NCIS Review: The Good Father

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Nine seasons in, NCIS still has a great way of peeling back new layers of characters you thought you knew, casting them in a different light or offering a different perspective on what makes them tick.

Case in point: Leon Vance.

The rare Vance episode always keeps things interesting in large part because you never know quite what to think of the guy. He's head of NCIS, yet simultaneously not part of the fabric of the team.

Part of that's the nature of the best. Vance even told Gibbs recently never to seek his job, alluding to the political entanglements and bureaucracy that complicate their mission. But it's also just Vance.

He keeps things close to the vest (pun not intended after this week's poker game tie-in), making it difficult to ascertain where his priorities are at times. This was certainly the case in "The Good Son."

Vance Family

When his brother-in-law Michael became the prime suspect in a petty officer's murder, Vance had to balance his duty as Director of NCIS with his obvious familial - and paternal - feelings toward him.

Rocky Carroll gave a strong, nuanced performance in portraying a man in Vance's position. From the onset, he wanted to believe and help the troubled Michael, yet a part of him was clearly skeptical.

As the episode progressed, Michael's checkered background came to light and Vance confessed that he'd helped "The Good Son" out of jams more times than he could count. Still, was he a murderer?

Yes and no. Despite everything shady we learned about him, it felt like subterfuge, as though the writers were setting this suspect up to conceivably be guilty, only to be exonerated at the last minute.

Gibbs had ample reason to be suspicious, but Michael's wrong-place, wrong-time story seemed genuine, and he gave off the aura of a decent young man at heart. He couldn't really be guilty, could he?

Surprisingly, he was.

His lies unraveled quickly and thoroughly once Gibbs traced the sedatives to the backroom pizza parlor poker game. The trail led back to Michael, just as Vance was about to breathe a big sigh of relief.

Having gambled away the money Vance gave him, he agreed to work off the debt by luring unwitting sailors involved in the game. When our victim, Adams, lost all his money, he came after Michael.

He certainly isn't a cold-blooded murderer, but he was absolutely responsible for a man's death. It was sad to watch Vance so heartbroken, but to his credit, he did what he should've done long ago.

Like any good father, or father figure, he realized tough love was the only course of treatment. There was no "I told you so" from Gibbs, only reassurance that it wasn't his fault as he led Michael off.

This will definitely be a tough one to swallow for the director, but he still has such a strong nuclear family, he'll come through it just fine - and maybe even hone his video game skills while he's at it.

Cute Tiva Photo

While all that was going on, Tony's ongoing internal struggle for balance between his serious, adult side and his overgrown, always-joking frat boy nature was evident again after his performance report.

After reading that Gibbs thinks he talks too much during case work, he decides he needs to bottle it up. While this angle has played out at length this season, it made for some great comedic moments.

The look on his face when he let the crabs joke slip early on was hilarious, as if he committed an all-time faux pas that he regretted instantly, when in reality no one cared. It's just Tony being Tony.

Notice that Ziva and Tim always complain about his incessant badgering, yet always pick up on the fact that something's amiss and grow concerned as soon as it stops? They know their colleague well.

DiNozzo has his insecurities, but he is damn good at his job and his humor is central to the show. Gibbs admitted as much. He may not like the yabba, but that doesn't mean he doesn't depend on it.

Tony brings so much more to the table - how about that tackle of the fleeing suspect, like an NFL defensive back! - but without the yabba (fun code for "talking") NCIS would be a boring place to work!

He still needs to grow up in other ways, but the yabba yabba is part of who he is, and doesn't need to be stifled in order for him to be a very special agent. Though it is fun to watch him try briefly.

It's also work noting that for a functional mute, Gibbs had his share of great lines in this episode too. "So much for the sex part" being my personal favorite. Every once in awhile, Jethro nails the zinger.

A few additional observations on this solid episode before turning it over to you:

  • Hopefully that pizza parlor guy ended up being charged with something.
  • Does it get any cuter than Abby trying to talk her way out of a corner?
  • How did Vance buy that house on a government salary?

What did you think of this week's NCIS? Discuss in the comments!


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (172 Votes)

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


In order Driven, Knockout, Heartland, Lost Found, Flesh Blood, Identity Crisis popcorn and ratasurent, The Boneyard, Family Secret, Terminal Leave, Family Secret, Bete Noire, Ravenous, Faking It, Probie, Reveille, Blowback (hide and seek knows where I am), Baltimore desk and headslap, Frame-Up, Red Cell, Rule 51, Shalom, Baltimore, Broken Arrow, Pyramid, Shalom, Minimum Security, Marine Down, Frame-Up. Hope that helps.


Best line of the night was when Tony referred to Gibbs: "And this from a functional mute!"


NCIS has a great ensemble of actors who give excellent quirky performances. I believe only Harmon and Weatherly can move on to a new show. MW in Dark Angel had the qualities of a metrosexual. I prefer Tony the Jock. As much as I like the others in the cast, I’m not sure they can be lead characters in other shows. Hate to see them out of work. They are all so good. The show just needs tweaking. The formula is good. Go back to basics.


I hope NCIS doesn’t disappear after next year. I realize the actors are getting older, but there are ways around that. NCIS can expand to two teams to help handle the ‘terrorist threat’.The teams can help or compete with one another. Tony and Gibbs can each have a team. Bring in young new faces to fill the teams. Tim and the rest can be the go-to experts for both teams. Watching new people being trained on the job can be enjoyable. Remember?


(post concluded here) ...b/c Tony doesn't possess the same elite PC forensic skills. Everyone on the team has their special niche. Yet Tony IS the best Sr. Agent there, and the closest thing to a Team Leader after Gibbs. As "Papa Gibbs" draws closer to hanging up his hat for good, Tony will be expected to act increasingly more MATURE (less "Yabba"), and less childish/silly, like a true Team Leader HAS to be. Too much distracting "Yabba" out in the field can get you/your team killed; I think that's the point Gibbs is trying to make. Each team member has their own unique, critically important talents that adds value to the team as a WHOLE. That's why the show works. Rather than complain so much about "who outshines who", perhaps we should try to appreciate those factors.


(post cont'd here)..maybe even w/ Fornell in tow. I love seeing G & F pair up. Also, I've heard some complain about Tony being the "butt of jokes". I don't know if these complainers watch the same NCIS as everyone else, but um...Tony IS the Comic Relief, last time I checked. NOBODY does it better. He's actually not the "butt" of ANYTHING (too smart for that), but he too often is the CHIEF INSTIGATOR of the jokes he initiates! I'm GLAD that Tim/Ziva/Ducky/Gibbs have learned HOW to give it back to Tony as good as he gives it. If he can't TAKE jokes, he shouldn't "dish" them out. Gibbs will ALWAYS be The Star of the show; it's HIS show; Tony will NEVER outshine Gibbs. Ziva also shouldn't be blamed for being a highly trained, elite fighter - that's NOT her fault. That's the Mossad training she was given. Tony does NOT have the same training so he won't posesses that skill level. That's one of Ziva's strengths, and Tony & Gibbs BOTH appreciate that. Tony can't be Tim either, b/c he doesn't have the same elite PC forensic skills. But Tony IS the best Sr. Agent there, & the closest thing to Team Leader after Gibbs. EACH team member has their own unique talents that adds value to the team as a WHOLE. That's why the show works. Rather than complain so much, perhaps try to appreciate those factors.


@Rachelw Bravo!!! You deserve a standing ovation - I've been saying that all season long. NCIS is in its sunset years as a series - no doubt about it. It's far, FAR better to go out on a high note, rather than slowly fizz out like Law & Order did. That would be a slow, painful death. My friends/relatives who've been watching both JAG AND NCIS from Day 1 are very, very disappointed w/ the lackluster episodes, post S7 (which btw was THE highest rated season for NCIS, with S6 as the 2nd highest). Something has been missing; I've heard some say the "PAH" is not there. Team Gibbs is great, but we don't get to see them as much; we get all these silly guest stars taking up airtime. If that's what S10 is going to be like, NCIS is in trouble. Mark doesn't make the ultimate decisions on the show either; CBS Execs do. If Harmon is smart...he'll shoot for retiring his character QUICKLY(before Gibbs finally lands in prison courtesy of the Mexican "Federales" lol) out on a boat somewhere- maybe even with Fornell in tow.


I need to say one more thing - and some may not like it, but listen please.. I have loved NCIS (sans Kate, ugh) since the beginning -- IF we dare to criticize an episode , it's okay, the world will not end. (so calm down) However -- it's time.. it is time to wrap up the show. We know where it is going and we are 90% so happy about it -- So GG and gang? Make season 10 the end. I do not want to see this show go down slowly, go out on top - give the actors , these wonderful actors and crew a chance to go out on top, and get other work with the push of NCIS success behind them. Mark Harmon will make that call..and I can see it coming. To say this episode was good is just wrong


Never liked Vance, never trusted Vance and never will. Of all the episodes this was THE most boring, ever, period. end. This one will go down like my "kate" epis during marathons..SKIP or delete. Sorry folks. I love NCIS -- but Vance.. this story? Terrible. When they were eating breakfast I was half expecting to hear the theme song to Leave it To Beaver.


Erin, you are my hero! I agree with everything you said about Tony, and how they have sacrificed his character for the sake of cheap jokes. Just let him be good at his job again, like he used to, and have a balance of non-humiliation humor. And I love all the characters, but for the love of Pete, have Gibbs or Ziva or McGee mess up occasioanlly and be called out on it, instead of Tony always having to be the fall guy.

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