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.


No doubt about it,...consensus on an excellent episode.
This one really showed the versatility of Weatherly....prissy with his new boots look in the first scene all the way through to the spill your guts elevator scene with Charles at the end.
I like the way the writers are casting McGee in a much more 'mature' light now---think he deserves it after all these years!
My only complaint is having to wait 2 weeks before catching the sequel "Playing with Fire"!!?


Man NCIS we sure have miss you so nice for you to come back to us I hope we get more of these which it sound like we might I am so glad their bringing back the people they screw over in january maybe they can bring EJ and Ray back and fix them too


Bravo!!! Far and away the best episode (and beginning to an arc) since the Ari/Ziva/Kate/Gibbs masterpiece!!!


Where is Jimmy Palmer or as Ducky likes to call him Mr.Palmer. I so hope they show Autospy gremlin and Brenna's wedding (i think i spell her name right).

Josie leeds

ALL RIGHT! Back on track--guess the writers finally got the message: ain't broke, don't try to fix it! Solid beginning to season-closing arc. Then, we have to (im)patiently wait until what?October? I miss the "old" days when a series ran weekly from Sept-June. Good spotlight on Weatherly's actual acting chops instead of the usual I-am-such-a-hottie schtick. Also glad to see 'McGee' looking a lot healthier and a lot less reactive to the "Probie" crap dished out by the others.


this is definitely the start of a bigger plot........too bad we got to wait 2 weeks...........Great episode


finally getting back to the great show that NCIS is known for.


Great show! Back to basics....solving crimes. The Tony side story fit in with the plot. The best item of the night was Sean Murray looking healthy and sounding better.


fantastic fantastic episode - still the best show on TV - at one point though I was thinking the arson investigator had something to do with the crimes -


So true. This is the way to do an origin episode. I felt cheated with Ziva(last 2 years) and Abby(her brother)origin episodes. I hated Eli's reuniting with Ziva (was more about that other little Israeli)Monique ep gave us more Dr. Ryan and no reason that Ziva and Monique were friends and Abby origin was just non-existant. It wasn't overly soppy and the ending was interesting

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