NCIS Season 13 Episode 21 Review: Return to Sender

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It looks like we're now into the start of a three-episode arc to close out the season.

As has happened before, someone has taken an excessive dislike to members of NCIS (including Gibbs, naturally), and so now we're going to watch as the cat-and-mouse game takes off in earnest.

NCIS Season 13 Episode 21 began with the discovery of the body of an English guard, who was seemingly abducted by two convicts in their escape from prison.

As it turned out, she was actually an accomplice to their flight to freedom aboard a ship to the U.S.

The mastermind was a former MI6 agent named Jacob Scott, who was convicted of selling U.S. nuclear intelligence to Russia, back in 2002, when he was captured during an operation called Juniper Strike.

The Russian agent – Scott's wife – was killed. And now Scott wants revenge on everyone who was involved in the op, including Gibbs, and starting with former NCIS director Tom Morrow.

With Morrow now dead, there are seven targets left.

Near the start of the story, I briefly wondered whether Fornell was just an out and out jerk:

Fornell: You looking for a fight, DiNozzo?
Tony: No. Not particularly. Are you?
Fornell: A little bit.

But then again, he and Gibbs were pretty much in lock step with each other throughout the episode, sometimes blurting out the same thing at the same time. So maybe Fornell was working with Gibbs to make Tony uncomfortable so that he'd leave.

I mean, it's a stretch, but it does seem logical. Fornell's not usually known to be quite such an ass. There was no call for his behavior here otherwise. None.

Another rather elaborate nod to Tony's pending departure was that whole sub-story about his "spacious" apartment, and the fact that he can now sell it for a mint, given that he doesn't have to disclose anything about the murders that took place in it.

He may have to do some remodeling, of course. Unless he sells it fully furnished, complete with the piano.

Aside from that irritating scene with Tony, it was great to see Fornell again. He seems to be the only one who can get Gibbs laughing out loud and truly animated, like they were best friends or brothers.

The best part about Fornell came when I had to stop the PVR in order to finish laughing.

That happened here when poor Gibbs thought he was going to be treated to an exposé of Fornell's erectile dysfunction problems.

Gibbs: How many have you got?
Fornell: None.
Gibbs: Doesn't sound like it.
Fornell: Well. I can't get it up.
Gibbs: Aw geeze.....
Fornell: No. The nerve. I can't get up the nerve to go out with them. I should start this all again.
Gibbs: Please. Don't.

In fact, the dialogue in this episode was superb in many spots, as you can see for yourself in the NCIS quotes.

One troubling thing about NCIS is that agents seem to flout the law almost whenever the thought occurs. (But always for the "greater good", obviously.)

We saw that when Bishop sought clarification from Vance on his desire for her to hack into another agency's files. Of course, he was cagey enough not to give verbal assent; he just nodded.

That would be him creating a legal gap between them, so that if Bishop was to be caught, he could truthfully say that he never specifically told her to hack anything.

Bishop needs to watch her six, because Vance might not. It would be interesting to see that put to the test.

It's hard to imagine how they're going to replace Tony. He is such a fixture in that team, and there's just no way McGee can take his place.

The body language between them on the elevator bore testimony to that: McGee faced his entire body toward Tony as they spoke, while Tony remained facing the doors, eyes forward. That was some classic alpha-beta material going on right there.

Final thoughts:

  • The saddest scene was the one at the end, when Morrow's unsuspecting wife cheerfully asked Gibbs and Fornell if they wanted anything to drink.
  • Hopefully we'll get to see McGee and Delilah find their new place. There's a possibility the writers may just drop that thread though.
  • Speaking of which, $3,000 is the going rental price for a one-bedroom apartment like Tony's? Sounds slightly outrageous. What kind of place is McGee looking for? A bachelor? I mean Tony's place didn't seem all that spacious.
  • Fornell's wired for sound! He has a smartphone, he's not a Luddite (like Gibbs) anymore and he's using dating apps. The Apocalypse must be near!
  • There is one more two-week gap between episodes, and then we'll see the last three installments of NCIS Season 13 each week after that.
  • Join us on May 3rd for our review of NCIS Season 13 Episode 22, entitled "Homefront."
  • Remember: you can always catch up on missed episodes when you watch NCIS online.

Now it's over to you. What are your thoughts on Fornell? Were you sad to see Morrow go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Return to Sender Review

Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (59 Votes)

Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter

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NCIS Season 13 Episode 21 Quotes

McGee: You know, the fact that so much time has passed now, you don't even have to disclose those deaths when you sell.
Tony: Wait, is that true?

Gibbs: How many have you got?
Fornell: None.
Gibbs: Doesn't sound like it.
Fornell: Well. I can't get it up.
Gibbs: Aw geeze.....
Fornell: No. The nerve. I can't get up the nerve to go out with them. I should start this all again.
Gibbs: Please. Don't.