Get ready: this episode was the launching point for the major story that will take us to the end of NCIS season 10.
To that end, this was one of those installments where the last 10 minutes were the most compelling, particularly that slow approving nod from Vance to Ziva.
Let's start from the beginning, shall we?
The title - "Chasing Ghosts" - was a play on words, as the "ghosts" here were twofold: the first was the missing Navy reservist's husband, Noah Daniels, who was later presumed dead. The second was Bodnar, who's been in the wind since the death of Ziva's father and Vance's wife. Both the Navy reservist - Callie Daniels - and Ziva were looking for closure.
In the case of Daniels, it turns out he had staged his own kidnapping at his home - and then later staged his own death by killing Darryl Orton, a man he had previously met in a restaurant. And then left a fake suicide note, directing the investigators to (supposedly) Daniels' dead body.
The degree of Daniels' commitment to the ruse was found in his willingness to have his girlfriend lop off his ring finger, as well as his willingness to kill the stooge. Daniels' marriage was going through rough times and he didn't want his wife being able to access his trust fund or come after him for it in the event of a split. He had hoped that the staged kidnapping and death - complete with the fake confession from Orton - would allow him to be free to flee with the money and his girlfriend.
The discovery of Daniel's finger in the garbage can sort of creeped everyone out, especially Tony who tried to make light of it:
Tony: Hope this doesn't turn into one of those whacked-out games of tic-tac-toe. You know, a finger here, an arm there, you find a head and you've got a meat puzzle... | permalink
There were two other subplots, which I found much more interesting. The first involved Palmer's career evolution. We're so used to seeing him make lame jokes that go nowhere and being considered a clown who is slightly lower in status than Tony.
Consequently, it appeared that Ducky didn't take him seriously, trying to shoo him out of the picture when it came time to do a psychological profile of the man who they thought had kidnapped Daniels. Palmer's heartfelt rejection of Ducky's dismissal is recounted in the NCIS quotes from this episode. And it was beautiful.
The final subplot was mostly about Ziva and, to a lesser degree, Vance. Finally we saw most of the NCIS gang find a way to support Ziva's hunt for Bodnar - whether it will end in his apprehension or (more likely) Ziva's vengeance on him. Throughout the episode Tony was in full investigative mode when it came to Ziva, even to the point where he took note of her five minute tardiness in getting to work.
This bugged McGee to no end, a fact I found a little strange until near the end, when we discovered that McGee had been helping Ziva all along.
Interesting that Tony didn't try that hard to hide his misgivings from Gibbs, choosing instead to ask for his permission to find out where she was and what she was doing. Equally surprising was Gibbs' agreement and encouragement to do so "now!" Tony - and likely all of the viewers - were surprised to find McGee in that room with Ziva. None of us saw that coming. Not so surprising was the fact that Ziva had been active in her search for Bodnar all along, employing the help of contacts from all over the world.
Even Abby was on board, despite her misgivings, in helping Tony track Ziva down.
The next surprise was Gibbs' knowledge of this activity and his active agreement with it. I had a hard time trying to figure out whether I was amused at Gibbs' fake innocent expression as Ziva and Tony shared their apprehension prior to Ziva's confession to Gibbs... or Ziva's shock at learning that Gibbs' not only knew all along, but was more than willing to allow her to do some traveling to find Bodnar, even to the point of sharing with her the latest intel: that Bodnar was in Rome.
And then there was Vance. A man who had his own closure to deal with. He too approved of Ziva's hunt for Bodnar and indicated so by his slow nod at the end.
This is going to be good.
- I was positive at the start that Daniels' neighbor had kidnapped or killed him, out of a misplaced attraction to Daniels' wife. Did anyone else suspect him?
- Even though McGee had been helping Ziva all along, Gibbs told Ziva to go to Rome and to "take DiNozzo." Not McGee.
- Tony got one of Gibbs' "slap upside the head" in this episode, something we haven't seen in quite some time.
- We learned something from Ducky about the custom of having the wedding ring on the fourth finger of the right hand. Certainly this was news to me anyway. "Vena amoris" - literally, the vein of love.
What do you think will happen next? Does Ziva intend to bring Bodnar in or kill him? When Tony first spoke to Ziva after getting Abby's help in finding her, he said that he wanted to help. Do you think his help will extend to helping her kill him if that's her goal? How do you think Vance will fend off Homeland Security in order to allow Ziva to continue her manhunt?
Douglas Wolfe is a staff writer for TV Fanatic Follow him on Twitter.