The NCIS team feels the pressure of catching a killer and navigating Valentine's Day

By Sara Netzley
February 10, 2016 at 04:26 AM EST
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
S13 E14

Happy almost Valentine’s Day, everyone! Are you getting your loved one basketball tickets, a salmon dinner, or trè​s romantic liquid cocaine? Tonight on NCIS, all three were viable options.

On board an Olympus Underwater Research dive vessel, Diego de la Rosa, retired Navy, freaks out and dies. Unfortunately, he and three other people are in a chamber pressurized to an atmosphere more than 19 times greater than sea level, and it can’t be opened for four days without immediately killing everyone inside.

See, de la Rosa and his team are saturation divers, who live, sleep, and eat in the pressurized chamber until their job welding an oil pipeline is done. This allows teams of two to take a diving bell down to the ocean floor to work, and they only have to go through depressurization once, at the end of their gig.

But when de la Rosa suddenly panicked and started swinging a knife, the other divers were forced to wrestle him into submission, then they all put on breathing masks when the control room flushed the chamber. Once everything was calm, de la Rosa was dead.

Unfortunately, when NCIS shows up to investigate the murder, they can’t access the body because it’s inside the sealed chamber, and the four-day depressurization period will erase any evidence of how he died. Video of the incident doesn’t indicate cause of death, and making matters worse, the surviving members of the team want to give de la Rosa a burial at sea rather than watching him decompose for 96 hours.

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Ducky steps in then and instructs the dive team through the glass, saying it’ll be no more frustrating than a mechanical crane game. Ummm, no crane game has ever had me stab a needle into a dead co-worker’s thigh, then wiggle it around to extract blood. Between that and the fingernails, hair, and urine sample, everybody’s grossed out.

Thanks to their efforts, Abby learns that de la Rosa was high on dyed-red liquid cocaine, which is at least Valentine’s appropriate, she points out. But what killed him was breathing the wrong mix of oxygen through his personal breather. Abby demonstrates how anybody in the chamber could’ve tampered with his hose when they put it on him.

DiNozzo’s investigation into the team’s backgrounds shows that Sam Harper has money problems, Meredith Regan was dishonorably discharged for killing a man in Kabul, and Jalen Washington’s been “night diving” into Mrs. de la Rosa. Snerk! (This is one-upped by Tony’s reaction: “20,000 leagues under the sheets.”)

Gibbs is rightfully annoyed that his team can’t figure out which of the three suspects locked in a metal tube did it, despite DiNozzo’s Zaprudering of the video footage. And inside that metal tube, the team members start turning against one another. Jalen says Meredith came back from the last dive with de la Rosa acting crazy. Sam brings up Jalen’s affair with the widow. Even the ship captain gets involved, mentioning that Sam’s dive partner nearly died from a “misconnected” hose two years ago.

NEXT: Man, these people take Valentine’s Day seriously

Even more interesting than everyone’s motive is that the dive ship is positioned six miles east of the oil pipeline. So what are they really doing? Before the divers can provide intel, Olympus’ lawyer, Jerry Grossman, arrives waving their nondisclosure agreements and threatening to sue them if they leak classified information. All Bishop and DiNozzo can discover is that it was a beta test with a $700 million price tag that’s days away from being presented to the Secretary of the Navy.

McGee finally gets the deets: They were testing pre-positioned assets, water-tight closets filled with weapons or supplies and buried in the ocean anywhere around the world, popping to the surface when needed. They’d have saved the Navy tens of millions in transportation costs and changed the way they fight wars — if only the containers didn’t leak from the pressure. Abby and McGee realize that PPAs would be a perfect hiding place for drugs that cartels could retrieve at will. The red food coloring would prove that the liquid cocaine hadn’t leaked.

The working hypothesis becomes that one of the divers was working with the cartel planting the drugs, and de la Rosa was murdered when he saw something he shouldn’t have.

So Bishop appeals to one of the control room guys, also retired Navy, who admits that the morning of his buddy’s death, they got an alert that one of the divers had opened a PPA and taken something out.

Then the divers start fighting again, and Bishop threatens to shoot out the window and kill them all from the pressure. Man, she’s not messing around. Sam and Meredith have concluded the murderer was Jalen because they found knives in his belongings. Jalen denies it and yells, “Make them un-tape me!” (This is the funniest line in the episode. Don’t mess with Bishop or duct tape, apparently.)

Gibbs has had enough and leaves them to stew during the last two days of their depressurization. When they’re able to leave, NCIS are there to arrest…drumroll…Meredith! A rash on her lip tipped Gibbs off to her sensitivity to red dye, which indicates that she’d been handling the liquid cocaine.

Even better news, the horrible lawyer was her partner. NCIS discovered 200 vials of the cocaine in the PPAs and raided a cartel ship with some on board. Justice. Is. Served.

Now, to the Valentine’s high jinks this week. Abby tiptoes through the empty orange room dressed like Little Goth Riding Hood (although how she sneaks around in those Kiss boots is beyond me) and places secret Valentine’s gifts at everyone’s desk as McGee and DiNozzo look on from above.

McGee scoffs at Abby’s annual activity, but DiNozzo chides him. “Now, now, McCherub, you should appreciate what you have. We’re not all so lucky.”

“Sometimes I think you prefer being alone,” McGee says.

“We all have to live with our decisions, Tim,” he replies.

What does that mean, you guys?? Jeanne Benoit decisions? Zoe decisions? Ziva decisions? If you’re like me, you’re going to parse everything DiNozzo says from here on out for clues as to how he’s going to leave the show. This little bit of melancholy makes me wonder if he leaves for lurve.

Anyway, Abby’s gift to Bishop is roses and a card that reads: “Roses are red, they go in a bucket. Jake is a jerk, he can go suck it.” That…is not how I thought that was going to end.

McGee’s worried about what to get Delilah, and DiNozzo says tickets to a Wizards game are all he ever wants. Gibbs suggests making her dinner, then acknowledges that he’s maybe not the best go-to for romantic advice. Bishop, meanwhile, wants to watch a movie at home, though she says she’ll miss her annual meal of salmon piccata at Gennari’s.

“We’ll hold down the sad, single Valentine’s fort, just the two of us,” DiNozzo promises.

Edgar Allen McGee eventually writes a love poem to Delilah, which Tony starts to read aloud to Bishop because “how else will I make fun of my co-worker?” But after the first line, he softens and says it’s actually quite romantic. Then DiNozzo hands Bishop the Aliens DVD and tells her to get home for her Gennari’s delivery of salmon piccata. Aww, I bet Tony’s a great boyfriend. Bishop, in turn, gets Tony a Wizards ticket, and they high five over their best V-day ever.

Stray thoughts:

  • I’m really going to miss DiNozzo when he’s gone next season. Like, a lot, even with that terrible/wonderful Max Headroom impression.
  • Have you ever seen such elaborate co-worker Valentine’s Day celebrations?
  • And all in all, this was a fun episode: unusual setting, good red herrings, solid team interactions. Bring on the back half of the season!

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