NCIS recap: 'Twofer’
McGee and Gibbs' homecoming affects the men in very different ways
If an episode called “Twofer” opens on two cemetery employees exhuming a casket to make room for a highway expansion and you don’t know what’s going to happen next, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you to television!
That’s right — the casket bursts open and not one but two bodies topple out, tangled together. And they’re an unlikely duo: Richard Coyne, a 32-year-old Navy man who disappeared 18 months ago, and 87-year-old Edna Stone, who shuffled off this mortal coil two years previously.
When the team arrives, Torres is creeped out by the smell, the way the bodies are cuddled together, and the words of cemetery employee Phil, who warns that moving bodies is bad karma. Plus, his grandmother believed in not messing with the dead, and he’d prefer to follow suit. Bishop, meanwhile, remains in charge until Dr. Grace Confalone gives Gibbs and McGee the all-clear.
Back in the big orange room, Gibbs and McGee eye each other from across their work stations, making sure the other is okay. It’s a nice moment before we dive into Coyne’s backstory: He stopped a robbery at his gym in which the owner was shot and wounded. Coyne was scheduled to testify against the robber/drug dealer, Leo Vairo, but Coyne disappeared a week before the trial. Vairo, who was facing three strikes, walked without Coyne’s testimony and also vanished. Naturally, he’s the prime suspect.
Bishop and McGee break the sad news Coyne’s wife, Donna, while Torres and Gibbs check with the funeral director who handled Edna’s arrangements, particularly since the caskets are sealed at the funeral home before being shipped to the cemetery. They learn that Edna died in the winter, and her casket was stashed at the funeral home until the ground thawed enough to bury her, which just happened to be three days after Coyne disappeared. So the timing lines up.
Following the funeral home visit (and getting yelled at by Edna’s furious daughter), Torres meets Bishop at the gym where Coyne stopped the robbery and tries to get his mojo back by flipping one of those enormous tires. He does, but he tweaks his back doing it — and in front of the comely blond trainer, too. She tells them the owner, Pete Wilkins, is in his office with his girlfriend. And if you didn’t know exactly who we’d find in there with him, then welcome to television!
Yes, it’s the Widow Coyne, cozied up to the man her husband saved in the robbery attempt. The agents divide them up and extract basically the story: Coyne exacerbated a shoulder injury stopping the robbery, while Pete suffered a gunshot wound, so the two men started rehab workouts together. Then when Coyne disappeared, Pete and Donna got closer and closer, and now they’re in love. And if Vairo is found, Pete vows to testify at his new trial.
That afternoon, Gibbs shows up to his mandatory mental health session with Grace, where he admits to her that he genuinely thought he wasn’t going to make it out of Paraguay, but because he did, he’s…happy. Happy and grateful. It’s a surprising admission from Gibbs, and Grace suggests that having survived torture and starvation, Gibbs might just have a new lease on life. In fact, he seems all-around sunnier, and he shared more feelings in the last two minutes than in their entire previous acquaintance.
McGee’s a different story; he blows off his required session and instead shows up in Abby’s basement to learn that the casket was pried open, which means whoever inserted Coyne’s body didn’t have a casket key.
A positively cheerful Gibbs enters the morgue for an update but is quickly overwhelmed by the smell from two bodies. Ducky, sly dog that he is, stops Gibbs’ retreat from the bog of eternal stench and launches into an overblown speech about how happy he is at Gibbs’ return. Gibbs barks at him to speed it up and then bolts, leaving Ducky to smile over his little prank. Oh, Dr. Mallard, you devil!
Back upstairs, the missing Leo Vairo’s been located, and he immediately lawyers up when he learns that Coyne is dead.
Outside the interrogation room, McGee tells Vance that he didn’t make it to his session with Grace because he and Delilah are trying to get back on a normal schedule, and in fact, he’d like to make it home that night in time for dinner. Vance agrees but gives McGee one more day to get the all-clear from Grace.
The smell in the morgue has gotten worse as Palmer starts dissecting Coyne’s organs, and before long he gets all sweaty, starts speaking gibberish, and passes out. The next thing he knows, he’s waking up on an autopsy table, and Abby’s tasked with figuring out what kind of toxins had built up in the liver that he was cutting into to cause that reaction.
She hypothesizes that it may be a situation similar to the cancer patient in the 1990s who knocked out an entire room full of medical personnel when her blood was drawn. It was later discovered that the cancer meds in the woman’s blood had crystallized and become toxic. (Next page: Gibbs gives McGee some basement tough love)
Leaving Abby to unravel that mystery, Bishop and Gibbs board the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets, corpse-scent clinging to their clothes. Gibbs is downright giddy (relative to the Gibbs scale) over how much they all enjoy working a case. He offers to stay late to keep going, but Bishop says she’s still the boss and sends him home, not wanting to overtax him on his first day.
Once he’s there, though, he isn’t quite so sunny, and even though he’s tucked away in his basement, his still-battered hand trembles. The doorbell interrupts his concerned look, and even though it’s 3 a.m., he finds McGee on his front porch. Neither of them is sleeping, and McGee comments that Gibbs has actually locked his door, which is unusual.
Gibbs wants to know why, after two months of hellish captivity, McGee is more scared now. McGee says he doesn’t exactly know what he’s feeling, unlike Gibbs, who’s acting like Paraguay was nothing. Gibbs replies that just because he’s cracking jokes, he’s only “okay enough. Maybe.”
McGee worries that he can’t fake it like Gibbs, and the idea that he’s faking angers Gibbs, who tells McGee that he’s acting like the guy avoiding the doctor because he doesn’t want to know how sick he is. McGee asks what happens if Grace tells him he needs to keep coming back, and Gibbs replies, “I’ll see you there.” Their non-therapy therapy session is interrupted by a call from Abby and Palmer, who’ve discovered that Coyne had a cocktail of drugs in his liver: fentanyl, dimethyl sulfoxide, and triple-strength ibuprofen. The combo crystalized in his liver and knocked out Palmer, just like the case from the ’90s.
Unfortunately, although their prime suspect is a drug dealer, they can’t find any reference to Vairo dealing those specific drugs. They’re stuck until Torres, still nursing his tire-tweaked back, says a Colombian doctor once prescribed to him a pain-relieving cream containing dimethyl sulfoxide.
This sparks a plan, and the team revisits Vairo, who admit that he’d sold Pete the gym owner cocaine back in the day and then heard a rumor that Pete was making a bundle off a miracle pain killer from South America. Gee, a miracle pain killer that combines fentanyl, dimethyl sulfoxide, and triple-strength ibuprofen, maybe?
More poking into Pete’s past reveals that he co-captained his high school football team alongside Phil, the cemetery worker from the opening scene. When Bishop and McGee roll back into the cemetery, Phil immediately announces, “I needed the money, okay?”
Now Pete’s the one in interrogation. He admits to giving Coyne the painkiller to help his shoulder injury, but Coyne had a bad reaction. When Coyne confronted Pete about it, they tussled. Pete fell, hit his head on the barbell rack, and died. He says Phil just looked the other way while he added Coyne’s body to Edna’s vessel of eternal rest and begs the agents not to tell the Widow Coyne.
And if you don’t know who’s standing on the other side of the two-way mirror, well, again, welcome to television. Donna’s there, and in a nice bit of symmetry, she tells Bishop she wants to testify in Pete’s trial. That poor woman, losing her husband and then falling in love with his killer.
Finally, McGee meets with Grace, who urges him to dig into why he can’t sleep. And it’s like a dam bursts: McGee stared death in the face every day for two months, but now that he’s home, he can’t turn the worry off, obsessing about when the other shoe will drop.
Grace reminds him that worry is a bully that gives nothing and only takes, takes, takes, and having survived the hardest test of his life in Paraguay, he’s now prepared to deal with pretty much anything that comes his way.
This seems to resonate with McGee, who exits and finds Gibbs waiting in the lobby for his own session, tacitly showing McGee that ongoing therapy is important self-care. McGee seems to get it and announces that he’s headed him to go to bed.
- All in all, this wasn’t the most surprising episode of NCIS ever, but it was a solid entry in the canon. But with Quinn gone and Reeves MIA, the team felt a little small, didn’t it? I guess I’ve gotten used to a larger ensemble. Still, it was nice to have a little more Palmer and Ducky time, and Grace is always welcome.
- Speaking of Ducky, he spends the episode screening calls from the University of Edinburgh, assuming they’re asking him to up his donation, but instead a registered letter arrives to invite him to a weekend celebrating the university’s most prestigious graduates by awarding them an honorary doctor of humane letters degree. Palmer and Abby encourage him to attend, and Ducky assures them he wouldn’t miss it for the world. Fingers crossed that we actually get to see him attend, and that it incorporates flashbacks so we get more of Adam Campbell’s take on young Ducky.
- Look, it’s wonderful to see McGee making a breakthrough in his trauma, but Tim, baby, that goatee has got to go.
- What about you, gentle viewer? Did you outguess the episode this week? And have you ever tweaked your back flipping a giant tire, just because it was there? Let me know in the comments!