After last week's superb episode I didn't expect this episode to be of such a high standard and for me it wasn't. It was a good episode, it had a real navy case (always good) and some good interaction, but I found it rather forced and bitty in parts and although the case aspect was interesting, it wasn't really new and it seemed to be there just to give us some case whilst the real focus was on DiNozzo and whether he'd get back to DC or not, which I suppose was fair enough. It was a curious episode also in many ways, very weak and light-weight in parts and also gripping and heavy-weight in others.
For Ducky fen - don't blink in the first few moments or you'll miss him! Any episode whereby the Director gets far more screen time than Ducky is not going to rate terribly highly in my eyes. I wasn't expecting that much Ducky, given it was obvious a lot of the episode was going to take place on the carrier - but there's 'not much' and virtually zilch'.
Plus of course I make no bones of the fact that DiNozzo is not my favourite character, thus a DiNozzo-centric episode won't rate as highly in my eyes as it will in the eyes of DiNozzo fen. And the same is true, I'm sure, of people for whom other characters aren't their favourite.
What's also interesting is that for pretty much the first time I wanted to slap Abby. I know quite a few people (including Abby fen) got annoyed with her during Season Five, I didn't; but in this week's episode I really did want to slap her - she irritated me so much.
That said, it had some very good moments and was solid overall.
So we begin with a shot of the Sea Hawk, the carrier when DiNozzo is now Agent Afloat, a nice establishing shot. And then second later we here a call go out for the agent afloat and see DiNozzo racing through the corridors heading for the deck. He gets there and finds a pile of clothing and an ID badge belonging to Chad Evans; the implication is that Evans has jumped over-board and committed suicide - which of course he hadn't, that was always really clear right from that shot. But a good start, it pulled you straight in.
We then switch to the squad room where we see Ziva and McGee sitting at their desks with cups of drink in their hands; both look bored and McGee is in fact tapping his pencil on his cup. They then have an inane conversation about how good the tea and coffee is, and finally we learn it's not only been a quiet day, but a quiet week. It was a fun exchange, nice and light and worked well after the opening scene. Enter Gibbs who has had a call from DiNozzo about Evans and he sends Ziva and McGee of to tell Evans's wife. When asked why them and not a Chaplain, he tells them Chaplains don't investigate - this apparent suicide is being investigated.
Outside the Evans's house we have an exchange where Ziva and McGee are talking about cross purposes. McGee is talking about how tough it will be for Mrs. Evans to learn about her husband, Ziva thinks he's talking about how hard it must be for DiNozzo on the ship as he's alone, away from DC and the team. Again another nice exchange between them. It appears as if Mrs. Evans is not in. But . . . wait . . . A look through the door reveals she is not only in; she is dead and from the look of it has been brutally murdered - there is a lot of blood.
This is the bit where you mustn't blink or you'll miss Ducky, who appears to have had a hair cut and looked rather strange. He arrives and confirms the death and he then reports that there appears to be snot in Mrs. Evans's hair (yuck!!!). It appears she has been dead for at least five days (her husband shipped out to the Sea Hawk five days ago, the implication being that he killed her and then left). And although it looks as if her death was caused by a brutal beating, the vast majority of the blows were delivered post-mortem. From the look of it there has been a violent fight, but again her body reveals not; she was killed and then the room was trashed to make it look as though there had been a fight. McGee's crime scene skills appear to have become rather rusty during his four months in Cyber Crimes. Again it was a nice moment of humour, but not terribly believable, I must say. During the banter about the crime scene between Gibbs, McGee and Ziva, Ducky is on his knees continuing to examine the corpse. And that, gentle readers, is the first and last time you see Ducky during this episode.
Back at HQ Abby is in the squad room at DiNozzo's desk with a box of his stuff, including his porn magazines and his stapler. She's going on about how she's getting his desk ready for his return and how she knows he'll be returning - and this was when I wanted to slap and shake her and tell her to stop behaving like a five-year-old. She really, really irritated me (and you know how much I love Abby).
During this Gibbs and Vance exchange a look, which means 'come up to my office' and then Gibbs goes up to Vance. Gibbs tells him about Evans having (apparently) gone overboard and says he's a man down on his team. Vance acknowledges that, but he doesn't appear to want to have DiNozzo back; he gives Gibbs two files from agents from San Diego and tells him to choose one as his new agent or Vance himself will. Why agents from San Diego? I ask myself. Oh, yes, Vance came from San Diego - interesting; very interesting. I still do not trust Vance and I'm sure Gibbs doesn't either.
Back on the ship DiNozzo is in Evans's sleeping quarters with one of his bunk mates and we learn Evans never unpacked. His bunk mate admits to having never met Evans as they were on different shifts; he believes that Evans was 'a head case' because he threw himself over-board. He doesn't know if heir third bunk mate - Caplin - met him. Caplin's shift is over, but he's not there. DiNozzo tracks him down to where he and some other men are playing cards - for real money (which isn't allowed). DiNozzo, who clearly takes an instant dislike to Caplin, questions him and we learn that he did meet once when Evans logged into the Comm room during his watch; he was only there for an hour. DiNozzo then gets a message from DC.
We then move to sick bay and we meet another man DiNozzo doesn't like: the doctor, who it appears has been handing out medicines for non-real pain, in fact DiNozzo refers to him as a drug dealer. Also in sick bay is Corpsman Taylor Henley. DiNozzo wants Evans's records and doesn't take 'no' for an answer.
Back in DC poor McGee is having major problems putting the various files up on the plasma as Keating (who is now in Cyber Crimes) has messed with all his macros and settings - poor McGee. Gibbs is not best pleased. In the end Gibbs and Ziva gather around McGee's desk and look at Evans's records there; it appears he's a good officer (Gibbs) but a poor saver (McGee) and he's run up debts and maxed out the credit cards; McGee comments this could be the cause of marital problems
Gibbs goes off to talk to DiNozzo and Abby appears (again she annoys me) as she's in hyper mood of wanting to talk to him and tell him about this and that, including the bowling nuns. For once even Gibbs seems irked with his favourite as he points out it is not a social call. So he goes and lo and behold Ziva tries to follow him, asking if he wants her to accompany him - no, Ziva, he'd have told you. Gibbs goes off and McGee finally gets the files on the plasma and is calling 'I've done it, boss' but there is no boss. Bless him.
Gibbs and DiNozzo converse; poor DiNozzo is desperate to get off the ship and asks if Gibbs has spoken to Vance, Gibbs (in true Gibbs style) deflects the question by saying he's talking to DiNozzo. He asks for Evans's history and DiNozzo (in true DiNozzo style) says there was nothing more than in the file; he then reads the steely Gibbs's glare and hastens to tell him. DiNozzo thinks that Evans killed his wife and then unable to live with what he had done, jumped overboard. He adds that he'll do that soon if he doesn't get off the ship. During the last part of the conversation McGee arrives with the startling news that Evans's credit card was used in Columbia - three days after he deployed on the Sea Hawk - oops. There's a nice little bit of by-play between DiNozzo and McGee, with DiNozzo using another of his 'Mc' names for McGee and McGee actually starts to tell DiNozzo about one of the Sisters, until stopped by Gibbs. It was a very nice scene overall, good interaction and by-play.
Once again Gibbs goes to Vance and hands back the files saying they are both good men; he tells Vance about Columbia and manages to get Vance to agree to send DiNozzo (who had been there and knew the area) for one day. As he's leaving, Vance challenges him over not having read the files; Gibbs neither out and out confirms or denies this - he does repeat that they are good men. Actually I would expect that Gibbs did read them, or at least glanced at them and read any summary on the men, because he would know Vance would assume he hadn't. Gibbs also asks just why DiNozzo was sent to sea, there was no real reason, not as there was with McGee and Ziva; he claims that Vance is punishing DiNozzo for Jenny's death. Vance, of course, does not comment as such, he does point out that DiNozzo has been an agent for seven years (hey, the continuity for once works) and that it was time he went to sea.
We then go to DiNozzo in the Columbian bar where the bar owner knows him well. We have some nice banter back and forth between them, with DiNozzo showing him Evans's picture and the man trying to avoid answering and saying that with so many naval men coming through how can he remember one. But DiNozzo does a little bit of gently-obvious blackmailing, including threatening to make the bar off-limits. So the bar owner capitulates and points out the man who had used Evans's credit card. The man runs, DiNozzo goes another way and catches him as he's running up the stairs. The man confesses to having stolen the card and shows DiNozzo where; there is a lot of blood and a shoe lace and . . . Guess who we find? Oh, yes, Evans. So again we are using the 'someone has taken the place of a naval man to get aboard the ship' case. DiNozzo calls Gibbs to tell him and lets him know that Evans had to have been dead before the Sea Hawk even sailed; they have a major security breach.
Up in MTAC Vance and Gibbs are talking to Captain Owens about it. Owens thinks it is impossible that someone could be impersonating Evans, but as Gibbs tells him the killer had Evans's ID. We learn that Evans's duties were to perform routine tests on the ship's security there have been no breaches yet. Owens is all for turning the ship upside down to find him, Vance says no: DiNozzo will investigate. He then sends Gibbs off as DiNozzo will need help.
Down in the squad room McGee arrives and is greeted by his computer addressing Agent Keating, much to his annoyance. However, before he can do much Gibbs's phone begins to rings. McGee answers it and it's DiNozzo; they are chatting for a moment or two and McGee is trying to tell DiNozzo about Gibbs, but Vance turns up and puts DiNozzo on speaker phone (oops). Predictably (because it always happens whenever anyone does this) DiNozzo is at that moment disparaging Vance somewhat - and of course then learns that Vance is there and has heard it all. Vance ignores that and asks for a situation report; DiNozzo tells him the local coroner is not playing ball; he doesn't think he likes Americans, or it could be just DiNozzo (DiNozzo's words, not mine). Vance tells DiNozzo about Gibbs and Ziva going out to join him; again predictably when DiNozzo asks when they'll get there, they are behind him.
Down in Abby's lab McGee is working on Evans's computer trying to get into his hard drive and Abby is running tests from the crime scene. She confirms that it was snot on Mrs. Evans's hair (again with the yuck) and then her mass-spectrometer reveals traces of a rare spore in the mucous. McGee by that time is already in Evans's hard drive and Abby is impressed! His four months in Cyber Crimes did enhance and improve his computer skills.
Back with Gibbs, DiNozzo and Ziva, DiNozzo is talking about them having caught a bad case of DiNozzo-ities and had Vance send them down south as they'd missed him. He tells Gibbs he'd missed him and Gibbs simply responds with 'I know'. Gibbs's phone then rings and he walks away leaving Ziva and DiNozzo to talk; Ziva says he's different and asks if he's still beating himself up over Jenny, he says not as much, and says he's not drinking as much either, she adds that DiNozzo could have called her. Gibbs returns with the news that DiNozzo has an hour before he goes back to the Sea Hawk. DiNozzo suggests Ziva talks to the Coroner, as he has a hunch. And his hunch pays off; whilst the Coroner is flirting with Ziva, who like a good Mossad officer is playing along, Gibbs and DiNozzo get to look at Evans's body; it was beaten in the same way as Mrs. Evans had been - the same killer killed both of them.
Then Abby and McGee call with huge news: Evans had been involved with on-going correspondence with someone in Singapore and the correspondence was still going on. Although they hadn't got through all the cyphers etc. they have discovered a mention of the Sea Hawk and of a drug which is the antibiotic for Anthrax.
Gibbs, DiNozzo and Ziva all arrive on the Sea Hawk and Owen is starting to try to track down the impersonator. Ziva is having trouble with the noise and the Owens says you'll get used to it, DiNozzo adds you don't. Gibbs then tells Owens about the Anthrax antibiotic and Owens assumes there is going to be a biological attack on the carrier. DiNozzo goes off to do some more investigation, accompanied by Ziva, but as he gets his bag out we see pictures of Ziva - the ones taken by the pool in LA where Ziva is in her bikini (DiNozzo/Ziva fen must have been happy). Owens says his priority is the safety of his ship and that Gibbs has twelve hours to solve the case or he'll take over.
Back with DiNozzo and Ziva, Ziva is saying she gave McGee instructions to destroy the photos and maybe McGee needs reminding of this. DiNozzo takes McGee's side and says that it's been harder for McGee than any of them as McGee hates change, and he goes on about how awful it must be when you are used to talking to someone each day and relying on them, and adds especially in regards to Abby as everyone knows how close they Abby and McGee are (a yay moment for Abby/McGee fen). Ziva points out Abby and McGee had lunch each week, but DiNozzo says it's not the same. My impression was that DiNozzo was talking at two levels; he was talking about McGee and actually showing mature concern for him, but I think he was also to an extent at least talking about himself and his feelings. But he can't come right out and say it, so he has to use this way - it worked well; it was a very touching speech.
Gibbs is with the Officer on Deck questioning her; she stands up to him well and points out that she does check each face with each ID and that she knows how sailors look, smell and sound as she'd been doing the job for two years. She would not have let a civilian on-board the ship. From Gibbs's face and body language he believes her; so another sailor must have taken Evans's place.
DiNozzo and Ziva are trying to find Caplin (who we are meant to think is the bad guy, but who I never thought was as he was too obvious - ditto the doctor); he is late for his watch. They try to find out which terminal 'Evans' logged it at, and it was one of the higher clearance ones as he had a higher clearance level than other people - oops again - and it can't be touched without the relevant card to gain access. DiNozzo has Caplin paged.
Meanwhile in MTAC McGee goes to see Vance and asks for permission to ::cough:: hack into the Sea Hawk's security system. He says he can do it better and faster than those on board, plus if one of those on board trying to do it is the bad guy, then it will be compromised and he knows he won't get caught: he learnt a lot during his four months in Cyber Crimes. He in effect stands up to Vance pointing out that Vance knows he can do it and he's quite firm in his gentle-McGee way; Vance doesn't say yes, but a look is exchanged.
Back on the ship the crew have indeed been verified, so the only person who saw Evans's killer was Caplin - unless Caplin is the killer (which he isn't). DiNozzo has put out a call ship-board for Caplin and Gibbs asks him what his Plan B is. Ah, well, you see, DiNozzo hasn't got a Plan B; he tries to talk around it, but it's clear to Gibbs and Ziva and DiNozzo himself there isn't a Plan B. Fortunately though Plan A pays off and Caplin is found. He's in ICU having been found collapsed. The doctor comes out from seeing him and he is clearly sick. He says he's had to put Caplin into a coma because of his sickness and we then learn that Caplin had left DC three days before Mrs. Evans was killed (I knew it wasn't him).
DiNozzo and Ziva are, nonetheless, searching Caplin's bunk where they find a hypodermic needle and a bottle of Morphine: someone did not want Caplin to talk. DiNozzo's going on again about American soil. Ziva asks him why he's so upset, he only has another three months before his assignment is up. He says it's okay for her, she's back in DC, where she wanted to be. And then he looks at her and asks her if that is what she wanted; she doesn't answer, instead she talks about following orders and going where you are sent and duty. He asks what or who she left behind in Israel and says it's in her eyes; but she won't talk to him. So it seems Ziva did not want to return to DC; is that just because of her new-found relationship with her father? Or was there someone else? The plot thickens!
Once again Abby calls Gibbs to tell him that the spore found in the mucous on Mrs. Evans's hair was from a strain of the flu - a particular strain that came from America Somalian region in the South Pacific.
Gibbs then goes to join DiNozzo and Ziva and tells DiNozzo to access the ship's medical records. DiNozzo points out that McGee isn't there, but Gibbs points to him to do it.
Back in DC Abby finds McGee in Cyber Crimes and is very angry to learn he put himself back down there, she rants at him until McGee reveals what he's there for and he manages to get into the computers on the Sea Hawk and find something good.
Back on the ship, after what is clearly quite a long time DiNozzo says he's almost there, Gibbs informs him he said that ten minutes ago. Ziva is teasing him and badgering him about how McGee does it much faster and DiNozzo is agreeing with her. Finally he does get in and we find a lot of cases of flu, but none tie in. Then they narrow the search and find the one person who came from American Somalia and joined the ship in DC - off they go to sick bay! And so we're meant to think it's the doctor (again it isn't).
McGee calls Gibbs to report a breach in the Sea Hawk's accounting system. An order for half a million dollars worth of the anti-anthrax drug was placed, but only half of it reached its destination on the Sea Hawk - the rest in en route to Singapore. So it's not terrorism, just good old fashioned greed.
In sick bay we find a very sick doctor who says Caplin is being sea lifted off the ship. Henley, the Corpseman, is missing, he's reported sick with the flu - which he appears to have given to the doctor. And then they find Caplin, still alive fortunately and Gibbs orders them to stop the air lift - so the baddie is Henley (for once I didn't actually guess him within seconds of seeing him, even though I kept ruling people out).
Gibbs goes on board the plane with his gun and we have a stand off: Henley has a gun on the pilot, Gibbs on Henley. We learn that Evans and Henley were in it together; Evans did the computer bit, Henley forged the documents and then Mrs. Evans found out. So Henley killed her; decided he didn't need Evans and killed him. And then Gibbs tells the pilot to tell the ship to allow the launch on Gibbs's orders. And so it does. Gibbs, of course, knows what will happen when the pilot takes off, Henley doesn't. So Gibbs is braced and Henley thrown across the plane to Gibbs's feet. Case closed. Gibbs then orders DiNozzo to pack his gear.
Back in DC the field team are all together and DiNozzo is holding court. Gibbs is leaning on the bannister looking down and Vance appears. Gibbs says the team need DiNozzo and Vance asks if Gibbs has made his decision on the two San Diego men as Owens wants his agent afloat back. Vance then says he's made his decision and adds that DiNozzo was never being punished.
Gibbs goes down to the squad room as Abby arrives and launches herself at DiNozzo. We then learn that DiNozzo has been told by Vance that he has been reassigned to DC - but Gibbs didn't know that. And we have yet another long look between Gibbs and Vance. This is clearly going to be a stormy relationship and I still say Vance is up to something and that Gibbs does not trust him. We'll see. It ends then with Abby telling DiNozzo about the Sisters bowling, McGee saying he missed DiNozzo and Gibbs shaking DiNozzo's hand.
So overall a solid episode, not great, but not awful.
On the negative side:
I found (as always) the constant jumping from place to place quite distracting. I know it was needed, but there were a few times I would have run the scenes together to avoid all the jumps.
Far, far, far, far, far too little Ducky. I know most weeks I say it'd be nice to have more Ducky, but this week was probably the least we have seen him in all the previous seasons.
More Vance than some of the longer standing characters (but at least he was sans toothpick.
Abby annoyed me more than once.
On the positive side:
An interesting case. Not really difficult insofar as it was always obvious it wasn't Evans who had gone overboard and the red herrings were blatantly 'red', but a non-obvious baddie and a twist on the reason for the crime. That was quite clever.
Some good interaction both face-to-face and over the comm/phone.
Some nice touches of humour, very in character humour.
A more, in parts, DiNozzo than we saw during most of Season Five.
Intrigue over Ziva and why she didn't want to return to DC.
As always my gradings are open to change upon second watching and also as the season progresses, but based on first watch a solid: