By Sara Netzley
October 02, 2018 at 11:38 PM EDT
Michael Yarish/CBS
  • TV Show

If national hot tub sales drop this week, blame NCIS. Because when two kids attempt to sneak into a vacationing neighbor’s 102-degree hot tub, you just know they’re about to find human soup.

The house special is Navy Lt. Davis Mooney, who’d been cooking in that cauldron for about two weeks. When the team arrives on the scene, the Young Turks are horrified by the sight, but Gibbs is cool as a cucumber. Palmer suggests fetching buckets, but Gibbs tells him to load the whole hot tub onto a flatbed because it’s all evidence. Then he gives the most perfectly understated Gibbs face twitch, which tells us that the hot tub situation is … bad.

When the team starts canvassing the neighborhood, they discover the colorful residents of the cul-de-sac are out in force to collect gossip, including a divorcée on the prowl, a pair of soccer parents, and the pantsless neighborhood black sheep.

Back at HQ, Torres is uncharacteristically upset that he stepped on his favorite pair of sunglasses, which are immune to his superglue repair efforts. Those jackals McGee and Bishop are unsympathetic to his plight as they gather for the rundown on Mooney: a recently divorced part-time writer for the Navy Herald whose laptop and home surveillance system are missing.

This tracks with a previous neighborhood burglary in which soccer parents Dave and Kenna Reynolds had their home broken into and their nanny cam stolen. And then, to Sloane’s great delight, all the neighbors start spilling the tea. “Cul-de-sacs are a psychological gold mine,” she says.

On the team’s return, divorcée Loni accuses Kenna Reynolds of making eyes at Mooney, while neighborhood watch guy Gary (and his dog Darrin Stephens) witnessed the Reynolds’ break-in, complete with a glimpse of the tall, trim, athletic burglar. Then Torres takes it upon himself to lecture no-pants Edgar about the social compact of keeping your house up to ‘burb standards.

This earns him a time-out with the hot tub, where Palmer, Ducky, and Kasie are “harvesting” the larger pieces by hand, then draining the water to check the filter. Their level of unflappability is impressive, but then again, this is the team’s second hot tub case in recent memory.

“My God, it’s a slow cooker,” Ducky says, dubbing this even more disgusting than the meat puzzle, which is saying something. As their processing gets underway, Kasie finds a possible murder weapon in the broken tip of a box cutter.

The team also finds Mooney’s ex-wife, who’s been in Puerto Rico. She calls on her way back home to tell them Mooney was working on a book. Although he refused to divulge details for her own protection, she says it’s about a serial killer called The Dentist, who murdered nine victims — including Mooney’s cousin — before going dormant seven years ago. The Dentist’s MO varied, but each victim had a tooth taken as a trophy.

Meanwhile, Torres has continued to act moody and sulky about the sunglasses, which prompts Ducky to check his BP. He finds it high and tries prescribing rest, but Palmer invites Torres to blow off steam with him during a wine-soaked night on the town. I already love the sound of this.

Their wild night turns out to be a sip-and-paint event at a place called Vincent van Grape, where two men painting nearby start hassling them, calling Torres “amigo” and referring to them as boyfriends.

The soundtrack switches to ominous when Torres takes off his apron and asks, “What if we are a couple?” Palmer then stands, drains his wine, and removes his glasses. And look, I abhor violence as the answer to a problem, but the lead-up to this altercation was … um … hot. ANYWAY, one of the dunderheads shoves Palmer, who throws a punch, and the scene devolves into a huge brawl that ends with bruised, paint-splattered mug shots for Team NCIS.

While it seems odd that two racist, homophobic dudes would choose a paint-and-sip joint as a bro-hang, it brought us to a moment where Gibbs got a 3 a.m. call to bail out two of his people, so I’ll allow it. When Gibbs arrives, Palmer’s pumped and shadowboxing, and Torres is frustrated. This compounds when Gibbs takes Torres to task for getting into a bar fight when he possesses his particular set of skills. (Next page: The serial killer next door)

The next day, Palmer describes the mixture of profound satisfaction and deep regret he felt during the fight, which Kasie likens to her relationship with mint chocolate chip ice cream. “It’s like that, but with legal consequences.”

He also leaves a bag of crime-buddy donuts and a cute note on Torres’ desk. Good thing, because Sloane demands a donut in payment when Gibbs orders Torres to talk with her.

She asks why Torres went looking for a fight, and Torres says he’s bothered by how much angrier everyone is in this, the year of our Lord 2018. Sloane chalks it up to social media and politics-driven fear and anxiety. Although Torres is all about punching people into being nicer, she tells him that he can’t turn into a kindness bully. In fact, she suggests he be nicer to himself.

He takes this suggestion poorly, so she sends him home, and Gibbs back her up — although he does eventually concede, “Sometimes hate deserves a punch in the mouth.”

Then Gibbs is off to interrogation, where they’ve pulled in Lewis Dacey, whom authorities once believed to be The Dentist. Mooney had called him several times, and Dacey says on their last call, Mooney apologized for doubting Dacey’s protestations of innocence. In fact, Dacey says Mooney claimed to have moved into a neighborhood with the real Dentist.

This shocks McGee, who says none of the neighbors look like a serial killer, leading me to say in unison with Gibbs, “What does a serial killer look like?” C’mon, McGee, you know better than that.

They’re interrupted by the arrival of Mooney’s ex, who came home to find that he’d mailed her a package two weeks ago for safekeeping. It contains a wooden box with nine teeth inside, arrayed in a gruesome semicircle.

This causes the team to ask what makes a serial killer stop cold turkey. One suggestion is a lifestyle change such as marriage or kids. And what do you know, the Reynolds’ oldest child is seven years old, which corresponds to the Dentist’s dormant period.

They pull in Dave Reynolds, who says he was in New York when Mooney was murdered and is revolted by the sight of the teeth in the box. Gibbs pulls a knife and dramatically slams it into the table, but Dave keeps his poker face.

His alibi checks out, but Kasie gets a hit on a particle from the hot tub that sends them in a different direction: Kenna Reynolds, who wears deep purple nail polish like the flake they found in Mooney’s hot tub. When Gibbs and Sloane confront her in her driveway, they accuse her of catching Mooney on the nanny cam stealing the box of teeth and killing him to keep her secret.

Kenna cracks immediately but insists that she got over her murder spree thanks to her new life, which she couldn’t let Mooney take from her. After she’s put away, McGee remarks that female serial killers aren’t that rare; it’s actually one in six. (True, but their murders are often of the “quieter” variety.)

Finally, Bishop heads home to find a drunken Torres waiting for her on her stoop, and she finally gets him to spill about what’s been eating at him. He explains that Reeves gave him the sunglasses after Torres complimented him on them. They agree that they miss their buddy.

“He was kind,” Bishop says, and Torres says, “The kindest.” Then she helps Torres inside for coffee.

Stray Shots

  • This episode was just what the doctor ordered after the frantic plotting of the season premiere. We’ve got personality-driven hijinks, a dollop of wackiness, a twist at the end, and a reminder of the losses this team has experienced together. Welcome back, show!
  • How nice that Reeves, and the relationships he forged at NCIS, hasn’t been forgotten.
  • Is it getting harder to write missing laptop plots in a world where cloud backups are becoming standard? Seems like “But the laptop is missing, oh no!” plots will soon go the way of the dodo.
  • I’m calling it now: This is the season that Torres and Bishop become a romantic item.
  • So Sloane accepts sprinkle donuts in payment, while I won’t get out of bed for anything less than cream filled. What’s your donut currency of choice? Hit the comments and let me know!

Episode Recaps

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  • 16
  • TV-14
  • 09/23/03
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