Poor, poor Ducky. The NCIS medical examiner had the suave Brit moves, the charisma and the intellectual heft to date really smart and beautiful women.
But he made a really poor romantic choice during a 2011 episode called “Thirst.”
NCIS writers decided to give Dr. Ducky Mallard, who spent most of his time on autopsies and talking to his dead patients, a love interest in a 2011 episode. And Cheryl Ladd, who starred as Farrah Fawcett’s younger sister on classic TV’s Charlie’s Angels, was that special someone for Ducky. Or was she?
Outsider is looking back on some buzzier NCIS episodes, the ones fans still want to talk about all these years later. And this one reverberates. It ran Oct. 25, 2011, one of the first new episodes of season nine.
Let’s set the scene. David McCallum, who now is a recurring character as the NCIS historian, was the main ME. Dr. Jimmy Palmer, who was about to get married, was Ducky’s trusted No. 2. Meanwhile, Mark Harmon, as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, still ran the show. By 2011, there still hadn’t been a lot of cast turnover. The core group of DiNozzo, Ziva, McGee and Abby still were together. And Vance was there as well.
In This NCIS Episode Victims Died From Too Much Water
To better prompt your memory, here’s the “Thirst” plot tease from CBS: “An NCIS case changes from accidental death to murder when evidence reveals that a Navy lieutenant died of forced over-hydration. Meanwhile, Gibbs meets Ducky’s new love interest.”
When the episode begins, Ducky was in a good mood. He’d been on three dates with Mary Courtney, a medical administrator. Ziva told everyone in the office that Ducky and Mary met online. And in this episode, you get Ducky dialogue like this:
“The Mallard opus may be lengthy,” Ducky told Mary. “But I firmly believe that the best chapters are yet to be written.” And Mary loves Ducky’s mushy talk. “I do like the sound of that,” she says.
Ducky Figures Out His Very Bad Date
In this NCIS case of the week, the two victims are men with ties to the military. They suffered some strange symptoms and turned up dead. And they appear to have died from water intoxication. One man even was duct-taped to a tree. Here’s another big clue. Both men cheated on their wives and went to marriage counseling.
Ducky has a date with Mary. And he tells her about the case, about how the killer is a “sadistic bastard.” Mary doesn’t respond well to that comment. She throws a wine glass at Ducky’s head. Meanwhile, Gibbs figures out the connection. Mary is an administrator for a veteran’s outreach program. And the program provided marriage counseling for both victims.
Mary starts to confess to Ducky. She admitted to luring the men out of bars. But she said they drank all that water on their own. Mary also has a pair of scissors in her hands, so Ducky tries to talk her off this mental ledge. Finally, Gibbs finds them. Mary runs into the bathroom and slams the door. She then slits her wrists. But Gibbs and Ducky save her. She’s transported to a mental hospital.
Back at the NCIS morgue, Gibbs pours Ducky some bourbon. Ducky needs a strong drink, knowing he dated a serial killer. He said he isn’t sure if he can trust his judgment ever again. Eleven years later, NCIS viewers still don’t know what to think about the episode. They love Ducky, And Cheryl Ladd is beautiful. But Ducky with a serial killer? Maybe that was a stretch.