Now that is a marvellous way to start the season, one of the best season openings we've had, IMO.
Overall I found it superb. The double layer case was excellent, the interaction was really good - better than I'd expected with some flipping to other countries and places - and it was also gripping and kept me guessing a lot of the time. I have very few complaints (other than I'd like more Ducky, but then I'd always like more Ducky). Really only two: one near the beginning over the dead man and the only other one really was how, after they had kept us guessing as to who it was, they suddenly made it so obvious and made the twist pretty clear. But even with that, even though I was expecting what happened, it none the less did give me a slight jolt when it did. Superbly done, and well set up for what happens next.
We begin with a brief 'previously on NCIS' where we see the team being reassigned and then switch straight to Morocco, to the clip that has appeared all over the net in various lengths for the last couple of weeks: Ziva in her extremely sexy and revealing dress singing. CdeP can really sing - she has an excellent voice and she looked stunning.
She's watching the audience as much as they are watching her and she's clearly looking for someone as she goes around flirting with the men and touching them. And then several people leave and her eyes come to rest on a suitcase and her singing falters and wham! The bomb goes off. For a split second I thought 'OMG, this is the death', but then told myself it couldn't be Ziva - not only because she appears in the cast list for next week's ep, but just because.
Off to the credits where Rocky Carroll gets a 'with' and Brian Dietzen an 'also starring' - he doesn't appear in the main picture credits, but it's nice to see the 'also starring' rather than just 'guest star'.
And then we go into the squad room and meet the new team. Langer (who I have to say I still didn't recognise from when we saw him in Tribes - something that sadly won't surprise anyone who knows me and my ::cough:: ability not to actually recognise people, we won't talk about The Presidio) instantly irritated me, in one look. He's sitting with his feet up on 'his' desk, reading something and the phone is ringing. Finally Keating asks him if he's going to answer it and he does; it's for DiNozzo. Langer has spent four months fielding phone calls for DiNozzo - all from women. Michelle is looking for a report and that is what Langer is reading, he basically dishes her writing of the report (I told you he irritated me from the off, he's more DiNozzo than DiNozzo).
At that moment Gibbs arrives. They all greet him with "Good morning, sir."
Gibbs's reply was nice: "Glad we all agree on something." Oh, boy, he does not like his new team. He then asks for the report Michelle had compiled, she goes to take it from Langer but ends up dropping it on the floor, she begins to pick it up, helped by Keating and again calls Gibbs 'sir' and apologies (two things Gibbs hates) and he reminds her, for what is clearly the umpteenth time not to call him sir). Meanwhile Langer is just watching until Gibbs glares at him - given that Langer worked with Gibbs at NCIS and from reading the exchange they had in Tribe Gibbs seemed to get on with him, it seems a bit strange that Gibbs is not happy with him, I know he wants his old team back, but even so - and Langer bends down and picks up one piece of paper.
Keating then remembers he'd taken a call for Gibbs and tells him. Gibbs is in sarcastic form as he points out that yes, he read in the 'Taken by' box that Keating had taken it. He calls the number and tells them to grab their gear. They do and then just stand there until he again glares at them and they hurry off to the lift. Gibbs then looks up and exchanges a look of displeasure with Vance, who is watching from outside his office. Gibbs then goes off to the lift and . . . oops, the doors close on his face. They are hastily reopened and Michelle is apologising. Gibbs just gets in, turns around to face the door and raises his eyes upwards with the 'give me strength' look.
We are then at the crime scene and Michelle is taking pictures; Jimmy gets in the way of one and apologies for spoiling her shot and they exchange looks, interesting looks; they aren't their usual hot-sex looks, they are different - my thought was that their relationship was over, but I wasn't sure. The body turns out to be a dead Petty Officer - Stephen Nicholas Vargo and he'd been dead for four and a half months.
Michelle comments that with the amount of rubbish around it's not surprising no one noticed the smell. Vargo failed to report for duty all that time ago but he had worked for Strategic Planning and his security clearance was super high. Okay, so I did find myself wondering that, given he had such a high clearance level, why the case hadn't come to NCIS before then? We've seen them go after missing Marine/Naval personnel after only a short time, so a man with such a job just meant missing and no one said anything. But I guess that has to be accepted as 'one of those things'. And admittedly I did forget about that 'huh?' moment once we got further into the episode.
We have a nice little Gibbs & Ducky exchange when Ducky tells Jimmy to tell Agent Gibbs he can send in the B team (clearly meaning the new field team). Gibbs asks where the A team are and then says they are all A team; Ducky comments that some are A+. Some nice banter and looks and dear Jimmy (again) puts his foot in it when he makes one of his less than savoury so-called humorous remarks that earns him the 'Gibbs & Ducky Double Glare'. Ducky seems perturbed and a tad annoyed that no one actually noticed the man was dead, as the stench would have been so bad. And even with all the rubbish around the place, I do agree with Ducky. Again, it didn't quite ring true, but . . .
Back at HQ Abby is in her lab and Gibbs arrives. Abby is surprised by his appearance and says she's worried she might be going deaf as she didn't hear the lift. Gibbs tells her he didn't use it. At that point Abby tries to almost 'profile' him saying he's not using it because he associates it with people who aren't there. He denies this and talks about the bullet that killed Vargo. She says it wasn't something that Joe Public could get her hands on, it was the kind people in law enforcement (including NCIS) use.
She then says how much she misses DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva; Gibbs points out she had lunch with McGee yesterday, but she says that's not the same. She's annoyed with him that it has been 126 days since they had left, she didn't think he'd let it get into double figures, and it was now way beyond that. She then gives him two weeks to get them back - poor Gibbs. At this point I was starting to wonder if they were going to get the team back immediately.
Back in the squad room, Keating has dug up a name of someone linked to Vargo - a Brian Roberts, they served together. Roberts got out six months ago and was recently killed in a bomb blast in Morocco (it has to be the place Ziva was singing in). In all four died and thirteen were injured and we see footage and then . . . Gibbs spots Ziva. He tries to contact her and gets nothing. He then leaves Michelle and Langer to find out everything about Vargo and Roberts and their involvement with one another and tells Keating to find Ziva.
Down in Cyber Crimes, McGee is being called 'boss' by the geeks down there. Naturally as he is being called 'boss' Gibbs appears and questions the 'boss'. McGee in turn calls him 'boss' and says it's not that he's really their boss, they just call him that because he was a field agent and carried a gun. Gibbs wants to know if McGee has heard anything from Ziva. McGee says he'd had an email each week until recently; he thought she'd gone on holiday. Then Keating rings to say he's found her; he starts to tell Gibbs what he had to do to find her, but Gibbs isn't interested. he just wants to speak to her.
We see her in a room with two other men; an older man and one of about her age. It appears that Ziva was watching Roberts who was meeting with terrorists - it appears though that the terrorists were not the target of the blast, but Roberts himself. We then learn that it was none other than Leon Vance who had tipped Mossad off about Roberts! Gibbs tells her they miss her and she says she misses them too - even Tony. They then disconnect.
The older man who we then learn (have confirmed) is Ziva's father, tells Ziva to go home, he calls her back from leaving and asks for a kiss for her father. She does and calls him 'Papa' and he in turn kisses her; a moving little exchange.
Back down in Cyber Crimes, Gibbs asks McGee what he knows about Vargo. McGee says he can't tell him; he has orders. Gibbs points upwards and McGee nods. Gibbs accepts this and after patting McGee's face leave. And we know where he's going, do we not?
Up in Vance's office, Vance is showing Gibbs some pictures of boxing matches he has on his walls and talking about them; in particular the fight between Ali and Sonny. And we then learn why Vance split the team up.
Five months ago he started getting anonymous calls a Petty Office, whom he then learnt was Vargo; Vargo said he had gambling debts and that he was being blackmailed into providing highly classified files for someone. He wouldn't say what, but he was a specialist in the Middle East He'd downloaded a critical file but he hadn't passed it on; he'd arranged to meet Vance, who had been following Director's orders, but he never turned up, nor did he turn up to work - now Vance knows why. Vance then drops the bombshell that whoever had been blackmailing Vargo was an NCIS agent; Gibbs says not one of his team, Vance agrees - it is, however, one of Gibbs's new team.
Gibbs asks when he was going to tell him; Vance said that he kept expecting Gibbs to go to him one day and say he had doubts about one of them. Gibbs points out he has doubts about all of them. He has a former FBI Agent who doesn't listen. A boy genius who doesn't drive. And a lawyer who doesn't shoot.
Vance reminds him that he endorsed Langer and suggests that Langer might have been using Gibbs and their past history to get into NCIS. He tells Gibbs he moved McGee so that McGee could start working on the encryption of Vargo's computer, which NCIS 'lifted' when he vanished. He sent Ziva back to cover Roberts, but there had been nothing for four months - until now.
Down in the squad room Langer, Michelle and Keating are talking about the computer that had indeed been taken by NCIS, but not logged; Michelle points out that could cause legal problems with the chain of evidence - she's a lawyer. Gibbs then arrives and tells them to talk; they do - altogether, until he finally makes them tell him one at a time that basically they have nothing. Langer says that they have the computer and Gibbs after almost slipping up, but covering himself says he'll deal with it.
We then see him watching them, looking from Keating to Michelle and then to Langer, who we see is watching Gibbs watch the others. We are meant to think that the baddie is Langer. I didn't buy that, even then. At this point, my money was actually on Keating. And Gibbs himself is also being watched over the cameras by Vance.
Gibbs goes back to Cyber Crimes where a whole gaggle of geeks are getting into the lift calling 'goodnight, boss', to McGee. Gibbs tells McGee that Vance is on his way down and challenges McGee as to whether he likes Cyber Crimes. McGee says he couldn't tell Gibbs as Vance had told him not to; Gibbs says that wouldn't have stopped him in the past. McGee holds his ground though, he has grown in so many ways, and says that was different and that he'd give it all up in a heartbeat to be back working with Gibbs and Ziva. Gibbs asks about DiNozzo and McGee, a tad reluctantly but also genuinely, admits 'yeah, him too'. It was a nice little exchange.
Vance then appears and tells McGee he can tell Gibbs. McGee instantly goes into geek mode and starts talking what to Gibbs is clearly a foreign language and interrupts himself saying Gibbs doesn't need to know all that about the various levels of encryption, etc. He then, when he finds himself doing it again, comments that he has been down there too long. We learn that Vargo downloaded a 2.75Gb file from a classified computer, but McGee hasn't managed to crack it yet. Vance tells McGee he can now keep Gibbs in the loop and with a 'goodnight, boss' to Gibbs, McGee goes home.
Gibbs and Vance exchange another long look; Gibbs is clearly telling Vance he wants McGee back.
Vance: "Solve this first, then we'll talk."
Gibbs: "Ziva too."
It's interesting that DiNozzo's name didn't come up, nor could it be implied given the fact they were talking about/in Cyber Crime.
Down in Autopsy it is the next day and we see Gibbs staring at an x-ray. Ducky greets him with 'Good morning, Dr. Gibbs' and a smile. Gibbs points to the x-ray and asks what the shadow on the jaw was. Ducky says it's a fractured jaw, he'd probably been hit by the assailant to make him groggy with the butt of his gun before the assailant shot him through the pillow. He says he's sorry but there's no evidence of a fight or anything; it's just an unrevealing death. But Gibbs goes on staring and then Ducky, who obviously knows that look and concentration asks him if he'd missed anything.
Gibbs: "The pillow."
Ducky: "The pillow?"
Gibbs: "Yeah. The pillow." He then sweeps out of Autopsy.
Ducky: "The pillow?" in a slightly confused and bemused tone.
Gibbs goes to Abby who has a postcard from DiNozzo saying he misses her and asks about the pillow. We learn that there really wasn't enough powder around the bullet hole, i.e. it doesn't appear, after all, to have been used to mute the sound of the gun. Instead it's as if someone had put the pillow over Vargo's face so that he/she didn't have to see Vargo before killing him. Gibbs, who is called by McGee, leaves Abby talking to herself and saying that is what she'd do if she was going to kill anyone - we have a clue to the blackmailer (or do we?).
Once more in Cyber Crimes.
McGee: "Got something, boss."
Gibbs: "Want to call Vance?"
McGee: "No. That can wait." Oh, yes. Go Timmy, we know where your loyalties really are and you're letting Gibbs know - which he knew anyway.
McGee has found something in the phone records; at first he tells Gibbs the negatives and Gibbs points out McGee didn't bring him down to tell him he'd found nothing. But McGee has found something: a record of three phone calls from the trailer park to Michelle. So is Michelle the blackmailer? Now at this point I was 'no way, she's not the type. She's bright but she'd never have the nerve to do this' and my money was still on Keating - he's a boy genius, computers are there for such people to hack and change things on.
In Vance's office, Michelle confesses to having spoken to Vargo, but she didn't know who he was; someone had just called her asking for legal advice. She said she'd filed a report, but no one had asked her about it, so she said nothing. She leaves and Vance said it sounded credible: it did. But, even though my money was still on Keating at this point, my antenna started to twitch slightly. Vance tells McGee to check Michelle's files for the day Vargo called and Gibbs tells him to run background checks on Langer, Keating and Michelle.
McGee then says he's found another way to find out what the file Vargo downloaded was, without decrypting. It has a hash number and they are unique. If he can access the Pentagon's computers he can search and find what it is. of course they'll have to go through channels first.
Gibbs: "Is that the fastest way?"
McGee: "I was afraid you'd ask me that."
Vance: "We didn't have this conversation."
Another lovely exchange - once again Timmy is going hacking by 'order'.
We then see DiNozzo, who in on board the ship and he and McGee have hooked up over the MTAC satellite link. They both admit, in true DiNozzo and McGee style to missing one another - nice. And the DiNozzo asks about 'their black pirate boss' and how is he.
Gibbs: "I'm fine, DiNozzo."
DiNozzo then duly head-slaps himself.
McGee asks him if he is alone and DiNozzo gets rather sarcastic pointing out that yes, he and his 5,000 friends are alone - adding he's never alone! He tells Gibbs he has to come back and Gibbs says he's working on it.
McGee starts to tell him that he's going to give him instructions about what to key in and then a password, because they need a secure naval communications room - and that is DiNozzo. DiNozzo then starts to talk very loudly, addressing Gibbs as 'Dad' and going on about his brother 'Tim' and how he shouldn't be driving his car. Nice cover, DiNozzo - if a tad obvious that you suddenly start talking loudly, not that anyone seemed in the least bit interested. He then talks more quietly to McGee and says it sounds suspicious - but duly types in the details McGee gives me. He asks if it's hacking; McGee says 'no', but DiNozzo says it's still illegal and adds that it's fun! They are then waiting for the search to show something and DiNozzo again goes into his 'Dad' and 'brother Tim' mode. The search brings up a file and McGee tells him to email it to him. DiNozzo signs off with more 'Dad' and 'brother' telling them he misses them and loves them both. A very nice scene, really well done by them all.
We learn that the file is Joint Classification Domino. It is basically the Joint Chief's battle plans in the event of an attack on Israel. Vance says he has to brief Sec Nav as they are truly compromised. McGee then gets a call saying that Michelle had logged into Strategic Planning Office every Friday for a six month period at the same time each visit and she stayed for thirty minutes. I was still with the 'computer geeks can change anything'.
Michelle denies she was meeting Vargo. It's obvious who she'd been meeting: Jimmy.
In Autopsy Jimmy is putting a body away when Gibbs and Vance appear; naturally Jimmy suddenly looks very worried. And when Gibbs calls him 'Jimmy' he looks even more so - well wouldn't you? I know I would. Finally Jimmy admits that he and Michelle had been seeing one another and that they'd started to go to Strategic Planning after Doctor Mallard almost caught them. They used to meet in the paint store and he said it made Michelle high.
When Gibbs asks if they are still seeing one another, Jimmy says no and confesses he broke it off because he felt he was being used. Gibbs and Vance leave and Jimmy calls after them to ask if he's being fired. Vance says he isn't, but that it won't happen again. Jimmy agrees and then goes into full Jimmy mode as he gets himself tangled up, firstly saying it will never happen again ever, with anyone and then clarifying that he means it will happen but not at work with anyone from work. By then Gibbs and Vance have gone. Vance says Michelle is in the clear. I confess, despite my antenna twitching, I was still on Keating.
In the squad room Keating alerts the other two to the fact that they have all been checked out as far as Bank Accounts go. Gibbs turns up and takes Keating off to interrogation, telling Langer to stay on the base. Michelle says that they think one of the three is a spy.
In the interrogation room Keating is saying he has rights. Vance asks Gibbs if he does and Gibbs says he has the right to remain silent, but if he does they might think he has something to hide. Vance says Keating has impressive computer skills - he's also an MIT graduate and then asks if Keating has ever hacked into the Pentagon's computers.
Meanwhile in the squad room Langer and Michelle go over to Keating's gear and start to look in it and lo and behold Michelle finds a military access card. So at this point I knew it definitely wasn't Keating and knew that Michelle was definitely involved. What happened after that just made it clearer and clearer and was the bit I thought was, sadly, fairly clumsily done. Langer wants to go and check out the other building but he doesn't have access, Michelle does. She puts up some resistance, but they do go. And the card trips McGee's computer. Once in the computer room we see Langer and Michelle face off against one another and then Langer grabs his gun and Michelle has a look of horror on his face.
Back in interrogation McGee interrupts saying Vance has to hear this and tells them about the tripping of the access at that moment Michelle calls Gibbs and we hear her crying his name and shooting and glass breaking. Gibbs and Vance race off, leaving McGee to guard Keating. And by now it was so clearly a put up by Michelle, it wasn't well done, and yet also it was. I knew she was acting, but equally I was also 'hurry Gibbs, save her'.
Gibbs and Vance arrive Michelle is sitting on the floor holding her gun and trembling and crying. Gibbs takes it from her whilst Vance goes to Langer - he's dead. And they are very nicely executed shots - remember earlier Gibbs had said 'a lawyer who doesn't shoot'. However, we are meant to believe that it was Langer, he turned on Michelle and she shot him to save her life. I was not convinced - but again, I was also still caught up in believing it. It was a weird feeling to know it was wrong, but also to believe it.
We then head back to a conversation between Vance and Ziva's father; they know one another and seem very friendly. Vance tells David Ziva is missed and basically wants her back. David asks if they are winning and Vance admits he doesn't know. David tells Vance to 'use her well, Leon; she is the sharp end of the spear.' Vance hangs up and again looks at his boxing pictures.
Down in the squad room, Michelle is packing up and talking to Gibbs. She says she knows he's never though much of her as an agent and probably not as a lawyer, but if the chance ever comes up again . . . And then her phone rings. She looks at it and flips it closed, telling Gibbs it can wait. They shake hands, Gibbs picks her box up from the desk and hands it to her.
Abby and McGee then come in, Abby has her arm through McGee's and they are clearly very happy: obviously Gibbs has McGee back. Abby then hugs Gibbs and thanks him. And while that is going on we see a meaningful look being exchange between Michelle, who is now standing by the lifts and Vance who is again on the balcony. Then the lift opens and it's Ziva. Michelle greets her says 'welcome back', Ziva says it's good to be back and was it just me, or did Ziva seem just a tad surprised to see Michelle? Then Ziva gets a hug from Abby and a longer hug from Gibbs. We see Michelle watching them and she has a wistful look on her face - which is understandable.
Then she goes into the lift, the doors close and she opens her phone. The message says: 'Do they suspect?' We then get a flashback through bits of the episode, showing what really happened between her and Langer and showing that she killed him. She texts back: 'No'. End of episode.
Langer dying was a surprise. I, like most other folk, thought it would be Keating who would be killed, as really he had no character. But then I was also sure that they wouldn't pull the stunt of getting the team back together (well almost back together, DiNozzo is still on board a ship, albeit a different ship than the one to which he was originally assigned) by the second episode. So I thought Keating would die and that McGee would fulfil two roles for a while, helping Gibbs and Cyber Crimes, until Gibbs got them back.
So who sent the text to Michelle? Was it Vance? Is Vance good or bad? What did that look mean they exchanged? Is this all tied in with the piece of paper he destroyed in Judgment Day?
Did Michelle kill Vargo? I think we're meant to think she did because of the covering his face.
Was she using Jimmy for anything other than sex?
What, if any, are we meant to pick up from the boxing photos? I know zilch about boxing and have even less interest in it, so I have no idea if it's all just red-herrings or if we are meant to pick up something significant from it.
Are Vance and Ziva's father up to something?
When is DiNozzo coming back? Will he be? It looks as if he's still 'Agent Afloat' in next week's episode.
And does Gibbs really believe Langer was the guilty one? Or does he have his suspicions that it's all been solved far too easily.
Overall a really excellent episode, certainly, IMO, better by far than the opening eps of S4 and S5 - I just wonder if they can keep this up throughout the season?
Okay so there were a few niggles, as I've said, but really overall they didn't detract from my enjoyment.
Of course I'd liked more Ducky, but we had a couple of nice scenes.
And the Abby scenes were good, albeit again short.
Plus we had Jimmy, which is always good.
And it was lovely to see lots of McGee.
There was some good banter, especially during the exchange between DiNozzo and McGee and how enthusiastic DiNozzo was about his part in the 'illegal activities'. Also some nice touches of humour, it kept you guessing - and even kept you guessing when you knew what was happening. And ended up leaving us with 'more questions than answers'.
I'm really giving this a high rating, which is dangerous so early on as there really isn't much scope for going higher, but I really think it was worth these marks.