The center of all this pain is me.
No, Ziva, the center of all this pain is the writers on your show.
I feel so badly for Ziva here.
I think that so much of what has always eaten at her is her guilt over what she’s had to do in her career, while never being allowed to acknowledge the toll that life has taken on her, and on her family as a whole.
Sure, the timing of all this is suspect, and if Cote de Pablo hadn’t left the show, we probably wouldn’t be dealing with any of it, but despite that, I do think that Ziva would have had to face her actions at some point. As we keep coming back to, she was never afforded the “luxury” of processing her grief nor her own trauma, not only for taking a life but also losing her brother as a result. So it makes complete sense that now that she’s lost the last of her immediate family, she’s tailspinning into a black hole of self-doubt and even self-flagellation. (Again, it would probably have made more sense on the heels of Eli’s death, but real life concerns dictated this timeline more than anything, it seems.)
It’s the line just before this mic-drop moment that gets to me, because it sums Ziva up in a nutshell:
Tony: You had to kill Ari. One person loving him doesn’t change that.
Ziva: Yes, but I loved him. Just as I loved my father and my mother and Tali.
How can I not think that for every man I killed, there is someone out there crying for him?
Again, I love how gentle Tony is, trying to counter her regret with facts, as though it were possible to reason with self-loathing. He’s telling her what everyone should have told her all along– her father, her friends, her non-existent therapist– but instead, she’s been trained to ignore it all, and maybe even encouraged to internalize all this because it keeps her under other people’s thumbs.
And this is the heart of the matter, that everyone who ever scoffs at Ziva killing Ari always ignores: SHE HAD TO KILL HER OWN BROTHER. Everyone treats her as a heartless assassin, but nobody around her considers that while Ziva the spy killed a homicidal traitor in self-defense, Ziva the woman saw her brother die right in front of her and was expected to quell that grief because of who he’d become. In one shot, she had to deal with so many layers: learning her beloved brother she idolized was a monster, fearing for the life of her new colleagues because of his plans to kill them (and maybe even herself), having to make the call to choose ending his life over these strangers’, taking a life (let alone a family member’s), losing a sibling after already going through the trauma of losing another, trying to figure out who she could trust anymore… That would be nearly impossible to deal with under the best circumstances, but Ziva, it seems, wasn’t permitted to even admit these things were haunting her to begin with.
So it’s no wonder that now that she’s back where it all began, surrounded by the people who knew her when she was just the girl across the hall who dreamed of living in castles, she’d suddenly yearn for the child who didn’t know the horrors of the adult world, who she believed could have stood up to her father and her brother and whoever, even though we know she couldn’t have because she is still that girl.
That’s one of the things that strikes me about this exchange, that it displays Ziva’s compassion. Because what she’s thinking of is not her own pain due to her circumstances, but instead the pain she’s caused others, right or wrong. Or that every person she’s killed in the line of duty– who, on paper, needed to be eliminated necessitated by immediate danger to herself or others– there is a grieving family missing that person as fiercely as she misses her own. It’s an important nuance, demonstrating a (kind of rare) shade of grey into the NCIS world. Violence begets violence, pain begets pain, and it isn’t a surprise that Ziva now feels like she’s a constant cog in this wheel.
I’m not saying I like it, but given how it’s been presented, I can totally see why Ziva feels the need to bring an end to it, and why she feels like the only way of doing that is to step away completely. It may not be a viable solution (ahem), but it is certainly understandable.
So, to recap: Poor Ziva.
Also: THEY ARE SO PRETTY.