‘NCIS’: Brian Dietzen Promises the Finale Will Reveal ‘a Direction’ for Palmer & Knight

Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight and Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer in NCIS
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 19, Episode 20 “All or Nothing.”]

Will fighting for their lives bring Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and Special Agent Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) closer together, just as it seems a romance might not happen between them on NCIS? Well, chances are looking much better at the end of “All or Nothing” than they were at the beginning.

After that wedding date, things have been … stalled for the potential couple. Palmer even tries to ask Knight out for coffee in this episode, only for her to invite the others along. Then, while hiding in a cabin and digging a bullet out of him, she admits that she doesn’t want to risk their friendship. But after they survive being hunted in the woods, she asks him to get coffee.

Dietzen breaks down the episode and teases what’s coming up in the finale for Palmer and Knight.

This is not Jimmy’s season. The biotoxin, now this and getting shot…

Brian Dietzen: This guy’s walking around with a target on his back. I feel like Jimmy’s an avatar for all the people on the planet going through really tough times over the last couple of years.

Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer, and Elle Graper as Victoria Palmer in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

There may be some happiness with Knight. Is he feeling optimistic about their future at the end of the episode?

I’d like to think so. You know the history of NCIS, it’s filled with some tragic love stories that have been really beautiful and iconic, whether it’s Tony [Michael Weatherly] and Ziva [Cote de Pablo] or Bishop [Emily Wickersham] and Torres [Wilmer Valderrama], even Sloane [Maria Bello] and Gibbs [Mark Harmon]. There’s been a lot of things where things have happened relationship-wise on this show. It’s nice to see something where there’s some happiness. Jimmy did obviously previously experience happiness with his wife, Breena [Michelle Pierce], who unfortunately passed away, and McGee [Sean Murray] obviously is very happy with Delilah [Margo Harshman], but onscreen flirtations and that sort of thing haven’t always yielded the best results on this show over the past two decades, so it’s nice to have a little bit of hope there.

What happened at the wedding? Is it just that they’re getting closer?

Yeah, I think that basically they had a great time together. We saw in that episode that I co-wrote that Jimmy did say to himself and to his daughter and to his friends he’s ready to move on. He put the ring up on the shelf. This was his first taste of, “Oh, wow, there’s life beyond what I had. There’s life beyond that grief.” He experienced a great time with someone he obviously likes and they had a wonderful time.

Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight and Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Talk about building that relationship because their friendship jumped out from Katrina’s character joining the show.

Yeah, she was brought on as a prospective new series regular once we knew Emily Wickersham was gonna be leaving the show. When they have someone [who] may join the show full-time, you see some really great scenes that they give them, as a way of our producers, the network, you name it, saying, does this character and this actor gel with this group that we’ve come to know and love for a couple decades? We got a great three-page scene down in autopsy while she was talking about the loss of her REACT team, and Jimmy was having a heart-to-heart with her and saying that he’s been in her shoes before having lost someone that he loved as well. Right from the jump, these characters really hit it off well and Katrina and I hit it off well behind the camera as well. I really enjoy working with her. She’s a wonderful and very talented actor. I think that seeing that Jimmy and Knight worked well together, just talking and on an emotional level, the writers decided to push towards that and the network seemed to really like it.

What’s coming up for them in the finale?

It won’t be another six or seven episodes before they address this thing again. Sometimes we have a lot of stories to tell, so you can’t quite get back to like, what happened at that wedding? Did they connect, or did they not? They definitely will be addressing their time together in this episode. … We’re not leaving the audience high and dry on where the heck is this thing going? We’re gonna be choosing a direction before the end of this episode.

Brian Dietzen and Katrina Law on NCIS set

Robert Voets/CBS

Talk about filming Monday’s episode with Katrina. It’s not often we see you out of the office in this kind of situation.

Yeah, that’s true. It’s fun to have a little fish out of the water. It was a great time filming it. We had a wonderful director in Tawnia Mckiernan and our writing team was wonderful on it as well and very collaborative with both Katrina and I, so getting out there and spending a lot of time outside, it felt like we were shooting a little movie inside of an episode. There was plenty of stunts. We got our stunt team going and they taught us how to do just about everything out there. It was a great time. It was one of those ones where you go, I’m definitely not gonna forget that episode.

We also got Ducky in this episode and I loved seeing David [McCallum] back and that always great Palmer-Ducky dynamic. Will we see the two of them in the finale?

Yes. We don’t get to have Palmer and Ducky in tons of scenes together for the episode because they’re not working together so much anymore, but we do get to see them together in a scene that I think is just wonderful. It’s just always so great to have David come back and it’s wonderful to see how great that guy is at his job. I love working with him and it’s always a treat.

Brian Dietzen as Palmer, David McCallum as Ducky in NCIS

Monty Brinton/CBS

Speaking of the finale, Parker’s [Gary Cole] framed for murder, I assume by the Raven, given the episode title [“Birds of a Feather”]. What can you tease?

It’s definitely gonna be one where the whole team has to come together, and those obviously are our strongest episodes when no one’s left on the bench. Similarly to the penultimate episode that I’m talking about today, it’s all hands on deck once again and this time they have to stand up for a guy that is new to their team and figure out what they can do for this man who’s come in to lead them for this past year. It’s pretty great. Everyone has their moment in this finale.

How’s Jimmy feeling about the Raven being back, given what happened last time?

I would imagine he’s pretty pissed off. [Laughs] I know he is. That was a near death experience. That’s horrible. But to compound that with that was a near death experience and my daughter almost had to watch me die, I would imagine that not just for Jimmy, but also for the rest of his team, certainly Kasie [Diona Reasonover], this thing is gonna be much more personal for them because of what they were put through and how this NCIS team almost lost two members of its family.

You still have the team dealing with Gibbs leaving. I liked the way Jimmy and Gibbs’ relationship developed over the years.

Yeah, I thought that they did a wonderful job on that first episode after Gibbs left, [when] Jimmy invited Ducky down to spend some time with him to assist him on autopsies and about three quarters of the way through the episode, Jimmy just came out with and said, “I just want you to stay down here. I don’t want things changing anymore that they have. Between Bishop and Gibbs and my wife, too many things have changed. Can you please just stay?” And Ducky, of course, imparts pearls of wisdom of saying, “Everything changes. That’s a sign of life. That’s a sign that something is continuing to live is that it grows and it changes. And that the greatest act of love that we could show Gibbs is to give him our blessing in what he’s doing now.”

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Because of that, Jimmy probably has come to peace with Gibbs’ decision to leave, but that doesn’t mean that the guy’s not gonna miss him. He certainly has been so close with him over the years, and Gibbs has saved his bacon more than once. And NCIS, as we’ve always said, there’s such a family dynamic to it that can’t be denied. In that respect when a family member moves away and that sort of thing, that doesn’t mean they’re not a part of your life anymore. It just means they’re not a part of your day to day.

He’s alive. He can come back. Although it felt like we didn’t get that much closure for Palmer because we didn’t get a goodbye moment in his last episode.

I was bummed that I didn’t get that, but honestly I think that it was such a great episode that was written that you couldn’t stack goodbye scene on top of goodbye scene. Otherwise you really wouldn’t have any room to do anything else or to solve the crime that they were actually trying to solve as well. There was some wonderful goodbyes in there. I certainly selfishly would’ve liked Jimmy to have his own, but I understand the practical reasons why it couldn’t be done.

Will you be writing another episode next season?

Yeah, I will be. There was a good reaction to the episode this year and I enjoyed doing it and I asked once again and they said, “Sure, let’s do this thing.”

NCIS, Season 19 Finale, Monday, May 23, 9/8c, CBS