Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
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S16 E3
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And that’s why you don’t steal packages off of porches, kids.

McGee and Torres are in the middle of a hangman game on the big board when a harried agency attorney bustles in to announce that the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled against cell phone tower location tracking without a warrant.

A great outcry arises among the Young Turks, and although pinging is McGee’s superpower, he also understands valuing privacy over security. Then Gibbs hustles everyone out the door for the case of the week. (In case you were wondering, the hangman phrase McGee selected, and Torres couldn’t guess, was “grab your gear.”)

Two package thieves were killed when they opened a box addressed to Todd Nichols, a Navy SEAL whose wife stars in the hit reality show Real Wives of War — which counts McGee as an enthusiastic fan.

Naturally, the rest of the team get super judgey about his viewing choices, but McGee’s able to fill them in on the show, including Sheba’s status as the wholesome, virtuous wife.

Yeah, a wholesome wife whose husband thinks she’s the one who sent the bomb. Stardom changed Sheba, but she won’t divorce Todd for fear of losing her reality show money. Todd made up an affair hoping she’d end things, and instead, she threatened him with castration.

That sounds neither wholesome nor virtuous, which is exactly what Bishop discovers during questioning when Sheba’s crocodile tears quickly dry up as she wonders if her producers can use the interrogation room footage.

McGee’s bummed that Sheba’s reality persona is an act, but he and Delilah seem to be the only people who didn’t catch on to her fakery. The Real Wives of War message boards are full of Sheba hate, including my favorite new insult: “The most ratchet hair I’ve seen on a rich person.”

The team also discovers that a Leonard Finnik had made online death threats against Todd, so McGee and Torres head to his apartment. Although it initially looks innocuous (“No mad bomber in the history of mad bombers had a welcome mat,” Torres insists), what they find in Finnik’s bedroom is disturbing: a photo-heavy Sheba shrine, complete with a lifesize standee lying stiffly on the bed.

It turns out Sheba knows Finnik and has kept all of his love letters and stuffed animals. “A fan’s a fan,” she shrugs.

McGee’s frustrated not to be able to trace Finnik’s cell phone, but Gibbs orders him to find another way. So he follows Finnik’s credit card history to parking lot surveillance footage to red light cameras and eventually, he and Torres track Finnik down on the street, where the man’s holding a large box.

They order the civilians to clear out and start to bring in the bomb squad until Finnik opens the box to reveal a diorama that’s somehow even more upsetting than the bedroom shrine. It features him, Sheba, their love child, and a dead buffalo in a loincloth/nature scene.

Finnik claims Sheba speaks to him in his dreams and communicates through her show, but as unsettling as it all sounds, a second bomb detonation takes the life of a Patricia Everett and gives Finnik a solid alibi.

Palmer, who had to piece chunks of the first victims back together, found a blob of melted metal on their bodies. Kasie examines it and declares it a little like a brooch, which she goes to great pains to explain to Gibbs is fancy older lady jewelry. (Hey! My brooch collection and I object to the “older” label!”) When she shows Gibbs the melted brooch from the second bomb, he mutters, “Budweiser,” and walks out, leaving Kasie confused but still chipper.

Gibbs, of course, recognized the melted metal as the Budweiser trident pin awarded to all SEAL graduates. With this new information, the team looks for recruits who washed out of Todd’s SEAL class. By narrowing it down to people who made it through the bomb training but who failed their psych evals, they come up with a list of one: David West, whose psych evaluator was a Dr. Patrick Everett. (Next page: Vance flirts with danger)

When Torres and Bishop arrive at David West’s place, he darts inside and opens fire, then tosses a grenade that knocks them both off their feet. Although his garbage-strewn yard provides plenty of cover, Torres still ends up with a big chunk of shrapnel embedded in his back.

He and Bishop engage in, dare I say, downright cute banter as they go about maybe possibly digging it out of his back with a questionably clean knife. Thankfully, Gibbs and McGee arrive in time to creep around the back and nab West, allowing Torres to seek actual medical treatment.

Speaking of treatment, Vance’s post-hostage recuperation is slow. Kayla’s worried that he’s putting off heading back to work, and he’s reluctant to leave the safety of his physical therapy regime. While he’s there, he helps a woman struggling with her crutches, and honestly, this show has made me so suspicious that when Mallory starts to chat him up, I immediately wonder if she’s a spy.

In the end, Vance is cleared for work, but he wheedles himself an extra week of PT that his therapist doesn’t really think he needs, just to delay his return to NCIS.

Kayla’s had enough and calls Gibbs, who sends Sloane in his place. Without letting Vance get a word in, she diagnoses him as being afraid to trust his instincts in life-or-death situations after being tricked by a terrorist. She prescribes getting his ass back in the saddle. He’s reluctant, but he does accept the folder she offers him on the serial bomber.

Good thing, too, because it convinces him to suit up and arrive in interrogation as West is closing out an hour of non-stop recitation of the Navy SEAL creed — also creepy, in an episode full of skin-crawling suspects.

Under questioning, he doesn’t deny sending the two bombs with knockoff Budweiser pins. McGee and Bishop taunt him that Todd survived, and he killed the wrong Pat Everett. West just smirks, “You win some, you lose some” and then he glances at his watch.

Clearly, there’s a third bomb on its way, and Gibbs sends Vance in to extract the location. He’s up to the task, noticing a tan line where West’s wedding ring used to be. Having read the file three times, he’s able to whiz through possible locations until West’s bad poker face reveals where his ex-wife is staying.

Said ex-wife’s just about to open her newly delivered package when her phone rings with an unknown number. Like any good, red-blooded, spam-fearing American, she ignores it. Thankfully, the NCIS team calls back four times, and she finally picks up in annoyance. Spam calls: They could save your life! (But wait, why did her location matter if they were just going to call her? Eh, let’s not sweat the small stuff.)

The case concluded, the agency attorney from the top of the hour returns to say that the team interrupted her before she could deliver the rest of her message: While warrantless pings are out, NCIS has a panel of three on-call judges to provide near-instantaneous warrants as needed and are you kidding me??? Do you know how much time McGee spent tracking suspects this week through alternative means? This isn’t a funny ha-ha thing when they’re hunting down suspects in a time-sensitive case; this is vital information that they needed! Write a memo, woman! Dash off an email! Send a singing telegram!

Anyway, the episode ends with Vance strolling into physical therapy in his suit to announce that he’s back to work, but he’s really there to bump into Mallory and ask her out for dinner that night. She says yes, and he leaves, pleased.

AND THEN OH MY GOD, MY SPY-DY SENSES WERE RIGHT. Mallory— if that’s even her name —turns to the man reading the paper next to her, who asks for her assessment. She gives him a packet of creeper telephoto pictures she took of Vance, and he confirms that they’re surveilling him for “as long as it takes.” Even Mallory’s crutches are a lie!

Poor Vance! The man just can’t catch a break.

Stray shots

  • A quick word for Bishop, who thoroughly judged McGee this week for his love of reality TV: For shame, Eleanor. Let people enjoy what they enjoy. There’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; there are only things that bring you happiness. Shame, Ellie. Shaaaaame.
  • If you’re wondering, Gibbs is still rocking his flip phone, and Kasie’s already learned that he’s not a texter. Everything in the lab is as it should be.
  • Torres doesn’t really seem like the hangman/word game type, does he? But his love for Shakira seems on point. His hips don’t lie.
  • Yeah, physical therapy woman’s name is totally not Mallory. Were you as shocked by this twist as I was? Let me know in the comments!

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