Under Covers. Because…I don’t think I have to explain this one. They are undercover. They are naked part of the time and in fancy clothes the rest of the time.There’s a fake pregnancy conversation. They’re sexy, they’re witty, they’re making out, and they’re saving each others’ lives even though they’ve only known each other for eight episodes. There is legitimately nothing I do not love about this episode.
Boxed In. Because innuendo. But also because you get to see Tony and Ziva learning more about each other. While in Under Covers they’re mostly pretty smooth with each other, even under duress, Boxed In shows them getting their feathers ruffled. Tony raises his voice and eggs Ziva on when he probably shouldn’t; Ziva overreacts and is quite difficult to deal with for a few bits of the episode. I feel like they left that box understanding each other better and working together more seamlessly—it’s a significant step towards seeing each other as full people instead of as stock characters (the American playboy, the sexy assassin).
Cloak, Dagger. Because this arc again shows how well they work together (not just on the war game op, but also when they go to save Lee’s sister), and it also lets you see all the tension that’s underneath their relationship—tension that’s not just sexual. And although they don’t talk directly about it, all the heavy emotions are closer to being out in the open than usual, what with Ziva’s actions when Tony gets taken out, their fight in the elevator, and even their scene at the end when Tony watches Ziva watching the little girl learn of her sister’s sacrifice.
Aliyah. Because, in my opinion, this is the most explosively passionate episode they have in the entire run of the series. It’s not passion in the bedroom sense, but it’s passion nonetheless, and it’s white hot. In that scene on the roof, the two of them are actually talking about things—in destructive rather than productive ways, and never as directly as we’d like, but they aren’t ignoring them. They can’t ignore them. And it’s disastrous, but it’s the best train wreck I’ve ever seen.
Truth or Consequences. This is another one that requires no explanation. He cannot deal with the guilt and pain of her apparent death—which is, after all, related to his own actions—and does literally everything within his power not even to save her, but simply to tip the scales in her name. Even if you just read it as partnership/friendship, it’s so much. This episode changed the show, and it changed Tony and Ziva’s relationship, and it is so important to me.
Housekeeping. Because it’s the first episode I watched that made me think ‘Oh my god, they’re actually going to go there eventually.’ And then, you know, they kinda didn’t. But they were leading up to it in an unmistakable way. I mean, between Ziva’s frank comments about “someday” and Tony’s reactions to “she cares”? I cannot handle it.
A Desperate Man. Most superficially, because it got rid of Tiva threat Ray Cruz (which I say mostly jokingly—I loathe Ray Cruz, but it has less to do with my desire to see Ziva with Tony than it does with my desire to see Ziva not with any lying, secretive, manipulative jerk). More importantly, that conversation Tony and Ziva had on the rooftop about Ray not appreciating her was very honest, very emotional, and something that would not have been possible between them a few years prior. The “Cherish each other” bit at the end is also great, but it’s that rooftop scene that makes this a solid t/z episode for me.
Shell Shock I, Shell Shock II. Because—*breaks down crying because of The Little Prince and the opera*—because in this arc they are kind to and patient with each other in a new and exciting way. When Tony’s being quiet because he’s hurting, Ziva gently draws him out, and she asks the questions that he needs to be asked. And when Ziva gets prickly because she’s hurting, Tony doesn’t rise to the bait. He works his way to the center of it, instead, and then he offers one of the most thoughtful gestures in television history to make her feel better. I love the Shell Shock episodes for a lot of reasons, but an important one is that they leave me with the feeling that Tony and Ziva are deeply good for each other.
Shiva. He lets her stay in his super-private I-don’t-even-like-family-members-here HOME. He does everything he can possibly do to support her, and she recognizes it and thanks him for it. She’s so vulnerable, and he cares so much. I don’t even know what else to say about it. (Except that the pregnancy photo scene from Shabbat Shalom need to somehow be included in this entry, because OH MY GOD DID THEY REALLY JUST.)
Berlin. While I wish this episode didn’t lead where it ultimately leads, and I could’ve stood the pacing being different, it all but puts a giant blinking neon sign above them readig “ENDGAME.” The dancing, the flashbacks to the “man who deserves your love” scene, the sweet but subtle scene in the hotel room, and the nine thousand little scenes where Tony verbally and non-verbally checks to see if she’s okay—it’s pretty amazing. But the scene in the car when they get back to DC is one of my favorite in the entire show’s run. It still astounds me how Ziva cracked her shell and unfolded and laid so much emotional history down on the table for Tony to witness. It still astounds me that they held hands like that. To be perfectly honest, I think that handholding scene is in some ways far more intimate than their final kissing scene in Past, Present, and Future (although it’s possible that’s the bitterness talking).
There are probably no surprises here; I think most Tiva fans enjoy these episodes. I do, however, want to give an honorable mention to Double Blind. Even though its plot brings me pain and I disagree with like half of everything that’s going on, that scene in the warehouse between Tony and Ziva? Literal, physical goosebumps, every time. That’s Tony laying his emotions flat out on the table for her to see, and it wounds them both, but it’s honest. And a little bit beautiful. I watch the end of season ten and think back to season three and the only word that comes to mind is wow. They really came so far, in so many ways.
Everytime I feel like I’m finally coming to terms with the emotional wreckage that was Season 10 of NCIS, someone reblogs a gifset that makes me want to jump of the nearest cliff and everything hurts again.