A better episode than the last couple in some ways. It had some excellent points; resolved at least one thing; threw up more questions about other things; and also irritated me in parts; especially over two points that were so unbelievable.
Let's start with the bad - Lt. Colonel Hollis Mann was not only present, but seemingly all close and intimate with Gibbs. Yet a mere two weeks ago all the evidence pointed to Gibbs having no interest in her other than as a one night stand. Now he's swapping duties so that he can spend the weekend with her - please!!! The very idea of Gibbs asking to swap his team's weekend duties simply so he could spend it with a woman, frankly on all the evidence we've had over nearly four complete seasons does not ring true in the slightest. Okay, so he had to because otherwise one thread of the episode would have been lost, and thus other things couldn't have happened, but even so, I found it so absurd and really irksome.
And our Lt. Colonel is thinking of retiring when her twenty years are up - so it does look at least as if she's not going to accept Jenn's 'offer' to work for NCIS (phew) - so that she can spend more time with the people in her life. And she asked Gibbs what he thought of that; what did he think of it? I'm not sure he was over the moon at the prospect. Wishful thinking, maybe, but it does seem that she might be reading more into their relationship than he is.
So Gibbs can play baseball, in fact was teaching Mann (who didn't seem to actually need teaching). He really doesn't look (to me anyway) as good in scruffy clothes as he does when he's in his usually working clothes. And he looks even better in a suit (drool-some in fact) as we saw later (shallow moment).
Paula Cassidy was back for the episode, and it was her team who had to work the weekend that Gibbs's team should have been working, and as such it was her who lost two agents. I do wish that some things weren't sign-posted so clearly, i.e. that the two agents were going to die, and more specifically get blown up when they went to meet their 'informant'.
Gibbs shows how deeply the deaths of agents, even those not directly on his team, in his usual way. He gets even more irritable and snappy and sarcy than usual; snapping at Ducky and also being less than patient with Abby. And whilst he seems less than sensitive with Paula, he is really acting in her best interests; he knows the best thing for her to do is to help find the bastards who killed her team. As he said, you can grieve later. And added to his 'normal' NCIS agent loss feeling, there is probably part of him feeling not necessary guilty as such, but a degree of knowing that had he not asked to swap . . . Coupled with probably a touch of relief that it wasn't his team, because he did ask to swap; so a mixture of complex emotions for him.
He also employs a similar tact with Jenn, when she's saying how difficult it is to make the calls; again he's harsh with her. But again he's correct, and even more so in many ways with Jenn than Paula. Jenn is the Director, he even calls her that, it is her job. No, it isn't easy, but she wanted it; she has to take everything it entails. But again his attitude worked.
And we get two continued themes throughout the episode:
1. It should have been Gibbs's team
2. Paula blames herself.
And boy were these rammed down our throats multiple times; too many times, if I'm completely honest. Basically they lost their impact by the end. Overplayed slightly.
Did anyone else see the long long between DiNozzo and Jenny when they were all at the office after the call had come in and Gibbs was snapping at them and getting them all off to work the case? Was that joint concern because of how irritated Gibbs was? Or something else? Are they still working a case together?
We learn that the man who Paula believed she saw going into the building seconds before it was blown up, the suicide bomber in fact had, according to Ducky, been dead for over twenty-four hours.
The Ziva - Paula confrontation throughout did work well; that wasn't overplayed. Ziva knew how Paula was feeling and gave her someone on whom to focus her anger and bitch at. Although I think that, on Paula's side at least, there was genuine antagonism there too. Maybe it was just that, despite her and DiNozzo being over, she didn't want someone else on the team; maybe she felt she should have taken Kate's place. But the 'chick fight' worked; the bitching and sniping was well done.
Paula's pain at losing her team is clear, and she is convinced that Ducky has made a mistake over the time of death, but both DiNozzo and Ziva say that's not possible as Ducky doesn't make mistakes.
Poor DiNozzo when he tries hard to lighten the mood gets a Gibbs head slap for his troubles and gets sent off with Paula to find Gibbs some evidence.
The scene between Paula and DiNozzo whilst they are hunting for extra evidence was intense, and it's during that scene that we finally get one question answered: DiNozzo is in love with Jeanne. Paula knows him and basically gets him to talk and he admits he is in love with Jeanne, but tells Paula he can't just tell her as it's not that simple because of the whole wall thing. Paula's advice that life is too short not to tell someone you love them is sound and good; the only question at that point for the viewer is will DiNozzo follow her advice?
We discover the answer to this in the very last scene, when indeed he does go to her and he does tell her.
Abby gets another Gibbs kiss - she is a lucky girl - when she tracks down from where the call to Paula came.
And then comes the other thing that I just found myself going 'huh' over. Gibbs, McGee and Ziva return with tapes of all the people in the company's voices. Naturally none of them match, until, Ziva produces a training video that the man who Ducky says has been dead for over a day/Paula claims to have seen entering the building and to have been called by, made. And surprise, surprise it's a match. And Abby starts to say that Ducky is wrong over the time of death, and this whole theme goes on for a bit too. But it was so obvious that the man's voice had somehow simply been used by the real baddies; we've seen it happen more than one on NCIS before. And indeed it was proved to be the case. But somehow Abby and McGee seemed to have forgotten all their knowledge on such matters.
Okay, I didn't know exactly how it had been done, I'm not the Forensics' Expert, Abby is; McGee knows computers. But Abby believed that Ducky - Ducky - was wrong. Oh, please. That was utterly and completely unbelievable. We're talking about one of Abby's favourite men; a well established ME, not someone just out of Med School; someone who isn't going to make a mistake of over twenty-four hours under these circumstances. The body hadn't been smoked or frozen. I'm sorry, but it laughable, and irritated me completely. So again I know why it was done, it added a fission of tension not only over the case but within the team, but really. I'm surprised at DPB, I really am.
Naturally Ducky is very upset and cross by the fact that Abby is saying that he is wrong, and says he isn't and that he'd stake his career on it.
Fascinating that Jenny didn't know about Schrodinger's Cat. I know it's not her area of expertise, but I was a little surprised that she hadn't come across it. It was a nice scene though with McGee talking about it and Ziva making the comment, when it was said that it was a choice between Ducky or Abby being wrong, that she'd rather be McGee's cat than have to choose. Gibbs won't be drawn into the argument; he's relying on DiNozzo to solve the mystery. And I don't blame Gibbs at all; forced to choose between his closest, dearest, beloved friend and his beloved surrogate daughter - who'd want to make that choice?
And DiNozzo does indeed come up trumps and does so by yet another reference to a film, by using a cigar and blowing smoke onto the walls to see if it gets sucked away. A good idea though, an excellent one actually, and he was correct; there was a secret door.
Nice touch with him running into the wall to try to break through and Paula opening the door. It wasn't an easy episode to get much humour into, but there were a few lovely moments. This for one.
Another one when Abby gave McGee a squatting hug or rather a squg, very Abby.
And also how calmly Ducky asks 'I don't suppose anyone has seen a head?'
Another touch of humour was when Gibbs and Ziva go to see Ducky and for once Ducky's 'Jethro radar' fails him and he thinks they are Jimmy. He explains, a little irritatedly, that Jimmy keeps running off whenever he turns his back and Gibbs suggests that he tries head slapping him, pointing out how well it worked with DiNozzo and McGee. Ducky says he's tried it, which given how much taller Jimmy is than Ducky, would not be an overly easy feat, but that Jimmy seemed to like it. That amuses Ziva in particular.
And the scene near the end where Abby is 'playing' with the program that allowed the baddie to fake the phone call is great, especially how she talks to various team members.
And it turns out that NCIS weren't the target, the Peace Conference was. Good scene with Jenny offering help to protect the major player at the conference. Quite touching.
And the real killer is revelled, standing in the 'secret room' with explosives strapped to him; and Paula gives her life to save Gibbs and his team and the other members of the Peace Conference. A powerful ending; she choose. She repaid her team.
And then the end-end is DiNozzo in Jeanne's arms.
I thought the story line was strong. There was some good interaction. Some well placed humour in an episode that must have been difficult to find humour. We had questions answered and more raised. However, two major things did irritate me and were unbelievable, and that really spoilt what could have been an extremely powerful episode for me.
Far too little Ducky - never good.
Virtually no Gibbs/Ducky interaction of any kind - not good.
No Jimmy - not good.
Lt. Colonel Mann - very bad. And her all 'lovey-dovey' with Gibbs, even worse. And still no sparks between them.
This is very difficult to rate as on the one hand I want to rate it quite highly, but the two irritants were so strong that they make it difficult. It might be another episode for which I change my grade after seeing it for a second time, as at least I'll know what to expect.