Following last week's introspective tribute to Kate, NCIS returned to its traditional roots last night with a high-profile, complex case that made up the entirety of the hour.
"Defiance" had the feel of a high-stakes episode from the get-go, with the opening sequence showing a suicide bombing in Belgravia from the perpetrators' perspective.
NCIS invented a fictitious nation in Belgravia, but featured a great Hillary Clinton doppelganger for the scene in which the U.S. Secretary of State signed a defense treaty.
The assassination attempt was not on faux Clinton, however. It was the Belgravian defense minister who was targeted, and whose daughter soon became NCIS' problem.
NCIS was being disrespected for reasons somewhat unknown, forced to guard the minister's daughter instead of investigating the death of the Marine killed by the suicide bombing.
This led to an interesting, unresolved subplot in which Gibbs and Vance butted heads. Every time Gibbs tried to get involved and assert himself in the broader case, Vance resisted.
Despite the Director's objections, Gibbs went rogue and pursued the Marine's death on top of protecting Adrianna, a 24-year-old student at the fictional John Hamilton University.
Vance has been even more guarded and protective of protocol since the bombing that almost took his own life, making the team's protection detail blunder an even bigger deal.McGee, who Adrianna became smitten with (although her motives were far from clear at the end) and DiNozzo were straight up duped by the girl and Vance was beyond angry.
It was clever how she pulled the wool over both of them, but it seems like our agents are too smart for that. They're also human, of course, and this plot was an elaborate one.
In a political move, Adrianna staged her kidnapping to make her father back off the defense treaty signing. Her accomplices where her professor and boyfriend/study partner.
Things went awry when the latter got greedy and took matters into his own hands, killing the professor and holding her for ransom, which NCIS discovered in the nick of time.
Not a moment too soon for Adrianna, or Tim and Tony.
While the kidnapping plot took a complex, intriguing turn and made for a great case, what was even more interesting was how the agents' screw-up played out politically.
Gibbs had his guys' back even though they blew it. Vance was reluctant to give Jethro the same latitude. The closing scene indicated escalating tension between the two.
The animosity is building and you have to imagine this is part of a longer arc. It's just a question of when the tension boils to the surface, and the extent of the fallout.
For now, Tony and Tim's jobs are safe, despite the latter's offer to resign. Hopefully they learn from the experience, having narrowly escaped career disaster on this one.
This was a strong episode, although how many times is Tim going to be led astray? This guy gets his identity stolen like it's his job and can't meet a nice, genuine girl.
Actually, we know one who's available, in the forensics lab. But I don't think I'm alone in saying that whether it's Abby or someone else, he deserves a real relationship.
Speaking of Abbs, she was at her best last night, as was Ducky with his history lessons and Tony with his toilet sleuthing ... even if he helped create that mess to start.
Additional thoughts and observations from last night:
- Ziva wondered aloud about how long the NCIS team will stick together, echoing the concerns of about 20 million fans. Looks like at least one more year.
- Ziva opened up to Adrianna about her complicated relationship with her father, the second time in recent weeks she's done so. It's clearly on her mind.
- Naturally, my wife already knew of Abby's solution for a phone submerged in water. She is not a forensic genius, just the mother of a one-year-old.
- The fire hydrant collision was a classic "phoof" lead-up.
- Gibbs naps in Ducky's lab? Somehow we can see it.
- I'm scared of needles too, Tony. A little. It's okay.
What did you think of last night's NCIS? Discuss!