The crimes of the week kick off at the National Armed Forces Credit Union, where a security guard who looks not unlike Chris Evans pre-Super Soldier Serum is startled when someone cuts a hole in the wall. (This joke is brought to you by the late, great Stan Lee, may he rest in peace.)
No money’s missing, and at first the team is baffled by The Case of the Missing Non-Load-Bearing Wall with No Alarm Panel or Anything Like That Inside of It until Kasie tests a chunk of wall left behind and realizes it was covered in Kobra spray paint, the brand preferred by top-selling street artists.
Furthermore, she went to whatever the dark web’s version of Etsy is and found a newly listed painting matching the missing wall’s dimensions and selling for a cool $100,000 Bitcoin.
Bishop and Torres (in glasses, a lewk that he should def. keep rocking) arrive to the gallery, where they learn that the missing wall was painted by the famous and famously reclusive artist Ritz.
“Whale Street” shows a whale leaking money, and a passing fan shows them how to take a shot with their cameras to reveal a hidden QR code that leads them to a save-the-whales website. That’s Ritz’s MO; last month’s QR lead to a spotted owl preservation site.
Torres and his glasses match the chunk of wall from the scene with the edge of the painting, and it fits perfectly.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service solve the mystery of Ritz’s identity. It’s Jared Clarke, and he recently targeted them for contracting with a company that also leads African big-game hunts. However, they didn’t take him down for fear of retribution from his millions of followers, which is a weird stance for a government agency. But whatever.
McGee and Torres arrive at Clarke’s dope loft and find him and his inexcusable hipster mustache dead and covered in spray paint. Palmer discovers five rounds in his chest and some kind of ash in his mouth.
Ritz had targeted 28 people or corporations linked to ecological or wildlife-related wrongdoing, including Maryland State Sen. Brady Spencer, who killed himself after Ritz exposed him for accepting dirty contributions from gas companies.
But Ritz wasn’t clean himself, as Kasie learns, thereby leading to an addendum to rule 73: Never meet your hero — or scroll through their browser history. In short, Clarke had been personally benefiting from the crowdfunding and charity pages his fans donated to.
Side note: Is this a new Gibbs rule? Write it down! #73: Never meet your heroes.
She also found threatening messages sent by an account traced to a Melanie Keller, and when Gibbs and Bishop arrive at her place, Bishop is startled by the abundance of plastic flamingoes out front. “Can’t ever have too many flamingos,” Gibbs informs her.
Melanie’s vehicle won’t start when she tries to flee, and under questioning, she throws a wrench in the case: She’s Ritz, and Clarke was a pretender. Sloane points out that anyone can say they’re the Dread Pirate Roberts, which Gibbs claims to get because he watched the movie once, but I’m not entirely convinced.
To prove her identity, Melanie creates a genuinely impressive spray painting of Gibbs and Bishop with their guns drawn. Melanie’s phone GPS shows she was out of town during Clarke’s murder, and Bishop is immediately convinced of her innocence.
Ritz uses blacklight pen to write, “To Bish, thanks for not putting one in my head” and says she noticed that the way Bishop approached the painting pegs her as an artist. Bishop admits she hasn’t painted since her good friend died a few months ago. (Um, have we ever seen Bishop pick up a paintbrush? I can’t recall anything like that, but my Swiss cheese memory could be letting me down.) Melanie encourages her to keep painting, especially when things get bad, but Bishop declines. (Next page: Who’s the real Dread Pirate Roberts?)
Melanie provides new direction for the case when she points them to Treble Integrated Defense Systems. You see, the Navy installed Treble’s low-frequency active sonar systems on hundreds of submarines and ships, and since then, thousands of dolphins, whales, and other marine life have died or had their birth rates and migration patterns altered.
Melanie says Treble killed the person they thought was Ritz to keep the public from finding out that they’d faked their safety reports. A Kasie/McGee test indeed confirms that Treble had encrypted a software defeat program similar to the technique Volkswagen used to get their diesel engines to pass the smog test.
The well-dressed Treble CEO immediately fesses up to the fraud and says they hired a PI to find Ritz. When they located Clarke, they discovered someone else was following him and sent a warning message to Ritz’s verified Twitter account. Yeaaahhh, if you’re a PI and you discovered I’m being followed, maybe call me on the phone? Ring my doorbell? Don’t slide into my DMs, okay?
Regardless, this means that Melanie knew that Clarke was being followed, and when she left NCIS that day, she ditched her phone, making her untraceable.
Bishop continues to defend her new BFF, eventually leading the team to a blacklight message Melanie left in the Gibbs/Bish painting. (It first involves Gibbs trying to find the QR code with his flip phone and he and McGee discussing who’s more equipped and … let’s just forget we had this conversation.)
The message is a license plate that points them to dead Senator Brady Spencer, whom we should’ve known would end up being involved since he was specifically name-checked and then dropped in the beginning. Also, the ashes in Clarke’s mouth are cremains from someone born the same year as Spencer — this courtesy of a Palmer tooth enamel carbonate test.
Spencer died without family or heirs, but Bishop and Torres recognize his former chief of staff Luke Green as the man at the gallery who showed them the QR trick. They locate him at a genuinely sad telemarketing job, and he admits to killing Clarke.
With the case closed, Bishop heads to her apartment laundry room to work on a spray paint flamingo still life when Melanie arrives and admits she made NCIS think Treble was behind it so they’d investigate the marine life deaths. Clarke had responded to her threatening messages by saying that he saw her following him and giving her the license plate number to prove it.
Thus resolved, Bishop gives Melanie her flamingo painting, and the world-renowned street artist gratefully accepts it, which was unnecessarily kind of her. As for Bish? She hung the painting of her and Gibbs on the wall.
In the final minutes, Torres arrives at her apartment to whisk her away to goat yoga (it’s a thing!) when he gets a notification on his phone that a Ritz painting appeared in Sydney, Australia, the night before.
But … but … who’s the real Dread Pirate Roberts??
- Tonight’s episode was … fine. Twisty, yet predictable, somehow? And it involved a little more hand-waving of the “eh, it doesn’t totally make sense, but let’s move on” variety.
- So does Gibbs think Torres has a thing for goat siblings? And is that better than Gibbs thinking he has a thing for human siblings?
- I thoroughly believe that Palmer loves Bob Ross. I thoroughly disbelieve that McGee goes to raves. I thoroughly believe that Ducky THINKS he doesn’t like the sound of his own voice, although we all know better. And I strongly suspect Gibbs hasn’t actually seen The Princess Bride.
- Let’s hear it: How many flamingos are too many? Are too many flamingos actually possible?
- NCIS recap: Pardon me, waiter, there’s a foot in my soup
- NCIS premiere recap: Vance fights to save himself and his daughter recap: Has ‘Queen Kelly’ found her new champion?