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.


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!


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.


I would not be shock if MW left the show now that he has a little girl and Im sure her wife does not like the way he has been treated on NCIS granted its not as bad as it has been in past season but still


I thought your review was great and spot on as usual. These last two episodes are NCIS gold. It did worry me ith Ducky's will preparations, but your comments put me at ease. Did any one else feel a little twinge there with Abby and Gibbs, he's cleaning his gun in her lab waiting for the results, that unlike Abby took longer than ususal...??? Gibbs always knows when she's got something... she bumbled, not bantered about excuses???? is something going on, have I missed something? Is abby hiding something, or just too busy with Palmers bucks night planning.


The always seem to bring Vance back for the finale type episodes, so I have a feeling he'll be back. I too am worried about MW, PP, and SM, since they're contracts are up. I am most worried about MW since he is the main reason that I watch the show. Although this season the writing for Tony hasn't been quite as demeaning as seasons 6, especially 7, and first half of 8, he's still hardly portrayed as the cool, brilliant, dangerous flirt he was in the first few seasons. Ziva and Gibbs continue to get the big stories and the majority of danger and drama. 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. Now I hope that they never sink poor Tony so low as to give us Tiva, but I wonder if this means that MW may be exiting and they have to put a new hunk in place to worship Ziva.


@Nick hi Nick yes it was a good one,as you get older you think about the future and i think thats what ducky is doing and now with all the money he's a bit lost but wants to do something right and the charity what he chose perfect,although if he wants to throw some my way wouldnt say no hahaha.


@CJ I know Rocky had a contact where he only suppose to show up in a certain number of episode I think he almost use most of them up for the season with the last one being the season Finale


There has been a number of comments on Vance not returning to NCIS to take charge. I had the impression “The Good Son� was his final episode for the year. I wondered at the time whether he was having surgery. Did anyone else get that impression?


Last night's episode was great. I especially loved Gibbs cleaning his gun while waiting for Abby to come in to work. I would hate to be Dearing when Gibbs catches up to him! Mark Harmon is the consumate professional, he seems to put just the right amount of intensity into each and every scene. I was bummed out to see JLC will be on next week. I am hoping they will kill her off during this storyline. Her character is too darn creepy - too many secrets, and not a good fit for Gibbs. I may have posted this before, so forgive me if I repeat myself - I would love to see a relationship with Gibbs and Boren, the Coast Guard investigator. I think they would make a good couple. I enjoy reading everyone's comments (most of them anyway, LOL), and am glad I found this site so I could talk "NCIS" with fellow fans.


i have to agree with you i hope JLC the one killed, playing with fire was a good show


This was a very good team centered episode. Loved it! Abby and McGee are my favorites and it was fun seeing them together again. I can't wait to see next week even if it has JLC in it. Lets hope she is the one to killed in the end!!!!!!!!!!


So is it true Abby might have to leave the show because of her staking her hunsband?

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