Welcome to Tony's existential crisis.
It didn't take much to start it up, did it? Only one spotlight, wielded by a con artist who gathered information on him to feed to some "phony Tonys."
NCIS Season 13 Episode 20 gave us the case of a grifter who befriended Tony for a date in order to enact a plan to have some guys pose as him so they could blackmail some senators.
The team only truly became aware of the false Tony impersonation when one of them was murdered at a car crash. It turned out two women concocted a side business where they found dirt on some politicians, and then extorted money from them.
NCIS managed to capture the culprit during a nearly failed bait operation.
As cases go, this wasn't one of the better ones.
For one thing, there were too many players. Each time you add a player, you increase the odds of getting caught.
Or, as Benjamin Franklin once said: Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.
The crime was too elaborate as well. Dead drops and emails and leaked information created too many possible failure points.
The one positive out of the case was that it provided a mirror for Tony. Even as the two phony Tonys ribbed him about his boring and predictable life, you could feel the darts of truth hitting Tony between the eyes.
Tony: How long have I been working for NCIS?
Tiny Tony: Long enough that you should be making better money. Wait for it...wait for it....yup. You're pathetic.
Tall Tony: I'm not even that good at memorizing lines, but you were easy. You have no life.
Tiny Tony: It's true. No wife, no kids, no hobbies. Same job, same apartment. Nothing changes with you.
As if this wasn't enough of a hint for us, Tony sort of echoed the same sentiment later.
I feel like I don't know who I am. And it's strange, because she stole my identity, right? But I feel like I already lost my identity. What is this? Seriously, is this some kind of weird metaphor for my current psychological state?Tony
We've been wondering for half the season how they were going to have Tony exit the show. It's safe to say this story is a pivot point on that path.
Granted, he's been learning Mandarin (which is another hint), but this existential stuff really drives home the fact that very shortly he's going to leave the nest. And it will be a personal thought crisis that will drive him.
The Tonys were right: he has no home life at all, and he's been in stasis for quite some time. Something's got to give.
From a viewer standpoint, we know he's got a lot more potential than the role he's held for so many years. We know he deserves to lead his own team and not be under anyone's thumb.
There are four episodes left. The prediction here is that they're going to be very interesting, and if they're done right, they'll be very Tony-centric, as well.
This, of course, means we can expect some changing team dynamics, too. And we saw one of those tonight with this seemingly innocuous exchange:
McGee: Good morning, Ellie.
Bishop: Good morning, Tim.
On this show (and on most military shows), the tradition is that everyone refers to each other by their last names. You only hear the name "Jethro" uttered by Ducky. Everyone else in that universe calls him "Gibbs."
The fact that McGee and Bishop refer to each other by their first names (and the fact that there wasn't just the one occasion, but several during the show) is a signal that they're getting closer. At least, that's how I interpret it. Your mileage may vary.
Yes, Tony called McGee "Tim" at one point on the show, but it was in a scene where their usual good-natured sniping was put aside; where Tim chose to encourage Tony. It was specific and consistent with their characters.
Another sign of the growing closeness with Bishop and McGee was shown in her choice of his father for her entry to the ship naming contest. I never saw that coming.
Some final notes:
- I loved the two phony Tonys. Those guys were hilarious and fun to watch. Even when told they would have to spend some time in prison, they merely shrugged and continued eating.
- Ziva's putting on some weight.
- Abby's spectrophotometer is a real thing.
- Contrary to what we see with his usual gruffness, Gibbs cares for Tony. We saw that in his momentary panic and relief when he learned that Tony wasn't dead in a car accident.
- Be sure to come back in two weeks for our review of NCIS Season 13 Episode 21, entitled "Return to Sender." Gibbs and Fornell are on deck!
- You can always catch up on missed episodes when you watch NCIS online.
What are your thoughts on this episode? What did you think of the case? Let us know in the comments below!
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.