Reeves struggles to safeguard a grumpy Vietnam vet helping NCIS investigate a murder

By Sara Netzley
March 28, 2017 at 11:37 PM EDT
Patrick McElhenney/CBS


S14 E19
  • TV Show

You can choose to be a Henry, or you can choose to be a Gibbs. Tonight, Clayton Reeves makes his first step toward being a Gibbs.

You see, Henry Rogers (an irascible Bruce McGill) came to Washington, D.C., as part of the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit, free-of-charge trip that delivers veterans to Washington, D.C., for one day in order to visit their memorial.

Today’s flight is for Vietnam veterans, and all participants are required to travel with a guardian. Since Henry didn’t have family or friends to accompany him, Corp. Andrew Beck, a stranger to Henry, volunteered to fly from D.C. to Nebraska to serve as his escort.

Once he’s there, Henry doesn’t seem thrilled about visiting the Vietnam Memorial and spends the day being unpleasant to everyone. (His disdainful interpretation of friendship? It’s for people “who think ordering a pie with two forks is good.” Truth. Reach for my pie, pull back a stump.)

Unfortunately, Henry comes into NCIS’ orbit when Beck suddenly foams at the mouth and drops dead. Said death, per Ducky, came from a dart lodged under the skin that delivers a botulinum cocktail designed to kill a person two hours after it’s administered.

Abby bounces in at this point to announce that the poison concoction with dart gun and silencer are being untraceably sold on the dark web. (Oh, dark web, may you never stop being a convenient plot device!)

But tonight’s not all about dart-gun murder; Bishop and McGee are hot on the heels of a rumor about a Quinn/Torres hook-up when they were together at FLETC. You know, like Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise in Top Gun, which causes Bishop to picture Torres running around sand volleyball courts in tight jeans. (Real talk: I am now picturing that, too.) They get a second source to confirm that Quinn fell for Torres’ charms as a result of a tempting karaoke performance, which naturally begs the question: Was it You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling?

Torres breaks up the speculation party to ask for Bishop’s help with Henry, who’s their best witness in Beck’s death. Henry isn’t thrilled to be stuck in a table room — you know, a room built for nothing but a table — and when Bishop calls him “Mr. Rogers,” he snaps, “I have nothing in common with that sweater-wearing pacifist.” HOW DARE YOU, SIR. FRED ROGERS WAS A SAINT.

When Bishop points out that Beck flew to Nebraska to escort him to D.C. and back again, Henry grudgingly agrees to help, then demands to be taken to his hotel to order room service. When the agents tell him he needs to stay put in case he has to ID a suspect, he pretends to agree and then makes a break for it. Torres easily stops him, but Henry tells him, “If it weren’t for my back, I’d have you crying in the corner.” Ha!

The next person to get Henry-sitting duty is Reeves, who’s chomping at the bit for another high-risk mission like Willoughby. In the meantime, Gibbs says Reeves is just the person to take Henry to the Vietnam Memorial; after all, the guy waited three years for his flight. Thinking it’ll be easy, Reeves agrees. Oh, Gibbs, you devil.

Once they’re in the car, Henry insists he doesn’t want a “leprechaun” escorting him on this patriotic trip and that the right to be left alone is why we beat the British in the Revolution. Henry easily reads Reeves’ body language, snapping, “What’s the matter, your folks are dead? Join the club.” When Reeves says he’s got orders to stay with Henry at all times, the man leaps from the car at a stoplight.

I love this guy.

I love it even more when Gibbs arrives in the “table room” to find that Reeves has handcuffed Henry to a chair. “He tried to escape four times in the last hour,” Reeves explains, and Henry (sarcastically, as it turns out) said restraints were the only way to keep him in place. Henry says he’d prefer Gibbs as his minder, but Gibbs tells the two men to work it out. Reeves starts by reluctantly uncuffing him.

We have movement on Operation Sweaty Maverick: McGee found a video of Torres singing Puppy Love at a karaoke bar. It’s not sexy, but Bishop spots the back of a woman’s head in the audience, complete with beachy waves that look a lot like Quinn’s. They decide not to rely on circumstantial evidence and move on to interrogation.

Bishop gets her chance when she and Quinn are sent to a crisis hotline where Beck volunteered. The center reported a security breach the day before that erased all recent calls, which means Beck may have heard something from a caller that he wasn’t supposed to.

As they wait for the supervisor, Bishop intently looks at the back of Quinn’s head, then asks if she knows that song about puppies. When that doesn’t work, she flat-out says there’s a rumor going around about relations between Quinn and Torres during their FLETC days.

Quinn call the rumor hilarious. “If I had spent any amount of time under that man, I’d have been crushed to death by his ego.” Close listeners will note that Quinn at no point denies anything and could very well be telling the truth about not being under Torres IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

The supervisor pops up then to say that the only suspicious call is one Beck took on his last night from a first-time caller, which lasted 48 minutes. At last, a lead!

Reeves managed to wrangle Henry to his hotel, and he sets his cot up against the door to keep Henry from bolting again. Reeves announces that he read Henry’s file and knows he was awarded the Navy Cross for running into enemy fire to pull his recon team to safety.

Right, Henry replies, but two died anyway and the third was killed a month later. Beck dropping dead in front of him brought back those memories, and Henry mutters, “He was just a kid. We were all just kids.”

Reeves changes the subject to the welcome home ceremony that greets all Honor Flight veterans upon their return, asking if they should reschedule Henry’s since he’s not traveling with the rest of his group. But Henry says not to bother; he didn’t get any kind of welcome when he came home from Vietnam, so why start now?

Then he turns the conversation around to Reeves, pointing out that his babysitter’s on his own, too, since he didn’t have to check in with anyone about not spending the night at home. When he offers Reeves a bottle from the minibar, Reeves tells him he doesn’t drink. Henry responds, “Got that bad, huh?” Woof. That’s a telling little exchange.

At the lab, though, Abby declares Henry a handful of joy as she crafts a patriotic welcome home mat for him, which she’s making because he was welcomed home from the war decades ago by people who spat on his uniform. She also discovered that Beck’s mystery call came from a woman named Maya Davis, and when Gibbs and Torres arrive at her address, they find her dead in her car next to a scrawled note that simply says, “form.”

Wouldn’t you know, she died from the same poisoned dart as Beck, which makes learning the content of her hotline call imperative. Maya worked in product development at a flooring company. McGee and Torres find a prescription bottle filled with what look like pencil shavings in her apartment. When the building manager tells them that Maya always walked around the neighborhood before work, they know where to look for clues to her darting.

Oh, and McGee also asks Torres about the fling rumor. Torres says he and Quinn never had a thing, but he doesn’t mind that rumor going around because it “feeds the rep.” However, he neither confirms nor denies singing into a microphone while Quinn watched. Iiiiiinteresting. Could this all depend on what the definition of “thing” is?

At HQ, Reeves bumps into Vance, who offers him a high-risk mission to Syria. Reeves is interested, particularly if it means not handcuffing any more senior citizens to chairs. In fact, Henry sent him for a heating pad for his back, but when he returns to the conference room, he discovers that Henry picked his handcuffs and vanished, leaving a note saying, “My back is fine, sucker.”

Reeves’ best hope is that Henry is with Gibbs, but no luck. Thankfully, Gibbs knows where Henry’s headed. And sure enough, he’s at the Vietnam Memorial, crying softly as he makes rubbings of the names of his three dead friends. He pulls out a photo of the four of them in uniform, young and strong and unafraid. Openly weeping now, he props the photo against the wall.

Reeves and Gibbs watch from the car as Gibbs explains that Henry always wanted to get to the Memorial, but he wanted to go alone. Then he Gibbsily tells Reeves that he’s doing the same thing, chasing another high-risk mission to push people away.

Reeves defensively says that he lost his family when he was three and never had anybody to care about him. “This is how I am. Because this is all I ever was.” Gibbs isn’t having it, though. He says when you lose someone, you have to make a choice. He chose to let people in afterwards, so “I got the family I chose to make.”

He continues that he, Henry, and Reeves are all the same guys; Reeves is just a few decades behind. “He made his choice. I made mine. What about you?” This conversation clearly stays with Reeves, as he later asks Vance to give him more time to consider the Syria mission.

At the lab, Abby discovered that the shavings from Maya’s apartment are from laminate flooring with huge amounts of formaldehyde — or “form,” like Maya’s note. She then asks Henry to look at security footage from Maya’s last walk, and he recognizes a woman who stole a cab from him just before Beck’s death.

Facial ID reveals it’s Bridget O’Leary, who worked with Maya and signed an environmental safety report for $15 million of Asian flooring set to ship to customers in two days. The team bring her in for questioning and quickly ascertain that Maya confided to her about the formaldehyde and her hotline call, so O’Leary killed her and Beck to save her career. (Also, she used a credit card to pay for the taxi she took to dart Beck, which is so very dumb.)

The murder solved, Bishop and McGee make one last push to unmask Operation Sweaty Maverick. But when Quinn watched the karaoke video, she demands, “How would you think that would make me want to unzip anything?” And also, “Does it look like I go to karaoke bars?” Plus, she says, her hair was way shorter back then. That’s… a lot of denials, honestly. But Bishop and McGee are satisfied and declare the rumor debunked.

The young Turks decide to grab a round of drinks (Bishop’s buying since she lost a bet about getting Gibbs to eat a tofu steak), but after she and McGee clear out, Torres sidles over to perch on Quinn’s desk. They agree it was a crazy rumor, and then he says he doesn’t remember her hair being shorter back then.

“It wasn’t,” she says, and Torres hums “Puppy Love” as they leave.

Finally, Reeves and Gibbs have escorted Henry back to Nebraska, and when he enters his home airport, he’s greeted by a huge crowd of cheering people, civilians and military alike, holding signs. “Stars and Stripes Forever” plays, and he wades through crowd, shaking hands and receiving hugs.

Gibbs helped Reeves put this welcome ceremony together, and Reeves tells him that he made the first in what are hopefully a series of Gibbs-ian choices: He declined the Syria assignment.

Stray shots

  • Tonight’s mystery was ultimately forgettable, but it hardly matters when we get such complex, enjoyable interactions between the cast and guest star.
  • The Honor Flight Network is a real program dedicated to bringing as many veterans as possible to Washington for free. My grandfather, a WWII Navy vet, took his flight shortly before his death, and it was an amazing, overwhelming day for him. His smile when he saw a dozen of his family members at the welcome home ceremony is one of my very favorite memories. If you can, donate money, or volunteer to be a guardian. You can also help the veteran in your life sign up for a flight. I promise, you won’t regret it.
  • Okay, but Torres and Quinn totally had a fling, right? I mean, he knew the length of her hair!

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