Gibbs disappears undercover to wrap up one of his most dangerous unsolved cases

By Sara Netzley
January 17, 2017 at 11:15 PM EST
Cliff Lipson/CBS


S14 E12
  • TV Show

Don’t you hate it when you’re in the diner trying to enjoy your hash browns and a player from one of your most dangerous undercover ops strolls down the street right before your eyes?

Of course you do. So does Gibbs. And that’s how he ends up vanishing one morning, sending his team into a frenzy as they try to figure out what’s happened to him.

With Gibbs MIA, McGee sends the team on the hunt. Bishop and Quinn head to Gibbs’ house while McGee and Torres check out the diner. (Consistency of dining habits is useful if there’s a chance you’ll someday vanish.)

Neither Bishop nor Quinn is thrilled about poking through Gibbs’ empty house, but they get over it quickly. “Nothing unusual in the basement besides a boat,” Quinn reports, while Bishop finds The Sensitive Man’s Survival Handbook on Gibbs’ nightstand with a bookmark on page 351. Ha!

Oh, but then. BUT THEN. Quinn breaks the plate Kelly made for her parents, featuring stick-figure drawings of the three of them. Oh, man. Quinn, I’ve defended you against your haters on the interwebs all season, but this is the worst thing I have ever seen on NCIS. You should quit now and maybe move to Canada. Thankfully, she’s friends with Abby, who somehow is able to repair it so the plate looks perfect, which raises the question: Is Abby a sorceress of some kind?

Over at the diner, the guys have more luck regarding Gibbs’ whereabouts. Not only do they break zero of Gibbs’ precious mementos of his beloved daughter, but they also find a parking ticket on Gibbs’ truck and Gibbs’ phone in the mailbox on the corner.

Traffic-cam footage reveals Gibbs didn’t just ditch his phone, but anything that could reveal his identity. And he kept strong eye contact with the camera as he did it, obviously wanting NCIS to know what he was doing. Then he limped to the truck with an unknown man. LEROY JETHRO GIBBS IS KEYSER SÖZE!

The unknown man is Bodie Whitman, who recently served a 10-year prison sentence for armed robbery stemming from one of Gibbs’ last undercover cases — in which he infiltrated an anti-government militia as Leland Robert Spears, an ex-Marine ex-con. (That undercover name is awesome, by the way.)

Bodie’s brother, Ramsay, killed two Navy guards during the hijacking of a truck transporting spent nuclear fuel rods that could make dirty bombs. At some point, the militias got spooked and scattered, and the fuel rods were never recovered. Gibbs didn’t have to testify, so his cover’s intact, which is why he felt comfortable slipping back into it.

Vance was undercover with Gibbs on the Ramsay op (curse you, lack of flashbacks!) and asks retired NCIS agent Fred Pedis and Department of Energy Deputy Director Doyle Roden, who were involved in the original op, to review the old files in case they can help.

On Gibbs’ undercover adventure time, Bodie stops at a gas station. While he’s paying inside, Gibbs asks the woman filling up next to him if he can borrow her phone to call his wife. But Bodie comes out just as McGee picks up, so Gibbs hangs up and hustles away.

When McGee calls right back, he tells the woman he’s NCIS and asks her to describe the man who made the call. “He’s 50-something, has silver hair and incredible blue eyes.” That’s right, gas station lady. You get it. You’re one of us. Thanks to her, NCIS now knows Gibbs and Bodie are on the way to Baltimore.

Torres and McGee hit the road, and McGee’s conscientious driving frustrates Torres. In retaliation, he tells a meandering story about bull riding that also applies to undercover work: Trust your instincts, hang on tight, and never ride the same bull twice. McGee correctly interprets this to mean he needs to drive faster.

Torres isn’t wrong to be concerned. In Bodie’s apartment, Gibbs says he has a buyer for the nuclear rods and baits Bodie into contacting his brother, committing to his undercover character by kicking some coffee table debris. Bodie explains he doesn’t know his brother’s location, but if he goes to an auction site that is definitely not eBay and posts their dad’s antique watch, Ramsay will get an email (and therefore know to call Bodie) because the watch is on his wish list. Clever!

When Bodie and Gibbs leave the apartment, a passerby bumps into Gibbs hard, and whaddya know, it’s Torres, who handed Gibbs a wallet with Leland Spears’s IDs and a bugged pen.

Back in the car with McGee, Torres brags about his reverse pickpocketing abilities, then steals McGee’s watch off his wrist. Is Torres turning into this season’s MVP? Please discuss amongst yourselves.

NEXT: Gibbs plays it cool at gunpoint

Good thing they gave Gibbs the bugged pen; Bodie gets a call from Ramsay and explains he happened to bump into Leland Spears, who has a buyer for the rods. Yeah, you don’t have to be a criminal mastermind to know this is deeply suspicious. Ramsay says he needs to think.

When he calls back, he tells Bodie that Spears is a federal agent, so Bodie pulls his gun. At first, the unflappable Gibbs just laughs it off, calling Ramsay insane and paranoid. Then his tune changes, and he points out that if he were a fed, shooting him would get Bodie the death penalty. Bodie’s counterargument is that shooting a federal agent would strike a blow against the government.

Gibbs is done messing around at this point and calls out for McGee, who shouts from the next room, distracting Bodie and allowing Gibbs time to pull his own gun. When Bodie turns back to him still brandishing the weapon, Gibbs shoots him dead.

During the autopsy, Ducky determines Bodie had Huntington’s disease, a rare and heredity disease in which nerve cells in the brain break down over time. Between that knowledge and the location of the call from Ramsay, the team is able to locate a man in the area getting treated for Huntington’s. He’s a clean-cut married father, realtor, and soccer coach named John who doesn’t at all resemble Ramsay, the wild-eyed beardo. But facial recognition confirms it’s Ramsay with a better shave.

Oh, and phone records show weaselly Energy guy Roden is also deep undercover. He’s anti-government and took the job to position himself on the inside, and he’s the one who tipped Ramsay off during both the original op and today’s.

When the team arrives at Ramsay’s house, he’s sending his confused wife and kids away; they clearly know nothing about his double life. Then he heads inside to grab his gun, but then he looks at photos of his family. Instead of using it on himself or the NCIS agents, he surrenders and is taken in for processing. We see that under the soccer-dad disguise, his body is covered in questionable ink.

“How did he explain the tattoos to his wife?” I ask my husband. Two seconds later, Vance asks word-for-word the same thing, proving Vance is the smartest person on the show. (Apparently, Ramsay told her he used to ride with bikers. Like many women, she no doubt was like, “yes, a reformed bad boy, mother may I.”)

Ramsay swiftly implicates Roden the rodent and gives up the location of the fuel rods in exchange for keeping his wife and children safe and viewing his brother’s body when he’s finished writing his confession.

And we cut to ZNN (America’s most reputable news source!) reporting on the recovery of the fuel rods as Quinn delivers the repaired plate to Gibbs in person. He’s remarkably cool about it and tells her she could’ve just snuck it back into his kitchen.

“That’s not my style,” she says. Well, except for that time when she was 16 and lost her grandma’s bracelet after her mother gave it to her but never fessed up.

Gibbs knew there was a crack in the plate from overuse and wonders how she repaired it, which gives us this lovely exchange:

“Do you believe in miracles?”


“Do you believe in Abby?”

“With all my heart.”

Gibbs then suggests Quinn confess to her mom about the bracelet. Quinn says no way, that it’s a long story. Gibbs, clearly implementing his sensitive man training (he’s on page 351), tells her he has plenty of time.

Stray shots

  • An important conversation for any couple to have with one another, no matter how conventional they are, is whether the other person once stole and buried depleted nuclear rods as part of an anti-government plot.
  • Which is the weirdest: Gibbs not locking his door when he’s away from home, Gibbs sometimes having dinner with his ex-wife, or Gibbs’ underlings not knowing in what order he married and divorced his stable of ladies?
  • Willoughby update: Bishop isn’t supposed to involve herself in the search for Chen, who had her boyfriend murdered in front of her in the last episode. But Reeves is still on the case, and he’s keeping her looped in about what he’s learning from MI6. (Namely, that Chen might be on a yacht off the coast of Greece.) It looks like Quinn knows those two are in cahoots against Gibbs’ orders. To be continued …
  • But seriously, how did Abby fix the plate?

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