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NCIS Review: Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

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While the interplay between the core cast members makes every episode enjoyable, and is the primary reason this is TV's highest-rated drama, certain story arcs and adversaries have a way of raising the stakes on NCIS.

Given some of the shocking deaths in the past (Kate, Mike), you never know what might happen when Gibbs and the team are in legitimate danger. That was certainly the case tonight, and the episode was compelling.

"Housekeeping" marked the resumption of the complex Phantom Eight plot, which nearly got Tony and E.J. killed in September's season premiere. This evening, they were very much under the gun again.

Or was that a bazooka?

EJ and Tony Photo

Having peeled back layers of espionage, treason and duplicity over multiple episodes, the show set the stage for a good, old-fashioned standoff between NCIS and the ruthless, murderous Stratton.

With Scott Wolf's character back to finish what he started, and another victim left in his wake, the tension ran high from the moment we learned the dead Naval commander had a woman with him.

Barrett. Tony knew it and so did we. She's been alive this whole time, and being hunted.

E.J. (Sarah Jane Morris) fell out of favor with Tony after vanishing into thin air last time, and her motives have been questioned by many fans from day one. Tonight, Barrett largely redeemed herself.

Rather than competing with the team or running her own agenda, she was in way over her head and was running from something - someone - even she didn't even fully grasp. She needed their help.

In that respect, she and DiNozzo were in the same boat, targeted and defensive on a visceral level, but also adrift in a broader sense, as we learned during their stint in a non-tidy NCIS safe house.

Ultimately, Barrett proved she's one of the "good" guys, and pretty funny to boot. But best of all, she made Tony open his eyes and realize that his best friend (and more?!) is right in front of him.

Ziva on the Scene

E.J. left on good terms with Tony. Strictly platonic. She's off to someplace quiet, and likely won't be seen again. If her legacy is bringing Tony and Ziva closer together, she'll be remembered fondly.

Ziva David may believe Pirates of the Caribbean is a cinematic marvel, but she connects with Tony and cares about him like no other. DiNozzo is definitely "in her life," and on a deep, meaningful level.

How deep? That's yet to be determined, especially after the phone finally rang.

Was anyone else disappointed that her MIA boyfriend called, or that she answered? In the end, Ziva deserves to be happy and we'll see, maybe CI-Ray will step up to the plate. But talk about a buzzkill!

The closing scene of this episode had the feeling of a major turning point in Ziva's life, and the show as a whole. Nine seasons in, something has to give. Perhaps it will, just not how we envisioned it.

The conflicted, saddened look on Tony's face said it all. Next week will tell us a lot about whether Ray sticks around long-term, and how DiNozzo responds. Ray certainly appears serious in the promo.

While the denouement provided much the episode's emotional punch, the rest of the hour certainly didn't lack for action as Stratton, cloaked in mystery, set out to dispatch E.J., and by extension Tony.

Scott Wolf never really got the chance to establish himself as a Grade A villain earlier this season, but made up for lost time, dropping three bodies in succession, including his Watcher Fleet handler.

The more we learned about Stratton (or Cole, as the case may be), the more he struck fear in us. Fortunately, SecNav Jarvis stopped playing politics long enough to lure the killer into a trap.

One Word: Gibbs

Letting the location of the safe house slip to Latham was a bit telegraphed, but it worked. The art of deception may be ingrained in the Watchers, but they're not the only ones playing the game.

After Latham was offed, Gibbs knew where his man would strike next. Twenty miles from Tony and E.J., it turned out. His RPG attack useless, Stratton was eventually cornered and brought in.

His capture was somewhat surprising to me (I expected him to vanish, again, and appear later) but I'm also fine with the resolution. I thoroughly enjoyed the development of this storyline dating back to when it first spawned the Port-to-Port killer, yet it feels like the right time to put it to bed.

The last we saw of Stratton/Cole - presuming he won't be back - he creepily chided Gibbs for the killing of innocent people, clearly possessing intimate knowledge of Jethro's Mexican exploits.

Can he possibly do Gibbs harm with whatever he knows, or was he simply taunting him for the sake of it? Either way, it was a fittingly uncomfortable way to kiss this character goodbye.

All in all, a strong, edge-of-your-seat episode from beginning to end, finally tying up some loose ends in appropriate fashion and hopefully paving the way for a great second half of the season.

A couple of final thoughts and observations before turning it over to you:

  • How nice is Gibbs, bringing Abby lunch? It never gets old.
  • Gibbs needs to name a rule after catching a ghost.
  • Tony's Sean Connery wasn't half bad.
  • Where the heck was Vance?
  • Off the griddle? Outstanding.

What did you think of tonight's NCIS? Comment on it below!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (328 Votes)

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

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This was a great episode. I disliked E.J. before, but she redeemed herself nicely. It'll be interesting to see how Tony and Ziva's relationship progresses now that he seems to be aware of his deeper feelings for her. I'm not a Tiva shipper, but I'm not opposed to them getting together either as long as they do it in a way that doesn't detract from the overall shows and who the characters are.

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By no means is this show "jumping the shark". I could watch the team interface with one another another 9 years. The story-line possibilities are endless and even though Stratton was caught, it doesn't mean they'll be able to keep him. I suspect he has friends in high places...

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@shallow59 The reason we called it Jumping The Shark is because it when the writers have given up on the show and want to end it and that why they are putting Tony and Ziva together

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Wow, I loved last night's episode. It's always a treat to see a more serious Tony. Michael Weatherly must be one of the most underrated actors on TV. (And how come he's never done the voice for an animation movie - he'd be brilliant!) Wonderful UST between Tony and Ziva in that last scene. I don't understand why people jump up and scream 'Jump the shark' every time there's the least bit of UST between them. 'Conflict' is the basis for every drama. In this case, it doesn't mean Tony and Ziva will ever permanently hook up and I, like many others, probably wouldn't want that - but gosh, it's a heck of a lot of fun watching the sparks fly between them. They both sizzle in those understated, suggestive scenes where you're left wondering what's going on in both Tony's and Ziva's minds. They have a great chemistry!

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Everyone will have to take a backseat for the Tiva Ship - including Gibbs. Why can't they just decide that they're better as friends? I'd really love for 'NCIS' to resist the trend in TV to hook the good looking single guy up with the good looking single girl. 'NCIS' isn't a soap opera but 'Housekeeping' sure made it seem like it's one.
I'm a big supporter of Rule 12 and not just for 'NCIS'.FanfromDayOne | 13 minutes ago From EW.com

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Still the best on the air. I even watch the reruns on USA and don't get tired of this show. That says a lot for the actors and writers because so many of the episodes are so touching.

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Everyone from TV line to EW on their fan page is saying they Jump The Shark and I agree

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I love NCIS......the actors are awesome!!! I watch it every chance i get even the reruns on cable... I never miss an episode!!! Keep up the wonderful work and the show!!!!

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I just felt like I was watching a CW show not a CBS show It scare me that NCIS is going down the road of Jumping the Shark

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I liked this episodes, the review, and the comments -- testy points of view included. And I never thought about the dog, but now I can't stop wondering: What happened to the dog?