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David McCallum, cherished for his role as the eccentric chief medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard on “NCIS” since 2003, received an emotional send-off in Monday’s episode.

The Scottish star, known for the 1960s NBC series “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” who found renewed fame on the long-running CBS procedural, passed away on Sept. 25 at age 90.

The tribute for the last original “NCIS” cast member, delayed due to Hollywood strikes, was co-written by Brian Dietzen, who portrayed Ducky’s protégé Dr. Jimmy Palmer for two decades.

“We wanted to honor a life well-lived, 60 years in this business and 20 years on our show,” Dietzen told USA TODAY. “This allows fans to grieve with us. We’ve all experienced this loss.”

Dietzen, who spoke at McCallum’s January memorial service, has been in frequent contact with his wife of 56 years, Katherine Carpenter.

“Both his TV family and his real family are feeling pain and grief right now,” Dietzen said. “The small comfort we can take is David was 90 and lived his life to the fullest. He took advantage of every last breath.”

Here’s what to know about the “NCIS” episode titled “The Stories We Leave Behind” (now streaming on Paramount+):

### Ducky Solves One More ‘NCIS’ Case
Despite Ducky’s death in the episode, it was important for him to solve one last NCIS case.

“The best way to honor Ducky was to have him solve one last case with the team,” Dietzen said. “Even posthumously, he’s the one that cracks the case.”

Using Ducky’s detailed hidden notes, the NCIS team exonerates a veteran who was wrongly dishonorably discharged.

“It links to the themes of loss and what we leave behind when we pass away,” Dietzen said. “The stories we leave our loved ones are so important.”

### Jimmy Finds His Beloved Mentor Ducky
Last week’s Season 21 premiere set the stage for the episode as NCIS special agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) received a frantic call from Jimmy in the final moments.

The mystery of the phone call is resolved as the tribute begins, with Jimmy finding Ducky peacefully passed away in his bed.

“We wanted to allow our audience in on the grief of losing Ducky,” Dietzen said. “Acknowledging and honoring that grief is important in the process so you can move forward.”

Shooting the scene with an obscured extra playing Ducky, seen with a “DM” monogram on his pajama sleeve, was “a difficult scene to shoot,” Dietzen, 46, said.

“DM stands for Ducky Mallard and also for David McCallum, so there are parallels,” he said. “There are takes of that scene where I was just a wreck.”

### Michael Weatherly’s Anthony DiNozzo Reappears to Bid Ducky Farewell
A major surprise in the tribute episode is Michael Weatherly’s return as Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. Weatherly, who left “NCIS” in 2016, appears to support Jimmy and brings a Ducky-inspired bow tie just before Ducky’s memorial.

“We all realized that DiNozzo is the perfect character for this last scene,” Dietzen said. “Writing a Tony DiNozzo scene was an absolute treat.”

Weatherly, known for imitating McCallum’s accent and mannerisms, performs a spot-on Ducky impression while tying Jimmy’s tie.

“Michael said, ‘I went to boarding school, I’ll be fine. I can tie a bow tie.’ But we definitely practiced a few times. It turned out really well.”

Weatherly’s appearance is a one-off for the episode full of Ducky flashbacks. “It was a shoutout to the previous iterations of this ‘NCIS’ team as Michael too was an original cast member. But there are no plans for a return.”

Weatherly acknowledged the appearance with a post on X, formerly Twitter: “Being back on #NCIS was truly Amazing,” he wrote. “#Ducky would have loved all the smiles! Gotta go – there’s work to do!”

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