Reeves' secret undercover mission explodes, and Bishop suffers a shocking loss

By Sara Netzley
January 03, 2017 at 11:10 PM EST
Sonja Flemming/CBS
S14 E11
  • TV Show

When was the last time NCIS made you shout in surprise? Like, sit up straight and turn to the person sitting next to you with a gasp?

For me, it was tonight when one of the sweetest supporting cast members on the show was felled out of the blue by a hail of bullets. But to get to that point, we first have to learn about the mysterious Operation Willoughby.

For months, Reeves has been training to get his pilot’s license in order to infiltrate the circle surrounding Kai Chen, a businessman who stages acts of terror to manipulate the stock market. (Examples include a suicide bomber in a Belgian bank and attacking the USS Mulligan to cash in on surging oil prices.)

Reeves worked hard to win the trust of Chen’s pilot, Paul Miller, so he’ll be chosen as copilot on Chen’s flight into D.C. Of course, he’s also packing a device that’ll scrape all the information about a planned attack on the New York financial system from Chen’s computer.

So why, then, was Operation Willoughby considered a suicide mission, as Quinn mentioned in “Pay to Play”? Ah, because once the download starts, Chen will immediately know, stranding Reeves midair with a murderous supervillain and no exit.

The op doesn’t get that far, though; Chen’s right-hand man Jintao diverts his boss before he can board the plane, then detonates a bomb on the plane with Reeves and Miller onboard.

Luckily, the two men dive out a window and escape serious injury. Unluckily, Reeves immediately falls under suspicion, particularly when Belgium task force member Louise Moreau reports that a call from Miller caused Chen to abort his flight plans. So did Reeves tip Miller off accidentally — or on purpose?

As the international task force flies to the U.S. for an emergency meeting, the NCIS team goes about their usual business, which this week involves discussing the ideal thinking spot. Bishop advocates the library, her adorbs boyfriend Qasim prefers an oxygen-heavy forest, Quinn’s a fan of sleep-thinking, and Torres prefers a bathroom because of course he does.

Good news for Torres; he and Quinn are sent to stake out a suspected Jintao hangout, and the perfect spot turns out to be a tiny window situated above a toilet in the bakery across the street. Bathroom thinking and donuts? Heaven.

Sample dialogue from their stakeout: “I feel like men and sticks are meant for so much more, and we don’t even know it,” says Torres, waxing poetic about the creation of fire. Quinn replies, “If I don’t get a burger, I’m gonna die.” I want to hang out with these two, always. (Also, I’ve been watching From Dusk Till Dawn this week, and in it, Wilmer Valderrama plays a villainous centuries-old vampire/snake person, so it’s a little disappointing every time he fails to flash slit-pupil eyes before murdering everybody in the room with his silver fangs. ANYWAY.)

McGee and Reeves are dispatched to question Miller about what he knows, but the pilot dies before he can answer any questions. Ducky’s autopsy finds that Miller administered himself a fatal dose of morphine, presumably out of fear that Chen would hurt his family if he talked.

Meanwhile, Bishop visits Qasim in his depressing office, where he complains about translating boring phone conversations in which someone lists the foreign cities he recently visited. Bish is sympathetic, then starts to fret about Reeves, who listed himself as his own emergency contact, which … I mean, that doesn’t work, does it? Not in theory or in practice? She’s worried Reeves doesn’t have any friends and brings it up with McGee and Gibbs, who aren’t particularly sympathetic.

At NCIS HQ, Vance convenes the in-person Willoughby task force meeting, where the main topic is whether Reeves has been compromised. Vance urges them to focus on bringing down Chen now, and Bishop takes a step in that direction when Miller’s daughter tells her that her dad brought her charms from every city he visited for work. And what do you know, those charms match the locations in the boring conversations Qasim’s been translating. Qasim’s then able to offer additional help, specifically that the conversations are in a rare Pashto dialect spoken by foreigners with accents.

NEXT: Death comes unexpectedly

Reeves accepts a bribe of steak (albeit unmarinated) at Chez Gibbs to read through Qasim’s transcripts, but the smart cookie sees through the ruse and knows Gibbs also wants to have a heart-to-heart chat, which weirdly doesn’t happen in front of the Gibbs boat. Reeves says yes, he had a rough start to life after his parents died, he was placed in foster care, and he fell into drug use. Then he explains that he accepted the dangerous undercover mission because of the time he spent in Scotland with Bishop. She talked about her family, both bio and work, and “I came back, and I signed up for Willoughby. Because you guys shouldn’t have to do that type of mission.” They’re the kind of people who have people, and he’s not.

Gibbs suggests that when Reeves feels alone, he should close his eyes and remember every good thing. (That’s advice Gibbs’ mother gave him before she died, so you know you can take that to the bank, assuming that bank isn’t about to be bombed by Chen’s team of terrorists.)

Gibbs’ patented combination of red meat and tough love pays off when Reeves notices the numbers of his pilot certificate in one of the transcripts. The caller refers to them unlucky and not to be trusted, which means Chen was on to him weeks ago. DUN!

More clues: Abby discovers a pattern in the translated calls; they’re all made within an hour of a Willoughby task force meeting. They have a mole! And voice recognition software! It’s Moreau, proving that you can’t trust Belgians. (Kidding. I love their waffles.)

Bishop tracks down Qasim to deliver a new recording that needs transcribing. Awww, he took her suggestion and is working in the library, and she had 10 plants delivered to his office to give it a forest feel. That’s so sweet!

Just as she’s telling him what a great help he’s been to the case, automatic gunfire rips through the library and drills Qasim in the chest. OMG, WHAAAAAA? That was … unexpected. The doctors stop the bleeding, but Qasim was without oxygen for too long and ends up on life support.

Moreau confirms that the hit happened because Chen didn’t want Qasim to translate last night’s conversation. However, Abby’s able to prove that Jintao’s SUV was outside the library at the time of the shooting, so Quinn and Torres exit the bathroom to apprehend him. They exchange gunfire and demand to know Chen’s plans. Jintao’s last words are, “Again and again, you underestimate him,” before he shoots himself in the head.

At the hospital, Reeves tries to comfort Bishop, who’s crying at Qasim’s bedside. She tells him she doesn’t know how to say goodbye, and Reeves advises her to close her eyes and remember everything good. (He doesn’t attribute that to Gibbs, which, plagiarize much?)

Strangely, we don’t get a “to be continued” at the end of the episode, but they don’t have what they need to stop Chen, do they? It seems like they’ve still got some loose ends to wrap up here. Or should we assume that the conversation Chen didn’t want translated is enough evidence to bring him down?

Whatever. Let’s take a second here to grieve with Eleanor Bishop. Her ex is a cheater, her brothers are goons, and now her hot, sweet boyfriend’s being kept alive by a machine. That’s some terrible luck. Look, when I complained about the expanded size of the regular cast this season, this isn’t what I had in mind, guys!

Farewell, Qasim. You seemed kind of awesome, and you had great hair.

Stray shots

  • All episode long, I kept thinking that even though Bishop was dating Qasim, the show seemed to be angling to fix up her and Reeves, and then BAM. Think I’m on to something?
  • Abby’s dreadful music drowned out the sound of the bubble wrap popping. Why? The point of popping bubble wrap is to hear it. Turn down the volume, lady.
  • I would give anything to see a sped-up montage of Torres’ hour-long in-car stakeout beauty routine.
  • At this point, what NCIS team member love interests haven’t been shot or bombed or caught in fires? Maybe they just shouldn’t date?

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  • TV-14
  • 09/23/03
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