'NCIS' Landmark 400th Episode Delayed By Coronavirus Pandemic

CBS' NCIS was poised to end its 17th season with a landmark celebration, as episode 22 was set to be the show's 400th overall. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic meant production had to be suspended, and there are no plans to resume filming Season 17. The 400th episode will now not air until Season 18, as Season 17 now ends with episode 20 on Tuesday, April 14 at 8 p.m. ET.

"Episode No. 399 was just two days away from the start of production," co-showrunner Frank Cardella told TVLine Sunday. "All of the prep work was completed, sets were built, the guest cast was set as were locations. No. 400 was set to shoot next, and we will probably still shoot it as 400 and air as 400."

Cardea said the 400th episode would have aired this spring. "We had special things planned for it, CBS was throwing a big party for us... but it will happen," he said. The executive producer said the episode had a "very interesting script" written by co-showrunner Steven D. Binder "about how Gibbs and Ducky met."

NCIS has not been officially renewed for an 18th season, but considering it remains the most-watched drama on television, it would be earth-shattering if CBS canceled it. The show, which began as a spin-off of JAG, is the seventh-longest-running scripted U.S. primtime television series already and the second-longest -running scripted live-action primetime drama still airing, behind only NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. NCIS' 397th episode aired on March 31, and this week's episode will be the show's 398th.

The Season 17 finale is titled "The Arizona." The episode was written by co-executive producer Fina Monreal and guest stars Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as Joe Smith, a 95-year-old man who claims he was on the U.S.S. Arizona when it was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Smith now wants his ashes laid to rest with his other fellow sailors, but Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is not so sure about the old man's story.

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NCIS was among the shows shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. There was speculation about production resuming, but members of the cast and crew took to social media to confirm they were not going back to work. "As many of you have already heard, [NCIS] production has been put on hold for the time being," Sean Murray, who has played Timothy McGee since 2003, tweeted. "We will wrap our current season with 20 eps complete and plan to pick up where we left off when we begin season 18. Stay safe... we'll see you soon."

Aside form Harmon and Murray, NCIS' current cast also includes David McCallum, Rocky Carol, Wilmer Valderrama, Emily Wickersham, Maria Bello, Brian Dietzen and Diona Reasonoever. The spin-offs NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans now air back-to-back on Sunday nights, beginning at 9 p.m. ET. They will also be ending their seasons early, so CBS is re-launching "Sunday Night At The Movies" for all five Sundays in May.