A SEAL's dismembered body leads Gibbs, McGee, and Torres to a rescue mission in Paraguay
Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS
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S14 E24
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You’ve really got to hand it to them: NCIS know how to keep fans buzzing over the summer (… sorry).

Terrible jokes aside, it’s a hand that turns up in a Paraguayan river that kick-starts the action tonight. The prints belong to Navy SEAL Matthew Dean, whose military status forbade him from being in a part of the world slapped with a travel advisory warning for rebel activity.

Determining why he was there falls on the NCIS team, interrupting Abby’s plans for Delilah’s baby shower. Really quickly, let me outline the number of questionable things about this shower: (1) Delilah apparently wasn’t consulted before planning got underway. (2) Bishop wants to use baby decorations from to-be-tossed evidence in a domestic dispute shooting. (3) Reeves tries to emasculate McGee for wanting to run all this past Delilah. The only non-weird part of this is Abby soothing McGee’s obvious nerves over his impending fatherhood, assuring him that he’ll be fantastic.

Less fantastic? More body parts have washed up in Paraguay. When Quinn and Bishop break the news to Dean’s wife, she says he was on a fishing trip to Canada. She’s surprised to hear that he went back to Paraguay. This catches Bishop and Quinn’s attention, particularly when the wife explains that this was the location of Dean’s last SEAL mission.

Dean’s commander, Josephson, isn’t helpful, although he does say that Dean asked him to join fellow SEAL Charlie Hudson on the fishing trip. Josephson had to decline because he was deployed to Iraq, but the fact that Dean was in Paraguay with Hudson adds a new wrinkle to the investigation.

Ducky and Palmer have the unhappy job of putting Dean’s body parts back together after his dismemberment-by-machete. With no head, they can’t use dental records, but an arm tattoo matches photos of Dean.

When McGee and Torres locate Hudson’s motorhome, Torres offers to go in first, what with McGee’s impending fatherhood. But McGee cites his 14 years of field experience and is the first one through the door, where they find evidence that the men prepared four backpacks with sniper rifles, smoke grenades, tear gas, ammo, and night vision goggles, but only took two of the packs.

A photo of Dean, Hudson, Josephson, and a fourth man leads them to Petty Officer Christopher Clayton, who would’ve been the fourth man on the “fishing trip” if he hadn’t been in traction following a roller-skating accident at his son’s birthday party. Clayton says “going fishing” was Dean and Hudson’s code for Vegas, where they regularly racked up debt.

At first, Clayton refuses to dish about Paraguay, but when he learns that Dean is dead and Hudson is missing, he explains that they were sent there last year to surveil the Revolutionary Armed Council, which is really just thugs who kidnap children and turn them into soldiers to steal uranium from the local mines. The Pentagon was hoping to follow the money and see who their buyers were, and when the R.A.C. discovered the SEAL team, local villagers saved their lives and helped them escape.

When Clayton mentions that the R.A.C. had cash lying around their compound, the team starts to smell a motive for the two gamblers to return to Paraguay. While no military satellites cover that part of the jungle, McGee suggest they use NOAA satellites. Their contact is a total creeper who hits on Abby in a manner that defies both explanation and belief.

Thankfully, he’s good with the satellite and locates the R.A.C. compound, along with a lone figure, watching from the jungle. When they send the footage to the NCIS situation room, they all realize that the figure in the jungle is missing his hand. With impeccable timing, Ducky bursts in with the results of the DNA tests on the body parts: Everything but the hand belonged to Hudson. The hand is Dean’s, and he’s still alive.

At this point, Gibbs leaps into rescue mission mode, ordering McGee and Bishop to prepare to leave for Paraguay. Then Torres and Bishop have a Spanish-off to see who’s better suited for the mission. Bishop backs down when Torres points out that he’ll blend in better. Honestly, this is a weird moment. If the episode had ended with Torres dead, I could see Bishop being wracked with guilt. But the cliffhanger doesn’t reveal that, so it remains an odd little moment of Bishop deferring to the new guy. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out in September, though.

Anyway, it leaves Bishop stateside to tell Dean’s wife that he’s still alive. Quinn can’t help because she’s taking the second call of the day from her mother — another plot thread that leads nowhere tonight but will presumably be revisited at the start of season 15. Still, it’s an odd storytelling choice to take the time on something that won’t pay off for several months.
(Recap continues on page 2.)

In Paraguay, Gibbs, McGee, and Torres roll into the village near the R.A.C. encampment and spill out of the dusty vehicle as the two young Turks complain about their various aches after the crappy ride. (I would’ve assumed they’d both be better travelers than that.) They split up and start asking the locals if they’ve seen Dean. Everybody makes it clear that they aren’t free to speak to the Americans, and some of them admit to having had brothers and sons snatched by the rebels. It’s not a happy village, in other words.

Stateside, Abby is puzzled by how Dean and Hudson got their siege equipment past customs until Quinn finds a connection to an international relief organization with a hub in Paraguay. When Bishop and Reeves buttonhole one of the workers, he admits that he idolizes the SEALs, whom he met at a local bar, and he agreed to ship their package as a favor, no questions asked.

Luckily, the relief worker kept the address, which allows Bishop to direct Gibbs to a local church, where they find a man named Ricardo hiding Dean in the cellar. He is, in fact, short one hand, which he lost when he and Hudson were ambushed doing recon at the compound. (“Most of me escaped,” he says with remarkably good humor, all things considered.)

He and Hudson returned not to steal the money, but to rescue Ricardo’s son, who was recently abducted along with two other boys. Ricardo helped them escape when their mission last year went south, so when he called and asked for help, Dean and Hudson agreed.

The NCIS agents shift into planning mode and, with Dean’s help, decide to hit the compound at 6:30 the next morning, when the night watch is weary and the day shift hasn’t arrived yet. Dean insists on forgoing medical treatment and accompanying them, explaining, “Docs aren’t going to grow me a new hand.” When Gibbs gets in Dean’s face for risking his life while his wife waits for him at home, Dean insists he’s not leaving without Ricardo’s son. Honestly, if the cast weren’t already enormous, I’d be thrilled to have this tough, one-handed man join the team next season.

The final piece of the puzzle is the evac, which Reeves and Bishop have under control thanks to a Fleet Forces helicopter stationed on a landing platform/dock off the coast of Brazil. The catch is that the helo only has a three-minute window, so timing will be crucial. When Vance bursts into the situation room to tell Gibbs that he can’t sanction a covert op in a foreign country, Gibbs tells him it’s just one little helicopter to extract an American citizen. He promises to make sure all of his actions are defensible.

Before the Paraguay group rolls out that morning, Gibbs encourages McGee to consider his new responsibilities before jumping into the action. “Boss, I appreciate that,” McGee says, “but don’t forget, I’m an NCIS special agent.” Brave. Loyal. Funny. Total good dad material.

Cut to Dean and the agents creeping through the jungle outside the compound, planting explosives on trucks and keeping in touch with Bishop to time the helicopter extraction. Unfortunately, the day shift arrives early, so they have to move up their plan. They blow the trucks, and Dean races in to grab the boys as NCIS start shooting.

The rebels return fire with their huge, truck-mounted automatic weapons. The helicopter lands, and they race toward it. When one of the boys trips, McGee runs out to grab him as Gibbs provides cover. Ricardo’s reunited with his son, and he, the boys, Torres, and McGee scramble into the helicopter under heavy rebel fire. Before it can depart, McGee leaps off to join Gibbs on the ground. The two men are outnumbered, but it doesn’t stop them from holding the rebels at bay with nothing but their pistols.

Aaaand fade to black.

Whew. Gibbs and McGee playing the brave, hopeless roles of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid will stay with me well into the summer. However, I do wish they were in Paraguay on a case that tied in with story lines that had been introduced earlier in the season. As it was, the new players barely got set up before Gibbs was having an awkward conversation with an old man at a village well. Still, the “who’s hand is it, anyway?” twist and the powerful last image makes up for a rushed, choppy middle.

Stray shots

  • Whose Joe Pesci impression was better: Ducky or Palmer?
  • I’m not certain of the end game in rescuing the children. Won’t they have to go back to live in their village next door to the rebel compound, where R.A.C. punishment will be swift? Or was there a plan hatched to keep them safe after the rescue? Because something tells me those kids won’t be getting American visas anytime soon, given the current political climate.
  • As we bid farewell to NCIS season 14, let’s take a look back: Did you miss DiNozzo more than you expected, or less? Did you warm up the newbies more than you expected? Are you eager to see Daddy Tim, Stressed-out-Daughter Quinn, and (presumably) Single-and-Ready-to-Mingle Bishop next season? (For me, the answers are less, yes, yes, maybe, and no.) Let me know your thoughts on the finale and the season in general in the comments!

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