A dead officer, a crushed drone, a stolen driver’s license, and a pair of kissing cousins all converge during a family trip at sea.
Vivian Mills’ body is discovered in a trash compactor onboard a Naval ship en route to Naval Station Norfolk as part of a tiger cruise, in which family and friends (not spouses or significant others) are able to join their loved ones aboard the ship for the last few days of a cruise.
Gibbs, Quinn, and Palmer are choppered to the scene to investigate and are greeted by Commander Rey, who remembers Quinn’s nickname from her one-year shipboard stint: heartbreaker. “Something like that,” Quinn breezes.
Although Palmer doesn’t cotton to Quinn breaking the rules about onboard fraternization, he’s not surprised. “She is a very handsome woman.”
News of the murder spreads quickly, and to the whole world, when teen popstar Kasey Powers, who’s onboard doing a goodwill tour, tweets it to her 3 million followers using the hashtags #MurderBoat and #NCSI. Hee!
Back on land, McGee’s making Bishop and Torres crazy with his elaborate plans to propose to Delilah. (It involves mathematical symbolism, the Washington monument, and the sun setting at the perfect time and angle six months from now.)
While Bishop assures McGee that Delilah will love it, she does question the lengthy timeline, particularly because actually having the ring in his possession has made McGee a jumpy, cranky person. He’s Gollum, basically, leading McGee to ask, “Eleanor Bishop, can you please be my Frodo?” She says yes but doesn’t do an impression. Sorry, but if somebody asks you to be Frodo, your job is to immediately respond, “Sam!” or “Elevensies!” Geez, Bishop.
Naturally, McGee starts bugging Bishop about where she’s going to hide the ring for the next half a year. Apparently, in the locked drawer of her desk in a secure federal facility isn’t good enough, particularly because McGee says he broke into that desk all the time. Oh, but only with Kate and Ziva, he says, and man, he drops those names into conversation really casually. Sad face.
At sea, Quinn and Gibbs overhear an argument and find a tiger dad pressuring Kasey’s manager to get him an autograph for his 9-year-old. They shoo him away from the irritated (and irritating) manager, Curt.
But he’s quickly forgotten when they realize that the woman who found the body, Seaman Baxter, was supposed to have her mom and brother on the cruise with her. She says her brother couldn’t make it because of car trouble. And yet somebody signed in as him. When Abby discovers that Baxter’s brother’s car was tampered with and somebody stole his driver’s license, it’s confirmed that there’s an imposter onboard. DUN DUN DUN!
Furthermore, a crushed drone remote was found with Vivian’s body, so now the team needs to determine what could’ve been smuggled on or off the ship, possibly with the help of the imposter.
One possibility is Vivian’s cousin, David, who’s on board the tiger cruise and has experience with drones. (He’s played by Michael McMillian, best known as True Blood’s Rev. Steve Newlin; although sadly, at no point tonight does he declare his love for Jason Stackhouse.)
Quinn tries to get David to open up to her by dealing him into her card game and casually asking him about drones. Turns out, her nickname was actually Queen of Hearts because she used cards as a way to get to know people. Unfortunately, her attempts to interrogate David fail, as do her attempts to get the commander to drive in circles around the ocean to give them another day to investigate. Instead, they dock in two hours.
On land, Palmer points out that Vivian’s clock-necklace is inscribed with the words, “Time with you is never wasted.” Because there’s nothing Ducky can’t make you feel sadder about, he says, “It’s a reminder of a young life cut short.”
NEXT: Tim decides not to waste any more time
In her lab, Abby finds the crushed drone among the garbage and retrieves footage of popstar Kasey in a restricted area.
So Gibbs and Quinn burst in on Curt and Kasey, who confesses that she just had surgery on her vocal cord polyps. Since she can’t sing for the next few months, she wanted to promote the military on a good will tour because her grandfather was in the Navy. In order to attract Millennial recruits with high tech gadgets, she got permission to be in the restricted area; all the sensitive equipment was obscured. So she’s off the hook, but she does mention that other tigers were with her, which expands the suspect pool again.
Happily, the team IDs the imposter as Wayne Cribbage, the dad looking for Kasey’s autograph. Unhappily, they get a call about a man overboard. It’s Cribbage, who decided to swim for it since they were so close to land. He’s immediately captured.
In interrogation, he admits that he’s a paparazzo who stole Baxter’s brother’s identity — not to sell Navy secrets, but to get up-close footage of Kasey. When he was in the trash room, he heard a man and a woman arguing, and he panicked and tossed his drone and camera in the compacter, leaving him with no Kasey shots or even an autograph. He insists that he didn’t murder Vivian.
Just as Gibbs starts to yell at the team about being back at square one, up pops a name that Torres entered into the computer (grudgingly, as his skills are more focused on kicking down doors). Merrick Gomer’s a domestic batterer whose ex-wife at Naval Station Norfolk has a restraining order out against him. Since he wouldn’t be able to get through the front door with that in place, the team realizes he’s using the tiger cruise as a back door to get in to see his son.
They quickly nab him in the middle of an attempted kidnapping, and Gibbs talks him down from pulling out his weapon with his son in the backseat. Gomer’s the one who murdered Vivian, who was friends with his ex and recognized him on the ship. Always cool when NCIS gives us two crimes for the price of one, in this case a paparazzo drone and a murderous ex.
And now, to the bittersweet coda. David and Vivian weren’t cousins; they were dating. He lied because he wanted to experience the Navy part of her life, but the next non-family cruise wasn’t for another six months. He talked Vivian into lying to get him onboard, and he didn’t want that to be remembered as her last action. McGee agrees to let this one slide.
David gave her the necklace, but he wishes it had been a ring instead. Naturally. What else would make the concerned thinking lines appear between McGee’s brows?
He storms into the big orange room and slams his fist on top of Bishop’s desk, popping open the locked drawer.
McGee heads to the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets, and when it opens, there’s Delilah. He steps on board and then hits stop, getting down on one knee to propose. “I can’t waste any more time,” he tells her. She says yes, and it’s all terribly sweet, if somewhat telegraphed. Congratulations to the happy couple!
- Do I need to rename it the Elevator of Schemes, Secrets, and Smooches?
- Sometimes, we get reminded that Hollywood doesn’t always know how to write for The Youth. They handled the Twitter stuff pretty well tonight, but the petty officer’s younger brother crowing, “Yo, this tiger cruise is lit, son” was… less successful.
- That said, the episode slipped in some educational points about life at sea in a sneakily entertaining way.
- I know not all of you out there in Audiencelandia are enjoying Quinn, but her facial expressions just kill me. Jennifer Esposito’s a funny, funny woman, and I’m glad she’s on the team this season.
- Please note that teen pop star Kasey Powers was Bishop’s spirit animal throughout her divorce. Oh, Bish. You could do much, much better. Beyoncé, maybe? Leslie Jones? Kate McKinnon? Basically anybody in the cast of Ghostbusters? Girl, you can do better, is what I’m saying.
- Let us never speak of graham cracker-and-cottage-cheese vomit again.