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NCIS Review: On High Alert

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Even run-of-the-mill NCIS installments rarely disappoint, but how good are these end-of-season multi-episode arcs? It seems like every year around late April or early May, the intensity is kicked up several notches.

Tonight was no exception. With two more episodes remaining in season nine, "Playing With Fire" was essentially the second chapter of a four-part NCIS mini-series ... possibly even longer than that.

Knowing Gary Glasberg, Shane Brennan & Co., this will no doubt stretch into the fall in some form. The way it's going after last week's "Rekindled" and now this evening, I doubt there will be many complaints.

It's been a team effort from the start in a case that brings the agency's military roots to the forefront. We all enjoy NCIS for the characters, but remains a Navy show, and it raises the stakes when this is highlighted.

Because of the nature of the deepening mystery, the episode was light on action for most of the hour, but the compelling, perfectly-paced story more than made up for it. When the show commits itself to continuity over multiple weeks like this, the stories are less rushed and often feel more organic.

It was, pardon the expression, another slow burner, and a good one at that.

Tony and Ziva on Board

Much of the episode was spent on the obvious - connecting the Baltimore arson with the fire marshal's demise and the explosion on the U.S.S. Brewer. Once that link was established, it was on to the next target.

Tony and Ziva, at their bantering best, were dispatched to Naples with Stan Burley and tasked with catching the perpetrator in the act of trying to blow up a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier. No pressure.

Their European mission led to some fun exchanges, as did Ziva's ill-fated pilates weekend and Tony's rabid curiosity in general. Obviously, Tony's a little obsessed with her, but he's more obsessed with gossip.

The two of them, along with McGee, offered consistent comic relief and character insight, but never - and this can be a difficult line to walk - to the point where it overshadowed any of the crime solving.

The night's second most intense moment had to be aboard the Benjamin Franklin, when Burley took a flying knife to the shoulder. Fortunately, he'll come out of this fine, thanks to the aircraft carrier's two new "enlistees."

DiNozzo's jealous, overgrown frat boy ways and sarcasm serve as his calling card, but he always comes through. He and Ziva make a great team, even if it irked him that she "outranked" him as a faux Naval officer.

The most intense scene came when Gibbs had the would-be arsonist thinking he was en route to Guantanamo Bay thanks to the Patriot Act. Not a bluff you want to call. Amid Gibbs' threat, he gave up his boss.

Or gave up what little he - or anyone - knows of the reclusive investor anyway.

We now have a name and a face behind these acts of terrorism, but it was not a North Korean despot or a man anyone has seen in person in the past year. It's Harper Deering (The West Wing's Richard Schiff).

Beyond apparently bankrolling the attacks, Deering's role remains unclear. Schiff is set to appear next week, so we'll likely get a greater idea then of whether he's the mastermind, or just the international go-between.

The Korean code was (relatively) easily deciphered, but his motive is another story. This is a new kind of villain, one with all the right connections, potentially dangerous information and considerable financial wherewithal.

Wounded

Did anyone not feel their pulse quicken when the entire room stood ramrod straight as Gibbs posted Deering's picture over that of Osama bin Laden - killed one year ago tomorrow (May 2, 2011) - on the Most Wanted List?

That moment left no doubts as to the agency's solidarity, or the seriousness of the task at hand. Great to see Gibbs rally the troops, so to speak, for the battle ahead. Next week can't come fast enough.

Somewhat removed from the terrorist plot, but still connected indirectly, especially near the end, was Ducky. Naming Jethro executor of his estate was a touching gesture, as was his charitable bequest.

Seeing the slain officer Ramsey's children made the doctor's decision easy regarding where to leave the bulk of the money he'll never live long enough to spend - the Marine Corps Scholarship Fund.

Classy move to plug that organization via a beloved character like Ducky, who first revealed his surprising wealth at Gibbs' house. You know anytime there's a scene there, some secret's going to come out.

As for the time when Dr. Mallard passes away, don't look for that to be a given that future plot line, thankfully, as David McCallum signed a two-year contract extension with CBS this week. He's going strong at 78!

A few random thoughts and stray observations before turning it over to you:

  • You have to love the resurfacing of Stan (and Ziva's bikini photos), YEARS later.
  • Next week is Palmer's bachelor party. Thoughts on what Abby will (or should) plan?
  • His absence was explained, but it feels like Vance should be involved, doesn't it?
  • Also absent, but getting a brief mention, was Jason King (Gaius Charles).
  • Crackers and apples, people. Remember that.

What did you think of tonight's NCIS? Discuss in the comments below!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (218 Votes)

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

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Both chatter! Why get excited about the romance of Gibbs and JLC and not by Tiva? I don't understand!! TIVA is the best in fun and romance of NCIS!

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this comments thing cuts peeps off. what i was sayin; some of the wall streeters that survived joined the miltaty to fight terrorism in afghanistan. some of the kids of the wall street guys that died in twin towers joined the military to fight against terrorism. these types of wall street guys don't turn into int'l terrorists against their country no matter what. this is damn close to shark jumpin'. never mind gary gasbag (typo on gg's last name on purpose) cast richard schiff to play this so-called maniac. toby 'the whiner' from the west wing is supposed to frighten me? rotflmao. like scott wolf party of 5 dude lmao as this year villian du crap. srsly folks, ray, ej, cobb, reynosa bro & sis all these badly cast characters & arcs on gasbag's watch. bring back shane brennan. quick.

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oh yeah liked most of the epi. agree w/ reviewer. solid gold tony & ziva. great team stuff. but endin' reveal of dearing as terrorist wtf? puttin' his picture over bin laden? 1st off dearing don't even look scary as a character. think its f'n weird to even put a 2 bit fictional guy's picture over a picture of bin-laden the most hated man in usa world history. seems an insult to navy & military. trite. on top of it so damn anti-climatic to reveal dearing as an investment guy. kinda same lame ass reveal happened w/ cobb, ptpk. what a bad arc that p2pk. worried about finale. rich white anglo saxon 'wall streeter' turned crazed terrorist cause his son died in duty? thats ridumb-culous. do they have a pychologist profiler helpin' gary gasbag with scripts. doesn't sound like it. guess gg doesn't remember what 9/11 did to wall street & investment bankers irl. % of innocent people that died in twin towers worked on wall street. some of the wall streeters that survived joined the military in afghanistan to fight terrorism. some of the kids of the guys that died in towers joined the military. these types of educated guys wouldn't become international terrorists against their own country. this idea sounds f'n dumb. couldn't be more far-fetched crack piped out story. shark jumpin' much? maybe there will be a good twist. and he's not a villian.

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if they keep ryan as a character then those make-out's with her and gibbs need to be more offscreen. & she needs to be less annoyin'. top it off nobody wants to see there parents or grand parents make-out on tv. even old peeps don't like to see old peeps make-out on tv. reminds them that they're old-duh. sorry mh & jlc. you're great. but, old peeps want to remember their sexy youth via tiva-tony & ziva. most do. thats the ticket for ncis. tiva=gold. mw's lucky he still looks young.

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who's the anti-tiva turd from the 'ol cbs board hopin' for this bs' ziva & stan hook up? i lol'd when i read this comment here:
"There was even a blog by Schenck and Cardea (I think those were the writers) who were starting to promote the idea of Ziva with Stan." r you anti morons gonna start that campaign so you can get more tibbs (tony & gibbs) screen romance time. rotflmao. stan's dull. like ej was dull. u didn't fool anybody wit your bs ej love. you'll lose against majority again who want tiva. 0 chemistry = stan & ziva. plus if that happens than f&g the writers & tbtp's r creepy old dudes. ziva's like 20 yrs younger than burley. that actor looks real old. did u see his wrinkly neck. over 50 irl-imho. tptbs's pull that on fans they're nutso. younger fans will bolt from gettin' totally grossed out. they're boltin' some already cause of ej , ray bs, the bs tiva push & pull. liked jlc in small doses, now its overkill. ryan is startin' to annoy me. the make-out's with her & gibbs need to be more offscreen. nobody wants to see there parents or grand parents make-out on tv. even old peeps don't like to see old peeps make-out on tv. reminds them that they're old-duh! tiva works cause 100& chemistry is there. both r sexy young & hot in tv terms. lucky for mw he still looks young.

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True I can not tell you how many woman I work with who would leave in the middle of their job to go home to be with their kids its really sad

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@CA At the time I wrote that, I thought she left to be one of the main characters on Rizzoli and Isles. I looked up her bio to see that she had a time period where she only acted in one episode on different shows while having her family. I don’t think it is a mistake to stop to have a family; however, it can slow down a woman’s career, at times. I don’t think she will get the recognition in R & I that she could with NCIS #1. Look at the name recognition of MW and Cote. I only knew Mark and David before the show began.

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I'm willing to bet Sasha Alexander does not feel she made a mistake leaving the show. She wanted to start a family and be a part of that family. Where is the mistake in that choice?

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Any one who liked Scottie Thompson (Jeanne Benoit) may like to watch a Hallmark Original movie this Sunday p.m.. It is on the Directv channel 560 NOT the other Hallmark channel 312. She will be acting with Jane Seymour.

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@ Michael I think there's a difference. MW is the bread winner in his family. Sasha and Lauren left to spend time being mothers to their children. MW seems to be contented with NCIS, as far as I have read. I imagine Bojana will be involved more with child rearing and perhaps have a limited practice while their family is growing. This is all conjecture on my part. I'm basing my opinion more on life experience. Once a woman has a baby, she may change her feelings about her job. Child rearing is usually not 50-50. There's more responsibility on the one who carried the baby for 9 months. I hope MW stays at NCIS. The show wouldn't be the same without him.