‘NCIS’ Star Brian Dietzen Explains How Jimmy Palmer Has Grown Through the Years

by Suzanne Halliburton

All of Brian Dietzen’s talents were on full display Monday night in the latest NCIS episode. He wrote the lines, then acted them, basically making millions of fans start crying.

As any NCIS fan can tell you, Dietzen is Dr. Jimmy Palmer, the medical examiner who took over for Ducky Mallard, full time, back in 2019. However, Dietzen has played Jimmy since late in season one, replacing Ducky’s first assistant, Gerald Jackson.

And through all these seasons, Dietzen’s Jimmy certainly has grown and evolved. He’s always been a bit socially awkward. But that also was part of his appeal.

Dietzen talked to Variety about Jimmy’s character development. He’s appeared in 324 episodes since his first called Split Decision, which ran May 11, 2004.

“Initially it was just the guy who says the wrong thing, but it’s hard to sustain that beat for 20 years,” Dietzen told Variety. “There’s only so many times that Jimmy can say something out of turn and shirk away from Gibbs’ stare and be and like, ‘Oh my gosh,  I can’t look at him. I’m so embarrassed.’”

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Dietzen Said He Wanted to Get ‘Love of Family’ In His NCIS Episode

And there were more Dietzen observations about his character.

“Jimmy has also gone through some shit that has been really hard,” the NCIS co-star said. “He lost his wife last year and he has said goodbye to multiple close friends on the show who’ve left or in certain cases have passed away.

“And so being someone who works with life and death so much, especially after Ducky moved on to become the NCIS historian, Jimmy really was faced with a lot more questions about mortality and that sort of thing, and became someone that people can come talk to about big life choices and questions. And some of those big things like relationships and love of family is what I wanted to get into in my episode that I wrote alongside Scott (Williams), and so we get to kind of explore what Jimmy has been going through since the loss of his wife.”

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Title of “The Helpers” Was All About Mister Rogers

Monday’s night episode was called “The Helpers.” And by the end of the hour, NCIS fans figured out where the title meant. Jimmy faced his own mortality, as did Kasie, after they both were exposed to a biotoxin. The day started innocently enough, with Jimmy bringing his daughter, Victoria, to work with him. She’d been suspended from school for fighting. But Jimmy and Kasie were locked down in Kasie’s office when a biotoxin was detected.

Carol Wilson (Meredith Eaton) finally told Jimmy and Kasie to call their loved ones a final time and make their peace. Jimmy talked to Victoria through the glass and quoted Mister Rogers and his speech about the helpers.

“You remember the Mister Rogers movie, how he told us to look for the Helpers? There are people out there who live their lives like that, honey. There are helpers in this world who will look out for you for the rest of your life.

“Open your eyes, see God’s helpers, they’re out there, doing what’s right … Being a helper takes a lot of work, but it’s worth it. … Someday you will be an amazing helper, Victoria Elizabeth Palmer.”

You can check out Outsider’s NCIS recap of Monday’s episode here.