Vance goes toe-to-toe with a congresswoman in denial over threats to her life

By Sara Netzley
December 07, 2016 at 03:58 AM EST
Michael Yarish/CBS
  • TV Show

A hollowed-out rat carcass ushers in the case of the week, which finds Mary Stuart Masterson’s Rep. Jenna Flemming reluctantly acknowledging the threats that come with governing.

Said rodent corpse comes with a note: FLEMMING — YOU’RE NEXT. Her personal aide, Max Sanders, waits until his boss clears out to report to NCIS that he’s compiled a list of the repeat offenders who’ve threatened Flemming via phone, letters, and social media over the years. That’s the type of guy Max is; he works out and makes lists and uses his calorie-counter app to scan each protein bar he consumes. But Flemming is furious NCIS has been looped in, because she doesn’t want to be the little woman who runs scared at every ol’ carcass left in her car.

In the big orange room, the team spitballs about who might want Flemming dead. The list isn’t short, given her past votes and committee work.

One early lead is an anonymous message-board poster who called Flemming a gutless rat. So, McGee and Torres track down the teenager to her after-school driving lesson, where she sees them coming and tries to gun it and flee. Her nonchalant instructor just hits the brake on his side of the car, drily telling the concerned agents not to worry: “I stare death in the face every day.” Ha!

But Internet teen limited her treats to the digital world only, leaving Flemming to chafe at a security detail she feels is unnecessary. She tells Vance her job is far more difficult than his and requires personal sacrifice. Vance somehow lets this pass without shrieking “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.”

The case then takes a serious turn when Max is found dead in a sketchy motel’s even sketchier pool. A blow to the head an hour before his passing left him confused, and he wandered into the pool, panicked, and drowned. It’s a terrible end for such a fastidious guy. (Bishop scoops a used condom and a dead bird out of the pool, causing McGee to ask, “Think they’re related?” She replies, “To each other?” Man, I hope not.)

While questioning the guests at the motel, Gibbs and Torres find a robe-clad woman of a certain age fetching ice to chill her bottle of champagne. She tells the agents she heard men shouting and saw a red Cadillac take off. Then an ab-tastic, underwear-clad hottie sticks his head out of her room and she hurries back, telling the agents he’s her accountant and they’re in the middle of an audit.

Yes! May we all live our lives like midday-champagne-drinking, boy-toy-having motel lady! She and chill AF driver’s ed teacher should open a private detective agency together. I would watch the stuffing out of that show.

Anyway, the team learns from Max’s girlfriend, Laurie Perkins, that he was working on a secret project for Flemming, and the congresswoman confirms he was researching the possible closure of Brighton Naval Base. Even though it’s in her district, the economics don’t support its continued existence. Closing a base can be devastating to the neighboring town, so the team turns its attention to the town’s mayor, Jed Hamilton, who drives a red Caddy.

Although he’s MIA, he has a package of dead rats in his freezer. Abby’s analysis finds they were test rats at the Brighton base, which is down to one employee since the study ended the previous month. That poor schlub was left behind to deal with the rats as they died of natural causes. And yes, that’s where the mayor got his gross freezer addition.

“When the mayor asks for rats, you give him rats,” scientist guy says.

NEXT: Never mess with a realtor’s commission

After meeting with Max’s parents, Flemming finally acknowledges Vance’s job isn’t so easy, and his wife’s death also taught him a little bit about personal sacrifice. Then she requests non-mouth breathers for her security detail, so Vance gives her Torres and Reeves.

This is an amazingly passive-aggressive move on Vance’s part, actually, because the two men have been circling each other like alpha dogs trying to establish their dominance ever since Reeves was officially assigned to NCIS’ international desk.

Although the rest of the team is concerned they’re going to lunge for each other’s throats at any moment, Torres and Reeves privately agree they’re just messing with each other. Oh, except for this:

Reeves: “We are gonna fight one day.”

Torres: “We have to. I mean, to see who’s better.”

When they deliver Flemming to her house, they find Hamilton drunkenly banging on her door. He’s there to apologize for the rat prank, and he admits to arguing with Max at the motel about closing the base. But he’s got a stiff alibi: He was at a strip club at the time of Max’s murder.

Enter the final possible motive: The base closure will kill a proposed $40 million housing development in Brighton, which will cost the real estate agent who brokered the deal a hefty commission on the sale.

And whaddaya know, the realtor is Max’s girlfriend, Laurie. Flemming realizes this fact, too, and shows up at an open house to confront Laurie herself. She denies it, and Vance and Gibbs read Flemming the riot act for taking away the element of surprise in their interrogation.

Abby’s now their only hope to find some piece of physical evidence linking Laurie to the crime — which she does, of course, because she’s Abby. Laurie’s distinctive manicure shows up in the calorie-capture scan of Max’s protein bar from their shared lunch at the time of the murder.

In no time, Laurie admits to hitting him, but says he was fine when she left. Woman! What are you doing? NCIS friends, please promise me that if you’re pulled into interrogation, you’ll lawyer up first. Always, always, always lawyer up, no matter what.

So, there’s the case of the week. Now let’s get to some personal business.

Tonight, Quinn learns Reeves volunteered for Operation Willoughby, which was tabled six months ago when the Navy couldn’t find any volunteers. She corners Reeves and warns him it’s a suicide mission.

“I know what I signed up for. I have my reasons,” Reeves replies. This leaves her troubled, and Gibbs asks if she wants to talk about it. She does, although we don’t get to hear this conversation, and yes, you have my full attention, show. A potentially fatal mission of unknown details? An agent with his own motives to be careless with his life? DO GO ON.

Unfortunately, we don’t get any more information tonight, and the episode ends with Flemming offering to find someone to take over the chairperson position at Jackie Vance’s domestic-violence organization, which has been vacant since her death. Then she cajoles Vance to ask her out to dinner, and let me tell you, the NCIS director and the congresswoman? I’m all about it.

Stray shots:

  • Let us never speak of ketchup and prawn crisps again. Hork.
  • McGee tells Torres that DiNozzo was threatened by his own alpha dog-ness when he joined the team. Oh, Timmy. It’s sweet you think that.
  • How does Torres describe his relationship with Reeves? “You call it bromance, I call it trouble.”  
  • Look, it’s not that I don’t like the new agents this season. I do. But at any given time, does it feel like there are about four too many people on the screen? We barely get any Ducky time this season, Palmer’s reduced to a zinger machine, and we get only glimpses of Abby. I just question the balance of it all. What do you think?
  • Episode grade: B

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