NCIS Review: "Mother's Day"

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For Leroy Jethro Gibbs, "Mother's Day" came early last night, although it was really former mothers-in-law day. Gena Rowlands guest starred as the mother of his deceased wife.

As a witness in a murder investigation, her relations with Gibbs were frosty but genuine, adversarial yet forthright. Our episode recap has the plot details. Now, TVF's review ...

The murder of a Navy Captain, James Norton, reveals that Joann Fielding, mother of Gibbs' late wife Shannon, was his fiancée. She hadn't seen Gibbs since Shannon's funeral.

Shannon and their daughter Kelly were murdered by a Mexican drug cartel, which we later discover Norton was linked to. That's fishy enough, and Joann's story is also flimsy.

Abby and Ducky discover conclude, given the bullet trajectory and blood spatter patterns, that a random robber couldn't have killed Norton, as Joann claims. It was likely her.

Key Witness

Gibbs (Mark Harmon) was one step ahead of Joann (Gena Rowlands).

Gibbs learns Joann hired a P.I. to help track down anyone related or associated with the cartel and Norton’s name came up. She decided to get close to him and seek revenge.

When NCIS tracks the murder weapon to a Lt. Shankton, who ran “fishing charters” in Mexico along with Norton, it becomes clear that she stole his weapon and framed him.

She incriminated Shankton as well as the P.I. she knew the cartel would sniff out and eliminate, thus absolving herself of any link to the killing. The old bird was pretty cagey.

Gibbs was one step ahead of her, though, and while that's not surprising, the way he handled it was: enlisting M. Allison Hart (Rena Sofer) to represent his ex-mother-in-law.

Unwilling to take her down, Gibbs clued Hart in to Joann's impending charges. This was a great twist, with Hart again a thorn in Gibbs' side, only this time, he asked for it!

Later, Gibbs gets Joann to confess and arrests her, only to have Hart inform them that her statement is inadmissible it was coerced and she had not been properly Mirandized.

Thus, Gibbs' arrest of Joann was thwarted. She walked. Just like he drew it up.

No words were exchanged to that end, but he knew, Vance knew and Joann likely knew as well. Their intense glances said as much, and Gibbs' burning of the file confirmed it.

While it took some time for the mystery to unfold, without the action and the lightning-fast pacing the show is known for, this emotional episode was still brilliantly done.

Gibbs' flashbacks, particularly in the bathroom when he asked Tony to leave, showed us just how much he longed for Shannon and Kelly, and indirectly how Joanna did too.

Her admission fit perfectly into the web weaved by the writers. Joanna came clean, as did Gibbs with his own confession. Inner turmoil over the girls' death was jointly felt.

Questionable as it was for Gibbs to protect Joann and let her off the hook for murder, he justified it by saying Shannon would have wanted it. That was good enough for us.

It was a neat way of exploring Gibbs' past through a compelling story in 2010, and his teaming up with Hart (however unspoken their partnership) was a fun new wrinkle.


  • The exchanges leading up to Palmer's date with the cute embalmer were very amusing. Anytime Ducky dispenses dating advice, plenty of laughs will follow.
  • Great casting with Gena Rowlands and Leann Hunley as her younger self.
  • The Norfolk detective flirting with Ziva seemed to rattle Tony a little, no?
  • Where do you think the relationship between Gibbs and Hart is headed?


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.5 / 5.0 (62 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


Gibbs ALWAYS knows something more than the rest of us. I'm just hoping he shared it with Vance, because the whole "frame the drug dealer" thing just sits badly with me. I know Gibbs has his own code, and has bent the rules more than a little, but this seems totally out of character.


I'm beginning to wonder if people know what the Semper Fi Gibbs leitmotiv really means. Loyalty is a rare thing, nowadays. They go for the guy, although his many faults and now that he's about to be toasted, they burn him. What a way to go.
Diane, don't forget Gibbs is always aware of things others are not. :)


I'm really not happy with Gibbs letting the MIL get away with murder. He kept telling Leon he'd step aside when he wasn't able to be objective; Leon should have yanked him the minute he knew Joann was Shannon's mother. I'm hoping she has some terminal illness. That would explain her behavior, and Gibbs' decision to fluff the interview and arrest so that M. Allison could swoop in and exclude her statements.


@Jenn: What do you mean the review isn't exactly an unbiased one? What would make a review "biased?" By definition, a review is the opinion of one person.


Wow, apparently they aired a completely different episode than you say. The Mother's Day on my tv reeked from beginning to end. The entire storyline was implausible, especially with Gibbs AND VANCE just letting a murderer go free? Harmon and Sofer have about as much chemistry as tap water. If this is the direction of Brennan's big life change, he better be prepared for people to change their channels.


It was definitely not as "exciting" as most weeks but I don't see a huge problem with that either. We don't often see Gibbs so emotional, and the ethical dilemma of letting his mom in law off the hook was interesting to me.


Gibbs "relationship" with Hart saddens me. Seems like poor writing.


Given the sheer number of WTF responses to this episode on the official NCIS forum and various others, not to mention how confusing many people found it to be, I'm thinking this review isn't exactly and unbiased one. This episode, while it had some up points, was full of holes and unnecessary soap-like "twists". And the uncalled for Ziva flirting/Tony being "affected" moment? Enough Tiva already.

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