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Episode Review. Season 6x04 - Heartland

My thoughts behind the cut.



Pre-watching:

I wasn't looking forward to this episode for various reasons:

1. For me, Gibbs lost something that made him Gibbs when he lost his enigma status and we started to learn about him. Once we learnt about Shannon & Kelly and Diane and Stephanie and Jenn and . . . To me he lost something.

2. We know ('The Boneyard') that his father is dead. Now I know people will say 'it's okay he was lying to the Mafia'. And if this had been the only inconsistency on the show, I would accept that. However, given the vast number there have been over the previous five seasons, I can't accept that argument. Maybe I'm just jaded and inconsistencied out, but there you go.

3. I suspected there would be at best a minute, maybe two, of Ducky as in the last two episodes and quite possibly (for the fourth episode running) more Vance than Ducky.

So going into it with this 'view' meant that I could at best be pleasantly surprised and at worst not disappointed because I'd just have my fears confirmed.



Post-watching.

Well I was right about a lack of Ducky, but wrong that we'd have more Vance (he wasn't present at all). We did get a short Autopsy scene, and for us G/D lovers a teeny, but nice, G/D scene.

As for the other - I'm in two minds as to what I really thought about the whole going back home and seeing Dad and learning (well kind of) more about Gibbs and his past and his relationship with his dad and also a tad about him mom. Oh, and we get the whole Shannon thing again - including seeing them meet - I thought we'd done with Shannon and Kelly in 'Requiem' when he said 'goodbye' to them. Oh, and we had flashbacks. Maybe by the time I've reviewed it, I'll know more how I feel about it. But my gut instinct is - disappointed to have learnt yet more.

[Apologies in advance for any errors with names/spellings, but a full cast list is not up on my usual source (TV.Com) and I couldn't find one on half a dozen other listing places I looked.]

So we begin with three fairly inebriated men being thrown out of a bar into an alleyway (we've seen said alleyway before). We quickly learn they are military as one gets called 'Sarge'. The said Sergeant has left his credit cards in the bar and goes off back into the bar, round the front, to get them. Meanwhile, the other two men are set on and attacked by two men in hoods wielding baseball bats. When the Sergeant returns, he finds both of his men on the ground bleeding. A pretty good start.

We then see the crime scene, with DiNozzo looking at one of the bodies and McGee explaining the cameras had been disabled. And then Ducky turns up in full DJ and bow-tie *melts* (I can be shallow) singing Mozart; he had spent a night at the opera. DiNozzo talks about films and the Marx Brothers and Ducky launches into an Italian accent, which gets a smile from McGee. He confirms that the body is dead (and asks Ziva to collect some wood chippings) and it seems that a single blow from a blunt object killed him; whereas the other man is alive, in hospital undergoing brain surgery. The dead man is Corporal Taylor, the man in hospital Corporal Ethan L'Combe.

Meanwhile Gibbs is talking to the Sergeant who is, naturally, upset and troubled by the attack. He says, like all good Marines say, that he should have known. Gibbs said he couldn't have done and asks about Ethan. The Sergeant says he knows virtually nothing about him (would he really not know?); he has no idea from where he came, but sometimes he'd sit and twist his High School ring and get a far away look in his eyes. He was hiding something. Gibbs tells him to go to the hospital. McGee tells Gibbs the security camera in the alleyway had been knocked out about half an hour before the fight. Gibbs says it wasn't your typical bar-room brawl - it was an ambush.

Back at HQ Abby is cleaning her table, and it is pristine, and then McGee and DiNozzo (okay, I have never found DiNozzo attractive physically or character-wise, he is not my type, but I'll give him this: he looked good in the very, very smart three piece suit - wow!) arrive with the evidence which they put down on her nice sparkly clean table. And then Abby starts to go into hyper mode about being tidy on the outside and the inside. So, this was more the 'old Abby' and I didn't want to instantly slap her - this was far more reserved and in character for Abby.

DiNozzo suggest they start with L'Combe, as he is still alive. There is blood on his ring and when DiNozzo sees it he gets quite excited. He asks Abby and McGee whether they have never, during all their time in front of computers, looked into Gibbs's file - DiNozzo has (bad DiNozzo, actually I'm somewhat surprised that DiNozzo would have the necessary clearance to be able to look at Gibbs's personnel file - in fact I can't believe he could, so bad writing): Gibbs went to High School in the same place as L'Combe. A small town in Pennsylvania called Stillwater - a mining town.

And then we have our Autopsy scene and quite a nice one it is between Gibbs and Ducky. We get some long looks and lots of eye contact and a lack of personal space and we get a 'Jethro' and 'Duck' - the latter of which has been missing recently. We learn that L'Combe has undergone surgery and has so far survived; he is in a drug induced coma.

Ducky is a tad surprised by the fact that Taylor is dead. He had only got one whack. But it appears he already had a broken rib and the single whack re-broke it and it pierced his heart; thus he bled to death - and yet his beating was no where as near as sever as L'Combe's who had major injuries. Ducky looks at Gibbs and says he doesn't want to encroach on Gibbs's territory but "may I suggest -" and as they so often do, Gibbs knows just what Ducky is about to say, so cuts him off and says it himself. Basically the dead guy was a dead end; L'Combe was the target. Ducky agrees and asks if Gibbs has any ideas yet (it is a tad early, Ducky, even for Gibbs) and Gibbs says 'only just started, Duck." And he's about to leave.

But Ducky takes a slight advantage his 'old friend' status and says that he's heard a rumour that the case just might take Gibbs to Stillwater, Pennsylvania. Gibbs agrees it might and Ducky talks about 'digging into a man's past, there's no telling what it might unearth'. Gibbs smiles very fondly at him and just shakes his head and goes. (I wonder if Ducky's words are a slight presentiment of what is to come in a future episode?).

Up in the squad room DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva are also talking about Stillwater and about Gibbs in general. DiNozzo is saying his mind is spinning and he has endless questions: Gibbs was a boy and he grew up! And then Ziva and McGee kind of turn the tables on DiNozzo and start to go off into film references about other ways 'boys' have been 'created' including coming from stone and being breathed on and falling to earth in a capsule after his home planet was destroyed. As is always the case, DiNozzo doesn't care for that (he is a prime example of his can dish it out but he can't take it) and says they are being clever. And then adds: "I can be clever." And we know what, or rather who, is going to happen, do we not? Yep, Gibbs walks in on that note and comments: "Just a matter of time, DiNozzo." Ah, DiNozzo, DiNozzo, DiNozzo; when will you learn to choose your words very carefully? Poor DiNozzo.

We learn Ethan and Taylor and their unit came home from Iraq three weeks ago. Ethan has no family, except an aunt, who is living in Stillwater. And of course DiNozzo has to push about Stillwater and show he knows it's a mining town and generally wind Gibbs up. And it is, again, to his cost. When they gear up and McGee and Ziva (happy to be going on a road trip) go off the the lift, Gibbs calls "DiNozzo." DiNozzo interrupts him with "On your six, boss."

However, Gibbs is not taking DiNozzo (and I can't blame him, DiNozzo would have been relentless, it was probably for DiNozzo's own safety Gibbs didn't take him - he might well have shot him *g* or head-slapped him into unconsciousness). Gibbs tells DiNozzo to follow up on Taylor. Poor DiNozzo does look a tad dejected and tells McGee and Ziva (who are grinning wildly) he hates them; but then also tells them to take lots of pictures.

Naughty McGee then says he's printed out the directions to Stillwater and Gibbs answers that he can still remember the way. McGee asks him how long it has been since he went home. And Gibbs, being Gibbs, says he makes a point of going home every night (you're teasing Timmy, Gibbs) [that's when he's not going to Ducky's home - sorry *smacks hand*]. So McGee is forced to explain that he meant Stillwater. Gibbs says he hasn't been back there since he joined the Corps in 1976! Ziva asks what it was like when he left and he talks about fireworks and parades; it was the Bi-Centennial year. And we get the first of several flashbacks this one to young men fighting and we hear a shot.

Then we are back in the here and now and they pull into Stillwater. Instantly a cop car pulls up and Gibbs gets out and greets the cop, although there isn't a lot of love lost between them, that much is clear from the way they talk to one another and look at one another. The cop (Ed) remembers Gibbs when he was a skinny kid and asks why he didn't let them know he was coming. Gibbs didn't think it was worth it. Ed comments that he never thought they'd end up on the same side and Gibbs smiles and agrees. He asks how Ed has been - thirty years have gone by during which time Ed married, had kids, his kid had a kid, and he calls Gibbs 'Leroy' and says he's to let him know if he needs any help with the police work. Gibbs says he will (oh, yeah!). Ziva asks Gibbs if Ed an 'old friend'; Gibbs does not answer - which is an answer in itself.

Gibbs tells Ziva to call DiNozzo and takes McGee with him to L'Combe's aunt's house. When they get there we learn that she thinks Ethan is dead - and not dead from this beating, but dead some four years ago. McGee and Gibbs are a tad taken aback and McGee explains Ethan is in hospital. So what do we have? A case of mistaken identity? Stolen ID? Or what?

Meanwhile Ziva is trying, and failing, to get a signal on her mobile phone. An elderly man, using a walking stick, comes up and says she won't get one, but says he has a pay phone in his store. He also says he's dropped a $20 bill and they talk about how now it is on the ground it is different from when it was in her wallet; Ziva says that context changes things. He agrees saying that in Israel she is merely an attractive woman, but here she is an exotic beauty. She wonders why they are talking about people and he mentions the 'I' in NCIS (he must have seen her badge on her belt) thus she must be an investigator.

Back at the house, Mrs. L'Combe is about to leave to go to the hospital to see Ethan and Gibbs and McGee are following her to her car trying to get more information out of her. She tells them that her sister, Ethan's mom, was a wild child and is dead; it's not a case of where is his father but who it was. Ethan took after his mom and got into trouble and served some time. Gibbs wonders if anyone in the town had any grudge against Ethan and she explains the whole town thought he was dead. And off she goes to see him. As they watch her go McGee does ask why the town think Ethan is dead and Gibbs say 'maybe he wanted it that way'.

Okay, is it just me or did anyone else have problems believing they'd just let her go like that, so quickly? She's saying Ethan is dead; they have a Marine in hospital who is meant to be Ethan, they've probably run blood tests by that time, but they would surely only tie in with the man who signed up to the Corps as Ethan L'Combe. We have nothing, at this point, that proves the man Ethan's aunt has gone off to see and the man in the hospital are one and the same. We've had similar things in the past, I'm sure, and the person hasn't just been allowed to toddle off all on his or her own - on her own to visit him. Please, writers, this was not believable. I just sat shaking my head and wondering what on earth was going on that Gibbs let her go off just like that.

And then Gibbs and McGee come upon Ziva and the elderly man. The man addresses Gibbs saying he hasn't written or called; was he even going to stop by to say 'hi'.

Gibbs: "Hi, Jack."
Jack: "Hi, Leroy." (That name again)

And then Gibbs drops the bombshell on McGee and Ziva by introducing them to Jackson Gibbs - his father. So we definitely know something has gone down between father and son that has kept Gibbs from even talking to him. We had a hint when he said he hadn't been back to Stillwater since '76, but now the hint is more than just a hint. All is not well between Gibbs Senior and Gibbs Junior.

We are then in Jackson's General Store with McGee and Ziva (no Gibbs) and McGee is rather impressed with Jackson's set up; he calls him 'Mr. Gibbs' and Jackson insists that he, he calls him 'Tim', calls him 'Jack' and he says you have to keep up with technology (er, your son doesn't, Jackson).

Meanwhile Ziva is looking at photographs on the wall and spies one of Jackson on a mountain. She asks if it was Mount Nepal and Jackson confirms it was; he climbed it on his 60th birthday, thought he'd enjoy a celebratory cigar, forgot how little oxygen there was and ended up being revived. He also adds that he always makes a point of returning home after each adventure adding 'unlike some people'. And then he asks if 'my boy' ever talks about him. Ouch. We don't know what has gone down, but we know Jackson is hurting by the silence from Gibbs, and hurting badly, although he's trying to hide it.

McGee, concentrating on the computer, rather foolishly mentions he once heard Gibbs say he was dead (the reference to 'The Boneyard' - wow, TPTB remembered they'd said that one; they do [dare I say it] seem thus far this season to be slightly more consistent and paying attention to their own time-line).  Jackson looks devastated and Ziva glares at McGee and says he must have misheard; McGee agrees and says it must have been 'dad'. So we get the impression that actually when Gibbs did say to the Mafia 'my father's dead' he was also using the 'my father is dead to me' thing. Ouch.

McGee then points to another picture of Jackson with a coloured man and we learn it was on the day the store opened. LJ was tired of the mine and there was one collapse too many, so they opened the store. When asked who 'LJ' was (come on kids, anyone can work that out - you are trained investigators) Jackson says 'Leroy Jethro', so Gibbs was named after Jackson's old partner.

And of course at the second Gibbs enters and all three are looking at him and he's going 'what' with his arms. Ziva asks quickly if he learnt to shoot with the gun on Jackson's wall; sadly that makes things worse rather than better as Gibbs explains somewhat icily that no one was allowed to touch the Winchester. In turn Jackson adds that they should let that be a lesson in parenting; you deny a child a gun and they go off and become a sniper - ouch again. He then, deliberately using 'Leroy' offers them something to eat. To which Gibbs says: Can't. Case."

His father says he might be able to help as he knew Ethan; he had a few drinks with him. And that again sets Gibbs off with a very sarcastic "Gee, I'm shocked." Poor Ziva and McGee don't really know where to look and both clearly want to be elsewhere - it's very clear to see why Gibbs didn't take DiNozzo along (that was good writing, because DiNozzo in character would have made things a zillion times worse). But Jackson doesn't seem that perturbed by his son's latest barb, instead turning to the kids and explaining that Leroy never did understand that keeping a six-pack on ice was a good thing.

He then gives us another peek into Gibbs's past as we learn Gibbs used to spend all of his time working on projects out in the garage where there was no electricity, which probably explains why he does everything with hand tools now. And he says that once Gibbs blew all his money on an old wreck that he was going to do up and make run; he never did. Gibbs asks where it is and his father says he can't keep all the junk. Gibbs adds: "No, just yours." Okay, stand-off time Gibbs and Gibbs - stop fighting or at least fight properly, stop throwing these insults at one another and show yourself to be grown-ups - think about poor McGee and Ziva if nothing else. They should not have to witness or be present for this. I felt Gibbs somewhat difficult to believe, I must admit. We know how reticent he is and how private and yet he lets two members of his team stand there and hear him and his father being nasty to one another. Not the Gibbs we know - but then I'm not sure Gibbs is the Gibbs we know now he's back in his home town (are any of us????)

Jackson goes back to talking about Ethan saying he was a good boy, liked by everyone except Gibbs's 'old buddy' Chuck Winslow; the person who now owns and runs the mine. Gibbs turns to leave and his father demands to know if he's going to walk up there and start accusing people. Gibbs turns literal at that point and says: "I thought I'd drive." (Talk about childish!).

And then we get another flashback to the old days. We see a young LJG striding out of his father's store, off down the street, with his father calling after him 'not to do anything stupid'. We see Gibbs looking in the window of 'Ellen's Dress Shop' gazing at a young red-headed girl (I was already saying 'Shannon') who is doing the display and she is looking back at him.

Then we flip to present day and he is still looking in the window and Jackson appears holding a bottle of bourbon suggesting that it would be a good idea to take it with him to the Winslow's house, if he insists on doing another round with Chuck. He adds that a kind word helps (ooh, still with the undertones) And he gets into Gibbs's car to go with him.

McGee calls that he and Ziva will wait there - clever McGee! And once the sedan is out of sight, Ziva says: "I'll call Tony," whereas McGee says: "I'll call Abby," and, to the bemusement of a poor passer-by sitting outside, they dash back into Jackson's store. It was a nice touch, actually, I (and many others) refer to the five younger members of Gibbs's team as 'the children' or 'the kids' and this very much showed that, as brother and sister who were lucky enough to be taken with 'Daddy' hasten to tell one of their other brothers and their sister (the ones left behind) what 'Daddy' is up to.

McGee hooks up with them over the computer and DiNozzo, who has just arrived and is asking Abby what she has found, has his phone. Abby has found three different blood samples on Ethan's High School ring; one is Ethan's the other two are not. And then temporarily the case is forgotten as . . .

McGee & Ziva (in synch): "Gibbs has a father!"
Abby & DiNozzo (in synch): "Tell me everything!"

McGee and Ziva tell Abby and DiNozzo that Jackson Gibbs talks a lot and that he might have winked at McGee and that Gibbs is different around him. When asked different how, they say he's like a teenager. And yes, in a way, given all the barbs and back and forths and snide comments, it could be said that Gibbs is behaving like a sullen teenager - but some of the digs are far too sophisticated for a teenager; so he's a teenager in his 50s. At that point both Abby and DiNozzo say they are coming to Stillwater (rolls eyes, okay, kiddies now that is going slightly OTT - you won't justify that one. Having said that it did continue the whole 'our siblings are having fun with Daddy we want to join in' theme). But of course McGee (sensible man) stops them and asks they'll need to explain about Ethan being dead yet alive.

At which point DiNozzo says he has that; he wrote it down. He has managed to find a video of Ethan's unit in Iraq which he admits to having found on YouTube. McGee and Ziva are marginally impressed by DiNozzo's increased technological abilities, but also (like true siblings) have to add that Gibbs would have been able to do it - the implication being it actually wasn't that impressive after all.

At the Winslow home Chuck is not overly happy to see Gibbs (good old British understatement note) and the feeling is definitely mutual - does Gibbs like anyone in his home town? He's there with his daughter - Emily - and her husband - Nick. And he rubbishes Ethan, saying he had a death wish and hung around Emily and he had to make sure Emily didn't take up with him. Gibbs and he go toe to toe, with Gibbs pointing out you can't always get what you want. His father tries more than one, to step in and calm matters down.

And then Gibbs tells them about the Marine who was killed; so it's murder. Winslow says Ethan left the town six years ago and he tried to take Emily with him, but he wouldn't stand for that; Emily married Nick. Gibbs says they have blood samples on Ethan's High School ring which can be linked to the murderer and Nick says Ethan never graduated from High School, so how come he has a ring? Nick is troubled by the blood that has been found, and he is in some way or other involved in Ethan's beating and Taylor's death - that much is obvious. And then a little boy, Chris, Emily & Nick's son, appears; Jackson says he's five but like all children of that age Chris wants to be exact and points out it is five and three-quarters. And I'll hold my hand up and say that at that instant I thought it was a case of a good old-fashioned Chris-is-Ethan's-son-not-Nick's-so-Nick-killed-Ethan-when-he-found-out-he-was-still-alive. Gibbs and Jackson leave shortly after that.

Jackson and Gibbs then have another head-to-head over people lying and Gibbs says he knows when someone is lying. Jackson says, a tad wistfully, that Gibbs used to be such a happy child. And then McGee puts his foot in it again (unwittingly) when he calls Gibbs 'boss'. Jackson takes exception to that and demands to know if Gibbs makes them call him boss and does he see himself as a boss. Ouch, yet again. If looks could kill - we wouldn't have a Gibbs alive. And there is more discomfort all around.

McGee tells Gibbs about the video on YouTube and also says he can find out who has viewed it; Jackson asks if that means McGee can tell everything he's been looking at; but denies it is anything when McGee asks. Gibbs gets restless and hurried McGee on and we learn that it was looked at by someone in the Winslow home. Jackson is still trying to find a way to explain it all, Gibbs points out that someone up there lied to him.

We then start a new day. Gibbs and his father are sitting at the table drinking coffee and reading the paper - so it looks as though Gibbs was grown up enough to at least spend the night in his old home. Gibbs does thrown down a tentative olive branch when he says: "Good coffee." And then McGee and Ziva turn up. McGee greets them with: "Morning, Gibbs. Gibbses." Nice. And we learn that Ethan is conscious, but has no memory of the attack. Ziva says Tony is trying to get a Court Order to obtain blood samples from the Winslow family. Jackson turns on Gibbs and says he just wants to feel superior to everyone and that's why he's doing what he's doing and he wants him to get more evidence from the Winslows before Gibbs starts accusing anyone. He asks why they aren't checking DNA, because that's the 'in' thing. McGee and Ziva have drifted away from the table as the Gibbses bicker and bitch yet again, and that is a wonderful reason for them to leave.

They are now digging through trash and McGee said he'd really started to like Jackson. And they discuss how Gibbs is now bending over backwards to try to please his father (he is?) and Ziva says he should just be himself (er, well, he partly is - if you take the 'second B's for bastard', but I know what she means). And lo and behold Nick comes up and asks if he can help - he wants to know what they are doing. Ziva points out that as the trash is in a public place they have the right to go through it. Nick does not look happy, but tosses a bit more trash into the dumpster and goes back to two other men.

Meanwhile back at the store, Gibbs is helping his father by putting prices on cans - he's good at it! Jackson says Gibbs should give people a chance, they might surprise him, Gibbs says that's what he's afraid of. And then Jackson asks about Gibbs's job in general; saying they've never talked about it - adding they've never talked since the funeral. He says he adored Shannon and Kelly, and that he always felt it was Shannon who sent the Christmas card to him. Ouch again (and it almost certainly was). Gibbs says in many ways his job is like his father's it involves telling a story. His starts with a dead body and they tell their tale and people talk to him and lie to him. When his father says that people who come into the store are more than happy to talk to him about their lives, Gibbs says it's because they are insecure and need to feel 'real'.

Then Jackson asks what he did wrong at the funeral. Gibbs replies: "You mean other than showing up with a date?" And so we have it - well part of it, at least. And then Jackson talks about Gibbs's mom and how he had thought they'd love for ever and be the love story of the century and how his only wish was to give Gibbs the 'white picket fence'. Gibbs says he did *sniffles*

And then Jackson explains that things had gone wrong between him and Gibbs's mom and when she'd died and he got on with his life, he knew Gibbs had never forgiven him for that; he saw a look in Gibbs's eyes, a look that had vanished when he met Shannon, but a look that returned after Shannon and Kelly's deaths; a look that said 'I want revenge' and that he'd take action, no matter what Jackson said.

A very poignant and moving scene. So we assume that Gibbs's behaviour is all to do with the fact that he idolised him mom (and I think his dad too actually) she died and rather than grieve for her for ever his dad got on with his life and for that Gibbs never forgave him. Well we do know Gibbs doesn't forgive, at least not easily or quickly. It was moving, but also trite - it's the standard reason - and I'm not too sure I found it 'in character' for our Gibbs. But I digress (again). Gibbs asks his father what he sees in his eyes now, but before Jackson can answer Winslow and Ed turn up - they are not happy.

They have come to complain about McGee and Ziva. Ed says that he told Gibbs to go to him if it involved cop work and then Gibbs throws another iron into the fire. We learn that the car Ethan stole (for which he was sent to prison) was Winslow's and that Ed did all the paperwork and was responsible for sending Ethan to prison. Winslow suggests they should handle things like men and Gibbs has another flashback.

This is to a fight involving Winslow and Ed against him, not so much a fight as an about-to-be beating, with one holding Gibbs whilst the other was punching him. The shot we heard in the very first flashback is actually Jackson firing the Winchester into the air to break up the fight. The flashback scene ends with Winslow and Gibbs both threatening to kill one another next time, if 'daddy' isn't around.

Back to now.

Ed: "Sure you want to pick this fight?"
Gibbs: "Wasn't my choice."

Winslow and Ed leave.

Meanwhile McGee and Ziva are still going through the Winslow's dumpster and are being watched by Emily, whom Ziva goes to talk to. Emily confesses that it was her who had watched Ethan's video because he had been her best friend and she didn't want to believe he was dead all those years, even though she had started to believe it. Ziva pushes to see if it was more than friendship, but at that moment Winslow reappears and pretty much throws Ziva and McGee off his property. They go, because McGee says they have all they need.

Back at Jackson's store, McGee enters to find Gibbs washing the floor - he seems very surprised :-) He tells Gibbs the trash is in the car and Abby will have 'fun' with it and Gibbs asks why McGee isn't on the road. McGee then tries to talk to Gibbs and says Gibbs isn't doing things in his usual way and Gibbs says basically he can't win; yesterday he was being accused of being too quick, today of being too slow, does McGee want to tell him what he'll be tomorrow? The scene alone shows how much McGee has changed and grown over the years; he'd never have dreamt of approaching Gibbs like that before.

And that at second the car explodes (destroying all the evidence). Gibbs doesn't seem either overly perturbed or even surprised. Jackson, who is clearly both, calls out 'Jethro', which I thought was a nice touch. Jackson then looks at his son and says: "We'll do it your way."

DiNozzo and Abby (with her parasol) turn up and McGee asks DiNozzo if they passed many VWs on the way. DiNozzo is rubbing his arm and says Abby cheats in punch buddy(?) to which McGee gives a hearty affirmation :-) DiNozzo goes into the store with the Court Order and is looking from father to son and back again, much to Gibbs's annoyance (see it was a good job DiNozzo wasn't there earlier on). Jackson wants to know if the Order is for the five year-old boy, and Gibbs repeats the five and three quarters (again we are meant to think - and I still was - that Chris is Ethan's, in fact I made a note saying 'yeah, got it first time'.)

Gibbs tells DiNozzo to take McGee and Ziva and go to the mine and he'll go to Winslow. Except . . . There is only one car. And then Jackson steps in saying he has a car. And he and Gibbs go outside and . . .

It's there; in the garage; the old banger Gibbs bought and never did up. His father has done it up exactly how Gibbs intended too including the colour (bright yellow - so not Gibbs of today). It was a very moving moment; I think both father and son had tears in their eyes - father certainly did - and they are both silent for a while and just stand there and you can tell they want to say so much, but despite Jackson always talking he can't find the words and neither can Gibbs. But in truth, they don't need words. Both know that is the moment their relationship has become firm again. *Sniffs* And then Gibbs smiles as his father gives him the keys and adds that he's going with him. We then see the car zoom past the kids who stand watching it and Gibbs is smiling, really, really smiling.

At the mine DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva show the Court Order to Nick, pointing out that means they get to take blood from them.

Gibbs is at Winslow's house with another Court Order and Emily appears. Gibbs says to Winslow, he knows and asks if Winslow got someone else to do his dirty work for him and if he'd threatened Ethan. Meanwhile outside, Jackson is sitting on the porch step with his Winchester and he won't let Ed go in - he tells them they'll sit this one out. Inside Gibbs is wondering what the blood is going to tell him.

Back at the store we have a nice little moment when Jackson admits that not only was his gun not loaded, but he doesn't even know where the cartridges are, thus he's glad it all went smoothly. Abby has been running tests and is now double checking them; Jackson passes a comment and Abby goes into geek mode and starts to explain it to him; Gibbs lets her. Jackson then says it was all very interesting but he had been about to say it's a wonder Gibbs ever got any work done surrounded by beautiful women :-) Abby asks if he's always that shy around girls. Gibbs smiles - nice - and Jackson winks at Abby. We also learn that two time cards had been signed by Nick Kingston, placing two of his men at work at the time of Ethan's attack - oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.

Then attention is turned back to the blood; amongst other things it shows that Ethan has a rare blood condition and those markers are also in the blood belong to Chris (by now I had begun to think that the 'Ethan is Chris's father' was being pushed a tad too much, but I still thought it might be that simple). Jackson says to his son he was right about people hiding things.

Back at Winslow's house we learn that the two employees have been arrested for the murder of Corporal Taylor and the attempted murder of Ethan L'Combe. And Gibbs adds that they tried to kill family. At once Nick turns on Emily saying he always knew Chris wasn't his. Se explains (yet again) that he is; she'd been pregnant when Ethan was released from jail and he hadn't wanted to break up a family, so he'd left. But still Nick doesn't believe her. The ring Ethan was wearing was Emily's.

Winslow denies having ordered Ethan's death and Gibbs agrees it wasn't him; he's many things, but he knows he'd never try to kill his own son. Ethan L'Combe is the biological son of Chuck Winslow. He'd never acknowledged him because it was have meant Ethan having a claim on the family fortune and he'd driven him out of town because he couldn't allow his daughter to get involved with her own brother. It was, in fact, Nick who had sent the two men to kill Ethan; and he is taken away in handcuffs with Emily crying saying why didn't he believe her.

Back outside the store Abby and McGee, in perfect synch, put their bags into the boot of the car and then, again in perfect synch cry: "Shotgun." And "Called it first." They run around the car only to find Ziva sitting in the front passenger seat - again nicely done, with the siblings arguing. For once it wasn't overplayed, it stopped short of going OTT.

And then Jackson, Gibbs and DiNozzo appear; Abby hugs Jackson, McGee shakes his hand and DiNozzo is almost dizzy on the spot as he falls over himself trying to get words out. He says he has so many questions. Gibbs says he has two. And of course DiNozzo blows it by saying "Where do I start?" because Gibbs claims that is the first question and DiNozzo only has one left. DiNozzo tries (no way will you win that one, DiNozzo) to argue, but gives in and asks Jackson if he taught Gibbs his rules.

Jackson says he never taught him much of anything *sniffles* but Gibbs says he taught him how to drive and holds out his hand for the keys to the sedan, much to DiNozzo's distress. He tries to point out he can't sit in the middle on the hump because of the thing he told Gibbs about. Did he really think, for one moment, that Gibbs was going to sit in the back? Come on, DiNozzo, no way! Nor would Gibbs have let him order Abby or McGee to move or indeed Ziva.

And then Jackson gives Gibbs the keys to the other car saying it is only cluttering up the garage. Gibbs gives the keys to the sedan back to DiNozzo and he shakes hands with Jackson, thanks him for the sweater and goes off leaving father and son. There are more long, intense stares and finally Jackson says he knows Gibbs hates it when he used a hundred words when one would do, but asks him to give him a call sometime.

He then says: "Bye, son."

For a long time Gibbs says nothing. Then he hugs him (a hug that was very, very like the hug he and Ducky shared in Smoked, and he even put his lips on his father's ear, like he did with Ducky) and says: "Bye, Dad." Again very moving. I think father and son will no longer be estranged.

And we then have the final scene with Gibbs in his new car, looking out of the window and we get another flashback. This time to him in uniform off to join the Corps, no doubt (would he already be in uniform?) and he meets a girl (the girl he saw in the window of the dress shop) at the station. She asks what the fight had been about and he doesn't answer (we know she is Shannon). She asks if he's a lumber-jack and tells him she has rules, everyone needs a code to live by. And rule one, or it may be three (she can't remember), is never date a lumber-jack. He introduces himself as Leroy Jethro Gibbs; she says she'll just call him 'Gibbs' and of course says she's Shannon. And it ends. What had I said a little earlier about them being more consistent? Oh, yes . . . Er, in an earlier ep we learn that in fact the rules are Mike Franks - and he teaches them to Gibbs! Oh, well . . .

OVERALL

Normally when I get to this stage, even if I've been uncertain about the episode, spending a couple of hours typing it up makes me more focussed and I know what I feel. This time I still don't really know if I loved this ep, liked it, disliked it, hated it, or a combination thereof. I should love it; it was Gibbs-centric and as, along with Ducky, Gibbs is my favourite character, that should mean I love a Gibbs-centric episode. But . . . As I said at the start, the more we learn about Gibbs the less I like it, in many ways.

It was interesting and intriguing to see some of his past with his family and to learn about his relationship with his father and discover why he hadn't been home since he left to join the Corps and to see him and his father make up again. But I'm ambivalent about it; part of it didn't, even with the explanation, ring true as being Gibbs; part of it very much did.

The episode made me smile, laugh, sniff, groan, roll my eyes - so all in all a good range of emotions.

The red herring really was one (for once).

The case was again a real Marine case, but was clearly not the important factor in the episode. In some ways it was really trite, i.e. the reason for the murder - even if in fact it was a mistaken reason. And the bit about Ethan and Emily being brother and sister was both trite and also a surprise. Trite, insofar as it's one of 'those' reasons for a man driving a young man out of town.

There were things about it that irked more than a bit, and I still can't believe they'd let Ethan's aunt go off like she did.

(I'm rambling away hoping an overall feeling will emerge - it hasn't).

I really liked the sub-plot with the kids and 'Daddy' in this; I felt it was very well done. Well balanced, not OTT and didn't go on for too long.

It was lovely to see Ducky in a DJ *melts* and I did enjoy the Autopsy scene, as we had 'my' beloved pairing interacting in the way they always have - so that was nice.

Again, there was too little Ducky in the ideal world - but I wasn't expecting much of him, probably in all honesty no more than we got. So that's not a real complaint just a 'it would have been nice to have had more'.

No Vance! Which was good insofar as we didn't have him and not Ducky.

No Jimmy - always a shame, but again understandable.

Nice to see more McGee and Ziva rather than DiNozzo. I really thought that was excellent writing for Gibbs not to have taken DiNozzo, it worked well and wouldn't really have been believable for him to have taken him - because he knows what DiNozzo is like. And that is not a criticism of DiNozzo, it is actually a compliment all round.

I didn't want to kill Abby :-) (Which after the last two weeks is a good point).

Good emotion.

Some bits were really moving and believable. Some less believable, even though moving.

And having read it through prior to posting I know what's really causing my uncertainty: the appearance of Shannon. I felt it was unnecessary to bring her into this as well. The story was about Gibbs and his dad and we didn't need to meet Shannon at all or know this was when she and Gibbs met. It was obviously put in to increase the emotional content, but it was too much. It wasn't needed; it added nothing at all to the episode - in fact for me it took away from the power of Gibbs and his father.

I'm still not sure of this rating, but I'll go with it for now and maybe change it during the season.

Storyline: 9.00

Enjoyment: 9.00
Tags: non-fiction: episode reviews, season 06
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