Tuesdays 8:00 PM on CBS

NCIS Review: Check Your Head

by at . Comments

Tonight's NCIS episode was all about getting inside people's heads, in an effort to "Psych Out" the opposition and complete the mission, with multiple sides playing various angles and the truth difficult to find.

The story had the feel of a big-screen psychological thriller, a slow-burning mystery that kept you on the edge of your seat and paying extra attention to detail. You almost had to watch your own back in this one.

A major reason the episode worked so well was Jamie Lee Curtis' Dr. Samantha Ryan, a uniquely formidable "brain gamer" and an adversary who temporarily threw Gibbs off his game - not an easy feat.

Despite portraying a character we were meant to intensely distrust and dislike from the get-go, Curtis turned in a strong, nuanced performance and commanded the screen alongside Mark Harmon throughout.

Two of the best in the business at the top of their game. What's not to love?

Gibbs, Ryan

A lot of viewers probably won't love the idea of our fearless leader meeting up with his PsyOps counterpart for a 4 a.m. breakfast date, but she did show a surprising vulnerability in the final third of the episode.

After Gibbs turned the tables and gained the upper hand by showing up at her son's school - the best scene of the episode, where he said everything by saying nothing - we saw a different side of Dr. Ryan.

While Ryan's fierce loyalty to the DOD and its clandestine missions is unquestioned, her humanity won out when she begged for one favor, and Gibbs collected his end of the quid pro quo immediately.

She covered her tracks, but by leaving her phone and associated clues, Ryan led NCIS to Banks' killer. Sure, she could've done so all along, and probably can never be trusted unless she loses significant leverage.

Still, she's not entirely terrible.

Sparks flew left and right between Ryan and Gibbs tonight, but will they carry over and ignite a personal relationship beyond this episode? Curtis returns on the March 20 episode, so it's certainly possible.

She's not a redhead, though, so strike one ... or would that be a positive change of pace? Either way, the much bigger issue, of course, is the fact that she's predisposed to subterfuge and underhandedness.

To think, we were getting on Wendy's case for being a liar last week. Ryan's clearly good at her job, but when that involves half-truths and cold, calculated manipulation, you're suspicious relationship material.

The reference to waging a psychological battle against Iran was fitting, given the increased attention paid to that nation's nuclear ambitions, and in an era gradually moving beyond conventional warfare.

So many things go on behind the scenes that we have no clue about (even pros like Vance struggle to get a straight answer from the Pentagon), and many are likely vital to our national security.

Nevertheless, when you live in the shadows, life becomes one giant gray area.

Vance Pic

Gibbs sensed from the start that he was being monitored by those with ulterior motives, even before he found the bug in his basement - how shady was that, and how smart is he? - telling the team to power down.

Another great scene. While the rest of the world is going paperless, Gibbs is going ... paper, McGee! Clearly a smart move on his part. Hacking, bugging, drugging ... going up against PsyOps isn't amateur hour.

Ryan is a compelling character I'd like to see work with, not against, the team again. Sharp, funny and hard-nosed, she'd be a great asset if you could believe more than 40 percent of what she says.

Tread carefully, Gibbs. We know you love powerful women, and the 200th episode marked a turning point of sorts for you emotionally, but you may want to point your feet toward the door on this one.

With the intensity of the Gibbs-Ryan mind games and the complexity of the case, this probably could have been a two-part episode and ended on an even stronger note, but it was still excellent overall.

A few more odds and ends from tonight before turning it over to your feedback:

  • Interesting return by Dr. Rachel Cranston (a.k.a. Dr. Kate's Sister) in an episode in which her character, whose previous appearances were memorable, was largely overshadowed.
  • It was good to see Vance tonight, and squarely with the good guys. Gibbs laughing after he questioned whether he and Ryan spent private time together in college was priceless.
  • Rule #42: Never trust someone who just tried to sucker punch you.
  • Does this mean Tim and Tony should make the same amount?
  • Think they went to the diner from the 200th episode?

What did you think of tonight's NCIS episode? Are Gibbs and Dr. Ryan a good match? What was your favorite scene from this week? Discuss in the comments below!


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
  • 4.5 / 5.0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (222 Votes)

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

Tags: ,
Like Us On Facebook

Want more NCIS?

Sign up for our daily newsletter and receive the latest tv news delivered to your inbox for free!

More From TV Fanatic


The Bridge Review: Going After the Beast

On tonight's The Bridge, Marco is made an offer that he initially refuses. Will he agree to go after Fausto?

Extant Review: Captured

Things go from bad to worse for Molly on Extant as she tries to escape the prying eyes of the ISEA but chooses the worst place for safety. Read on for a full review.

Graceland Review: Entanglements

Mike is on a war path on Graceland... but is he headed in the right direction? Read our review of "Los Malos" now to find out!

Suits Review: Truth Hurts

On Suits, Rachel tells Mike about the kiss. Where did it go from there? Find out now!


Que mujer mas desagradable es la Dra. Ryan


I think Kate's sister Dr. Cranston would be a great match - JLC no chemistry..


My husband and I also do not like Jamie Lee Curtis's character. She does not fit into this role. I know she is an old friend of Mark Harmon's but he really made a mistake if he is the one who chose her for his love interest. I liked Jenny a lot. Don't know why she left the show. It was a real loss for the show. Vance does not add much either. We will probably stop watching the show if they keep Jamie L Curtis. She should stay with light comedy movies or commercials.




Do not care for JLC role especially as a love interest for Gibbs. I have seen characters come and go - Gerald, Kate, Jenny, Mike Franks, etc. and have missed them, but not so with JLC. I miss Ducky's Mom more than I would miss JLC. Hope this is not a permanent role for her. Like her as an actress, just not in NCIS.


gibbs found a bug in his basement that should meen war not love


I know that JLC is on the March 20 show i really hope they do not make a love interest with them i do not like them together at all.


I did not like this episode, mainly because of JLC. I generally do like her in other roles, but I think she blew it on this one. Please, please, please do not bring her back for another episode. And please do not make a love match with her and Gibbs. She was wooden, clearly not suited for the part.


I'd prefer not to see the show delve into the 'love interest' themes. Nearly every show has the relationship storyline, & it's refreshing to have a quality show that DOESN'T go that route. JLC did a great job portraying Ryan, but I don't want to have a Gibbs romance evolve. I'd also like to see more focus on developing the characters of Ducky, Abby, & Tim. These characters were multi-dimensional & interesting when the show started, now they're little more than 'fillers'.


There was so much more chemistry between JLC and Gibbs than between Tony and Wendy. I hope they have JLC return from time to time. But I really wish they would give us more Jimmy Palmer. He is supposed to be married soon, but we rarely see him in 2012. He is a fun character. I wish he had a more regular role.