NCIS Round Table: Is Tony Senior a Con Artist?

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Tony and his father took center stage this week, as the NCIS team investigated the murder of a Navy Lieutenant during the commission of an art theft.

In response to NCIS Season 12 Episode 17, TV Fanatic panelists David Taylor, Tanya Moat, Kathleen Wiedel, Christine Orlando and Douglas Wolfe tackle the question of whether Tony Senior is con man... or an entrepreneur (among other things).

Ready to join the discussion? Let's do this!

NCIS Round Table 1-27-15

Who was “the Artful Dodger” in this episode?

David: I'm sort of thinking it was the "girlfriend." Offing your "boyfriend" is just cold!

Tanya: I'm going out of the box here and giving it to Gibbs. Hear me out: this is a man who is gruff and grumpy and would scare the living bejesus out of me in real life if I didn't know how huge his heart really was. He helps out his team (family) more than they probably realize and then just fades into the background.

Kathleen: The title's a bit ambiguous, isn't it? I'll go with DiNozzo Senior, just for chuckles. The original Artful Dodger of the Dickens novel Oliver Twist was a skilled pickpocket who dressed in adult clothing despite only being a child. DiNozzo the elder is an "entrepreneur" who dresses in fancy clothes and enjoys the good life despite being constantly destitute. Neither character is actually without merit, though: the Artful Dodger reveres his ringleader Fagin, while DiNozzo, Sr., really does love his son.

Christine: I’ve got to go with Kathleen’s interpretation and say DiNozzo Senior. Add his foray into the black market art world and I think it’s a lock.

Doug: I like Tanya's unique take on the question, but am going to go with Tony Senior too. Whatever we may think about whether he's a con artists or, as he puts it, an entrepreneur, the fact is that he gets people to do things for him all the time. He's a master at what he does. Sometimes it looks like it doesn't work out but....at the end of the day is that really true? He sponges off of Tony only because he knows Tony feels obligated to help him.

Do you agree that Tony Senior is not the con artist that Junior took him to be?

David: I'm kind of on the fence here. He sure showed a different side of himself in this episode, but I'm not sure it cancels out his prior shenanigans.

Tanya: I'm with David -- this is a tough call. In many ways, he is a high-class con artist, but he doesn't con with malice. I believe he truly wants his ideas to be successful. He isn't out to solely scam people and take advantage of them, which helps him stay on the lovable side.

Kathleen: I think that if the elder DiNozzo actually believes that he's an entrepreneur rather than a con artist, he's probably conning himself.

Christine: It really is splitting hairs. Perhaps he doesn’t go into these schemes with the intent to con anyone but once he’s convinced himself, he’s very enthusiastic about convincing others. I don’t think he ever plans to steal anyone’s money but that doesn’t mean they won’t end up losing it anyway.

Doug: The man is in a rut. He's been conning people for so long he can no longer distinguish between altruism and using people. Technically he's very much a con artist and likely always will be. The only difference is that he truly believes he's not.

What’s your favorite scene or quote?

David:  McGee's "DARE.....to be you!" pose was a hoot! I also liked how they converged on the hotel bar for the takedown.

Tanya: My favorite scene was Gibbs telling Senior about "his friend" who paid his father's hotel bill when he knew his father didn't have the money to pay his bill himself, and the love he saw in his son's eyes. Sniff. Sniff.

Kathleen: The scene Tanya mentioned was awesome, but I also loved it when Gibbs jumped on the "give him an activity" bandwagon. The look on Tony's face was priceless!

Christine: I liked that Gibbs let Tony go early so he could bake bread with Zoe. I love seeing Gibbs looking out for his team and encouraging Tony in his relationship.

Doug: Like Kathleen, I really liked the "give him an activity" scene too. What really made it for me was Gibbs' half-smile as he listened to Tony's completely outlandish reason for having his tub re-caulked.

The other neat thing about the scene was that Tony Senior didn't question it either. He trusted that his son was telling the truth, and not -- ironically as it turns out -- gently conning him.

Was there a scene that didn’t work for you?

David: I didn't quite see exactly how they gained control. It's a detail and it's the result that matters, but it happened so fast and in dim lighting that it kind of passed by me.

Tanya: The ending did seem a bit rushed, but I just thought it was me due to the dust in my eyes from the Gibbs moment. :)

Kathleen: I found the manner in which the murderer/"girlfriend" gained access to the admiral's office to be incredibly unlikely with the magic technology stuff that almost certainly wouldn't work in real life, according to my tech-savvy relatives. The way they just brushed it off with a three-second explanation sounded like the writers just didn't want to think too hard about the logic of it all. (There were no guards out on patrol to notice this civilian walking off with a blood-spattered painting?)

Christine: Palmer’s worry that his daughter would have a best friend with a father that’s cooler than he has. You can tell he’s only been a dad for about ten minutes. There are so many scarier things out there to fear when it comes to your kids.

Doug: I'm glad David and Tanya spoke up about the ending, because I too thought I was alone in my confusion about that. It was either not directed or not edited effectively -- it was hard to see how they managed to gain the upper hand.

And there was a huge disconnect between the terrorist holding a gun under the table while Gibbs provided a sweet moment of observation between Tony and his dad. It played like a visual non sequitur.

Abby as seamstress: What would you like her to make for you?

David:  A robe that matches my troll slippers (hey...don't judge me <grin>).

Tanya: Those PJ bottoms looked so comfy. Too bad we didn't get to Senior modeling them. I wouldn't mind a pair but maybe with kitties instead of skulls. I'm not as hardcore as Abby!

Kathleen: Maybe Abby could branch out into millinery and make me a hat! (Don't judge me, either: it's hot and sunny here!)

Christine: Sunny? I’m sitting on my sofa shivering. I’ll take whatever PJ’s Abby would like to make me as long as they’re warm!

Doug: Though I mentioned it the review, it bears repeating: I totally want a pair of those death-head PJs!

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 17 Quotes

Gibbs: You know I've got a friend. He paid his dad's hotel bill once, because his dad couldn't cover it. And I said to my friend, I said "why'd you do that? Your dad never did anything for you". The look on his face. Never seen anything like it. There was more love on his face than I ever saw. I guess that his dad meant more to him than he knew.
Aziz: What does that have to do with anything?

Senior: I need to tell you something.
Tony: Oh, you don't need to say anything.
Senior: Look. I've done a lot of things in my life. I've pretended to be better than I am. I've dealt with some pretty shady folks, but son -- I am not a con artist. I am an entrepreneur. The difference between an entrepreneur and a con artist is that an entrepreneur believes in the dreams he's selling. Whether my deals fell through or not, I believed in what I was selling. There. That's the look that Gibbs was talking about.