For a show so procedural in nature, NCIS is rarely about the investigation itself, instead drawing strength from the team members, their interactions and their lives. Once in awhile, though, there's a case so powerful that it leaves a lasting impression on viewers and the special agents alike.
Needless to say, the disappearance of Marine Lt. Gabriela Flores was one such case.
Leave no man or woman behind.
Marines uphold this code at any cost, and from the moment Gibbs and Ziva arrived in Afghanistan, the question wasn't whether Flores would be returned to her father, but whether she would be brought back in a casket or alive.
The action-packed Part II of "Engaged" was every bit as outstanding as the first, a wonderful tribute to the men and women (particularly the latter) of the U.S. Marine Corps - strong, equal, able and loyal.
Picking up 48 hours from when we left off last week, we began with a bit of misdirection in Gibbs aboard the military plane with a lone casket. It was easy to assume the worst for Flores. Not the case.
In a dramatic mission, she was found captive and alive, reunited with her loving father after an unspeakable ordeal. But not before her commanding officer tragically fell in his attempt to rescue her.
I know it's only a TV show, which can't possibly do justice to the sights and sounds of war (although the firefight Gibbs and Ziva were caught in came pretty close). Still, the episode was vivid and real.
NCIS displays a sense of compassionate adoration for those who serve and protect this country, and who pay the ultimate price for things we take for granted, such as being educated without fear.
Should they be glorified? No. Are they perfect? No. But they are still heroes.
Seeing the captain's body carried off the plane at Dover AFB was a moving sight. Not one we'd ever want to see, but a tragically familiar one in this day and age, and an honorable one by any measure.
There's also no such thing as an ex-Marine, which is why Gibbs connected almost as much to Gabriela Flores in 2011 as he did to Joan Matteson, a female counterpart during his own service, in 1977.
The Marines share a familial bond that civilians rarely experience. Sean Harmon conveyed this nicely, even in few words, in his flashback scenes, as did his father Mark did through most of the episode.
Gibbs' visit to Arlington Cemetery closed the night on a poignant note, and his treatment of Flores and the girls she saved showed him at his best. Still, you wonder if Jethro is headed for a breakdown.
His behavior during the second half of the episode - I did not expect a separate, but related domestic terrorist plot to be woven into this story - concerned Vance, and probably more than a few viewers.
His cleverly deceptive "enhanced interrogation" of the suspect with the director saved lives, whether you agree with it or not. This is what Gibbs does, he's the best at it and he loves it like nothing else.
That's why he scoffs at the idea of a vacation, and why Vance is probably kidding himself. An extra few hours in the basement over the weekend wouldn't hurt, though. He does look pretty worn down.
Also looking worse for the wear tonight was DiNozzo, who spent a lot of time pondering his life, even his place in the universe. It seemed silly at times, in typical Tony fashion, but he was quite serious.
With the help of Chaplain Burke, he reflected on the state of existence and even faced his greatest fears. The kids made for a funny twist, but isn't Tony more afraid of dying? Alone, more specifically?
In any case, Michael Weatherly brought his A-game, particularly in the chapel when he walked in, looked around and bared his soul in a way that was both profoundly human and hilariously awkward.
Pretty good acting considering he was talking to no one. No one human, anyway ...
A few closing thoughts and observations before turning it over to you:
- I knew McGee had some technical wizardry up his sleeve at the end. Had he not, given Gibbs' frame of mind, the guy would have been dead, rather than being treated for a broken nose.
- Abby's right. We all do complain about pretty mundane things.
- Gibbs zinged SecNav Jarvis pretty good, didn't he?
- Two words for Ziva: Bad. Ass. And multilingual!
- "Therein lies the scratch." Awesome.
What did you think of tonight's NCIS? Comment on it below!