Tonight, Gibbs’ new team works its first case at an event already fraught with heightened emotions: a 15-year high school reunion.
Two brains had been ogling the babes who never gave them the time of day when a tough guy slouching nearby starts tossing shrimp at them. One brain turns out to be former Special Forces and tussles with the tough guy, who collapses shortly afterward and dies. That’s what you get for wasting shrimp, guy.
When the team arrives, they learn that the dead man, James Bruno, brought along a bomb big enough to wipe out all his former classmates, and see, this is why I didn’t go to my high school reunion. A grumpy teacher tells the team that Bruno was a bad kid in high school and had been renting a room from one of the substitute teachers.
McGee and Bishop track her down, and she turns out to be mostly blind and mostly deaf — not great witness material, in other words. In Bruno’s apartment, they discover tens of thousands of dollars in stolen items from a massive theft ring operating over the last half a decade. They also find dandruff all over the apartment that they link to the basket case riding her bike suspiciously outside of Bruno’s apartment.
The basket case, Angela, refuses to answer questions in interrogation until Torres asks if she’s hungry and hands her a smashed-looking candy bar. Makes sense that a highly successful undercover agent would be so good with people. Placated with chocolate, Angela says no way would her friend Bruno have planned to bomb the reunion. He was a thief, not a killer.
Naturally, this case sends Abby down memory lane, reminiscing to Gibbs that high school was where she discovered her twin loves: goth fashion and blood spatter patterns, which wasn’t a great combo for making friends. She’s momentarily melancholy, then shakes it off. “On to happier subjects. This is the explosive device that Bruno was going to use to commit mass murder.” She also reveals that Bruno was trying to quit smoking, and the killer poisoned his nicotine patch.
Two other pieces of evidence: Pictures in Bruno’s apartment show him posing with Neal, who tussled with him at the reunion. Problem is, Neal said the two men hadn’t seen each other in 15 years. In addition, Bruno was wearing a woman’s diamond earring when he died, and DNA shows it belongs to former high school princess Katrina, who married former athlete Adam Cooper.
And how are all these people linked? As you’d probably guessed by this point, they all had Saturday detention together once, 15 years ago. This sends Torres and Bishop to the Cooper residence, where Katrina denies sleeping with Bruno or being part of the burglary gang. Then a gun goes off in the house, and the agents find Neal dead from a self-inflicted flare gun shot to the temple. That … seems like an unpleasant way to go.
Neal left a confession apologizing for the thefts and explaining that Adam ID’d the marks, Katrina flirted her way into their homes and security systems, Bruno did the robberies, Angela fenced the loot, and he made the numbers look good though his CPA mojo. They hatched their plan at detention all those years ago as a way to get back at their parents.
At this point, Palmer says the whole case sounds very familiar: Five kids from different social backgrounds coming together for Saturday detention? A glare from Gibbs shuts down his John Hughes knowledge, and all I’m saying is, it’s a tragedy that DiNozzo’s off being a father to little Tali, because he would have been OVER THE MOON with this case.
NEXT: The team gets Keyser Sözed
The case also gets Bishop talking about high school. Torres has her pegged as the goodie two-shoes prom queen type. In fact, she actually was the prom queen — but it was all a cruel prank. “Kind of like Carrie, without the blood.” In fact, she didn’t have friends in high school. “I was too … me, I guess.” Look, I know Ellie isn’t the most popular NCIS character, but you have to feel a little bad for the lonely 15-year-old she must’ve been.
Okay, back to the case. The team pulls Adam in to see if he killed Bruno for sleeping with his wife. In questioning, Adam mourns how his life turned out; he wanted to be a pro football player — a sly wink, of course, to Mark Harmon’s own past as a football star. But Gibbs isn’t Mark Harmon, and Gibbs wanted to be a watercolor painter. (Don’t cry for him, Argentina; he now contents himself by painting with wood through his shipbuilding hobby.)
Adam also says the team recently stole a million-dollar painting that Katrina joked about keeping for themselves by killing their partners, perhaps through a bomb. But Bruno’s involvement in it puzzles Adam, who says the former bad boy was actually a good guy who agreed to let Neal beat him up to impress their former classmates at the reunion. (And it turns out, Bruno built the bomb but made sure it wouldn’t actually explode — a good guy in the end, mostly.)
In the big orange room, Torres is studying the suspect photos. “Who are these people, living double lives like this?” Torres sees the irony in his question even before Gibbs points out that Torres created all of his own cover identities. “Which version is the real you?” Gibbs asks.
Meanwhile, Abby finds security footage of Bruno getting thrashed by Vic, the mean teacher from the reunion. Ah ha! New suspect! Vic says Bruno made his life hell in detention, and he always promised Bruno he’d pay him back someday. “Judge all you want. I’ve been in combat. High school is worse,” he tells Gibbs.
Vic says Bruno accepted the beating with such resignation that he felt bad and tracked him down to apologize. When Vic bumped into the landlady, she saw the small bruise on his hand, realized he was the one who assaulted Bruno, and threatened to call the police.
“But Vic,” the audience cries, “we thought the landlady was blind and infirm!”
Yeah, so did the team. When they show up to her residence, the murderous former chemistry teacher’s spryly tossing the expensive painting into her cherry VW van, having killed Bruno to secure it for herself.
“She totally like Keyser Sözed us,” Bishop laments back in the big orange room, which has been remodeled to accommodate all five agents. McGee’s frustrated that this happened without anyone consulting the senior field agent, which gets him a head slap from Gibbs. “It comes with the territory,” Gibbs says. Awwwww! The torch passes! (Quinn’s confused, though. “Did he just physically assault you?”)
Then the team bonds: Quinn likes Broadway musicals, while Torres fires up some Cuban reggaeton and gets the whole team dancing. (McGee doesn’t bust out his tap dance moves, alas). Naturally, Gibbs shuts down the music and breaks up the fun, although he does smile fondly at his new brood as they settle down to work.
- Some good team chemistry this week! I worry that this is one or two characters too many to devote enough time to everyone, but if any writer’s room can juggle a large cast, it’s one going into its 14th year.
- There’s no way we’re not going to hear more about the kid in Torres’ framed photo, right?
- Of course Abby’s bullhorn is goth-ified
- Any guesses on why Palmer spent a night in jail in high school? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments!