I really should stop reading spoilers about episodes and watching promos, because they never live up to the hype and I just end up frustrated and disappointed *wry grin*
This episode had more trailers than I'd ever seen for an episode, not to mention interviews and tweets from Jesse Stern and Gary Glasberg.
JS tweeted to say, about 'Swan Song': I'm not quite sure what we've made here. I've never seen an episode like Swan Song before. Of anything. It's either brilliant or terrible.
GG in an interview promised: What happens in this week’s episode and the finale will absolutely rock the world of NCIS. Also, There is tremendous emotional resonance that happens from the losses they experience over the next two episodes — and that resonance will be felt well into next season. I have no doubt. And in an earlier 'interview' GG promised: The 'significant Change' that occurs will "affect NCIS in ways people will never see coming". In particular, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) will be reeling. Glasberg notes, "His world is about to be rocked both personally and professionally.
Did it live up to these promises?
In part, it did. I don't know what JS meant with his tweet, as it wasn't anything novel or unique or not seen before. As for GG's bit, the death did indeed upset Team Gibbs, that was clear and yes it affects Gibbs most, but if that's the 'never see coming' er, sorry, but I and many others called Mike's death very early on. But maybe they mean surprising, etc. for the general viewing populace, in truth that's what they do mean. I wasn't, however, frustrated nor was I disappointed, despite the lack of surprise, etc. which was interesting.
Interestingly when I was in the shower prior to watching this I suddenly had a 'eureka' moment whilst thinking about the last trailer I saw yesterday, the one set in the squad room with Tony and his umbrella. Everyone had been saying how Tony was going to be right and I was thinking, no he can't be right, because Gibbs says it won't rain. And also, how come Mike was in the squad room but only Gibbs could see an hear him? And suddenly it came to me that the episode would start with the scene we'd seen in another trailer (as well as BD's wee interview) of Gibbs standing in the rain as the Autopsy van drove off and that the squad room scene we saw was actually going to be back in time, the previous day or the day before. That way Tony was wrong about it raining on that day and Gibbs was right. Plus, it explained Mike's 'presence'.
Sometimes I wish I was wrong - as we ended up with yet another episode filled with flashbacks - argh!!!!! And given Mike is in next week's credits, I fear yet another episode with flashbacks - but maybe not so many *crosses fingers* However, overall I thought it was a jolly good episode (even with the flashbacks). The pace at times could have been better, there were some lulls that could have been filled to keep the episode going along at a clipped pace, there was too much EJ and her team and thus too little of most of our team, but it answered a lot of questions and ended with a 'bang'.
It was no surprise at all that Mike was the one to die - poor Gibbs though he's lost yet someone else he loves. But I think the Autopsy will reveal that Mike was dying anyway and he knew it. Now be it lung cancer or from too much drink or something else, I know not, but he looked awful when he arrived at Gibbs's door, he brought the box that had kept Vance 'sweet' to him for three years which he was leaving to Gibbs and he challenged Jonas Cobb, saying he had 'one fight left in him'. He choose to die in the field; he choose a quick death that may help people he cares about rather than a long, lingering death that will help no one. So sad, but he went out the way he wanted to, isn't that something we'd all like to do? Maybe the fact he was dying will be some small comfort to Gibbs when Ducky tells him he had already been given a death sentence. And just what is in the box? That's another question; I wonder if we'll find out next week or if that will spill over into Season Nine?
It held my attention although I was jolted every time we moved from present day to the day before. The tie in using Mike talking to Gibbs and only seen and heard by Gibbs, staring with them staring at the body bad and Mike telling Gibbs to start from the beginning, was a good way of letting us know we were going to go back and forth.
The opening scene, much of which we'd already seen was poignant and cleverly done as well as one by one it cleared all the men of being the dead body, we saw Jimmy, then moved to Ducky, then Tony appears with his darn umbrella (as if he'd being an umbrella to a crime scene - poor writing) and finally Tim. I never for a moment feared for Ziva or Abby nor for any of the men as to my mind it was always clear it was going to be Mike. The look on Gibbs's face said it had to be someone extremely close to him and Mike fitted. RIP Mike Franks, he did indeed get his swan song. I am sorry to see that he's dead, even though I knew he would be one of the two.
The opening squad room scene was fun, a nice lot of friendly, sibling banter with no real nastiness or bitching, just the three of them having a nice start to the day. Tony with his latest obsession: it's going to rain and his umbrella - I'm sorry, but there is no way I see Tony as an umbrella man, it is just not him. I know it had to be there to have the whole 'it's going to rain' and Gibbs could say it isn't - and be right - and we get the continued humour or Tony taking the umbrella with him when the go to EJ's crime scene, but it was very shoe-horned in, I felt. Although, having said that also quite in character as we know when Tony gets a new obsession he does carry it through further than most - so yes, it was consistent Tony, if somewhat laughable. Tim reads Spiderman? Well, well, who'd have thought it. I loved seeing Mike basically telling Gibbs to get off his backside and go to the crime scene, after all it was an NCIS agent!
I thought it was interesting that we had Gibbs tell Mike that EJ outranks him on that particular case and later on understood why that came out and how it all fitted with the case and how it tied up another loose end.
It was also interesting and again consistent with what we've seen since the arrival of EJ, that at the crime scene Tony (and his umbrella) walks off with EJ 'discussing' the events in Hawaii and the murder of NCIS Special Agent Stark. Again, it put him apart from the team and more on EJ's side.
The scenes with Gibbs in Autopsy talking to Mike's body, still in the zipped body bag, were all incredibly poignant and moving and very well done. Mark Harmon really is an incredible actor, he does so much with so little, no grand gesture, no forced body language, just spot on. And I liked how, after Ducky had told his little 'false' story he left Gibbs alone with Mike. It was right that Ducky did speak to Gibbs, right he said they can wait for him, right as Gibbs's closest friend he be there for some short time to show his respect, caring and compassion, but also right that he left Gibbs alone. And again as with MH, David McCallum played the scene so well, again no grand gesture or anything, just so right.
And we learnt that Stark had been killed some time earlier on the day his holiday began, but the records show he'd been accessing NCIS. I thought it odd how surprised EJ seemed when Levin suggested that the P2P killer had been doing that. It seemed obvious once we knew how long Stark had been dead. It was interesting that she was surprised, which may tie in with Gibbs's comment later on about her being a 'rookie' and also does tie in with the fact that she's never shown great skills all along. She wasn't the person to carry out this investigation.
I really loved the wee scene when the kids are reading EJ's reports and Mike is getting frustrated and tells Gibbs to skip the reading part and then we have them report to Gibbs. Their reporting and telling what they would do, Tim new school, Tony old school, Ziva in ninja mode would spy on EJ. So lovely, very them, even if it didn't actually happen.
So the eye that got into MTAC was Trent Kort's! Please, he is not in his mid to late 30s, no way. He's in his mid to late 40s, you only have to look at him. That aside, again that wasn't that much of a surprise as that had been show in one of the previews - although to be honest I didn't believe it was him, I thought he'd just had an accident or something, because of the age thing. I liked the consistency with Kort telling Tony why he decided to get himself access to MTAC; Tony shut the door on Kort, Kort hadn't liked that. I did like Kort's comment to Gibbs that EJ's only primary qualification was that she wasn't him and hadn't got a reputation of questioning and challenging authority. It was good that Gibbs toed the party line when talking to Kort and backed EJ - even though it was obvious to Kort that was what he was doing!
And so the CIA were a lot more involved than we thought! Jonas Cobb is the P2P killer; a man the CIA, in effect 'built' and sent out into the world to kill - well, he certainly did that. The Frankenstein project, well named - except of course Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster, so the CIA are Frankenstein? Yes, that works very well, actually, because they 'built/created' Cobb and others. I can understand them wanting to clean up their own door step, but it does show how poor the sharing of information between the alphabet soup agencies is.
I liked the way that for a moment in Vance's office when Gibbs and Vance were talking about Kort, they were doing a two-hander with a somewhat irked EJ watching. She really was like a kid, who didn't like being kept out of the loop - another thing she and Tony have in common, I can see why he says how alike they are. That was a nice moment.
It was interesting that it wasn't until Kort showed up that Gibbs called Mike and I'm still not one hundred percent sure as to why he called him. However, Following on from a comment and reading the sub-titles it does look as if Gibbs called Mike to ask him to bring the file on Vance that Kort gave him. For some reason I thought the SecNav had taken it away with him after he'd told Gibbs to trust Vance.
And Mike really is well liked amongst the team. I loved seeing Abby arm-in-arm with him and Ziva blowing him a kiss, Tony shaking hands and Tim lifting his hand to him and then Gibbs asking if he can borrow Mike to join Vance, Kort and EJ in MTAC. And Vance lets Mike stay, mainly because it made Kort uncomfortable - it did make me wonder if Mike has something on Kort. He does seem to have something on most people.
And we had another loose end/problem identified when Mike asks Gibbs about Vance and him and queries quite why EJ is in charge and also talks about how Gibbs trusted Vance, Gibbs says he still trusts him. Mike, however, still calls him on just why EJ is doing the job he should be doing. This and the Kort scene set us up nicely for the upcoming Vance and Gibbs scene.
The final scene between Mike and Gibbs in Gibbs's basement was incredibly moving and again so low-key and so well acted by MH and Muse Watson. The show really does have some amazing actors and actresses, both in main roles and in small ones. You could feel the deep, close friendship between the two men, despite it not being obvious. The bit where Mike says to Gibbs (in Gibbs's imagination) that Gibbs never said 'bye' or 'have a nice walk' or anything when he went outside really touched me. To not say goodbye or anything when one of your close friends leaves your side for the last time must be so awful.
Mike confronting Cobb said a lot, both as Mike as the ex-Special Agent and the dying Mike. One last fight; a fight he lost. Killed by Cobb.
And finally Gibbs does say goodbye to Mike. Again, no grand gesture, just a simple goodbye - a very hard word to say.
Ziva was amazing when she and Tony came into Autopsy, so pale, so untidy up, so drawn, so upset yet trying to hide it. And then her and Tony in the lift was wonderful, it being Ziva who talked about it being never ending, they never will be able to stop the killers, no matter what they do, and not certain if she can go on doing it. I loved how Tony stroked her face and hair and hugged her, so very tender and real and then when the lift doors opened there was Tim and Abby hugging and Tony invites them into the lift for a four-way hug. That was an amazing scene, so lovely to see the four of them showing how much they cared for Mike too. And again so well done; people who love one another comforting one another. Really well done by all four. Again, underplayed in many ways, but all the emotion all four were feeling was so very clear. Beautiful.
I did wonder when they were going to bring Ducky in to do a psych profile on the P2P killer and finally it happened. It was another lovely scene between Gibbs and Ducky again so well played out and so well acted by both MH and DMc. And Ducky says Cobb fears face to face confrontation, as he doesn't know if he can win. He's insecure in the hunt and his big hang up in promotion, because it never happened to him, he got overlooked, passed over and that's one reason why he kept dressing the lower ranked men up in the higher ranked uniforms. And let's not forget, Cobb has changed his MO with killing Stark both by the fact he wasn't ex-Navy and also lacked the wrapping in plastic, tying ankles and leaving a memento. Ducky suggests Mike baited Cobb - as we know he did. He felt he had to study the predators - EJ and her team, Gibbs and his, that's why he got into NCIS. An excellent scene.
The scene between Vance and Gibbs told us a lot but also left questions to be answered. They both admit to studying one another and to not liking some of the decisions they other made and also how they touched on their closeness and Vance saying he had to back away, very interesting. But when Gibbs challenges Vance about why he didn't get the lead on the case once it came to DC and calls EJ a rookie, we learn that it hadn't been Vance's decision.
So whose was it? Who has that kind of power over Vance? Surely only the SecNav - but why? Is that tied in with the fact Gibbs had Vance's file, even though he hadn't read it? Or is it all tied in with what the SecNav said to Vance about the deal they made when Vance was given the directorship after 'the vacancy had been created'. Was Jenny's death, in fact, not quite as it seemed? Were other people, e.g. the SecNav or other PTB involved? Was she got out of the way? I said from day one the SecNav was slimy.
Someone didn't want Gibbs heading up the case - but why? Because he'd catch the killer? Because they wanted his nose put out of joint? Or something else? This is far from over. And finally we do find out that EJ's presence is for some other reason than making Tony admit he was wrong to turn down Rota, toy with the Tony/Ziva and non-Tony/Ziva fen alike by the overt relationship she and Tony are having and to drive a wedge between Gibbs and Tony. She is also being used, she's there as part of 'operation get rid of Gibbs'? or whatever is going on that made someone go over Vance's head and bring EJ in, thus side-lining Gibbs. Now who did that or perhaps more why (because it has to be the SecNav, surely? Who else would Vance obey) this has happened is intriguing.
Gibbs then realises that Cobb has been playing him; Cobb saw him and Gibbs as kindred spirits because Gibbs, like Cobb, has been passed over. Cobb had never been promoted; Gibbs was pushed aside for EJ and Gibbs realises there is no witness to Stark's killing.
It was very spooky and scary when Cade and Levin find all the photos of them and EJ on Cobb's wall, very spooky for them. I can't say I was on the edge of my seat or even worried during this scene, which is a great shame. It wasn't my team and whilst I don't like unnecessary deaths, they are NCIS agents; sadly they die. It would have been ultra scary and full of suspense and 'heart in mouth' had it been our team. I feel bad for not really feeling for them or even caring at any deep, emotional, connecting level that I felt this way, but I did :-(
I wasn't surprised to see both of them taken down - I don't think either was fatal. Nor was I surprised that EJ ignored Vance's order to wait for back-up and voilà, Cobb appears through the wall, they struggle and the episode ends with Cobb having a gun to EJ's throat. A very tense ending indeed, I would imagine it will make people return next week. But it wasn't as edge or seat or worrisome as it could have been had it been one of our team who had the gun to his or her throat.
I'm now not so sure she is going to die. There are several possibilities: Either Cade or Levin manage to appear at the last second and put a bullet in Cobb - hoping it doesn't go through his body into EJ's. I just hope they don't show EJ getting out of it herself, as I can't see that happening. However, I just feel given how they've left it, she won't die *sighs* Which does open up the second major death spot for next week, unless she's going to die next week - but the only person that will really affect is Tony.
Another possibility is that in fact, has Cobb not finished? Maybe he in fact chooses not to kill EJ, but to make a run for it thus leaving him on the run to catch next week after he's killed someone else?
Or is it red-herring time, i.e. it's so clear he will kill her, we think he won't, but he does anyway and runs away, thus Team Gibbs take on the final tracking him down next week?
There are quite a few possibilities. I'm hoping he kills her or injures her badly enough for her to end up hospitalised, ditto her team, and runs, so Team Gibbs get to do their bit next week. However, given we know EJ and her team are all credited as being in next week's episode, I suspect that's a forlorn hope - unless as with Mike there are going to appear in flashbacks. I know it's awful to wish someone dead, but if someone else has to die, it's better someone with whom I have zero connection than someone about whom I care.
So overall a very good, tense, moving, question answering episode - but with things still left unanswered. There was some excellent interaction between out team and some good exchanges, some very emotional ones. There were, despite the grimness of the episode, some nice moments of humour, mostly coming from Mike. I liked how he didn't want to have to remember all the names and wondered why Gibbs expected him too and I loved his 'oh, great another name'. And the conversation about memories and filling the spaces wherever he is with thoughts of naked women. The underlying theme of this, apart from the P2P side of it, was friendship and comradeship and team work and closeness and we got that in spades. It showed how much our team care about one another and how close they are.
A very moving episode - even if for the most part it wasn't a surprise or a shock for me and wasn't really edge of seat stuff. It moved me to tears a few times, which is always a good sign that it's working and flashback aside it worked really well for me. It did it's job. No, it didn't live up to JS's and GG's words as far as I went, but as far as rocking Gibbs's world, boy it did that with Mike's death and also on the professional side the thing we surely have to see more of next week: who made Vance bring EJ in?
- The opening squad room scene.
- The wee scene when Ducky talks to Gibbs about the mute swan before leaving him alone with Mike's body.
- The kids reporting to Gibbs after they'd read EJ's report - a nice touch of humour.
- Gibbs, Mike, Vance, Kort and EJ in MTAC
- Gibbs and Mike in Gibbs's basement.
- Tony & Ziva hugging in the lift, Tim and Abby hugging in her lab on to the four way hug in the lift. Superb scene.
- Gibbs and Ducky in Autopsy when Ducky does the psyche profile on Cobb.
- Gibbs and Vance in Vance's office.
There were some nice little throw away touches/things we learnt too:
- Mike's: 'Oh, great, another name.'
- Tim reads Spiderman!
- The flashbacks.
- EJ and her team.
- The fact that Kort is meant to be in his mid-late 30s. No way!
Ship of the week:
Gibbs and Mike
Character of the week:
Actors/Actress of the week:
Mark Harmon and Muse Watson - yes I'm going with two as they were both so superb in their own ways.
David McCallum also deserves a mention as he was excellent as well.