NCIS Review: Emphatic Angels

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You just can't go wrong when you have a story that includes a dog named "Dave," a homeless vet named "Blue" and Abby's heart of gold mixed in between.

NCIS Season 11 Episode 22 started out with the disappearance of the key witness to a court martial.

Navy Staff Sergeant Martin Roe was scheduled to testify against Army First Lieutenant Michael Waters, who was charged in the death of an Afghan villager during a raid. What was not known was whether the man was murdered out of vengeance or because he had threatened Waters.

When Roe disappeared and was later found dead of a drug overdose, suspicion immediately fell on Waters.

Of course, you know that this is fairly typical for NCIS: it gives you the most obvious suspect almost from the start and builds him into a menace. In this case, the series added a belligerent JAG representative and made it easy for us to hate him.

So we knew right away there was no way Waters killed him. It was too obvious. Waters only served as a prop for misdirection.

Just as obvious was the fact that the most non-threatening guy on the show - Lorin Davis - had to be the killer.  The only thing we didn't know was how or why he was involved. 

Yeah. That was a little too predictable.

The harvesting of organs for sale on the black market as a motive for the elaborate set up and killing of Roe was by contrast not predictable at all, though it seemed far-fetched.

Really, the saving grace for the story were the four characters who truly shone: Blue (even though we never met him), Roe, Abby and, of course, the ever lovable Dave. 

Abby's heart was in plain evidence, right there on her sleeve, throughout. When she asked about Blue, I liked that Gibbs' first impulse was to hug her hard before telling her that Blue had died. 

So of course we knew that the next thing she would do is scout around to try and find Dave. Only when she found him, she also found another lost soul named Emma. In typical Abby fashion she proceeded to help her, despite Emma's protests. Anyone who knows Abby knows it's no good to tell her not to care. She can't help it - it's who she is.

Threaded throughout the hour was something else I really appreciated: the focus on the many homeless vets.  The men and women who through no fault of their own come home and fall through the cracks. The reasons are numerous, and include PTSD as well as financial issues.  

Gibbs: The VA's got a lot of programs for vets, Doc. I wonder why Durbin was living on the streets.
Ducky: I recently read a HUD report. It estimates on any given night, between fifty and sixty thousand men and women who have served, are sleeping on the streets or in shelters.

Whoever took those amazing photographs of the homeless - and particularly the one of Blue - should be applauded. They were truly stark and poignant. 

This is an episode I won't forget.

Final thoughts:

  • Emma asked Abby to take care of Dave "for a while." I think they've just added a wonderful cast member to the crew and I hope we see a lot of him in future episodes. 
  • Nice to see a bit of the old dynamic between Tony and McGee. First, he spritzes him with that horrific "eau de street curb" cologne. And then, once he smells like cat urine and body odor, he sprays him again. And again. I mean, he really went to town on the poor guy.
  • I've smelled that odor before. It really makes your eyes water and your throat close. There's no way they would get the smell out of Abby's lab. Not without industrial strength bleach and maybe some dynamite.
  • Wasn't that a great homeless disguise for McGee? Really believable. 
  • Don't forget to check out our NCIS Round Table for this episode.

What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments.

What should happen with Dave the dog?

Here's your first look at NCIS Season 11 Episode 23, "The Admiral's Daughter."


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (68 Votes)

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



Sorry, this is going to be a little long. Dear Mr. Glasberg: I wanted to show you the contrast of what we’re now seeing as viewers as opposed to what we saw before. When NCIS started, you gave us four phenomenal men (Gibbs, Tony, Tim, Ducky) and Abby and Kate. Then later, Vance and Palmer. Abby, we all love. Perfect casting. Vance and Palmer have wormed their way into our hearts. Kate was beautiful, intelligent, and, although she could hold her own with the guys, she always had their backs. Tony drove her nuts, but their banter was witty and humorous. They were the brothers she never had. She would kill or die for any of them—and did. Then we moved on to Ziva. She was gorgeous, clever, dangerous, mysterious, and we loved to see her kick butt. Her relationship with Gibbs as a ‘father figure’ was extraordinary. She took Tim under her wing, but only Tony was brave enough to mess with her. He usually paid the price for it, too. But the wordplay and sexual tension between the two was remarkable. Now we have Bishop, a little county gal from Oklahoma who has a husband. She’s okay to look at, analytical, but easily intimidated, insecure and worrisome. When she does do something worthwhile, she doesn’t just except the deed as just part of the job, she’s all proud of herself and a little cocky, something no other team member would exhibit (except Tony who makes it work). She was better as a part-time analyst. She just doesn’t blend with our powerful team. Her friend Sophie Martinez might have been a better selection. She’s a female DiNozzo. Sophie is pretty and intelligent. She has spunk and sass, and she’s already butting heads with Tony. And all that came from one short scene. Also, I wanted to comment on the last episode (Shooter). I really liked it. I loved the way Leon put the JAG lawyer in his place. I liked how the two murders were but weren’t connected--and the twist with the kidneys at the end. Of course, Gibbs was awesome as always, Abby was superb with the homeless people, as was Tim when he went undercover. Tony has almost returned to the fearless agent, adorable flirt and smart-ass we love, but in this episode, he mostly babysat his tag along, Bishop (which takes away from his great character). I miss the fun that diluted the brutality of the crimes. But most of all, I really miss the action. In the last three episodes, the guys just walked up to the bad guys and arrested them. What happened to the hunt, the chase, explosions, the shootouts, and rewarding take-downs? I miss the real NCIS.

@ AuthorSue

I thought the subject matter of Shooter was definitely a worthy subject to highlight. I liked Abby's character being featured for the caring adult that she is. I have agree and disagree with parts of Author Sue's post.
I loved the team dynamic the most when Kate was part of the cast. Ziva was okay at first, although I never liked her as much as Kate. IMO, the last 5 or 6 seasons tptb's obsession with turning Ziva into the most tragic, cleverest of all, wonder woman, did far more to deteriorate and diminish Tony's character than Ellie Bishop. With Ziva gone, there is far less insulting nasty snark tossed Tony's way. Tony actually seems able to defend himself again and doesn't have to be the "idiot child in the corner" (a Michael Weatherly quote from a recent interview). I also wish that the writers would give Tony a story where we see his character flattered by being the one to care about and deal with an injustice, instead of always portraying Gibbs as the noble one. The writers used to give Tony humor, but he was also a selfless brave agent who cared more about others well being than his own. Now only Gibbs gets this kind of character flattery. I am really looking forward to The Admiral's Daughter and hope it gives us clever and brave Tony, since we get so few Tony centric episodes these days.

@ AuthorSue

Gary Glasberg became the head guy for the show in the fall of 2009. Donald P. Belisario did it from Seasons 1-4, and then Shane Brennan did it before leaving to go work on NCIS: LA.

@ AuthorSue

Although very well written and heartfelt, you do realize that Glasberg is not a part of this site and in all likelihood doesn't even know about this site don't you????????


I thought this was an excellent episode. When is the last time anybody seen a story about homeless veterans? That's right, you can't think of any can you? That's because the media turns a blind eye to it and so do others.........

@ Terrie

SVU did a good episode dealing with veterans and PTSD.

@ Terrie

While I agree with you about the need for more socialization on the plight of vets, in fact some TV shows have done an admiral job of it. In particular, Joe Mantegna has convinced the writers of Criminal Minds to tackle it more than once.

@ Douglas Wolfe

Yes, I remember the recent episodes of Criminal Minds that the guy from "Designing Women"(sorry can't remember his name right now) was on and Mantegna's character was trying to help him.......those were stand out episodes......


What I didn't like about this episode is the same thing I don't like whenever shows focus on some issue for an episode. They spend the entire episode shoving some message into the faces of the audience every single scene they can manage, while making characters who normally couldn't care less preach about it the entire episode. Yeah, [insert issue here] and it's bad, can we get back to something resembling an actual plot? To be fair though, they did do a fairly good job of integrating that message into the episode's plot here, so points for that.

@ immortalfrieza

REALLY?!?!??!?! Let me ask you this, when is the last time you ever even thought about a veteran, much less a homeless one? When is the last time you helped a person who could never repay you?? You couldn't be more wrong about this episode trying to shove a message down the viewers throats..............


Emphatic v. Empathetic in the title em·phat·ic adjective \im-ˈfa-tik, em-\
: said or done in a forceful or definite way. EMPATHETIC

@ Rich K.

Thanks, Rich. I wrote "emphatic" and meant what I wrote: I was thinking about the various people helping each other, but especially Abby who emphatically meant to help the homeless girl, regardless of whether she wanted help or not. She helped her emphatically, forcefully, with full intent.


While Tony and McGee were preparing to go into the back streets, I thought that Abby would be a better choice. (It seems that the arrival of Dave is a good re-introduction to Abby's brother.) What's an "obvious suspect"? My daughter was suspicious of the clinic director from the first moment he appeared. This would have been a good show to include a PSA about organ donation. People shouldn't have to go to the back alley clinics to live. (Before someone says I should donate, I carried an organ donation card until I was medically excluded.)

@ l'empress

Yes, the clinic director seemed so obvious, right from the get-go. Mild-mannered, busy, and the focus was completely on him for the whole scene. It's almost formulaic lately: the camera gives us a hard focus on a character that seems inconsequential. And there's your suspect. I agree with you about the opportunity for a PSA.

@ Douglas Wolfe

That's pretty much how the show as always been though, Bones too. It's either one of the 3 or 4 people they focus on or some guy who comes out of nowhere in the last 10 minutes.


Tony fans should be happy with this episode. He took lead quite a few times. Not that people won't stop complaining though.


"Tonight, the name of the game was the homeless community," Well, not exactly. The "game" was about homeless veterans, but then the script got off track when Abby rescues a homeless runaway who had nothing to do with homeless veterans. The front piece did little or nothing to give the story momentum and could have been eliminated without loss. The McGee beard is interesting. Wonder if he will keep it? And then there was the ever lovely Bishop. Enough said. No, maybe she, like McGee, needs a new look. How about one eyebrow. No, not a uni-brow. Just shave one of them off. And maybe change her hair color to a light red.

@ Zack B

I don't think it went off track at all. It was meant to shed light on the problem of homeless veterans AS WELL AS showing how to have compassion for another person...............

@ Zack B

You do know its not just veterans who are homeless it effects everyone

@ Zack B

Ziva's eyebrows are still on the show... Bishop has 'em. :p


Pauley Perrette is just like Abby in real life. She is very aware of the homeless and even carries new socks in her car to hand out the homeless.

@ KrennenC

That is so cool. Thank you for posting that instead of all these negative comments that people seem to enjoy posting. Way to go Pauley Perrette!

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NCIS Season 11 Episode 22 Quotes

Bishop: Lorin Davis, you are under arrest for the murder of Staff Sergeant Martin Roe.
Gibbs: And when we're through with you the FBI wants to talk about the theft and sale of human organs.

Emma: Can I ask you a favor?
Abby: Yeah.
Emma: Will you watch Dave for a while?
Abby: Sure! Why?
Emma: My parents got me a bus ticket to Nebraska.