My thoughts behind the cut.
The obligatory episode with children; once again as with Mike Franks it's something we have to have virtually every season for some reason or other. The one thing I will say about the kids that appear in NCIS episodes and the way they are written is that they are usually very 'real' kids, and this was no exception.
There was some superb banter and team interaction, nice humour, fun exchanges, a half-decent case (I really wish we could go back to the good old days of S1&2 when the cases were great and the team interaction was great also; they just seem to have run out of case ideas), not very convincing red herrings, and no real irritation as far as wanting to slap characters or shake them went. A couple of minor moments with both Abby and DiNozzo, but both were in character and consistent.
The one minor 'spooky' moment was that a couple of years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving story with Ducky (well Ducky and Gibbs) inviting the team to Reston House (or as Ducky calls it Mallard Manor) and Ducky gave out handwritten invitations for that.
- Two kids are running through a field of corn (dressed very lightly for late November, I'd say) and come across a body dressed as a scarecrow.
- McGee has been on a diet and lost 15lbs (DiNozzo had noticed, nice Di/Mc moment) because he always puts some weight on during the holiday season. DiNozzo also pinches his slight spare tyre (nice touch). Ducky arrives and gives out invitations (firstly to McGee, then Ziva, then DiNozzo, actually the order struck me as odd because we know Ducky is very much the old-fashioned gentleman and as such I would have expected him to have given Ziva her invitation first, even though at the time he was standing near to McGee and DiNozzo) to Thanksgiving dinner at 'Mallard Manor'. DiNozzo points out it's only two days away. And they all have plans: McGee is seeing his sister (Ducky tells him to bring her), Ziva has an invitation to neighbours and DiNozzo is off to go and play poker and eat and eat and eat. And Jimmy is already out of town (I'm so glad Jimmy was mentioned as there's no way Ducky would have left him out and when I didn't see his name I feared the writer's might have missed him). However, we know that Ducky will prevail and they will be joining him for Thanksgiving. Mrs. Mallard is still alive, but she barely recognises Ducky when he visits her. Gibbs arrives and tells them they have a dead Marine in a corn field. He asks Ducky if he's waiting for an invitation and Ducky hands over Gibbs's invitation to diner; in turn Gibbs gives him the address of the field. A really good opening squad room scene.
- On the way to the body there's some good banter between DiNozzo and Ziva, nicely done. There are footprints, both kiddies' and adult's by the body.
- Ducky decides that fresh corn gives him an idea: they'll have corn chowder to begin with:
Ducky looks up at Gibbs. Gibbs: "Later."
- It's a recent death. The man is Lance Corporal Trevor Lozada who works out of Quantico. His hand has been cut-off, prior to death, and PC had been carved into his arm. He's an ex-gang members whose tat had been burnt off. Ziva tickles DiNozzo's neck with a feather; DiNozzo jumps and yelps and gets a Gibbs's glare. Ziva admits she couldn't resist doing it. Gibbs tells Ziva to get onto DiNozzo's shoulders and he turns around with her so she can tell them what she sees in each direction. At one point she massages his neck when he says he has cramp (a nice DiNozzo/Ziva moment). The person who killed Lozada wanted it found, as the place was not an out-of-the-way one. Some nice Ducky and Gibbs moments here with closeness and looks.
- Lozada had a spotless service record and worked currently at Sandler Institute For Strategic Studies And Analysis - an R&D think tank used by the Marines and Navy and had been there six months. Gibbs tells DiNozzo to go with him; DiNozzo objects saying it's far more a McGee thing, but clearly Gibbs prevails.
- We meet Krista Dalton (the Facility's Co-Ordinator) and Gregg Norvell (Director Of Youth Programs) and several kids. Norvell immediately set off my 'spider sense'. The kids are all gifted and are there to play games and do puzzles to help out the military and test the intelligence of systems, etc. Lozada was a body-guard to them as they are incredibly valuable to the Institute and the military. DiNozzo has a fine time playing on/with a couple of the 'toys' and also tries to talk to a couple of the children, but in true DiNozzo and consistent style he again fails. He really doesn't know how to interact with kids - something I can understand and appreciate fully! DiNozzo had a combined SAT score of 950 (which as a non-American means zilch to me, can someone elaborate a tad, please?) which I gather from his comment and also past things he's said about himself being a jock, isn't that great.
- Angela Kelp (one of the kids) was close to Lozada and Gibbs wants to talk to her. They go to her room where there are lots and lots of pictures. She offers him a lurid pink cup cake, which he takes and eats. I do wish he wouldn't talk with his mouth full of all Gibbs's less than savoury traits this is the one that I find the worst of all. She knows Gibbs is there because something has happened to Lozada and asks if he was murdered. She's one bright and astute cookie. He praises her pictures (which personally I thought were rubbish, not that I could do any better, but that's not IMO artwork) and gives her his number to call if she wants to talk.
- McGee has found Lozada's car, some six miles from the corn field. The petrol line had been cut. He as ambushed. And his mobile phone is still there with six calls to/from one number. Gibbs sends DiNozzo to find the person.
- The person Lozada was calling/getting calls from was Eddie Castillo from the gang Lozada used to be in. He denies killing Lozada, says he's like a brother to him. But he did at one point, when Lozada left the gang, try to kill him. DiNozzo thinks he's guilty and taunts him in DiNozzo's usual interrogation style. If he was meant to be a red herring, he was a poor one; a very poor one.
- Someone used Lozada's hand to get into the institute and into Angela's room. But when he/she left they didn't appear to have anything with them.
- Two of Angela's pictures are missing. Gibbs takes her iPod and also her. She denies seeing anything.
- Abby is trying to make cranberry sauce for Ducky's turkey. Gibbs focusses her and gives her the iPod. He wants her to look at the pictures. He says he's not sure he'd going to Ducky's Thanksgiving dinner; Abby tells him he has to. He sees the two missing pictures and tells Abby to blow them up and find out why they were taken. As he goes, he tastes the Cranberry sauce and tells Abby it needs more sugar - a nice little touch.
- In Autopsy Ducky asks Gibbs to bring a dozen dinner rolls from the little bakery near his home (so Ducky knows the team will be joining him). He confirms Lozada died from gun shot wounds and comments that the killer left a macabre message. Gibbs thinks the PC is a fake, i.e. not a gang member. Gibbs asks Ducky to do a Psych Evaluation on a twelve year old girl (Angela). Ducky asks Gibbs where he goes on Thanksgivings, confessing to having called him and even driven past his house each Thanksgiving for the past nine years. The nine years would fit with Gibbs's last marriage to Stephanie breaking up as going by a comment made by Ducky in Cursed about his third ex-wife hitting him around the head with a baseball bat in 1999. I always thought that had to be the beginning of the end for that marriage, if not the end. Gibbs doesn't answer. Ducky says he'll expect him at 16:00 sharp. He has the turkey in one of the body lockers - again, as with last week, I don't like this at all. It just seems unhygienic and given we know no food and drink are allowed in Autopsy, just not something Ducky would do. Small thing, but it bothers me a lot.
- D'Arcy McKinna (whom - don't faint plutos_revenge's revenge - I actually recognised and remembered the previous episode in which she'd appeared) has been called to be Angela's Legal Youth Advocator. Angela asks Ziva if she's ever killed anyone; Ziva lies. I doubt Angela believes her.
- Gibbs, who had hitherto gone up the stairs appears in the lift when Ziva is about to take Angela up to Ducky. Instead he takes her up. In the lift Angela stops it and she tells him he thinks she's hiding something. He says she needn't fear she's in danger, she says she isn't. He asks who is, she says no one.
- She knows it's a Psych Evaluation and says there are three types.
- Gibbs is waiting for Ducky when he comes out. She managed to get Ducky to talk about his first pet, a guinea pig called Hunker-Munker. Gibbs is not that impressed and asks about her. Ducky's got lots out of her but says if she is hiding something, she's doing really well. He also says for all her precociousness and acting twice her age, inside she's just a little girl half her age. She will talk in her own time. He urges Gibbs not to force her to take.
- DiNozzo appears to tell Gibbs Eddie is there again. Gibbs sends DiNozzo to talk to him again - much to DiNozzo's displeasure. Eddie admits he'd been trying to get Lozada to help him with his nine year old cousin who was already getting into trouble. Eddie didn't want him to join the gang, but he couldn't let members know he was doing it. At first DiNozzo doesn't believe him, but then Eddie tells DiNozzo in term Lozada had asked him for some help with Angela who was in trouble.
- Once again Abby is doing something with food that she tosses in the rubbish bin saying some traditions should be left to die out. She tells Gibbs a jiffy is 1:100th of a second. The first picture that had been taken is in colour code. One colour for each letter of the alphabet. It's a poem entitled The Lady In The Fountain and is dark and about death. The second missing picture is a frequency jamming signal for every ship, plane and helicopter for the US Navy and Marine Corps. Gibbs kisses Abby.
- Angela's mom has received an extra $60,000 over the last three months and has been calling wanting to see Angela. DiNozzo is staring at the 'signal jamming' picture and talking about it being one of those hidden pictures that you stare at and stare at (and I can never find the missing picture). Gibbs arrives, head-slaps DiNozzo who then sees a dolphin and thanks Gibbs. A nice little very in character, consistent scene.
- Ballistic Winter was the program linked to the frequency jamming signal Abby found. Copies of the signal appeared on the black market in China; it's an open NCIS investigation. The only suspect is C-Ten Dynamics who does R&D in conjunction with the Sandler Institute. Their main sales director is Debra Dalton, Krista's younger sister and she is missing. Gibbs tells them to get Krista and take Angela to a safe house. All have been compromised so Gibbs sends her, with Ziva, to Ducky's. He tells DiNozzo to cancel his holiday plans.
- Angela is playing drafts with an NCIS agent and winning. Gibbs appears. He says he'll play her and if he wins she'll tell him the truth about Lozada and jamming signals. She says she's not hiding anything, colours, etc. is how she works. She knows Gibbs builds things and asks if he expresses himself through those things.
- Gibbs sees Angela's mom. She's angry. Says the money is Angela's and it was Angela who wanted to go to the institute; she wanted to fit in somewhere. The big payments came from C-Ten Dynamics and were approved by Debra Dalton.
- Debra's body is found in a culvert by the Institute. Angela's window overlooks the area and there's a fountain.
- At Ducky's they are in the kitchen. Angela asks if she can help; Ducky says no. She asks if she can watch TV; it's on the blink. Computer; his laptop is in the car. Books; he sends her to the library (to actually have a library is a dream J and I both have, Ducky's house is wonderful). Ziva's about to follow but he stops her and she goes on helping him put the turkey in a roasting bag. She's apprehensive, but he prevails. Very bad of both of them. She's missing. I know Ducky was excited about the dinner, but he shouldn't have stopped Ziva and Ziva, even though she respects Ducky and is fond of him, shouldn't have stayed. Of course had she not, the rest of the episode couldn't have happened as it did.
- Ziva and Ducky both try to take the blame and take away the blame from the other. Gibbs says they're both to blame (he's correct) but they need to concentrate on finding Angela.
- Krista says the money came from games that had been developed by the kids. They'd only used old codes, etc. nothing current. She and Debra kept some money and gave the rest to the families. Gibbs points out Ballistic Winter was still technically classified; Ziva points out that makes what Krista and Debra did technically treason. Gibbs shows her her sister's body. She admits Debra was seeing someone and was afraid.
- Ducky points out that apart from the cat, nothing in Angela's room is about her or from where she came, everything is to do with the outside world. Also whilst talking to him she never mentioned her home or home town; she didn't show herself. She's a scared little girl, protecting someone - it seems to be her mother. McGee gets a credit car hit; on one of Ducky's cards. Angela took it and has used it to buy a map of her home town. She's leaving a bread crumb trail. She wants them to follow her. But the killer probably will be doing the same thing. During this scene DiNozzo is eating.
- In the car on the way to Angela's home, DiNozzo is very queasy from the crab chowder he'd been eating (and again that was consistent back to an early episode when he steals all the prawns from Kate's Chinese meal and is very sick overnight. I don't know if that was deliberate, but it does seem that when he's eating really fast or 'stealing' food, he ends up unwell). Abby calls and gives a connection between the deaths of Lozada and Debar: oil based paint. The paintings on Norvell's work station were oil based.
- Angela is waiting for them to arrive, but signals they should stay outside - they do, which I found a tad surprising. She goes in and there is her mom and Norvell appears with a gun (I knew he was a bad guy from the second I saw him). He killed Debra because she humiliated him; Angela saw it, told Lozada and 'wrote' about it in her pictures.
- They go outside to find NCIS. He says he'll kill Angela. Gibbs puts down his gun and calls to Ziva who has her gun pointing at Norvell's head. Norvell says the odds are she'll miss. Gibbs asks Angela what the probability is he's right. Angela tells him. Gibbs tells Ziva to take the shot. She does. Norvell dies. So now Angela has seen her kill someone.
- At Ducky's he brings in the turkey. Present are: Abby (not in black), Ziva, McGee and DiNozzo. They are sitting on either side of the table, Ducky is at one end, the other end, whilst set, is empty. Ducky looks unhappy about Gibbs's absence; he also comments how nice it is to have the kids there, even though it wasn't their first choice. And for some reason DiNozoz has a glass of wine, one red, one white in either hand. Ducky is about to carve the turkey when the door opens. He calls out "Jethro," in a really happy way; I really got the impression he thought Gibbs wasn't going to appear; I'm so glad he was wrong. Gibbs appears with the 'rolls'. Not quite what Ducky had asked, for but various packets of things, clearly he left it too late. But nonetheless Ducky is happy. Ducky gives a toast: "Close friend and family all. A bountiful thanks and good things for fall." He's looking at Gibbs during his. Abby seems slightly tipsy. Gibbs puts his glass forward and they all clink glasses and say cheers. Gibbs smiles at Ducky at the end. And Gibbs with a tie - I do love him dressed up; although I'm not that sure about Ducky's jacket - it was certainly bright :-)
I enjoyed this episode a lot.
There was some excellent interaction and fun scenes and some good acting. Great team interaction throughout with some good banter and no nastiness or bitching, just good, solid, friends and family interaction. There were various ship moments that could equally be seen as family and friends moments.
The red herrings were poor and I have a few 'not sures' about the case itself and its resolution. Could that kind of thing, the jamming signal, really be hidden in a picture? Is Angela really that good? And also the whole oil paint residue found on both bodies. I know oil paint takes forever to dry, in fact I believe it never truly dry-dries, but it seemed a tad far fetched to me that Norvell would leave residue on both bodies.
I do find myself wondering whether that kind of place actually helps gifted children, or whether in fact all it does is to make them more apart from their peers and also give them a huge sense of self-importance and belief that they are better than anyone else. The focus being on them being so much better, even though they see the things as puzzles, etc. makes me wonder what happens to them as they get older. After all we did see the oldest kid there who really was quite the brat. Do these places help or hinder?
- No Jimmy. I know he was mentioned, but given it was a Thanksgiving episode it would have been lovely for him to have been there.
- Abby very slightly vexed me over the food - but it was consistent.
- DiNozzo with Eddie. I thought he was a tad heavy handed and had made up his mind that it was Eddie and was blinkered to it. But again it was consistent with how he's been in the past and really it was just a tiny irk.
- The turkey in one of the Autopsy lockers.
- Ducky and Ziva both staying in the kitchen and letting Angela go off alone (but if they hadn't then the rest of the ep couldn't have happened, but I felt for Ducky to insist Ziva stayed was a tad 'off'.
- The paint on both bodies.
- The opening scene in the squad room.
- The 'poker' 'sister' 'neighbours' exchange in the corn field.
- Ziva on DiNozzo's shoulders.
- Gibbs and Ducky in Autopsy.
- DiNozzo trying to figure out the 'missing' picture.
- The final scene at Reston House.
Ship of the week:
Character of the week:
Actor/Actress of the week:
Madeline Carroll (the girl playing Angela)