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NCIS Review: Mike Franks' Swan Song

by at . Comments

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 (1046 Votes)

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

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great show keep you at seat end waiting to see whats next

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the "mike franks" part was wrong, it didnt follow the story line...Franks left mexico in season 7, his place was burned down and he went to Isral with his grand kids...Vance gave him the tickets in his office and then got a text from Ziva's father saying "we got him"....Cort had the black eye patch a few ep's ago so he lost the eye a while back...how did the eye turn up in the drink BEFORE they went to Hawi if he lost it over there? Did the writters go on strike?

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You are missing the point. Gibbs has finally transitioned or will now that Mike is gone. Just like Tony, McGee, and everyone needs Gibbs, Gibbs inturn needed Mike. With Mike gone, Gibbs is now responsible for his future. No longer will his needs be met by Mike. Secondly, he will turn inward towards his team as they will take on a more mature exterior. This whole process has been about the "team" growing from Gibbs as Gibbs grew "from" Mike.

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I hate it when cast members are killed off; Kate, Jennie, Mike. Why did it need to happen to Mike? Who decided that? What about his grand-daughter? Very disappointed.

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What an amazing episode! I was heartbroken to see Mike Franks go, what an impact this will have on Gibbs. I had to laugh at Mike Franks' sense of humor through bits of the episode (especially the "skip ahead" bit!) It was also heartwarming to see how close the team is even in such a horrible situation. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next episode.

Tiva

It was so sad that Mike Franks died and how the team took it. I liked the elevator scene how Ziva and Tony hugged you can see the love between the two and when the doors opened you seen Abby and McGee and Tony told them to come in and that was very emotional it showed once again this team is so close. sad that Mike Franks died but happy that its wasn't any of the team but it kinda is part of the team how many times Franks came to help
them. it did Remind me Of Jenny's death because I knew he was sick. I will miss Mike Franks glad he died trying to catch the killer but sad he had to die. I think EJ is so dumb she doesn't listen and she knew how the guy who died looking at the doll why would she let her guard down watching the toy knowing how he killed before. I don't like EJ but she should have listen to Vance and Gibbs. its Nice to see that Vance and Gibbs is on the same page once again. also shady Kort it was nice to see him again too Even know he knew who Cobbs was the whole time.
Jesse Stern did a great writing Job loved this episode one of the most saddest. episode's like this is why I love NCIS

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I was in shock...I enjoyed the character of Mike Franks. I agree with "Editor" and the rest who will miss this character. Let's hope they allow his "ghost" to appear occasionally...now can we get rid of Barrett?

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Just--why? We knew Lauren Holly was moving on, but why Mike Franks character? His character leaves a daughter-in-law, a grandson and others. Just seems unnessary...

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loved swan song it had a bit of everything sad about mike franks.the question now is who will die next week it doesnt look good for ej or ziva we will have to wait for next tuesday,by the way the elivator scene loved it.

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As Mike Franks was my next to favorite character< I am shocked and saddened. His gruff non PC attitude reminds me of my brother, retired Air Force, circa Viet Nam. The loyalty Mike has/had to his friends is what we all need , plus, his no nonsense approach, cuts to the heart of issues. I will miss him greatly!