I allowed myself to have fairly high expectations for this episode as the previous two Christmas episodes had both been stellar (full marks for both). I shouldn't have done that, because there is only one way down from that to be disappointed. It was a good episode, but I'd been expecting a bit more and so felt a little let down by it. It wasn't helped by some of the characters and their behaviour. The penultimate scene, however, really made up for a lot.
So this was the episode where we had a serious Tony pretty much all the way through. I felt it was a shame they did that for the Christmas episode as it meant a lot of the banter and wonderful team interaction, especially between Tim, Tony and Ziva was missing. I also have to say I was irritated by Tony; he was totally OTT - from one extreme to the other. His behaviour was very forced, which it was meant to be so kudos to MW for playing it so well. To act as if you are acting is tough to do and he did it well. But it wasn't Tony, it wasn't, to paraphrase Ziva, 'the Tony we love'. It was a Tony I wanted to shake far more than I have done even when he's playing the fool. We've seen competent Tony and even serious Tony before, but that was different; those occasions didn't seem forced. This did. Very much so. And given we did focus more on Tony this week because he was being so serious, again that distracted and took something away from the episode. But full marks to MW for an amazing acting job.
I also found Deputy DA Gail Walsh annoying and so transparent that she was up to something. Another lawyer who was so poorly written and so annoying. And she shared traits with ELC - annoying ones. Plus, why another red-head? Oh, yes, so we can wonder if Gibbs is going to fall for her. There are blondes, black haired, brown haired and other colours, PTB, why keep foisting red-heads on us? She was another source of irritation throughout and again as we saw so much of her, she too interfered with my enjoyment and again took something away from the team. At least we know now who the red-head going into Gibbs's house late at night was, so that's cleared that one up. And also, I do find it incredibly hard to believe that she'd sleep with someone who had an involvement with the case knowing full well that it would scupper the case if it got out. And it wasn't as if she'd fallen madly, passionately in love with the man. It just seemed that she was sex mad and had to have a man at all times. She, like ELC, did not ring true at all.
We did still have some nice team banter and interaction between Ziva and Tim about Tim's dreams and plenty between Ducky and Jimmy and also Ducky and Gibbs and Gibbs and Abby. But it wasn't the normal kind, something was missing.
There was also some nice touches of humour. I loved Ducky and Jimmy and all the 'ologies' and then discovering Ducky is going to go on FaceBook - Ducky!?!?!?! I did like Ducky's justification to Gibbs for joining FB and his explanation that it was social networking. And poor man getting the kind of interest he got! I wonder quite what Jimmy put on his profile, given he was taking notes, it had to be him that did it. I have to say I don't know why SB keeps trying to force female interest in Ducky or have him supposedly interested, it just never comes over as being believable. I've always said from the second I saw Ducky, long before I shipped that Ducky came across as gay and the more TPTB keep pushing these females onto him/mentioning them, etc. etc. the falser and shoe-horned it seems. All it does is to enforce believe that Ducky is gay, but hey, we can't possibly have a main male gay character in a high-profile show.
And there were some nice shipping moments too for a variety of ships: Gibbs/Ducky had lots of nice eye contact and closeness and interaction. Abby/McGee from the conversation Jerry had with Abby. Tony/Ziva from the scene outside the interrogation room.
Jerry Neisler was a fascinating character. Very interesting, I'd love to have seen Ducky do a psychological autopsy on him. I can see why he got glowing reports from his COs but also kept getting moved around, not the kind of man who would fit easily into one place for long, because as nice a man as he was and as good, he would also wind people up and upset them - unintentionally, but he would. He was a very intriguing character. And wow, did he read people so well. The scene between him and Abby was spot on; he knows Tim is still interested in Abby and it was clear from Abby's behaviour and tone and body language and the way she wanted him out of her lab that he'd struck a nerve or three! She still loves Tim.
Ditto how well he read Gibbs from a short car journey and seeing his place and the photograph of Shannon and Kelly and him at Christmas. Again they just can't let go, can they? Out it comes again; let's show Gibbs is still broken up. It was shoe-horned in again and the more SB keeps playing the card, the less believable it gets. And again Gibbs wanted Jerry out of the way because again he struck close to home. So yes, really clear why his COs kept moving him on.
And the small conversation he had with Ziva about Tony was also revealing. Making Jimmy cry wasn't nice; I wonder quite what nerve he touched there and what he said? And also the fact that Abby told Tony to stay away from Jerry was interesting, does she think Tony has feelings for Ziva and didn't want Jerry picking up on them? Or did she simply just not want Jerry 'analysing' Tony and hitting all the sore nerves?
The case itself was at least a real navy case - which is always good. But I felt overall it really felt like a filler, it wasn't, it was the main part of the episode, yet something about it felt like a filler to me. It wasn't gripping or intense and at no point did I think Jerry was in danger - not once NCIS got their hands on him. It meandered along, no thrills or shocks, it went from beginning to end in a quiet, non-threatening, unobtrusive way.
The opening scene, once Jerry had got the DVD and was playing it was really scary stuff. So very well written and played. Underwritten and played really and very much on the psychological horror with showing the person threatening him breaking in and walking to the room, leaving the baseball bat for Jerry to trip over and then holding the knife to his neck, all the time in silence and not hurrying. Very, very powerfully done. One of the best opening scenes (if not the best) NCIS was come up with in seven and a half seasons. Superbly done.
The most poignant and touching scene was the one in the alleyway when the brother confronted his sister's killer and fully intended to kill him - well I'm not sure he did. I think he wanted to, but I'm not certain he could have pulled the trigger, not just like that in cold blood. But the interaction between all concerned was very, very moving. I admit I had tears in my eyes over it and was willing him not to do anything silly and in effect destroy his own life. In some ways the longer the stand-off went on the more I began to fear that he would pull the trigger. But thankfully he didn't destroy his life. I don't often feel sorry for the bad guy, but he touched me in that scene too, very much so.
The other really stellar scene for me was between Tony and Ziva outside interrogation when she finally talks to him and challenges him about his behaviour and attitude. We know things touch Tony and he does care deeply, even if he hides it so it was nice to see that something like that had affected him so much. Somewhat odd that it was someone from over a year ago and clearly it wasn't just Tony having a one-night stand with her when she thought there was more that caused her to end up in a clinic, but interesting that it was the thing that seemed to push Tony and force him into a behaviour that didn't suit him at all. I loved how he asked Ziva who he was and she told him Tony DiNozzo, the class clown that's why we love you. So very well done. And words that can be taken as friendship love from all of the team - because the team do all love one another - including her, or friendship love of the whole team but more than just that from her. I really liked how it was Ziva who talked to him, who finally got through to him.
The other scene I enjoyed despite Ducky's OOC unprofessionalism was the one with Gibbs, Ducky, Jimmy and Tim in Autopsy when we learn Ducky had been getting provocative emails from ladies. I enjoyed it most of all because it was a superb Gibbs/Ducky scene; Gibbs picking up quickly that something was wrong with Ducky and clearly being concerned about him. And then the look on his face when he learnt about the emails. The look that was filled with surprise, incredulity, humour, affection and a 'they're out of luck there, Duck.'
A fun ending to the episode, the balance of Tony having set the entire office up - with the help of Jerry - and releasing 'confetti' over them and having bangs was believable, the kind of thing he would do. Tony is back, the real Tony, the class clown, the Tony we love is back.
I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the previous two Christmas episodes, but there were enough excellent scenes to enjoy it, but sadly it was marred somewhat by two pretty major irks - Tony and the DA. Something just seemed 'missing' from this episode. A good one, but not stellar, not as good as I'd been expecting/hoping for. And really it could have happened at any time, the Christmas link was just 'there' because it's Christmas.
- The opening scene, once Jerry put the DVD into the machine and played it. It was really scary and grabbed the attention.
- Ducky and Jimmy in Autopsy with Ducky giving Jimmy all the 'ologies' and then Gibbs's arrival and the scene thereafter.
- Abby and Jerry when he was talking about McGee and his feelings for her. He hit home.
- Abby and Gibbs in the camera pixel scene.
- Gibbs and Ziva in the turkey scene.
- Gibbs, Ducky, Tim and Jimmy in Autopsy with poor Ducky so distracted.
- Ziva and Tony outside the interrogation room.
- The scene in the alleyway. So very touching and moving all round.
- The ending scene in the squad room. A very nice round-up and very Tony. And I loved his 'too much?' comment to Ziva.
There were some nice little throw away touches too:
- Tim dreaming about work.
- Jerry's comment that Ziva had 'The eyes of a killer'.
- There's a turkey DNA database!?!?!
- Everyone recognising that Tony wasn't Tony.
- Abby telling Tony to stay away from Jerry.
- Tony for most of the episode. He was trying far too hard and was far more annoying than when he plays the clown.
- DA Walsh.
- Jimmy making the turkey gobbling noise.
- Abby and her turkey dance.
- Ducky being distracted mid-case by the replies from women. He wouldn't be so unprofessional. There is a time and a place.
- Gibbs not locking his front door when he took Jerry home with him. Please! The guy is in danger, you're protecting him, you do not leave your front door unlocked.
- Eating cold pizza that had been left out of the fridge all night and the cold baked beans from a can - yuck to both.
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