NCIS Review: True Honor

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Richard Parsons would have flipped his wig if he had ever learned how far Gibbs and the late Mike Franks had bent the rules.

While the story in "Anonymous Was a Woman" revolved around the "honor killing" death of an Afghan woman (masquerading as a Navy sergeant) the deeper story was one of regret. The profound and thoughtful universe behind Gibbs' quiet demeanor was ripped wide open for the viewers, but not at all for the rest of the NCIS team. And what a sight it was.

Mike Franks' Support

Who knew that Gibbs had lived with such a horrible memory? The flashback scenes with him and Franks rumbled with portent and angst, as the two men battled out the tension between lawful duty and the rescue of abused girls and women from certain death. While we always knew Franks was one of the truly good guys, we got an amazing look at what made him such a credit to the human race. I mean, what a guy! 

Not content with just saving one girl from a life of horror, Franks went on to run a sort of - as he put it - underground railroad for endangered Afghan girls and women.  

I like how Gibbs found out Elina's story:

Gibbs: Where are your parents? Your mother? father?
Elina: Sold me to man.
Gibbs: What man?
Elina: Husband. Old. Like you. | permalink

Gibbs laughed, only then getting a glimpse into what Franks was up to. 

The writing stayed true to Gibbs' no-nonsense character, while showing us the grey area that he at the time refused to see or even acknowledge: that sometimes you have to do what's right, even if it means breaking the rules. The argument between him and Franks (captured in the NCIS quotes for this episode) showed the painful points, and Gibbs' fateful decision to not help Franks in that one instance. It was a decision that ended in the deaths of the six women that Franks had wanted to help. 

There was one comment that Gibbs made that showed the enormity of Franks' efforts: How do you choose, Mike? Who do you pick? The subtext: "you can't save them all." Franks never answered, but you get the sense that he's thinking "maybe not, but you can do what you can do, at least."

Interesting that, in trying to follow the law-and-order example of his boss, Tony initially decided to report the refugees in America to Immigration... until Gibbs overruled him. And Tony had really no idea why, but he knew that he had to follow orders, not just because it was required but because he trusted that Gibbs knew what he was doing.

Trust the writers - in this case, a grateful nod to Steven D. Binder - for once again building the terrific tension by putting Gibbs front and center with the menacing locals in Kabul. Everything: Gibbs standing tall with arms folded, McGee watching his six, Tony relaying the satellite positioning of the locals and the individual attacks on Gibbs prior to his rescue by the U.N. team served to keep us on the edge of our seats. 

You have to imagine that, though, that while McGee and Catherine Tavier (the woman who ran the Afghan women's shelter) praised Gibbs for standing up to the locals, and for bringing the women to the U.S., his thoughts were still on the women who died years earlier because he refused to help them. He did the right thing this time, but it doesn't erase his earlier actions. 

Final notes:

  • McGee and Tony kid each other a lot, but when Tony's not around, Tim has his back, as we saw when he busted Palmer for snooping at Tony's desk. Tony's worry about McGee while the latter was in Kabul was real, too: we don't ever hear him say stuff like be careful Tim.
  • Seems like Tony has changed even more than we realized: the letters in his desk, written to women he has dated, indicate a man who is a little less glib and a lot more thoughtful than he was before.
  • Tony got Gibbsmacked. Haven't seen that one in a while.
  • Eventually, Gibbs is going to have to find a replacement for Ziva, even though Tony and McGee don't see the need. Their relief that Special Agent Susan Grady (played by Jackie Geary) had no intention of applying for the position was palpable.
  • Revealed:  Gibbs' rule number 14. Bend the line. Don't break it. 

One final quote that sums the NCIS close-knit team dynamic, and then it's over to you for your thoughts on this episode:

Grady: You all really care. About the job, but also about each other.
Tony: Well sometimes it's a pain in the ass. | permalink


Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (196 Votes)

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



I'd love to see Tony and McGee or Tony and Gibbs go overseas. Can't wait for next week's episode. Love Tony!


I would like to see more of NCIS traveling overseas to solve crimes. Last season, I think they did that twice, once for the dog episode, and in Berlin. Gibbs just standing there is something that he would do no matter what, but I think we should see fight more often than we do.


The last show was not that great. You need ziva back. Plus in episode 141 in zivas dads office at the end it shows a pic of ziva ,her brother, and a 3rd kid. Why not bring in the 3rd kid as zivas little sister. She can replace ziva. But I sure miss her. the last 2 women on the last 2 shows are boreing.


@Big oops going to lose $100. Every episode over 18mil so far, against a supposed NCIS slayer as touted by the critics and Joss Whedon lovers. Hows that going? I figure that with DVR +7 it'll be averaging over 20 mil easy.


Also wanted to speculate on Gibbs' ethics (and not at all with any sure sense of rightness regarding this thought) that Gibbs killing the drug lord who killed his family did not violate the sentiments of Semper Fi, that it certainly was illegal, but it was outside the service, not using naval-marine resources as if they were yours to use or the service they belonged to wasn't important in your own eyes (as, say, Franks determining his mission was higher than the service he was a part of). Like maybe the line Gibbs referred to in "Where do you draw it?" meant where do you draw the line when it comes to using and stealing from the Navy-Marines for what you think is the right thing to do???


@DaleR -- Important point (I think): it was Gibbs' first wife who told him about the rules when he first met her at the bus stop (I think it was). A thing I thought this episode did really well (as in an ethics lecture to draw your own conclusions from) is that Franks decided he needed to take the law into his own hands and that what he was doing took precedence over his Naval service and all the oaths he swore to them (I don't know if Franks was Marines like Gibbs). Gibbs felt guilty about the girls who died because he didn't violate his oaths and sneak; however, he still didn't as he saved the current group of women in front of his superiors -- completely different.


The episode was a good portrayal of the horrible lives that Afghani women endure. The characters were used to illustrate that point. Not a fun message to hear but one worth making. But, in terms of the NCIS universe, the most telling take-away here is rule #14: Bend the line, don’t break it. Over the years, Gibbs has been criticized for breaking the law when he felt it was appropriate. (i.e. It’s okay for him to kill Pedro Herandez but not okay for Pedro’s children to kill Gibbs for the same reason.) Or, as Parsons put it “I believe in upholding the law, Gibbs. And I'm tired of watching you break it.� Okay, so the writers are working to address this, as evidenced by Parsons and Rule #14. But, number 14? In order to have a number that low, it must have been in place for decades, as in prior to Gibbs getting married for the first time.
It used to be possible to describe Gibbs’ behavior as a man who follows his own rules but disregards society’s rules when it suits him. But, now that Rule 14 has been revealed, Gibbs has also been revealed as someone who doesn’t even follow his own rules. Yeah, I know, Rule 51. And everyone is flawed, including television characters. Maybe it’s me but it seems a bit of a leap to describe Mike’s underground railroad as “human trafficking�. Human trafficking is a bad thing. Helping people escape horrific circumstances is a good thing. I wonder if Gibbs would have had the same objection if they weren’t using stolen Navy IDs in the process. It just feels off to me somehow. On different note: would it have hurt to them to end an episode with a short message expressing solidarity with their real life co-workers in the Navy Yard? I know, the real NCIS moved out of the Navy Yard a while ago. But the tv show NCIS had been the public face of the Navy Yard for years before the shooting occurred. It seems lame for them to just ignore the whole thing.


Mark Harmon is a great actor and has become symbolic as the silver haired fox. But this season he has started to look more his age (62). Unless its makeup, his skin is spotting, his has the sore above his lip, the wrinkles around his eyes and he eyes do not sparkle. And he looks thinner. The energy is not there.


Ick! In real Afghanistan, as in the story, they are throwing acid in the faces of girls who try to study, or commit a long list of "crimes. That McGee would walk out and leave those girls to whatever torture the men had planned was one of two things: shameful or not credible. As for Gibbs kicking him out, again, choose shameful or not credible. Since these are supposed to be strong men who protect those who need protecting, I will vote for not credible,
At the end of last season, NCIS was credited with 22M+ viewers. Three weeks in this season, 17M. I think there is a wake up call here. Somebody better decide where his show is going, and fast Otherwise I have $100 that it is not renewed. May not even make it to Christmas.


Following the promo I'm really excited about week's episode, though it's odd to have two consecutive flash back episodes and making Michael Weatherly look 15 years younger is going to be interesting…..

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NCIS Season 11 Episode 4 Quotes

Franks: Have you lost all shred of human decency? This is not a game! This is life or death to these women.
Gibbs: You don't know that.
Franks: The hell I don't! These girls are in danger, even in the shelters! And when the U.S. finishes its military pullout, it's game over for them. Look at them. Look at their faces.
Gibbs: I'm a federal agent, and I cannot lend material support to a human smuggling operation.
Franks: When did you start caring about the rules?
Gibbs: My rules!
Franks: Yeah? Which ones?
Gibbs: Rule 10: Never get personally involved on a case. Rule 14: bend the line, don't break it. Human smuggling breaks it.
Franks: You already got involved once. Or don't you remember how Layla and Amira got here?
Gibbs: How do you choose, Mike? Huh? Who do you pick? You can start it, but how do you stop it? You're not God.
Franks: He's sitting this one out.
Gibbs: I can't do it. Can't do it.

Grady: You all really care. About the job, but also about each other.
Tony: Well sometimes it's a pain in the ass.