NCIS recap: 'Trapped'
A body on a golf course leads the agents to a mound of cocaine in an unexpected spot
Tonight, I learned an inventive new way to smuggle drugs. Thanks, NCIS!
Petty Officer Jake Miller is found dead under a lawnmower at the golf course where he works part time. Palmer estimates his time of death at around 4 a.m., his start time, and McGee finds a bloody rake missing a pair of tines in the nearby bunker.
Blood on the rake matches blood on Miller’s shirt, and none of it matches Miller, which means they’re looking for a murderer with some wounds.
Miller’s manager confirms what in his Naval records show: that Miller’s a terminally shy guy. He also received several calls from a landscaping business nearby, but when Reeves and Bishop show up to question the owner, she brushes it off as part of the deliveries he receives from them. She’s extremely cagey about the whole thing and may as well be wearing a sign that says, “You’ll be coming back to me before the end of the hour!”
When McGee and Torres check out Miller’s apartment, they discover an elaborate ham radio set-up. This delights McGee because he was a total ham radio head as a kid. “When I was a kid, my dad used to sneak me into the cockfights,” Torres offers.
Then they draw their guns on the dog walker entering Miller’s apartment, and one fella, Benji, barks his head off at McGee, which surprises the handler because Bejni’s usually a good boy. Who’s a good boy? Benji’s a good boy!
Back at HQ, McGee reviews the extensive notes Miller made of his hours and hours of ham radio calls. His handle was Jaybird, and when pressed, McGee tells Torres that his old handle was Timinator. When the Timinator contacts Ricochet, the man on the other end of Miller’s final transmission, Ricochet immediately guesses that Miller’s dead because of the dangerous situation Jaybird was reportedly involved in. Then the line goes dead, and McGee can’t get him back.
Palmer has ruled Miller’s cause of death as strangulation followed by a broken neck, and surveillance footage shows one car leaving around the time of death. The owner had reported the vehicle stolen, but thankfully a police officer in a nearby town calls in a sighting.
Bishop, Reeves, and Gibbs make the hourlong drive only to find the car gone. (The officer who called it in received an alert of a stolen shopping cart, left to take care of it, and found the parking spot empty upon his return. Small towns, amirite?) Thankfully, Gibbs the human crime sniffer-outer spots a veterinary clinic in the middle of the dumpy strip mall.
Dr. Cho, the vet, at first denies having treated any humans, but when Bishop digs the bloody rake tines out of the trash, he changes his story. (Also, without a search warrant, trash contents that aren’t beyond the curtilage would need to be in plain sight, no? If it was a closed trash can, could that be fruit of the poisonous tree? Or did Cho open himself up to that by inviting them in? Lawyers, please discuss.)
Cho has a history of operating on people and in fact became the go-to guy if you had cash and a gunshot wound you needed treating, no questions asked. But Cho got caught and cleaned up his act — until the night before, when a bleeding man walked in and demanded treatment. Cho says he saved the guy’s life but didn’t get his name and number. Gibbs sets him up with a sketch artist.
Watching from behind the glass, Jack says the killer is smart enough to steal a car, connected enough to know about the people-friendly vet, and cunning enough to wear gloves in places where fingerprints are likely. What they need now is motive.
Abby offers a possibility: Although Miller had no drugs in his system, his hair, clothes, and shoes were covered in cocaine, as if he’d rolled around in a big pile.
“I’ve never done cocaine before, but I think he was doing it wrong,” Palmer offers. Never change, you beautiful man!
McGee asks Jack to listen to a recording of his brief call with Ricochet, which isn’t helpful, but when she visits Miller’s apartment, she discovers a high school yearbook with only three signatures. She pegs him as a quiet, shy man who worked alone and took anxiety meds; a large birthmark on his face might have made it even harder for him as a child and kept him isolated as an adult.
Isolated except for ham radio, that is. There, he was anonymous and confident. In fact, his outgoing voicemail message is a big booming radio voice with which he identifies his ham radio information.
This sparks a thought in McGee: Maybe Ricochet’s a play on an actual name. One quick search of amateur radio licenses later, and they’ve found Rick O’Shea living a mere four miles from Miller. (Next page: Benji’s the key to cracking the case)
McGee and Jack pay Rick a visit, and he’s not pleased to have strangers knocking at his door. He’s an odd duck with no driver’s license, home phone, or cell phone, and he greets the pair with a camera strapped to his chest and a recitation of the Fifth Amendment.
Jack speaks to him in an overly bright, soothing way that I find punchable but seems to work on Rick, who offers to introduce her to his dog, Benji. It’s the same dog McGee met earlier; Rick and Miller use the same dog walker. Rick says Benji is a retired TSA drug dog, and that Benji went crazy the last time he encountered Miller, just the way he did with McGee in Miller’s apartment.
Lightbulb moment! McGee is the one who stepped into the bunker at the golf course, so he borrows Benji to take him to the golf course, where they discover a big pile of cocaine in the sand traps.
Abby has McGee, Torres, and Bishop use colanders to strain out progressively finer and finer particles until they’re left with nothing but drugs. “Turning sand into cocaine seems like magic to me,” Torres says.
This narrows the possible suspects quite a bit, and sure enough, facial recognition from Dr. Cho’s sketch artist session matches Ramon Moncada, a delivery guy for the landscaping company that kept calling Miller the day before he died. The company gets its sand from a quarry outside of Nogales, where it’s shipped across the border so the drugs can be separated out and sold. But apparently a bag of coke sand ended up at the golf course.
They nab Moncada and confirm that his blood is a match for Miller’s shirt and rake. Since a cartel is involved, he refuses to squeal for fear of getting killed. Then Torres speaks to Moncada in Spanish, asking him to let NCIS help. Moncada admits that his boss, Evelyn Gomez, gives him orders, and she takes her orders from cartel heavy El Gato.
The next thing we know, a dangerous-looking man arrives at the landscaping business in a sleek black suit, cowboy hat, and snakeskin boots, with a gun in his waistband. In Spanish, he tells Evelyn that El Gato sent him, and if she wants a second chance, she’ll need to call El Gato and beg. She’s terrified and makes the call, at which point the assassin plucks the phone from her hand and says, “Pineapple” into the wire. Of course, it’s Torres. (Wilmer Valderrama’s totally channeling his role as a conquistador vampire in From Dusk Till Dawn here, and I love it.) Now that they have El Gato’s number, the DEA’s able to find the location and make an arrest. Well done, all!
In her new office, Jack is engaging in some truly horrific decorating: an enormous Rorschach test — which Gibbs pegs as a butterfly or a big moth or possibly a ladybug — as well as a crookedly hung painting of the ocean. It’s so crooked that it makes me uncomfortable, and she doesn’t even care. I’d love for this to be a metaphor for her character, but I doubt it. If that turns out to be the case, though, remember that I called it first!
Gibbs tells her she worked well with the team, which is a minor miracle since Abby had been avoiding her for fear of being profiled, Reeves is skeptical of her Army PsyOps past, and Torres would like to know whom she roots for in the annual Army/Navy football match. Still, it looks like Jack’s settled in and here to stay, unsettling office art and all.
- Your weekly reminder that Gibbs is one tough hombre: He coolly agrees with Palmer that in fact, it is easier to break someone’s neck if they’re unconscious.
- Was there any doubt what would happen when Torres made an online donation to Palmer’s charity and then announced that he’d been saving for a year to buy a fancy dirt bike? Naturally, he gave $5,000 when he only meant to give $50, and double-naturally, when the time came to ask for it back, he couldn’t do it. As predictable as it all was, it was still awfully nice to watch him forgo his fancy new wheels so children with disabilities can pilot their wheelchairs and other accessibility devices around a specially designed playground.
- If you’re using a colander to strain pure cocaine from sand, shouldn’t you maybe wear a mask? You’re one stray draft or a big 0l’ sneeze away from Coked-Up City, population: you.