NCIS Review: A Slow Burner

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Now that was a first-rate episode of NCIS.

The show raised the emotional and criminal stakes again Tuesday with a case that shed light on a core character's background while setting the stage for a compelling season-ending run in May.

"Rekindled" was a fitting title for an installment in which Tony crossed paths with a boy who changed his life forever and vice versa, and we were reintroduced to the mysterious Phantom Eight.

All in the middle of a complex and wide-ranging arson case, no less.

This is how you do an "origin" episode and develop characters. Rather than simply having a guest star randomly tell us something about DiNozzo, he relived the past while working with Jason King in the present.

That night made both men who they are today - former and current members of the Baltimore P.D., respectively, as it turns out. Had Tony not saved Jason, he wouldn't have lived to serve others so bravely.

Just as significantly, it was a defining moment in DiNozzo's life.

Gaius Charles on NCIS

Rescuing Jason inspired Tony to pursue a career in law enforcement, which ultimately led him to Gibbs and NCIS. The event shaped both individuals immeasurably, though not without tragic, long-lasting repercussions.

You can't save them all. We're still here, she's not. Focus on the ones you can save. The elevator scene at the end was poignant and profound in its simplicity, sage advice from the veteran cop to his protege.

Tony's right, plain and simple. Had he gone back for Jason's sister, all three would have perished. Instead, the two survived and went on to save countless others, yet carry the weight of her loss to this day.

You can't save them all, but you can't forget those you don't. Jason was bitter to this day and after seeing the old photo, it was clear how much guilt Tony had repressed, even if he believes his own lesson.

Gaius Charles was terrific as Jason and Michael Weatherly was typically solid as Tony, who has been the brunt of jokes or (somewhat forced) introspective storylines this season but really shined this evening.

Charles wasn't just a one-note guest star vehicle for Tony flashbacks. As an arson investigator, King really knew his stuff, saving the day with the airlock and helping Abby arrive at the right chemical reaction.

Hopefully there will be an opportunity for him to return. This case certainly isn't over. Not unlike the thermite, this was a slow-burner of an episode, the beginning of an arc that could take weeks to play out.

The investigation featured multiple Gibbs interrogations, took us from an electronics warehouse to a cargo ship and a suburban driveway, and featured suspects ranging from a woman posing as an author to one of Baltimore's own fire investigators, whose death was the only predictable thing all night.

Rekindled Pic

Did anyone not voice "boom" out loud one second before he turned the key? The case came together too quickly for the team to nab the perpetrator(s) right then and there. This guy was merely the pawn.

The connection to the Navy was the missing piece that eluded Gibbs & Co. throughout the episode, as "Rekindled" weaved a tangled web of controlled burns and faulty wiring. Who knows where it may lead.

What we do know is that the Phantom Eight/Watcher Fleet was working to correct the wiring problems and that their AquaMarine (sp.?) mission has been heavily compromised. The question is by whom?

You had a feeling the Fleet and those shady microchips would resurface one of these days, even if they appear to be the victim(s) this time. Does this mean we'll see the return of Stratton? Or E.J.?

I wouldn't bet on either, but you never know, since NCIS arcs can be surprisingly elaborate for a show procedural in nature. With Gibbs' fears of terrorism clearly proven correct after the shocking explosion, international tie-ins with characters introduced on last week's open-ended episode are also a possibility.

As the first chapter of a saga guaranteed to continue in "Playing With Fire" (May 1, with NCIS off next Tuesday), it was an exemplary one. Hopefully I'll feel the same after watching the rest of the season.

A few stray observations before turning it over to your comments:

  • The NCAA Final Four has never been in Baltimore, nor has UCLA played Ohio State in it; I realize it's a fictional show but that was an oddly descriptive set-up for the story.
  • How terrifying was that locked-up arson "expert"?
  • Fire doesn't destroy evidence, it creates it.
  • McGee. So nerdy and so awesome.
  • Rule #8: Never assume.

What did you think of this week's NCIS? Discuss below!


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (245 Votes)

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


I thought that last nights episode was really slow. Not enough action these days and not enough TIVA. sorry but thats what i think?!?!?!


Rekindled was a great episode i loved the naval crime solving, jason character worked well with the cast i love to see him as a regular


This was a 5 start ep IMO. What a great episode, the guy from the wiring company was so convincingly a haughty pain in the a@@ and provided the humor, but Tony was wonderful and honest and heartbreaking. I don't tear up for NCIS very often, actually I yelled at the TV when Kate was killed, but this time the Tony/kid in elevator scene was awesome. I knew the Phantom Eight would be around at the end of the season, they are the ultimate Black Ops with no oversight kind of group that every government has and every government denies. Very exciting and who but Abby would give the automatic hug when the kid said he'd been in a fire? Loved everything in this episode.


YES I think the writers are back on track again. Such a good episode and I'm sure the end of the season will leave us all hanging again anxiously waiting to see what happens in the first episode of the new season.
I am glad to see the regular cast being featured again after all that's what makes this show the jewel that it is. I agree with the comment about this show ever going off. I realize there will be reruns, thank goodness, but there's not a lot out there to watch right now. The Closer and In Plain Sight are heading out unfortunately so it's getting to the point where there's a lot of reality shows UGH!!!!!! Guess I'll be doing more reading unless tv improves. NCIS LA is very good and I like it but I love NCIS so please writers continue to produce good stories featuring the cast so many of us love.


Nate they don't work in the spy business they work for the Naval Speaking of did everyone see the SPOILER about who coming back OMG i can not believe it I can't wait


I enjoyed reading the review as usual. Good solid ep, but not "5-star worthy" for me (haven't had one THAT good in awhile)as I wasn't on the edge of my seat as in the Brennan days, but still good. King acted the way a guest star SHOULD; he did not detract from the main cast. Tony annoyed me greatly in the 1st half for being such a Dunce. In real life he would have been BENCHED (and Gibbs was ready to) for wearing new/inappropriate footwear to a crime scene. He should know better by now. But the 2nd half was much better; loved hearing the Jason/Tony backstory. As for Ziva/Tim/Tony/Abby "already knowing" stuff about each other -; they work in the SPY business. They have constant access to info so they SHOULD already know most of the time.


This was an awesome episode. It was so nice not having a "big name actor", and just the team. McGee is back!!!! He is looking healthy and sounding better. He's my favorite. It's so nice to see positive comments about the show rather than arguing about Tiva and Ribbs. Keep up the good work it really makes a difference to us!!!


i admitt NOT watching last night....mainly because, i've gotten SICK of tony being the BUTT of everyone's joke, the LACK of RESPECT from gibbs and the other team members.....gibbs NOT showing his 2nd in command the RESPECT he deserves for putting up with his crap for 10yrs. tony would NOT still with NCIS if he wasn't GOOD at his job. alisa


Good writing. After such a long run the show still has good legs. Keep up the good work. Bravo Zulu!


This was a good episode-It's nice to be able to write that!!This is how you use a guest star. Jason did not take away from the team-he helped them. For me this was a team episode. It was good to see Abby and McGee have more to do.Enjoyed how McGee and Ziva asked Tony about what happened and were very proud of him-as they should be.
Loved the elevator scene between Tony and Jason-MW was amazing!!

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