Original Air Date: Jan 18, 2011
Maria – TwoCents Reviewer
This episode does what NCIS does best: taking tough and poignant subjects like Alzheimer’s, homosexuality and governmental policy, even alcoholism and handling them in an eye-opening and understanding way. It’s rather an emotional episode, but a very solid one.
It starts with a navy recruitment event, taking place at a high school. The day ends with the brutal beating and murder of Navy Petty Officer First Class Simon Craig as he is pushed down the stairs and when he begs for help, he is stomped to death.
I’m torn about Tony’s characterisation this week, because I do find his attitude about wanting to know everything about Ziva’s love life consistently childish, but it’s also childish when he starts singing “wheels on the bus” yet Gibbs joins in and it is an amusing moment. Moments like those are much appreciated this episode, especially because we’ve just been introduced to Walter Magnus, played by the amazing Bob Newhart. His role isn’t immediately apparent but it becomes heart-achingly clear all too soon.
We learn from the Petty Officer’s sister that the victim was gay. It shouldn’t matter, not in this day and age and not with the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but Doctor Mallard and Doctor Magnus have noticed that the victim had previous injuries, he had been beaten weeks before his murder. Doctor Magnus is revealed to be Doctor Mallard’s predecessor, working in autopsy for NCIS. He is now retired, his wife has been dead for a long time and he claims to be estranged from his daughter.
I do love the continuity of NCIS, although I must confess I had to rack my brain as to why Vance had just come back from leave. He was almost killed in Enemies Foreign/Enemies Domestic! Still, Gibbs has been keeping his job open for him by not doing any of the paperwork required. Very considerate of Gibbs.
A suspect emerges for the murder of PO Craig but after a dramatic clash, (read: the suspect almost killed Agent McGee with an electric saw,) it becomes clear he couldn’t have done it because he was in a class on how to attract women at the time.
Another person of interest is Glenn Block, a married teacher that Simon Craig had been seeing for about a month. Whilst at the school talking to Mr. Block, the NCIS agents come across a student who had been labelled by school authorities as problematic, and has been suspended several times: Paul Simmons. His father, Lance, is clearly addicted to alcohol but he blames Paul’s behaviour on the death of his mother. He makes excuses, saying how hard it must be for a kid to lose a parent so young. Gibbs reminds him that Paul still has a father.
Like Doctor Magnus still has a daughter, who he is not estranged from, in fact, he’s been living with her and she’s worried about him. Over the course of the episode, we have seen Doctor Magnus act more and more befuddled. The first time it happened wasn’t odd, Abby was spouting technobabble, but it’s gotten so obvious that Walter has to announce his Alzheimer’s, the reason he wanted to return to NCIS was because he wanted to remember who he was, who he is. Awww.
Back to the case and Gibbs tells McGee to check the deceased’s personal emails. It may not be ethical or even strictly legal but it does show several emails exchanged between him and Paul Simmons, often containing the words “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Paul got a reputation as ‘problematic’ with the school but he wasn’t starting fights, he was just defending himself. Paul wants to be in the navy and Officer Craig was supporting him. Shame his drunkard of a father couldn’t see that. He was trying to protect Paul in his own way, from what he thought was going on. Shame it was violent and unnecessary. So tragic!
The episode ends on a more positive note when Ducky works with technical whizz kid McGee to compile of a video montage of all the people Doctor Magnus has helped over the years. It may seem cliché to read, but the acting made it so human that tears were brought to my eyes. As did the sight of Gibbs staying with Paul Simmons as he goes to see another recruitment officer. The navy should be proud to welcome a young man like Paul Simmons, whatever his sexuality; and this episode helps to argue and portray that.
Amidst all these heart-swelling moments, comes another one: Director Vance lifts up his shirt to look at the angry-looking scar on his body. He has already admitted to Gibbs that he doesn’t know if he’s fine earlier in the episode and as the case went on, he really looked more and more exhausted. Fantastic acting! It would be selfish of me to want Vance to stick around, even if he’s not up to the job, but I love his character so much!
An amazing episode, although I did miss Ducky’s assistant Jimmy Palmer but Doctor Magnus made up for it. I’m still slightly dubious about Ziva’s boyfriend, because it feels as though the writers are setting something up. Usually, I love foreshadowing, but I felt it detracted a little from the issues at hand. Tony made such a big deal about Ziva going on holiday but she wasn’t gone long enough for me to notice. It just slightly jarred for me personally.
Speaking of foreshadowing, I so desperately hope we don’t see Ducky go the way of Doctor Magnus. Once again, it’s selfish of me because NCIS tackles subjects like age and illness so expertly, but still, it would break my heart.
So, how do you feel NCIS dealt with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? Were you affected by the Alzheimer’s story? Please, drop us a reply and let us know your TwoCents.