I have a deep appreciation for everything about Tony DiNozzo. I love his goofball ways, his pop culture references, and his endless supply of ways to get under McGee’s skin. But like any perpetually lovable character on a TV drama, he also has a host of dark secrets, and when said secrets have a chance to come to the surface as part of a meaty and revealing storyline, it’s a treat for us all. Such an episode of NCIS aired last night.
Friday Night Lights alum Gaius Charles showed up in the episode, guest starring as arson investigator Jason King, best known to fans vaguely as “the kid from Baltimore” who, until last night, we knew little about. In last night’s episode, his past with Tony came to light.
Via flashback, we learned that Jason was much more than just some kid who then-Ohio State student Tony had saved from a fire while taking a stroll one night. Jason was, in fact, one of two kids trapped in that fire — but the only one who was saved. The other was Jason’s sister, and even after many years, Jason still held a grudge against Tony for not helping her escape the fire as well. Of course, as Tony recounted the story to McGee and Ziva, two things became clear: 1) Tony looks better with short hair (Sorry, had to say it!) and 2) there was no way Tony could have saved Jason’s sister that night. A flame-engulfed beam had fallen from above and trapped the girl inside her bedroom just after Tony turned around to save her. At that point, he had to choose whether to save himself and the boy or die trying to save all three. “I chose,” Tony told his co-workers after telling them the story.
Some time later, Jason was leaving headquarters, upset that Tony had pulled him away from a dangerous situation that led to the death of a key witness in last night’s case-of-the-week. (Unlike most crimes on the show, it was not wrapped up neatly by the end of the episode, so I expect to see more from this.) “He doesn’t see it, boss,” Tony told Gibbs, looking over at angry Jason.
“Help him,” Gibbs ordered.
So that’s what Tony did. He trapped Jason in the elevator and, in one of those rare-but-great moments, Tony shed his goofy demeanor and showed just how mature he can be. “Something I learned that night, Jason: You can’t save them all. Sometimes, you have to pick one. I picked you,” he said. “I decided to become a cop that night because of a kid I almost lost in Baltimore but didn’t. That’s you. For the first time in my life I made a difference. I did something that mattered. I’ve been trying to do that ever since.”
“Me too,” Jason replied.
And with one final Gibbs-like closing statement — the kind that always give me a little flutter in my heart — Tony bid farewell to Jason. “She’s gone. We’re not. Focus on the ones you can still save.”
I’ll embed a clip when it becomes available in the morning, PopWatchers. But in the meantime, did you enjoy the episode as much as I did? Do you hope to see more of Jason King? And where does this rank among your favorite NCIS origins episodes?