The team cracks a ho-hum case as Quinn confronts a painful incident from her past
Credit: Robert Voets/CBS
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S14 E5
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A young petty officer is killed in a Philadelphia alley. An MI6 agent tracking weapon smugglers disappears, also in Philly. The audience is completely unsurprised when these two things are connected.

Given the predictable case tonight, it’s a relief it took a backseat to matters of personal growth for Gibbs’ newest agents.

When the team gets word about the petty officer’s death in Philadelphia, Gibbs dispatches Bishop and Quinn, who drags her feet about going to the City of Brotherly Love but eventually agrees. When the women arrive in Philly, they meet up with MI6 agent Clayton Reeves — last seen in the season 13 finale — who’s in town to look for his missing partner, Finley. Hey, buddy! Good to see you again!

Bishop isn’t able to get Quinn to spill about her antipathy toward Philly. Bish guesses it’s a New-York-sports thing. It’s not, and Quinn is tight-lipped about the real issue, so they focus on the reason they’re there: The death of Gary Falco.

Their interview with Falco’s mother is horribly sad. “Your kid joins the military, and you just hold your breath until they come home for a visit and you can finally exhale. Or at least you think you can,” she says. That’s legitimately heartbreaking, guys.

Before they leave, Quinn asks the woman if she knows the Shaw family a few blocks over. She doesn’t, and Quinn declines to elaborate when Bishop presses.

Back at HQ, Ducky is unhappy to have such a young victim on his table while Torres is unhappy to be stuck in the office. I, meanwhile, am unhappy I have to watch Torres struggle with his new printer. McGee tries to teach him the ways of the toner before warning him to stay away from his own printer, which is precisely calibrated to his liking. Naturally.

Thankfully for him (and for us), Gibbs sends Torres and McGee to track down Ivan, a known smuggler, to see if he can give them any leads. They find Ivan in the back of his strip club, but without a warrant, Ivan declines to help. Rather than leave quietly, Torres leaps onto the card table and starts shimmying. Ivan and his henchman pull their guns, but they’re so distracted by the gyrating Torres that they don’t see McGee pull his two guns on them. Ivan buckles and gives them some smuggler names.

In Philly, Bishop’s scarfing down her second cheesesteak of the day (with a third in the bag for later) when Reeves gets a text with Finley’s SOS code. They track its location and find Finley in a warehouse, tied up and bloody with a phone lying next to him. This causes Quinn to flash back to a time when someone else in distress was bleeding in her arms as a phone lay nearby.

Snapping back to the present, Quinn hears Finley explain he was captured after the smugglers killed Falco when he stumbled across them in an alley. They held Finley for days, beating and interrogating him, but he says he’s ready to join the rest of the group to follow the leads Torres got from Ivan.

Quinn urges Finley not go charging after his captors, but he ignores her advice, joins the team on their visit to the most likely name on the list, and shoots the suspect in the leg when he tries to run. Proving she’s my kind of non-shrinking violet, Quinn shouts, “I told you so!”

Bishop’s still concerned about her partner, though, and again asks Quinn what’s wrong. Quinn responds with irritation that her former trainee has the gall to pull her aside. “Nothing to help, nothing to fix,” she says, then scrams.


At HQ, Torres has moved on to Abby’s printer, breaking it in the process. She’s not pleased, although she does warn him away from McGee’s printer. Torres admits his problem isn’t with office supplies, it’s about not being allowed to kick down doors. Abby points out that she’s a crime fighter, too, but she doesn’t kick down doors.

Getting into the spirit of things, Torres looks through photos of the warehouse where Finley was held for days and notices there are no bathrooms. His lab-based crime fighting pays off when Abby finds security footage of Finley at a coffee house with the only public bathroom in the area. And whaddya know, he’s there with two smugglers from Ivan’s list.

So Finley’s in on it. Surprise, surprise. (Note: That was sarcasm.)

NEXT: Quinn confronts a painful memory

In Philly, Gibbs finds Quinn bellied up to the hotel bar. “You sent me here to test me. I’m obviously failing,” she says. Gibbs replies that when he asked for a new agent, Quinn sent him ones he’d reject in order to put her in a position to get back in the field.

Quinn admits avoiding her bad Philly memories hasn’t helped, so she and Gibbs head to the scene. See, Gibbs was on the review board when Quinn was assigned to a task force on a robbery case. She and her partner, Shaw, were staking out the suspects when Shaw got a call from her husband and 1-year-old baby. She stepped out to talk and the suspects opened fire. Quinn couldn’t get to her in time, and Shaw died (while she was still on the phone with her husband and baby). The guilt led Quinn to quit active duty and become a training officer.

Gibbs points out there were 37 bullet holes in that car and Shaw was dead within 20 seconds, meaning there’s nothing Quinn could’ve done to stop it. Gibbs wants to know what really happened to derail someone as tough as Quinn. She finally confesses what wasn’t in her report: She was fighting with her fiancé on the phone and Shaw stepped out of the car to give them privacy. Quinn says Shaw would still be alive if that hadn’t happened.

“No phone call killed your friend, and you didn’t either,” Gibbs replies. “Shooters killed her, Quinn.”

You know, Quinn had accused Gibbs earlier of spending too much time with his buddy, Grace Confalone. Maybe so, and maybe that’s a good thing, because she looks lighter after their conversation.

Okay, end of the predictable smuggling case: Reeves and Bishop catch Finley in a rundown warehouse while Quinn and Gibbs (wielding one of the enormous smuggled weapons) nab the smugglers. Justice is served.

Meanwhile, Torres has amends to make. Since he broke Abby’s printer, he got her a new one to use while it’s being repaired. She’s pleased, especially because “it’s the same kind McGee has!” And of course, we cut to McGee discovering his pride and joy is missing. Oh no you di’int, Torres.

Finally, Quinn enters Gibbs’ inner sanctum (a.k.a. his basement). “They weren’t kidding. You really have a boat down here,” she says. Then she tells him she talked to Shaw’s husband and was surprised to learn their child is now 13 years old. She thanks him for sending her to Philly. “If you hadn’t, I’d still be running in place, or treading water. I don’t know, pick a metaphor.”

But Gibbs isn’t quite done with his gentle probing, and he gets her to confess that the fallout from Shaw’s death led to the end of her engagement — and a few other relationships, too. Sure, she’s got commitment issues, but she’s also got a question for Gibbs: How’s he going to get the boat out of there?

So. Ho-hum case. Torres was concerned about turning into a geek last week and feels stifled by office work this week, so we’re hitting the same notes with him. The real news here is what happened to Alex Quinn 12 years ago. Will this breakthrough change how she handles herself in the field and interacts with her coworkers? We shall see.

Stray shots

  • Wait, McGee carries two guns? And speaking of, his bad-cop routine in interrogation with Ivan was a little alarming. That kind of violence feels out of character for Tim, doesn’t it?
  • Of course Abby named her printer Rhonda.
  • Oh, Torres. Better rethink that whole “women say they’re not looking to settle down, but they always, always are” theory. At least McGee was smart enough to pull a vanishing Homer away from that particular conversation.
  • I’m curious about Quinn and Special Agent Francis’ brief, ill-advised “thing.” Makes me wonder if all that talk about women wanting relationships and Quinn’s fear of commitment is priming the pump for future romantic developments down the road.
  • But seriously, how IS Gibbs going to get that boat out of his basement?

Grade: B-

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