NCIS recap: Gibbs confronts a long-absent father figure
A botched hit, a long-absent father figure, and a big bad named Peaches make for a busy, if slightly disjointed, NCIS episode this week.
The feds have wanted to nab drug dealer Michael Deegan for ages, and when a hit Deegan ordered goes awry, they finally have their chance. NCIS stages death photos of his intended victim, a Lt. Johnson, and strike a deal with the hitman Deegan hired: If Tommy “Peaches” Mulligan will wear a wire and catch the big fish, Peaches will walk.
Bishop and Torres snuggle up at the bar where the sting will go down, but Deegan avoids Peaches’ attempts to capture a taped confessions. Back at NCIS, they accuse Peaches of tipping off Deegan, but Peaches swears he’s too scared for his life to do that.
So they decide to hold Peaches a little longer and take Johnson, who has no idea why anyone wants him dead, into protective custody. Then when Bishop and Torres confront Deegan at the bar, he gloats about how easily he made them and hands them the bug they stuck under his table.
Then Johnson’s protective detail hits a snag when he, well, dies. The probie on the overnight shift has both a snippy attitude and an eye for detail, so at least she’s able to provide an eye witness sketch of the fake room service employee who delivered an omelet full of poison.
Cause of death was carfentanil, a concentrated form of fentanyl used to tranquilize elephants, and gee, there’s little ol’ Deegan, sitting there with access to bootleg pharmaceuticals. Bishop blames Johnson’s death on her and Torres getting made at the bar.
To figure out the why, McGee and Torres head to an auto repair place that Johnson visited twice before his death and request the surveillance footage. Torres also borrows cash from McGee to grab a bag of bacon and brown sugar chips for Bishop, who loves them. (Also, he still owes her for canceling her date last week via text.) The machine doesn’t cough up any change, so Torres uses the whole amount to buy all the bacon and brown sugar chips. Smart man; that’s probably the easiest way to Bishop’s heart.
The trip was worthwhile, not just for snacks, but for the security footage that shows Johnson handing an envelope of cash to a blond man who matches the sketch of the poisoned omelet courier. The video also shows the blond man opening the vending machine, and Bishop starts to worry that she’s eating evidence. Ah, but such delicious evidence! Multiple calls to the machine’s service 800 number go unanswered, so NCIS gets a warrant and hauls the whole thing to the Navy Yard.
The vending machine’s like nothing Kasie’s ever seen: bulletproof glass, vibration alarm, HD camera, no visible lock. A mega X-ray machine reveals an internal deadbolt that she throws with a huge magnet. Alas, when the machine swings open, it delivers a nasty jolt of electricity that knocks her to the ground, unconscious. Thankfully, McGee’s there to catch her and make sure she gets immediate medical treatment. And hey, the Kasie-shock knocked the power out, so now the team can examine the contents.
Given the extreme security, likely no viewer was surprised that the machine held containers of Kicker Mintz, a fake product with pills inside. Feed $300 into the machine, and you’ll get a nice oxy high.
A fingerprint and touch DNA leads them to the blond man, Oliver Sherry, who’s terrified of spilling what he knows. “I talk, I die,” he says. But a little Gibbs pressure has him admitting that Johnson got $600 back in change when the vending machine screwed up, so Johnson called the 800-number to report it. Then he started asking more questions and had to be eliminated. And here’s where it gets interesting: Sherry laughs at the thought that Deegan’s the big boss.
That’s right! Keyser “Peaches” Soze’s been the big boss all along, with Deegan dancing to his tune. This time, NCIS is ready, and Bishop and Torres arrest Peaches in spite of his attempts to put on his sniveling weasel act. (Next page: Journey to Gibbs’ past)
At this point, astute readers will notice how little Gibbs was involved in this week’s case. That’s because a face from his past surfaced to dredge up some painful childhood memories. John Sydney (guest star Dabney Coleman) served in WWII with Gibbs’s father, Jackson, and lived with the Gibbs family for a time following the war. But when he shows up in the big orange room, Gibbs isn’t interested in reminiscing about their fishing trips or his old baseball games. Even Gibbs’ childhood dog Apollo is off limits.
John’s there to tell Gibbs about the death of Leroy Jethro Moore, for whom Gibbs was named, and the NCIS crew are all taken aback by Gibbs’ terseness, particularly when he brusquely tells “Mr. Sydney” that he’ll see him at LJ’s funeral.
Palmer gathers the courage to ask Gibbs what John meant when he told Gibbs, “Time heals all wounds?” and we slowly learn the answer.
John lets himself in to Chez Gibbs and waits for Gibbs to come home so he can explain why he’s really there: He’s the sole surviving member of the Last Man’s Club, a group of men from Stillwater High School who served in the war together and vowed that the last man alive would collect all of their military ID bracelets, engraved with the words “Forever Linked,” and be buried with them.
Gibbs is wearing his father’s around his wrist, but John wants Gibbs to hang onto it until they can find LJ’s, and he insists that Gibbs accompany him to Stillwater to look for it at the general store Jackson used to own. Gibbs tries to beg off because of the investigation, but John busts out the “Leroy Jethro” and tells him to do it for his dad.
John’s gorgeous old car (you car people can let me know the specific year, make, and model in the comments, yes?) runs into some trouble on the road to the old hometown. The delay frustrates Gibbs, but it gives John the chance to say Gibbs was the son he never had. This frustrates Gibbs, who reminds John that he called him about Jackson’s death. John offers no excuse for his absence.
When they arrive at the Stillwater General Store 15 minutes after it closed, John’s ready to head back home in defeat, but Gibbs drives them to the home of the new owner, who does, in fact, have LJ’s ID bracelet inside. While they wait on the front porch, John reminisces about watching Gibbs ride his bike along that street and encourages Gibbs to unload on him.
Gibbs, who’s clearly been stewing about this since John’s arrival, finally says, “I thought you were family” and asks why John left without a goodbye when Gibbs was a child. John says he returned from the war with problems, but the drinking and carousing got to be too much, so Ann Gibbs told John he had to leave.
On the road back, John makes it clear that he doesn’t blame Ann for tossing him out and admits that he didn’t know how to say goodbye to young Leroy. So he just … left. He was so angry and ashamed that day, he threw away his own ID bracelet and quit the Last Man’s Club. But now that he truly is the last man, he’s sticking by his vow. “A man’s only as good as his word,” Gibbs agrees.
In Gibbs’s basement that evening, John links the bracelets together and tells Gibbs stories about his fallen brothers, some happy and some sad. Gibbs points out that John hasn’t quite fulfilled his promise yet and hands the older man an item he’s been working on: a replacement ID bracelet with “John Sydney” engraved on it.
John’s touched that Gibbs made him a new one, and when Gibbs attaches it to John’s wrist, John tells him that Gibbs is now the last man. Gibbs makes his own vow: “I will make sure, John, that you are buried with your bothers.”
- Oh, how I wish each of these storylines had been given a full hour to play out! Imagine the fun of a longer reveal about Peaches’ true boss nature or the depths of Gibbs’s childhood loss that could’ve been explored with some flashbacks and a bit more breathing room. Both stories were rich enough to carry a full episode, and it’s a shame they were twined together this week.
- At this point, do Bishop and Torres need a portmanteau? If so, what do you say to Borres? Because when a man knows a woman’s favorite chips, you know he’s really paying attention.
- Speaking of … bacon and brown sugar chips: yea or nay?