It’s good-guy Drew Carey versus snake-tongued Jake Busey in a battle of the guest stars this week. I don’t know about you, but I’m ride-or-die Price Is Right in this particular matchup.
The episode starts with the sudden death of young, healthy Navy Petty Officer James Sweeney, who suffers a heart attack while on deployment in Spain. Abby discovers that that the cause of death was cyanide in the frosted almond cookies sent in his care package from Virginia.
The leads the team to retired Marine Sergeant John Ross (Carey), who coordinates a large effort to send daily care packages to troops stationed overseas. Torres and McGee find him in the Legion Hall, where the care packages are assembled, and bring him in for questioning. He says the cookies were his mother’s recipe, but he most certainly didn’t kill anyone.
Then he starts to get edgy and demands to be let out of the interrogation room — and for good reason. Years ago as a U.S. embassy guard in Iran, he was captured and held for five years.
Sloane discusses his post-rescue checkered past with Vance: violent outbursts, road rage, fired from several jobs. Vance says this sounds familiar, and Sloane tacitly acknowledges her similarities to Ross but points out that he came home in an era that barely knew what PTSD was. She and Vance agree that she should talk with him again, but someplace that he feels more comfortable.
At Sweeney’s memorial, his drunk uncle Bob bursts in yelling about the large inheritance that Sweeney’s parents left to their two sons when they died years ago, then accuses Sweeney’s wife Emma of only being interested in the money. Sweeney’s brother Clyde kicks Bob out and tells NCIS that Bob’s angry he didn’t get a cut of the estate.
Meanwhile, Torres and McGee question a postal worker, who immediately recognizes John’s photo. The tracking information on Sweeney’s poisoned cookie package indicates it was dropped in a blue mailbox, which surprises her because Ross always brings the packages in person and sticks around to chat with her about her family. Also, Ross was in Chicago when the package was mailed, so we’re looking at a frame job.
One possible suspect: terrible human being Whit Dexter (Busey), whose conspiracy theory podcast recently invited Ross on and then hijacked him with accusations that his care packages are a government plan to prop up the Post Office and that his POW stint was a false flag operation to drum up tension between the Middle East and the U.S.
It’s offensive in the extreme, and when Ross stormed out, Dexter promised that he’d reveal something huge about Ross very soon. When NCIS tells Dexter about Sweeney’s death, he shrugs it off with, “At least he knew what he signed up for.” Yikes. What kind of monster would say that?
Dexter’s the first person Ross thinks of when Sloane arrives to chat with him, although they agree that nothing Dexter says can be worse than Ross’ five years in a cage. Ross identifies Sloane as a veteran and comments that Afghanistan was a tough assignment for a woman. She points out that it was tough for everybody.
Next thing you know, Dexter’s all over social media and on ZNN claiming NCIS is framing him. He claims Sweeney was going to expose Ross as a bad dude but was killed with poisoned cookies before he could tell all. But…but NCIS never told Dexter about the poisoned cookies! DUN!
That night, Ross finds Dexter as he’s preparing to leave a restaurant and lunges for him. NCIS has just shown up to bring Dexter in for questioning, so they pull Ross away. Dexter immediately starts filming, narrating that “NCIS thugs” are siding with a murderer against him.
You can imagine how well Gibbs responds to this stunt, and before long, the extremely punchable Dexter’s in interrogation. Gibbs asks how he can live with himself and if he’s spared a thought for what it’s like for his daughter to have him as a father. Dexter laughingly admits that he’s an entertainer who lies for a living, and he was going to make up something juicy to reveal about Ross to please his ravenous listeners. Seriously, somebody please slap this dude.
Vance and Torres watch the questioning, and Vance reminisces about that time six years ago when Dexter accused him of running a money-laundering ring out of the Navy Yard. It was too crazy to catch on — at the time, anyway. But honestly, in the year of our Lord 2018, can’t you picture that rumor gaining traction? (Next page: Sloane opens up about her past)