LOVE & WAR
I think that after what were, for me, three really strong
episodes (especially the most recent one) this one was always in danger of being
a tad 'blah' and falling flat. Unlike Broken Bird I went into this
knowing the bare minimum about it. It was an okay episode, not that 'worst' of
the season, but by far from being in the top notch.
We had some nice moments, some really nice G/D ship moments with looks and closeness, etc. The kids banter was (mostly) at the fun, sibling level apart from a couple of occasions and no one really annoyed me this week overall. The case, I'm sorry to say, didn't hold my attention in the slightest. I don't know why, but I honestly found myself not really caring why Captain Jennings had been murdered, I found the whole thing rather trite and it has to be said the whole reason for the crime was more than a bit unbelievable. Added to that we had a baddie who came in wearing his 'I'm the bad guy' hat; plus the what was she really maid was again oh so obvious. So yes, I didn't hate it, but it's not going to make my top twenty.
The beginning was actually really good and atmospheric and made me sit up and have high expectations - I think that might have been part of the problem, actually, the beginning was so gripping, that I expected more. We start with a man (whom we later learn is Navy Captain Thomas Jennings) driving along, singing along to the radio. Suddenly he feels a jolt, stops the car, gets out and finds to his horror a body in the road - however, the body isn't a real body, it's a fake one. Now I was expecting the old cliché of him to being attacked at this point, but actually what happened was more spooky. He calls out and then goes back to his car only to find his car keys are missing (quite how the person snuck up, took them and snuck away again I'm not that sure, but . . . it didn't detract from the tension) gets out of the car, calls out again and then suddenly . . . He turns around and gasps. So at this point I had really high hopes for the episode.
In the squad room we have DiNozzo on the phone talking to someone about the system/his computer and saying he won't re-boot again as he's done it twice, whilst Ziva is on the phone talking to someone about her cable and saying she'd waited four hours and no one showed. Both are irritated and in perfect timing they both hang up. A nice little scene. At that point McGee arrives, a very happy looking McGee and he's in a really good mood as he has met a wonderful girl (it won't work, Tim, it never does, you know that). Her name is Claire, she's a computer programmer and a Level Five Sorcerer. But we then learn they haven't actually met-met, just met on-line. DiNozzo reminds McGee she could be anyone. McGee asks what part of 'Level Five Sorcerer' doesn't he understand, cue arrival of Gibbs saying: "All of it." McGee then starts to explain (silly Tim) and quickly realises what he's doing and stops. Gibbs tells them they have a missing Navy Captain and when they stand up to gear up asks what they are doing - reminding them the Captain has been missing less than twenty-four hours.
At that moment a man and woman appear. It's Rebecca Jennings (the Captain's daughter) and Kevin Nelson, who is her ex-fiancé. As soon as I saw him, my spider sense went into over-drive and I wrote 'bad guy'. They want NCIS to make calls and try to track Jennings down as he was meant to meet them the night before and didn't show. Gibbs and Ziva are talking to them and the upshot is that Kevin is far more worried than Rebecca is. She tells them how she and her dad argued a lot over how she should live her life and she walks out of the room. Kevin explains how she lost her mom a year ago and is more upset than she's pretending to be. At that moment DiNozzo appears to tell Gibbs that a body, matching Jennings's description, has been fond in Shenandoah.
Gibbs and DiNozzo go to the park and are met by the local Sheriff who had seen NCIS's BOLO on Jennings. He says it's been a while since there had been a murder there. Gibbs asks how he knows it's murder and the Sheriff points out it couldn't have been suicide - he shows them Jennings's body in a small hut; he's been disembowelled.
Ziva is taking photographs, watched by Gibbs, when Ducky appears. He seems in remarkably good spirits and very much our beloved Ducky (on the face of it BB never happened) except for his hand is still bandaged (not that it's really seen in this shot as he's wearing gloves, but later we see it). And he starts to talk about a dark period in British history when people were hung, drawn and quartered and not content with just mentioning it, he goes into some detail about it, including how the body in the end was hacked into four pieces and each piece dragged away separately, whilst the head was on a pike. Gibbs is watching him throughout this with his fully indulgent Gibbs look, the one he reserves solely for Ducky. Even Ziva seems a little taken aback by Ducky's description, and Ducky reminds her that he had said it was dark. (I may be mis-remembering, but I have a vague memory of this subject coming up before and Ducky talking about it.)
Meanwhile DiNozzo and McGee are together. DiNozzo tries to send McGee back to help Gibbs, saying he can handle it, but McGee insists on staying. Then DiNozzo starts to make chicken noises and says McGee is chicken and still can't handle blood baths. McGee says it's not that, it's just that he's still in a good mood and doesn't want to spoil it. DiNozzo asks if McGee has learnt nothing from him about women and McGee hits back with a reference to Jeanne (ouch, that was low, Tim, DiNozzo was right) - very un-McGee like to hit that low. He then says DiNozzo is jealous as he hasn't has a date for a few weeks; now that's more like it, not low, just normal banter.
Back with the body, Ducky says that the disembowelling was done after death, but the head wound was pre-death and Jennings has no defensive wounds, implying he was hit from behind. Ziva notes the blood is particularly red and Ducky praises her and explains that is often the case when there has been carbon monoxide poisoning. There's a stove in the hut and it's possible it came from there. He then calls Gibbs to him, turns Jennings over and shows him a pentagram on his back.
DiNozzo and Ziva go to Jennings's house and DiNozzo is concerned as to what they might find there because of the pentagram. During this we learn that actually 'Claire' is none other than DiNozzo, who got bored and found himself creating an identity and IMing McGee. He admits the flaw to the plan was the plan but thinks he has a way out of it - Ziva says he must tell McGee; naturally DiNozzo is not in any great rush to do that thing.
Suddenly a woman, Adrianna Lopez, appears. She claims to he Jennings's cleaner and she lives, in effect, in, as soon as she appeared I thought 'she's his lover'. She asks after Jennings and Ziva tells her he's dead, murdered. DiNozzo asks what is in the basement and Adrianna says no one is allowed to go down there. Needless to say DiNozzo and Ziva go down - DiNozzo with a degree of trepidation, if we were meant to think anything remotely satanic was going to be found there, it failed badly. All there is is a computer set up and a bear, a bear that starts to talk to them.
Back at HQ, McGee informs the others that the bear is Beary Smiles, it was the most wanted toy at Christmas 1989, all the kids wanted one - including McGee, who at that time was twelve (so we now know McGee's actual age and he's 32 now). McGee's father couldn't get one, so the ever resourceful McGee made his own. DiNozzo then comes in with a barb about 'fifteen years later McGee lost his virginity'.
Cue the arrival of Gibbs, which shuts DiNozzo up. DiNozzo says they've found Jennings's car abandoned. We hear a voice mail from Rebecca to her father, which is really quite unpleasant. DiNozzo explains that Jennings worked in the Counter Espionage Office in Intelligence and goes on to say he designed whiz-bangs. When Ziva queries that DiNozzo starts talking about James Bond for a second or two, until Gibbs just cuts him off. DiNozzo returns to talking about Jennings, who basically was a work-workaholic, worked eighteen hours a day, seven days a week whenever he was in the country. He also took a trip once a month, but according to the records although he took off, he never arrived (and nobody checked this!?!?! The guy was in Counter Espionage and no one checked?!!?)
Down in Abby's lab she is doing some disembowelling of her own - she's cutting into the bear :-( When Gibbs arrives she too talks about the bear and when it came out. She said her dad queued for two hours on Black Friday. Gibbs adds quietly "Six. Christmas Eve." (Which given Gibbs would have been in Panama at the time, was rather an achievement). Abby is still trying to track the exact make and model of the tire tracks found at the scene of the crime. She then explains that the satanic pentagram is different from the one on Jennings's back - it has one elongated point, whereas the one on his back is perfect.
Down in Autopsy Ducky is talking to Jennings's saying 'O Captain, Captain' and goes on about how he suffered blunt force trauma, was disembowelled and had a pentagram on him - he's as mysterious as they come. Gibbs arrives at that second saying he's hoped Ducky would have had some answers by now. Ducky picks up the report and starts to talk to Gibbs, who walks around the table, reads over Ducky's shoulder for a moment or two and then takes the clip board. Ducky mentions some green discolouration that had been found in Jennings's gut which might be a reaction to an antibiotic. And we do see here that his hand is still bandaged, but he is clearly able to use it and do so without the help of an assistant - I do think that Jimmy should have been in this episode to make the whole 'badly damaged hand' thing a bit more realistic. Given the damage to Ducky's hand, I find it hard to believe he'd been back to being able to use it fully quite so soon.
Gibbs asks about cause of death and Ducky says that on first glance he though it was blunt force trauma as the x-rays revealed more than just the one strike.
This leads Gibbs to quip "What about second glance?"
Ducky: "Well as usual, it proved to be more reliable than the first."
A nice little exchange. He says that it was carbon monoxide that killed Jennings and the disembowelling was carried out about half an hour after death. He also adds that he doesn't think the pentagram is satanic. When Gibbs asks if he'd been chatting with Abby, Ducky tells him that wounds weren't random; whoever sliced Jennings open didn't do it to kill or torture - they were looking for something.
In the squad room McGee now has the bear's head fixed up to a gizmo and he is making it talk using his keyboard. DiNozzo is getting irritated by it, Ziva is more amused by it. Then McGee emulates Gibbs with giving the team instructions, but also makes a good comment about himself adding: "I love you, McGee." At that second Gibbs appears and tells McGee to talk to him. (I imagine that little bit will have Gibbs/McGee fen quite happy). McGee tells Gibbs that it appears Jennings used Beary to hack into something, because being so old the system defences would not be able to defend against it. At one point during his explanation, DiNozzo actually is the one to explain a techy bit to Gibbs - Gibbs, however, does not look even remotely impressed (poor DiNozzo). McGee knows that Jennings had targeted Homeland Security, but not which part. There are also a lot of encrypted emails on Jennings's computer, which stop during the times Jennings was fake travelling. It is suggested he was meeting his contact. Gibbs sends DiNozzo and Ziva to talk to Jennings's co-workers and Abby calls him to her lab.
Before they go DiNozzo asks after Claire and McGee says she's getting a bit clingy and also weird over computers, but he's prepared to give her another chance. When they are by the lift Ziva says DiNozzo will have to tell McGee the truth, but DiNozzo won't until he's sure lying won't work.
Down in Abby's lab she has traced the tires to a 1972 Buick Skylark and she shows Gibbs a photo of the hub cap - it was a pentagram on it. When she pulls the photo of Jennings's back onto the photo of the hub cap, the pentagrams match perfectly. Thus they suddenly assume that in fact Jennings died in the boot of the car from carbon monoxide poisoning and he was lying on the spare wheel, hence the mark on his back. Okay, now I just did not buy this sudden idea at all. It seemed totally and utterly far fetched to me, plus how come Ducky didn't notice that there must have been clothing fibres on Jennings's back? And surely unless Jennings was held down or had something heavy on top of him the hub cap couldn't possibly have left such a strong mark. Sorry, but this was ludicrous. Gibbs leaves and Abby doesn't think she's getting her Caf-Pow! but in true Gibbs style he'd snuck it into her fridge.
DiNozzo and Ziva are at Jennings's place of work and DiNozzo, in true DiNozzo style is attempting to flirt with and come on to the woman taking them to Dr. Daniel who worked with Jennings. She doesn't respond to him, other than to in effect slap him down, but still he tries, until Ziva tells him to drop it. Once we get to Dr. Daniels, Ziva gets somewhat flirty with him! He is at pains to point out that Jennings was a patriot and then he confesses that there has been a breach in the system. A gizmo called 'Keyhole' which was disguised as the top to a toothpaste tube is missing. However, he is insistent that Jennings couldn't have stolen it, as everyone is searched thoroughly upon leaving.
Back in the squad room the kids are discussing if Jennings swallowed keyhole and then was waiting for 'nature to take her course'. Maybe Jennings's contact didn't want to wait or didn't want to pay him - but just who are they? At that moment they get a call to say a BOLO has just come in on a 1972 Buick Skylark.
The whole field team go and just as Gibbs is about to send McGee and DiNozzo around the back a body falls from the top of a building and lands at their feet. His name is Sykes and he's got quite the big time wrap sheet, with various things larceny, grand auto theft, possible homicide over an iPod, but nothing that could link him to espionage.
Gibbs: "Hired gun."
DiNozzo: "Hired by who?"
Ducky (just arriving): "Whom."
And he then starts to explain to a really puzzled and clearly lost DiNozzo about 'whom' and 'who' and when 'whom' should be used - so Ducky. DiNozzo finally asks him if the traffic was bad; Ducky said it was dreadful, but adds he's having a better day than the dead Sykes. He queries whether Sykes was pushed or jumped and Gibbs says there was signs of a struggle on the roof and Ducky points to defensive wounds on Sykes hands - so pushed then. The theory is: Sykes killed Jennings and gutted him to get keyhole; he came to deliver it to the person who hired him and that person decided to clean up and kill Sykes.
Back at HQ, Kevin turns up - without Rebecca. She sent him to ask Gibbs for the photos Gibbs wants her to look at as she's too upset to go to NCIS herself. A rather annoyed Gibbs says it doesn't work like that and he shows Sykes's photo to Kevin, who says he doesn't recognise him. And we learn that Rebecca and Kevin are one again engaged. He says Rebecca is in a bad place and needs time; finally Gibbs gives him one of his cards and tells him to tell Rebecca to call him when he's ready.
But of course Gibbs isn't leaving it there. In the squad room they are checking Rebecca herself. She's twenty-two (and looks years older), has just graduated and works part time in a pet store. She has no criminal record, just one misdemeanour for public disturbance when she threw Kevin's clothes out of the window. Gibbs says he's sure she knows something and tells them to go and talk to her friends and co-workers. McGee asks why they can't just bring her in and DiNozzo sneers about what can they put on the warrant - 'Gibbs's Gut'. He instantly then tries to back out of that corner saying that it was a reasonable thing to put. Gibbs just sighs and ignores him. McGee then admits to having a date that night with Claire and DiNozzo in very un-DiNozzo-like fashion says he and Ziva will cover for McGee. He adds that McGee having a date is as rare as he, DiNozzo, not having one. Ziva laughs quietly at that jibe.
The next scene shows Rebecca and Gibbs in some kind of café/bar - she is not a happy bunny and wants to know why Gibbs is investigating her. He shows her Sykes photo and she says she doesn't recognise him. She asks Gibbs if he is close to his father and he says 'heading there'. (Nice). And then she talks about how hard it was when her mom died, but how she knew she'd get over that, but now she doesn't think she can, because he was her daddy and now she has no one. Gibbs asks about Kevin and Rebecca admits she's not sure if they can make a go of it, but he was there for her. Gibbs assures her she will get through it.
McGee then calls and after a moment or two of telling a clearly not interested Gibbs about his date who didn't turn up, tells Gibbs he'd managed to partly decrypt the routing ID in the header of the email. Gibbs assumes (rightly) that's good and McGee confirms that it is. He has tracked it to a laptop in Jennings's home.
With Adrianna Lopez in interrogation waiting for Gibbs, DiNozzo and Ziva are watching. DiNozzo claims he'd always said it was the maid, but Ziva points out what whilst he's said it was the butler, the janitor and the people who worked in Abby's lab, he'd never said 'maid'. He says her memory can be very annoying at times - another nice sibling moment.
Gibbs arrives and challenges Adrianna saying that no one had even heard of her until six weeks ago when she got her green card. Outside Ziva and DiNozzo are discussing for whom they think she is working, Ziva goes for Cubans as she is one; DiNozzo thinks that's too easy. Finally though we learn the truth: Six months ago Adrianna met Jennings and they fell for one another; he'd recently lost his wife, she her husband. He came to see her when he could, but he had to be careful, given his job he couldn't just go openly and then she moved to the US to be with him and he got her a green card. They pretended she was the maid for the sake of Rebecca and she went on lying for that same reason. Gibbs isn't convinced and outside says to the others she is hiding something. McGee arrives with the answer to that 'something'. Keyhole was never stolen, Jennings simply hooked it up to his work machine so that he could hack into it from his basement and thus get Adrianna her green card - it was all for love.
Up in the squad room DiNozzo said he liked the case better when there was a motive, so Gibbs tells him to find one. They decide to focus on Sykes. Gibbs sends Ziva to talk to the parole officer and when McGee says he's worked out where Sykes lived throws McGee the car keys and tells him to take DiNozzo with him. DiNozzo, of course, jumps in and says it should be DiNozzo taking McGee as he's the senior field agent and then again tries to backtrack, when he sees all he's doing it annoying Gibbs, saying it doesn't matter. He tries to get the keys from McGee, but McGee won't play ball.
At the apartment DiNozzo talks to McGee about being stood up and how McGee should just let it go and then in a rather touching exchange McGee admits that he's not like DiNozzo, he doesn't find it easy meeting women, he never has. DiNozzo actually looks genuinely guilty at that point. Sykes door is actually unlocked and they go in and find the place has been trashed.
Back at Abby's lab she's saying how she likes a trashed apartment, well not hers - we learn hers is pristine. And this one hasn't just been trashed it's been trashed. There is a fine covering over everything of smashed and ground china.
Gibbs has Dr. Daniel's assistant brought to NCIS as it turns out she was Sykes's girl-friend and she openly admits to trashing the place, saying he deserved it, he was no good, and until she came along he didn't have any china. She doesn't, however, know he's dead - and says she didn't kill him. She says the reason she trashed the place was because Sykes proposed to her - but like everything else about him the ring was a fake. She holds up her hand and shows a green mark on her finger.
Abby leans that the 'green' mark from the ring, which is a sure sign of fake gold, is copper, and it matches the green found in Jennings's stomach - it came from the ring Abby is now holding.
Then we have another Autopsy scene. Ducky is telling Gibbs there was no sign of intestinal obstruction in Jennings's recent medical records, but finally he managed to track something down to when Jennings was five and was admitted to hospital after swallowing his mother's engagement ring. They decided it was too dangerous to operate and so would just wait for nature to take her course. But it never did; over the years the ring became trapped as the intestines made a pocket around it. Gibbs asks who would have known and Ducky says that medical records are private but he's sure the story would have been told over and over again. They are really close during this scene, well inside personal space with lots of fond looks from both of them to one another - a very nice shippy G/D scene. And then McGee arrives and shows Gibbs something.
At Jennings's house, Rebecca and Kevin are starting to go through Jennings's things and Gibbs and DiNozzo turn up. Gibbs shows Rebecca the ring and she identifies it as her grandmother's, she'd seen it in pictures. And then we learn that actually it was a fake ring, copper than than gold. Gibbs accuses Kevin of the murders of Jennings and Sykes, the latter who no doubt tried to blackmail over the former's murder. Kevin denies it, saying he'd never met Sykes, but then he's shown a picture of them together. He says there's no reason for him to have killed Jennings, but it was because he didn't want to lose Rebecca, and when her mom had died she'd got back with him and he thought the same would happen when her dad died. DiNozzo cuffs him and takes him away telling him he is top of their top psychopath list. It was a particularly nasty murder simply to keep the girl and a disembowelment so that Sykes could get the ring.
Back in the squad room the kids are gathered around one desk talking about the case. DiNozzo asks if killing for love is different from killing for money. And then he asks about Claire. McGee says that she's talking about getting back with her ex, but he's still not prepared to give up; he thinks she's it. DiNozzo again looks guilty, so when McGee reaches for the last bit of pizza, DiNozzo not only allows him to take it, but encourages him to do so. McGee then asks for the $40.00 DiNozzo borrowed from him back and DiNozzo, like a little lamb, pays up, with interest. Then he leaves. Ziva says she didn't tell McGee so that McGee could torture DiNozzo - and then McGee gives her $20.00 and she smiles and changes her mind. Once McGee went on about not letting Claire go even after she said she was going back to her ex, it was clear he knew and that Ziva had told him. A nice, fun scene and it was no more than DiNozzo deserved for the prank he played - and he knows it.
A so-so episode, probably needed after three such good ones.
A clear baddie. Very poor red-herrings (not just in people but also in the whole espionage/Adrianna thing). I still find the whole 'realisation' as to how Jennings died and how the pentagram came to be on his back unbelievable. I had little sympathy for Rebecca, I have to say, 'spoilt brat' came to mind, even though it turned out a lot of it was her way of building a defence. But I just didn't care about the case or who did it or why.
Some nice G/D scenes - very nice, with their usual interaction and closeness and looks and very 'them'.
Some good banter, mostly not nasty, just one or two that crossed the line.
It was obvious from the off that something was going to be 'wrong' with Claire, as McGee never has success with any one other than Abby.
No one irritated me throughout.
I thought the lack of Jimmy was very poor continuity-wise - we know they aren't hot on that, but I would have thought that as so much effort and time had gone into BB that they'd have followed it up with Jimmy being present and doing a lot of the work.
No hint as to whether Gibbs has looked at the file Kort gave him or not.
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