Really?!? NCIS brought back Ned Dorneget just to kill him off? Sad as that is, it seemed a little too contrived and easy.
Whatever the case, the NCIS team has to figure out who's behind the terrorist group that calls itself "The Calling" before they set off even more horrendous daisy-chain S-mines.
Below, TV Fanatic panelists Kathleen Wiedel, Christine Orlando, Tanya Moat, David Taylor and Douglas Wolfe try to make sense of all of the above in this week's NCIS Round Table.
Join in and let us know your thoughts on the questions the episode raised on NCIS Season 12 Episode 23...
How would you describe this episode in a few words or a sentence?
Kathleen: Perish the Young.
Christine: Surrounded by Ghosts.
Tanya: The Ultimate Sacrifice.
David: Hercules Looking for the Hydra.
Doug: The Life and Time of Ned.
What are your thoughts on the death of Ned Dorneget?
Kathleen: Nope, not surprised in the slightest when Dorney was killed. I'm always suspicious when they bring back recurring characters at the same time they're talking about killing someone, so my surprise factor rated a big fat zero at that point. At least he died being heroic?
Christine: I kept hearing that a “major” character was going to die and as much as I liked Dornegat, I never thought of him as a major player on the show. That said, I thought his death scene was very powerful and not something I’ll soon forget.
Tanya: No, although I did have a tense moment when I thought it was going to be McGee after he volunteered to interrogate the prisoner. I agree with Christine that I never thought of him as a "major" character, but he died a hero when he was a bit of a joke before. I started getting choked up when Gibbs kept staring at the pen under Vance's desk that Dorneget knocked over. Very well done.
David: No surprises that he was the victim, though I stand by my comment from last week: bringing him back JUST to kill him off seemed like a waste of creative energy. As the ladies said, he wasn't a major character, but I liked him – he was light comic relief and the writers had his character come out as gay.
There was the potential to explore that a little since he would have been the first gay character associated with the team, but now we'll never know.
Doug: I was both surprised and disappointed. He's a likeable character, but they brought him back just so that he could be a red-shirt. The "upcoming death" publicity was over-played.
Gibbs said the reason he doesn’t talk very much is because people will assume he said stuff he didn’t say. Does that ring true as a complete answer?
Kathleen: I'll buy it as one reason, but certainly not the whole reason for his functional muteness.
Gibbs always struck me as the sort of person who doesn't waste words on things that aren't important, one way or another. He's also a very private person and has suffered a lot of trauma throughout his life. It sounded to me that it that moment he was simply trying to reach out to the boy who was hurting.
Christine: I’m sure it’s not the complete answer. Gibbs is a quiet man, that means that when he does finally speak, people pay attention.
Tanya: It's probably not a complete answer, but it is aligned with his character. He is not a talker.
David: I agree with the ladies, but I have to wonder if he was speaking with regard to his work – or to his three divorces.
Doug: I agree with you all. There's more to it than that, much more. David raised a good point about his divorces. I'll add: maybe he's conditioned to say as little as possible due to his contentions relationship with his dad earlier in his life. I can very well see Jackson Gibbs misconstruing something his son said.
“The Lost Boys” and the next episode “Neverland” refers to terms used in Peter Pan, a story about a boy who never grows up and thinks all adults are awful.
Do you think the aim of “The Calling” is to bring an abrupt halt to the system just because of the desire to reject authority, as Sarah Goode suggested? Why or why not?
Kathleen: I'll take anything Goode says with a grain of salt, throwing in the rest of the salt mine for good measure. She's a true believer in her Cause, and if she can get a few Agents of the Enemy killed even from behind bars, so much the better, as far as she sees it.
Christine: I never really liked Peter Pan. It always felt a bit creepy to me and this story arc isn’t helping. By using children as terrorists, The Calling is making sure they never have the opportunity to grow up. I don’t care what their supposed aim is, it’s simply evil.
Tanya: Honestly, the majority of time the "crime" is secondary to me. I watch because I love Gibbs and company and their interactions with one another. However, The Calling is scary and memorable because it is so realistic. There are lots of unhappy kids, for good and bad reasons, who are vulnerable to people like this and it just breaks my heart.
David: The reference to "the system" is kind of vague. In movies and on TV, I'm used to seeing terrorists seeking to shut down one particular aspect of American life – financial markets, air traffic control, electrical power grids, etc.
That we're being led to think that The Calling is planning something bigger fills me with a sense of dread. Their desire to reject authority is also puzzling since they clearly have their own hierarchy and systems of punishment – we saw that when they killed Luke's parents to send Luke a message.
Therefore, to answer your question directly, I don't share Sarah Goode's opinion; I think they just want to cause mayhem and they'll use whatever recruiting and "marketing" tactics to do it.
BTW, if I'm not mistaken, the actor who played Luke is the same actor who plays the young Walter O'Brien in the opening sequence to "Scorpion."
Doug: I'm convinced "The Calling" has an ulterior motive that they haven't shared yet. This thing about creating mayhem and shutting down the adults in their kid recruits' lives is just a device to gain compliance. My sense is that "The Calling" is a group of true believers. I guess we'll find out what they're all about in next week's finale.
What’s your favorite scene or quote?
Kathleen: My favorite moment was when Gibbs looked out across the tarmac and saw all the fallen agents: Chris Pacci, Jenny Shepard, Ned Dorneget, Kate Todd, Mike Franks, and Paula Cassidy.
The inclusion of Pacci was especially touching; he was murdered way back in NCIS Season 1, and yet he still makes an impact more than ten years later.
Side note: one person missing from the lineup that probably should have been included? Brent Langer (Jonathan LaPaglia), killed by Agent Lee in NCIS Season 6 Episode 1, and a member of Gibbs's team.
Christine: Dornegat saving everyone at the hotel and then realizing he was going to die. I pretty much knew it was coming and yet it made quite an impression on me.
Tanya: The respect and honor of bringing Dorneget home. From both the military standpoint but also that the "family" was there to witness it. Lots and lots of tears.
David: The brief montage of previous fallen NCIS agents/ personnel as Dorneget was brought back home gave me chills.
Doug: I liked every scene involving Agah Bayar. His manner of speaking and his obstinate character were very entertaining to watch.
Also, I liked the jarring scene involving Gibbs entering Luke Harris' house and finding his parents dead. Mostly because of the music that was playing, which was "Friction" by Imagine Dragons.
What didn’t work for you?
Kathleen: Presumably, a think tank with representatives from multiple international intelligence agencies would have some sort of security escort at the hotel in Egypt, right? Even setting aside that they knew that there were fanatics running around with bombs/land mines, they should have been taking at least nominal precautions, and it wasn't as if those land mines were carefully concealed.
They were in every single planter in the courtyard! One bomb-sniffing dog would have totally ruined the terrorists' plan.
Of course, it raises the question: how could a guy hide land mines in every single planter in the courtyard and no one catch him or find the land mines.
Christine: Nothing, but I did hate that they killed that boy’s parents. I can’t even imagine how lost he’ll be now without them.
Tanya: A very solid episode and I really don't have any quibbles, big or small. I'm excited for the finale and Mimi Rogers joining the hunt.
David: It's not that it didn't work, but was there ever a reference to Dorneget's mother being with the CIA? Given that Dorneget is a bit gullible and easily prone to anxiety, I expected him to be the son of a "little old lady from Pasadena" type who had no idea what her son did for a living.
Doug: I'm a little tired of the "Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs! Gibbs!" deal. It's been played a little too often and there are now scratches on the record.
Other than that, the episode was solid.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.