As far as penultimate season episodes go, this one was strong, with surprising twists, surprisingly revealing talk, and an unusual amount of parallels between the case and Gibbs’s inner conflict.
Everybody’s tired, their sleep having been interrupted following Gibbs’s confession that he killed the man who killed his family. The Young Turks debate what to do about it, if anything, when the man himself arrives to order them to a new murder scene.
The victim is Marine Gunnery Sgt. Richard Wilson, who was shot twice and dropped from an overpass to be impaled on a fence spike. As is often the case in a TV show murder situation, he was three months shy of retirement.
Gibbs is distracted at the scene and sends Bishop and Torres to break the news to Wilson’s widow, Lori. They arrive to find the house trashed and a scared redhead in the bathroom, brandishing a bat. She introduces herself as Lori and says she just got home from her mother’s place in Florida.
At NCIS, she claims not to know what a robber would’ve been looking for and says it’s not easy living with the strong, silent type like Rick, who led the Zakir Five. That unit lost two men capturing terrorist Nazar Zakir and recovering $30 million in stolen cash.
In the morgue, Gibbs snaps at Palmer and terrifies poor Kasie before McGee calls with a lead on Jordan McCarthy, one of Rick’s two surviving team members. Gibbs hollers that he’ll meet them at McCarthy’s house and storms out. There, Bishop tries to get Gibbs to talk things out, but the discovery of blood stains on McCarthy’s bed interrupts her. Then Gibbs slams out the door and roars off.
At HQ, there’s no sign of Gibbs anywhere, which is a first in McGee’s experience. They decide to hold off on telling Vance and keep working the case on their own.
The third surviving member of the Zakir Five is John Calfa, who says the three men weren’t close, but they just had their annual call on the anniversary of the raid. Lori watches through the two-way mirror and confirms that she heard them arguing, although she doesn’t know about what.
Calfa’s alarmed to hear that it might be Zakir’s associates getting revenge but declines protection, and he hotly denies being the murderer. Then Kasie arrives with the news that the blood in McCarthy’s apartment belonged to Rick, which shocks his wife. Privately, Vance reprimands her for sharing details in front of family members.
Hey, here comes Ducky to justify his new archivist salary! He discovered that Zakir said at the time of his capture that he had $33 million, not the $30 million turned in. The three surviving Americans denied any theft, and hey presto, now we’ve got a motive.
Bishop then seeks out Sloane, who’s just back from what she claims was a dentist appointment but was clearly something else. Bishop wants to discuss Gibbs’s odd behavior, but Sloane says Gibbs can take care of himself—oh, and also, she knows that Gibbs killed Hernandez. This revelation barely has time to settle when McGee summons Bishop to the spot where McCarthy’s body was found. They immediately pick up Calfa, the lone survivor, packing his car to flee.
Big parallel time! McGee says that Calfa’s big secret is out, and there’s no more burden to carry. Calfa says the theft of the money was never proven, which is terrible as far as denials go. He lawyers up.
Torres drives Lori home, making sure the house is clear before accepting her goodbye hug and leaving. But as he speeds away, he sees a car turn into her driveway, so he swings around and meets…Lori Wilson, just arriving home from her mother’s in Florida. Twist!
The redheaded Lori fled out the back, and the real Lori immediately checks the safe and discovers that the Victoria brooch is gone. Funnily enough, the fake Lori was wearing a huge brooch the whole day, and everybody assumed it was part of her love of chunky statement accessories. That’s bold, yo. Calfa sings like a bird now, explaining that they used the stolen money at a Dubai auction house to buy the $2.8 million brooch that the king of Spain gave to Queen Victoria.
They planned to sell the brooch and go their separate ways, and the only person besides the three men and Lori who knew about it was McCarthy’s most recent squeeze, a “crazy Russian” he was getting ready to dump. Yep, McCarthy’s girlfriend is the fake Lori.
The team then stands in the big orange room to discuss that murder that Gibbs did, which is less than circumspect. Thankfully, Kasie shows up with an ID for the girlfriend thanks to a partial print that fake Lori failed to wipe from her water glass during her interview. She’s actually con artist Inga Petrov and is flying to Costa Rica that night.
Torres stops Inga at the airport, and with her real accent, she confesses that she spent a year waiting for McCarthy to cash in and refused to be cut out after keeping that secret for so long. Then she tries to get Torres to go on the run with her. Honestly, WHOMST AMONG US wouldn’t at least give that a shot? He says no, of course. Better luck next time, Inga.
Okay, so where was Gibbs all episode? Spilling more of his guts than the audience has been privy to in a long, long, long, long time. More specifically, he’s at a dive bar with Grace Confalone, whom we also haven’t seen in quite some time. As Gibbs started spiraling, he summoned her mid-session with a patient about to have a breakthrough.
She declines his offer to day drink with him and notices, as the audience does, that between the crime scene and the bar, he stopped to get his old Marine haircut. Uh oh. This is serious.
He starts off with Rule Four: The best way to keep a secret is to keep it to yourself, the second-best way is to tell one other person, and there is no third best way. He says that he did something “outside the law” a long time ago, and it used to be that only one person knew. But he recently told his “three best agents,” and now everything feels different.
He worries what they think of him, not taking responsibility for his actions the way he’s always taught them. It makes him question his integrity, his character, everything important to him—is he no better than the people he’s arrested over the years who also felt justified in their crimes?
Grace is seriously unfazed by it all—until he mentions turning himself in to the police and gives her the details of the murder. She absorbs it in silence and finally orders that drink.
To help her understand the context, she asks what else is happening in his life. At first, he says “nothing much,” but when she presses, he mentions that he got shot at a couple of times last week, hence the still-healing wound on his cheek, and he was recently accused of killing an ex-fiancée who he thought died in 9/11 and he burned Rule 10 to help Bishop.
This interests Grace, who calls the “don’t make it personal” rule a firewall that held back his feelings on the countless cases he’d handled over the years. Now that the weight of all that emotion is getting to him, is it time to retire? He considers this and quietly says, “I’m worried about what I’d do without what I do. The direction, structure. NCIS centers me. Without it…”
He doesn’t finish the thought, and in the end, they agree to no retirement and no surrendering himself to the police. As they leave the bar, he intercedes in a brewing domestic violence incident, getting no thanks from the woman when he slams her slap-happy date’s face into the table.
In the car, Grace asks how he’ll know when his mission is accomplished. A hero’s exit, jumping on a grenade to save everybody? He laughs and says there are worse ways to go. Throw him into those bright lights, baby. Gotta say, I sincerely hope that isn’t foreshadowing anything for seasons to come. No grenades, Gibbs, literally or figuratively!
In the end, he’s back at his desk like nothing’s wrong, chalking it up to “lost time.” Everyone notices the haircut and agree to reconvene in the morning, but first, they do a big round of “anybody got anything they want to talk about?”
Gibbs was right when he told Grace that his team was trained to talk to him if they needed it. Although nobody pushes the conversation, it does seem like more discussion might be good at some point. But now is not the time: Vance shouts that Fornell needs Gibbs to get to the hospital, immediately.
Oooh, a cliff hanger leading into the finale. Get here faster!
- Should we start counting the number of cases that suddenly need “archive” help from Ducky?
- Sloane totally lied about the dentist. She was mid-session with Grace when Gibbs called, about to make a breakthrough about how lonely she feels: unable to talk to her daughter, her friends, or the person she wants to open up to the most for fear “they” don’t feel the same way. She played the pronoun game here, but earlier she mentioned how many of her secrets Gibbs knows. Is the good ship Slibbs about to set sail?
- I did not love Bishop playfully throwing Torres under the bus to deliver the “your husband’s dead” news. That is not the time for joking around, Eleanor.
- How much would you give to take a peek in Grace’s Gibbs notebook?