmon) helped Fornell (Joe Spano) crack a case involving his daughter, who was struggling with opioid addiction.

Throughout the episode, Gibbs is haunted by the ghost of his ex-wife Diane. So in the final minutes of the finale, when he hears noise while in his beloved basement, he expects to see her once again. Instead, it’s Ziva who descends down the stairs.

Cote de Pablo, seen here in a 2013 episode of "NCIS," made a big return to the show in the season finale.

“Hello, Gibbs,” she says. “No time for pleasantries. You’re in danger.”

He is speechless.

“Well, aren’t you going to say something?” she asks.

“Ziver,” he replies, a reference to his nickname for her.

“NCIS” producers confirmed Tuesday night that de Pablo will guest star in the season 17 premiere of “NCIS” in the fall.

Though Ziva was last seen on the show six years ago, her legacy has loomed large over it.

When agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), Ziva’s love interest, left the series in 2016, it was because his character learned that he had fathered a daughter with Ziva, who died in a mortar attack while living overseas. It was mentioned at the time that Ziva’s body was never found, leading loyal viewers to speculate she was alive.

Then earlier this year, “NCIS” fanned the flames of that theory with an episode in which Bishop (Emily Wickersham) worked a case that had ties to Ziva. At the end of that episode, a note was left for her that read, “Eleanor Bishop, for the safety of my family, please keep my secret.”

The producers of “NCIS” worked hard to keep their season finale secret.

According to CBS, the scene involving Ziva’s return was never included in any script or call sheet, which are distributed to crew members.

Only “NCIS” showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder had copies of the scene pages.

In addition, de Pablo’s scene was filmed at midnight with a skeleton screw after the regular crew had been wrapped for more than an hour, the network said. Her arrival to the stages where “NCIS” films was also coordinated for ultimate secrecy, with her arriving via a back entrance.

“This surprise moment is just the beginning,” Cardea and Binder said in a joint statement.

“NCIS” will return in the fall, which is great because we’re willing to bet viewers have questions for her.

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Tencent Video delays Game of Thrones finale in China

Tencent Video delays Game of Thrones finale in China

Tencent Video delays Game of Thrones finale in China

Tencent, the Chinese internet juggernaut whose video platform owns the streaming rights to the HBO series in the country, shocked viewers Monday morning when it announced a delay in posting the American show’s eagerly anticipated finale “due to a media transmission problem.”

The brief statement didn’t give a new air date, and the company declined to provide further detail. HBO, which like CNN is owned by WarnerMedia, said in a statement that it “had no issue with content delivery.”

“You would have to get further clarification from Tencent,” HBO added.

Like “Thrones” enthusiasts elsewhere, Chinese fans religiously follow each episode and discuss plot twists in real time on social media. On Monday, their frustration and dismay abounded online, with many wondering aloud the connection between the escalating trade war and the missing last episode.

“What’s next — cutting off internet connections between China and the US?” wrote one user on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Many users also slammed Tencent (TCEHY) for the delay, demanding the company refund their subscription fees.

“Shame, shame, shame,” some users posted a famous line from the show — along with bell emojis — on Weibo.

A Song of Coffee and Water: 'Game of Thrones' leaves plastic bottle in shot during finale
The yearlong trade war between China and the United States has escalated in recent weeks, with President Donald Trump raising tariffs on Chinese goods worth $200 billion earlier this month. China has retaliated with plans for higher tariffs on about $60 billion worth of US products.

The sudden rise in tensions has led to an apparent rise in anti-US propaganda in Chinese state media.

One harshly worded editorial in the ruling Communist Party’s mouthpiece last week called for a “people’s war” against the United States, prompting analysts to predict the trade war’s fallout spilling over into other areas — including entertainment.

On Sunday, a new Chinese TV drama series largely shot in the United States with American cast members appeared to become the first high-profile victim of new battle lines drawn by Beijing authorities.

State media reported that TV stations and streaming platforms in China abruptly canceled the premiere of “Over the Sea I Come to You,” which centers on a Chinese father sending his only child to study in America. Other Chinese productions with US links are said to be facing similar issues.

Rural America feels the sting of Trump's China trade war

The movie channel of state-run broadcaster CCTV has recently scrapped scheduled programming in favor of so-called “red classics” set during the Korean War, featuring the resounding defeat of American invaders at the hands of heroic Chinese soldiers.

“We are using the art form of film to echo the current time,” the channel wrote on its official Weibo page.

The Chinese government has targeted the entertainment industry in the past when relations with another country deteriorated. A little over two years ago, China imposed an unofficial ban on wildly popular South Korean shows and artists when Beijing was infuriated by Seoul’s decision to deploy an advanced US missile defense system, which the Chinese government insisted was a threat to its national security.

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‘Game of Thrones’ finale recap: Ashes to ashes

‘Game of Thrones’ finale recap: Ashes to ashes

‘Game of Thrones’ finale recap: Ashes to ashes

After broiling the entire city of King’s Landing, Daenerys is in her element. She’s glowing, she’s thriving, she’s wearing sexy leather dictator clothes and giving troubling speeches in front of the burnt-out shell of the Red Keep. Gone is the wide-eyed innocent who stood timidly outside of Illyrio Mopatis’ house in Pentos all those years ago. This woman is a QUEEN.

Actually, Jon is not as freaked out as he should be. Tyrion, who is thrown in jail by Dany for freeing Jaime, tries to get it through Jon’s curly, mopey head: Dany is bad now! She roasted hundreds of thousands of people! “Fire and Blood” always did have kind of a fascist ring to it, but she’s really grinding it into the ground.

Jon has many strengths, but he’s never been the sharpest sword in the forge, and it takes an infuriatingly long time for him to break out of his “But she’s the queen” logic loop. By the time he finally picks up what Tyrion is putting down, they both look like they’ve grown another inch of scraggly beard hair.

Meanwhile, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms and all that jazz enters the throne room and fulfills eight seasons of prophecy, vision and mission by finally. touching. the. pointy. chair!

Not even the arrival of a very despondent Jon Snow can dim her moment in the blotted-out sun. (You know you’re a really sad dude when you suck the life out of a room that is literally crumbling and covered in ash.) Dany tries to convince him that actually genocide is good and the only perspective that matters on what’s good is hers and, hey, the people of King’s Landing were kind of jerks anyway.

For one queasy, moment, it appears as if everything will work out. They embrace. They kiss. Jon stabs her in the chest with a dagger and she dies.

YES, JON STABS HER IN THE CHEST WITH A DAGGER AND SHE DIES.

Daggers really are the MVP of major character kills, aren’t they? Daenerys and the Night King are going to have a lot to reflect upon in the afterlife: “I had dragons. You had scores of zombie dead people to do your bidding. And THIS is how we went out?”

If you thought you were upset at Dany’s oddly anticlimactic ending, you have nothing on Drogon, who goes nuts and immediately sets his mother’s killer alight. Just kidding! He completely wastes the Iron Throne. Did he realize, somewhere in his tiny dragon brain, that the ultimate reason for Daenerys’ downfall was her unwavering obsession with the Iron Throne and the power it represented, and thus the fault of her death lies not with Jon Snow, but with her own hubris and the object that fed it? Probably not, but it’s nice to imagine dragons having a sense of poetic justice.

Grief-stricken and thoroughly done with humanity, Drogon scoops up Daenerys’ dead body and flies off with her like she’s the baton in a relay race. That’s it. There’s no more dragon. There’s no more war. But there’s still 50 minutes worth of story left to tell. The “Game of Thrones” is dead. Welcome to the “Game of Sensible, Neatly Arranged Chairs.”

After Daenerys’ death, the Unsullied lock Jon up with Tyrion and everyone wanders around regent-less while the remaining heads of the great houses teleport to the Dragon Pit for a grand council. Look! It’s Robin Arryn, back from his journey to Pubertyos. And Edmure Tully! Huh. We thought that guy would be dead by now.

What follows is a scene with all of the tension and drama of a briskly-run board meeting. Everyone agrees Westeros needs a ruler, but how will they choose one? No, not via a democracy, SAM. How about a speech by Tyrion — technically still a prisoner, by the way — that convinces everyone that Bran is the most interesting and worthy candidate to rule the Seven Kingdoms?

Sansa, knowing her worth, opts out of the mess and reinstates the North as a separate kingdom with King Bran’s blessing. Six Kingdoms it is. Given Bran’s longstanding political apathy, it’s still six kingdoms more than he wanted to rule anyway. In that same spirit of reluctant obligation, Bran picks Tyrion to be his Hand of the King. You know, as punishment for um, all the other times he was Hand and was terrible at it.

Oh, what happens to Jon? He has to go back to the Night’s Watch, which is still around for some reason. Why? Because Grey Worm and Daenerys’ remaining forces demand justice for her death and honey, they’ve been to the North. In their eyes they’re basically sending him back to hell.

And so, the Starks go their separate, variably satisfying ways. Sansa becomes Queen in the North. Arya sets sail on the S.S. Spinoff to find what’s west of Westeros. Jon reunites with Tormund, returns to the land beyond the wall and finally PETS GHOST! Truly, the closure we needed.

Meanwhile, as dawn rises on the reign of Bran the Broken, we are treated to a triumphant shot of Tyrion arranging chairs for 30 solid seconds. He’s very nervous for the first small council meeting of this new era, and you would be too if Bronn was your Master of Coin. Brienne’s there too, as Head of the Kingsguard, along with a freshly-knighted Ser Podrick.

Sam must have taken some online courses at Citadel.edu, because he checks into the meeting as the new Grand Maester. He presents Tyrion with a book about the War of the Five Kings called “A Song of Ice and Fire,” then looks directly into the camera and tap-dances out of frame. Get it? That’s the name of the books! Maybe the real thrones were the friends we made along the way!

As our group of heroes sets about the task of bringing the continent back from the edge of ruin and we leave the Starks, the Lannisters and the world of Westeros forever, the last singular spoken words of this legendary series will ring in our hearts forever:

“I once brought a jackass and a honeycomb into a brothel.”

Play us off, Ramin!

Burning questions

Grey Worm and the Unsullied were fresh off an impulsive murderous rampage and they didn’t immediately kill Jon after he murdered Daenerys? What, were they tired?

How did Tyrion find Jaime and Cersei in what should have been a whole catacombs’ worth of rubble? That’s just statistically improbable.

Is it still ashing? Or is it snowing, too?

RE: Dragon Pit meeting, who are all of those people?! Is that a dude from Dorne? Who’s that sitting by Davos? Don’t think we didn’t notice that, in the final minutes of the final episode of a sprawling, multi-arc epic fantasy series, the show managed to put together a scene with several characters we’ve literally never seen before.

Why are Bran and Tyrion holding their small council meeting in what looks like the remains of the Red Keep? That area is structurally unsound! The Master of Building Codes will not be happy.

There are innumerable other burning questions we have that will never be answered, like :

Why did it matter that Jon was a Targaryen if he ended up back where he started, with no name or hope for a lineage? Why was there so much pregnancy foreshadowing last season? Why is it so important that Jon and the Wildlings are returning to the land beyond the wall? Is Bran just going to keep a third eye on Drogon, live cam-style, for the rest of his life?

Why does Bran need a Master of Whispers if he knows everything? Why is Bran accepting recognition and titles related to his given name when he has repeatedly said he’s “not Bran anymore?” The crown was deeply in debt to the Bank of Braavos, when and how are they going to collect that debt? Is it still winter in Kings Landing? Why didn’t Dany get any last words? What happened to the Dothraki? What happened to the other Red Priestesses? What IS West of Westeros? Where is Hot Pie?!

Best line

“There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story.” — Tyrion Lannister

(We’ll ignore the fact the Tyrion was talking about Bran and not, say, Arya “Wore people’s faces, completed international tour of murderous vengeance and killed immortal ice being” Stark or Sansa “Escaped royal hostage situation, fed abusive husband to his own dogs and outsmarted Littlefinger” Stark or half a dozen other more interesting people at that meeting.)

Most satisfying endings

– The Unsullied going to Naath to protect its people in Missandei’s memory

– Ser Pod!

– Drogon not dying, so there will still be an element of Targaryen magic in the skies.

– Jon petting Ghost

– Brienne getting some closure about Jaime in the Kingsguard Burn Book (where she will someday have her own page)

– Sansa’s bannermen shouting “Queen in the North!” because that’s what she deserves and when it comes to games and thrones, she’s the real winner.

Death count

1 Daenerys Targaryen +

1 uncomfortable chair =

_____

1 death. But, you know, it’s a pretty important one.

Stray observations

That shot of Daenerys coming out to greet her armies with Drogon’s wings spreading out behind her just spawned a million Instagram photo shoots.

Speaking of, there were a lot of Unsullied and Dothraki hanging around, despite catastrophic losses in Winterfell. Do they re-spawn? Or grow back their limbs, like starfish?

The final episode is titled “The Iron Throne,” but one of the possible titles was “A Time for Wolves.” That is a pretty fitting way to think of it, since the Starks now control or have a commanding presence in every space that’s important to Westeros: The crown, the kingdom in the North, the land beyond the wall and the sea beyond Westeros. That’s a dynasty, right there.

And yet…the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Perhaps they’ll always be a pack in spirit.

One bold prediction

“Game of Thrones” is going to become like “Star Wars,” whether you like it or not

There are already several prequel series in the works. George R.R. Martin still has two more huge books to publish. There’s clearly a whole world to explore and millions of questions to answer. If you’re not ready to let go of this franchise, fear not: There will be plenty more opportunities to run it into the ground. What’s dead may never die.

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‘Game of Thrones’ series finale review: The HBO drama’s last episode flies high (SPOILERS)

‘Game of Thrones’ series finale review: The HBO drama’s last episode flies high (SPOILERS)

‘Game of Thrones’ series finale review: The HBO drama’s last episode flies high (SPOILERS)

After eight seasons, 73 episodes and a much-debated flurry of plot developments, that signature first-season line proved the key to unraveling the “Game of Thrones” finale, which, after a season that was at various times exhilarating, exhausting and aggravating, came as something of a relief.

Given the passions ignited (somewhat literally, given all that dragon fire) by the penultimate chapter, the finale couldn’t possibly please everyone. While there was validity in many of the criticisms, a degree of silliness crept into the discussion, starting with those who actually signed a petition petulantly demanding some kind of cosmic do-over.

In the final analysis, the first half of the last episode — both written and directed by showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss — was strong, logical and satisfying. Overall, it wasn’t a one-for-the-ages finale, held up against the best examples of them and the abundant hype, but it wasn’t an unworthy one either.

Inevitably, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) was forced to choose between love and morality, realizing that the warlike tendencies of his queen and lover, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), wouldn’t be slaked by her demolition of Kings Landing.

Yet the key moment came prior to that, when Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, superb as always) first grieved over his fallen brother, then led Jon through a recitation of Daenerys’ ruthlessness. It was, albeit belatedly, a reminder of all the terrible — or at least merciless — things she had done, which made her vengeful destruction of the city less out of character than a demonstration of her quest to win the Iron Throne.

Love, ultimately, took a back seat to that pursuit, but it wouldn’t come without sacrifice. Jon could stop her, but not without not only killing the woman he loved, but putting his own life — and birthright claim to the throne — at considerable risk.

Peter Dinklage in 'Game of Thrones'

At that point, with the Iron Throne rather poetically reduced to a molten heap, the finale shifted into another gear, one that featured some superb moments and callbacks but felt less impressive.

In perhaps the most amusing flourish, the process of selecting a new leader saw someone propose trying democracy, a suggestion that was roundly laughed off by the nobles in attendance. It felt like an inadvertent rejoinder to some of the show’s critics — a reminder that a mythical fantasy world where a woman rides dragons can’t readily be held to modern-day conventions.

Still, the selection of Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) to lead the kingdom seemed appropriate, with Tyrion citing his inability to father heirs as an advantage, noting — as the show has amply demonstrated — that “the sons of kings can be cruel and stupid.” That’s as close to a meritocracy as Westeros will ever get.

Similarly, the producers offered hopeful endings for the other Starks, with Sansa (Sophie Turner) maintaining her region’s independence, and Arya (Maisie Williams) and Jon both riding into futures that at least carried possibilities.

Anything much more definitive than that probably would have felt forced, although this wasn’t the sort of closure that provided a genuine sense the story’s over. (Of course, that would leave George R.R. Martin room to write more books, assuming he ever gets around to that task.)

This final season has obviously been divisive, and a good deal of the criticism — especially of the penultimate episode — was justified. For some, Daenerys’ turn was irredeemable, seized upon as an example of the show’s shortcomings particularly in regard to its female characters.

Flaws and all, “Game of Thrones” rewrote the rules for a TV epic, providing a brilliantly cast serialized storyline, produced with a scope and scale that rivaled theatrical blockbusters.

It’s too bad that the show couldn’t completely stick the landing. But when you fly that high, a few wobbles are perhaps inevitable.

HBO and CNN share parent company WarnerMedia.

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