How’s an ice cream poisoner from the ‘80s related to the Secretary of Defense’s $250 million secret slush fund? And why did NCIS’s legal consultant take this week off?
In 1989, industrial rat poison in Klownie Kake ice cream bars sickened five kids and killed one of them, Tommy Larson. The poisoner was never caught, until Kasie volunteered her weekends to a federal initiative adding cold case DNA into the computers.
A hair found in one of the Klownie Kake wrappers matched DNA in the system and led to the arrest of Stuart Crum, who confessed to the act during NCIS interrogation with Gibbs and Sloane.
His day in court is finally here, and under the watchful eye of Judge Deakin, Crum browbeats his lawyer and generally behaves badly, while Kyle Larson, the victim’s father, breaks down in court and has to be escorted out. Gibbs does the honors, and in the hallway, they have a somber conversation about both losing their children 30 years ago. “That’s a long time to bleed,” Larson says.
Gibbs then returns to the courtroom, where Bishop testifies to the DNA match and tells the defense attorney that in fact, she is old enough to remember the Klownie Kake crisis of ’89. (Not that that matters; do you even science, bro?)
Crum, whom NCIS admits wasn’t a suspect in ’89, laughs as he watches his confession play in court. Sloane then testifies that his dead-end job and divorce left him powerless, so creating a public panic made him feel in control. Under cross, she acknowledges that Crum’s only prior legal trouble was being suspected in a robbery two years ago.
Kasie, who’s nervous on the stand, charmingly testifies about what a slam-dunk the DNA sample was, but when an officer enters the courtroom to hand the defense attorney a file, he requests a sidebar that has the judge immediately ruling that all DNA evidence be suppressed and all related testimony be struck from the record.
Judge Deakin grants the defense’s request for an immediate mistrial, and in his chambers afterward, Deakin explains to the prosecutor and Gibbs that Crum gave a DNA sample during the robbery investigation two years ago that should have been destroyed. Instead, it was entered into the law enforcement database, and without that error, Crum would never have been pegged as a suspect and would never have been pulled in to give that confession. Deakin orders NCIS to start the investigation from scratch and to pretend they don’t know Crum exists.
A few thoughts at this point from the defense attorney sitting next to me on the couch: Judges don’t get involved like that, the defense was way too late in arguing to suppress the DNA evidence, and witnesses for sure don’t sit in the courtroom to hear the testimony of the other witnesses.
Anyway, Crum mugs for the news media afterward, and Larson threatens to take justice into his own hands since Gibbs couldn’t do his job.
Back at NCIS, the team frets about how to get Crum without DNA, and Gibbs orders them to do things the right way. Still, he’s clearly furious about today’s outcome. (Geez, you torch rule 10, and it’s all angry involvement, all the time.)
At a loss, Bishop calls McGee, who’s on a personal day with his family, to ask for his help. But she’s confused when she hears the voice of Mary Beth, a privacy-invading device she knows McGee hates, and an intercom announcement inviting “all Splendids” to come to the taco truck.
Yep, McGee’s not on any ol’ personal day. He called Splendifida, the tech company that head-hunted him earlier this season, and asked for an interview on their Silicone Valley campus for the job of information request liaison. He’d be coordinating the 60,000 data and warrant requests the company, a clear Google/Apple/Amazon mashup, receives from law enforcement each year.
What’s that, you say? How could our dear, sweet Timothy even consider getting that bread at a private company? Have no fear; he’s undercover at the behest of Vance, Gibbs, and CIA agent Clark, who asked for help in tracking down “backdoor” information about SecDef’s super-secret trust fund. He even agrees to wear the Mary Beth lanyard, which keeps his schedule and opens doors for him. His chipper HR tour guide, Clarissa, assures him that Splendifida never ever ever records or preserves any information without the user’s express permission.
With McGee off the board, the rest of NCIS study old cases where a suspect walked on a technicality, while Crum himself eats a Klownie Kake bar, creepily heckles kids playing basketball, and tosses his empty wrapper on the ground. He’s such a nightmare jerk that when he gets into his van and a dark figure pops out of the back seat to choke him, the whole viewing audience shrugs and says, “Eh, I’ll allow it.”
That’s also a popular attitude when NCIS arrives to process Crum’s body. “Dead gets us DNA now,” Bishop points out, and although there are oxycodone pills all over his car, Palmer notices there’s no vomit, which you usually find with an OD.
Sure enough, the autopsy finds a broken clavicle and oodles of oxy in his blood, which means someone choked him out and force-fed him pills. Crum is now a victim, and the primary suspect is Kyle Larson, the Klownie Kake victim’s father.
When Gibbs arrives to question Larson, he admits, “I wanted to kill the man who killed my family,” although he swears he was home all night. But after Tommy’s death, he fell apart, and his wife took his daughter and left. They hadn’t spoken in ten years, since her mother’s funeral, but Jen confirms that they did speak that night after the events in court made her better understand her father’s anger.
Jen, now a public defender, says he promised to stop drinking if she’d keep calling, which seems like a healthy step for him. However, their call only lasted 27 minutes, and the window for Crum’s murder was two hours.
There’s one more option for clues, and that’s Crum’s laptop. It was erased but was backed up with…you guessed it…Splendifida! Kasie says that’ll be easy peasy since the company works with law enforcement all the time.
One issue, though: McGee’s gotten himself into a tiny bit of trouble. In between checking out the nap pods and scoping out employee yoga, he arrives early and alone for his stop at the government cloud service room, where he quickly enters a password Vance gave him. But the ever-useful Mary Beth alerts Clarissa that he’s there ahead of schedule, and she hustles to meet him, noticing he’d been logged in.
He excuses himself to call Vance and Clark, who meet at Chez Gibbs. (Clark was worried he’d attract suspicion by continuing to show up at NCIS and is convinced he’s being followed.) And McGee’s update isn’t promising. An unknown person withdrew $3 million and then closed the account last night, with no hint as to where the other $247 million ended up.
So the bad guys know someone’s on to them, and Clarissa knows McGee isn’t there for a job. She’s reading him the riot act when his phone rings with Gibbs’ number, so she plucks it from his hand and answers. Her face falls as a warrant pops up in her email and she’s read the riot act on the other end of the line.
Call over, she hands the phone back to McGee and tells him he’s banned from Splendifida employment and products, but he’s free to go. He’s impressed that Gibbs said all that, but she tells him it was actually Judge Deakin, intervening in the case on behalf of an investigator. Deakin shrugs it off to Vance and Gibbs as not by the book, but not illegal, either.
Another update from the lawyer on my couch: Judges don’t do that, at least not judges who want to keep their jobs and their law licenses.
In the end, Kasie discovers that Crum’s non-recording Mary Beths actually recorded plenty of “accidental” footage, including a shot of the courtroom bailiff creeping around Crum’s house. Cell phone towers place the bailiff at the scene of Crum’s murder, and he was stopped on his way to the airport to catch a private flight to Germany, where $3 million was waiting for him.
When the money turns out to be the withdrawal from SecDef’s secret account, Gibbs and Vance ask Clark to meet them at Chez Gibbs. But they arrive to find a bullet hole in Gibb’s front door glass, and Mallory, the spy who wooed Vance, standing over Clark’s body. There’s a bullet in his chest and a gun at her feet, and she insists, “It’s not what you think.”
- You got me, NCIS. I’m eager to learn how Stuart Crum and the bailiff are tied to a quarter-of-a-million-dollar slush fund.
- I don’t believe for a second that McGee doesn’t read every word of every confidentiality agreement he signs.
- Vance reluctantly deleted that photo of Mallory, right? What are the odds he still wants a future with her?
- Things I’d like to see more of on NCIS in the future: Torres in a suit. Sloane coolly destroying defendants on the witness stand. MC Hammer.