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NCIS Review: Are You Ready to Rock!?

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NCIS was a rocking good time tonight, and not just because of an eccentric '80s one-hit wonder or a faux lunar sample.

"Phoenix" featured an unorthodox case with an unexpected team member running point. None other than Dr. Mallard got to run the show this week after Gibbs evoked Rule #38 (see Gibbs rules): Your case, your lead

How did Ducky end up in such an unfamiliar position, and how did the recovering M.E. handle it?

Ducky Takes the Lead

Inspired by an obituary, he exhumed the body of Commander Roberts, who died 12 years ago after what Ducky no longer believed was an accident. Coincidentally, his cold case quickly tied into the team's latest victim.

Rather than relieve him because he wasn't cleared to work in a medical capacity on a current case, Gibbs let the team's elder statesman run the investigation. A class move, and the old man didn't let him down.

TV shows obviously take liberties (such as the slim chance this would be permitted), and the instant tie-in with the new bodies was a bit convenient, although Roberts' exhumation did indirectly influence Sgt. Hill's case.

In any event, it was a lighter installment with plenty of fun character moments, and a great opportunity for David McCallum to shine as Ducky, a terrific character so often regulated to his subterranean autopsy world.

Not that he wasn't thrilled to go back when he was cleared at the end - have you ever seen someone so relieved to pick up a bone saw and chat up a corpse again? - but he relished and made the most of his new role.

Ducky-centric episodes are few and far between, and perhaps because of that it's even more of a treat to watch McCallum at work. The 79-year-old still commands the screen as a vital cog in the NCIS machine.

The "Phoenix" formula wouldn't work every week, but it was hard not to smile tonight.

Gibbs' Basement

Obviously struggling with his own mortality in the aftermath of his heart attack and stuck in neutral professionally, Ducky was as revitalized being back in the game as he was unsettled being on the shelf last week.

Dealing with the living is a different ballgame, as he learned from his conversation with his original victim's daughter. The human component is different when one's invesitgative role involves ... breathing humans.

Minor obstacles aside, the bow-tied one acquitted himself well as acting special agent, be it examining evidence or conducting interrogations. Plus, he get to boss around DiNozzo in addition to Palmer. Who wouldn't enjoy that.

Abby helped uncover the link to a falsified lunar sample (fake moon dirt) that connected the two cases. More significantly, the forensic wiz was clearly back to her old self mentally. The big kaboom is a distant memory.

The trail briefly went cold, but then heated up again with a different focus after Tim and Tony tracked down another would-be buyer of Hill's. They weren't counting on who, and what, they found in Del Finney.

The aging rock star on the run from creditors, played by real-life '80s rocker Michael Des Barres, was a hoot. Since he wasn't guilty of buying black market WMDs in the end, maybe he'll pop up again down the road.

Ultimately, the previously-introduced, thoroughly-creepy one-time head of NASA's Protective Rock Services division (is that a real thing?) was revealed as the guilty party. Game, set, match, Ducky.

No sooner had cuffs been placed on the perp than Ducky was cleared to return to his actual job. Ziva remarked that the team was whole again. Is she right? Or will the effects of the bombing resurface down the line?

NCIS Ready to Rock!

Another enjoyable night of NCIS overall. The case wasn't the heaviest or most intense, but that's fine. Over the course of the season you need that nice balance, and hopefully we'll continue to experience that.

A few stray thoughts and observations before turning it over to your comments:

  • You gotta love Gibbs' "kids" Tony, Tim and Ziva ganging up on Palmer at the crime scene.
  • Of course the lei and Mai Tai are Abby's interpretation of what Gibbs is like on the inside.
  • For a nerd who goes to Star Trek conventions, Timothy McGee is quite the marksman!
  • What is Gibbs building down there? Is Ducky somehow involved in this new project?
  • The show is off next week due to the second presidential debate, then back October 23.

What did you think of tonight's NCIS episode? Discuss below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (201 Votes)

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

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@Michael - Are you REALLY as clueless as you sound? You post the SAME things on here over & over again, and you've already been schooled on Canon more than once, which you CLEARLY don't know. TONY is FAKE. WEATHERLY is REAL, and HE would NEVER "quit" NCIS. He is THRILLED w/ what's happening with his character going forward, and he shall FOREVER be known as the Comical, Chief Instigator/Humiliator on the show. He is COMFORTABLE with that role. Get over it. Furthermore, Tony is member of a TEAM. He is no MORE or LESS than any other character. If you want to waste time being "sad"..then be "sad" somewhere else, because it won't do you any good on NCIS. They're not going to change their successful formula. The writers will do with Tony what they will, and he will be FINE.

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@Nat
Hey Nat you said "
They ALL share the spotlight TOGEHTER and contribute TOGETHER as a UNIT" where your proof because ever since Season 7 its has not been like that maybe a little in season 8 when Tony almost quit the show but ever since Ziva became the main star it has not. Sound like to me you just hate Tony because you never say anything nice about him

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@Nat - will you please respond by spelling out a list of Gibbs, Ziva, and McGee's faults that the show brings to light? I'dl like to hear your take on the humiliating faults of these three. I can't recall the show doing anything to Ziva or Gibbs that would be humiliating. Tony on the other hand is always one upped by Ziva, disrespected by all, hit below the belt again, by Ziva, no longer gets to be competent undercover, can no longer attract women, be written sympathetically, or be cast as a great agent for an entire episode without the taint of the obligatory Tony humiliation scenes. McGee is also at times the butt of a joke, but no where near as often as Tony. So please - let me hear from you all the "pointed out" faults of Gibbs, Ziva, and McGee. Please be specific. I'm very curious.

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Anyone thinking that Gibbs, Tim & Ziva never have any faults "pointed out" on the show clearly does NOT watch the same NCIS the rest of the world watches. As Dani said perfectly...they are ALL imperfect. The only "sadness" ANY fan would need to feel about Tony is the fact that he will NEVER be promoted to the kind of "Sainthood" THEY feel he deserves. He's a SFA. That's it. He is ONE member of a TEAM, where GIBBS is the boss and always will be. They ALL share the spotlight TOGEHTER and contribute TOGETHER as a UNIT. It will never change from that. NO episode would be "the same" without ANY of the main cast. And NO charcter is ruder or disrespectul to the other team members than Tony. Any humiliation he receives from the others is USUALLY a boomerang effect from whatever he FIRST dished out!! It's what Tony does, and he does it WAAAAAY more often than the rest.

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@Carol do not believe that person who portends to be Michael Weatherly he not always telling the truth

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I agree Sadtonyfan that he is often a point of humiliation, especially with Ziva and I wish this would stop. He is a brilliant, heroic character as you indicated. However, I would like to say something more about him being in scenes where his contributions would be appreciated. In Season 10 Episode 2 he was the one that discovered the evidence and collared the suspect after she discarded facts in the water. In Season 9 he was the focal point or a major contributor in action to 4 episodes:(I hope this is right) Nature of the Beast, Secrets, The Missionary Position (Ziva's story but it would not have been the same without Tony) and Rekindled. Episode 1 in Season 9 was his Nature of the Beast (I think). The season is early and I know that Tony will definitely be featured in more than one episode. Another MW video I have on twitter, he is reporting that there will be a lot of DiNozzo and McGee this year. Thanks

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Continued . . . . super competent and are NEVER portrayed as having humiliating faults. Tony has IMO mostly been reduced to the jokes of the week and as always sacrificed so that Gibbs or Ziva can shine the most.

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@Carol, first let me say that I appreciate the respectful tone of your post. I also appreciate what you are saying. MW is terrifically talented at comedy, which is very hard to pull off. I also feel that you are right in that Tony yearns for acceptance. Here's where I have the problem. Almost all of the Tony humor for the last several seasons has been the humor of humiliation. Tony never has the upper hand and is always the one left looking stupid, sneered at, or disrespected. In the earlier seasons Tony's humor was not always written at Tony's expense. Also, his goofiness was offset by the character having many episodes where he was portrayed for an entire episode as being brave, brilliant, heroic, and consequently cared about and appreciated by Gibbs and his teamates. Now Tony fans are lucky if he gets to make one small, unspectacular contribution that isn't another embarrassment. Gibbs and Ziva are now the only characters who are always portrayed as super competent, and are NEVER portrayed as a bad joke.

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I would like to point out to you Carol just because someone sign a contact does not mean their happy with the show look at criminal minds and if you would read something believeable like TV guide and EW you would know how it could Michael Weatherly almost quitting the show back in season 7 for them to do a storyline about him you can tell how he hate humore and according to his and his wife facebook he does not like being funny all the time he want Tony to grow up he not shawn spencer from Pysch.

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@Carol - Well Done :-) I think you've nailed a big part of Tony's "essence", and to me you know him BETTER than some (not all) of these so-called "Tony" fans!!! Yearning for acceptance is a HUGE part of why Tony acts the way he does, I feel. Tony likes to "Act Out", if you will, and he often uses his team members (mostly Tim) as target practice. Tim is no slouch, though; he may be quiet, but he has his own way of holding his own against Tony. What's nice about Tony & Ziva is that he's finally met his MATCH when it comes to her. She only puts up with that "Acting Out" nonsense to an extent, and now that she understands Tony better (and vice versa), she knows how to handle it when she sees him do that. MW himself even indicated that recently in a recent article. Inspite of Tony's shortcomings, it's hard to "hate" him. He is a good person, but imperfect - just like they ALL are. That's why we love this cast.

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