Abby learns that being bad comes easily, and the New Orleans team faces a familiar enemy
In tonight’s NCIS/NCIS: New Orleans crossover, Abby taps into her dark side, learns that she’s good at being bad, and then immediately regrets it when she becomes a pawn in an evil scheme. Then Torres and McGee head to New Orleans and bump into an old enemy when they work with local NCIS to recover a “how to be a terrorist” playbook that disappeared during Abby’s op.
Things kick off two days before, when Abby’s church friend, Earl Goddard, who runs Homeland Security’s think tank, asks her to join a team to plan and execute a terror attack drill to test law enforcement readiness. At first she declines, not wanting to see just how dark she can get. (Bishop, meanwhile, swoons at the thought of being asked to join the think tank. “What’s more exciting than a terror attack?” she asks, causing Quinn to drily reply, “We really should have a talk.”)
In the end, Vance orders Abby to get on board, as they need the best minds to come up with plots so those best minds can also figure out how to stop them. She does so reluctantly, not sure she has it in her to be a bad guy and not sure if she wants to find out.
Then, before you know it, a hoodie-clad Abby’s sneaking into an arena during a concert, carrying balloons. The plan calls for balloons with drops of sarin gas in them to be propelled into the VIP lounges using small explosives, which will kill everyone inside. Of course, none of the materials in the drill are active — or so Abby thinks. As she puts her last balloons into the air vent, the police apprehend her. Unfortunately, her code phrase of “Aristotle banana split” is met with blank looks.
And there’s a good reason for that. No law enforcement officials were alerted about the drill, and they don’t know about the drill code. NCIS shows up to get the police to release Abby, who’s indignant that she got caught after tripping a motion sensor and insists that the bombs are fakes and the balloons don’t actually have sarin in them.
Everybody’s starting to relax… until one of the bombs actually explodes. To her horror, Abby realizes that there was real C4 in the explosives, and the balloons had drops of real sarin gas, which means the drill was a double cross designed to actually kill people.
And now we flash back to Abby meeting the rest of the think tank: Hollywood director J.J., CDC researcher Greta, and Homeland logistics guy Phil (a.k.a. Earl’s right-hand man). The team bickers fiercely, although Greta wins my heart when she complains that J.J.’s last film exploited gender stereotypes. “She defeated the bad guy!” J.J. exclaims. “With a lap dance!” she exclaims right back.
They’re fighting about how to get sarin into the VIP suites until Abby activates her bad side and suggests the balloons/bombs/air vent plan. “That’s pretty evil. I like it,” Greta says.
In the present, they were supposed to rendezvous at a hotel after the drill, but Earl and his luggage are gone, and the rest of the team’s cooling their heels at the bar, watching good ol’ ZNN reporting on the stadium evacuation. Earl’s not with them because, as it turns out, he’s dead in a van, the victim of sarin gas that appears to have been forced down his mouth, per Ducky’s autopsy.
Homeland bigwig Knox Ellicot shows up to vouch for Earl’s innocence and announce that someone with evil intent piggybacked on the drill. The most logical suspects, of course, are the think tank team.
During questioning, we learn that Phil’s parents were killed in Bosnia when he was a child and Earl was like a father to him. J.J.’s last several movies have tanked, so he could’ve had a financial motive for terrorism. (Also, this interrogation delay caused him to miss a meeting with Johnny Depp. Rude! Or lucky, if you look at Johnny’s recent track record.) And Greta’s work with deadly diseases has made her incredibly pessimistic about the survival of the human race. Oh, and yes, she had access to sarin gas, but so did Earl and Abby.
NEXT: Bet you’ll think twice about popping bubble wrap from now on
Then we see how the drill was executed. J.J., in what he deems an Oscar-worthy performance, “or at least a Golden Globe,” sneaks in the explosives as a Caf-Pow worker (Abby’s idea) who’s desperate to finish a missed delivery so he doesn’t lose out on any sales revenue. Then Greta shows up dressed like a lost groupie (as in, like Abby normally dresses but with more purple hair) to help him unload the crates, including one with bombs on the bottoms of three bottles.
At this point, Greta interrupts her narrative to offer a comment on Abby: “I think her whole goth thing is really just a cry for help.” In her own interrogation room, Abby denies being a goth (umm, I hate to break it to you, Abs…) and then frets about missing her choker.
In her lab, Abby rants about how mad she is at the killer (for killing), at Vance (for making her participate), and at herself (for enjoying being bad and overlooking this deadly plot). Quinn hilariously tries to back out of the room until Abby gets it together.
Things start escalating when the team realizes that there’s enough leftover, missing sarin gas to kill hundreds of people. Furthermore, Homeland guy Knox performed a system wipe just after the op. At first he says it’s routine to do so twice a year, but he finally admits that he was working from home on his personal computer that night. This is a fireable/indictable offense, so when he realized someone had hacked in remotely, he wiped everything.
And now we get to say hello to one of our friends from NCIS: New Orleans! Christopher LaSalle video-conferences in to report that the NOLA team traced Knox’s hack to the French Quarter and learned that the hacker downloaded files on every Homeland think tank plan for the last two years, targeting airports, train stations, and the like. Essentially, they now have blueprints on how to attack America and how Homeland would respond. “Someone has our entire terror playbook,” Vance murmurs.
Logical Gibbs wants to go back to the beginning to determine why Homeland choose this op and this arena. The official reason was due to chatter about terror groups getting sarin, but NCIS learns that the chatter was fake, designed to trick Earl into creating the whole operation. So who fabricated the chatter?
Quinn cracks the case when she realizes that the VIPs in arena suite 11 were traveling with armed private bodyguards. It was Jovan Dezic, a Bosnian foreign affairs minister who was enjoying (and I use that word loosely) the concert with his 16-year-old son before undergoing heart surgery at Washington General.
Bonsnia? As in, the place where Phil’s parents were murdered? Indeed. Phil heard about Dezic’s travel plans, realized he was the man suspected of killing his parents, and set the whole plan in motion. He stole the sarin, added C4 to the bomb and sarin to the balloons, and killed Earl. “In avenging your parents, you lost another one,” Gibbs intones.
The team starts to fret that Phil already made plans for the missing sarin, and before you know it, we cut to the hospital room where Dezic is recovering from surgery. A delivery guy comes in with a parcel that’s been opened and searched. The 16-year-old son accepts it and discovers a glass bowl of fruit. He’s as underwhelmed that it isn’t pizza as any of us would be.
He’s popping the big pockets of bubble wrap from the box when Abby and the rest of the team burst in and order him to stop. Sure enough, there’s one tiny bead of sarin gas in the middle one. That’s actually a hugely devious plan on Phil’s part because, as Abby points out, “Who can resist popping?”
In the end, Abby’s relieved to find out that she made a decent bad guy and actually didn’t set off a motion detector; that was Earl, tripping a silent alarm from his laptop as his dying action. Good news for Abby, but unfortunately, the terror drill playbook’s still out there.
Torres learns that Ferdinand Pisco, a contact from his undercover days, is headed to New Orleans, presumably to buy the playbook. He and McGee scramble to leave for New Orleans immediately.
NEXT: To the Big Easy!
Now, to the NCIS: New Orleans portion of the night: It’s the run-up to Mardi Gras, and New Orleans is flooded with a million visitors, half of them masked. This makes it easy for the rogue’s gallery of potential buyers of the terrorism playbook to slip in and out. In a phone conversation, Gibbs promises Dwayne Pride that he’ll keep the Washington brass out of town as long as possible.
On the street, Torres weaves among the revelers, tracking his former contact Pisco. But when he finally reaches the man, Pisco’s dead from a stab wound to the gut. Torres’ attempt to chase the masked killer ends with him being apprehended by local police.
Pride arrives to bail him out, unhappy that Torres got arrested less than two hours after arriving in town and didn’t check in with Pride first. “I am telling you, my second impression is so much better than my first,” Torres promises.
McGee’s had a better time and is covered in glitter and beads when he arrives at NCIS HQ to help Sebastian Lund track the burner phones that the potential buyers are carrying. When they locate one of the phones, LaSalle and Sonja Percy hurry to the scene, only to find the woman dead from a similar stab wound.
The dead woman, Monica Grange, was texting with the seller, so Tammy Gregorio says she’ll assume Monica’s identity and go to the meet. It kills Torres that it can’t be him going undercover because, as we know, he doesn’t ride the bench well. Gregorio rightly pegs him as a reluctant team player, and they agree it isn’t easy being the new guy on a team of people who’ve worked together for so long.
Meanwhile, McGee and Sebastian set traps for the other buyers by sending texts to the burner phones to set up sting buys. In a scene bursting with local color, Sebastian indulges in his man crush on McGee, praising him for making it look easy to be a badass nerd. McGee credits the training he had from his merciless, sometimes downright mean mentors. (Still miss you, DiNozzo!)
When Gregorio heads into a hotel bar to meet the buyer, we realize we’ve seen the tall drink of water waiting for here before. It’s Eva Azarova, the Russian sleeper agent we met during the last NCIS/NCIS: New Orleans crossover, when she was dating Abby’s brother, Luca. We last saw Eva being taken into custody by Gibbs and shipped off to D.C. on espionage charges. It’s never clear how she escaped, but she did and then hatched this playbook plan.
At the bar, she and Gregorio pull guns on each other, talk in Arabic, and then agree to head to Eva’s room for the buy. Real talk: They have better chemistry than Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson do in the Fifty Shades sequel.
In the hotel room, the ladies drop their guns on the table, and Gregorio looks out the window so Pride and Torres know what room she’s in. Eva reveals that the playbook is on a laptop that’s password protected by the sound of her voice.
As this tense interaction is unfolding, Sebastian gets the results of video footage analysis from Pisco’s murder and realizes that the suspect matches Eva. Pride scrambles to the room, warning Gregorio in her earpiece, and of course, at this point, Eva says she knows Gregorio’s not the real buyer because Eva watched Monica die that morning.
They struggle, but Eva brought a knife to a gun fight, and Gregorio gets the drop on her. Eva cops to espionage but not murder, and then two men with machine guns burst into the room, steal the playbook, and escape out the balcony. By the time Pride has everything locked down, the gunmen have disappeared with Torres
NEXT: Revenge is best served cold. Like, Russian tundra cold.
Back at NOLA HQ, Eva fills in the team: The man who stole the playbook is Victor, the Russian agent/assassin who took her from her family as a child and turned her into the killer spy that she is now. (Hey, speaking of, when does The Americans come back?) Eva says she stole the playbook to draw Victor out so she could take her revenge, and she offers to be traded for Torres so she and NCIS can take Victor down together since he’s the one who’s been killing potential buyers.
In order to find Torres, McGee asks Bishop to call in a favor from NSA so they can piece together video footage from all over town to track the movements of the SUV that disappeared with Torres. It’s legally questionable, but McGee’s willing to dip into the gray zone since one of his team was taken by a sociopathic Russian agent.
When Pride calls Victor to set up the trade, Torres uses the proof-of-life portion of the conversation to say that all the drywall is bothering his allergies, but he’s got a good view of the parade route. Guh, I love the reminders that these people are good at their jobs.
At the meeting spot, Eva crosses to Victor and, once he’s ascertained that she has no weapons, he embraces her. This gives her the chance to reach into his jacket, pull out his knife, and stab him just as he’s been stabbing potential buyers all over town. Pride’s horrified that she just killed the only person who knows where Torres is being held, but Eva doesn’t care so much about that.
Thankfully, McGee’s managed to track the SUV to an empty 30-story building, so LaSalle and Percy head in on foot, climbing stairs one flight at a time. They eventually track the phone coordinates to the 17th floor, where Torres has weaseled out of some of his restraints. He takes out one Russian henchmen with his hands still bound, and the two NOLA agents arrive in time to take out the other guy.
Once everyone’s safe, Torres compliments Gregorio on a job well done, and they agree it’s not bad for a couple of newbies to their teams. Before she’s taken back to federal prison, Eva tells Gregorio that her upcoming life sentence was completely worth it to get her revenge on Victor. She also says it was worth it to meet Gregorio, who points out that they’ll never say never again. Eva kisses her, a lingering kiss, and purrs, “Never say never.” From Russia with love, amirite?
Finally, Sebastian asks for permission to call McGee for advice, and Pride tells McGee to keep an eye on Eva as they take her back to D.C., then reaches out to Gibbs with a final report. Our parting shot is of the shows’ two silver foxes having a nice chat about Gibbs coming to New Orleans for a surprise visit during the next big party, which, Pride assures him, is pretty much every day in NOLA.
- But seriously, how did Eva escape federal custody? Can we get a whole episode about that? Because I bet it was elaborate. And what are the odds that she escapes again on the way back to D.C.?
- Furthermore, I don’t recall seeing an explanation of the timing of Eva’s theft of the playbook. Was it related to Phil’s plan to kill Dezic, or was that timing a coincidence? And if you’re going to tell me it was a coincidence, may I remind you of Gibbs’ 39th rule?
- On the personal front, Bishop’s still searching for Kai Chen, and when Gibbs asks Quinn why she’s a little off, she blows it off as “family stuff.” Curious.
- I would like to listen to Ducky and Reeves talk about accents and Audrey Hepburn and My Fair Lady for an entire episode. Did I say talk? I meant sing.
- Poor Bishop! She was on Earl’s short list to join his think tank. Looks like she’ll have to plan acts of terror on her own time.