NCIS recap: 'Skeleton Crew'
Hurricane Jack blows into NCIS and ruffles Gibbs' feathers
A hurricane battering the Navy Yard and surrounding environs creates complications for the NCIS team as they try to crack the case of a murder mystery dinner gone horribly wrong.
But Hurricane Molly’s not the only storm blowing into town. Gibbs’ solitary storm-tossed evening is disturbed when a woman pounds on his door to say that both her car and her phone are dead. Jacqueline Sloane (Mario Bello), a doctor newly relocated here from California, flashes her license at Gibbs, who invites her inside to call for a tow.
Gibbs turns on a bit of the silver fox charm and offers her coffee, which she takes with more sugar than I’ve seen any human put into any beverage. She compliments his flip phone and retro chic décor, then guesses that he’s a carpenter or a cowboy. (I mean, she’s not totally wrong, is she?)
When Gibbs gets the call about the murder mystery stabbing, he tells her to make herself at home as she waits for the tow truck. When she asks why he’d leave behind a stranger who could rob him blind, he tosses her his keys and says, “Lock up when you’re done.”
Now, to the case. From his bed in the ICU, Ethan Wynn tells investigators that a man in a devil costume stabbed him and abducted his wife, Helen. A devil’s costume seems a little on the nose, but you do you, stabber/kidnapper.
Back at HQ, Abby’s caught zombie apocalypse fever literally 10 years later than you and I and everybody we know did. She’s prepared survival kits for everybody’s go-bag, and I don’t believe for a second that these people haven’t had multiple conversations about their personal zombie survival plans before. Instead, the whole teams is all, “What? Zombies? I don’t understand the words that you’re saying, Abs!” which is patently ridiculous.
Anyway, Helen’s mother (Gates McFadden of Star Trek: The Next Generation, woefully underused here) announces that her daughter is the heir to the Belmont soap fortune, although Helen kept that fact private. She also sneers about her daughter joining the military and choosing to marry the man she did. Regardless, she’s prepared to pay whatever ransom the kidnapper demands.
When the power glitches, Vance orders all nonessential personnel to evacuate the Navy Yard. Waves of extras we’ve never seen before gather their belongings and leave as Gibbs’ unexpected guest strolls through the big orange room. She tosses Gibbs his keys before greeting Vance with a big hug. McGee is immediately on alert for whatever the gossip is behind her having those keys, but Gibbs ain’t talking.
In Vance’s office, we get a little back story: Special Agent Sloane, who goes by Jack because of course she does, accepted Vance’s invitation to act as the team’s forensic psychologist. She hesitated after hearing stories about a certain hard-to-handle agent crossing lines left and right, and since she wasn’t sure how their personalities would mesh, she did some recon. Yeah, that’s not going to be a problem moving forward.
We also get hints about a past with Vance. She says she owes him; he says that was a long time ago and the debt’s been paid. Mystery!
McGee braves the storm to chat with Mitch Greyson, a civilian employee of the National Armed Forces Credit Union and the last person Helen called before she disappeared. He says Helen handles the finances for her ship, the U.S.S. Ewing, and he’s her bank liaison. In fact, she was supposed to pick up checks that morning but never showed.
Meanwhile, poor Bishop and Torres have boarded a chopper in the middle of a hurricane to get to Helen’s ship, which is running a skeleton crew during the storm. This limits the number of casualties should it sink, engineer Joe Smiddy tells them as they come aboard. Neither of them find this comforting.
Things get worse when Bishop discovers that her old high school bully, Thomas Buckner, is the XO. What are the odds? Naturally, Torres is freaking delighted by this turn of events. Buckner calls Bishop “Scarecrow,” but she’s all business, asking about Helen’s time on the ship. They get the usual answers: no conflicts with anybody on board, sure you can look at her quarters, etc. The only place they can’t examine is the disbursing office because only Helen and her clerk have keys.
Torres and Buckner bond over their athletic exploits, and at Torres’ prompting, Buckner describes high-school Bishop as refreshingly individualistic; her nickname came from the oversized overalls and straw-like hair she used to sport. (His nickname was Thomas the Adonis, which is hardly equivalent.)
Buckner’s relaxed and friendly around her, but when Gibbs calls on the sat phone to say that a park ranger found Helen’s car near Lake Drummond, Bishop rushes Torres into his departure gear so they can get the heck off the ship. Unfortunately, the weather’s grounded the chopper, leaving Bish with her bad high school memories. She says Buckner only let up on her when her brothers broke two of his fingers, which…yikes. Torres doesn’t like how much this bothers her and says she and Buckner should talk it out. Yeah, um, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.
Back on dry-ish land, Vance introduces Jack to McGee and Gibbs, the latter of whom is. Not. Having. It. “Looks like a ‘fool me once’ kind of guy,” Jack says as he stalks away. Honestly, what did she expect? That kind of deception is no way to introduce yourself to your new, legendarily prickly coworker. (Next page: Bishop bonds with her bully)
Bad news about Helen’s car: Her body’s in the trunk. When Jack joins Palmer in the morgue, we learn that Ducky has spoken of her in the past. Then Gibbs arrives, and Palmer picks up on the awkward vibe between the two of them, so he launches into his findings: Cause of death was a rock to the head, and fibers under Helen’s fingernails likely match the killer’s devil costume.
Jack keeps clearing her throat until she can’t help but chime in: If the murder had been intentional, the killer would’ve used the knife. Also, Helen’s hands were carefully bound in front of her, indicating concern, maybe even love, on the part of her kidnapper. Jacks suspects the kidnapper panicked when Helen recognized them.
As usual, the husband is suspect No. 1, especially when the team learns that Helen had drawn up divorce papers. With her dead, he’d still inherit. An emotional Ethan says they dated other people during a brief separation but had reconciled. And who did she date during that time? Ethan drops the name of one grown-up high-school bully.
Bishop confronts Buckner with the news that the woman he was dating is dead. He insists that they were only friends; he’d gotten divorced last year after a decade of marriage and was trying to help Helen through a similar situation. “You must really despise me to think that I’m capable of murder,” he tells Bishop, then apologizes for whatever he did to her in high school.
Ugh. See, this is why confronting bullies doesn’t seem like a good idea. Sometimes people don’t realize the magnitude of hurt they inflict on others. How awful to have lived with the effects of bullying for years, only to learn that your tormentor has no memory of their actions.
Nevertheless, Scarecrow and Adonis bond over the trauma of violent death, and Bishop opens up about her healing process in the wake of Qasim’s murder. Buckner says he was awful to her in high school because she intimidated him. “Still do,” he adds. Whatever. Moving on.
Gibbs enters MTAC and is displeased to find Jack there, so she explains that she wanted to interact with him on his own turf to see how he ticks. Problem is, Gibbs doesn’t like games and doesn’t like being lied to. Uh, yeah. Nobody does. Sorry, but this introduction isn’t charming. It’s weird and invasive.
They have a turf battle as he tells her she needs his permission to get involved in his cases, but she says she answers to Vance. She says he might not understand her methods, but she gets results, and in the end, he’ll like having her around because Gibbs enjoys a good fight.
In the end, it’s Abby’s computers to the rescue: A fingerprint on Helen’s key ring belongs to Joe Smiddy, who welcomed Torres and Bishop aboard the U.S.S. Ewing. The team hypothesizes that he wanted access to Helen’s key for the disbursing office, which was fully stocked for the impending redeployment.
Unfortunately, the hurricane knocked out all the comms, so they can’t warn Bishop and Torres…oh, but wait! Abby’s decade-too-late zombie survival kit included beepers, which should still work during a hurricane.
Having been duly beeped, Bishop and Torres catch Smiddy raiding the disbursing office. He says his job was just to steal the money, while his buddy held onto Helen until they could rendezvous with the cash. The morning after the storm, we learn that Smiddy’s conspirator was Greyson, who dated Helen during her separation and put the plan in motion after she ended things with him to get back together with her husband.
On board, Torres hauls a cuffed Smiddy toward the chopper as Buckner calls Bishop “Eleanor” and says he’s glad their paths crossed again. She tells him to drop her a line when he’s back on the mainland so they can catch up over coffee. Grumble. So a guy who admits to being a total ass to her in high school, and who only stopped when Bishop’s brothers physically harmed him, is now going to meet her for coffee sometime? I’m all for forgiveness, but so help me, if they start dating, I will Hulk Rage out.
Now, for some hijinks on the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets. Gibbs steps on board to find Jack already in it. She pushes the emergency stop button, which I always love. Does any workplace employ the stop button more than the NCIS crew? She prompts Gibbs to confess that he made her as a special agent within 30 seconds of their meeting. (It was the way she flashed her ID like a cop, plus Ducky mentioned that a new forensic psychologist was coming onboard.) He played along because he wanted to find out who she was.
The episode ends with Jack donning protective gloves, taking off her hoodie to reveal some wicked scars on her back, and going to town on a heavy bag. Looks like it’ll take a few more episodes for any of us to figure her out.
- Okay, can we all agree that the NCIS writers don’t watch Game of Thrones? Because literally the saddest thing I have ever heard is McGee and Delilah going to the murder mystery dinner dressed as Ser Jorah and Daenerys. He’s Mr. Friendzone, and she’s Queen Have-You-Met-My-Nephew. That’s the opposite of a cute husband-and-wife costume!
- What a tragic waste of Gates McFadden. Hollywood, find this woman steady work!
- So now we’ve met the new addition to the cast. What do you think? Are you invested in the mystery of the scars on Jack’s back and the (likely connected) favor between her and Vance? Will she make a good foil for Gibbs? Have you ever heard of a more uncomfortable way to introduce yourself to a new coworker than by invading his home under false pretenses? Let me know in the comments!