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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
  • 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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Good show!!! I still have some questions though like when Michal said that he didn't know what happened and that the petty officer attacked him first so wouldn't that be self defense??? Or did Michal say that to get Leon to believe him??? I’m happy Tony is not going to try things with Wendy that makes me very very happy. The whole yaba yaba thing was funny as all heck!!!

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I loved this epi. It was heartwrenching and the police work was really good. I agree with most of you that Vance has never been a favorite, but Rocky did great in this one. We also need to see more of Abby--love her--and quarky after forty is still quarky leave her alone. I do find in odd that none of the major characters are in a relationship. I work closely --very closely-- and am the only single one out of the 7 person troup. Lets get Abby and Tim a couple of interesting love interests.

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I forgot to say that among my most favorite episodes was when Tony, McGee and Gibbs go to rescue Ziva. Tony's monologue (almost) throughout the interrogation was hilarious, and yet very strong. And "the man" ...Gibbs... clinched the rescue with his amazing sniper ability. He is so cool under pressure!

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Love NCIS. Some of this season's episodes have been a little disjointed or contrived, and somewhat hurried. I'm guessing there are new writers who are not particularly familiar with the tried-and-true way the show has been done in the past, and maybe haven't quite found their groove. I too would like to see more McGee. Concerned about what has happened to his voice and general health. I loved when Ziva was tougher. I love Tony's silly side, but one of my favorite episodes in another season was when he saved Gibbs and Gibbs' daughter's friend from drowning by diving into the water to pull them each out of the car. Would be glad to have a friend like Tony. And he is very good looking. Abby is great, very talented, and I love her interaction with Gibbs. They are a good team. Would like to see more of Ducky and Jimmy. They are funny together. When is Jimmy getting married? What happened to Abby's brother? A few unfinished things this season.

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Okay, I admit do not like Tony (too superficial) love McGee!! My ideal ending has mcGee hooking up with a playboy centerfold who belongs to Mensa and he meets thru Abby! Let's get Jimmy married already!! Yes Vance has a rockin' spouse, no surprise!! And, This is not Gunsmoke!! All things in TV land do come to an end! I love Rizzoli And Isles and it pleases me to think a good actor (Sascha) can move on!! McGee is doing a commercial for heavens sake! Say a fond goodbye!!

Josie-leeds

Well crafted episode with the spotlight on Vance--admittedly, not one of my favorite characters. Even showing a more humanistic side in this episode, he still has a long way to go to prove he's really a member of the team and not just a weekly pain in the butt. The writers seem to be having a problem balancing out their scripts--maybe they should actually WATCH some of the marathons and see how superb the earlier episodes were and how well balanced they were. As for Abby--love that broad! She doesn't NEED "grownup" clothes--she is who she is and doesn't really give a fig about anyones opinion, other than Gibbs.

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I agree with those who say it was not the most energized episode, but it was good enough to entertain me. Tony's overreaction to the purloined performance review was fun stuff as well as pure Tony. I like Vance, but I am weary of the soulful looks he and Gibbs share, really weary. Michael was playing Vance for years and yes, it was past the time for Vance to leave him to face the consequences of his actions. I am sure Vance's LA house sold for mucho money and he got the DC area house for a song from a contact, or his wife came from money.

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Really enjoyed most of this episode. Loved Vance and Gibbs both walking a tightrope. It was good to see Jackie-good character. Was surprised that Michael was guilty. Rocky C. was amazing. The man can act!!!
My one issue was- sad to say again Tony. This poor man has more issues than anyone I've ever heard about. It has become the "crisis" of the week for Tony. Why?? Tony is a great character-yes he needed to make some changes-grow up a bit but this season is just getting stupid.Please PTB give the man a break and the fans who use to enjoy him.

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Sorry to point out a couple of errors. You said: Ziva and Tony are annoyed by Tony... - I think you meant Tim. The person Tony tackled is a Petty Officer (Brian Smith) not an Officer. I really loved that the show actually let Michael Thomas be guilty.

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I really liked this episode. I'm not a big Vance fan but he was great and yes I did tear up at the end. Still!! No McGee, no Abby, no Ducky and I don't like Palmer so he was not missed.
Come on writers get the cobwebs out and put together some more good shows.