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'NCIS' EP Gary Glasberg on season 11's final episodes & the Ralph Waite tribute

The countdown to the "NCIS" Season 11 finale continues with a new episode tonight in which a Marine photographer disappears prior to providing his testimony in an Army court-martial hearing. To figure out what happened to him, the team investigates both the murder he witnessed and his most recent photo feature on homeless military veterans in the Washington D.C. area. In conjunction with that, Abby (Pauley Perrette) attempts to reconnect a young homeless woman with her family.

Abby (Pauley Perrette) works with the homeless on the "Shooter" episode of "NCIS."
CBS/Darren Michaels

"We wanted to make an effort to focus [these last few episodes] on our people and the cast, which is the reason people love 'NCIS,'" executive producer Gary Glasberg tells "That is our goal moving into Season 12 -- to tell strong stories. I am not using these final episodes to highlight any [guest stars] specifically, other than to pay tribute to [the late] Ralph Waite in the finale."

Can you talk about how you came up with the storyline?

It is a really lovely story that George Schenck and Frank Cardea came up with. It is really, really touching. We were saying that we are really pleased with the way it unfolds. I am really pleased with these last group of storylines. They not only bring our team together in a way, I think, people like, but they all deal with subjects that are thought provoking -- all the way through to the loss of Gibbs' (Mark Harmon) father at the end of the season. I think we have some strong stories coming up.

Is Abby the go-to person when you want emotion? Two weeks ago, she was the one who got the rape victim to talk, and in tonight's episode, she is trying to help a homeless woman reconnect with her family.

I don't know if she is the go-to person. She is one of many who has a heart she wears on her sleeve, and she connects with people. Nobody does that better than Pauley Perrette. Pauley genuinely cares about storylines like this. When we do an emotional story like this, it only makes sense that Abby plays a part in it and reaches out to people. She does a terrific job with that. We use her as best we can.

You mentioned last time we spoke that the finale will deal with Ralph Waite's death. Is there anything more you can say about the finale?

This really isn't a cliffhanger. When Ralph passed away, and considering how complex this season has been for us, we decided we wanted to focus on the story of Gibbs dealing with the significant loss in his life, looking back at the relationship he had with his dad, looking forward, as well, learning about Gibbs as a child and what makes this man so interesting. That was our goal with that episode. We are trying to find someone to play young Jackson Gibbs.

So we are having flashbacks?

Yes, there are some flashbacks. We are also casting a very, very young Leroy Jethro Gibbs which is a lot of fun. This is more of a 9 or 10-year-old Gibbs. People will learn some things and be able to put a bit of the puzzle together that they didn't know about. It should be pretty touching and real for people.

At the same time, you have his NCIS family backing him up and standing him. There is a Navy case that goes on simultaneously that dovetails what Gibbs is dealing with.

Gibbs has lost a lot of people over the years, but this is his father. Will repercussions from it go over to next season?

I would think that memories linger with people and there are things that we are motivated by after we experience loss. There could be some things that will be around when we get into Season 12.

Do you already have the story for the first episode of next season in your mind?

No. I have an idea of what I'd like to do but we haven't started it yet. We had our first meeting about a few weeks ago with the writing staff and we put a bunch of arenas and ideas up on the board and started talking about things we want to do next season. I am always excited when I see people come in and there is no shortage of storylines and character twists that people want to do. We will probably give ourselves a little break and dive in.

Has there been any indication if you will have to wait for the upfronts to learn the status of NCIS: New Orleans, or might they tell you sooner?

I know nothing other than the fact that the episodes did well.

"NCIS" airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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