NCIS Review: Check Your Head

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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
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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.


NCIS is the BEST show on television. I love the humor by Tony and the reactions of Gibbs. The episode with JLC was fantastic. I hope they never take this one off the air!


Anyone else catch the irony of JLC, spokesperson for a yogurt product, played a character who was lactose -intolerant? Some writer had their tongue firmly implanted in their cheek. :-)


This season has been really weird, some good shows and some bad, i didnt like the jlc and gibbs together its spooked. But when they had the romance for Ducky and Gibbs ex wife Diane shows those were good, like i said this season been too weird, and if Jlc comes as a regular i not sure i watch it


I thought it was a great episode and though Jamie Lee Curtis brought back a spice missing since Jenny Shephard's death. That Gibbs got into her head so easily really elevated his skills. Combined with his quickly assessing the real threat of electronic invasion and changing gears. It was quite cool. So many of the older episodes I could simply fast forward through as the recipe was always the same. I saw the value of Dr Cranston. Without her personal relationship, it would have been an open and shut suicide case. As a big Caitlin fan, any episode that can touch back to Caitlin are welcome. I hope we see a lot more of Jamie Lee Curtis. She nailed the roll and kept me intrigued.


@ Nick
“Dr. Cranston is one of the most unprofessional Psy docs I've seen on TV" have you ever seen a doctor show like House or Scrubs they do the same thing she does its call being human it show that their not perfect. beside these is TV if it was real Ziva would be in jail for killing two agents ( helping her brother kill kate and knowing that her boyfriend killed that ice agent) I found it funny the double standard that you are showing it’s ok for your favorite character to do it but not anybody else
If you are going to be a real fan of the show you MUST respect where the show was and the people who have left the show.


@ Nick There are the same amounts of people who are sick of ziva just as there are of those who like her remember everyone who watch NCIS does not come on these websites. So ALL of the NCIS fanbase has moved on really then how come every time there a interview with NCIS one of the top questions is are you going to do something with kate why because the real fanbase love her we love when NCIS was a team for your comment


@nick, Janet hit the nail on the head. Stay away and ignore Matt/Michael. He loves to get on here and rant. I swear he lives to watch only episodes from seasons 1&2. I try to ignore him myself but when he puts out false info and puts down fans of certain characters or possible couples, I can't hold it in after that.


nick spot on with your comment the so called @matt is relly someone called michael who is not a fan of NCIS he really hates ziva putting her down with every comment he writes people tell me to ignore him but its hard when he writes all the lies.


@"Matt" Never try and determine what kind of fan I am. Don't concern yourself with other NCIS fans; instead perhaps you should focus on Studying UP and taking note of the fact that TONS of NCIS fans do NOT care for Kate. She was only on for 2 seasons & served her time. Good for her. She was hard-headed, snarky and even disrespectful to Tony the short while she was on the show. I don't dislike her, but she's GONE and the entire NCIS fandom has moved on-except for maybe you. Dr. Cranston is one of the most unprofessional Psy docs I've seen on TV. IRL she would have been fired a long time ago. Btw, NCIS is dominated by "Men"; thank GOODNESS for an awesome character Ziva who can hold her own - the best thing that could have happened to NCIS after Kate left. Ziva is WONDERFUL, and the fans love her, period. Get with the program, "Matt", or go find something ELSE to watch on Tuesday nights, if you can't handle it.


@ Nick Sound like you are more of a Tiva fan then a NCIS fan NCIS fans Love Kate and we love kate sister what we hate is how sexist the show is toward Men and how Ziva has rape the show

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