Nobody sleeps as the NCIS team pulls an all-nighter on an apparent open-and-shut case
Credit: Jace Downs/CBS
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S13 E17
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Many shoes drop tonight as the NCIS team starts to question their instincts when a clear self-defense case unravels after hours.

It all begins when Petty Officer James Muldoon witnesses a woman being attacked at knifepoint along the side of the road while on his way home from the grocery store. He stops to help, and when the attacker advances on him, Muldoon’s forced to fire three shots to stop him. Good guy wins; bad guy dies. The end, right?

Not so fast.

At first, it all seems straightforward. Muldoon, a sharpshooter with a spotless record, didn’t know the woman, Amy Harrison, or the dead man, Mitchell Grafton. While Grafton’s rap sheet includes drug trafficking, battery, and sexual assaults, Muldoon works with at-risk teens. Abby finds Muldoon’s prints on a poorly maintained WWII Smith & Wesson and Grafton’s prints on the knife, which matches Harrison’s story.

She and McGee are deeply bored by such an obvious and easy solution, but Abby warns him, “There’s always another shoe, and it always drops.”

McGee disagrees. “I don’t know, Abby, I think we may be shoeless on this one.”

Everyone feels the same, and they bolt as soon as Gibbs gives them the all-clear at the end of the day. Then, one by one, they realize how many holes there are in this story.

First is McGee. He and Delilah allow themselves a limited work info dump; once the kitchen timer goes off, they’re done with shop talk for the night. Unfortunately, when McGee outlines the details of the shooting, Delilah points out that Muldoon shouldn’t have been on that road if he really were coming from the grocery store. Guys, it’s the first shoe!

Delilah leaves to use the restroom, and when she comes back, McGee’s turned her lovely dinner into a re-creation of the crime scene, featuring broccoli trees and corn-cob cars with carrot slice wheels. She’s NOT PLEASED that he ruined dinner and violated the info dump rule.

But McGee’s obsessed with figuring out why Muldoon lied to them, particularly when he realizes that he couldn’t have seen Harrison being attacked from his angle on the road. (The corn-cob cars proved this.)

DiNozzo’s equally distracted. He’s got a hot date with a Triple T (tall, tasty, and trust-funded), so he puts his Frank Sinatra hat on the piano, stashes his dirty dishes in the pantry, and chills some wine. His finishing touch is setting out a photo of him and a German shepherd. Then when he realizes the Triple T’s a cat lover, he smoothly flips the dog photo around to reveal…him and a cat! Smooth. They start bantering about his gun, and suddenly DiNozzo’s wondering why an expert marksman’s weapon was so poorly maintained.

The Triple T begs him to play the piano, so he dons his Sinatra hat and starts playing and singing Strangers in the Night. (Every woman watching immediately becomes pregnant.) He then freestyles lyrics about how good he is with his gun, which leads him to sing-ask why an expert marksman took three shots to drop a man at 20 feet. At this point, he launches into a lengthy discussion of the case, which drives the Triple T away. She never wants to go out with him again, but she would like him to email her about how the case resolves.

Bishop stayed at the office and learns from Ducky and Palmer that Grafton’s body was moved and that his time of death was actually an hour before Muldoon called 911. She heads to Gibbs’ house, where he’s got the crime-scene photos spread out and has also determined that the crime scene was staged. (Blood spatter indicates the knife with sheathed when Grafton was shot.)

They reconvene at the diner, where Bishop orders the menu (not from the menu, the menu) as she pulls up Harrison’s file. Harrison did a stint in juvie, but the records are sealed. She and Gibbs agree that they need to get back to the scene and expand the search radius.

McGee, meanwhile, can’t sleep. His gut’s telling him the good guy’s alive and the bad guy’s dead, but the facts don’t add up, which has him questioning his instincts. Delilah starts to fret that if they can’t turn off work talk, they’ll end up like Bishop and Jake. Yet when McGee gets a text from Palmer saying the body was moved, he’s willing to save it for the next day, but Delilah wants to dig into why the witnesses lied. Who’s breaking the info dump rule now?

NEXT: They’re up all night to get justice

When Bishop and Gibbs arrive at the scene in the dark, McGee and Delilah are already there, and DiNozzo arrives shortly afterward. Then Abby pops out of Harrison’s car, having discovered that Harrison had been texting Muldoon for the last three months, including once just after Grafton’s time of death.

Naturally, the team drags Muldoon back in for questioning. They come at him with all the inconsistencies, but Muldoon sticks to his story and lawyers up. Gotta say, he does sound sincere.

Harrison’s called in next after Abby found her DNA on the bullets and gun-shot residue on her clothes, which means she’s the shooter. Turns out, Grafton was a guard at the juvenile detention facility where she served eight months for a drug offense. They accuse her of going into the drug business with Grafton after her release, but she insists that she got popped with a bag of pot in high school and took the fall for the dealer. After she got out, she put it behind her … until she saw Grafton at a gas station the day before.

“It was like getting punched in the stomach. I… I couldn’t breathe,” she says. “The fear, the smells, the pain.”

You see, he raped her. For eight months in the detention center, he raped her, and when she saw him again years later, it just…happened. She barely remembers following him out of the gas station or hitting his car, although she thinks it was an accident. “I do remember the wave of rage and humiliation and shame,” she tells them.

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Things moved quickly after that. Grafton recognized her instantly and came at her screaming. She heard the gun go off, and then he was dead. She didn’t know what to do, so she called Muldoon, but she says staging the scene and lying to NCIS was all her idea because she didn’t think they’d understand.

Of course, Muldoon says covering up the crime was his idea, not hers. “That sonofabitch raped her for eight months straight when she was a child, and nobody did a damn thing about it,” he says. He thought his way had better odds than trusting a judge to understand why she did what she did.

Gibbs asks if Harrison knows that Muldoon’s in love with her. Muldoon doesn’t think so. They only met a few months ago at the teen outreach program, and she confided in him about the rapes because he’s the first man she felt safe with since it happened.

Happily, Gibbs tells him that the shooting was self-defense, and they’re not pursuing obstruction of justice charges against either of them. So hey, McGee’s gut was right! He identified the correct good guy and bad buy, even if the story behind it had some problems.

The case solved, everyone scrambles for the elevator, hoping to shower and get some sleep, but of course, Gibbs takes a call and, like the Terminator, he intercepts the elevator before they can escape. Nobody’s pleased about that, but hey, it’s another day on the job.

And it’s another strong episode in the back half of season 13! Nimble storytelling like this will serve the show well as it rolls into seasons 14 and 15, don’t you think? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to chase this with the Friends episode where they’re up all night. Similar premise, fewer gun deaths.

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