You know, despite how much I enjoyed the 200th episode, Jamie Lee Curtis' guest appearance and some of the heavier installments in recent months, it was refreshing to have the "old" NCIS back Tuesday.
By old, I don't mean that the show has lost a step. The writing has still been top-notch. There were just some things that felt lacking; I missed the truly team-oriented crime solving as well as the humor.
Last night was terrific in that regard. The crime under investigation was both serious enough to keep you interested and detest the bad guy(s) but not so serious that the team couldn't let loose at times.
The investigation's focus was on international arms dealer Agah Bayar, prime suspect in the death of Petty Officer Wiley, who was "murdered by remote control" i.e. a satellite signal impacting his pacemaker.
Across the country, every viewer fortunate enough to have their heart problems regulated by such a device was swallowing hard. That was a unique angle, and it was just the tip of this criminal iceberg.
After Gibbs correctly noted that Wiley was "diagnosed with a slow heartbeat and died of a fast heartbeat," the team went to his apartment and found $43K in cash, plus a Rolex that Tony obviously tried on.
Agah Bayar now looking even more suspicious, Gibbs decided on a face-to-face meeting ... with an agenda. Our man threatened to "take him down," then stealthily put a tracking device on his Aston-Martin.
The most interesting thing about the case was how multi-layered it was. It would've been fine on its own merit, but for most of the episode, Gibbs & Co. didn't fully understand what they were even after.
Not because Bayar is such a smooth criminal, either. The DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) kept them all in the dark, saying Vance and Gibbs weren't "Need to Know. If you're not need to know, then you don't.
This must be exasperating beyond belief for one federal agency to be stonewalled by another, especially when - as Gibbs and Vance's conversation briefly shed light on - NCIS is still fighting for respect.
The agency is, by federal investigative standards, quite small and easily overlooked. It's not hugely surprising that they'd be further down on the totem pole, or that Gibbs couldn't care less about politics.
Eventually, no thanks to the DIA, we learned that the woman at Bayar's company was a Russian agent (not a call girl, sorry Tony) whose father was in the KGB. Bayar, too, was playing both sides of this.
Gibbs put on a good front when he learned the whole thing was misdirection, that the DIA was trying to broker a deal with false intelligence secrets, and that he and Bayar were actually on the same team.
"This time," at least. Think he'll emerge as an NCIS target again soon?
The silver lining to the subterfuge throwing up roadblocks for the team was that it got McGee and Ned Dorneget (Matt Jones) off the hook for losing the Russian agent. Poor Ned. He had no chance in the bathroom.
Dorneget was great, I thought. Between bumping into people, forgetting his gun, trying to impress Gibbs with break room "coffee," and his inability to even hold his ID right side up, how do you not love the guy?
Fans (myself included) are inclined to be lukewarm to anyone new taking on a substantive role when we already don't see enough of our own team some weeks, but that didn't feel like the case last night.
Even with Dorneget thrown in the mix, everyone, even Vance, had memorable scenes. I enjoyed that he referenced how overworked he is and how it's taking a toll on his family, with Gibbs encouraging him to take a vacation. Ziva had an entertaining side plot too, although I wish we were able to see a snippet of her speech.
As for Ned himself? His bungling of everything was predictable, but didn't make him any less likable.
His homosexuality was handled well, too. The topic came up with McGee - who was great trying to be the big senior agent, naming rules and whatnot - in an organic way, and Tim was wonderfully understanding.
Had he not been accused of dropping the ball because of Baransky's beauty, Dorneget probably wouldn't have brought it up. Just because he's gay doesn't define him as an agent or a person, it's just a part of who he is.
He had little choice but to "come out" at that moment, and once he did, he and Tim could shift their focus and move on ... to how dead they were both going to be when Gibbs found out. Which he hasn't. Yet.
Tim had another reason to embrace Dorneget's sexual orientation, besides just being a good guy - he no longer has to worry about him leaving stuff at Abby's place. The look on his face was priceless there.
Dorneget's subtle crush on Tony? Also pretty funny.
Overall, an excellent episode from start to finish, blending just the right portions of all the things we've grown to love about the show. I hope we get more like it coming down the home stretch of this season.
A few odds and ends before turning it over to you ...
- Ducky really is right about wedding registries ... and most things about weddings.
- Speaking of which, when is Palmer's scheduled for? Has to be this spring, right?
- That interrogation scene in the morgue (when Ducky left for tea) was intense!
- The electro-score whenever Abby is on screen always makes me smile.
- The show is off until March 20, when Jamie Lee Curtis returns.
What did you think of this week's NCIS? Discuss in the comments below!