If ever the concept of "running in place" applied to a TV episode, this would be it.
NCIS Season 12 Episode 10 gave us the story of a hacker who attacked a government server in order to obtain valuable intelligence, so he could sell it on the black market.
This was new ground for the show, as it was told in a unique format: McGee reminisced to his father about the case, Gibbs' rules, and his memories of characters long gone.
The chronology was disjointed as we fell into the case of the week story, forgetting after a while this was all a memory. So when McGee got angry at his father near the end and told him he'd see him within the hour, it came as a shock when in the next scene we realized he was now talking to his dead father as he lay in his coffin.
The flashbacks to Ziva, Jenny Shepard, and Mike Franks were fleeting and therefore unsatisfying, especially to those who wanted to see more of them. The use of these people in order to facilitate the re-telling of Gibbs' rules while understandable, just served as distractions and nothing more.
The rules themselves were ones many long-time viewers had heard before, including the one written by Gibbs but never overtly expressed by him – that rule being #51, "sometimes you're wrong."
On the positive side, the show at least acknowledged that two of the rules – 1 and 3 – had more than one rule assigned to each of them. McGee wondered out loud about it:
It just occurred to me that rules number 3, 8, 36 and 40 are the same thing. With two rule number 1s and two number 3s I'm starting to question that these are honest mistakes. Is Gibbs making up these rules as he goes? Do all parents?McGee
My guess is Gibbs did indeed make them up as he went along and only gave passing attention to the numbering system itself.
On the negative side: there were just too many of "Gibbs' rules" to track, and the result was that we didn't care about any of them.
I mean it was a nice concept (as was the flashback mechanism), but in the end it just didn't work.
That, combined with the Ziva/Jenny/Frank flashbacks plus the case of the week story, all served to make the episode stutter. I'm not sure what they could have done to make it better.
The one part that did work was the examination of McGee's character. He saw his dad through the lens of his many commandments, and so identified with Gibbs strongly when he issued some of his own. We got to see how McGee turned out to be so serious and focused, as he learned from the consequences of contravening those rules. We also saw how he began to see Gibbs as a father figure through it all.
In the end we find that McGee is way too serious and as a result often becomes an object of ridicule. I'd like to see him go bar hopping with Tony and laugh a little bit. The man just needs to chill. I don't see that happening anytime soon though.
Speaking of Tony – I was glad to see him take something of a back seat for the hour, just quietly supporting McGee as he led the hacker parade. Maybe I missed it but I don't recall him even issuing one McJoke at McGee.
- Fatal familial insomnia – the condition suffered by the dead hacker in the story – is quite horrible. Sufferers last somewhere between 7 and 36 months before dying from it.
- My guess is the one rule most broken by members of the NCIS gang is number 22: never interrupt an interrogation. It seems almost every time Gibbs is conducting an extensive interview with a suspect, the scene is broken by someone barging in with breaking news.
- I found Heidi's abrupt turnaround at McGee's "be a good person" speech unbelievable. Nobody switches gears that quickly in such a heartfelt manner.
- McGee has new monitors! Those old monitors have been bugging me for ages – I wondered if they would ever get around to coming up to speed with the times.
- This is the final NCIS episode for 2014.
What did you think? Did you enjoy the episode? Do you have another candidate for "most broken rule"? If you missed it, or need to see the episode again, you can always watch NCIS online, then join in on the comments below!
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.