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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!

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (244 Votes)

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

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@ Melissa Part two is called "Playing with Fire." It will be aired on May 1.

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My only real issue with this episode was the creepy imprisoned, 'Magic' arsonist. The one who is over the top, at one with the mystical spirituality, anthropomorphic nature and 'perfection' of fire. It's been done, and done again.
But this is a minor complaint, and even with the technical infractions, i.e. burning all that thermite in the lab, etc. I still enjoy the show.
Of course it wouldn't be Wednesday if I didn't complain about Abby not being allowed to grow up. She's a smart, beautiful woman, perfectly at ease with herself, why does she still need to bother with the goth/punk thing?

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You know uss Biddle we don't care that you dumped NCIS why did you write unless you watch it. well 18 million people do watch it every week and 30+ million world wide watch it so don't tell us your troubles!!!

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Steve, who is editor of TV Fanatic, PLEASE get a new reviewer for Glee, I beg you...that Matt guy hates every episode and everything about Glee, yet he supposedly is "reviewing" each episode, when all he does is complain, with nary a kind word for what is an awesome musical show. Please get someone who is from the Midwest and who was actually in a Glee club, or who understands musical theater, please.
Anyway, on to NCIS, which was wonderful this week. Though I am not a fan of Tony DiBozo, I did feel that Weatherly did an excellent job on this episode with his character...especially in the elevator at the end. I loved seeing Ducky, Abby and McGee, my favorites, work their magic on the evidence, as usual. This show is so well done, I can't imagine them taking it off the air eventually. I think it will go down in TV history as one of the most iconic shows to grace the small screen

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Not my favorite one other than seeing a part of Tony I never saw before. I didn't like how they ended it with that threat plus another bomb on the ship and a no 2 prater or new episode next week. So will they just drop this and bring something new to the table? or continue on with this story? I never was left like that watching this show before I was so disipointed. no new one till may 1st??? please tell me its a 2nd one to this one!!!

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This episode was simply superb. Such a beautifully crafted superbly acted episode.. the Tony and Jason stuff was just amazing.

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Really enjoyed this ep. The first half was a bit slow,but the secend half picked up and everything clicked into place. I find it telling that Tony shows the team (and the world) his silly,squishy side, but hides the noble, heroic parts of himself. Michael Weatherly was amazing, peeling down another layer of his character, in a lovely nuanced performance. Loved Ziva and McGee hearing about the kid episode from Tony,instead of them already being aware of it (as with Tony turning down Rota, and his engagement to Wendy), and their supportive, show of empathy after hearing the story. This was a perfect little coda to the Baltimore/Wendy/kid backstory that's been played out since last season. Also loved McGee, and awesome ending!

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Wonderful character revelation on DiNozzo, the last scene in the elevator ROCKED!!!!!!!!! And, as a journeyman carpenter, I understood his wanting to keep the new work boots clean for at least the first day! Impossible, of course, but totally understood.

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Is there a rule number for "I don't believe in coincidences." Jason and Tony just "happened" to be acquainted years ago?

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It's always a little hokey to see a flashback (on any show) where one of the star characters (ie DeNozo or a younger probie Gibbs) appears 20 years younger. It always looks goofy to see them 'made up' to 'look younger' when they only look the same - phoney. A nice touch to have a flashback, but hard to do. (eg. Revenge is another)

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