As with last week I went into this expecting it not to live up to the hype or promises made by Jesse Stern and Gary Glasberg, not expecting to be shocked or surprised and also not really expecting it to live up to last week's. I was partly wrong; I was surprised by several things, shocked? Not really. It didn't live up to the hype - things never do - but it did live up to last week's. Questions were answered, but there are far more to be answered. I have a lot to think about and mull over and I'll be adding to/revising this review during the day/after I've rewatched it.
There were some very tense and gripping moments, some good team interaction, lots of evidence about how certain people feel about other people, and a number of things that will take us into next season and keep us guessing/wondering. I am glad it didn't end on a real cliff hanger with the fate of someone's life hanging by a thread. It ended - but it also didn't. The episode held my attention from beginning to end.
So the second person to die was Levin; of the three members of EJ's team, he was the one I liked best. But sad to say it didn't really touch me; we hadn't got to know them, they were really just in the way and took time away from our team. So he died, agents do.
It didn't really surprise me that the SecNav had been involved with Operation Frankenstein, I'd speculated that he had to have some involvement with Kort at some level - now we know what that involvement was. And Vance was involved too - in fact the whole project had been Vance's idea. That did come as a complete surprise to learn he'd conceived of the idea, even though it was the SecNav that ran it and called the shots. And like so many things, it got out of hand and was used for other reasons. The real project and the covert one, which brought Kort a lot of money and the SecNav political leverage - again that was a surprise. I've said from the first time we saw him that the SecNav was slimy, but this was slimy beyond anything I'd conceived of. At least he did the 'honourable' thing and resigned, but I guess his involvement will remain covered up and brushed under the carpet and he'll get whatever honours retiring SecNav's get.
And again I was surprised to learn that EJ was the SecNav's niece, so it was the SecNav who made Vance bring her to DC to run the P2P case. I'm assuming that by some means he already knew about the P2P killer's ID and he clearly didn't want Operation Frankenstein to come out into the open; he wanted it all cleared up by Kort, so he gets Vance to bring EJ in knowing full well that she isn't as competent as Gibbs but even more important she won't question authority. He didn't want NCIS to solve the case - he wanted it hushed up. That's my assumption anyway.
Another surprise was the capsule EJ took out of Levin's arm - what was that? What is going on? Who was Levin? And what exactly is EJ's game? How did it get into his arm? Is that in some way tied in with Operation Frankenstein? Normal NCIS agents don't have that kind of thing in their arms. Or was Levin not NCIS? And who exactly is EJ - other than the SecNav's niece.
And when will Ducky tell Gibbs about the cut in Levin's arm? Levin was pretty much uninjured apart from the shot in the neck that killed him - Ducky would notice the knife cut and know it was done after death. We know NCIS tends to run in 'real time' so in September is this fact suddenly going to come out with Ducky revealing the results of the autopsy? That was a lose end that needed to have been tied up to an extent, i.e. we should have had Ducky finding the cut and making a note of it.
I'd predicted Tony would be offered Rota, because I thought EJ would die, and he's have to take it. Everything this season has been leading up to that, all the talk about him not being able to turn down his own team again and it being Rota where the P2P killer started, Rota, the team Tony had been offered and turned down. But like so many things TPTB set up, it fell utterly and totally flat - all that effort they'd expended on setting it up, came to nothing. EJ says he can have it and he says 'no'. At least they could have offered it to him formally, even if for some reason he did turn it down - but to do what they did really irked me. I should be used to it by now, but that particular story-line had been pushed so much, it should have come to something.
And why are we having yet another plot rehashed? Tony is once again going to be keeping secrets from the team as he is 'in' with the new SecNav and Vance to investigate an agent who is selling agency secrets. We've had the Tony keeping secrets before - why do it again? I did like how stony faced he was in Vance's office even when he saw who the person was he'll be 'watching'. Who could it be? Gibbs comes to mind, but how about Vance himself? After all, SecNav didn't show Vance the file, just Tony. But surely if that was the case he wouldn't be involving Vance at all, he'd go behind Vance's back. The whole concept of Tony keeping tabs on someone and reporting to Vance and/or the SecNav is not a good story-line, been there, done that - and look how that ended. A very poor and weak idea.
Okay, so this time we know Tony is 'in' with the director and will be keeping secrets from the rest of the team and it's an 'in-house' thing, not an outside one - but the main premise 'Tony keeps secrets from the team and is in with the director is a rehash of S4. And why does it have to be Tony again? If they were going to go with the same line, an agent on Gibbs's team is 'in' with the director and keeping secrets, why couldn't it have been Tim this time? He's more than due a meaty story-line.
Plus, how has Tony reconciled within himself to the fact he is going to lie to Gibbs again? I know Tony does want to advance, well I'm assuming he does, and so I'm sure being approached directly by the SecNav to do a special task must make him feel very good about himself - but it's going to involve lying to Gibbs again. And I am not certain Gibbs will 'forgive' Tony for doing it again, no matter what the justification was. Tony is on a very sticky wicket. Why on earth didn't he just say, 'sorry, no, I won't be used like that'? Why on earth has he agreed to go ahead with it? One thing is certain: no good is going to come of this!
And we've done the 'mole inside NCIS selling secrets' before - so it's not just one plot they are re-hashing; it's two. Why? Have the writers really run out of new ideas? Do they think we won't remember The Frog, Jenny and Jeanne? Do they think we won't remember Michelle? I just do not get it at all.
The thing I did think was very interesting about this though, was that Vance didn't like it; he didn't want it to happen. It was somewhat interesting as well that the new SecNav is, to an extent picking up where the old one left off: using his power over Vance. Vance didn't want EJ to lead the P2P case in DC - the SecNav made him. Vance doesn't want Tony doing this 'spying' job and keeping it secret from Gibbs, but the SecNav is making him. Hmmm. Another parallel - this episode had several of them.
Cobb taking EJ with him was a bit of a surprise, it was a scenario I hadn't considered. But even when Gibbs found her in the boot of the car all trussed up, I'm sorry to say I wasn't bothered at all as to whether she was alive or not.
The idea of Cobb giving himself up to get inside NCIS was nothing new, but it was fairly well done. It was obvious why he'd given himself up, i.e. to get inside NCIS, but at the time not necessarily who he was after. Cobb was an interesting character; on the one hand a merciless, cold bloodied killer who deserved what he got, but on the other hand a young man who had been turned into the monster he'd become.
The fact that this type of things goes on is more than a little chilling. That whoever it was mis-read Cobb so badly, thus letting him lose to kill and maim was chilling. When Vance and Gibbs shot and killed him, they freed him as we saw from the faint smile on his face. He had been turned into what he was. Yes, he chose to go on killing; he chose to try to get his own back on his father (so he was a troubled young man to begin with) who'd shot his horse to teach him a lesson, rather than call the vet to do it; he chose - but he had been created. Frankenstein(s) had created their monster.
I liked how Tony went after EJ and talked to her, telling her it wasn't her fault and she was a good agent. I don't like EJ, but I did feel for her; Levin was a member of her team; she felt she should have protected him; she was alive and he was dead. And I really did get a feel for what she was feeling. Up until now I hadn't rated the actress playing EJ very much at all - but in this episode she was excellent.
And in turn when Tony was so worried about Ziva, I like how it was EJ who calmed him down and said everything would be all right - it was good how those two scene mirrored one another. I thought it was very telling when Tony admitted how important Ziva was to him, how much she meant to him. It wasn't just what he said: 'I know, it's just different for some of us', after EJ had said 'We're all worried about Ziva', it was also the tone in his voice, the look in his eyes and his body language. He said so much of his real feelings for Ziva without actually voicing them. Yes, of course he and all of Team Gibbs are going to be more concerned about Ziva than EJ is, just as EJ is more upset about Levin then the others, because Ziva is part of Team Gibbs, but it was particularly well done, I felt. But again, which I think is so clever, it can be seen as just a team member/friend looking out for another team member/friend as well as something far more.
The Autopsy scene with Ducky explaining to Gibbs and Jimmy about how the Cobb's profile had suddenly changed, how he had evolved into what he was, was excellent. And Ducky was right, those who created Cobb had/have to pay - they do. And they haven't paid yet. None of them have paid.
When EJ appeared again I felt so much for her, she was hurting, suffering, in pain and that feeling for her remained until she took out her knife and took the capsule from Levin's arm - wow! That was a surprise. And I kept waiting, for the entire episode, for this to come out, but it didn't.
Cobb was a very clever man to set the entire thing up by putting Ray's mobile phone number on the car which Ziva would recognise and to get Ziva concerned about him again so that Cobb could entice Ziva to the hotel and grab her, was well thought out. It did strike me as fairly weak though that Ziva went off to the hotel on her own; it was so clearly a trap, I just can't believe she fell for it and didn't wait for Tony or take EJ or take more care.
The meetings between Vance and the slimy SecNav were interesting and we did learn things - including Vance's office can now be locked down and made even more secure. I'm wondering if that was just set up for this episode or if it'll prove to be important in the future? I did like how Vance was the one prepared to admit he made mistakes and let things happen that shouldn't happen and cleaned up messes he regrets, that he was prepared to basically say 'we screwed up - big time'. I did like how they brought the name of the episode into the scene where Vance said the weight wouldn't fall on the bottom of the pyramid, after SecNav tried to blame Gibbs and EJ for not catching Cobb. Vance has made huge mistakes, Operation Frankenstein probably the worst we know of, but at least he's prepared to admit it and not to continue to try to cover it up.
Angry Gibbs was good - when he pushed past Vance's assistant/secretary to use the speaker phone to call Vance saying they needed to talk and wanting to know if Kort was there and basically ignoring the SecNav. I also liked how Gibbs threatened Kort, if anything happened to Ziva and Vance saying, when Kort asked if it was a threat, if Gibbs hadn't threatened him, he was. I
And we get another rule - #16 'If someone thinks they have the upper hand, break it'. So many rules in such a short space of time.
The scene between Abby and Tim was very touching. Poor Tim really didn't know what to say and what he did say he said incredibly badly and he knew it. He was really struggling to find the words to show sympathy for Cade and for Abby because she liked him, but also he can't hide how much he still loves Abby. How he really feels about her. Kudos to him for insisting he was going home with her and his 'if Cobb killed you I . . .' was out and out telling and Abby recognised it for what it was. I loved the hug. These two really do have to get back together.
I liked how Tony and Ray interacted - two men caring deeply about, loving even, the same woman and both knowing how the other feels. Ray broke protocol by telling Tony what he did, just as he did several episodes again when he told Ziva the person they had couldn't be the P2P killer. There are times you have to do that.
So Mike had sent Gibbs a letter saying he was dying of lung cancer and he had only got a few months left, but he was going to live them - typical Mike. And the new project Gibbs was working on was: a decorated coffin for one of his closest friends. A lovely touch and final gift to the man who meant so much to him. Very poignant; very moving; the best thing Gibbs could give Mike; the only thing he could do for him.
It didn't surprise me that Gibbs knew about EJ being the SecNav's niece from the day she appeared - it's typical Gibbs.
It was a nice touch Ziva being able to identify with EJ insofar as having a relative in a high-up position can cause problems.
Poor Jimmy when EJ, Cobb and the other agent got into the lift. Very typical Jimmy not really knowing what to say. And he's getting married to Brenna in the spring. Er, which spring? Next year or what's left of this? Surely had it been this spring, he wouldn't have said 'in the spring'.
I did like the extra involvement they gave Jimmy, how Cobb grabbed him and was choking him and would have killed him had EJ not gone along with his plan - now that was scary and edge of seat and far more worrisome and OMG than Cobb having the gun to EJ's throat last week - because Jimmy is 'our' team. For a moment I really expected Cobb to kill Jimmy. I did think that might be one of the shocks, as no one had said only two deaths and neither of the deaths were out team. But I was so glad he didn't die.
Cobb's 'swan song' scene was so well done and well played out and choreographed by all concerned. Whatever I thought of the SecNav, he did display some bravery going in alone at first. Yes, he had a vest on, but that wouldn't have stopped Cobb - we saw what he did to Levin. So he did get some Brownie points for that. The third person there did come as a surprise, I wasn't expecting one - but I guess maybe I should have been, Kort wasn't about to give up trying to get Cobb before Gibbs did. I loved how Gibbs and Jimmy had a little eye contact interaction, basically Gibbs telling Jimmy to drop to the floor and Jimmy acknowledging that - that was really well done, subtle, but clear too. Cobb wanted to die, that was clear. He died in the presence of the men who had created him; he died content at least to be freed from what he'd done, what he'd been turned into. And the person who'd thought up the project was one of the two who killed him. Fitting. Poor Brian Deitzen, Sarah Jane Morris and David Dayan Fisher getting sprayed with the water - I do hope it was actually warm and not cold.
Cade is staying state side, but not near Abby, I liked how well he knew Tim wouldn't miss him. And EJ is giving up Rota to decide what to do next. She's staying in DC. I liked the interaction between her and Tony when it was left up in the air as to whether they would see one another again - at least at face value. But from the looks and their body language, they will be seeing one another again. The emotional side isn't as strong between them as it is between Tony and Ziva, but EJ is easy, she is good for Tony and they both know it's not a future together, but for now sex is good, fun
And again that scene was in a way mirrored by Ray and Ziva. Him giving her an empty ring box and saying it's a promise that when he comes back they'll really talk. I think she wanted a ring, because at the moment she wants to hold onto something, she wants something real, tangible, something that is hers. I did like the yet another twist when Ray read a message on his phone 'Kort in Tel-Aviv. Handle ASAP'. That was excellent - and one has to ask, who sent it? So another relationship up in the air, unresolved.
Mike's funeral was very touching and moving, lovely music and all the more poignant for no one actually saying anything apart from the call to fire the salute. The decorated coffin was a lovely touch as was Gibbs giving the flag to Mike's grand-daughter and him whispering whatever it was to Leyla. Very emotional indeed, that certainly had me sniffing - so very well done.
And just when you think it's all over and no more surprises, things left up in the air, we have the final scene in Vance's office between the new SecNav, whom Vance knows well, and Vance and bringing Tony in.
So lots of things resolved, but quite a lot not: What was the capsule in Levin's arm? Who put it in there? Why did EJ take it out? How did she know about it? When will it be discovered? And what is going on involving EJ? Who sent Ray the message to 'handle' Kort? Is Ray involved in some way beyond just being a CIA agent? Is there some specific reason Kort in Tel-Aviv - was the location chosen deliberately? Does it mean Eli David is involved in some way? Who is Tony going to be 'watching'? What will Vance's involvement be? Does the new SecNav have an agenda? Have we seen and heard the last of Operation Frankenstein? What about the box Mike gave to Gibbs? What's in it? And what did Mike have over Vance? Will we ever find out?
And on the personal side: What will happen between Tony and EJ? What will happen between Ziva and Ray? Will he propose? Will she accept? What will happen between Abby and Tim and Tony and Ziva.
An episode to mull over. A very good episode (I think) pretty much up to the last few seconds when the new SecNav revealed he was going to have Tony 'investigating' a fellow agent and keeping it secret from the rest of the team - a rehash. That little scene totally let the episode down :-( The More questions than answers' almost fits this episode. A sombre episode, as was last week's, but without any interlude of humour at all. There were some excellent team moments and interaction and so much said about feelings between people, even if they weren't said to the person. A jolly good ending to the season.
- Tony and EJ in the shower area when he's talking to her.
- Gibbs, Ducky and Jimmy in Autopsy.
- Abby and Tim in her lab.
- Angry Gibbs outside Vance's office.
- Tony & EJ talking about Ziva and him showing how he was extra concerned about her.
- Tony and Ray talking about Operation Frankenstein.
- Jimmy, EJ and Cobb in the lift and just after it.
- The warehouse where it had all begun right through to Cobb's death.
- Mike's funeral.
There were some nice little throw away touches/things we learnt too:
- Rule #16 - If someone thinks they have the upper hand, break it.
- We learnt what Gibbs had been making in his basement.
- Jimmy is going to marry Brenna.
- Far, far, far too little Ducky.
- Far too little of our team and too much of all the others.
- How easily Ziva fell into Cobb's trap.
- The rehash of yet another plot 'Tony is keeping secrets from the team'.
- The fact EJ didn't die and is set up to return at some point.
- Tony not being offered Rota officially.
- The fact that EJ removed something from Levin's arm not coming out
Ship of the week:
Character of the week:
Actors/Actress of the week:
Amazingly Sarah Jane Morris