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NCIS Review: Murder Swap Bingo

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Isn't it great to know that the angst NCIS fans have had about Tony's yo-yo behavior over the past few episodes was justified?  

On NCIS Season 10, the ongoing discussion was about the "Tiva" dynamic: we wanted to know when the unspoken chemistry between Tony and Ziva would finally be addressed.

This season the focus has changed. Now it's all about Tony and whether the cheese might be sliding just a little bit off of his cracker. And that was planned and - so far - executed perfectly by the show's writers.

Tony's Odd Behavior

The case of the week on NCIS Season 11 Episode 8 revolved around a puzzle that was reminiscent of the board game "Clue" as well as the movie "Throw Momma From The Train."

The premise for the murders was believable: the three A.A. members conspired to swap kills to their mutual benefit. Sergeant Justin Dunne would kill a bookie, who was owed a lot of money by Wendell Kaiser. In return, Kaiser would murder Olivia Chandler's elderly husband, so that she and her lover - Dunne - could live together off of the old man's fortune.  

The murderer in each case could not possibly be linked to their victims and each therefore had an iron-clad alibi. Which was pretty much what "Throw Momma From the Train" was about.

They might have gotten away with it, too, had Dunne's truck not been stolen and used in a drunken hit-and-run accident. He still might have escaped justice, except for the fact that his lawyer - Carrie Clark - had a conscience as prickly as Gibbs'.

Once we had a sense that Dunne had killed the bookie, I got a little impatient with Gibbs. Why not just give up the details to Detective Dockry and hand him over? Why drag it out?

Then it became clear: Clark had broken confidence with her client, albeit subtly, by calling Gibbs from a payphone near the murder scene. She did this knowing full well he would trace the call and begin to put the puzzle pieces together. Gibbs, ever the lawful conspirator, wanted to find a way to bring justice to Dunne without giving her away and having her disbarred.  

I still think he could have proceeded anyway. Certainly there would have been a few side glances thrown at Clark, but at the end of the day, she did nothing wrong. She went completely by the book.

Kudos to Gibbs for being the stand-up guy and finding a way to get justice down without implicating her. Maybe it wasn't just mere friendship motivating him, though. Especially when he said to her I think you and I have a few things in common.  

Looks like we might be seeing more of Ms. Clark.  

Which brings us back to Tony.  What is going on with him?

McGee: Tony what's going on? Do you have a drinking problem?
Tony: No. No, I just....I joined this men's support group. Meets in the church hall two nights a week.
McGee: You serious?
Tony: Uh huh. I know - it doesn't sound like me. But, with the past year I just wanted to shake things up a little bit. Meet some new people. This guy at the gym told me about the group and I thought it sounded like a good idea. And it is. It's fun. The Rev drove me to Quantico the other morning. Interesting guy. He's helping me be less judgemental.

Frankly, I don't believe Tony. I don't buy that he "just wanted to shake things up a bit."

For one thing, he's been hiding his activity from McGee and the team from the get-go. It's only by chance that he got outed, and that was only because he and McGee were tailing one of their suspects who happened to be attending an A.A. meeting at the same church where Tony was attending his men's support group.

The man is all smiles about everything - and that alone raises some suspicions, doesn't it? Tony's smile can hide a lot of torment, I think. In this he's similar to his boss, except that Gibbs hides his angst behind a facade of stone.

I do buy his new-found interest in people, however.  

If nothing else, it gives him a focus that perhaps removes him from the pain of separation from Ziva. If he acts the playboy in the future, it won't be the same dynamic as before. He won't be the insincere immature guy, out for a good time. He'll be the guy trying to bury himself in activity - anything to help him forget.  

This strange and more complicated Tony is a guy we can appreciate. I'm looking forward to watching him work out his issues.  

Final thoughts:

  • There was a subtle irony in the case of the week: essentially the murder conspiracy, planned by co-A.A. members, was undone by someone who drank too much.
  • Tony enjoys public transit... because he likes to watch people, because they're fascinating. This is really curious. 
  • McGee thought Tony was blowing smoke when he mentioned that he needs to be in love before he commits. I think Tony was dead serious.
  • Note that the complicated puzzle in the case of the week is captured in its entirety in one of the NCIS quotes for this episode.
  • Get ready for NCIS Season 11 Episode 9, where we finally meet the next new regular NCIS team member: NSA Analyst Eleanor "Ellie" Bishop, played by Emily Wickersham ...

So what did you think? Did you buy the premise of the crime? What are your thoughts about Tony? What's going on with him? Are you looking forward to next week?


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (125 Votes)

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


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I find it interesting that no one has made the connection between Tony and his dad. In that, just like Senior stated back in Season 7 or 8 that his favorite past time was people watching when in the lobby of a hotel. And now we see Tony exhibit the same feeling. I just find it interesting that he enjoys it as much as his dad.

@ mike

Believe it or not, I noticed that little comment too and mentioned it on another fan site that I post on. I really hope that the writers intend to allow Tony to evolve this season. They've regressed his character so badly since around season 6 in order to flatter Ziva and to highlight her superiority. I hope they don't use the new character to write Tony as "humorously" inferior again.

@ Erin

Oh, please. Can't you Ziva haters give it a rest? She's gone.


So we know Tony must still be dealing with kate death could that be why he in the support group

@ Will

I think it's more likely he's dealing with Ziva not coming back with him, Kate died eight years ago.

@ Guest

I think it has to do with Kate Ziva is alive


Tony has always had trouble facing his real feelings. It took losing/leaving Ziva behind in Israel for him to really understand just how deep his feelings were for her. I think Ziva does/did care for Tony but just wasn't /isn't in the right head space to give him the commitment he was looking for. She recognized that and wanted to let him go so he could move on. Now, if Cote had been in Season 11 who knows what would have happened. Even if Cote was still with the show as Ziva I think any permanent relationship between the two characters would be very explosive because they both have a lot of emotional wounds/scars that need intense healing. Now we need to see how Tony continues to work through his troubles. He may very well succeed because he seems to want to rid himself of the pain he is carrying.


So Tim found out that Tony was going to a support group, and taking (and enjoying!) the bus to work, and Tony found out Tim was taking Delilah to Miami. I love how they both discovered new and surprising things about each other, and maybe realized that neither knew the other quite as well as they thought they did. I'm really enjoying the character development and little reveals we're getting this season. I'm quite intrigued with the direction they seem to be taking Tony, and a less growly Gibbs who's smiling again is indeed welcome. This episode had all kind of wonderful in it. I'm enjoying the Gibbs/Ducky chats, and the more laid back Abby. And has anyone noticed that Abby is interacting with the whole team again, and not just Gibbs?! Loved the ep. Hoping Bishop doesn't change the great team dynamic they have this season in a negative way.


Two big continuity gaffs in this episode: 1] Tony says he only buys "old" cars but his last car was a 2013 Cadillac 2] Tim says to Tony that he has never committed to any relationship before. He conveniently forgot Tony's failed engagement to Wendy. Bad job on the writers.

@ Guest

The cadillac was an eldorado, they haven't made that car in years. Wendy was before McGee, and before NCIS for that matter, so I can forgive them for that one, after all the commitment failed.

@ guest+

Tim and the gang met Wendy in Season Ten, and they all knew who she was because Wendy said she was he former fiance in front of Abby; and then Tim and Ziva were in waiting to see her. He knew. But it doesn't matter, they have continuity errors all the time.


I came away with some observations from this episode; 1] Tony was/is in love with Ziva (and don't bother with the flames, it is there) 2] Tony probably talked to Abby about Israel 3] Tony and Tim spend absolutely no time together outside of work and know nothing about each others personal lives.


Good episode. Tony telling McGee he has been going to a men's support group was nice even though he didn't really have choice because McGee knew he knew the reverend but believe Tony was telling the truth and the group is probably good for him. I can't wait till the next episode I really want to meet Bishop she seems like a really fun character.


I think if Tony had a drinking problem, Gibbs (at the very least) and perhaps even McGee would have picked up on it by now. There are personality changes that go along with addiction and Tony just isn't demonstrating that kind of behavior. I think the situation is just what he said it was: a men's support group. Tony has a lot to work through; perhaps "honesty" is one of the issues he is working on.

@ EB

Honesty is something he definately needs to work on, since he lied to the Reverend about trying to get Tim to join his group. If Tony will lie to a man of the cloth who else is he lying too, besides himself?


I think if Tony had a drinking problem, Gibbs (at the very least) and perhaps even McGee would have picked up on it by now. There are personality changes that go along with addiction and Tony just isn't demonstrating that kind of behavior. I think the situation is just what he said it was: a men's support group. Tony has a lot to work through; perhaps "honesty" is one of the issues he is working on.


I loved the episode. Loved that Gibbs is being written as trusting Tony again. I hope that the reviewer is right, and that there is much more to the change in Tony's behavior than he is letting on. I just hope it won't wind up being a joke. I miss MW/Tony being allowed to show his considerable dramatic talents while all the big dramatic stories go to Gibbs, Vance, and in the past, Ziva.