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'NCIS' recap: 'Shell Game'

Posted on

Bill Inoshita/CBS

NCIS

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

Are we getting wackier team shenanigans this season? It sure seems like it. This week’s includes Quinn wearing the “welcome to NCIS” sweater Abby knitted for her that literally says “WELCOME TO NCIS” in enormous block letters.

It’s tradition! McGee got knitted socks, which he still wears 13 years later (“The trick is, you don’t wash them”), and Bishop got a friendship bracelet, which she’s still wearing (seems to me like she got the short end of the stick). Then they all look at Torres, who defensively says, “I don’t wear vests, okay, and I definitely don’t wear foo-foo colors.”

Of course, Abby comes in and gushes about how great Quinn looks, then asks Torres if he’s cold. Oh man, Abby is the worst kind of knitting gift-giver. You hand over the item, and what happens next is out of your control. Guilt is a terrible gift, Abbs. I will say, though, that type of intarsia on the lettering is quite hard to do, so kudos to Ms. Sciuto for her technique.

Anyway, to distract from the vest-less Torres, Quinn asks about the tiny pocket Abby knitted in her sleeve. Abby says it’s a secret-agent pocket so Quinn can hide things, “like a micro-recorder or a safe-deposit key or a cyanide capsule.” And then the team’s called to a crime scene.

At the top of the hour, “Come on Feel the Noize” was blaring in a rat-infested basement as a woman in chains beat her captor to death with a small dumbbell. While I initially guessed she wasn’t a Quiet Riot fan, it turns out she’s Navy Petty Officer Kelly Ristow, who’s been missing for five days. Her fingerprints are found in the basement, but she’s not there anymore.

A burner phone in the basement leads to a territorial pissing match with Metro P.D. Det. Dan Campbell (seen last season giving the team trouble in “Viral”), so Quinn sneaks the SIM card out in her secret-agent pocket. Abby’s knitting skills to the rescue! Also on the scene is Agent Francis, Quinn’s former paramour, who’s disappointed she hasn’t returned his three phone calls. “Hint taken,” he says when she tries to let him down gently, and I’m suddenly worried this is going to end with stalking, breaking and entering, and a restraining order. (It should be noted Francis is played by Tony Gonzalez, former NFL-er and current studio analyst for NFL Today.)

Anyway, Kelly is apprehended at the airport, battered, freaked out, and screaming for her husband. At NCIS HQ, Kelly says she was kidnapped from her home, while Bishop and Quinn struggle to understand why her husband, Chris, didn’t report her missing — and why, when she called him to say she escaped, he asked her to meet him at the airport and then didn’t show. She hasn’t called you back, guy. Move on.

While they assure Kelly she killed her captor in self-defense, they want to keep her in protective custody — possibly from her own husband, who’s now missing. In fact, he quit his job at the law firm where he worked as a night security guard five days ago, when Kelly was abducted. The Ristow house is a mess (obviously the result of a search) and their dog, Frank, seen in framed photos, is missing. Not Frank. NOT FRANK!

The plot gets even thicker when the SIM card reveals deleted text messages that show the kidnapper took orders — from someone who told him to hold Kelly while they “made a deal.” Also, Chris was in debt and Kelly was heavily insured, leaving the team to wonder if he engineered the kidnapping himself.

They’re further suspicious when they learn Kelly’s sister has Frank and that Chris called to check on him immediately after hearing from Kelly. As Abby puts it, “I love animals, but I think I would love my husband more. I mean, I don’t know.”

More bad news for Chris: He’s listed as the CEO of QFire, an international corporation with officers in the Cayman Islands, Panama, and Ireland. It has no website, employees, or products, but it lists $3 million in assets. You guys, this plot is so thick.

When the team finds out that Chris purchased two tickets for him and Kelly to fly to Mexico, Bishop and Quinn go to the bank where Chris retrieved their passports from their safety deposit box. There, they find Chris’ car…with Chris in the trunk, bullets in his head, heart, and knee.

NEXT: Russian nesting dolls and cobalt vests

[pagebreak]

Enter Dale from accounting, a pale, nervous guy who’s incapable of getting out a sentence when Gibbs is in the room. (Abby’s attempt to talk him down by telling him to imagine Gibbs as a big cat whose belly he can scratch doesn’t help.) He vomits up a font of technical information before Abby takes mercy on him and explains it with Russian nesting dolls: Shell corps merge with other shell corps in a game of hide the money.

Chris got involved because it’s common practice for his law firm to use their employees as fronts for the shell companies they set up as asset protection for clients who want to remain anonymous. So Chris never had access to the $3 million. Oh, and Pale Dale is 87-percent sure the true owner of the missing money is Leonard Weiss — a.k.a. one of the biggest financial players in the American political scene.

When Gibbs wants to pick up Weiss for questioning, Vance absolutely puts his foot down, arguing that the repercussions just days before the most important election in American history would be astronomical. At this point, the entire cast does not turn to the camera to say in unison, “GO VOTE,” but it’s heavily implied.

Anyway, Vance needs concrete evidence, which comes when a partner from Chris’ law firm sets up a secret meeting in a parking garage. (Man, DiNozzo would love the Deep Throat of it all.) As they hang around waiting, Gibbs and Torres have a heart-to-heart about how Torres is holding up in his new gig. He says it’s hard and there’s no way he’s wearing the Abby sweater. Gibbs reminds him he’s part of a family now.

“Your family is crazy,” Torres says.

“But they’re still a family,” Gibbs replies.

Yeah, Torres will absolutely be wearing that vest by the end of the hour.

Deep Throat shows up and it’s Sullivan Brady, a lawyer at the firm who was friendly with Chris. He’s got a paper trail showing that Chris siphoned the assets out of QFire, so Weiss hired people to snatch his wife. Then Brady gets into the backseat of his fancy SUV and gets whisked away. Dang, he’s got a driver? Evil law must pay well.

So now they’ve got concrete proof and can bring in Weiss, whom they’re guessing hired someone to kill Chris when his wife escaped. Except oh noes, Weiss has escaped to Serbia, which, you guessed it, doesn’t extradite to the United States.

Via video call, Weiss scoffs about the missing $3 million; it’s disappointing but not murder-inducing when you consider the 32 other shell companies he owns.

Gibbs and Vance agree they’re being played, and Pale Dale — who’s had a boost of confidence in the interim — is prepared to brief everyone on the newest info he’s uncovered. But McGee and Abby steal his thunder, explaining Weiss was cheating the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars, and whistle-blower Chris was going to the media with a jump drive full of proof. So someone at the firm must’ve hired the kidnapper and then the murderer.

The plot now unthickens: Brady had Chris killed and gave NCIS doctored papers that incriminated him in the embezzlement. So that’s how he was able to afford a driver! At this point, Pale Dale tells them to get out there and arrest the bastard. Ha. You’re welcome back to NCIS any time, Pale Dale.

And poor Kelly! She’s proud of what Chris was trying to do and wishes he’d been able to get the jump drive to the media. But eagle-eye Gibbs notices Frank the dog is wearing a different collar than the one in the pictures, and they discover a jump drive hidden inside. Ah, yes, the Men in Black gambit!

And of course, we end with Torres in a cobalt “Welcome to NCIS” vest. He tries to downplay it with, “It’s cold outside,” but he still gets an Abby hug.

Stray shots

  • Where is Ducky this season? And Palmer? Give us more of the men of the morgue!
  • I’m in ecstasy over Torres studying sculpture and keenly observing the human form when he was undercover in Holland. Keep these little details coming, please!
  • Torres’ 98,843 unread emails gave me heart palpitations. Like McGee, I want to know how he sleeps at night. (Yes, yes. On his back, naked. He filled us in. My point still stands.)

Episode grade: B

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