‘NCIS’ bids a sentimental farewell to the late David McCallum

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The following contains spoilers about the February 19 episode of “NCIS,” “The Stories We Leave Behind.”

“NCIS” paid tribute to longtime cast member David McCallum with a special tribute episode, incorporating the death of his character, medical examiner Donald “Ducky” Mallard, into the show.

Brian Dietzen, who plays Dr. Jimmy Palmer, co-wrote the episode, which featured Palmer showing up at Ducky’s house with coffee, only to discover him in bed, having died in his sleep.

The series and the rest of Hollywood were still in the throes of the actors strike when McCallum died in September at the age of 90, but Dietzen told Variety that the producers “knew immediately we wanted to do something to honor the person, but also, of course, the character within the universe.”

The episode sprinkled clips of McCallum throughout the hour, while the team still found time to solve a case with which Ducky had been involved: Helping the child of a late Marine seeking to posthumously clear her father’s name.

“Change is the essence of life,” Ducky tells Palmer in one of the clips.

Subtitled “The Stories We Leave Behind,” the episode closed with a cameo by former “NCIS” regular Michael Weatherly as Tony DiNozzo, who showed up to help “celebrate a great man.” A final card read, “In memory of our dear friend and colleague David McCallum.”

Due to the strike-related delay, “NCIS” began its 21st season on February 12, with CBS using the Super Bowl to promote the launch.

McCallum first came to TV stardom in the US with the spy series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” which premiered 60 years ago.

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