A much better episode than last week's (not that that would be a difficult feat to achieve), in fact, in my opinion, the best thus far this season.
On top of an actual case and a lack of angsting over current and past wives, lovers, girl-friends we have: Gibbs as Gibbs not pseudo- Gibbs, more Ducky, Fornell, Jimmy and no Mann - all of which have to be good.
We still have no resolution or even mention of the whole Le Grenouille and Jenny's father theme - I wish they'd get it over with.
It was nice to have an episode open with Ducky, very nice indeed. He's given military students an Autopsy lesson/demonstration and imparting his knowledge to them, assisted by Jimmy. In particular they are looking at the brain, which according to Ducky weighs, in an adult human, about 3lbs and has a billion neurons and a million billion synapses in the cortex. Jimmy makes the comment that it 'feels like soggy grapefruit'. The brain is duly passed around and one of the students (Lt. Greer) draws Ducky's attention to the fact that flowing from the brain is silver liquid. Ducky states that the man has been murdered.
Immediately after the intro music the scene is of McGee and Ziva looking at something on McGee's computer. They are referring to a 'he' and Ziva passes comment that she'd eat one particular 'he' up. We are meant, of course, to assume that they are looking at men - and that is what DiNozzo assumes. He hopes that they are looking at men for Ziva, she says no, and he asks McGee if there's something he wants to tell them.
It turns out that actually McGee is looking at animal rescue sites as he is thinking of getting a puppy*. McGee feels that he works long and hard and as such deserves something to go home to and be pleased to see him and snuggle with him, DiNozzo suggests a girl-friend, McGee thinks that having a puppy might even make finding a girl-friend easier (poor Tim). And he then turns it around onto DiNozzo and suggests it's time DiNozzo got 'back into the saddle'; Ziva thinks that McGee is talking about getting a pony :-) DiNozzo, as he has been in the other episodes, when any reference is made to Jeanne and his operation, is a little nasty at this point. He suggests getting a Pit Bull - for Ziva - whereas a Spaniel, a Cocker Spaniel would suit McGee more. And at this moment Gibbs makes his entrance, leans over and suggests an Australian Shepard, adding, in true Gibbs fashion 'they're working dogs'.
At that moment the phone rings and Gibbs orders DiNozzo to answer it; after about two seconds DiNozzo puts the caller on hold and asks what they've done to piss off the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology. Gibbs tells them that Ducky has kept one of the military cadavers.
McGee: "Ducky stole a cadaver?"
Ziva: "I'm sure he had a good reason."
Gibbs: "I hope so." He begins to move towards the lift and the kids stand up.
Gibbs: "Sit." They do. "Stay." They do. Walking away, maybe/maybe not out of earshot: "Roll over." And we get the Gibbs grin that has been missing for a while. Oh, and he has coffee.
Gibbs then goes down to Autopsy and encounters a very angry Ducky, Jimmy is on the phone trying to contact the ME who screwed up and missed the murder. Ducky is ranting and pointing out that the man had had mercury injected into his brain and that his body should never have been donated.
Gibbs: "Bit late for a refund." He seems both amused and indulgent of his old friend's outburst and basically just lets Ducky rant away.
Jimmy tells Ducky there is no answer from the ME and Ducky snaps at him telling him to try again. Poor Jimmy is stunned and shocked by Ducky's tone and turns to look at Gibbs with a look of horror on his face. Gibbs exchanges a look with Jimmy, but still says nothing as Ducky continues to rant about it. Then Jimmy, silly boy, tries to 'help' by suggesting that it would have been an easy thing to miss, it was only, after all, one small needle hole.
This doesn't go down well with Ducky who tells him that he shouldn't try to excuse incompetence.
Gibbs now does try to placate Ducky: "Not sure you can just take control of a body, Duck."
Ducky (who will not be placated): "Someone has to."
And Gibbs continues to look on with his fond, amused look. We know it's not the first time he's seen Ducky like this (think back to the French cop he pushed off the cliff and how Ducky also is with the US cop who dared to mess up 'Ducky's crime scene, and how he is with the doctor who apparently let a girl commit suicide) so he must know the best way is just to let Ducky rant away. As it really is so unlike the mild, mannered man we have come to love and know, it's a rather powerful scene - go Ducky. And then we get another canon 'my dear Jethro', (that'll keep us Gibbs/Ducky fen happy - well it did me *g*).
And Ducky explains that there is no way the John Doe should be a John Doe because it's clear that he's spent several years in prison, and he shows the cigarette burns and we also have a very odd tattoo, that they think Abby (as it's her field of expertise) might be able to help with. The man, Jimmy says, has led a violent life. However, rather than be pleased with Jimmy's helpfulness, Ducky again turns on his demanding to know if he's contacted the ME yet; Jimmy (silly boy) says he's given up. Which drives Ducky to storm out of Autopsy commenting that the trouble with people today is that they are unwilling to put in the leg work.
Jimmy and Gibbs both watch him leave, both looking on with some kind of fond expression, and Jimmy, once more trying to be helpful, says that he thinks Ducky might be a bit embarrassed having discovered the the body he was autopsying in front of military students turned out to be a murder victim. Gibbs tells Jimmy that was excellent detective work, clearly he's being sarcastic although not as out and out so as he is with his field team, his tone wasn't as blatantly sarcastic. And dear Jimmy hears the words not the tone; so he's now happy. I would venture to suggest that Gibbs did moderate his tone, to partly make up for the way Ducky was having a go at Jimmy.
We then see Gibbs and Ducky again at the another ME's place of work. Still Ducky is angry; still Gibbs has his look of fond amusement on his face. Ducky says that he hopes Gibbs's opinion of him won't alter after he's given the ME a piece of his mind.
Ducky comments that it might get ugly. However, when they go into the room and ask for Dr. Jordan Hampton, it turns out to be a woman, and instantly Ducky turns from being angry to being the chivalrous man he is with women. Well to an extent, he moderates his anger, it is still there hovering under the surface, but he's toned it down. He questions her as to the procedure she followed re: the man and then reveals the true nature of his death; she seems quite upset and embarrassed too that she missed it (okay I admit that at this point I was wondering if we were going to have a repeat of 'Heart Break' where the woman doctor was the murderer). As Gibbs and Ducky leave the morgue Gibbs says: "Yeah, I hope she recovers from that tongue lashing."
We then move the the scene where the body was found with Gibbs, DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva, as yet they haven't found anything. DiNozzo makes a comment about people liking boats that much and gets a retort from Gibbs: "You work for the navy, DiNozzo." Very Gibbs again - no head slap, but we have him back on the sarciness.
Gibbs and DiNozzo go into the bar and immediately DiNozzo hones in on the blonde waitress (Shannon O'Hara) is typical old-style DiNozzo; and for the first time this season he didn't appear to be putting on the role, at least it didn't seem as forced as it has done in other eps. She points out that the guns and caps are give-aways as to who they are. She claims not to know the picture of the dead man, as do the bikers to whom Gibbs shows the picture.
But then Gibbs notices a brunette who is watching them and she seems far to interested. We get another 'old style' DiNozzo comment, which again gets him a Gibbs-glare, but before they can talk to the woman she has vanished. And she runs straight into McGee and Ziva. And she reveals that she actually works for the FBI, her name is Courtney Krieger, and the dead man was Marvin Hinton who was actually working for the FBI.
Back at NCIS HQ we still have coffee-swilling Gibbs (yay) and they are trying to ascertain information about Hinton. Courtney tells them that the FBI had to reassemble Hinton's history by hand. He's a career felon, but he doesn't even have a High School transcript; his entire life had been erased by the person the FBI were calling 'The Eraser', which leads DiNozzo, who is openly flirting with Courtney, into a film comment, Ziva glares a lot during this scene, clearly she does not like DiNozzo's flirting. Hinton was Courtney's first field assignment and now he's dead. It's believed, at this point, that 'The Eraser' killed Hinton.
Gibbs, his field team and Courtney go to Hinton's apartment, where the FBI had set him up, it's rather nice, and DiNozzo gets a dig into McGee that rather than getting a puppy getting an apartment like that might improve his chances of getting a girl-friend. In the bedroom they find, blood, mercury, hairs and 'liquid'; Hinton had been killed in his own bedroom.
Back at HQ, Gibbs and McGee are in Abby's lab; she's telling them how much she loves them because they bring her blood, hair, liquid and this time mercury - which really pleases her and she explains how toxic it is, and makes a comment about thermometers and children, which leads McGee to pass comment that she might be talking from personal experience. She likes the idea of McGee getting a puppy and even suggests he name it Mercury. She doesn't recognise the tattoo; it's a mess and a puzzle and it's puzzling her.
Back in the squad room DiNozzo extravagantly, trying to impress Courtney with whom he's still flirting, pays for their takeaway. Ziva is now very unhappy and points out that Courtney has mushroom in her teeth, which leads to Courtney hurrying off, escorted by DiNozzo, to the bathroom.
McGee then appears and says he's been thinking about Hinton's death and why he was killed in the manner he was. Ziva says that to find out the why, they must find out the who. She then launches into a speech about control and people not liking mess and having to be in control and hating to lose control of their emotions. She is meant to be talking about Courtney and she probably is, but she's also (to my mind) talking about herself and her feelings for DiNozzo (there's quite a lot in this episode for DiNozzo/Ziva fen). She looks in Courtney's bag, much to McGee's horror (she's breaking the code of women) as she wants a hair sample, she seems to believe that maybe Courtney was not only one of Hinton's women, but also that she killed him. There is no hair on the hairbrush. So she says she'll go to the source. McGee tells her: "Ziva, no hair pulling."
Ziva says Courtney is uptight (so is Ziva). McGee is more sympathetic saying he knows what it's like to be green and scared of making a mistake. He also adds that "Tony seems to like her." Which earns him a glare from Ziva and a comment that she does not think that Gibbs does.
We then move to Gibbs and Fornell in the latter's office. Fornell is surrounded by paperwork and Gibbs wants to know who Fornell is working for, Homeland Security or the FBI. Fornell tells him to put the papers, on a chair, anywhere. Gibbs does that and moves a chair and sits.
Fornell: "It defeats the purpose of email if we have to print it all out for the file anyway."
Gibbs: "Yeah, that's why I don't use it."
Fornell: "Really? Not because you can't figure out how to work it?"
Gibbs smiles, they both do. A very nice exchange, very Gibbs and Fornell; it shows their easy going friendship and how they interact well together.
Fornell comments that all he seems to do these days is direct the flow of information. And then Gibbs asks about Courtney. Fornell says she's a promising agent, does everything by the book. Gibbs then drops the bombshell about Hinton and adds that he's been murdered. Fornell, at this point, doesn't' know. Gibbs says he'd told Courtney to tell Fornell; and it turns out she did: she sent him an email which had ended up in Fornell's spam folder. Fornell is not best pleased at this point.
He tells Gibbs about Hinton how he was at first just an ex-con who did a deal with the devil, but that now the devil came to collect. Gibbs asks if the devil has a name and it's about the only thing he does have: Kamal Konkani. Has a history of producing fake ID papers for people such as the IRA bombers and now with things getting more sophisticated Kamal is too; and Fornell believes that Hinton was a test; they know there is a terrorist cell in Libya that Kamal has produced IDs for.
Back at NCIS Gibbs and Fornell tell Jenny about Kamal and in MTAC they, DiNozzo, McGee, Ziva and Courtney see evidence of Kamal 's destruction over the years. And it appears that he is currently living in Maryland, his work is impeccable. When they leave MTAC Fornell pulls Courtney aside and bawls her out, tells her that she does far too much by the book - she should not have sent him an email to tell him of Hinton's murder.
Ziva challenges DiNozzo saying that he wants to sleep with Courtney and doesn't deny it. She said that she thought that he wanted more these days than just sex, he claims he was only acting with Jeanne, but she doesn't believe him. She says he's grown, matured and that if he sleeps with Courtney he'll be sleeping with a girl, but she thought that now he wanted a woman (her).
In Abby's lab Abby and Ducky are talking over the picture phone about the tattoo. Abby still can't find what it is, she's inverted it, made it smaller, bigger, but nothing. Gibbs arrives and Abby cuts Ducky off. She tells Gibbs that she doesn't know about the tattoo, but the notes that the FBI have from Kamal show evidence of Indian food and the paper came from a cash register. For that she gets a kiss on the fingers.
Courtney runs into Ziva and asks if it's hard being the only woman on the team; Ziva says no and is about to walk off when Courtney says how she wishes she had Ziva's confidence. This seems to touch something within Ziva and she says that Courtney has to stop trying to be perfect and that she has to realise that she will make mistakes, but that when she does she has to get back onto the horse. Courtney shares that she did used to ride and Ziva then shared that her uncle bred Arabians. Courtney asks if that was then they hugged. (They don't).
There's only one Indian restaurant in the vicinity of Kamal 's home and thus to see if they can find anything out, even see if Kamal is there, DiNozzo and Courtney go in undercover as a couple, with McGee and Ziva observing from MTAC. At one point Courtney puts her hand over DiNozzo's, now she's really flirting with him too, Ziva calls his name and Courtney knocks water all over DiNozzo's lap, this leads McGee to comment that it was a good thing they didn't put the mike in DiNozzo's pants. On his way to the men's room DiNozzo bumps into a delivery boy and also asks for the meal to be taken out, trying to cover up the water as something else.
The name on the lease of the apartment to where the delivery boy is going is Frederick Le Claire, which was one of the names Hinton used. Gibbs and Fornell follow the boy, he is then nabbed by Ziva, DiNozzo and Courtney and left with the last two whilst Gibbs, Fornell and Ziva go inside the apartment; there is no one there. The delivery boy (Robert Graves) says he's paid to drop off a meal every afternoon and has been paid. He then identifies Hinton as Le Claire; it seems as if Hinton, Le Claire and Kamal are one and the same person. In that case who killed him?
Ziva is with Graves in the interrogation room, but gets very little out of him other than the fact he's worked since he was 13 and came from a working class background. Gibbs, Fornell, Jenny and McGee are watching and discussing that Graves could be a courier without knowing it and how Hinton had played the FBI; he was 'The Eraser' all along. But if so why did he let himself be killed? And who killed him?
In the squad room we have Ziva, Courtney and DiNozzo discussing it; Ziva and Courtney are doing quite a nice two-hander batting back and forth and working seamlessly together. They think that one of Hinton's clients - a woman - killed him. Ziva and Courtney are bonding.
Down in Autopsy Jimmy brings Dr. Hampton in, Ducky is with Abby, and he says how Dr. Mallard hates to leave anything unfinished; Dr. Hampton says she does too. She's looking at the tattoo, puts on a pair of gloves and Ducky appears. At first he doesn't seem best pleased to see her, she says how grateful she is that he didn't go flapping and quacking into her morgue over her mistake (which is what he was about to do *g*); he says that's not in his character (tut, tut, Ducky). She then suggests cutting off the tattoo, and they decide to do it together.
Back upstairs DiNozzo tells Gibbs: "The girls have a theory," and goes on to explain about it being one of the girl-friends who killed Hinton. And it turns out that a few years before another man had died (in the same apparent way that Hinton had) in his sleep, after drinking too much, by choking on his own vomit. He was buried on the family farm and it turns out that they discover the water has been contaminated by mercury leaking from the casket. And his wife was an ex-High School Science teacher - it's the blonde (Shannon O'Hara) from the bar. They bring her in, she confesses to killing her husband, but says she didn't kill Hinton, even though he knew all about her and her background and had given her a new ID.
Ziva and Courtney are going to drop Graves off and as they go Fornell tells Courtney: "Nice work".
So we have the only person, Kamal, to know the details of the terrorist cell and he's dead and can't tell them. Ducky appears at that point and explains that the dead man might have one thing left to say. When the tattoo had been cut off and taken to Abby, she revealed that the blue ink was merely a cover for something else and she reveals the real, very sophisticated tattoo underneath and knows who did it and when. Hinton got it ten years ago in London. Hinton is therefore not Kamal. Graves lied to them; Abby and DiNozzo then go into a 'routine' from The Princess Bride, to show that Kamal picked a successor, who in fact became Kamal: Graves.
Courtney and Ziva are about to drop him off, indeed Courtney has got out of the car and is taking to him, when Gibbs calls Ziva. Graves realises something is wrong and starts to shoot - at Ziva. Courtney not only saves Ziva's life, in effect, but grabs Graves and hits him, more than once, against the bonnet of the car - Ziva looks impressed. And Courtney says; "Can we hug now?" Ziva laughs; the bonding is complete.
Back in the interrogation room Gibbs and Fornell are talking to Graves. They have discovered all kinds of delivery men's uniforms in Graves's apartment. Kamal found Graves; he needed Graves; however, Graves does not have the same kind of discipline that Kamal had. Gibbs and Fornell then tell Graves that the worst thing he did was to try to shoot their agents. Fornell removes his jacket and Gibbs very courteously offers to hang it up for him; he does, over the camera and they threaten Graves, one each side of him - I'd talk - they want lists of his clients and the real Kamal.
Clearly they get it as the final scene is again in MTAC with Gibbs, DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva. DiNozzo is telling another of his stories waiting for the 'show to begin' and Gibbs is letting him; DiNozzo then announces the show as "An NCIS production brought to you by Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Staring the FBI." And we see the FBI, including Courtney, leading out the real Kamal. Ziva asks DiNozzo if he got Courtney's number; he says no. To which she says "I did. She wants to learn how to fight." And she gets a look from both Gibbs and DiNozzo - definitely bonded. And given that we have been led to believe that Ziva is bisexual, the fact that she has Courtney's number can be taken two ways.
I enjoyed this episode, it was a good balance of case, humour, team interaction and generally felt like an 'older style' NCIS episode.
It was an intriguing case, even if it wasn't actually really a navy or marine case as such, with some red herrings and a not-completely-obvious-within-two-seconds murderer. And for the first time in far too long, the focus was more on the case than on the past and current relationships of the team.
It was lovely to see Ducky not only getting some more screen time, but to see him in a different way from the way we usually see him. Of course, as a Gibbs/Ducky shipper I loved their scenes together and how fondly Gibbs kept looking at him.
It's always good when Fornell joins the team, again I love the way he and Gibbs interact; their scenes, whether they are doing their 'hate one another' for the purposes of their respective agents, or showing their friendship, always work so well.
It was great to see Jimmy, he really is good value, I'd love to see him in it more often; he and Ducky do work well together.
I felt that DiNozzo wasn't over-compensating so much in this episode and trying to be the 'old DiNozzo'.
The Ziva and DiNozzo scenes certainly sizzled; it really is so clear how much she cares for him, and not just as a colleague - well I think so. And it was interesting to see Ziva as the 'jealous' woman and the way that she was angry with herself as well as with DiNozzo. It was also really nice to see how she and Courtney did bond and ultimately get on.
Nice Abby scenes, albeit brief ones, as always; ditto McGee.
Limited Jenny and when we did see her she was doing the right thing; she was being the director of NCIS. So that too was good.
* Pauses to insert a comment: as a dog owner I shudder at this scene. McGee is out at work all day and it's not as if he works 9-5, he could be out for 24 hours at a stretch, there is no way that he should even be considering adopting a puppy - actually I doubt if a reputable rescue place would let him do so, given his situation. I'm sure he'd love the dog and treat it well, etc. etc. but he is not in the position to have a dog. End of comment.
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