Nikki (nakeisha) wrote in ncis_gibbsducky,
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Episode Review. Season 8x14 - A Man Walks Into A Bar

My thoughts behind the cut.



I knew a fair bit about this episode in general terms and felt it was either an episode you loved or hated (the Marmite episode as plutos_revenge dubbed it). Now after watching it I don't know if I loved it, hated it or somewhere in the middle - which is odd, but at the moment that's how I feel.

It moved me to tears more than once, mainly because of all the flashbacks, not just to Kate but also to Ziva's past to the decisions she had to make, to her killing her own brother and the cost to her. It was a very sobering episode in many ways and brought back a lot of memories from past episodes and whilst I normally hate that kind of jumping back and forth, I felt this worked really, really well.

I really disliked Dr. Rachel Cranston to begin with, she put my back up and I can quite see why Tony, Ziva and Abby reacted to her as they did, she was intrusive and unpleasant and at the time I thought she had her own agenda. And what an agenda it was! And that was part of the problem; I found it hard to believe that she could use her 'powers' to get into NCIS to evaluate her dead sister's team, not so much for their sake, but for her own. She was looking for some kind of closure. I found the way they shoe-horned her into the episode badly done as I simply didn't believe it. However, it did explain a lot about the rest of the episode and her attitude and behaviour and I guess had to be done, there was no other way of bringing her in. I get that, I don't have to like it or believe it, but I do understand it. I can also understand what drove her to do what she did.

I dislike this kind of evaluation, TBH, I'm not sure it has a place and clearly given how often it had been re-scheduled, it wasn't of high importance to anyone. Could they go on re-scheduling like that in reality? Psych tests, I thought, were mandatory and part of the annual review, apparently not. Thus in many ways I was already very anti Rachel before the episode started and nothing she did or said and the way she acted, talked to people and behaved helped that opinion of her. When she ignored Tim telling her to stay outside, I thought she was a foolish woman who quite frankly deserved it if something had have happened to her.

Having said all that, the fact that she did irritate and did push and come over as she did, isn't necessarily bad. Having strong feelings positive or negative are always good, as it means a character/plot/scene has worked. It's the 'meh' reactions or the 'don't really touch you in one way or other' that aren't so good.

As for the case, that was interesting and a real navy case and also painful too - yet another subject tackled so well. In some ways it's a great shame it was tied up with this episode as it was worthy of more, I felt. How terrible that the Commander had given all the years to the service of his country, only to have to face mandatory retirement and end up with nothing. Suicide clearly wasn't a decision he made quickly or lightly, but he made it. Kudos to the two junior people who helped and tried to cover it up. Foolish of them, of course, but so easy to understand why they did it. I actually thought the Petty Officer was involved in this killing, because of the way she came over to Tony and tried to make him believe it was the Korean who'd murdered, something I never for one second believed. She drew attention to herself and yes, it turns out she was involved - just not in the way I'd thought.

There were some incredible scenes and they were pretty much all between Rachel and members of the team.

The one with Ziva was particularly powerful, intense and moving. She had Ziva taped (she had them all taped, but then she knew a lot about them anyway, not just from their files but from Kate) and knew which buttons to press. The emotion Ziva showed was tangible and yet also underplayed in the way Ziva does it. Her past is so painful for her, she has had so many choices, made so many decisions, not all correct. She has come through so much and come out the woman she is now - but a woman who is still searching for one thing: something permanent, something that cannot be taken away from her. We got further inside Ziva and saw more of who and what she is in the small scene than in five and a half seasons really. The flashbacks were painful, so hard to watch because of how much Ziva was hurting. For me this scene was one of the three most powerful, moving, intense, important and emotional of the whole episode.

Abby was true to form in her attitude the second she meant Rachel. We know how much she dislikes anyone coming in and messing with her team, especially when the person is female, so that was very much in character. The first scene when Gibbs was there and Abby kept looking at Gibbs was very Abby seeking reassurance from her father. I loved her comment after Rachel said not to let her interrupt to the effect that it was too late, she had already interrupted. But it was the next scene between them that really worked so well and was so moving; Abby remembering Kate and how much she still misses her. Also learning that apart from a few charitable things, Abby only has work. I'm surprised the nuns weren't mentioned though, given they featured quite a bit in earlier seasons, just in mentioning, etc. I felt it was odd they weren't mentioned. Rachel drawing her out on Tim was interesting. Abby's reaction when Rachel asked if she could spent time with him was totally classic 'methinks the lady doth . . .' It's crystal clear Abby still cares for Tim more than just as a friend and colleague.

Ducky and Dr. Rachel was interesting. Ducky so insistent she couldn't get into his mind because he knew all the tricks and then with barely a pause for breath, he's telling her things. That little scene whilst again somewhat painful as we discover how lonely Ducky is (actually we learn how lonely all the team are outside of work) and the irony of working with the dead and getting older all the time, was also jolting as him beginning to talk to her happened far too fast, IMO. If it was going to happen and it had to to tie Ducky in with Kate and the past, then it should have happened later. And why did he not mention Jimmy? After all, he's not alone in Autopsy all of the time, only when Jimmy is at Med School, it would have taken a matter of seconds to add a bit mentioning Jimmy, that's all.

Rachel and Tim, apart from when she went into the house after Tim told her not to, wasn't anywhere near as emotional as the other scenes, which was good, but also telling. So Tim's 'issue' is women and we know he's not had a good time with them and seems to find the 'odd bods'. But then we get his thoughts and memories of Abby and once again it's clear how much Tim still loves her and wants to be with her. Very telling that we had both of them remembering and/or reacting to mention of the other.

Rachel and Vance again she worked him out; she knew that had happened; she knew how scared he was; she knew he'd learnt things he wished he hadn't and now was questioning himself and his future/present. And we got the reminder that Vance has asked SecNav for the job as Director had pushed for it.

So Tony finally got 'captured' and had to talk to Rachel. Of them all he really disliked her most, perhaps even more than Abby, but she'd already got to him from the second she spoke to him - just as Kate did - and he was very wary of her and scared as to what she might find out, what he might reveal. His earlier chat about how it's up to him to play the clown and make the team laugh was telling. His flashbacks to Kate were very poignant indeed and the missing scene was a nice one and used very well. He and Kate could really have worked out, he knows it and it seems that there were things Kate never told him. It was interesting to have some glimpses of Tony and the mention of his mother dying when he was eight and being sent to boarding school at eleven and the flashback of him being offered and turning down the team. He really regrets that decision, I think he regrets it more and more as time goes on rather than less, he talked about accepting the decision and moving on, but he hasn't. He is bitter about making it; he knows he should have taken it and he knows he may never get another opportunity. That could explain a lot about the clown Tony, the sometimes less than nice Tony, because he knows what he did was a huge, huge, huge mistake. And Rachel got him to in effect admit that. That scene was very well done indeed. It was an interesting look at Tony, the kind we've rarely seen before.

And finally Gibbs and Rachel. When he finds her asleep behind Ziva's desk, just as her baby sister was all those years ago and he flashes back to Kate that was one of the many scenes that brought tears to my eyes. She was never going to get him to open up, not as she got the others, and yet in part she did. She wanted closure. The scene in his basement when he took her to the exact place where Ari had been killed and the flashback of that was well done, well timed. As were the earlier flashbacks to Kate's murder. Gibbs telling her that Ziva killed her own brother, the man who'd killed Kate, brought it full circle in many ways. And then the scene where Rachel recalls Kate phoning her about Gibbs saying he'll never accept her/respect her, etc. again was moving as we saw the Kate we knew existed, the Kate who strived so hard to be part of NCIS and live up to Gibbs's demands, but was never acknowledge in words - until now. This was the other really emotional, poignant scene, in line with the Ziva and Rachel scene.

Vance reading Rachel's report was a good round up. Yes, the team are dysfunctional - but we know that - yes, they are a clinical disaster, but they work. At least for now. I like the little warning to be careful, that maybe someday they will fall apart. It was very well done and the montage of scenes as he's reading worked so well and fitted perfectly. A great way to close a really emotional episode.

I loved seeing all the different Tim's from the various seasons, seeing how much he has changed over the time.

I still find it a tad difficult to actually believe that Rachel managed to get to be the one to go to the team and I still think she abused her position. She had an agenda and was abrasive to begin with and some of the things she asked/way she behaved were odd until you knew just who she was. She did irritate me for quite some time. But it did all make total sense once we knew she was Kate's older sister - and they were very alike in so many ways, character-wise. I know she had to abuse her position otherwise it wouldn't have worked, but I still found it hard to believe she could get away with it. And what will happen now re: her position? Will she have some kind of disciplinary action against her?

I do feel sorry the case was used in this episode as it got kind of ignored and I did wonder what would be reported in respect of the Commander's death. Would they cover it up somehow? Could they even? He did deserve to be remembered as a hero and buried as a good man. He gave everything and for what?

For me the episode was as much about Ziva as it was about Kate, because whilst the others all worked with and loved Kate, Ziva's involvement came only as a result of Kate's murder by Ziva's half brother and Ziva killing Ari. The two women, both so different, yet so tied together and alike in more ways than perhaps Ziva realises, were the focal point of this. Ziva's haunting desire of wanting something permanent will stay with me for some time.

I missed the interaction and banter between our team as that was virtually non-existent, which is had to be. There was very little humour in it, again to be expected. Definitely an episode to muse over and one that had me with tears in my eyes more than once and I'm still feeling emotionally drained.

And even now I'm still not sure how I feel. I think I loved it (a few irritations aside), I'm somewhat emotionally drained at the moment and that's probably partly why I'm not sure how I feel. Yet as it has taken a toll on me, I clearly got caught up in it and taken along by it, so that implies I really did like it. Enjoy? Can you truly enjoy such a deep, almost painful episode?

I'm feeling mellower now and with more time to reflect I have to admit it really was a stunning episode in so many ways. So much emotion bound up in one episode, more than you often get in several. A lovely tribute to Kate in particular, but also to all the fallen in a way, because we can't forget the apart from the main plot, the sub-plot we the pain of the Commander who chose to take his own life as he felt he had nothing left when he was forcible retired from the career and life he had loved and the woman he'd loved for so long. So very, very poignant.

After the second viewing and even more pondering I realised that as poignant and moving as the episode was, despite all the many good things, despite the tribute to Kate, the fact that Rachel abused her position so badly was just, for me, impossible to reconcile and accept. I know TV isn't like real life and that we have to hand wave and accept things that wouldn't happen in the real world. But equally so we all have lines over which we cannot step - and for me Rachel was that line. So sadly the episode will not get a particularly high rating.

Favourite scenes:
- The squad room scene with Tony telling Ziva how he knew which horses to bet on and demonstrates how they behave. Vintage and priceless Tony.
- Ziva and Rachel's chat', especially when Ziva admits she wants something permanent.
- Abby and Rachel's 'chat'.
- Tony and Rachel's 'chats'.
- Gibbs and Rachel in the squad room and in Gibbs's basement.
- The final montage scene whilst Vance is reading Rachel's letter.

Minor irks:
- Rachel annoyed me to begin with.
- The fact that she was able to evaluate the team being who she was.
- Ducky caving so quickly after saying Rachel couldn't get to him.
- Ducky not mentioning Jimmy when he spoke to Rachel.
- Abby not mentioning the nuns and bowling.

Ship of the week:

Abby/McGee

Character of the week:

Kate

Actor/Actress of the week:

Cote de Pablo

Storyline: 8.00

Enjoyment: 7.50
Tags: !creator: nakeisha, non-fiction: episode reviews, season 08
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