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NCIS Review: Are You Ready to Rock!?

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NCIS was a rocking good time tonight, and not just because of an eccentric '80s one-hit wonder or a faux lunar sample.

"Phoenix" featured an unorthodox case with an unexpected team member running point. None other than Dr. Mallard got to run the show this week after Gibbs evoked Rule #38 (see Gibbs rules): Your case, your lead

How did Ducky end up in such an unfamiliar position, and how did the recovering M.E. handle it?

Ducky Takes the Lead

Inspired by an obituary, he exhumed the body of Commander Roberts, who died 12 years ago after what Ducky no longer believed was an accident. Coincidentally, his cold case quickly tied into the team's latest victim.

Rather than relieve him because he wasn't cleared to work in a medical capacity on a current case, Gibbs let the team's elder statesman run the investigation. A class move, and the old man didn't let him down.

TV shows obviously take liberties (such as the slim chance this would be permitted), and the instant tie-in with the new bodies was a bit convenient, although Roberts' exhumation did indirectly influence Sgt. Hill's case.

In any event, it was a lighter installment with plenty of fun character moments, and a great opportunity for David McCallum to shine as Ducky, a terrific character so often regulated to his subterranean autopsy world.

Not that he wasn't thrilled to go back when he was cleared at the end - have you ever seen someone so relieved to pick up a bone saw and chat up a corpse again? - but he relished and made the most of his new role.

Ducky-centric episodes are few and far between, and perhaps because of that it's even more of a treat to watch McCallum at work. The 79-year-old still commands the screen as a vital cog in the NCIS machine.

The "Phoenix" formula wouldn't work every week, but it was hard not to smile tonight.

Gibbs' Basement

Obviously struggling with his own mortality in the aftermath of his heart attack and stuck in neutral professionally, Ducky was as revitalized being back in the game as he was unsettled being on the shelf last week.

Dealing with the living is a different ballgame, as he learned from his conversation with his original victim's daughter. The human component is different when one's invesitgative role involves ... breathing humans.

Minor obstacles aside, the bow-tied one acquitted himself well as acting special agent, be it examining evidence or conducting interrogations. Plus, he get to boss around DiNozzo in addition to Palmer. Who wouldn't enjoy that.

Abby helped uncover the link to a falsified lunar sample (fake moon dirt) that connected the two cases. More significantly, the forensic wiz was clearly back to her old self mentally. The big kaboom is a distant memory.

The trail briefly went cold, but then heated up again with a different focus after Tim and Tony tracked down another would-be buyer of Hill's. They weren't counting on who, and what, they found in Del Finney.

The aging rock star on the run from creditors, played by real-life '80s rocker Michael Des Barres, was a hoot. Since he wasn't guilty of buying black market WMDs in the end, maybe he'll pop up again down the road.

Ultimately, the previously-introduced, thoroughly-creepy one-time head of NASA's Protective Rock Services division (is that a real thing?) was revealed as the guilty party. Game, set, match, Ducky.

No sooner had cuffs been placed on the perp than Ducky was cleared to return to his actual job. Ziva remarked that the team was whole again. Is she right? Or will the effects of the bombing resurface down the line?

NCIS Ready to Rock!

Another enjoyable night of NCIS overall. The case wasn't the heaviest or most intense, but that's fine. Over the course of the season you need that nice balance, and hopefully we'll continue to experience that.

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

  • You gotta love Gibbs' "kids" Tony, Tim and Ziva ganging up on Palmer at the crime scene.
  • Of course the lei and Mai Tai are Abby's interpretation of what Gibbs is like on the inside.
  • For a nerd who goes to Star Trek conventions, Timothy McGee is quite the marksman!
  • What is Gibbs building down there? Is Ducky somehow involved in this new project?
  • The show is off next week due to the second presidential debate, then back October 23.

What did you think of tonight's NCIS episode? Discuss below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
  • 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (201 Votes)

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

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Oh, for the love of NutterButter!!! All this "SAD", incessant whining over a character NO fan will EVER be able to control since the show bosses have set the tone for what THEY want him to be is making me thirsty!!! Anybody got an extra Caf-Pow?????

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@boonies - you're right. And the sad thing for Tony fans is, he used to be a character with more dimension, purpose, and importance, and consequently the show was far more clever and interesting because MW, in addition to fulfilling the roles you accurately described, is a wonderful nuanced actor. When his character was written with more depth, the show sparkled in a way that it no longer does. Striving to feature an actress simply because she is very pretty, and appealsl to a younger demographic has created a show with far less depth and intelligence.

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Well, IMO Tony's role has 3 parts: play 2nd banana, provide comic relief, and be eye candy. He does them all very well. I'm sure most of the other secondary cast members would kill to get the screen time he has. He's a member of the team...nothing more. I just wish the stories would improve. The writing leaves plot holes you could drive a truck through.

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@MzLady - Once again, after making broad proclamations that reflect nothing more than the posters own opinions, you claim that you won't "waste time" listing the things she - claims - are apparent. That is such transparent BS. Nat can't list them because they don't exist. And as usual the arrogant non reply gives me the choices to leave or suck it up, as if you have the authority to make this happen. You and Nat and others who see what they want to see, just can't take opposing opinions that mess up your little tiva world, where the lovely, tragic and perfect Ziva condescendingly puts up with the inferior man that Tony is because deep down she's such an amazing person. I see her as abusive, cruel, arrogant, self absorbed, and stiff as a board. Tony would do well to run away as fast as he could. But in order to appeal to teenage mentality, you may be right. This may be the year of tiva.

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@Nat & Dani - Great job. Point made!! I'd like to step in, so that we can end this. "Sad" fan..Nat already DID make her point. She is backed up by virtually everyone who posts on this site, and by the site runners themselves. You clearly don't read the reviews OR the RT discussions. More importantly...the Series backs up what Nat said. CBS backs her up. She doesn't need to waste time comparison listing out the "faults" of every team member, when anyone who's actually WATCHED the series can see the human imperfections for themselves. It sounds like YOU have chosen to only see what you WANT to see. You have two options at this point: Either "troll away" your sorrows on here & remain "Sad", or Change the Channel on your remote & get GLAD. NCIS is what it is, period. Case Closed.

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--continued:
The thing about the Gibbs character is that his back-story doesn't show him as being the creative managing lead type. He's more the brute-force, plow straight ahead, always use the same approach type of character. Which is fine for a team leader.
What is needed is a strategic planning, managerial, let's prepare for such and such contingency type of character. Unfortunately, this is not how the Vance character has been portrayed up to now. He should have been; it would make the series stronger, as well as more interesting, in its plot logic. Maybe the series creative team needs some help with this type of thinking. Its less reactionary and more pro-active.

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@Dani and Nat You two are SO funny making up lies acting like you two know Michael Weathlery and Gary like you live with them You two are a Joke you guys don't know a thing about NCIS or the REAL tony character and guess what Twitter does not count as a real sources because there are manys of people who use Michael Weatherly as a twitter name. Maybe you two should stop dirnking the Ziva kool-aid and accpted that Tiva is not going to happen and that its nothing more then a wet dream

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Critical to the ongoing success of any show is how well the various main characters play off one another. The Tony character has been shown as the "class clown", allowing him to provide much of the material used to display the bi-play. MW has proven to be very effective in this roll. He has also proven skillfully to play as the strong team lead, saving the lives of both Gibbs, and, I think, Jenny Sheppard.
This allows the Gibbs character to be more simplistic(strong, silent type), one-dimensional and stodgy. The Gibbs character seems to have been well developed, and completely self-consistent. Fans might not want Gibbs to display too many surprises.

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@Nat - you still haven't pointed out the obvious faults that are written for Ziva, Gibbs, or McGee. Were you just making that up, or can you actually back your assertion up? Also, calling me "sad" in a not so thinly veiled attempt to insult me doesn't do anything but make it rather obvious that you can't back up your post where it seems you're just pulling stuff out of your a-- and claiming they are true because you said so and wrote in CAPS.

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@Dani - ICAM. You should know by now that "Michael" likes to post bum-foolish comments that make no sense. He thrives on acting like a Dunce. @"Sad" Tonyfan - Not to be mean, but YOU are kind of sad, in the fact that you don't even KNOW the present Tony, which is why you can't appreciate how far he's come. Any "joke butt" Tim has experienced has almost ALWAYS been initiated by Tony!! Your comments sound like you're in DENIAL about Tony's deepening feelings for Ziva, and vice versa. THAT'S why he's "off his game" in attracting other women. That is the POINT the writers are making. You clearly haven't heard a word Mr. Glasberg & MW have said lately about what's getting ready to happen. Better change the channel before it gets even worse for you. You won't be happy with Season 10, for sure.