The parallels between NCIS and the terrific book/film A Beautiful Mind were obvious last night, as the team tried to crack a case that hit particularly close to home for Miss Abby Sciuto.
A genius who communicated best through science, Navy Lt. Clea Thorson met her end after being ravaged by poison and hit by a bus. To Abby, she was far from your standard victim.
Trying to discern not just want happened to her, but what made Thorson tick became Abby's obsession, but it was their shared love of science that led to this case being "Cracked."
Pauley Perrette as the incomparable Abby Scuito.
Let's face it, as much as we love her, Abbs is a real eccentric, and from the moment she saw the formulas on the victim's arms, she would begin to lose herself in Thorson's murder.
It made for a strong episode, and it's a testament to Pauley Perrette's acting and the show's writing team that Abby's emotional connection didn't take away from the mystery at all.
Instead, Abby's obsession offered us insight into her own Beautiful Mind, while eventually uncovering the surprisingly complex, sinister plot to end the paranoid Lt. Thorson's life.
A brilliant engineer, Clea was fired from a bio-tech firm working on a lucrative project to help the Navy become more fuel independent. Her mind, however gifted, was her undoing.
Convinced her old boss (or someone) was after her and what she knew, she holed up in a secret location for two weeks, then wrote myriad chemical equations over her own flesh.
Abby became intrigued with trying to decipher what the "codes" on her body meant, and you could tell how much it all effected her, not to mention the rest of the team members.
McGee tried to compliment her. Ducky calmly tried to comfort her. Gibbs actually raised his voice. The glue of NCIS was becoming unglued, and everyone was a bit thrown off.
No one knew quite what to make of Abby's obsession.
Appropriately, what brought Abby back down to earth at last was, indirectly, the victim herself. After meeting her mentor and mother, Abby realized science was the true link.
The victim's copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass held all the answers, but not the way you might think. A memory card was stashed inside. Once Abbs found it, game on.
Our fair lab wizard learned that Clea was poisoned with a type of ethanol that contained a deadly byproduct of formaldehyde. Where do you even get that? You don't. Unless ...
You're a biotech firm that tried to patent it but failed. Busted. A jealous co-worker, April, rigged a canister to Clea's water supply, so it would slowly poison her over two weeks.
Gruesome, and challenging for the team to figure out, given the mysterious death of the prime suspect, her boss Dean Stillwell, just minutes earlier. That threw us off big time.
As the episode concluded, Abby was fittingly decorating for Halloween, like old times. Gibbs' moment with her then didn't require many words, just a knowing sense of caring.
All in all, it was another very strong NCIS installment, with the typically awesome Pauley Perrette even more so than usual. Like, normal Pauley awesome times eleventeen.
Some final, random thoughts ...
- Not sure if Tony offended the movie gods with that Travolta costume, but it's definitely a hilarious, slightly disturbing image that's hard to erase from your brain.
- The movie references were actually toned down this week, but he did get in a great Mel Gibson crack after seeing the video of Thorson's irate boss. Well played.
- Gibbs' one-word response to Thorson's mother when she asked if he has kids was particularly moving. "Did." Words failed him, but his face said the rest.
- How old do you think Ethel is?