Some undercover stints go better than others.

By Sara Netzley
October 07, 2015 at 02:15 AM EDT
Darren Michaels/CBS
S13 E3
  • TV Show

Ah, the ol’ coworkers-going-undercover-as-a-married-couple gambit. Mulder and Scully did it. Sydney and Vaughn did it. And another pair of coworkers did it, too, but who were they? It’s so hard to recall!

Only kidding, of course. DiNozzo and Ziva set the bar for tension-filled undercover gigs when they played married assassins in season 3. Sadly, McGee and Bishop’s undercover bickering falls far short of that glorious apex in this week’s episode, which finds our favorite agents coming out on top more through luck than actual skills.

The case of the week is Maj. Newton, who refused to let go of a closed armory-theft case he’d investigated at Camp Lejeune because he insisted there was an accomplice. But when Gibbs and DiNozzo arrive at Quantico to hear him out, they learn that Newton died while jogging. Abby uses his fitness tracker to determine that his body was moved after his heart stopped beating. So, you know, MURDER. That’s a heck of a way to tell everybody, “I told you so,” Newton.

Warning: We hear more about the Ellie/Jake marital strife this week. She tells McGee that she’s booking them a long tropical weekend and hopes they can reconnect. So when McGee picks up a call from Jake on Bishop’s phone, he chats happily with him about their planned vacation. Well, that definitely won’t backfire. And sure enough, Bishop yells at Timmy for ruining the surprise anniversary trip she was planning for the impossible-to-surprise Jake.

Back to the case: Abby works her magic on a plastic knife found in Newton’s belongings and matches it to a fingerprint on a newly acquired Virginia driver’s license belonging to Lauren Hudson, the civilian wife of Capt. Dean Hudson, who recently moved from Lejeune to Quantico. That Newton might have been onto something.

The Hudsons profess no knowledge of Newton being at Quantico when Gibbs and DiNozzo question them, and when base surveillance footage proves them liars, Gibbs has no choice but to send McGee and Bishop to pose as the Donens, a married couple moving into the empty house across the street. But they’re mad at each other! Oh no!

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Tony, meanwhile, is about a decade behind your aunt in exploring his heritage. He learns that his DNA is 2.9 percent Neanderthal (which Abby and Ellie agree explains a lot) and that he’s related to a historical figure. Oooh… Is it Rasputin? Charlemagne? Vlad Tepes? Adopting a posh accent, he tells his coworkers that if he’s connected to royalty, they’ll have to call him “Lord Antony,” pronounced Gwyneth Paltrow-style. In fact, DiNozzo’s related to Archibald Drummond, 17th Earl of Trent. Lord Tony it is, then!

“You keep talking with that accent, I’m gonna shoot you,” Gibbs warns him. Of all the faults of this episode, at least the DiGibbs tension has dissipated.

Back to this week’s mystery again: Research into Lauren’s background shows that she grew up super rich at a place called Owl Wood — Best. Mansion name. Ever. — and got even richer after her father died and left her everything. A chat with Lauren’s family attorney reveals that both he and her father worried that Dean married her for her money.

Unfortunately, surveilling the Hudsons from across the street uncovers nothing useful, but it does lead to hostilities at the surveillance house as Bishop snaps at McGee for answering her phone and ruining the surprise weekend, while McGee correctly points out that she should’ve warned him it was a surprise. Team McGee all the way here.

Oh, but then he realizes it’s more than just a ruined anniversary gift. “Things with Jake are just not the same,” she says.

After all the relationship talk, you may be asking yourself, “What’s the point of having them undercover? Are they discovering anything useful by posing as an unhappy married couple?” The answer is no, and it’s about to get worse.

NEXT: How not to add your coworker to your phone 

At the lab, Abby compares the photos on Lauren’s old and new driver’s licenses and discovers it’s not the same woman. DUN! It’s enough to bring the Hudsons in, so everyone moves.

McGee, who’s with Lauren at the time, gets a phone call from “Ellie Bishop,” according to his screen. That’s…super unstealthy. Surely just “Ellie” is safer for all occasions, and particularly undercover assignments, when you’re in a law enforcement.

Bishop’s caller ID may not have tipped Lauren off, but the Marine who approaches him on the street, calls him Special Agent McGee, and asks if NCIS has solved the murder yet sure does. Ha! How do any naval crimes ever get solved with this group?

Naturally, Lauren runs, and Timmy stops her with a drawn gun.

At the same time, Bishop decides to check out the Hudsons’ empty house and literally breaks and enters in broad daylight AND leaves her phone behind in the surveillance house. The camera focuses on a Marine sword on display as Bishop prowls through the house. You know the old saying: If you show a Marine sword in the third act, it had better slash somebody in the fourth act.

In the bathroom, Bishop finds red hair dye and a prescription for Rita Applegate. Busted. Then she straight-up helps the Hudsons unpack their house, slitting boxes open with a pair of scissors to investigate.

Dean pulls up, and Abby, who’s watching the surveillance feed from the lab, calls Ellie to warn her. It doesn’t work because Ellie’s phone is back at the surveillance house, of course. Also, Abby’s saved in Bishop’s phone as “Abby Sciuto — NCIS.” COME ON, PEOPLE, BE BETTER AGENTS.

An unaware Bishop slits open a large box and finds what looks to be the real Lauren stuffed into it. And then, bam! Dean is on her. He’s huge, and it’s not a fair fight until Bishop grabs the scissors and stabs him in the back. Dude, always go for the eye. Anyway, he falls on the scissors and drives them farther in. The camera pans past the Marine sword again as Gibbs and DiNozzo run in. Bait and switch! At no point was anyone menaced with the huge sword they showed TWICE.

So it turns out the real Lauren was embalmed, vacuum-sealed, and packed, and both she and Netwon died of sharp left-to-right neck snaps. The bad guys are caught, and the good guys survive, but certainly not because of solid undercover work this week.

Thankfully, harmony is mostly restored by the end of the episode, with McGee giving Bishop a huge floral arrangement, Jake backing out of the anniversary trip, and Tony learning that Earl Archie was a con man and thief who died in Newgate, and some historians suspect he was Jack the Ripper.

Rasputin would’ve been better.

Stray thoughts:

  • Don’t you love good-guy Tony heading to the morgue to apologize to Newton’s body and tell him he’d have made a good NCIS agent?
  • The wife’s body looked like a RealDoll for a split second, which is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
  • Regarding jogging, Ducky warns, “The human body was never designed to take that kind of pounding.” Heed Ducky’s words and think of your vertebrae, if not your knees.
  • If the Ellie/Jake relationship crumbles, by far the worst part will be depriving us of more Jamie Bamber on the show.
  • So DiNozzo’s searching for a sense of belonging because he doesn’t see kids his future. No doubt many of you reject this in the absolute because we all know how cute his kids with Ziva will be, right? Just let us have this, OK?
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