An NCIS building lockdown forces the team to solve a crime from the inside
Death From Above
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
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S15 E18
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A body on the NCIS HQ roof kicks off an infiltration that strands our agents throughout the building, leading to one of the most fun episodes of the season.

The agents are in various stages of reading Ducky’s memoir while the good doctor heads back to New York. (Well, not Torres, who can’t get past the idea that the first five chapters are 311 pages with zero pictures, or Gibbs, who hasn’t taken the time.) Then an explosion rattles the building and a body hits one of the glass pyramids on the roof.

At first, it looks like an AC repairman got caught in a transformer explosion, but further investigation reveals there’s no such company as District HVAC System, and the man was actually killed by a pipe bomb in his toolbox.

Also, the NCIS rooftop is home to a secret break room, complete with a folding chair and umbrella, perfect cell phone service, and the scent of donuts from the bakery on the corner. Torres, McGee, and Bishop all disavow previous knowledge of this hideaway.

The attempted bombing results in an evacuation of the building while the bomb squad is called, but Gibbs negotiates with Vance to let his team remain for another 30 minutes to continue reviewing the evidence. Speaking of evidence, Palmer finds Bishop in Abby’s lab and grumbles about the idiocy of having to move all the active evidence into the evidence garage — a protocol that Bishop approved when she was still at NSA.

Elsewhere, DiNozzo Sr. picked a heck of a day to meet Gibbs at NCIS for a drink, and with those plans obviously on hold, he ends up in the morgue with Abby. She orders him to put on Ducky’s lab coat so he can help her move the bomber’s body into the evidence garage and clucks over the news that he’s quit the Sherlock Consortium, although he’s still carrying the group’s magnifying glass.

Gibbs and Torres launch a search of the building and find two abandoned HVAC coveralls in a room with a ladder to the roof. Yep, there were three names on the approved list to enter the Navy Yard, and two of them are in the building.

Then the whole system shuts down, locking everyone into place. Sloane, Vance, McGee, and never-before-seen NCIS tech Leslie Vyas realize they’re trapped in MTAC with no cameras, internet, or cell phones. Until they can get the system back online, McGee rigs a two-way radio and starts scanning frequencies, assuming that’s how the invaders are communicating,

In the morgue, a gunman enters and looks sadly at the body of the bomber, who turns out to be his brother. Senior, still in Ducky’s lab coat, identifies himself as Dr. Mallard. He calls Abby an intern, citing her clothes as evidence (ha!), and steps in front of her to keep the gunman from shooting her.

Meanwhile, Bishop and Palmer put a few pieces together in Abby’s lab when they discover that the dead man worked for Adrian Fincher, the drug kingpin of Baltimore. NCIS just took over a Baltimore DEA case, and as we all know, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. Looks like the crew is after some evidence.

Unfortunately, Bishop’s attempts to monkey with the wiring to force the locked door open ends up frying Abby’s major mass spec. Further attempts just damage more equipment, so she turns her attention to the three inches of hermetically sealed glass windows. Palmer jokes that it can only be opened with a pipe bomb, so Bishop starts assembling the materials for it. You know, as you do.

Torres and Gibbs head to the orange room to liberate their firearms from their desks (people with better military knowledge than I have, can you confirm that locking your guns away in the Navy Yard is SOP?) when gunman No. 2 prowls through.

Our former undercover agent rolls with it and puts on janitor coveralls, grooving to music and playing dumb about the “evacuation drill” with the gunman, hoping he can sneakily liberate his gun. But gunman No. 1 arrives with “Ducky” in tow. He spots Torres’ framed desk photo of himself (excellent callback — see what vanity gets ya, Nicky?) and realizes he’s an agent trying to access his gun.

The two gunmen start squabbling, and we learn that No. 1’s name is Burke, while No. 2 works for Fincher and is addicted to pills. Then Burke gets on the radio and orders someone to turn on the elevator so he can move Torres and “Ducky” into the evidence garage. (Next page: We’ve got a mole!)

In MTAC, McGee listens to the order and realizes there’s another conspirator involved. He tells Vyas the tech to vacate her chair so he can figure out what terminal executed the elevator commands and quickly realizes it came from…drumroll…Vyas’ terminal. The call is coming from inside the house!

“We have a mole problem,” Sloane says, and dammit, Chloe, I miss old-school 24.

In the evidence locker, Torres speculates that Plan A was to drop the pipe bomb through the air vent and walk away, but Burke’s brother, a junkie who presumably owed Fincher money, blew himself up. Plan B was to get him and “Ducky” to help them steal the evidence, but they refused to cooperate. Plan C, it turns out, involves handcuffing Torres and Senior to the shelves and setting a fire to destroy it all.

As Torres starts to rummage through the evidence boxes he can reach, looking for anything he could use to pick the handcuff locks, Senior confesses that he quit the Sherlock Consortium because Judith dumped him for Cristos, a much-younger cruise director. Torres humblebrags that he’s never been dumped. “What about Eleanor?” Senior asks, and Torres says they’re not an item, but asks eagerly, “Did you hear something? Did she say something?” See! I still say that these two are dating by the end of the season.

In the end, Burke sets the evidence on fire and leaves the two cuffed men to await their fate. Thankfully, Senior’s Sherlock Consortium magnifying glass has several useful tools in the screw-off handle, so Torres works on freeing them both before the flames overtake them. And he’d better hurry, because Senior’s starting to cough from the smoke.

In the orange room, Gibbs has rigged the office equipment to start making noises, distracting gunman No. 1 enough that Gibbs can knock him out with a baseball bat.

He grabs No. 1’s radio and gets through to the personnel outside, which includes Special Agent Joanna Wright and Reeves, who’s anxious to head inside to help the team. Wright finally gives him the go-ahead, and he and an armed team storm in.

In MTAC, Vyas admits that she sold NCIS out for money after the infiltrators found her online, and furthermore, she completely locked them out of the system. McGee decides to essentially try turning NCIS off and on again, rebooting the system and risking years of digital files. It works, and watching it all come back on line looks a lot like the same scene in Jurassic Park, but minus the raptors.

The doors all unlock, and Reeves and Wright connect with Sloane and Vance in the orange room, where they’re discouraged to find Gibbs’ weapon but no Gibbs.

That’s because Gibbs is on the roof with Burke, where the man’s trying to use Gibbs as safe passage while a helicopter hovers overhead, presumably trying to land. Gibbs, who’s unarmed, picks a fight with Burke and tosses a pipe through one of the glass roof pyramids, trusting that one of his friends inside will take Burke out. Vance does, and with Gibbs’ gun, no less.

With the situation neutralized, Senior hustles into the lab to free Abby, who convinced Burke to shut her in one of the morgue drawers rather than shoot her. As she regularly sleeps in a coffin, she managed to nap through the whole ordeal.

Then another explosion rattles the building. It’s Bishop and Palmer, who’ve succeeded in blowing a hole in Abby’s lab just as the lockdown is ending. NOT COOL, Bishop. (Palmer, I know you were just along for the ride.)

So in the end, even with the Fincher drug evidence destroyed, Vyas agrees to testify against him for masterminding the NCIS invasion, and he’ll serve much more time with a terrorism conviction. To celebrate, Senior offers to take everybody out for drinks, although nobody can find Gibbs.

No surprise, he’s set up shop in his rooftop lounge, grabbing a pack of stashed beef jerky and settling in to read Ducky’s manuscript. Seriously, was there ever any doubt whose rooftop hideaway that was?

Stray shots

  • What a fun collection of odd-couple pairings tonight! Plotting like this keeps the show fresh, even in its 15th season.
  • While they’re trapped in MTAC, Sloane whispers to Vance, “I don’t like cages.” It’s an interesting character moment, particularly since we only recently learned about her capture and torture, but other than this moment, she doesn’t seem affected by the lockdown at all, which is a shame. Sloane grappling with fear and claustrophobia would’ve added an interesting element to this bottle-ish episode.
  • I sincerely hope that the next episode is nothing but Abby screaming at Bishop for 44 straight minutes about her destroyed lab. Give in to the rage, Abbs.
  • In conclusion, please never forget that Ducky wrestled a python and met David Bowie on the same day, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be as cool as he is.

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