NCIS Review: "Borderland"

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Rarely is an actor's presence so commanding that just a few words, or even none at all, can say everything. Mark Harmon has provided this presence on NCIS as Leroy Jethro Gibbs for seven seasons now, but perhaps never more than last night.

The closing scene in "Borderland," featuring Harmon, Pauley Perrette (also brilliant) and a chilling score, left us hanging on every one of the few words. So little said so much.

Abby knew. Gibbs knew Abby knew. Abby knew Gibbs knew she knew. The cold case she was working on in Mexico tied directly to her own boss, and it wasn't by accident.

Rule #40: If you think someone's out to get you, they are.

It wasn't alluded to directly, but we suspect Colonel Bell is behind this - and his counsel, M. Allison Hart (Rena Sofer), will find herself tangled up in it soon enough as well.

Regardless, Abby's plea for Gibbs to love her no matter what she decides was as heartbreaking as her dilemma is compelling. Which side of her will win this internal conflict?

Abby's Decision

Will Abby proceed with the case? How will Gibbs respond?

The episode began as it always does. Our dead Marine was Corporal Ray Collins, and he was something of a shady character. The team thinks he was offed by a serial killer.

Thanks to his GPS watch, Tony and Ziva learn that Collins was held in a semi-desolate spot for a few hours before his feet were cut off and his body was dumped. In a truck.

With the feet of at least a half-dozen other victims.

Collins was these victims' murderer, although that didn't explain how he ended up meeting a similar, grisly fate. But we soon learn he wasn't a serial killer, just a hired gun.

The killer's killer turned out to be the initially cooperative bar owner, Violet, who was running drugs for a Mexican cartel. Collins was killing off her dealers and got in the way.

After she confessed to Gibbs, Violet suspects that Collins was working for the Reynosa Cartel, which for the first time tied in to the drama taking place south of the border.

Alejandro Rivera of the Mexican DOJ (introduced in last week's "
Obsession") invited Abby to teach a class. Vance sent McGee with her, which made for some fun moments.

From Tim's recurring stomach woes to the rare shots of Pauley Perrette without makeup and passing references to their past relationship, every scene with them was great.

Things got serious in a hurry, though, when Abby, McGee, and her forensics class were cornered by Paloma Reynosa, head of the Reynosa cartel, while working in the field.

Rivera assigned Abby the case of a drug dealer killed 20 years ago. She tells the class that the dealer was killed by a sniper rifle, not at close range as originally reported.

When Reynosa realized why Abby is there, she offered her a sniper's bullet attached to a necklace around her neck - evidence left behind at the scene two decades earlier.

The pieces begin to come together: This victim is the Pedro Hernandez.

A Tough Spot

Will Gibbs be done in by his own past, or is there more to it?

Yes, drug the kingpin responsible for the deaths of Gibbs' wife and daughter. Gibbs sought and exacted vengeance. However justified, it's coming back to haunt him now.

Another interesting allusion to Hernandez was made in March's "Mother's Day," where Gibbs helped Shannon's mom escape prosecution for seeking payback of her own.

This story has been building for a long time, with some clues fairly obvious, but it's riveting nevertheless. With two episodes left, it will be fascinating to watch play out.

One thing that doesn't quite add up is why the bullet was left at the scene in the first place. It seems too sloppy to have been an accident, especially for a professional.

Granted, Gibbs was not with NCIS then, nor was he thinking the way the Gibbs of 2010 thinks. But the convenience with which Reynosa produced the evidence is fishy.

Random thoughts and observations:

  • We have to snag some of those NCIS hats like the kid got.
  • Move over, Tiva... More McGee and Abby scenes, please!
  • Ducky and Palmer's back-and-forth always entertains.
  • Tony being so into the random chatting and being "nexted" was over the top, but still funny ... and the fact that McGee was sabotaging him made it even better.

What did you think of last night's NCIS? What should Abby do, and will Gibbs pay a price for what he did? Leave a comment below with your opinions.


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (140 Votes)

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


Thank you Jamen. Someone who has a memory! I'm not the only one who remembers Mace from NCIS Los Angeles who was the former JAG investigator that "buried" the evidence on Gibbs. Jethro held a grudge against her until the end of the show until Nate told him a little "story" and he finally found out what she did for him and gives her his little half-cocked smile in the survelance camera before he gets into the car to leave. And that flashback film; I'm waiting for it to get stuck in the projector like in elementary school and watch that hole start to melt in that circular pattern from the center outward and the smoke and smell fill the room, they show it so damn much. As for what you critics say was such wonderful acting at the end there with such few words spoken: BULL. It was just every woman's frustration when trying to communicate with the male species. Whether in the throws of a series discussion, an argument, or in need of serious comforting or reassurance, as Abby was, what's the response? ....DEAD SILENCE...makes a woman want to scream or tell him to go to ... you know...Been there,felt that. No wonder Gibbs has had three women walk out on him. As for the woman with the firearm necklace. My "big twist" guess is that Pedro was probably her daddy or some other close relative. It was now twenty years ago. Look at her. She would fit someone who would have been in her teens when Pedro was offed. Marry into the cartel. A woman's last name changes. Just my guess. Ciao Bellos


Gibbs' state of mind after losing beautiful wife and daughter is a valid argument on why he was so sloppy. This was a man in pain searching for street justice the only way he knows how. However, Leroy Jethro Gibbs was a "professional" sniper; and as a "professional" sniper, he automatically goes into routine mode after pulling the trigger regardless of his state of mind. The bullet that Reynosa tossed to Abby is extremely suspicious. What Reynosa and Rivera did not take in account is that every batch of bullets produced, especially specialized bullets produced for high powered sniper rifles like Lapua, are different and has its own signature. I think when Abby test that bullet given to her, she will discover that bullet was produced more recently and Allison took one from Jethro's basement.


Well, I don't know who's it is that's trying to bring the case in, but I can predict what will happen: Abby will turn in the evidence, which unfortunately will have Gibbs arrested, and when it goes to the court, I believe that Ms.Allison would be defending Gibbs. Given how good she is at what she does, Gibbs will get a chance to walk. Ultimately however, Gibbs (being Gibbs) will man up. Hence, end of NCIS TV series. Gibbs will obviously not blame Abby or anyone else, but... Abby will no doubt feel guilty. I don't know what will happen after that.


He didn't leave his brass.... He left a full bullet (allegedly). I have to agree, M. Allison Hart seems very suspicious (I believe she took the bullet from his rifle in the basement). I think that Colnel Bell is behind this as his revenge. The drug cartel is likely seeking revenge because Gibbs' mother in law killed one of their own, so that could be the uniting factor between Bell and the cartel and Gibbs. My guess is that once again, they are leaving the Judgement Day arc unfinished (with the "insurance policy" that Mike Franks stole from evidence lock up)....


Oh ann on the Sniper Brass thing, I don't think him leaving the berass was an accident or inexperience. Gibbs' was a Marine Corps sniper with 15 years experience. He knew to police his brass. He did not need to be an NCIS agent. He was sending a message to the Reynosa's just like Ari did after shooting Kate. Keep in mind at the time he was distraught and did not even care if he lived or died (Remember back to part II of Hiatus when he sat on the beach and stared at his gun, contemplating taking his own life after the funeral?) Also he obviously volunteered for dangerous assignments like the one that sent him to the jungle where he met Rose right after it. He seems to have had a Death Wish of sorts and my guess is he didn't care if they caught the time. Now that he has a "new" family (his team) things are different. But like Roy Hobbs says in The Natural "Some things you never stop paying for". I read somewhere where Rocky Carroll said that vance has to open some files to peek into Gibbs' past. I wonder if maybe he gets some kind of Presidential Pardon or Reprieve or something.


In the ephisode it was said that Paloma had married into the Reynosa's and taken over when her husband died. Who would a future cartel ruler marry? Someone from the family of an assoicate most probably. Who would carry around a shell casing of a murdered man for 20 years? My Guess is that man's daughter, (Paloma would be about the right age for the timeline). So my guess is Paloma is Pedro Hernandez's daughter. So, how does she get NCIS involved? My guess is Col Bell, with nothing but time on his hands in a Mexican jail, starts researching Gibbs' life and quickly puts 2 & 2 together and figures out that he most likely killed Hernandez, and then reaches out to the "victim's" daughter with a plan to offer revenge and in the process get some of his own. As head of the Reynosa cartel, she probably has contacts inside the government (they would have to have quite a few on the payroll) to set the wheels in motion between the Mexican Government and NCIS. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next two ephisodes. With Ziva, Ducky, Vance and Gibbs already signed for season 8, but Abby, Tony and McGee not signed, it will be interesting to see how they play this out. One thing is obvious, Gibbs has always valued family over all else. Even his strained relationship with his father backs this up as in "Heartland" his dad mentions how thier relationship strained after he "moved on" when Gibbs' mother died, which he evidently viewed as a betrayal of sorts. He set up a botched interigation to free his former mother-in-law, he covered up for Jenny when she lied about the gun and La Granuie, chastized McGee for not allowing him to help protect his sister when she was under investigation and gave Ziva his implicit trust for Killing Ari and distanced once he found out it might have been just an order. My guess is that somehow we find out Ms. Hart is related to Col Bell too and how she does at crunch time will be the key to the finale.


I hope nothing happens to gibbs he is my Favorite charecter. Next week is going to be a good one.


Very well done Jamen Somasu (and also kudo to the tvfanatic review).
I noticed many many inconsistencies in this episode... but it was not enough to deprive me of the sheer pleasure of the episode. Powerful acting, nice humor (although they really have to make Tony back to the earlier seasons, the actual one isn't pleasant nor funny). The episode is one of the best of this season. And the emotion flyed high.


You guys are talking about the Gibbs that you know now, no the one 20 years ago. The Gibbs then was simply a sniper and snipers police their brass, not the bullets (common sense; no shooter extracts bullets as it leaves far more evidence behind and a sniper would normally be too far to do it anyway). Gibbs wasn't even in NCIS at the time so he didn't know the "ins and outs" of forensics for getting away with murder. They say revenge is a dish best served cold...I can't imagine what is like losing a wife and daughter to scum like Pedro but Gibbs should have waited a little longer (get some experience learning how to tweak the system, learn about forensics, etc.). If he even had 3-4 years working for NCIS, he would have been experienced enough to kill Pedro and get away with it without leaving a trace. Everyone seems to have forgotten that Lacy (the woman in charge of the NCIS section in Los Angeles) investigated Gibbs and she had more than enough evidence to burry him but decided that the murder was "just". She also made it obvious that whatever evidence she dug up was destroyed (or any significant evidence that would definetly tied him to the murder). I am willing to venture further that she had a hand into that erroneus police report the Mexican police wrote. The two newspaper articles you see in "Borderland" (one detailing the murder of Shannon and Kelly and the other detailing the murder of Pedro) made it obvious to anyone working for the Department of Defense that Gibbs did it (Pedro was killed by a sniper round; Shannon was the wife of a sniper). The evidence was always there; the thing was that there wasn't anyone willing to dig up that skeleton completely since 1) the killing was felt "just" or 2) no one had a good reason to screw over Gibbs like that. However, there obviously is someone after him this time. Someone sent that Mexican guy to Abby to "soften" her up into a trip to Mexico to talk about forensics and give a class. That someone knows Gibbs and Abby well since there is no such thing as a coincidence; someone specifically sent the Mexican to get Abby to Mexico knowing what she will find. Unlike with Lacy, however, Abby can't just deny to process the case or tamper with it since it is obvious someone knows what she found beforehand. She has to go with it which is why she was asking Gibbs if he would still love her afterwards. The whole thing with the bike murders seems to be unfortunate. There is no such thing as a coincidence but we do believe in bad luck. It is very bad luck that the cartel (the same one Pedro belonged to) is literally knocking on Gibbs' door. And if the cartel find out who killed Pedro (still not sure how he is that significant to the cartel) then I believe a lot of feet are going to be coming off. Gibbs is friendly with a lot of people, after all.


And perhaps this is the real reason the lady lawyer was at Gibbs' house - looking for bullets and other "evidence" that her boss could have planted at the crime scene. They might not even know he really did it but be seizing on a likely crime to frame Gibbs.

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