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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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It stunk. That's what I think. I think NCIS has hit its peak and if it has to kill characters to generate ratings, then its flirting with insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).

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EJ or Vance Yes!!! But Mike Franks that was a no no!!..the show made it past Kate and Jennie ...Hope they leave well enough alone....what ever happened to "don't change the candy store""..they better leave Gibbs alone..he is the show and I hope they know it....xoxo ...and don't give him any long time loves...I would be heart broken..I don't know if I could watch him with someone...omg..This show is the best ever...keep going.

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In my opinion, an episode that kills off a loved character is always a sell-out by the network -- they get one big shocker and we lose future episodes with that character. I agree with the poster above who said that we always knew it would be a great episode if Mike was in it. Now we won't see any more of those. Shame on you CBS!!!

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Great shame that Mike Franks has been killed off.He only appeared from time to time but when he did you knew you were in for a great episode. He brought a gritty realism and worldweariness to the series and a genuine affection for Gibbs.My thanks to Jesse Stern and Muse Watson for creating a great character. RIP Mike Franks you will be sorely missed.

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NCIS has a bad habit of killing off characters the public likes. First Kate (who Zeva will never be able to replace) and now Mike Franks. What is wrong with the writers on this show? If you want to kill someone off, how about Leon or Tony? Tony is a sexist pig. Maybe it's time for the final epsisode of NCIS period.

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Getting rid of Mike Franks was a mistake. His presence made a huge contribution to the show. He was a super-strong supporting character. Killing him off tends to make me thing the writers are running out of creative steam. You don't put a good horse down. Keep the plot focused on the bad guys and creative investigation and keep the team intact.

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I actually like Vance. You have to catch the subtlety of his character and the connection with Gibbs, so I hope he stays on. I am sad about Mike Franks though. I loved his character and his genuine kinship with Gibbs.

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Mike Franks is dead! And if what I have read is true, season 9 will cast his "voice" as a means to communicate with Gibbs. This reminds be of the characters Inspector Ian Rutledge and Corporal Hamish MacLeod by Charles Todd. "Well proby, what are you gonna do about DiNozzo? This is the second time he's gone behind your back to work on some extracurricular assignment? Didn't he say that it wouldn't happen again after the Shepard and Benoit fiasco?" "Yeah Mike, I think he said something like that." "You know something proby? This group is starting to get a little too fickle for my taste." "What can I say Mike?"

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kayla loved your comment you are so right.

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@lll and @Sue Ann Rule number 12 clearly states " you shouldnt date a co-worker" key word SHOULDNT. lol which means they can but they wont. but they should! like, i am the biggest tiva fan there is and they just really need to get together. they would make the show even better then what it already is! hha but i like it when they arent together cause i like the intensity and sexual tension they have between them. but with them being together people think it would ruin the show. so idk. :)

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