It was a very special episode of NCIS.
The plight of homeless veterans was in the spotlight on NCIS Season 17 Episode 4.
As the episode pointed out, it was shameful that veterans had to die and be mutilated before indifferent politicians would supply at least some of the resources needed to help veterans.
Or, in simpler terms, lots of lip service but little action.
This one hit close to home for Gibbs.
He had reached the same point of despair that many of these homeless veterans had. Who knows where he could have ended up if someone hadn't reached out to him?
You don't get many episodes that open with a runaway horse unless it's a Western. Having that horse running wild at a national monument made it unique.
It was understandable that the woman from Department of the Army Special Guard was having trouble following protocol.
The argument that NCIS gets the case before they got there first was especially laughable. But when dealing with military/government institutions, maybe that's true.
Besides, they had Harry Potter/The Chosen One on their side, so of course, they took over.
It was evident early on that somebody had an agenda, that it wasn't some random serial killer at work.
Why else stick a dog tag inside of a foot?
The second dead veteran was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, seeing Holtzman's body being mutilated.
So the other body was, to use a military term, collateral damage.
Barney Williams was an intriguing figure during this investigation.
Gibbs and Jack had to determine why a former Marine didn't want to be identified as a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine, right?
Barney had a new mission. Using his journal, he served as a biographer for his fellow veterans, so their stories wouldn't be lost regardless of how their post-service lives had developed.
But why was he so unwilling to talk about what had come before, while he was a Marine?
That was a Jack question for sure, trying to get inside Barney's head and figuring out what makes him tick.
In Barney's mind, he was a failure. He took family leave to take care of his sick mother, but she died, and while he was gone, members of his unit died as well.
He was wiped out financially and emotionally. That was a lot of loss for any person to carry around.
It took Gibbs, no stranger to loss who also struggled when returning home, to provide much-needed perspective to Barney.
He let Barney know he was hardly alone out there, although I would have thought all those vets' stories Barney was writing down would have told him that already.
No, Gibbs was paying it forward, holding out a helping hand to a fellow vet as someone had done for him.
The character of Dr. Bell served the purpose of highlighting how woefully underfunded the Veterans Administration's medical services are.
Those in power talk a good game when it comes to helping out returning veterans but aren't backing that up with resources.
Vets make up nine percent of the homeless population in the U.S., with medical conditions that vets are suffering contributing to their living on the street.
Horror stories of veterans waiting months for treatment are far too common.
So the gruesome deaths of two veterans did result in attention on a serious national problem. But there had to be a better way to raise awareness.
This was the episode when Gibbs acknowledged the value of social media. Just don't expect it to happen again anytime soon.
Also, in the end, the vets, including Barney, were using Melissa's podcast as an effective method of publicizing their cause.
The question asked early on should have been who benefits from the outrage that came about once the public became aware of these homeless vets.
Kyle, the "volunteer" for Mercy Point Mobile Medical, seemed too good to be true, as he was spotlighting the problem of homeless vets on Melissa's podcast.
Isn't that usually the culprit on these procedurals is, someone who appears early but whose motives show up later?
It was great how Gibbs recruited the homeless vets to help capture the man who had mutilated two of their own, so that he could have more access to government funding.
Vance handicapped this investigation with his punishment for McGee, Bishop, and Torres.
Yes, of course, the other shoe was going to drop for their keeping him out of the loop about Ziva's mission.
And, sure, the final destination for past evidence does have to be determined, although I pity those that have to decide, such as Keller.
But make them come in on their days off and do it. Don't split their focus during an active investigation.
Granted, they were finding their way around their punishment to continue to work on the case. That's why they kept falling further and further behind their quotas.
Vance seemed to see the error of his ways as he cut them loose after the case was solved rather than give them more punishment for slipping behind.
Vance did tweak Gibbs good when he talked about "kids learning bad habits from their parents."
How many times has Gibbs asked for forgiveness rather than permission? Better yet, how many times has Gibbs asked for permission? That's got to be a much smaller number.
To catch up on the early episodes of this season, watch NCIS online.
Were you aware of homeless veterans?
How soon did you pick out the killer?
What other topics should this series tackle?
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Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.