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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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For those of us who live in the Midwest and are interested in seeing another episode of NCIS. According to my CBS NCIS TV Schedule, an episode will air Friday 10/12 at the regular time and same station. The episode is from Season 9.

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My last one did not conclude, so here goes. I was saying that you should listen to the story and know how Tony was brought up. His actions are only a plea for acceptance. As for Tiva, I hope they will do what is best for the show. Thanks

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I would like to make a few comments to Sadtonyfan and all who would like to read this. As I have stated in the past, I'm a Tony fan. For those of you who get the Twitter from MW, you possibly should have seen the video for Quick Take TV Guide with MW. One of the questions they asked him was "what is good for a pilot for a new series?" He stated that the most important was humor, and then always do more than expected. The words he used were "Don't just hit your mark and bark. Do the maximum and more". I have read before that he is in favor of the humor and has free license to ad lib. Also he has directed one or two episodes and will be doing more in the future. If MW was unhappy about the situation, he probably would not have signed a two year contract or do publicity for NCIS.
As for Tony, the reason he acts the way he does (Sorry to the McGee followers, my friend is a McGee follower) is that he is looking for acceptance. Listen to the story and you will learn about how he was brought up. As for Tiva, I hope they will do the best for the show. Thank you.

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@Meg - A few years ago MW himself became concerned at the way his character was being written. SB demeaned and diminished Tony's character every chance he got in order to give us super Ziva. GG seems to condone the humiliation scenes just as much. He just lets Tony occasionally do something not bone headed. When Tony told McGee at the firing range "better let me handle this" - I cringed. There was no doubt he was about to be humiliated was there? And of course we got the head slap and Tony's crass "old coot" comment. I'd say that tptb go out of their way still, to make Tony the most unappealing character on the show. Meanwhile super Ziva takes the lead and does all the talking in their scenes and now gets all the sympathetic moment scenes with victims or team members. Tony's character has become as insignificant as McGee. It's the super Gibbs and super Ziva show now. As a Tony fan, it's really disappointing. (Not to mention predictable and boring)

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To quote Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally": YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! This is Ducky as we ALL knew Ducky could be.
David McCallum should get an EMMY for this ep;he hasn't had this much fun
since his 'Man From UNCLE' days,and I remember those well. If Dr. Mallard is indeed leaving,this will be remembered as HIS FINEST HOUR.

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RE: having to do with woodworking,
Its interesting that Gibbs has been shown as a very traditional woodworker, with very few power tools. Not only that, this year we're seeing him actually start a project with some majorly large pieces of raw lumber, practically a whole tree on the saw horses, as it were. He did mention some episodes back, I think, something about a larger boat and then needing a larger space to build this project. It would be a possible 'end of Gibbs' set up for him to finish a 30-40 footer, then to sail off into the sunset, alone.
Who knows? Maybe its just that Abby deserves a nicer coffin, er bed. heh heh.

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Of course part of the set up was Ducky's assigning Gibbs as the executor of his estate last season. Writers don't include scenes like that for no reason. This part of the setup could be used at any time, not necessarily this season. It would make a somewhat creative wrap up to the series as a whole, if Ducky were to die, leaving a bunch of money to the various team members, and supplying each with a host of options for 'moving on' with their lives.
Being open ended like that was rather creative, albeit sad. I'd like a few more seasons please, with the whole team. More scenes of Ducky driving his Morgan plus four around.

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This ep is almost like Ducky's swan song as a regular on the series. He had so much fun trying to lead the investigation, and seemed rather sad when it was over.
Its almost like we're being set up for his 'moving on' to some new position, not in NCIS.

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I loved this episode, and I thought it was the best one so far this season. Good team interaction and just good fun! Lots and lots of teasing though--almost touch too much, which I don't like. I'll take my two hunks Tony and Tim, anyday. Their scenes were priceless in this episode. In regards to the comments above about Tony's behavior and treatment of Tim --
No one on this team could ever top Gibbs--with all the grumpy, growling, snarling, and head smacking he does in each episode. I am sorry, but if anyone should get written up or fired, it should "start" anyway with him, then Tony etc etc. (I still love them all though---great/unique characters.

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Liked the episode, would have liked to see more Tiva, but based on what GG & MW said in Cannes earlier this week, it is getting close. Love the Tiva, love the Ziva