NCIS recap: 'Family Ties'
What crimes won’t we forgive when they’re done for good reasons by and for the people we love? Vance and the team explore this topic tonight when a hit and run reveals a much older run job.
The body of Scott Jenkins, a Marine and a marathoner known for running late at night, is found in a water-filled ditch. Broken headlight glass in the road nearby indicates he may have been hit by a car that fled on that foggy night.
Abby IDs the make, model, and color of the car from the reassembled glass and paint scrapes at the scene, and they quickly track the unique blue Maserati to John Kendall, who lives near the hit-and-run site.
When Torres and Bishop arrive, they find Kendall passed out drunk on his couch, a BBQ chicken pizza burned to a crisp in his oven, and a Maserati with a damaged front end in his garage. Kendall already has three DUI arrests, and blood splatter on the car grill matches the dead man’s. But Kendall swears that he cabbed it to and from the bar, where he knocked back a dozen drinks the night before. Abby confirms that his car’s equipped with a blow box that keeps it from starting if the operator’s had alcohol, and the interior’s wiped clean of all prints.
Thankfully, a new clue emerges when they find a silver cheerleading bracelet resting on the monogrammed floor mats, bearing the mascot of a local high school and the initials GLB. This leads McGee to the home of 15-year-old Genevieve Bell.
Her parents answer McGee’s knock and are upset to hear about their daughter’s possible involvement with a hit and run. Christopher (Jamie Kaler) and Jill (Gabrielle Carteris — hi, Andrea Zuckerman!) explain that Genevieve slept over at friend Maya Guzman’s house the night before. Both girls are at volleyball practice, so Christopher suggests McGee meet them there to talk to Genevieve.
But when McGee arrives at the school, he learns that Genevieve just left practice with her parents, and by the time he arrives back at the Bell home, he discovers that they’ve bolted, leaving most of their possessions behind, including their cell phones and cut-up credits cards. Not only that, but they punctured his tire on their way out of town so he can’t pursue them, which is impressive thoroughness!
The team pulls Maya into the conference room for a friendly chat, but her lawyer father keeps her from answering any questions, and he ends the proceedings when the words “vehicular manslaughter” pop up in conjunction with Genevieve’s bracelet and their neighbor Kendall’s car.
Genevieve and Maya aren’t the only teens giving their parents fits this week; Vance is astounded to learn that his 17-year-old daughter Kayla was arrested for shoplifting a purse.
When he arrives at the police station to pick her up, she emerges looking extraordinarily contrite and tells Vance that she made a mistake. He corrects her: It was a bad choice, and it’s one that he blames on her friend Mandy. To be fair, the glimpses of Mandy that we see are of a stone-faced, tied-to-her-phone brat, so you get why he’d jump to that conclusion.
Vance worries to Gibbs that if his wife were still alive, Kayla wouldn’t be a latchkey kid who found other influences because her dad was always gone. Gibbs suggests that Vance go home to be with his daughter. But their time together ends in a shouting match when Vance gets on her for larceny and skipping school and she points out that as a minor, her sentence will be lighter and it won’t go on her permanent record.
When Mandy comes around the house looking for Kayla, Vance tells her to bounce…forever. But Mandy hotly informs him that Kayla believes in her, far more than Mandy’s dad ever did. Mandy never thought she was cut out for higher education, but Kayla’s doing everything she can to make sure Mandy makes it to college. Aww!
Sloane encourages Vance to consider what it’s like to make the worst mistake of your life when your dad’s the head of NCIS. Vance says he doesn’t want to pull any strings for Kayla with local law enforcement. Sloane reminds him that he pulled strings for her, but Vance says that was “life or death.” Ooooh, NCIS is doing a fantastic job of doling out juuuuust enough details about Sloane’s mysterious past to keep us guessing this season. (Next page: Blue eyes, brown eyes)
Okay, back to the case: The Bells emptied their savings account and abandoned their car, baffling the team as to why two established teachers would go to these lengths to keep their daughter out of trouble — particularly when they find convenience store footage showing that Maya was the one driving the Maserati that night.
Under questioning (in the interrogation room this time), Maya cries and confesses that they snuck into Kendall’s garage to take pictures with the car and couldn’t resists taking it for a spin using the keys they found in the cup holder. Then it was foggy and there was a bang, but no matter how much they searched, they couldn’t find what they hit. Assuming it was a deer, they returned the car and wiped their prints. Maya tearfully swears that they didn’t’ know it was a person.
With that part of the crime solved, the team tries to uncover why the Bells ran. Abby comes throug, pulling Bishop and McGee into the lab to see if they notice what Gibbs noticed in the Bell family photo: blue-eyed parents; brown-eyed girl, which is genetically rare. And sure enough, Abby’s investigations revealed that Christopher and Julie Bell are not Genevieve’s biological parents, and Genevieve’s birth certificate was forged.
In a lucky stroke, Abby’s able to match Genevieve’s DNA to a brown-eyed ex-con named Martin Curtis, whose daughter Genevieve Curtis was born on the same date as the one listed on Genevieve Bell’s fake birth certificate.
Furthermore, Genevieve Curtis’s teenage mother, Brittany, died of a drug overdose six months after Genevieve was born, and Julie Bell was Brittany’s English teacher. Immediately after Brittany’s death, the Bells abruptly moved. Yep, it looks like the Bells have been pretending that Genevieve was theirs for 15 years, and the team is now legally required to inform Curtis about his daughter.
When Abby notices that Genevieve’s wearing Bluetooth headphones in a social media photo, she and McGee use the headphone app on Genevieve’s abandoned phone to identify the location where she’s using them now.
And we cut to a nearby hotel, where Genevieve apologizes to Christopher for outing their secret and forcing the family to run. Christopher in turn apologizes for them having this huge secret in the first place. They’ve been preparing to be discovered for 15 years, but when McGee pounds on the hotel door, Genevieve refuses to run out the back, as her parents want her to do; she answers to face the music.
In questioning, Julie explains that they watched Genevieve when Brittany was at work or out partying until one day when Brittney didn’t come back at all. They’d grown too attached to the baby to surrender her to foster care, and a youthful assault conviction on Christopher’s record kept them from adopting her themselves. So they just…kept her.
Meanwhile, Sloane’s talking to Genevieve’s biological father, who knew about Genevieve, knew that Brittney had died, and didn’t much care what happened to the baby at the time. But when Curtis hears the baby was stolen, he immediately asks, “They have money?” and wonders if he can sue the Bells. Sloane asks if that’s in the best interest of his daughter, but he asks what best for him. Wow, what a swell guy.
Meanwhile, Julie tearfully asks if they’ll ever see Genevieve again, and on the other side of the two-way mirror, McGee sympathizes with the Bells.
Then Sloane walks Genevieve into the room where Curtis waits to meet her. He’s surprised at how old Genevieve is and says he met her mom when she was the same age. “My mom’s in the other room,” Genevieve corrects him, then begs Curtis to let her go with the only family she’s ever known.
Sloane points out that suing the Bells would also mean he’s seeking legal custody of Genevieve, and then Curtis does that fastest 180 in history, telling Genevieve that he picked out her name when she was born, then signing off on the paperwork awarding legal custody to the Bells. Genevieve hugs him in gratitude.
But…like…the Bells did steal a baby, right? Is there no penalty for that? All I’m saying is, thanks to NCIS, “statute of limitations on kidnapping” is now in my Google search history.
That night, Vance fills Kayla in on the happy ending for Genevieve, then tells Kayla he’s lucky to have a daughter like her. “Yeah, right. A thief,” she replies.
Then Vance asks if Mandy’s 18, and when Kayla says she is, he wonders out loud whether his daughter, who’s still a minor and who’s already been admitted to Georgetown, might take the fall for a friend who’s legally an adult and who already has two shoplifting arrests when a third might keep her out of college.
Kayla neither confirms nor denies this and instead asks his advice for what kind of community service might be best for her to complete as part of her sentence. Awww, stay golden, Vance family!
- I will never stop cringing about Palmer fumbling around looking for the eyewash because he got shards of glass from a corpse in his eye.
- If you enjoyed all of the Vance domestic goodness, partial thanks are due to his portrayer, Rocky Carroll, who directed the episode. Now give up the goods on Sloane, NCIS!
- Okay, it’s impossible to ignore at this point: When’s the last time Abby and Gibbs were in a scene together? We’ve gotten “Abby Skypes in” scenes and references to Gibbs having just been in the lab, like he’s Tino in My So-Called Life, but the two haven’t shared any screen time this season, and I don’t believe they had much last season, either. (Please don’t let this be a Margulies/Panjabi situation.)
- This week’s cold open features a bickering couple who’ve inspired me to work “Don’t lie to me, Phillip” into conversations as much as possible in the future. I encourage you to do the same.