Nikki (nakeisha) wrote in ncis_gibbsducky,
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Episode Review. Season 5x08 - Designated Target

Spoilers behind cut.



I found this a pretty much middle-of-the-road episode overall, although it had some very good moments and a couple of nice twists. My really big complaint is the same as I've made for many episodes since the end of Season Two: what has happened to NCIS investigating Naval/Marine crimes?

Once again the Naval involvement, i.e. the reason they appeared, was utterly minor and completely irrelevant to the case. The dead Naval Officer could have been absolutely anyone; there was no reason for him to be Navy, he was there merely to get NCIS on-board.

I'm wondering, and have been for some time, whether the reason NCIS took off (outside of fandom that is) so much once they got into Season Three, was because the crimes they were investigating changed from the naval part being central to, more often than not, it being thrown in simply to allow NCIS to come on board? Did the general populace start to really enjoy NCIS because, once the naval part became secondary, NCIS became just another cop show, with crimes people were 'familiar' with? The old adage of the comfort zone and what you know? At times it certainly seems that way to me.

There were some fun moments, good touches of humour, again a lot of shippiness for a variety of pairings (in particular DiNozzo/McGee and Gibbs/McGee) but also Abby/McGee and Ziva/DiNozzo moments. And of course being a Gibbs/Ducky shipper I can always see little moments of them, and again we had them in Autopsy with their lack of personal space and looks, etc.



The episode opens with a cab being driven through a park. In the back in a Naval Officer, an extremely highly decorated Naval Officer on his way to a conference with a case full of secret documents, etc. The cab is being tailed by a motorbike; it's clear that the men on the bike are going to 'interact' in some way with the cab and the logic is for a kill. And they do. They shoot the driver and the Naval Officer. The cab comes to a stop, they go over to it, leave the various secret documents, leave the credit cards, the one thing they seem interested in in a photograph. The final thing they do before leaving is to put a bullet through each victim's brain in execution style. Naturally (well it is meant to be a 'Navy Cop' show) we think it was the Naval Officer whom they were after.

The scene after the credits begins with Ziva talking to someone on her cell phone; from what we hear she is clearly trying to break up a relationship. DiNozzo pops up and in a 'mad' moment, Ziva asks him how to end a relationship with someone. Ooops. DiNozzo in true DiNozzo fashion grabs the phone from Ziva and tells the person on the other end that he is Ziva's husband (teeny DiNozzo/Ziva moment) and makes all kinds of threats as to what he'll do if the other person doesn't lose Ziva's number. However . . . It turns out that Ziva was not talking to a lover, but to her elderly aunt, who was the one trying to end a relationship. (A fun moment though).

McGee turns up wearing sunglasses and looking very pleased with himself. DiNozzo teases him about having sex with a women; McGee denies the sex and said they'd merely had coffee; very good coffee. (Oh, Tim, Tim, Tim, you know this will end badly, don't you? You know something is going to go wrong; there's only one girl for you: Abby). DiNozzo then starts to call out: "McGee's getting some." Predictably at that very second Gibbs walks in and delivers a head-slap to DiNozzo.

We then have a nice moment of humour when DiNozzo goes on about continued head trauma caused brain damage, and McGee comes back with a comment about 'it explaining a lot'; DiNozzo asks if one side of his head is bigger, Ziva says it is, but adds that the other side is too. It was a very nice 'old style' kids bickering scene.

At the crime scene DiNozzo compares the shooting to Bonnie & Clyde and then goes on to explain it to Ziva. This earns him a Gibbs look and terse comment about concentrating on the current crime scene (one day, DiNozzo, one day, you might learn). We learn the the dead Naval Officer is none less than a Rear Admiral name of Kenneth Kirkland. Ziva thinks that it has been an assassination and says that a number of assassins leave their weapons a little way from the scene of the crime, she goes to search. The cab driver is Atif Nukunda.

We have a teeny Gibbs and Ducky scene with Ducky pointing out that it wasn't a traffic accident (thank you, Ducky, talk about stating the obvious *g*). This earns him one of Gibbs's famous, "You think?" comments. But as always with his old friend his tone of voice is completely different from when he uses the same phrase with the kids and other people.

An on-board camera is discovered and McGee digs it out. We have one of many nice Gibbs/McGee moments when Gibbs is learning over McGee and shining his pencil torch onto the screen; the camera does indeed replay the final moments. As Gibbs is walking away he touches McGee's collar and notice's lipstick (mind you quite what lipstick is doing on the *back* of McGee's collar, I know not).

Gibbs: "Good for you, Tim. Good for you. Just don't ever get married." (I wonder if that line was another little hint as to the fact that Gibbs/Mann's relationship appears to be over? After all at one point we did see him looking at a bridal magazine!)

McGee's cell phone then rings and it appears that someone has bought a sofa using his credit card (I told you that girl wasn't going to be any good, Tim).

Back at the office Gibbs and DiNozzo are discussing Kirkland. He was credited with several innovative efficiency programmes at the Pentagon, but nothing that would make him a terrorist target; had last been to sea in 2002; was happily married with a loving family; had no large insurance policies; his staff car had not been tampered with, it had genuinely broken down; there were no papers or anything missing. In all there appeared to be no motive for his assassination. (At this point I thought the episode was going to an excellent one as we would uncover something 'hinky' or dangerous about Kirkland).

Gibbs goes down to Abby's lab and we have a nice, humorous scene. Abby is again drinking Caf-Pow (or is she?) When Gibbs calls her on having given up, she beams and says that it's all right because this Caf-Pow is caffeine free, and goes on about how much better it is, etc. etc. (Oh, Abby, Abby, this can only end in tears too). However, she does inhale the scent of Gibbs's coffee, which kind of contradicts her words.

The bullets found in the two men were both 9mm, but not the same type. She keeps trying to persuade Gibbs to try caffeine free as it's so wonderful (me thinks the lady doth protest too much) she is clearly trying to convince herself. When he is about to leave she begs him for a sip of his coffee; he refuses; she says 'Thank you, sir'. A very nice little Gibbs and Abby scene - she really is his favourite of the children.

Gibbs, McGee, DiNozzo and Ziva are in the garage, trying to come up with answers, but no one has an answer for Gibbs. At that moment his phone rings and amazingly (given that normally Ducky tracks Gibbs down) it's Ducky. Mind you, given that he's mid-Autopsy, it makes sense that he'll called. Gibbs goes off. And then McGee's phone rings; it's his mysterious girl-friend again, and this time we learn that she's been opening his mail (run, Tim, run now - that kind of behaviour is totally and utterly wrong).

We then have the Autopsy scene. It begins with a nice touch of word play humour when Ducky points out that he'd taken a bullet from the frontal lobe of the Rear Admiral. The whole scene is played out as if the room is tiny and they must stand close to one another; some lovely looks, brushing against one another, total lack of personal space. A very nice scene for the Gibbs/Ducky fen.

And Ducky has news: one of Nukunda's teeth has been removed, post mortem, and then he turns off all the lights and shows Gibbs what is on Nukunda's right hand: finger print dust residue. At that moment Gibbs realises that Kirkland was not the target; Nukunda was; dental records and finger prints being the best way to identify a body. (And that is where really the episode started to deteriorate as without the Naval person being the target, then why were NCIS investigating? Okay, so Kirkland was murdered too, but apart from one teeny, 'oh-look-we-better-throw-this-line-in-to-show-people-that-we-haven't-forgotten-this-is-a-Navy-show' comment, nothing about Kirkland's death is mentioned again.

We learn that Nukunda emigrated from East Africa seven years ago after his name appeared on an assassin's list. He drove a cab and was also a pizza delivery man. Gibbs sends DiNozzo off to the cab offices. DiNozzo comes out with 'go to, boss'. Gibbs just stares at him, until DiNozzo tries to explain it's the new phrase for 'on it'. But Gibbs does not like it the new term, so DiNozzo returns to 'on it'. And then in another nice bit of word play humour, Gibbs looks at Ziva and says 'go too'.

We learn that someone has filmed the execution and Gibbs expects poor McGee to do the impossible and track down exactly who was doing it.

At the cab offices the dispatcher, Bayliss, is acting very strange - over-acting one might say. There was no subtly in the fact that he was lying/covering up, but then I don't think there was meant to be (at least I hope there wasn't meant to be). And we learn that Nukunda was a gypsy cabbie; DiNozzo explains to Ziva, who is confused by the term, that it means 'off the book'. Basically gypsy cab drivers will go to places other cab drivers won't go.

DiNozzo seems rather irritated with Ziva throughout this scene and some later ones, and goes on about how by now she should know these kinds of things and that she should use contractions.

Ziva: "What are contraptions?" (A moment of meant to be humour; however, I didn't buy it. Normally Ziva-isms are fun, but this time I felt it was forced and unbelievable. She has been in the US for two years, even if she doesn't use them, she'd know the term; I'm sure).

DiNozzo: "Never mind."

Back in Abby's lab, Abby still in trying to convince herself of the merits of caffeine free Caf Pow, manages to get an image of the picture Nukunda had in his wallet: it shows a family. She also knows the exact oil that was used for the bike, but can tell Gibbs nothing about the bike. She then (silly girl, Abby) gives Gibbs a decaf coffee! And he dumps it in the bin (did you really expect him to drink it, Abby?) But he does soften the blow by telling her not to be offended and then giving her a kiss on the cheek (nice Gibbs/Abby or Gibbs&Abby moment - depending on the dynamic fen see).

Back with DiNozzo and Ziva they go into a bar which is full of African people. No one seems willing to talk to them, so DiNozzo starts to threaten them with work visa checks. At the point a man (Delphin Abaka) offers to look at the photo (and at that point a little bell went 'ping' in my head: bad guy). We learn he is a Professor of African Studies at Waverely University and like Nukunda he has been in the States for seven years also - they came from Burundi. He knows nothing about Nukunda's family, they might be in hiding. Again DiNozzo tries to threaten him, interrupted twice by Ziva, but Abaka is unperturbed: he'd been tortured in prison anyway.

When Ziva and DiNozzo leave, she accuses him of being xenophobic. (Now I'm sure that DiNozzo isn't; Gibbs wouldn't keep a team member that was prejudiced in any way. But there is no denying that in this episode DiNozzo most definitely showed some pretty blatant signs of being that way; again, still the fall-out from Jeanne, maybe? He is quite hurtful to Ziva and some of his comments are very close to the edge). DiNozzo denies it but says that he might be a little Zivaphobic. They notice Abaka on his cell and arrange for McGee to trace the call.

Back in the squad room, DiNozzo is trying to teach Ziva about contractions whilst McGee is tracking the call and talking away to himself. Again DiNozzo makes a nasty McGee comment; not quite as cutting as in earlier eps this season, but more so than in the last couple. Ziva is rather stunned by the comment and says that DiNozzo really is prejudiced (and he is at this moment). Gibbs is leaning over McGee (Gibbs/McGee moment, another of many). McGee is happy because he's beaten his own personal time, and that earns him a Gibbs look (poor Probie).

We learn that Abaka called a hotel the room was registered in the name: Sayda Zuri; she is from Burundi too, travelling on a restricted travel visa. Gibbs sends DiNozzo to bring her in, but . . . Lo and behold she is there. She tells them she has come to claim the body of her husband: Thomas Zuri.

She and Ziva are talking and she is explaining how Thomas had to leave Burundi seven years ago, but that she was only free to come now. She says that he is her soul mate and asks if Ziva has met her soul mate. Ziva glances away (she is clearly, IMO, thinking of DiNozzo here) and Sayda says that she'll know when she does. It's quite a touching scene and Ziva is very much 'Ziva' in it; she's still uncomfortable with the role of comforter and although the expresses her sorrow at Thomas's death, it doesn't come naturally. But she's also far improved from when she first appeared - she's learning well.

Down in Autopsy, we get the new 'staggering' news that . . . The dead body (Nukunda) is not Thomas Zuri. Sayda is certain; the dead man has no signs of torture on his body.

Back in the squad room, McGee is looking at his computer screen showing his /bank statement/credit card statement with two large withdrawals: $15,000 and $25,000. He starts to pick up the phone as Gibbs comes in and asks him what's wrong.

McGee: "Computer glitch."

Gibbs head-slapping the computer: "Better?"

McGee askance: "Much".

A lovely touch of humour there. Gibbs and computers . . . I do like his solution - hit them.

Humour aside we learn that in the last few months there have been eleven attacks on cab drivers. Three of them are interesting: they were all shot with 9mm weapon and had a tooth missing. Gibbs asks DiNozzo to put the photos and details up on the plasma, DiNozzo manages to start and then it all goes 'hinky' and vanishes - ooops. DiNozzo calls for McGee who saves the day and tells DiNozzo only to press the buttons he tells him to press and calls him 'monkey'.

DiNozzo: "Love's not treating you well, my friend?"

McGee: "No kidding."

Gibbs wants to see the picture of the John Doe from Autopsy as well; DiNozzo just glances at McGee, who obliges. (Again a nice little scene and exchange for DiNozzo/McGee fen). And lo and behold the pictures of the men are all very similar in age, height, weight and lack of hair: the people who are trying to kill Thomas Zuri do not know exactly what he looks like, hence the 'wrong' killings and the teeth extractions/finger prints. (Okay so reasonably interesting twist to the case, but again it's *not* naval!)

In Jenny's office with Gibbs, Ziva and Sayda we learn that Thomas was merely a store keeper, but he was also a good speaker and people started to listen to him and spread his speeches around, thus it became dangerous for him to remain in Burundi. We also learn that it was the US Government who smuggled Thomas out; Sayda couldn't go with him because her father was dying and she couldn't leave him. In the entire seven years she received one letter from him, again smuggled to her. But then there was an uprising in her country and it became too dangerous to keep in contact with her. Again it's another really poignant, tender scene, as it's clear to see just how much Sayda loves Thomas and how devoted she is too him. Jenny asks for the name of the US Embassy official.

We then meet said embassy official (Derrick Choyce) but he no longer works for the embassy. At first he denies his involvement with Thomas's smuggling, but Jenny plays dirty pool and basically threatens his entire career (and of course she would be able to carry through her threat) and he changes his story. Yes, he did smuggle Thomas Zuri out of Burundi, but after two years while he walked away from the programme and Choyce says he doesn't know where he is - he even says that after Gibbs uses his 'deadly' tone.

Once again Gibbs walks up to McGee when McGee is on the phone to his girl-friend; he's getting angry with her, she's just laughing (McGee, just walk away). Gibbs wants McGee to 'visit' the State Department of Strategic Analysis Unit. At first McGee thinks Gibbs means really 'visit', but then latches on to just what kind of 'visiting' Gibbs has in mind (it must be wonderful to have someone like McGee who can hack away like he does - dangerous too if McGee ever 'turned'). Gibbs wants McGee to look for evidence of oil in Burundi and with his other hand trace the last known address of Zuri.

We then have a DiNozzo and Ziva scene at the vending machine. Ziva is once again in 'infatuation/love' mode and trying to talk to DiNozzo. And she is also still put out by his feelings towards immigrants. He tells her a story of how his great grandparents came from Ellis Island, and how they started off with nothing, but eventually worked their way up; he's the immigrant, she is merely 'visiting'. When she asks whether the story was true, he says that parts were. He asks her if something is stuck in his teeth (he's eating sweets).

Ziva: "Nothing sticks to you."

And she then talks about soul mates. He either genuinely doesn't know what she's talking about, or he's being deliberately obtuse as he goes on about a band/TV show/song, telling her to sing a bit and he'll get it.

Ziva; "You'll never get it." (Hey, Ziva uses a contraction).

It's one of 'those' double-edged conversations where Ziva is saying two different things in one way. I can't quite work out whether DiNozzo has figured out yet that Ziva's in love with him and is either pushing her away, ignoring it because it's too soon for him after Jeanne, or because he thinks he'll hurt Ziva or whether he genuinely isn't interested in her in that way (I don't think it's that one, we've had other hints that he is). Or if he really isn't understanding her less than subtle behaviour; I keep changing my mind over it. If pushed I'd come down on the 'he knows but as yet he can't acknowledge it because it's too soon and Jeanne and he doesn't want to hurt Ziva but . . .

McGee has found what Gibbs wants: Choyce still has clearance levels and is working as a consultant for his old department. And also McGee has discovered petroleum exploration in Burundi that is linked with a Chinese company. And again Gibbs is leaning all over McGee.

We learn that another thing the four dead cab drivers have in common is that none of them were officially working when they died. So someone was feeding the assassins information: Bayliss. And he hasn't reported for work that day. At his apartment they find a safe with a fair amount of money and lots of extremely well done fake cab drivers' IDs. And then Bayliss and a bullet fall through the ceiling and a motorbike drives off.

McGee has traced Choyce's bank records and he has had some extremely healthy deposits. DiNozzo is sent to bring Choyce in; Ziva to fetch Sayda.

McGee is now trying to cancel some credit cards that he never took out and he is in trouble with the IRS. Abby then appears and announces that there are 365 steps from her lab to McGee's desk (this lack of caffeine is doing strange things to her). She wants to know what is wrong with McGee, she knows something is, she puts it down to being able to 'see' more clearly due to her lack of caffeine ('lady protest too much' again), and makes him tell her. He tells her he's been seeing this girl.

Abby: "Oh, that's nice." Ouch. If tone of voice could kill . . . Abby does *not* think it is nice at all. As always when either Abby or McGee date anyone else/show any interest in anyone else the other is jealous. Surely one day soon they'll realise they are so right for one another. (Well I think they are *g* sorry kalliekat).

McGee explains how this girl has taken out credit cards in his name to the tune of $65,000. But that not only has she admitted it, but she's given him a cheque for the amount, her father is super-rich. And it is something this girl does all the time. And yet, McGee still likes her.

Abby: "Love is never having to read someone their Miranda rights." And she tells him to dump the girl, because she'll only do it again. (Abby's right, Tim, she will - you know she will.)

Then she says: "I love you, McGee. That should be enough."

And she leaves with McGee staring after her. It was a lovely scene for Abby/McGee fen throughout, the jealousy and Abby's line and for once she didn't follow it up with a comment about the love only being the love of a friend and her tone was different from when she's said it before. Nice.

Choyce is in the interrogation room with Jenny and Gibbs and is forced to admit that he was paid the money by political extremists in Burundi to pass on information about Zuri. And guess who the political extremist is - yes, you've got it: Delphin Abaka, the so-called 'friend'.

Back in the squad room DiNozzo, for some reason, is at McGee's desk and he's all but hanging over him one side with Gibbs on the other side of McGee. They think they might be able to trace Zuri via a finger print for the DMV. Ziva suggests there might be one on Sayda's locket.

Down in Abby's lab, she does manage to lift a finger print and starts to run it: it doesn't show up in DC, Maryland or Virginia, but Gibbs tells her to run it for all States. Abby is tired, she's so tired she's falling asleep on her feet, but tries to say she'd fine and her meter is full. Gibbs then gives her his coffee (nice Gibbs/Abby, Gibbs&Abby) moment and tells her she's solved the case, poor Abby looks very confused at that comment.

Back up in the squad room Gibbs walks in saying 'meter'. DiNozzo (who is still behind McGee's desk) think he's talking about the measurement, but Gibbs points out he's talking about cab meters. He gets McGee to track down all the non-running cab meters.

McGee does so. Cutting out the women, non-African Americans, over 50s and under 30s brings up only five men. One of whom Sayda identifies as her husband: Thomas Zuri. Sayda wants to go with them. Gibbs says no, but with the combined looks from her and Ziva he gives in (and suddenly you know that something is going to go wrong, I admit I didn't quite know what was going to go wrong, but I knew there would be something. And with that most marvel of tools: hindsight I should have guessed what it was based on how much we were having 'soul mates' and 'love forever' pushed - but I didn't).

They arrive at Zuri's home. He is about to be killed by Abaka and another man. There's a shoot-out. The good guys win (of course).

And then we get the final scene.

Sayda is brought to the scene. She goes to Zuri. Their looks are tender, so full of love. But . . . We learn that he believed she was dead and . . . The door to his house opens and another woman comes out, seconds later a child joins her. He keeps saying how sorry he is. And Sayda says she understands, that it's all right, that she is just glad he is safe. And she really means it; yes, of course she's hurt, but she means what she says. She loves him that much.

Ziva is deeply affected by the turn of events. And the final scene is of DiNozzo giving her a speculative, almost 'see love destroys it's not worth it' look before walking off.



OVERALL

Some good moments. Some moving moments. Some nice flashes of humour. Some good team interaction. Fun Abby scenes, in particular. Some nice shippy moments. But also a fairly draggy, in places boring episode.

Vaguely interesting case, as long as you weren't looking for a naval case, and the awful thing is there was so much truth in the case. It makes you shudder to think about it.

Far too little Ducky for my liking (sigh). But a nice Autopsy scene, even if far too fleeting.

No Jimmy (sigh).

No navy case. I really do miss the navy/marine cases.

Nice Abby with the non-caffeine Caf-Pow.

Good Jenny in Director-mode.

Storyline: 7.00

Enjoyment: 7.00.
Tags: non-fiction: episode reviews, season 05
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