Three weeks after its terrific two-part November sweeps story arc, NCIS returned last night with a new episode, only to leave us again until January in a puzzling scheduling move.
That said, "False Witness" was a typically solid effort. Guest star Annie Wersching (24) was introduced as Arlington D.A. Gail Walsh, but the real star had little to do with the plot.
At least less to do with it. Michael Weatherly took a break after seven-plus seasons as the show's comedic foil and portrayed Tony DiNozzo as a serious, straight-laced go-getter.
Had this been April 1, we'd have assumed he was kidding ...
Michael Weatherly was terrific as the anti-Tony Tony.
Ziva and Tim were so flummoxed by DiNozzo 2.0 that they were were noticeably distracted. Gibbs? The man does not get distracted, but he did notice. Even that says something.
The case DiNozzo was so on top of involved the lead witness in a death penalty murder trial who went off the grid after receiving threats days before he was scheduled to testify.
We were introduced to a number of suspects and plot twists along the way, as well as the obligatory friction between Gibbs and the D.A., although the reason for it was unusual.
In truth, he wanted him alive ... and doing time indefinitely. That way he could smuggle his drugs to someone on the inside. We didn't see that or the informant-banging coming.
The killer was eventually freed because of Walsh's indiscretion, only to be confronted by the brother of the girl he shot. He wanted him to walk free to deliver payback personally.
It's hard to find fault with NCIS' writing, and any criticism should be considered relative to the show's extremely high standards. But we just couldn't see that kid pulling this off.
The standoff was just a bit cheesy, too. Gibbs and the killer both imploring the kid not to throw his life away? The stakes don't seem that high when you know he won't shoot.
Don't even think about trying to run.
The bulk of the episode was strong, though. It's amazing how much these mysteries unravel and change course in just one hour, and how many fun moments there are as well.
Jerry, the witness, threw everyone for a loop with his emotionless, armchair psychoanalysis of everyone at NCIS. His parents were psychologists, apparently, and he was spot on.
When you can rattle Gibbs, or at least make him stare an extra second with that irritated look on his face, you know you've struck a nerve. Is he really a sad individual?
As we said earlier, the episode really belonged to Tony even if the plot wasn't Tony-centric. The signature scene came when Ziva finally learned what caused this metamorphosis.
It was Brenda Bittner, or more specifically, Tony internalizing over how he may have treated this previously-mentioned love interest unfairly. Ziva then offered him sage advice.
We don't have to grow up all at once, and we are who we are. But there is such a thing as balance and it can be achieved while being true to our own nature. Wise, Agent David.
This was an interesting lesson for a character responsible for those same qualities on NCIS. Without the Tony of old, the show's own delicate equilibrium would be disturbed.
That classic Tiva scene and McGee's acknowledgment that normal Tony is a great investigator made this a moving story instead of just a gimmick. Talk about finding balance.
Until next year, some additional closing thoughts:
- Ziva drawing her gun in the office during Tony's episode-ending prank (a nice comeback for exalted class clown)? Amazing. You can take a girl out of the Mossad, but ...
- Think we'll see this D.A. again? Her reputation had to take a hit over this.
- Does Abby buy techno versions of holiday classics or remix them herself?
- Was McGee really checking her out? If so, just ask her out, Tim!
- We have got to get Ducky to "Like" TV Fanatic on Facebook.
What did you think of last night's NCIS? Comment below!