NCIS Season 12 Episode 11 Review: Exes Mark the Spot

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What an amazing and stellar episode of NCIS.

Just when we were sure the highlight would be the introduction of the one ex-wife that truly broke Gibbs' heart... other things happened and other information came to light that ratcheted up the interest and tension to unimaginable levels.

The Ex-Wives Club - NCIS

NCIS Season 12 Episode 11 began with the discovery of five bodies in a diner. Then, Gibbs' first ex-wife Diane Sterling showed up, with Gibbs' second ex-wife Rebecca Chase in tow.

Wow. Small wonder that Gibbs – who was already suffering from caffeine withdrawal – began to lose his cool. He can barely keep it together when it's just Diane tearing him apart.

Now that the two of them were together, supposedly collaborating on some plan, it's no wonder Gibbs began to bark just a little bit.

The fact that Rebecca was only there to make amends for breaking Gibbs' heart proves the adage given to me years ago: never start paying the bank before the bill comes in. Had he known she was only there to do make amends, he might have saved himself all of the emotional angst.

Running away from his ex-wives just to avoid whatever conversation Rebecca wanted to have with him, while understandable, was ultimately unnecessary. Doing so only ratcheted up the tension needlessly.

Still: what a treat to see Gibbs' cheese slide ever-so-slowly off his cracker. His repeated barks of "you got something you want to say?" just showed how clearly he was stressed by all of the attention his team was giving him.

For Pete's sake, they even had a slideshow presentation on his wives, complete with crib notes!

That... was just beautiful.

Of course, we all knew Rebecca had nothing to do with the murders, despite the coincidence of her being there right when the murders were being staged. Nothing is ever that easy or simple. And, besides, she'd have to be a computer wizard to have broken into the IRS like that.

Speaking of Rebecca: I was certain there were some romantic sparks being generated when she began to massage Gibbs' forehead. This was put to bed quickly when he informed his team that she was "totally unstable," "completely disrespectful," "untrustworthy" and "a liar."

Those were his words. The man had zero intention of starting anything up again with her, despite her apology and before he realized she was there to get his blessing before getting married.

But the big moment – the moment that defined the episode and maybe even the season (although it's too soon to tell) – was the horrific and shocking death of Diane.

This was a woman who was so full of life that it's hard to even imagine she'd ever die. She was a constant going concern, creating tension and drama and drawing out both laughter and exasperation from the normally taciturn Gibbs throughout the years.

It just doesn't seem possible that a single bullet would so startlingly snuff her out.

Mishnev's bloody game of chess signals the start of a roller coaster ride in which no one is safe. Ducky laid it all out perfectly:

Sergei wants to hurt you. It's clear he blames you for something. Something that wounded him to the core. And now it's payback time. But killing you is inadequate. He wants to see you suffer. Which means that all bets are off on what might come next, or for whom he might come.


Small wonder that Gibbs went against all of his training by busting in on Mishnev's hideout without waiting for backup. It wasn't that he was afraid they'd escape.  He just wanted – needed – to visit some rage on Mishnev.

The bigger question is: who's next? And what constitutes a checkmate for Mishnev? Is it Gibbs' death?

Ducky's foreshadowing spells it out: Mishnev isn't through hurting the man. So that means he has possibly a handful of others he's planning to snuff out before coming after Gibbs.

I'm still reeling after watching this terrific, perfectly written episode and performance.

Final thoughts:

  • Palmer's refusal to work on Diane's autopsy was moving and heartfelt. You could so easily forget you were watching a TV show at that point.
  • Gibbs' frustrated comment was reminiscent of the movie Airplane!: Oh man. I picked a really bad time to stop drinking coffee.
  • The choice of casting for Rebecca's fiancé Gene Isaacson was perfect. You may have recognized Andy Milder as the guy who played Dean Wodes in the TV series Weeds.
  • Given that Rebecca is "unstable," is it possible she didn't actually give Rule 39 to Gibbs?
  • The dialogue in this show was so brilliant, I may have gone a little overboard with the number of NCIS quotes I captured.
  • I liked this episode so much I plan to see it again. If you haven't recorded it, you can always see it again when you watch NCIS online.

Let us know your thoughts on the episode in the comments below.

Also – when the phone rang and Fornell's number showed up on the display, Gibbs had a sick look on his face.

What do you think the call means?

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Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter


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NCIS Season 12 Episode 11 Quotes

Palmer: No. I don't want to.
Ducky: You don't want to what, Mr. Palmer?
Palmer: I don't want to know how much her liver weighs. I don't want to catalogue her scars. Most of all, I don't want to cut open another friend. Think I've had my limit.

Sergei wants to hurt you. It's clear he blames you for something. Something that wounded him to the core. And now it's payback time. But killing you is inadequate. He wants to see you suffer. Which means that all bets are off on what might come next, or for whom he might come.