Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


'NCIS' recap: 'Blood Brothers'

Posted on

Patrick McElhenney/CBS


TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Mark Harmon, David McCallum, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette
Action, Crime

This week, the NCIS team lands in the middle of a sad Saving Private Ryan-ish situation, while a stoic Ellie Bishop retreats to Oklahoma to lick her wounds after learning about her husband’s infidelity.

Navy Lt. Alex Quinn is losing his battle with leukemia in the Walter Reed Medical Center when he and his mother receive word that his sister was killed in Kandahar. It’s not the family’s first loss, though; his oldest brother died nine months ago in Helmand Province.

Faced with such overwhelming tragedy, Vance gives Gibbs his assignment: Find estranged brother Sean to see if he’s a match for the bone marrow transplant that Alex needs to stay alive.

DiNozzo and McGee check out Sean’s apartment, where the cranky British landlord watches sourly as they find fake passports and counterfeit cash hidden in the air vent. And then everyone’s favorite FBI agent Tobias Fornell shows up.

“Your hair grew back almost!” DiNozzo exclaims, and yep, the last time we saw Fornell, he had a shaved dome and was struggling to come to grips with the murder of his ex-wife. Fornell snips at Gibbs about his own makeover. “New look! What’s next, skinny jeans?” Oh, please no.

Fornell’s team has been tracking the counterfeiters for years, and Sean was an informant. They plan to meet him at an FBI safe house for a blood sample to see if he’s a bone marrow match for Alex. Alas, the safe house isn’t very safe, because when they get there, they find Sean’s FBI handler dead. Long story short, the cranky landlord was involved and killed the man when NCIS came sniffing around. With his help, Fornell’s team breaks up the counterfeit ring, but when they find Sean, he’s not a match for Alex. 

Now, to Bishop, who’s in Oklahoma, chopping wood like a machine. Her mother Barbra (Lindsay “bionic woman” Wagner), encourages her to address her marital problems and nip them in the bud. So when Jake calls her phone for the 10th time, Bishop puts it on the chopping block and cleaves it in two with an ax. “Problem nipped,” she says.

WANT MORE? Keep up with all the latest from last night’s television by subscribing to our newsletter. Head here for more details.

Then Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo calls the house line and asks Bishop to review the bone marrow database for matches for Alex. She finds that there was one, but the donor declined the transplant request. Let’s … let’s just all pretend that Bishop didn’t hack into a database to find the donor’s identity, okay? What matters is, his name is Richard Doogan, and he’s serving a life sentence in Leavenworth for the double homicide of Iraqi detainees. Luckily, that’s not too far from Bishop’s location.

At Leavenworth, she explains the situation, and Doogan readily agrees to donate his marrow. Oh, but there’s one stipulation: He wants his life sentence reduced to time served.

This, of course, is why Gibbs shows up on Bishop’s doorstep, just as Barbara’s telling Ellie that she’s using her job to avoid the problems in her life. Yes, ma’am, she is. Since Doogan is Alex’s only hope, they make him an offer: the possibility of parole in 40 years. Doogan declines.

NEXT: Gibbs and Bishop discuss *gulp* feelings


That night over dinner, Barbara invites Gibbs to stay for Thanksgiving and then recounts the time Ellie learned to ride a bike. Seriously, if your mom telling Gibbs your childhood stories isn’t your worst nightmare, what is? Then that monster Jake calls the house phone and tries to make Bishop feel bad that he’s spending Thanksgiving alone. Please, everyone, try to hold back your tears. 

After she hangs up, George gets in Ellie’s face for not telling Jake off hard enough, but Ellie tells her family that it’s her life, her marriage, her decision. Gibbs then catches Bishop as she was about to go on a run in the pitch-black November night.

“I think you’ve done enough running, Bishop,” he tells her.

She says she’s tired of being treated like a fragile, breakable thing, and Gibbs laughs thinking of how often she checked on him after he was shot. He urges her to share what she’s going through with someone else.

You are telling me to talk about my feelings?” she asks.

Ah, but we know that he’s doing just that with Dr. Taft. “You’ve just got to take the first step,” he says, reminding her of Rule 28: When you need help, ask.

The next day, Bishop takes another run at Doogan, earnestly telling him she thinks he’s a good person whose grief led him to murder the men who set the roadside bomb that killed a buddy of his.

“You can’t change the past. You can change the future,” she says, urging him to embrace this new beginning. “Don’t let a bad situation define who you are.”

And yes, of course, that advice works for her situation, too. Bad choices. Fresh starts. New beginnings.

In the end, Doogan donates the bone marrow, Alex wakes up to see his estranged brother, Sean, holding his hands, and the audience is swamped with warm Thanksgiving feelings.

DiNozzo’s not, though. He’s planning on a solo holiday when Fornell drops by on his way to Thanksgiving dinner with his daughter. Good guy Tony gives him a bottle of wine, and Fornell declares him too pathetic not to invite to dinner. DiNozzo accepts even though (or because?) he’s Fornell’s second-least favorite NCIS agent. (Timmy’s his least favorite, for those keeping score at home.)

In the Bishop kitchen, Gibbs is peeling potatoes — not with a peeler, but with his fancy pocket knife (which I’m sure has a formal name that somebody will explain in the comments). Barbara tells him how glad she is that Ellie’s surrounded by people who care about her.

In the end, Bishop’s ready to head home after Thanksgiving, and Gibbs asks if he can ride along. See, he booked a one-way ticket because he wasn’t leaving Oklahoma without her.

“I could use a navigator,” she agrees. Ooooh, I wonder if they’ll fight over which podcasts to listen to on their road trip.

Stray thoughts:

  • I kind of want Federal Agent Barbie to catch on as Bishop’s new nickname.
  • Which is stranger: The fact that Palmer’s turducken looks a little like a Franken-ducken, or the fact that DiNozzo has somehow never heard of this delicacy before?
  • Not sure what to read into Fornell mentioning Jeanne Benoit. Maybe she’s not as out of the picture as we thought?
  • Happy Thanksgiving to NCIS fans far and wide!