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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!

Review

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.

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these season started out perfect just like last year Season Finale then its like NCIS saw their ratings going up and freak out so they went back to Tiva

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Bogey - Tony is my favorite character, but he really has been written as the team's weak link for several years now. Ziva and Gibbs are written as super agents. I wish they'd give Tony his "cool" back (see seasons 1 - 4) and let someone else be the fallible, mistake making character for a change. It makes the show so predictable when the same character is always written as clueless, while certain others are always perfect. In the earlier seasons of NCIS, the writing was more adventurous. Tony got to be brave and brilliant as well as funny. Even Gibbs was wrong sometimes and had to eat a little crow. Although the humor has not been quite as demeaning since GG took over as showrunner, Tony is still sacrificed to make others look smarter, and for (often very weak) attempts at humor.

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Loved Vance from the beginning, thought the chemistry between he & Gibbs was great. Rocky nailed it in this ep. Tony still drives me nuts though, I often find him the "weak link" in this show. Would have liked more Ziva and McGee.

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CJ - I don't know. I only know the show lacks energy this season and it began last season. Don't know what's up. It's unfortunate because the cast of NCIS is my favorite ensemble cast.

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Loved the episode the good so, it made good use of the other characters and gibbs was very investigative, the jlc episodes she just got to go

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Absolutely loved the Vance plotline- & Rocky so hit it out of the park....
Also enjoyed the idea that for once a relative was actually guilty & paid for the crime rather than having it swept under the rug or blamed on another suspect a la Mother's Day.
The only part I didn't like was the incorrectness about the first scene as well as how it was played out throughout. & I'd disagree with the idea that Ziva & McGee noticed the difference because they know their team mate well. At this point, the two noticed differences in Tony because they worry that if he's not the comic relief, he'll make them look back....

Terrie

This weeks episode was better than last weeks..........
I'm not liking Gibbs and the Dr.......but perhaps it will grow on me. Interesting seeing Tony trying to find himself.....
Where's Palmer?
Not enough Abby and McGee.... Interesting to see a little more into Vance. Gibbs and Vance understand one another....but yet can be a bit adversarial like last night......

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Good episode, but too predictable to go down in the books as best of season. Rocky Carroll's interpretation of Vance is spot on when the spotlight is on him. He conveyed the subtle emotions of heart break so fantastically well in that final scene with his brother in law. I got shivers. Also, the moment about Tony's investigative methods with Gibbs was pure Kodak. However, the case itself lacked momentum and I stopped caring about 40 minutes in. Common theme for season 9. I know NCIS is character driven show but the cases should not be a simple vessel for character interaction. The story is just as important as the characters in it.

Tonygurl

am not a Vance fan I always liked Jenny better but this episode made me like him, I loved the Vance took his brother in-law in and thought Michael was innocent and wanted to protect him, and wanted to be there for Michael. now Jackie wasn't that happy an she knew right off Michael was up to no good. I liked When Tony tackled the guy that was a good one and I liked when Gibbs asked Tony who he thought was guilty. and when Abby came up and said the finger prints matched Michael and when Vance came home he had to tell his kids to leave the room and then Michael told him the truth and when Tony and Gibbs took Michael away, and when Vance sat down and tears in his eyes was sad and when his son came in and talked to him and he asked son to teach him to play the video game. this the best Vance episode

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I enjoyed this ep, and was glad to see more of Vance and his family...I was loving the ending, too, when Vance wanted to play a video game with his son, and the sad look on his face was just heartbreaking. I thought Rocky hit it out of the park in this ep, as his scenes with everyone, including Gibbs, were emotionally-packed and fascinating.
I don't mind that Tony was the butt of the jokes, because he's such a superficial guy, he deserves whatever comes his way...he is the Kirk to Ziva's Spock. I was glad to see some prime Abby time in this ep, as she's my favorite character, along with McGee and Ducky. Without those three, I wouldn't bother to watch the show at all. I love Rizzoli and Isles, too, so to the commenter who said it is great that Sasha was able to move on to a great role as Maura after NCIS, I totally agree with you. She is a great actress.