This is the story of Donald Mallard. One of the stories, really. We’ve learned about his life in bits over the last dozen years, and tonight we discover what could be the biggest missing piece.
You see, following the divorce of Ducky’s parents, his father married a “ghastly, terrible woman,” and they had a son who’s Ducky’s junior by 20 years. His name was Nicholas, and thanks to indifferent parenting, Ducky cared for Nicholas like a son.
And then Nicholas died.
This sad chapter in Ducky’s life would’ve stayed in the past were it not for a phone call and a murder that set tonight’s NCIS episode in motion.
The team arrives in an alley to investigate a murdered Marine, only to find Ducky tied up in a nearby van. Our favorite medical examiner received a call earlier that day that caused him to drop his autopsy tools with a clatter and rush out, stopping only to glance at an old toy train sitting on a shelf in the morgue.
Once freed, he explains that he’d been lured to a coffee shop with news about his brother, but a man instead tried to kidnap him. The dead Marine foiled the attempt, saving Ducky’s life but losing his own in the process. Gibbs is shocked to hear Ducky has a brother, but Ducky explains that he died years ago.
The team quickly determines that the van was rented in an Uber-ish situation, and when DiNozzo and McGee arrive at the owner’s house, they learn he also rented his house to Rufus Simms, a post office manager. Simms isn’t the guy who tried to kidnap Ducky, but Simms’ accomplice matches the description. Then they discover Simms’ body hanging in the house. Abby determines that he drowned in the pool and his suicide was staged.
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Flashback time: First, we see a 28-year-old Ducky exchanging Christmas gifts with 8-year-old Nicholas, who’s thrilled to receive a Flight of the Mallard train set. Then Ducky gets an emergency call from the military hospital and, because he’s babysitting Nicholas, takes him along. He performs life-saving surgery on a field marshal. That same night, his father learns that Lorraine has served him with divorce papers and is threatening to leave the country with Nicholas if she doesn’t receive £10,000.
When Nicholas learns this, he’s crushed, but Ducky promises that if Nicholas disappears, Ducky will ransack every third-world flea pit until he finds him. In fact, Ducky tracked down Angus Clarke to get the barrister’s advice on the custody suit. (Remember the late Angus?) Ducky says he’ll resign his commission to raise Nicholas as his son if they can win custody.
“Nicholas is my life,” he tells Angus. “This quite simply is not a decision that requires one second of thought.”
NEXT: A letter from a dead man surfaces