So far, NCIS Season 12 has been filled with new love interests (or old ones), character revelations and development, as well as attempts at parsing out Navy oddities such as the murky rules about providing medical assistance. In addition, the writers have departed from the mostly formulaic past season formats where a body is found and the team jumps in to find out who did it and why.
Instead, we were treated to location-based episodes like the one where Tony, Bishop and her husband were snowed in at an airport; or the one which mostly took place on a ship.
Plus, we had one episode where the story was told in the past tense in the form of a letter typewritten by McGee to his departed dad.
All in all, the writers in their creative genius have pushed the envelope hard – and for the most part it has paid off.
Let's get down to business and take a look at what worked and what hasn't worked so far in the first part of this season.
Best episode: Hands down, that honor goes to NCIS Season 12 Episode 6. That's the one where Tony's frat-boy character took a decided dive to the floor, as Abby called him out on his dating antics.
It's also the one where we heard the name "Ziva" once more (we had to, since she was – so to speak – the elephant in the room). Mere mention of that name lit up the comment section here, as well as on Twitter. Frankly, it's hard to recall any other episode that generated so much heat and discussion. It's safe to say that the issue of Ziva and Tony has been put to bed. Now Tony gets to carry on with his life without all of the noise of him trying to compensate for his loss.
That wasn't the only reason that episode shone though – not by a long shot. A few more of these categories will address what else was so right about "Parental Guidance Suggested."
Biggest Regular Character Surprise: NCIS Season 12 Episode 3 revealed another side of Ducky – one that we had never seen before. The man is just a downright cool badass. In fact, he never stopped being cool – it's just that age has caught up with him and we rarely get to see that side of him anymore.
It was so surprising to see him so calm and in charge while he and his former love were being held hostage. His calm swipe with the scalpel into the arm of the bad guy was unexpected, as was his cheerful spelling out of the consequences of not having it attended to immediately.
Who knew he actually hated bow ties, or that he had once intended to get into obstetrics because he hated being around cadavers?
Biggest Jaw-Dropping Villain Surprise: We found out, at the end of NCIS Season 12 Episode 6, that the little 10-year-old-girl Rachel Barnes (played by Millie Bobby Brown) was, in fact, the world's tiniest psychopath. She had played the adults in her life like a violin, going so far as to put bruises on herself to make it look as though she was being abused.
Ultimately, she killed her mother only so her father would be forced to stay home more. Chilling, indeed.
Best Guest Performance: Once again, we look to NCIS Season 12 Episode 6 for this one. Bronson Pinchot played the most delicious villain ever, as he cheerfully joked about eating his dog and ribbed Tony about how much he liked eating Italian. His performance – and the writing that went into it – was just about perfect. (See what I mean about this episode being the best?)
Best Candidate to Replace Ziva in Tony's Affections: Many of us worried that TBTB were lining up Agent Leia Pendergast to become Tony's love interest in NCIS Season 12 Episode 4. Frankly, we found her to be too brash, opinionated and a bit of an unforgiving ball-buster. I could see nothing but disaster if they got together. Thankfully that didn't happen.
In NCIS Season 12 Episode 6, however, we met Agent Zoe Keats. Though no slouch herself in the opinion department, she was a lot warmer than Pendergast. She knew Tony well enough to understand when to push him and when to back off.
The fact that she confronted Gibbs so forcefully showed us that she’s no one fool – and that’s something we know Tony will respect. It’s probably a little too early to ship them, but so far…..they seem compatible.
Do As I Say, Not As I Do Award: This one goes to Abby for her hypocritical stance on dating in NCIS Season 12 Episode 8. We saw her confront Tony in episode 6, with her raw truth –telling about his frat-boy approach to dating. She boldly proclaimed that he was doing all of that just to cover up for his loss of Ziva – and that he should just stop. At the time I agreed with her right down the line.
But then, two episodes later, Bishop and McGee wanted to confront her about her habit of breaking up with whoever she's dating after two months of going out. Surprisingly, it was Tony who leaped in, telling Bishop she should just "let Abby be Abby". Really? If that family dynamic held true for Tony, surely it wouldn't have been out of line for other "family" members to confront Abby when she needed it too. Thankfully, McGee didn't give up.
Hopes For 2015:
- Gibbs has met someone who truly appears to understand him. Carrie Clark, who reappeared on NCIS Season 12 Episode 8 appears to understand him as no one else does. She said that Gibbs is as challenging as his father was. To our surprise, he grinned at that. Her follow-up, "I like a good challenge," seems to bode well for them both. The hope here is that the two get together more often. It'd be great to see Gibbs smiling a bit more.
- We need to see the NCIS gang bring Sergei Mishnev – the assassin we met in NCIS Season 12 Episode 1 – to justice. There is no doubt that will happen - we're just anxious to see more of that story being played out.
Overall Grade: A.
What midseason grade would you give NCIS Season 12?
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.