Gibbs and McGee escape two months of captivity with a little help from a dating app

By Sara Netzley
September 26, 2017 at 11:42 PM EDT
Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
S15 E1
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  • CBS

Welcome to season 15, NCIS fans! Just think: In one more year, our show will legally be able to drive.

When we left them, Gibbs and McGee had been captured by the Revolutionary Armed Council in Paraguay during an unsanctioned raid to rescue local children. We pick up with Torres holding a gun to the evac chopper pilot, demanding he turn around to rescue their men. The pilot clearly knows a bullet to his neck is a losing proposition for everyone and declines to to do so, citing fuel supplies.

Two months later, NCIS is carrying on under Bishop’s leadership, although she signs off on the paperwork rather than using it as kindling, as Gibbs does. The DOD has forbidden NCIS from involving themselves in the search for their missing agents, so naturally they obeyed and left the investigation up to other agencies while they busied themselves with filing tasks.

LOL, no, of course not; they’ve been in the thick of their own covert investigations into the whereabouts of their coworkers. And they’re doing it around a Congressional panel furious that their actions two months ago interfered with a DOD op. Torres has all the respect for the process that you’d imagine (none, in other words), particularly when a congresswoman implies that Gibbs and McGee may not even be alive.

Then we cut to a prison cell, where our brave duo is alive, albeit with a lot more facial hair. They’re surviving on a scant ration of beans and dreaming of showers and smartphones. McGee laments that they’re in the middle of the world’s slowest-moving escape plan when a guard comes in to escort them to el jefe, who’d like a word with them about all the people they killed in the attack that ended season 14.

As they’re shuffled through the hallway, they catch sight of a room where people in hazard suits are either handling toxic materials or engaging in Breaking Bad cosplay.

Back in the States, NCIS receives a call that’s interrupted by shots fired. At the scene, the agents find a body and, after dispatching a goateed lookie-loo asking nosy civilian questions, they discover that the victim’s hair is falling out in clumps. Mysterious!

The dead man is Zachary Brooks, a known drug mule whose hair loss was caused by the same uranium that the R.A.C. traffics in. (Palmer announces that said uranium was smuggled rectally, so take a second to let that soak in.) It doesn’t take a big leap to conclude that Zachary may have gotten word about their missing agents, reached out to NCIS, and took two in the chest for his pains. And after Palmer correctly identifies the name of the nightclub stamp on Zachary’s hand (“You guys, I have a life!”), they’re off to interrogate.

En route, Bishop reluctantly takes a call from Delilah, who’s alone, pregnant, and terrified for her missing husband. Worried about saying too much on an unsecured line, Bishop burbles about NCIS being told to stand down and rings off quickly.

At Palmer’s favorite nightclub, they find a woman dousing it in gasoline. She infodumps that her boyfriend was Zachary, and her boss runs his smuggling business out of the nightclub, which is why she was planning to torch it. When Zachary learned he was smuggling uranium, not drugs, out of Paraguay for the R.A.C., he decided to reach out to NCIS.

She shares a photo of her boss, Mickey Clark, and surprise surprise, it’s the lookie-loo from the murder scene. If Hollywood has taught me one thing, it’s to be suspicious of the most eager person in the crowd at a crime scene and/or to be nowhere near said crime scene if I, myself, am the murderer.

Onboard the old cargo ship serving as their prison, Gibbs is being waterboarded for refusing to tell el jefe his birthday as a horrified McGee looks on. Later, a few R.A.C. members pull McGee out of his cell, not to torture him, but to ask for tech help after overhearing some especially nerdy conversations in his cell.

McGee tries to reason with Nicolas, who’s operating the computer, telling him about his pregnant wife. Instead, the head torture guy asks McGee for his birthdate in exchange for food. McGee complies and lunges at a sandwich tossed on the floor for him. Unfortunately, at this moment Gibbs is dragged by.

Back in the cell, Gibbs is working on a well-rendered wooden carving of an eagle superimposed over an American flag, which is so perfectly Gibbs. McGee brought Gibbs back some raisins, but Gibbs tosses them to the floor and berates McGee for installing a printer driver on an enemy computer. McGee replies that they don’t have the luxury of morality in their circumstances and breaks Gibbs’ carving. And then, friends, it is ON, bare-knuckle brawl style.

The guards break them up and drag McGee away, plaintively sputtering, “It was just a printer driver!” But he managed to lift a knife off of one of them to pass to Gibbs, so we all know it’s only a matter of time before there’s going to be some sweet bladed justice delivered on this ship. (Recap continues on page 2)

Nicolas the computer guy visits McGee and offers him a St. Nicholas medallion for his unborn child. It belonged to his daughter who was killed years ago during an uprising. Nicolas says he joined R.A.C. before it descended into crime and violence, but you don’t get to just quit an operation like this. Nicolas promises retribution should he ever get some alone time with el jefe, who murdered two of his cousins the one time Nicolas tried to leave.

This heart-to-heart is rudely interrupted by Gibbs tossing a guard’s corpse in the middle of things. Naturally, their fight was all staged, and McGee used his computer time to tinker with the alarm system. Then they burst into el jefe’s room, where Gibbs kills the torture dude and asks el jefe for his birthday.

In the States, Delilah the counterterrorism expert cracked Bishop’s code and showed up to help Abby chase their leads. With her help, they track Clark using matches on his dating app, Hit That, which is the greatest name for a dating app in the history of apps.

Armed with this information, they bring in Clark (mid-date – thanks, Hit That!) and confiscate his burner phone, which has only one number on it. When Abby declares it untraceable, Bishop decides to just…call it. Although this could’ve gone quite badly, in fact the phone is answered by McGee, who thinks he must be hallucinating when he hears Bishop on the other end. But no, she’s reached el jefe’s phone, and now they can send in a chopper.

Now comes the politically tricky part: NCIS wasn’t supposed to be involved in this search, so Vance needs to get the DOD to submit the helicopter request. The congresspeople harrumph that NCIS went rogue, but once the cameras leave the chambers, they praise Vance and give him carte blanche for the rescue. “You know, this is why people don’t like politics,” says Vance, who apparently has been paying attention to the political climate in this, the Year of Our Lord 2017.

Unfortunately, by the time Vance arrives, the team has discovered that the phone’s GPS is disabled. The fastest workaround Bishop can devise is pushing the Hit That app onto el jefe’s satellite phone and setting up a profile for McGee so they can track him the same way they tracked Clark. (“Hobbies?” she asks, taking the profile-building a little too seriously. “Not dying,” Vance replies.)

Improbably, the Hit That app comes through and shows that they’re 4,451 miles away from the Navy yard. Pairing that with existing deep-water rivers reveals their location. Now McGee and Gibbs just need to make it topside within 20 minutes. They do this by putting Gibbs in el jefe’s Panama hat and el jefe in a hood and marching through the hallways, pistol-whipping el jefe along the way.

They’re discovered, of course, but before the shooting can escalate too much, the alarm McGee tampered with from the computer starts blaring, causing a mass evacuation. (Know your exits when you’re working with uranium, my mother always said.) Just as el jefe starts to crow that he’s got the Paraguayan legal system in his pocket, McGee delivers him to Nicolas, who clearly has murder in his heart.

And then the two NCIS agents climb to freedom in slow motion, ascending a ladder to the waiting chopper.

Next, we cut to McGee knocking softly on his apartment door, having made it home a day earlier than expected. Abby and Torres welcome him with hugs, and then he falls to his knees in front of a shocked Delilah, pressing his face into her lap. I cried. You probably did, too.

Bishop’s finishing up at HQ before heading to McGee’s when she finds Gibbs staring out the big window in the orange room. He tells her he’s proud of the way she kept the team together, and she replies, “I just did what I thought you would do.”

Gibbs declines the offer to go to with her to McGee’s, instead wandering through the empty room to sit at this desk. He looks at his father’s ID bracelet strapped to his wrist, and then tears fill his eyes, weary in his battered face.

Honestly, it’s not a new season of NCIS if Gibbs doesn’t have some kind of trauma to overcome, right?

Stray shots

  • My No. 1 takeaway from this season premiere: Never break Gibbs’ woodcarving.
  • Jennifer Esposito announced over the summer that she was leaving the show; did I miss an explanation about Quinn’s absence in this episode? I know her character wasn’t universally beloved, but I enjoyed the sardonic vibe she brought. Happy trails, Quinn, wherever you are.
  • If you had to spend two months locked up with a member of the NCIS squad, who would you choose? Gibbs for survival? Palmer for conversation? I’d go with Reeves, as the best of both worlds
  • It looks like Mark Harmon and Sean Murray spent the summer growing their prison beards. If so, that’s impressive commitment.
  • All in all, this was a satisfying resolution to the finale cliffhanger, although I wouldn’t have minded a two-parter that spent a bit more time on board the USS Torture to ramp up the tension and make the homecoming even sweeter. How did it stack up with your favorite premieres of the past?

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