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'NCIS' recap: 'Reasonable Doubts'

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Monty Brinton/CBS

NCIS

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-14
seasons:
13
run date:
09/23/03
performer:
Mark Harmon, David McCallum, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette
broadcaster:
CBS
genre:
Action, Crime

The NCIS team take sides when two women who loved (or hated?) the same man finger the other one for killing him, and the DiNozzo men join forces to unravel the tragic case of a homeless veteran.

First, the murder — or is it? (It’s totally not.) Naval employee Laurence Jennings dies with bullet holes in his chest and temple, as well as the ceiling above his head, and his wife, Angelina, and his mistress, Joann, waste no time accusing each other of firing the shots. (Also, you have a wife/girlfriend situation with one named Angelina and you don’t make the other one Jennifer? Do I have to do everything for you, NCIS?)

The team divide and conquer. Angelina tells Bishop that she was staying in a hotel after Jennings confessed to the affair, and she came home when he called to say he was breaking things off with Joann. Joann tells DiNozzo that Jennings called to say his wife was making violent threats. Each woman says she witnessed the other shoot Jennings when she arrived at the house.

The team learns that Jennings had $500,000 in lottery winnings deposited in two different accounts earlier in the year, but the money’s all gone now because both women blew through it quickly: Angelina with shopping and Joann with plastic surgery. Jennings cut both of them off when the money ran out. Furthermore, neighbors report that Jennings was nice, but Angelina always berated him, while Joann attended a sketchy law school and is currently barred from practicing law.

In light of this, the team argue about who had more motive. Bishop thinks it’s the wife (she’s the beneficiary of his life insurance policy); DiNozzo and McGee are pulling for the mistress (he took away her rented Lexus). And by the way, wouldn’t Ellie have stronger feelings about this case since she’s a recently cheated-on wife herself? I’m surprised it didn’t come up. (Seriously, writers, I’m here for script consults. Call me!)

Voice of reason Gibbs suggests having both women take a polygraph. They do, they stick to their stories, and neither pings as lying when they say they didn’t kill him. “There’s so much reasonable doubt, a jury would never convict,” Gibbs sighs.

Shortly afterward, Abby discovers that fiber in Jennings’ wound is from an electric blanket. Covering him in that would make the time of death appear up to two hours later than it was. Consequently, Ducky’s the first one to float what everyone in my living room had been shouting since the beginning of the episode: “Are these two women who purportedly hate one another conspiring to cover up the truth?” (Although we didn’t say it like that; it was more like, “Dem gals in it together.”)

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This gives Gibbs an idea, but to confirm it, he needs McGee to explain cloud computing. Aww, Gibbs is all of our grandpas! Scrapings from Jennings’ nails reveal gunshot residue, and the cloud backup shows that he had written a suicide note that was deleted from his laptop. But if Jennings committed suicide, how did he shoot himself in the head?

The team presses both women until they crack. Jennings called both women to say he was killing himself. His insurance has a suicide clause that prohibits payout, but Angelina couldn’t fake a murder because Joann also knew about his plans. Hence, they agree to split the money and accuse each other, raising too much doubt for a conviction. One shot him in the chest and the other fired into the ceiling so they’d both have residue on their hands, muddying the evidence. (Joann obviously learned a lot in law school.) The team swiftly cuffs them and charges them with insurance fraud. Book em, Danno, and etc.

NEXT: The DiNozzos are a dynamite case-cracking team

[pagebreak]

Now, let’s tackle tonight’s B plot. DiNozzo Senior’s a bit of a lost pup in this episode. He’s retired and has no purpose, so when he shows up hours early for his standing Tuesday lunch with Junior, he asks if he could volunteer to answer phones and file paperwork at NCIS HQ. Junior shuts that down with a swiftness, but Gibbs invites Senior to come by Chez Jethro that night to help him out with the boat.

After lunch, the DiNozzos are bickering about why senior center water aerobics didn’t work out (“My dermatologist said the chlorine was damaging my complexion!”) when a disheveled homeless woman approaches them and calls Senior “dad.” Junior gives her money, and they both look concerned as she wanders away.

At Gibbs’ that night, Senior mentions how much this encounter bothered him. “I could have a daughter her age,” he says, admitting he feels guilty for walking away when she looked so lost. Ever-practical Gibbs suggests that Senior make it his mission to go find her.

And that’s how the woman (who only knows that her first name is Susan) and her rusty grocery cart full of birdseed ends up in Junior’s apartment the next morning. She immediately sits down and starts playing the piano, telling a surprised Senior, “You’re the one who made me take lessons.” Aww, sad! Junior ends up putting them both into an Uber and sending them to a homeless shelter to get her help.

Senior looks incredibly out of place in his business suit, particularly when a grizzled fella openly covets his shoes. A shelter employee tells Senior that they’ll have Susan looked over by a physician’s assistant, but knowing her full name would be helpful in unlocking any medical records. The police can run her prints, but it could take weeks. Man, if only Senior knew someone who can do it faster!

When Junior finds his dad in Abby’s lab, he’s relieved that Senior knows he can’t ask Abby to break agency rules for a personal favor. But of course, Abby’s just finishing the search. Her name is Susan Lowe, and she’s an Army corporal who was honorably discharged in 1986, which makes her eligible for VA benefits.

Further research shows that her parents are dead and she has no siblings. They pull her last known address from a driver’s license that expired five years ago. Shortly afterward, Senior arrives at the shelter (with a fresh pair of shoes in hand for his new buddy) and learns that Susan wandered away, but not before the PA made a preliminary diagnosis that she’s suffering from a brain tumor in addition to dementia.

Senior ends up at his son’s apartment that night having been unable to find Susan. Tony fixes him a plate of dinner and tells him this is the most committed he’s ever seen his father to a non-work project.

“Maybe I’m trying to make amends. I wasn’t always there for my only child,” he confesses, saying he hopes Tony will understand if he ever becomes a father. Hey, that’s the second “Tony has no kids” reference this season. Maybe the secret Ziva baby people are on to something!

The next day, the DiNozzos visit Susan’s old apartment, where the manager remembers her from when she lived there almost 20 years ago. He said she lost her job when she began acting erratically, but he let her live there rent-free until the owner found out and bounced her.

The manager says Susan hoped to reconnect with her father, who never accepted that she was gay. Wait, wait, wait. This is a gay, homeless, mentally ill, orphaned veteran with a brain tumor? Man, NCIS is not messing around tonight. Anyway, the manager says Susan loved to feed the pigeons in the park near her old work. Hence the birdseed!

As the DiNozzos head to the park, they muse that Susan never learned that her father had died. “In her mind, she’s still searching for him,” Senior says. They both agree that they’re happy they were able to patch things up. And then they find a waxy, feverish Susan on a bench. Junior calls an ambulance as Senior lays a soothing hand on her forehead.

At the hospital, the doctor tells Senior that her brain tumor is inoperable, and she has a month to live. He also reminds Senior that Susan thinks he’s her dad.

Senior knows this and settles by her bedside, telling her, “I couldn’t leave my daughter alone. We have a lot of years to make up for.”

Susan apologizes for running away, but Senior takes the blame. “I was angry. My wife died, I had to raise a child by myself, and I took it out on you. And I had no right to do that.” He’s … definitely not just talking to Susan here.

He continues by apologizing for rejecting her for being gay, saying he grew up in a generation where people weren’t as tolerant. “I lost you, my beautiful little girl. And now, you’re a beautiful woman.” He’s teary when he tells her he loves her, and she replies, “I love you, too.” The camera pulls back to reveal one Anthony DiNozzo Jr. watching this quiet scene of acceptance and forgiveness from the doorway.

Stray thoughts

  • Thirteen seasons, and “Reasonable Doubt” wasn’t an episode title before this? That’s shocking.
  • Good to know Bishop’s failed marriage hasn’t soured her on the institution; she’s genuinely delighted that McGee’s ring shopping for Delilah. But did the lucky lady intercept a phone call from a jeweler that she shouldn’t have? We never did find out.
  • How nice to hear DiNozzo thank Gibbs for giving his father purpose. Gibbs: He meddles for a reason.
  • No, but seriously, this is the second time Tony not being a father has come up this season. That’s got to mean something, right? I don’t actually think it’s a secret Ziva baby, but it does make you wonder if this is foreshadowing for his final three episodes.  

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