The only living "Gibbs Whisperer," Hollis Mann, is back! And it took all of three minutes for her to pull Gibbs out of his Anxiety Parade.
NCIS Season 12 Episode 13 provided a truly complicated and intense whodunit hour of suspense and misdirection about a lieutenant who was murdered outside of his home.
Count me as one who never suspected the charming hipster from the Berwyn Community Outreach Center as being the culprit.
When you consider the confusing relationship between the murdered lieutenant and the guy he was ultimately trying to help (Davis Riley), the drugs in Kutzler's house, the grieving spouse with the cut on his cheek, the lecherous yet likeable hipster and the seemingly compassionate admiral... this episode made it next to impossible to figure out what was going on.
The only thing left to do was strap in, hold tight and enjoy the ride.
You know, I keep expecting to bump into a boring offering from the NCIS camp: a case-of-the-week involving an elaborate evil plan that stems from yet another money-grab, plus a smattering of Tonyisms all pointed at McGee.
And each week so far on NCIS Season 12 the writers have been offering up nothing but gold. They've been consistent in that regard, making this show a pleasure to watch.
As if the case wasn't enough, we had Breena and Palmer finally having their baby.
The naming of their child - Victoria Elizabeth Palmer - underlined the pure love that Jimmy Palmer has for Ducky, whose mother's first name was Victoria. I like how that relationship remains so strong and steadfast. This is the kind of friendship that doesn't come around very often, and it's clear Palmer knows this.
It was good to see Breena again too, and to get a hint of what it's like for her to deal with an over-anxious husband who's trying to control the baby's health by not allowing her to drink the tap water at NCIS. It paints Palmer as slightly neurotic, which is consistent with his continual nervousness around Gibbs, particularly when he makes those little jokes that fall flat.
Maybe he has a right to be nervous about the baby though: they've wanted this child for so long, and they've faced disappointment about it now and again. He just doesn't want anything to go wrong. Can we blame him?
We saw that kind of worry mirrored in Gibbs too - who has become close to unhinged as he tries to figure out who's next on Mishnev's hit list. I wondered why he seemed so glum when he walked into Vance's office, only to see Hollis sitting there.
Now we know: he's aware that anyone who is close to him is automatically a valid target for the mercenary.
What he couldn't seem to reconcile was that effect does not equal cause: the loved ones in his life are targets, sure - but the cause is not that he loves them; it's the fact that a madman is out there, wanting to cause Gibbs as much pain as he can.
Even though he answered "copy that" to Hollis' announcement that she can handle herself, you have to think that his anxiety won't go away just like that. He'll continue to push people away when he can, until he can figure out what Mishnev's plan is. Or until he can pick him off with his rifle.
Let's not forget that Gibbs is at least an excellent sniper as Mishnev - it would be fitting to see him end him that way: ironic and poetic at the same time.
There were a couple of great quotes in this episode. The first was said by Gibbs, after he and Hollis informed Rear Admiral Meade of the results of their investigation: that he had systemically inhibited the careers of every openly gay service man who served under him, even going so far as to "bury" the first submission for Medal of Honor for Lieutenant Kutzler:
A leader looks after his men. He fights for them. That's who Lieutenant Kutzler was. You're a disgrace to that uniform, and I look forward to testifying at your court martial.Gibbs
The second came from Tony as he and Bishop were arresting the drug deal "Floor" Mat Jebson:
Spoiler alert, Heisenberg. It doesn't end well for you.Tony
Did you notice that this was the second reference to Breaking Bad in this story? While he usually concentrates on movie quotes, it was great to see him branching off into episodic TV for a change - and referencing what is probably the best series ever to grace our TV sets at that!
Finally, it's worth mentioning that the writers did an outstanding job in featuring the mental states of people in the main plot as well as the subplots.
There was the reasoning for Riley's relapse: he kept visualizing the ambush during which Kutzler jumped on a live grenade. He vividly remembered the resulting injuries Kutlzer suffered, as well as the deaths of his fellow service men in the raid. I can't imagine what that must be like - yet we know that PTSD affects a great many warriors.
Then there was Kutzler's guilt, which was so intense that he never filled the pain scripts prescribed by the doctors after his massive injuries with the grenade. This was a guilt that he carried for not saving everyone in his unit. When we first saw him, he was shaking so hard because of the pain that he couldn't hold a glass.
There was Gibbs' frantic helplessness and need to get to the bottom of the case, where he even barked at his team and was unreasonable with them. Tony hesitantly called him on it - and probably regretted doing so right afterward.
- This engrossing episode was well directed by Rocky Carroll
- The song playing at the end was "Going Home" by Randall Kent
- Tony actually had many great quotes. Hopefully we've captured the best ones in the NCIS quotes for this episode.
- The gang threw a baby shower for Breena and Palmer at the NCIS office. Can't recall ever seeing a workplace setting being used for such a purpose.
Over now to you. What did you think of this intricate and involved episode? Was there any "gotchas" or obvious errors in the show? If you didn't see it or forgot to PVR it, you can always watch NCIS online and then let us know your thoughts in the comments!
NOTE: NCIS Season 11 Episode 14 will be titled "Cadence" and air on February 10.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.