Let’s just get it out of the way: Lucille Bluth hit on Gibbs tonight.
Okay, fine, Jessica Walter played a character named Judith McKnight, but between the withering disdain and the alcohol consumption, you’ll forgive the confusion. She meets Gibbs thanks to her membership in the Sherlock Consortium for Investigation, a secret society that solves cold cases and which counts as a member one Dr. Donald Mallard.
The cold case in question starts with the body of retired Lt. Cdr. Runyan Hayes. As soon as Ducky hears the victim’s name, he recuses himself. “I know far more about this man’s murder than I care to admit,” he says.
Ducky says that Hayes reached out to the Sherlocks for help proving that his son, Michael, didn’t commit a shipboard murder for which he was convicted 16 years ago.
Gibbs demands an introduction, and Ducky takes him and Bishop to meet ex-cop Walter Osorio, steely dame Judith McKnight, and Lyle. Just Lyle. Judith sizes up Gibbs and pegs him as the quiet, brooding type. “You have a very commanding voice, Special Agent Gibbs. And big hands.”
“Oh boy,” Bishop mutters.
Ducky apologizes to the group for breaking the seal of secrecy, then asks them to hand over any information they’ve gathered on the Hayes case. The Sherlocks protest, and when Gibbs discovers they have scads of private records, he brings them in for questioning. This blows McGee’s wee little mind because Judith writes a popular book series about a 14-year-old girl who fights crime. In fact, he just happens to have a paperback in his desk for her to sign.
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During their questioning, the Sherlocks convince the team that the hair analysis used to convict Michael in 1999 was deeply flawed. And guess which forensic scientist performed the test and testified at his trial? You got it: Abby Sciuto.
Abby’s devastated to hear that she may have sent an innocent man to prison. “Can you imagine if I messed up, what that really means? It means that innocent people went to jail because of me, because of my mistakes.” Gibbs hugs her and promises they’ll make it right.
One way Abby can help is via bullet analysis, so DiNozzo and McGee spend a good part of this episode tromping through the woods and getting sap all over their shoes as they search the crime scene. They find one bullet buried in a tree, and DiNozzo suffers a wicked splinter injury digging it out. But Abby determines it has no human DNA on it, so she sends them back. They find a second hole, and a silicone impression shows that the bullet was dug out with car keys. Also, Tony gets another splinter. It’s the worst thing nature’s done to him since the poison oak incident last week. Man, nature must hate him.
Gibbs, meanwhile, meets with Michael Hayes’ daughter, who was raised by Runyan Hayes and will now move in with Jason Tupperman, her father’s best friend, former shipmate, and an obvious bad guy. Tupperman goes with Bishop to break the news of his father’s death to Michael, who orders Bishop to keep NCIS away from his daughter.
“You want to help me? Let me hug my daughter. This glass, this phone… I haven’t held her hand in 16 years. I just want my baby back,” he says. (Let’s assume he’s been in there long enough that he didn’t know he was referencing a delicious ad campaign.)
NEXT: The Sherlocks beard the lion in his den
That night, Gibbs is hanging out at home when the Sherlocks barge in, having sniffed out his address. Lyle hilariously (and accurately?) describes Gibbs’ house as one of those fake ones they used to nuke in the desert. They’re there to ask that NCIS reopen the Hayes investigation, and Judith lets Gibbs know that her safe word is kielbasa.
Meanwhile, Abby’s spinning out of control, locked in her lab and reexamining every single case she’s ever touched. The team agrees to get Michael’s DNA from the prison so she can compare it to the hair from the 1999 case. When DiNozzo and Bishop arrive to collect the sample, they stumble across Walter and Judith, pretending to be Hayes’ parents to collect his DNA. Those lovable meddlers!
Back at NCIS, Ducky yells at the Sherlocks, bad cop to Gibbs’ good one. Afterward, Lyle starts free associating that you get tree sap off with peanut butter. Gibbs tells a surprised Lyle that he just solved the case because Gibbs noticed that obvious bad guy Jason Tupperman had the same sap stains on his shoes that McGee and DiNozzo did.
With today’s technology, Abby’s able to determine that the hair from the 1999 crime scene doesn’t match Michael’s. Naturally, she’s horrified. Ah, but they’re also going to use DNA to right this wrong. Obvious bad guy Jason Tupperman shows up at NCIS, where Bishop gets his DNA by offering him a glass of water and Palmer gets his car keys by dressing like a valet. Abby matches sawdust from the keys to the DNA of the tree with the second bullet hole, courtesy of DiNozzo’s splinter.
Ducky meets with the Sherlocks to play them a tape of obvious bad guy Jason Tupperman confessing to both murders. Judith is briefly sad that Gibbs didn’t come along, but she brightens when she announces that she and McGee are collaborating on a new crime novel.
“I’m basing my main character on a silver-haired devil short on words, but his eyes say plenty,” she purrs. Oh, I so hope they circle back to this plot some day.
Ducky’s last act with the Sherlocks is to resign but nominate a worthy successor: Palmer, who’s been taking night classes on the science of decay and shows up in an itchy deerstalker cap.
Finally, the exonerated Michael Hayes is escorted to the gates of the prison, where he embraces his daughter for the first time in 16 years. Everyone cries. Abby’s there with Gibbs, and when Michael turns to thank her, she chokes out that she’s the one who put him in there.
“No, you’re the one who got me out,” he says, folding her into a hug, too. More crying, on screen and at home.
- Man, Bishop was a big ol’ jinx this week. Here’s hoping a shouted demand to the spirits of criminal science for a crazy day will clear things right up.
- Could you have lived your life not picturing DiNozzo Sr.’s old toes getting pedicured?
- Just when you think he can’t get any cuter, Palmer goes and does bird calls.
- Realistically, how long would it take Abby to re-examine each and every case she worked, do you think?
- I bet you’re still singing the baby back ribs song.