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?

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Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (125 Votes)

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

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NCIS Season 11 Episode 8 Quotes

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.

Tony: Sgt. Dunne, Olivia Chandler and Wendell Kaiser all have one thing in common. They all go to AA meetings.
McGee: Probably where they met.
Tony: The sergeant and the trophy wife are lovers. The desk clerk at the Chevy Chase Lodge said that they were regulars. It's just like that movie "Body Heat". William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. God. She was really something, boss. A head turner. Anyway, they were young lovers and they wanted the rich husband's money and him out of the way.
McGee: On the other hand, you've got Wendell Kaiser who's deep in debt to his bookie and needs him off his back.
Tony: So they help each other and switch murders.
McGee: While Kaiser was in New York, Dunne killed the bookie with Olivia's help. She drove him. Her car was in the vicinity. Who would ever suspect them? I mean there's no connection, no motive.
Tony: Tomorrow, Sgt. Dunne is going to deploy. Olivia Chandler's off to Jamaica. And I'm betting that while they're away, her husband's going to have a terrible accident at the hands of Mr. Kaiser here - a man with whom he has no connection.