NCIS Review: Check Your Head

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Tonight's NCIS episode was all about getting inside people's heads, in an effort to "Psych Out" the opposition and complete the mission, with multiple sides playing various angles and the truth difficult to find.

The story had the feel of a big-screen psychological thriller, a slow-burning mystery that kept you on the edge of your seat and paying extra attention to detail. You almost had to watch your own back in this one.

A major reason the episode worked so well was Jamie Lee Curtis' Dr. Samantha Ryan, a uniquely formidable "brain gamer" and an adversary who temporarily threw Gibbs off his game - not an easy feat.

Despite portraying a character we were meant to intensely distrust and dislike from the get-go, Curtis turned in a strong, nuanced performance and commanded the screen alongside Mark Harmon throughout.

Two of the best in the business at the top of their game. What's not to love?

Gibbs, Ryan

A lot of viewers probably won't love the idea of our fearless leader meeting up with his PsyOps counterpart for a 4 a.m. breakfast date, but she did show a surprising vulnerability in the final third of the episode.

After Gibbs turned the tables and gained the upper hand by showing up at her son's school - the best scene of the episode, where he said everything by saying nothing - we saw a different side of Dr. Ryan.

While Ryan's fierce loyalty to the DOD and its clandestine missions is unquestioned, her humanity won out when she begged for one favor, and Gibbs collected his end of the quid pro quo immediately.

She covered her tracks, but by leaving her phone and associated clues, Ryan led NCIS to Banks' killer. Sure, she could've done so all along, and probably can never be trusted unless she loses significant leverage.

Still, she's not entirely terrible.

Sparks flew left and right between Ryan and Gibbs tonight, but will they carry over and ignite a personal relationship beyond this episode? Curtis returns on the March 20 episode, so it's certainly possible.

She's not a redhead, though, so strike one ... or would that be a positive change of pace? Either way, the much bigger issue, of course, is the fact that she's predisposed to subterfuge and underhandedness.

To think, we were getting on Wendy's case for being a liar last week. Ryan's clearly good at her job, but when that involves half-truths and cold, calculated manipulation, you're suspicious relationship material.

The reference to waging a psychological battle against Iran was fitting, given the increased attention paid to that nation's nuclear ambitions, and in an era gradually moving beyond conventional warfare.

So many things go on behind the scenes that we have no clue about (even pros like Vance struggle to get a straight answer from the Pentagon), and many are likely vital to our national security.

Nevertheless, when you live in the shadows, life becomes one giant gray area.

Vance Pic

Gibbs sensed from the start that he was being monitored by those with ulterior motives, even before he found the bug in his basement - how shady was that, and how smart is he? - telling the team to power down.

Another great scene. While the rest of the world is going paperless, Gibbs is going ... paper, McGee! Clearly a smart move on his part. Hacking, bugging, drugging ... going up against PsyOps isn't amateur hour.

Ryan is a compelling character I'd like to see work with, not against, the team again. Sharp, funny and hard-nosed, she'd be a great asset if you could believe more than 40 percent of what she says.

Tread carefully, Gibbs. We know you love powerful women, and the 200th episode marked a turning point of sorts for you emotionally, but you may want to point your feet toward the door on this one.

With the intensity of the Gibbs-Ryan mind games and the complexity of the case, this probably could have been a two-part episode and ended on an even stronger note, but it was still excellent overall.

A few more odds and ends from tonight before turning it over to your feedback:

  • Interesting return by Dr. Rachel Cranston (a.k.a. Dr. Kate's Sister) in an episode in which her character, whose previous appearances were memorable, was largely overshadowed.
  • It was good to see Vance tonight, and squarely with the good guys. Gibbs laughing after he questioned whether he and Ryan spent private time together in college was priceless.
  • Rule #42: Never trust someone who just tried to sucker punch you.
  • Does this mean Tim and Tony should make the same amount?
  • Think they went to the diner from the 200th episode?

What did you think of tonight's NCIS episode? Are Gibbs and Dr. Ryan a good match? What was your favorite scene from this week? Discuss in the comments below!


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (222 Votes)

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


as SFA tony should be making MORE, then tim and ziva....and i HATE when tptb make look like a's getting OLD. as for rachel: i agree....her character was GREATLY over shadowed in last nights show. alisa


This new season is a little weird for me. Usually I dvr the episode and hen watch in 10 times and never get tired of it. I can't do it with this season. For some reason it has no humor, no good scenes with Abby and Tim, Tony is still a 2 year old, and Ziva has lost all of her oomph! I hate to say this because NCIS is my all time favorite show but something is lacking. I hope they get back on track. Point: why didn't Abby meet Tim's grandmother? It would have made her day!!!!


Great show all the way from start to finish lots of good stuff Gibb's going to paper to throw them off of what he was doing and showing up at her sons school and just standing there just smiling and she is really upset now he is in the driver's sit and she know it. And then when it all over she is all curled up in bed and calls Gibb's to go out to breakfast.WOW is she setting him up for when she comes back next month hmmmm? And the money thing with Tony was just some fill-in. And Ziva and Tim know how much he worries about how much money he make.Tim just has more deductions.LOL.And Tim and Zive walk off to the Bar to have a drink and he sits there looking at the bill he got. LOL. I taped it how I will watch it again see what I missed I want to see what Kate's sister did in this show the only thing I remember is her say to Gibb's was not to trust JLC.


I very much enjoyed the scenes between JLC and MH. They played off each other very well. Two talented folks.Enjoyed watching McGee trying to adjust to not having his toys to use-funny!Rest of the episode was okay.
Why was Rachel there? Except to once again remind us about Kate. Gary Glasberg seems to love Kate for what ever reason and Rachel is the most incompetent doctor I've ever seen. She gives a bad name to Psy.
We were told that this season was about the team but instead it is about guest stars. Abby, Ducky, Tim and Vance rarely have much to do.


Gross-you do not do pancakes with the enemy-or at least a woman who bugs your home! I liked that Rachel stood up to the troll-I loathe mean girls and Ryan is definately oen of those! So she's soft about her son-a lot of crooks like their children too! I do not want a Gibbs hookup with the activia lady! Good episode otherwise!


Loved JLC. What a pair of attractive people. Great episode but I hated the paycheck line. In the real world it would border on harrassment or at least a punch in the nose. Made Tony's character look like a jerk.


LOVED the episode, but you're right, Jeff. I'm not seeing a romantic spark with Gibbs/Ryan. I loved the head game match-up and they could be really good friends and sparring partners, but Gibbs needs someone smart but a little softer IMO. Didn't like Col Mann for him either. Too pushy relationship-wise. So far, I think Borin was the best fit. Also a little younger. I know JLC is close to MH's age, but he looks a lot younger/sexier than he is and she doesn't.


It was Lt. Colonel Mann, and good question. Last we heard she was retiring from the Army. This was an excellent episode, "you're not from accounting".
Still think they missed the boat with Abby Borin as a love interest for Gibbs.


Lt. Col. (?) Mann retired and moved to Hawaii. Jenny was reading about the retirement in the military newspaper just before Gibbs entered her office. She quickly closed the paper with a smile.


Don't feed the trolls...

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