Well, that's it... the Mishnev saga is over!
I didn't expect it to end quite so soon. Perhaps there was some reluctance to feed any more beloved characters to Sergei's vendetta machine.
The opening of NCIS Season 12 Episode 15 seemed like many others, with two unknown characters talking with each other. The expectation was that they would find a body, and then NCIS would be called in.
So it was surprising when the two State Troopers instead pulled over a drunken Tobias Fornell:
State Trooper Johnson: What do we have there?
Fornell: It's okay. It's prescription bourbon.
I have to admit: I laughed out loud when he offered that one up.
His excuses to Gibbs the next day were pitiful: he had "just cracked" the bourbon, and his condition was a result of a beer at dinner combined with some medication he takes to alleviate the pain he gets from the time when Gibbs shot him in the ass.
Anyone who's ever been around an alcoholic in denial has heard similar stories before.
If that was an intervention that Gibbs pulled, it's unlike anything I've ever seen before. Who starts off by inventing a drunk to drink himself to death?
Mind you, Gibbs said it wasn't an intervention; but then again, what's the definition of something like that? Isn't it a time when you confront someone about their problem and not let them off the hook? Which is exactly what he did.
Those were some intense moments in that cabin. With Gibbs being wound up tight over Mishnev, I was surprised that he didn't give as good as he got when Fornell laced him.
It was a good strategy, though; once the fighting was done, they could get down to the gristle of what was bothering Fornell.
I think this is the first time I've seen Gibbs be this subtle. He knew full well Fornell didn't blame him for Diane's death, yet he continued in that vein, thereby displaying his own angst over getting her killed (as he put it). And that was the only way he could get Tobias to open up at all.
It shows that if you want someone to be open and vulnerable you sometimes have to make yourself vulnerable as well.
Their intense conversations and actions at that cabin and lake proved that the episode writer was at the top of his game.
Speaking of Gibbs being wound up: this is the second time we've seen Tony confront Gibbs about his behavior toward the team. He knew Gibbs was spoiling for a fight, which is why he was so careful about it. I like how Ducky – probably being the only one in the room immune to Gibbs' heat – was the one to take the bull by the horns: he's saying take a breath, Jethro!
The other note about Tony was that he's finally learning that he doesn't have to watch his back with Bishop. He's so used to being laughed at that he couldn't believe Bishop was being sincere when she complimented him on confronting Gibbs. She has a sense of humor but basically she's transparent and honest. With Bishop, what you see it was what you get. Tony finds this adorable. I do, too.
Finally we get to Mishnev. It was both heartening and disappointing that we're done with him.
It's great that Fornell got to take him out – and in such a beautifully underhanded way. This was exactly what Mishnev deserved.
Sadly, though, the season arc is done. There was so much more potential for mystery and angst: this could have been played out right to the end of NCIS Season 12. Mishnev could have targeted other people in Gibbs' world, and we could have had some close calls. They could have used the remaining episodes to ratchet up the tension.
The biggest surprise – since Pavlenko has been portrayed as a rat from the start of the season – was learning that he and Gibbs had cooked up the plan, including the setting of the stage for Mishnev's last stand. No doubt the cell jamming device was part of their plot, since it served as a signal to Gibbs that Mishnev was in the area.
I don't know any other reason for that device to have been used. Who really cares if Gibbs called someone? They were in the wilderness, which is Mishnev's specialty. Any help was far away.
- Fornell shaved his head to make himself feel clean. Chances are good that he was never involved in an undercover operation. Or maybe he was but just grew to like the feeling after the op was done. My money's on the non-existent operation.
- Emily Fornell is a force to be reckoned with. Articulate, and involved in debating at school, she made her case eloquently to Gibbs and kept at it until he clearly understand what she wanted from him. Juliette Angelo (who played Emily) made her believable.
- It was good to see Gibbs finally soften after all of these weeks of Mishnev-bred angst. You saw it in his eyes when Emily hugged her father.
- There was one little plot hole: what happened in that police station? Did Gibbs bail Fornell out, or did law enforcement come to an "agreement"? Gibbs usually plays by the books (though you wouldn't know it the way he played out Mishnev's last stand), so if he did, that means Fornell will have a court date.
What did you think of the episode? Are you happy that Mishnev's finally (and still) dead? Is Fornell free and clear of charges and alcoholism? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
And remember: you can always catch up on episodes when you watch NCIS online.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.