SEASON NINE EPISODE FOURTEEN
LIFE BEFORE HIS EYES
Unlike most people I know I really wasn't that excited about
this episode, in fact I wasn't excited about it at all. There was so much hype
about it, it was impossible not to know things about it and the more I knew the
less I was looking forward to it. I wasn't looking forward to all the back and
forthing that I was expecting, all the looking back into Gibbs's life; I wasn't
looking forward to the characters who always lose out losing out even more
because of all the guest stars; I wasn't looking forward to Mexico coming up
again and I wasn't looking forward to another dose of Shannon and Kelly. Plus,
not that it had anything to do with NCIS per se, but on Friday we watched the
most recent episode of Grey's Anatomy and what was it about? Yes, you've guessed
it - 'What if'. Talk about coincidences (which do exist, sorry Gibbs) and it was
very unreal watching it knowing what was going to come up in this episode.
So in short, I wasn't really looking forward to it at all. However, now that I've watched it, I have to say I really enjoyed it. It worked in a way I didn't think it could work - and thankfully it wasn't done in the same way as the Grey's episode, thus I wasn't constantly comparing it and having deja vu.
It was really interesting to see the guest stars who were actually there in the diner and those who weren't actually there, but past scenes/stock footage had been used. And it was interesting to see the various size roles they had and how involved, or otherwise, they were with Gibbs.
It was a poignant episode and they addressed so many things very well indeed.
So we met Gibbs's mother, a red-head (which is what I'd always thought she'd been) and learnt she must have had some serious illness or something self-inflicted (like alcohol or drugs) before she died, from her comment about Gibbs's dad having to change her bedsheets every night. And she admitted how hard that had been on his dad and if seemed to understand that if he drove the odd woman home, then so what? She really did seem to believe the best thing she did was to leave (die). That interaction was very moving indeed and powerfully done in the way that it was understated and underplayed. It was so well constructed; they could have gone over-board with it, but they didn't.
I am really glad they have finally out and out addressed the fact that when it comes down to it, when you put aside his reasons, when it comes down to cold, hard facts, when you leave aside the man, when you just look at the crime, Leroy Jethro Gibbs is a murderer. I'm sorry, but he is; he knows it; we've always known it; everyone learnt it; he murdered Hernandez - he did what Hernandez did. And as Mike said, he did the wrong thing for the right reasons. But there is no getting away from the fact; Gibbs is a murderer. Okay, he murdered a murderer, but that doesn't actually make it right. Kudos to the writers and directors for actually coming out and stating it - I thought that was very well done. And it was somehow fitting that it was McCallister who was the one to bring the subject up.
I also thought the choice they made to deal with what would have happened, what man Gibbs would have been had he not killed Hernandez was again very well done and very clever. We know he's carried around the fact he killed Hernandez for all those years and whilst yes, he knows why he did it, and whilst he has said he didn't care about it, he did; he had to, he couldn't have been the man, the agent he became if it honestly never gave him a moment of guilt.
So to actually show us what he'd have been like had he not killed was very well done. To see how he would have been eaten up and consumed by the guilt of not doing it, how he just spent time in his basement, drinking and doing wood work, how he's walked away from NCIS, from the kids, from Ducky, from, as Ducky said 'those who love you', to not care about Kate and Tony having a baby, to push Abby away when she hugged him, to tell them to get out of his house and leave him alone, was painful to watch, but very believable. It didn't seek to justify or exonerate Gibbs for what he'd done, but it went some way to proving Mike's 'wrong thing for the right reason'. And we know that countless other people would have died because Gibbs wasn't Gibbs, Gibbs was the bearded, long-haired, lush who didn't care about anyone, because he hadn't pulled the trigger. It was extremely well done and thought-provoking. And I can easily see why it was Ducky, Abby and Tim who went to see him and not Tony as I assume by then Tony was team-leader, married, a father and tied up with all those things. He didn't have the time to go to see Gibbs, plus with Abby and Tim being married it was obvious they'd go together and it would have been over-kill had someone else gone as well.
I thought it was interesting that Tony and Kate had married (and had a baby) in the alternative reality, the reality whereby Gibbs had seen Ari and thus Kate hadn't died as well as Abby and Tim being married and happily settled down together. It was interesting to see the fleeting glimpse of Tony in the other life, late for his own baby's birth, but also to see Abby and Tim there, the family never stopped being the family and loving one another no matter what the reality we were in.
The scene with Shannon and Kelly was very moving too. Shannon was right, he couldn't have it both ways and had they not died, countless others would have because he wouldn't have joined NIS. And learning too that he wouldn't have come home alive, was quite a jolt. I did like how Kelly told him it hadn't been his choice as to whether Shannon testified against Hernandez or not. She was right; it had been Shannon's choice and Gibbs should know the feisty woman he married wouldn't just do what he told her to do. She choose to do what she did; Gibbs chose to do what he did; the whole episode was about choices - which at the end of the day is what life is about.
Is it possible, dare I hope (again) that really this is it; that finally Gibbs is doing to let his girls rest in peace? Is Mexico, Hernandez and most of all Shannon and Kelly finally never going to pop up again? He now knows there was no way he could have stopped Shannon from testifying; he knows he wouldn't have come home, so they'd have been left alone; he knows they are happy he joined NCIS and that he has done good and saved so many lives over the years because his girls died. He's had to face this, really face this now; he knows he has to let them go; they've told him this; they are happy; they want him to be. Surely now he has to really and finally let them go, let them rest in peace.
And learning the person who shot Gibbs was in fact Stephen Rose, the son of the man Gibbs had arrested, the case that in many ways paralleled what Gibbs did to Hernandez, 'sometimes good people do the wrong thing for the right reason' was a clever twist and again well done. It was always going to be difficult to end such an episode and to find a way for Gibbs not to actually be dead. And again even then, Gibbs made a choice after Stephen had fired the first shot and grazed his arm; Gibbs lowered his gun first once he saw who it was; he trusted in the kid enough to believe he couldn't actually shoot to kill. A dangerous decision? In truth, yes, but Gibbs also knew he couldn't shoot Stephen. It was a really good way to tie the two parts of the episode together.
There were so many little throw away moments, the 'blink and you'll miss them' kind. Jenny being in the coffee shop; Ari and Vance playing chess; Fornell with a beard; young Jethro meeting and kissing Joan Matteson, they had kept in touch then, which was a nice bit of consistency; Ducky's simple 'Jethro' as they passed one another in the diner, not quite dismissive, but not his usual tone;Tony when trying to remember Ziva's name using 'Tiva'; Tony calling Vance 'Leon' and others that I'd need to rewatch the episode to actually note.
I thought the way Mike was there guiding Gibbs through most of his past was an excellent idea and really worked well - he was the right choice.
And then we had the NCIS case - something I hadn't been expecting to be honest. The case that had another good person doing the wrong thing, or actually things, for the right reason. In the first place he agreed to sell secrets to the Chinese for the money so that his son could go to college and they didn't lose their home; then when he knew he couldn't go though with it he killed the two people who had also been involved in the secret selling and who clearly had no second thoughts. He killed them partly in self-defence but also because of all the lives he'd save. Was he wrong? Yes, of course he was, in both the agreeing to sell the secrets and in killing his associates. But he did both things for the right reason.
I actually did think because of the link with Gibbs that Gibbs might let him go, might cover it up somehow - as we know full well Gibbs has done more than once. I'm actually glad he didn't, maybe had the other two people not died, there could have been a way of helping, but as it was, he couldn't and this time unlike other times it wasn't just him, the team were involved. And as McCallister had said to him he'd already made one member of the team live with the worst secret ever, he couldn't do it again.
It was a great shame that the decisions Rose made would have such an impact on his son's life, the son he loved so much he made the wrong decision in the first place, again more poignancy. I don't often feel sorry for the 'baddie', but this time I really did - which given we didn't see that much of him or really get to know him and didn't get to know Stephen that well was a wee bit surprising. I think it was as much to do with the 'good people sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reason' theme that was going through the episode and how what Rose did in so many ways mirrored what Gibbs did. In many ways Gibbs and Michael Rose were not that different; they both did the wrong thing for the right reason.
I was also really glad to learn that Tim had been offered promotion and some promotion it was too: Head of Cyber in Japan and that was why he'd changed his computer screens around and cleared things out, because he was trying to make a decision whether to take the job or not. I don't believe for a moment that Tony really knew about the offer Vance had made him, but as we know Tony has to always be the person to know everything. Again it was very consistent with his character to pretend to know. I also liked how he was about it, how he behaved, even if it surprised Tim. Tony clearly didn't want Tim to go, but he couldn't come out and say that, that's not how the game is played. Plus, there would have been part of him knowing how he felt (still feels) about turning down Rota, so he wasn't the best placed person to advise Tim. It was a nice brotherly scene. I didn't worry at all that Tim would take the promotion, but even so I was relieved when he turned it down.
There wasn't a great deal of humour in the episode, which is understandable, but I did enjoy the scene where Abby was 'rolfing' Jimmy (I did have to Google the term). Abby certainly is quite versatile then.
It really is an episode I should watch again to catch the various things I missed (I can't recall see Pacci for instance). It had a heck of a lot going for it; it packed so much into 42 minutes, it really did. And it worked so very, very well. Kudos to all involved. Mark Harmon was amazing in it, as always he underplays things, there's no grand gestures or big things, but he carries all the scenes.
It really was a superb episode - all the more so, I think, given how little I was looking forward to it. Very poignant, very moving, so much going on and very thought-provoking indeed.
'Sometimes good people do the wrong thing for the right reason'.
'Life is all about making choices'.
'The choices we make don't just affect us'.
- The opening squad room scene with Tony and Ziva trying to figure out why Tim had changed his computer screens around.
- The wee scene where Tony and Ziva are working together to snoop and Tim coming in.
- Abby, Jimmy and Gibbs in Abby's lab when Abby was rolfing Jimmy. I loved Gibbs's subsequent comment about not realising Jimmy had abs like that and the look on Abby's face was priceless.
- Gibbs and his mum and her telling him how proud she's always been on him but also gently berating him for not being nicer to his dad and not cutting him some slack.
- Gibbs, Ducky, Abby and Tim in Gibbs's basement when we saw the person he would have been had he not killed Hernandez and Ducky telling him to stop thinking about himself and try thinking about the people who love him (meaning Ducky, Abby, Tim, Kate and Tony - Ducky told Gibbs he loves him *g* which we knew anyway no matter if it's friendship or more, just as we know Abby and the others love him and he loves them, they're family). Even then, in the alternative universe, only Ducky can get away with calling him on things. And finally after Gibbs had said he didn't want pity, Ducky asking him what he did want.
- The final squad room scene when Tim says he's turned down the huge promotion and he, Tony and Ziva try to talk Gibbs out of going to the crime scene after what he'd been though, but Gibbs saying he'd made the choice.
We learnt and had some things confirmed too:
- Gibbs and Joan Matteson did have a relationship at some level.
- Shannon really did only call Gibbs 'Gibbs', strange that.
- None are coming to mind at the moment.
Pairing of the week:
Gibbs and Mike
Character of the week:
Actor of the week:
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