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NCIS Review: Mike Franks' Swan Song

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From the opening scene, you knew this would be not just an unusual episode of NCIS, but a somber, dark and gut-wrenching installment that would leave viewers reeling.

The aptly-titled "Swan Song" began with Gibbs stoically standing in the rain, helplessly watching a body bag carted off. As promised, the victim was a major NCIS figure.

Even as the story unfolded in reverse, with dots connected throughout the night, the identity of the person ins the bag and the toll this loss took on Gibbs were obvious.

Gibbs and Franks

NCIS doesn't usually try methods such as having Mike (or the memories of Mike) talk to Gibbs throughout the case, hovering over his shoulder, as if he were really there.

For a time, of course, he was. But the Mike Franks we first saw last night spoke to Jethro from beyond the grave, shrouding the episode in both mystery and emotion.

If there were any doubts that Jethro's mentor was the victim, they were cleared up during Duck's autopsy. Gibbs was present, yet absent, like Mike in a different sense.

Perhaps the fact that it was so different made it all the more effective. Rather than having Franks killed as a shocker at the end, we were left wondering how and why.

It worked extremely well not only because many fans guessed Franks would be this week's victim, but because it set up a terrific "Swan Song" for this great character.

Like the old dog he referenced, Franks knew his time had come, and he went out in style, picking a fight the Port-to-Port Killer never saw coming and nearly winning it.

Mike looked noticeably pale and unwell, not to mention noticeably older, in human form than in Gibbs' mental images. You can't help but wonder if he was gravely ill.

That may also explain how Gibbs lives with what happened going forward. Had he not called Mike, he would be alive today ... or would he? Not if he were terminal.

Instead, perhaps Jethro offered the man who took him under his wing a fitting sendoff, and in a tangential way, broke open a case that flummoxed him on many levels.

That doesn't mean Mike's murder wasn't brutal to stomach for Probie or anyone else. For Gibbs, letting go of Franks would be like everyone else letting go of Gibbs.

The scene where the elevator opened and McGee was holding Abby just as Tony was with Ziva, and Tony telling them to "bring it in" for a group hug was powerful.

Given everything that's gone on - and is still going on - viewers probably felt they needed a hug too. After all, the monster who did this to Franks is still on the loose.

Franks' death became the latest chapter in the hunt for the P2P, who we now know by name (Jonas Cobb) and received a full bio on thanks to a one-eyed Trent Cort.

The shady CIA agent's role filled in a number of blanks.

Swan Song Photo

First, it explained the eyeball. It was his, which made sense, given the Company's propensity for gaining access to everything. More importantly, it legitimized the P2P.

Making viewers fear Cobb on a show in which murderers are hunted every week is a difficult task, but Cort's description and thoroughly disturbing videos did the job.

The P2P is a trained assassin, crafted by the CIA to do its "wet work" while remaining undercover as a run-of-the-mill serviceman. Only after his first kill, he went rogue.

After making a mockery of military hierarchy by slaying his first group of victims, the killer is now evolving, tracking the people tracking him. But Franks wasn't a target.

Cobb was conducting "research" on Gibbs, lurking inside NCIS and outside his home. Just as Gibbs and Vance study each other, the killer observes. He learns. He waits.

Interestingly, it was when Gibbs confronted Vance about their personal battles that he gained insight into why Cobb came to his house - and where he went next.

Franks forced Cobb into a kill-or-be-killed situation, but the P2P didn't want Gibbs. He wanted Barrett and her team members, baiting them into a terrifying trap.

Despite widespread animosity for E.J. and the new guys, you couldn't watch this and not feel awful. She walked right into this haunting, deadly trap and had no idea.

Will E.J. survive? It doesn't look good, but Gibbs and Vance are on the same page now. Jethro's running point, fueled by the demise of his mentor. It is ON next week.

Presumably because of its format, NCIS doesn't get much Emmy love, but that should change, because this was one of the most superbly written episodes of TV you'll see.

Weaving this complicated web in such compelling fashion, with precise attention to detail and continuity years in the making, is no easy task. Kudos to everyone involved.

I'm drained after watching, then writing about these events that evoked so much emotion and so many thoughts. It's hard to do them justice. So I turn it over to you:

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

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (1044 Votes)

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

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I loved the show, although I, too, wish it had not been Franks who dies. I am glad it wasn't any of the "main characters," namely, Gibbs, Tony, Ziva, Mcgee, Abbey, Ducky and Palmer. Get rid of Vance already! I have a hunch that all of this is leading to Vance either being killed off, or retiring, or going into a different position (promotion ?), and that either Gibbs (who hates desk jobs), or Tony or EJ (who I really do NOT like at all) will be asked to be the new or interim Director, leaving the team to be led by someone else or if still led by Gibbs, then Gibbs reporting to EJ or Tony. I know it may not make sense, but I thought I heard about big changes within the department, so...
The dynamics/chemistry between the 7 main/favorite characters I listed above are so special and what keeps people watching. I hope the writers and producers honor us fans and those talented actors by keeping them alive and TOGETHER for a long time.
Lastly - I am a huge TIVA fan! Get and keep Tony and Ziva together finally! (And Abbey and McGee would be nice too).

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Well..I think we can all agree that ej Barrett should not have been lead Team and that stupid Team is a bit of a joke anyway. The Big fella fell like a rock the first sign of trouble. What up with that ? She doesn't listen, she is not a team player, she doesn't take orders well and SHE thought SHE could take down this killer all alone? Ya! sure! She is stupid for sure, but she is also about 100 lbs. and 5 foot nothing. Idiot!! And now the P2P killer gets away and so because of Barretts stupidity, Ziva is in peril. I only hope that Tony can put 2 and 2 together and realize what we all have and tell her that the sex was swell, but she is not the person he thought and as he said "it's all about the people"......I hate to admit it (I think I am among friends here) but when the gun was pointed under her chin I literally screamed at the TV screen "Shoot her - shoot her" But, he didn't and I'm sorry (that he didn't shoot her - not about screaming it out) The elevator scene was the most wonderful of this season !!! After all that crying, we needed that. Thank you. The end!

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So Does these mean we get to see Deckers insurance policy?

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Episodes like this one is the reason NCIS is #1 in my book. I love shows that pull at your emotions and at your mind. The characters are so good. Can't wait for next week. (But sad the season is almost over, oh well thank goodness for reruns huh?)

Tonygurl

what a very sad episode that Mike Franks Died one of there own who Gibbs looked up to his mentor his friend, Just like Tony and McGee look up to Gibbs. I liked this episode so sad Mike had to die but he was sick and it did remind me of the Jenny Shepard episode but this time around was much sadder then Jenny. I like the part where Tony ans Ziva where in the elevator he cane see that love between these two when the doors open you see the love between Abby and McGee to. When DiNozzo told them to come in and they group hug was too sad how all four grieved for Franks as a family. liked how Gibbs was telling Franks the story that sad liked how Franks told Gibbs to skip it and it did. EJ is going to die next week because she's not flowing orders shes dumb. I think they will save Ziva just in time before the finale and we have to wait all summer to see how it will play out. this was very good episode said that Mike had to die wish it was someone else but otherwise very great episode very touching. I watched at a friends house and she cried at the elevator scene with all four crying over there good friend Franks. looking forword for next week to see if EJ dies hope so can't stand her how they will save Ziva. the funeral looks sad. looking forword Tony tellling Kort he needs to find Ziva.
Gibbs saying if she gets hurt.

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You all remember when Jenny die there were some files that Vances wanted that involed Jenny and Gibbs Mission to Russia Mike Frank said he would leave it in his will for him? Do you think he did?
Will he see it?
Will it be the next season storyline

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Mike's death was predictable but it was handled masterfully by the writers. No wonder the show is still strong after all these y ears. I di see a few discrepancies, but only to one who unfortunately sees all the little inconsistencies and misssed marks, which is my job. One thing, Ziva breaking down had to have deeper meaning since she was not that close to Mike and she is usually so stoic about events and will rather become deadly angry rather than weepy, totally out of charater.

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I missed this one completely. I had predicted the demise of Vance last week. Great episode though. still wish it had bee Vance instead..lol

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It seemed to me that the producers said goodbye to Franks just as they did Jenny in the same way- people quietly dying who died on their own terms versus allowing the illness to suck them dry and protecting someone they cared for deeply- Gibbs. Nice how they tied the remnants of Jenny's death in the desert in with Mike bringing along the insurance of the agent that was discovered when Franks and Jenny were in the diner in the Mojave Desert. I am VERY upset, though, that they killed Franks. He just brought zest to every episode he appeared in and that will be missed. I really don't see where it was needed. Ziva is going to be dramatic next week, but she isn't going anywhere- she is under contract beyond this season. I figure E.J. and her team are the ones that are toast, though it may just be E.J. I have found out through the reactions to Frank's demise that I am not the only person that doesn't care for E.J.'s character. There really is nothing likable about it.

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I hope EJ is gone for good!!!
DO NOT like her at all

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