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NCIS Review: A Tribute to Kate

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I had my doubts about the premise of this episode from the get-go, but the writers again deserve credit for turning what could have been cliched filler into excellent TV.

The history of this long-running show was on full display last night, but rather than feeling like gimmicks, the flashbacks actually taught us a lot about our favorite agents.

"A Man Walks Into a Bar" took us inside the minds of the NCIS team, a group whose selfless devotion overcomes all dysfunction to fire on all cylinders without fail.

The episode also served as a tribute of sorts to Sasha Alexander's Caitlin Todd.

Inside Tony's Head

The week's murder mystery felt almost irrelevant, although the fact that it even took place, with the team's psych evaluations worked around it, made the episode more realistic.

Vance, Ducky, Abby, Tim and Tony were all interviewed by Dr. Rachel Cranston (Wendy Makkena), who observed them on the job, asking probing (no pun intended) questions.

The answers and expressions they gave, particularly in Ziva's case, were revealing. As tough as these people are, the psychiatrist broke them down, even if only their eyes said it.

Instead of overwhelming the present story, the flashback clips were short and powerful.

There was an unexpected, common theme. Not just dysfunction masked by loyalty that keeps NCIS from becoming unglued, but the effect of Kate's death on the entire team.

Incredibly for a character who died at the end of Season 2, her presence looms large to this day. Ziva took her place. Abby lost a friend. Tony became the man he is right now.

Many fans of NCIS miss Kate to this day, so this was not only a compelling episode on its own merit but another "here's to our fans" moment from the producers, which I loved.

I did not see the connection between Rachel and Kate coming, although my wife said early in the night that Rachel and Kate looked similar, so Makkena was clearly well cast.

As is to be expected, Gibbs was several steps ahead of me and everyone else.

As Kate's older sister, Rachel was there for reasons beyond obligatory psych evaluations. Gibbs knew that Rachel needed closure, as depicted in the powerful scene here:

Their exchange was powerful, and his differentiation of closure and memories quite accurate. So few words, such deep meaning. Kate must have been smiling from above.

Vance didn't have the personal connection to Kate, making his talk with Cranston a bit different. He's been off his game, afraid to let his guard down. They both know this.

After all he's been through, Vance can be forgiven for that, but you have to wonder if he'll crack at some point, and what consequences he or the team may suffer for it.

The murder of a Naval commander took some interesting twists, and turned out to be suicide. A suicide made to look like murder. That's not one you see every day.

This plot line obviously had greater potential than it was given time to explore, but for being a "B-story" in this unusual installment, it was handled well enough.

A few concluding thoughts:

  • The title refers to this joke, as told by Rachel to Gibbs: A man walks into a bar and asks for a glass of water. The bartender pulls a gun on him, at which point the man says thanks and leaves. Why? Gibbs nailed it - he had the hiccups. Unconventional, but effective. Just like the team. This metaphor worked very well.
  • Among my favorite moments from the psych evaluations: Tony being thrown off by her questioning, Ziva admitting she wanted something permanent, insight into McGee's romantic life (or lack thereof) and Abby's simple declaration, "I miss Kate."
  • Were they planting a seed for an Abby-McGee hookup?
  • Was that rooftop Tony-Kate scene new?

What did you think of last night's NCIS? Discuss!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (188 Votes)

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

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Great episode. Very well written. One of the best episodes of NCIS ever.

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Last night's episode was great. They are a dysfunctional family that work together well. I'm afraid that @ some point that dysfunction will brake them down in the end. I'm afraid for Gibbs, cuz he's never accepted the deaths of his family, and it's always right there in his head. He was doing better w/ that when he had his boat to work on. But last nght was a real tear-jerker, cried all the way through!

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I know, again, but I thought of something I didn't mention, Abby/McGee !!!! Yeah, they talked about it! And it almost confirmed my suspicions ! Can't wait to see how they'll work on that ! Because, yes, McGee and abs have this strange relationship which might be brother/sister, sometimes twins loool, but sooo much more !! Can't wait !!!!

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oh and yes, Jenny too... Gosh, I miss her sometimes... and also, the part when Gibbs sees Kate when Rachel's asleep, wow ! Also liked the riddle, who would have thought, hiccups ! lol. I laughed at her final statement about the team in her report, she was sooo damn right !

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I loved this episode !!! Kate's sister !!!! I didn't have a clue ! it felt sooo good to see Kate again... but still, it was sad... Abs's loneliness was heartbreaking. Also Tony, gosh, it was hard to see him like this. I love Ziva, though Kate will always be a part of the team, and yeah, her death is still sooo horrible... If they lose Ziva, they won't get over it (fortunately for us, Cote signed for multiple years, so we won't have to worry "much").
Ducky too, made me sad... And Ziva, well, the whole team, moved me ! Tim "Probie", felt stange to hear it again lool ! (much more strange was Sean years before and after, the difference, soooo weird !!!!)
Anyway, luved it, luved it !!

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Just when I say the last show was the best...... along comes this one!!! I absolutely loved it, I too miss Kate, but this one allowed all of us to have closure..... Great writing!!!

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NCIS has been my favorite from the get-go! This epissode was a two box tissue one for me. The writers took us inside and back to the past. EXCELLENT!!!!

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I loved the episode last night. This program is the best. I am never disappointed. So happy we are lucky enough to have another season to look forward to.

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What a wonderful episode - best of the season! I also deeply miss Kate, and it was heartbreaking to see her old scenes. I realize that the episode was not only to give closure to Kate's sister and the team, but to the fans as well. But it just made me miss Kate more. I hope Sasha Alexander was equally touched by the episode and by the outpouring of emotion from the fans who continue to love and miss Kate.

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I loved the episode and - yes - the scene with Tony and Kate was the missing scene of the time they were in Guatemala! Thought it was a great episode and I thought she looked like Kate as well! Well done. NCIS is my favorite show - all time - in fact - watching it all day today as we have a snow day from our school district!!! :)