Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS
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S16 E13
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It appears that rumors of Ziva David’s death were greatly exaggerated, and that sound you hear is NCIS fans having a group freakout. Quite frankly, everything else this week is minor details.

In what I’m assuming is the stealthiest of stealth marketing for Captain Marvel, this week’s episode takes the bulk of its plot from Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning film Room. A terrified, malnourished girl is found hiding on base, and Bishop quickly determines that she’s never seen the outside world before. Lily says that her mother helped her escape and made sure she took her doll with her, but won’t provide any more details.

Lily’s DNA points to Morgan Burke, who disappeared 10 years ago as a pregnant 18-year-old. She was sworn into the Navy but never reported for duty, so NCIS handed the case off to the county sheriff. When charred remains were found in Morgan’s car, which drove off a cliff, her death was ruled a suicide.

The county deputies immediately stage a televised press conference to announce that the case has been reopened while Bishop and Torres dig up Morgan’s old case files. In them, they learn that the investigation continued for years afterward courtesy of one Ziva David. Torres encourages Bishop to tell Gibbs, but Bishop unleashes some pent-up angst all over him: Nobody talks to her about Ziva out of fear that she’ll never measure up, and Bishop’s frustrated that she never got the chance to learn from the other agent. (Was this intentional meta-commentary on Bishop’s rocky reception by the fans after Ziva’s departure, or basic character development? Argue it out in the comments!)

Without letting Gibbs know, the pair visit Morgan’s boyfriend and the father of her child, Ben Ramsey, who figured heavily in Ziva’s case files. He confirms that Ziva followed him for months: “She must’ve been some kind of ninja.” Sir, you have no idea.

Ziva’s death destroyed his hope that she’d find justice for Morgan, but he does point them to the location of a heretofore unknown private office that Ziva kept.

At the hospital, Sloane has luck reaching Lily, who’s taken up residence in a hospital broom closet. Sloane talks about the baby she gave up for adoption, which encourages Lily to say that the very bad Robert kept them captive, with less-bad Buddy helping out. She still won’t say how she escaped, but she does say that Morgan insisted she take her doll with her.

Palmer’s doll autopsy yields human hair stashed in the stuffing, and the DNA leads them to brothers Robert and Bud Hill. Robert’s address is a dead end, and they find Bud at his home with his throat slit. (Sooo, you know, that’s dead-end No. 2.)

Bishop, meanwhile, has tracked down Ziva’s private office, a standalone backyard building. The landlord says Ziva had been a tenant since 2005 and was paid up through 2020, so she left her belongings undisturbed after Ziva’s death.

As she lets Bishop in, she speaks of Ziva’s “warmth beneath the armor,” and inside the lovely space, Bishop finds a coat and scarf hanging on hooks, a framed childhood picture—and rows and rows of tagged composition books. Ziva used them as journals about each case, first writing them in Hebrew before transitioning to English. It’s how she worked through her personal feelings and dealt with the trauma of the job.

At this point, Bishop calls Gibbs and confesses what she’s been up to. He, McGee, and Torres arrive, and McGee reads aloud a journal passage from a time when Ziva was in captivity. I suspect everybody in the audience immediately knew what scene this referenced: “The light spilled in, and I saw my friend. My heart saw him as if for the first time, and I knew I could not live without him.” Ooooh, this show is not pulling any punches tonight in the Tiva department. We also get the usual explanation for DiNozzo’s absence: He’s overseas, traveling, McGee left a message, yadda yadda. Pick up your phone, Tony!

Turns out, Gibbs knew that Ziva continued to investigate Morgan’s case, and he reminds Bishop of Rule 10: Don’t get personally involved in a case. She doesn’t take it to heart, though, swiping Ziva’s Morgan journal on her way out.

In it, she finds a reference to Ziva’s basement confidant, Mr. H. Palmer confirms it stands for “Mr. Happy as an Oyster.” (Pause for happy/sad laughter/tears, everyone!) Palmer tells Bishop that Ziva caught the Morgan case as a probie and was the one who turned it over to the county. Gibbs laid into her for not seeing through a Navy case, and Ziva never forgot that lesson. (Next page: No mere mortar attack can stop Ziva)

Ten years later, and history’s repeating itself. Bishop found a letter in Ziva’s journal that Morgan’s mother dictated shortly before her death from cancer. Ziva intended to read it to Morgan’s murderer, and now Bishop wants to catch the guy and honor Ziva’s wish. But Gibbs orders her to drop it all because she’s breaking Rule 10 left and right, which is how you end up as dead as Ziva.

Honestly, this would be more effective if these people didn’t break Rule 10 all the time, but whatevs. Gibbs tells Bishop to go home, but instead, she hides out in Kasie’s lab and starts taking calls on her newly established Morgan tip line.

Meanwhile, Ben arrives at the hospital, heart in his eyes, to meet his daughter. It goes exceptionally well, with crying and hugging on both parts, and Lily finally explains how she escaped: Morgan burned Lily to make it look like bug bites and convinced Robert that their mattress had bedbugs. Lily slipped inside before he hauled it to the dump, and again, if you’ve seen Room, you know how this goes.

To the dump we go! (Torres hates it there, naturally.) They find the mattress, and Kasie’s able to isolate bird droppings on it belonging to caique parrots, which kick it in a specific part of Virginia. She also gives the non-scientists some excellent sass as she uncovers her findings. You go, Glen Coco!

The county detectives who bungled the case the last time come through with the news that the body in the car 10 years ago was actually stolen cremains, which leads them to a Robert alias for when he worked at a crematorium. That address is located smack dab in caique territory. When Kasie, nervous that Bishop’s hiding in her lab, pops in to tell her, she finds Bishop gone, having gotten her own lead on the tip line.

And now we switch from Room to Silence of the Lambs. (It is Oscar season, you know.) The male agents bust into Robert’s home, where Morgan and Lily had clearly been held, but find it abandoned.

Bishop, meanwhile, is knocking on the door of Robert’s uncle’s house, where Robert’s hiding out with Morgan. They draw on each other as he drags Morgan toward a dock on the lake. In the scuffle, Morgan’s knocked unconscious and falls into the water.

Bishop immediately dives in, swimming through a hail of bullets toward Morgan. This imagery also opened the episode, with a dreamy voiceover by Gibbs about feeling trapped and waiting for a savior.

Unlike the top of the episode, we now know that these words are from Ziva’s journal, adding extra weight to the scene as Gibbs, McGee, and Torres arrive to subdue Robert while Bishop pulls Morgan to safety. (If Torres’ frantic calls of “Ellie!” are any indication, she gave him quite a fright.)

At the hospital, Lily, Morgan, and Ben are reunited, and it’s a happy ending, but…dang, everybody involved in this sad story are going to need buckets and buckets of therapy, I suspect.

Although Bishop defied his orders, Gibbs forgives her, of course, reading aloud to her from Ziva’s Morgan journal, then telling her that Robert had a heart attack after being taken into custody. He gives her his hospital room number and the journal with Morgan’s mother’s letter, telling her, “Do what you have to do.”

After she leaves, he takes out a small box and pulls out a scrap of lined paper with Rule No. 10 written on it. He consigns it to the fire. Does this mean our mugs, posters, and T-shirts with Gibbs’ Rules printed on them are now obsolete and/or collector’s items?

When Bishop arrives at Robert’s bedside, he tells her that someone already came and read the letter to him, freshly torn out of the journal. “She told me she was gonna haunt my dreams.”

A startled Bishop heads straight to Ziva’s office and finds it unlocked, the previously hung-up coat and scarf flung across the furniture. Underneath rests a note: “Eleanor Bishop, for the safety of my family, please keep my secret.”

BOOM. ZIVA’S ALIVE. And not to be greedy, but when do we get to see her again? When, when, when???

Stray Shots

  • What? Why? How? Give us all the Ziva answers, show! Give them to us!
  • In other news, I love the idea of Kasie’s Random Day, surprising everyone with gifts on an average Tuesday. McGee loved his typewriter key, Bishop wore her perfect-weight scarf all episode, the hunk of white oak for Gibbs was perfect, Vance’s pen makes him write like a big dog, and Torres is apparently becoming an amateur lake water scientist thanks to his empty jar.
  • Okay, but Ziva loved Tony back in 2009, and she’s still alive, and he’s just out there walking around in the world. Does he know? If not, can we see him find out? Please?
  • Confidential to Palmer: Hang that second-hand punching bag in the morgue so we can catch your workouts once in a while. Signed, the thirsty fans of NCIS.
  • But seriously, I’m not done shouting about this episode yet. Are you? Let me know in the comments!

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