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NCIS Review: Hashtag Rescue

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The first NCIS episode without Ziva was fast-paced and still interesting, which is hardly surprising, given the quality of writing for this show.

"Under the Radar" introduced us to a spitfire of an agent in the person of Vera Strickland (played by Roma Maffia Nip/Tuck fame), who was a former partner of Mike Franks. She assisted the team in the investigation of a Navy Lieutenant who was planning to kill his air school classmates out of spite and revenge because he washed out of the running for Navy flight competency.

Strickland's charm came in two parts: her ability and willingness to shoot from the hip - loudly - and her ability to make Gibbs laugh. That last one was startling, as we're not used to seeing the all-knowing impatient agent even grin very much.

Special Agent Strickland

I think her presence in this episode - which will likely be her only appearance - proved something important: Tony needs a foil, which is a role Ziva used to play quite well. He needs someone to spark against. McGee provides somewhat of an opposite to him, but just barely and only in a slightly underdog way. Vera was Ziva squared: she knew him by reputation and wanted nothing to do with him. Even his rescue of her didn't change her mind: she ended up with a sprained ankle out of the deal. I liked her, though, and wish there was hope we could see more of her in future episodes. 

Although it has to be said: there was no way she could take Ziva's place. I was relieved at learning that she was about to retire.

Speaking of Ziva's place... her desk has become somewhat of a shrine these days. The rest of the team doesn't want anyone sitting at her spot - least of all Vera. I was surprised when Gibbs steered her to another spot, one that was much more cramped than Ziva's. Guess Gibbs is going to have to find someone exceptional for that spot; he can't just put anyone there. When Ziva's phone rang, the tension was terrific. 

It was pleasantly surprising to see what the writers did with Tony for this episode. He was a lot less of a joker, much more of a serious and dangerous dude this time around. In spite of his head-to-head with Vera, he became a sort of super-Tony at the bomb-seller's place: tackling Vera to get her out of the way of the fleeing truck, then turning around, aiming and shooting out the tire of the truck, bringing it to a stop. Then he took the guy into custody and with Gibbs providing assistance, got the guy to confess. That's the Tony we've been looking for. Then of course there was this:

Tony: Want to take a ride, Vera?
Vera: Bite me. | permalink

The use of social media to track the low-flying plane was a bit fantastic. The technology of it certainly appealed to this techno-geek, but the probability seemed a bit off. Now that we know that cellphones and cameras contain meta-data that provide location information, and that tweets often contain such data as well, it's not a stretch to imagine various tweets providing a sort of data map to show the trajectory of the lieutenant's plane.  

Theoretically it can be done. The probability of enough tweeters being around during the middle of the day with nothing to do but be outside - in the daylight even! - and tweeting their responses to NCIS' request for help just sort of tiptoes past the bounds of believability. Still, we were entertained, weren't we? And besides, it gave us a reason to ensure that McGee and company got to visit the White House afterward, which effectively cancelled McGee's troubles about the misplaced credentials.

I wondered about Lieutenant Keith's plan and why it was he had duct tape around his hand.  When Gibbs talked him out of blowing up the ship and he turned his plane around, it just all seemed too easy. I thought maybe the show didn't have enough money for the special effects necessary to show the plane being shot down. Turns out Keith was holding onto a dead man's switch. Too bad he couldn't keep it together long enough to land the plane. 

Final notes:

  • There's a lot of bro-love between Palmer and Ducky isn't there? Ducky pretty much bent over backwards accommodating Mr. Palmer's incredibly annoying phone ringtones, all to support the latter's upcoming baby adoption.
  • I had no idea Palmer's wife was a mortician. That'll make for some interesting conversation with prospective birth mothers.
  • Tony had to give a small dig to McGee about his girlfriend. Nice to see a nod in that direction, as it mean's we're definitely going to see more of her soon.
  • Check out some of the other NCIS quotes from this episode.
  • For once, Gibbs wasn't able to talk someone into something (notably, Eugene, who wanted to make sure McGee got the Naval slap he deserved for his mess with the ID). The fact that Vance stepped in for the save was fascinating. Okay, technically it was the President who saved him, but at least Vance got the assist.
  • Last night Pauley Perrette (@PauleyP) sent out a tweet asking her followers to send out tweets with Gibbs' line #WhatsAHashtag in support of this episode.

What are your thoughts? Would you like to see Vera back again? Were you satisfied with this Ziva-less episode? What do you think of Tony? Sound off on all things NCIS below!

Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 (214 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter

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Sorry, but I thought this was one of the WORST episodes ever. Everyone looked bored, plot was so thin, felt like no one connected with each other and I didn't care about the pilot. I hope that Roma doesn't join the show- I found her annoying and not funny. NCIS has been so successful because of the interesting story lines, clever humor, intelligent characters and ones with depth. I think the writers took the easy way out with this episode. Please Gibbs smiles many times-especially because of Abby. I thought Palmer's antics were unprofessional and McGee losing his credentials was not funny. I think the team should have talked a little bit more about Ziva being gone- would have helped bring closure for the team and Gibbs. Lets hope next week's script is more cohesive

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That was a seriously fun episode. I have so missed the team working together as a team and humor that is actually humorous, not nasty or cutting. Not only did I not miss ziva, I also found myself questioning what purpose she actually served on the show, especially in the last few seasons.
There is no way the show could ever be this fun and the stories this well thought out and wonderfully written if she was still around. It was like a breath of fresh air and I enjoyed every second of it.
Bonus points for having Gibbs and Tony actually smile and laugh again. That was my biggest wish for season 11.
If Under the Radar is an example of what this new season has in store for the rest of the season, I'm even more excited than I thought I was!!
5 stars all the way!

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First - I believe it was mentioned during their engagement that Breena was a mortician and had been elected head of her local union chapter.
Second - during Mike Franks' time as an agent a woman agent could have probably fit in as "one of the guys" by out drinking her fellow agents or telling dirtier jokes or driving a bigger motorcycle. That sounds like Vera to me.
Third - if it had been a big concert for a band with a cult like following followed by college kids going on fall break I could see a lot of them being out somewhere (hiking, boating, driving around, etc.) where they could spot a low flying plane. The area shown on the map is very rural farm country but a lot of people from DC and Maryland would go to the Chesapeake Bay on a pretty weekend for recreation. I live in Virginia so I know the area they're talking about.
Lastly, I do think the show let McGee off a little too easy for losing his badge. That's a big deal and they have procedures for that sort of thing so I don't think Gibbs or Vance can get him out of it.

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Bad review - considering how many people use twitter, it is extremely likely that this could very well have happened. Plus if you didn't know that Brina is a mortician you probably shouldn't be writing the review. You clearly don't know the show very well.

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They need to hire another agent to replace Ziva. Great to see Gibbs smile. He should do more of that. I enjoyed the episode.

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Didn't like Strickland. Im finding it hard to believe that Mike Franks ever had a female partner, as he always struck me as a chauvinist (remember his reaction to learning Jenny Shep was the director?). A product of his times. I can't imagine that same reaction, if he had a competent female partner. *shrug* to me, that was an immersion breaker. Didn't miss Ziva much. Wish they would worry more about a team member that 'fit' rather than find a token female to place there.

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Ziva was a huge spark on that show and I sorely missed her last night. I am going to give NCIS a few more episodes but if it still feels off I am going to stop watching. I loved Ziva and all she brought to NCIS.

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I enjoyed the episode, thought that the references to Ziva were spot on. Roma was a gift, because we saw Gibbs actually really smile! Don't know if I would like her all the time, maybe every now and then, as she is a bit overwhelming. Still am NOT looking forward to McGee's "girlfriend", as Abby fills that title perfectly. Tony was outstanding, he is such a trooper, can do anything asked of him. Vance, Ducky and Palmer all were great also.

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I thought this was an excellent job. They did a great job of acknowledging the loss of Ziva without wallowing in it. Loved Vera and her interactions with Gibbs and Tony, especially. Having the humor back is much appreciated. We've known from the beginning that Brina was a mortician. Palmer told the gang when he first talked about her and showed her picture around. I'm looking forward to future episodes. I don't know how I'll feel about Bishop until I've seen her episodes. But I liked Kate and liked Ziva, too, so doubt there will be a misstep.

Terrie

I must be in the minority here because I didn't think this was one of their better episodes...........I guess the writers were exhausted given the time crunch they were under because of Cote DePablo's exit........... I'm in agreement about Twitter being used in the way it was in the episode..........the chances are very slim that that many people would be out in the middle of the day in the area depicted and see an airplane. What exactly was the purpose of Vera Strickland? Especially IF she was only going to be used for the one episode? Was it because Mike Franks is going to be on next week? Was it because she made Gibbs smile?? I guess I am missing something there.......... I don't think we've seen the last of McGee's girlfriend..........I'm looking for some good stuff with her, McGee and Abby.............. Going to be interesting going forward to see how they handle Ziva's departure..........

NCIS Season 11 Episode 3 Quotes

Tony: Want to take a ride, Vera?
Vera: Bite me.

Vance: Hang on. Agent McGee isn't going anywhere.
Eugene: Director.
Vance: Agent McGee and the rest of his team's presence has just been requested at the White House. His clever strategy just saved countless lives and a multi-billion dollar weapons system.
Gibbs: Yeah we'll get back to you on that, Eugene.

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