NCIS Review: Check Your Head

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Tonight's NCIS episode was all about getting inside people's heads, in an effort to "Psych Out" the opposition and complete the mission, with multiple sides playing various angles and the truth difficult to find.

The story had the feel of a big-screen psychological thriller, a slow-burning mystery that kept you on the edge of your seat and paying extra attention to detail. You almost had to watch your own back in this one.

A major reason the episode worked so well was Jamie Lee Curtis' Dr. Samantha Ryan, a uniquely formidable "brain gamer" and an adversary who temporarily threw Gibbs off his game - not an easy feat.

Despite portraying a character we were meant to intensely distrust and dislike from the get-go, Curtis turned in a strong, nuanced performance and commanded the screen alongside Mark Harmon throughout.

Two of the best in the business at the top of their game. What's not to love?

Gibbs, Ryan

A lot of viewers probably won't love the idea of our fearless leader meeting up with his PsyOps counterpart for a 4 a.m. breakfast date, but she did show a surprising vulnerability in the final third of the episode.

After Gibbs turned the tables and gained the upper hand by showing up at her son's school - the best scene of the episode, where he said everything by saying nothing - we saw a different side of Dr. Ryan.

While Ryan's fierce loyalty to the DOD and its clandestine missions is unquestioned, her humanity won out when she begged for one favor, and Gibbs collected his end of the quid pro quo immediately.

She covered her tracks, but by leaving her phone and associated clues, Ryan led NCIS to Banks' killer. Sure, she could've done so all along, and probably can never be trusted unless she loses significant leverage.

Still, she's not entirely terrible.

Sparks flew left and right between Ryan and Gibbs tonight, but will they carry over and ignite a personal relationship beyond this episode? Curtis returns on the March 20 episode, so it's certainly possible.

She's not a redhead, though, so strike one ... or would that be a positive change of pace? Either way, the much bigger issue, of course, is the fact that she's predisposed to subterfuge and underhandedness.

To think, we were getting on Wendy's case for being a liar last week. Ryan's clearly good at her job, but when that involves half-truths and cold, calculated manipulation, you're suspicious relationship material.

The reference to waging a psychological battle against Iran was fitting, given the increased attention paid to that nation's nuclear ambitions, and in an era gradually moving beyond conventional warfare.

So many things go on behind the scenes that we have no clue about (even pros like Vance struggle to get a straight answer from the Pentagon), and many are likely vital to our national security.

Nevertheless, when you live in the shadows, life becomes one giant gray area.

Vance Pic

Gibbs sensed from the start that he was being monitored by those with ulterior motives, even before he found the bug in his basement - how shady was that, and how smart is he? - telling the team to power down.

Another great scene. While the rest of the world is going paperless, Gibbs is going ... paper, McGee! Clearly a smart move on his part. Hacking, bugging, drugging ... going up against PsyOps isn't amateur hour.

Ryan is a compelling character I'd like to see work with, not against, the team again. Sharp, funny and hard-nosed, she'd be a great asset if you could believe more than 40 percent of what she says.

Tread carefully, Gibbs. We know you love powerful women, and the 200th episode marked a turning point of sorts for you emotionally, but you may want to point your feet toward the door on this one.

With the intensity of the Gibbs-Ryan mind games and the complexity of the case, this probably could have been a two-part episode and ended on an even stronger note, but it was still excellent overall.

A few more odds and ends from tonight before turning it over to your feedback:

  • Interesting return by Dr. Rachel Cranston (a.k.a. Dr. Kate's Sister) in an episode in which her character, whose previous appearances were memorable, was largely overshadowed.
  • It was good to see Vance tonight, and squarely with the good guys. Gibbs laughing after he questioned whether he and Ryan spent private time together in college was priceless.
  • Rule #42: Never trust someone who just tried to sucker punch you.
  • Does this mean Tim and Tony should make the same amount?
  • Think they went to the diner from the 200th episode?

What did you think of tonight's NCIS episode? Are Gibbs and Dr. Ryan a good match? What was your favorite scene from this week? Discuss in the comments below!

Psych Out Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (222 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.

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