‘NCIS’ Boss on Parker’s Situation With the Raven and Palmer & Knight’s Relationship

Gary Cole as Special Agent Alden Parker in NCIS
Spoiler Alert
Sonja Flemming/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS Season 19 Finale “Birds of a Feather.”]

The Raven looms large over NCIS right now, and no, we’re not just talking about the latest “Nevermore” message left for the team in the Season 19 finale.

Alden Parker (Gary Cole), who came in as the team’s new leader following Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) departure, finds himself framed for the murder of his ex-partner as part of a case that also includes the kidnapping of his ex-wife, Vivian (Teri Polo)… or does it? By the end of “Birds of a Feather,” the FBI’s gunning for Parker, he’s going on the run with Vivian, and she’s texting “It’s done. I have him” in response to someone asking “How’s it going?” (We should note: The ex-partner, who was involved in Vivian’s “kidnapping” texted “It’s done. I have her” to the same question at the beginning of the episode.)

In happier news, Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and Jessica Knight (Katrina Law) decide not to “deny the good,” which is what they have. And after sharing their first kiss, they decide that what they have is “definitely worth disclosing” on their HR forms.

Executive producer Steven D. Binder teases what’s ahead with the Raven, the team without Parker, and Palmer and Knight.

The Vivian of it, what can you say about her involvement? Is she the Raven? Is she working for the Raven?

Steven D. Binder: That’s the big mystery, right? I don’t know that there’s much I can say about it, except that we want to traverse some new territory with Parker having an ex-wife. As you may remember, Gibbs had a lot of ex-wives and on one level, someone Parker’s age has either never been married, is still married, widowed, or divorced. We did not want to give him a current wife for lots of reasons. So that left him as a divorcee or a widower and widower’s a little dark and Jimmy Palmer’s in that space. So we went for an ex-wife; since we had a character who we played a multitude of ex-wives, we wanted to take this one in a slightly different direction. I think your question sort of goes into that territory a little bit.

Teri Polo as Vivian Kolchak in NCIS

Robert Voets/CBS

Is there anything you can rule out about her involvement with the Raven case?

We can’t rule anything out mostly because we haven’t convened the writers room yet for Season 20, but everything’s on the table, for sure.

Does Parker suspect at all? Because I was looking very closely at his expression and trying to figure that out.

He certainly did not play it as he suspected anything. And I don’t know how much we can read into that. I think the answer to that question on the flip side will tell us more about Parker.

What did you want to do with the Raven in general versus past multi-episode villains?

I think one of the things we want to do with this character is make them more multidimensional than we have with some other of our bad guys that have crossed episode lines. A lot of times they’ve just been the generic Big Bad. This guy we want to, at some point, know him a little better and be surprised by him and also maybe relate to him in some way.

Katrina Law, Gary Cole, Sean Murray, Wilmer Valderrama in NCIS

Robert Voets/CBS

Is there anything you can tease about what’s next with the Raven case?

Yeah. Surprise. I think the Raven’s gonna be surprising. I think she’s gonna really throw you for a loop when you find out what what’s going on with them.

With Parker away for now, is McGee (Sean Murray) going to be in charge? He didn’t want the job, but this would presumably be temporary.

Yeah. He’s always stepped up in those situations. He doesn’t want to permanently 52 weeks-a-year be the guy, but when he needs to be the guy, he’ll be the guy.

What did you want to do with Parker as the new boss and the team with him as the new boss after Gibbs’ exit and how might that change next season? Because you did a really good job of building up to that family moment in the finale.

He’s the new guy and we’ve had some episodes where he’s commented “I’m the new guy” and it’s “the team,” and by the end of the episode, it’s “my team.” This was sort of the flip side of that coin, which is where the team realizes that he’s their guy. He’s not just a boss, he’s their boss. I think next season, we want to see Parker step into more of a leadership, patriarchal role that one might expect in a show like this. This first season was really “getting to know you,” them getting to know him and Parker getting to know the team. Now he’s going to feel more comfortable being in charge and we’re going to see him wield that power a little more forcefully.

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He hasn’t had to do that. He hasn’t really had to step in and be like, “I’m the boss.”

No, he hasn’t had to do that. And although it’s subtle, even though McGee didn’t want the job in the past — [saying we] got the body, giving the orders, directing people — you may have noticed that’s been a little spread out with the teammates. Parker’s not the guy directly ordering people around and taking the horse by the reins. We’re going to give him the reins a little more.

Moving on to a nice surprise, Palmer and Knight! Talk about putting them together and doing so relatively quickly compared to past NCIS couples.

That stems from in the past, a lot of the couplings have happened over time a lot more organically than this one is occurring. Tony [Michael Weatherly] and Ziva [Cote de Pablo] were not a thing for a really long time and then they were a thing. Torres [Wilmer Valderrama] and Bishop [Emily Wickersham], again, were not a thing for a really long time and then they were a thing. This time, we just want to go a different route and this route can go anywhere. By getting together sooner, they can break up sooner and then we can be in that space or they can be together. We just didn’t want to slow walk the part that we’ve slow walked before because that enables us to get to places that we haven’t done before.

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

Michael Yarish/CBS

Nothing’s really happened on screen until half the pair leaves a few times. Even in Season 1, McGee and Abby [Pauley Perrette] were mostly off screen, but now this is something we would see on screen.

Yeah, everyone’s saying “I love you” as the other person’s leaving. That really isn’t much of an onscreen [relationship], that’s not really a romance at all, is it? It’s the, “oh gosh, we could have had a romance.” So we want to actually follow this journey a little more.

NCIS, Season 20, TBA, CBS