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NCIS Review: Mike Franks' Swan Song

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From the opening scene, you knew this would be not just an unusual episode of NCIS, but a somber, dark and gut-wrenching installment that would leave viewers reeling.

The aptly-titled "Swan Song" began with Gibbs stoically standing in the rain, helplessly watching a body bag carted off. As promised, the victim was a major NCIS figure.

Even as the story unfolded in reverse, with dots connected throughout the night, the identity of the person ins the bag and the toll this loss took on Gibbs were obvious.

Gibbs and Franks

NCIS doesn't usually try methods such as having Mike (or the memories of Mike) talk to Gibbs throughout the case, hovering over his shoulder, as if he were really there.

For a time, of course, he was. But the Mike Franks we first saw last night spoke to Jethro from beyond the grave, shrouding the episode in both mystery and emotion.

If there were any doubts that Jethro's mentor was the victim, they were cleared up during Duck's autopsy. Gibbs was present, yet absent, like Mike in a different sense.

Perhaps the fact that it was so different made it all the more effective. Rather than having Franks killed as a shocker at the end, we were left wondering how and why.

It worked extremely well not only because many fans guessed Franks would be this week's victim, but because it set up a terrific "Swan Song" for this great character.

Like the old dog he referenced, Franks knew his time had come, and he went out in style, picking a fight the Port-to-Port Killer never saw coming and nearly winning it.

Mike looked noticeably pale and unwell, not to mention noticeably older, in human form than in Gibbs' mental images. You can't help but wonder if he was gravely ill.

That may also explain how Gibbs lives with what happened going forward. Had he not called Mike, he would be alive today ... or would he? Not if he were terminal.

Instead, perhaps Jethro offered the man who took him under his wing a fitting sendoff, and in a tangential way, broke open a case that flummoxed him on many levels.

That doesn't mean Mike's murder wasn't brutal to stomach for Probie or anyone else. For Gibbs, letting go of Franks would be like everyone else letting go of Gibbs.

The scene where the elevator opened and McGee was holding Abby just as Tony was with Ziva, and Tony telling them to "bring it in" for a group hug was powerful.

Given everything that's gone on - and is still going on - viewers probably felt they needed a hug too. After all, the monster who did this to Franks is still on the loose.

Franks' death became the latest chapter in the hunt for the P2P, who we now know by name (Jonas Cobb) and received a full bio on thanks to a one-eyed Trent Cort.

The shady CIA agent's role filled in a number of blanks.

Swan Song Photo

First, it explained the eyeball. It was his, which made sense, given the Company's propensity for gaining access to everything. More importantly, it legitimized the P2P.

Making viewers fear Cobb on a show in which murderers are hunted every week is a difficult task, but Cort's description and thoroughly disturbing videos did the job.

The P2P is a trained assassin, crafted by the CIA to do its "wet work" while remaining undercover as a run-of-the-mill serviceman. Only after his first kill, he went rogue.

After making a mockery of military hierarchy by slaying his first group of victims, the killer is now evolving, tracking the people tracking him. But Franks wasn't a target.

Cobb was conducting "research" on Gibbs, lurking inside NCIS and outside his home. Just as Gibbs and Vance study each other, the killer observes. He learns. He waits.

Interestingly, it was when Gibbs confronted Vance about their personal battles that he gained insight into why Cobb came to his house - and where he went next.

Franks forced Cobb into a kill-or-be-killed situation, but the P2P didn't want Gibbs. He wanted Barrett and her team members, baiting them into a terrifying trap.

Despite widespread animosity for E.J. and the new guys, you couldn't watch this and not feel awful. She walked right into this haunting, deadly trap and had no idea.

Will E.J. survive? It doesn't look good, but Gibbs and Vance are on the same page now. Jethro's running point, fueled by the demise of his mentor. It is ON next week.

Presumably because of its format, NCIS doesn't get much Emmy love, but that should change, because this was one of the most superbly written episodes of TV you'll see.

Weaving this complicated web in such compelling fashion, with precise attention to detail and continuity years in the making, is no easy task. Kudos to everyone involved.

I'm drained after watching, then writing about these events that evoked so much emotion and so many thoughts. It's hard to do them justice. So I turn it over to you:

What did you think of last night's NCIS? Discuss below!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (1045 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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I hate that you killed off Mike franks. I love the show, but why this he was one of the best.

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I agree with Pat and SLT. All NCIS would have to do is write an episode where the person killed was Mike's twin (unknown to Gibbs and the rest). Bring back Mike! In fact, let the whole team (including Franks)blow the P2P killer to kingdom come.

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For the life of me, I cannot fathom a show as good as NCIS killing off Mike Franks. He became my favorite character (not to lessen the excellent other actors on this great show). He offered a counterpart to the "going by the book" of everything else in the show. And, the harshness of the director needed someone who didn't answer to him. I was so upset by this that I stopped watching the show. Maybe I'll pick it up again in re-runs, but for now that stupid and tragic loss just made me too angry. If the actor who played Franks couldn't or wouldn't play the part anymore, the writers could have done the decent thing and let him live out the rest of his life in his abode in Mexico. That place of his was a nice touch. Franks was a great and powerful character who deserved better than that.

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NCIS is my all time favorite show. I cannot miss a Tuesday night with Gibbs and the team. Mike Franks was a great character it was a shame to lose him that way. I also agree the show isnt the same with Vance. He seems to sneaky and always trying to break up the team.

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i to love Mike Franks, the stories were great, his acting was great,i hope he comes back, or i also though he looked sick in real life i hope not, i missed the swan show part was traveling but really bring Franks back and i hope he's not sick let me know, you finally stopped Tony bulling McGee, that was awful enough goes on in real life,

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Bring back Franks! The ultimate agent; could take out 1 or 21, not a pretty boy", gruff voice, bad attitude, nobody to answer to... a butt-kickin' former agent you could count on to get any job done RIGHT..no lose ends. He was the "Mentor", the "Teacher", the "GO TO Guy" when the job got dirty, Franks would SHINE!
The only agent that Gibbs could actually look up to....and we LIKED him.
So what were you thinking?

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Who did the song for that episode Swan Song? The one used at the end of the show when they were burying Mike Franks?

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I love the NCIS show. I am very dissipointed in the fact they killed off Mike Franks. I think he was a very important charter in the show i think the show will not be the same without him. I sincerely hope the show comes to realize they need to re in vent franks using the same man who played franks i belive this will put more spunk into the show.

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Excellant show!! Well written!! Although all the shows are great, this one in particular highlights how the power brokers play for keeps...maybe the producers would consider bringing in Mike Frank's daughter-in-law to keep his memory alive and add to future story lines.

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Excellent episode, but I'm sorry to see Mike Franks go. He was a favorite character. Maybe they could find a way to bring him back?

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