Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS
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S16 E24
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ZIVAAAAAAA! She’s back, she’s smiling, and we’ve got QUESTIONS!

Heck of a finale, friends. Let’s get into it.

When a blue, lifeless Emily Fornell is delivered to the ER, Papa Tobias and Uncle Gibbs race to be by her side, where a doctor informs them that she overdosed on opioids and may not survive the night. Fornell draws his gun and demands that he wake up every doctor in town to tend to her, but Gibbs talks him down.

The next person Fornell freaks out on is the pharmacist who refuses to sell him more than two flower arrangements. (Sorry, but if you cast a “hey, it’s that guy!” like Bob Clendenin for a two-line role in the first five minutes, I am going to immediately suspect him of any crimes committed during the next hour.)

At home, Gibbs is surprised to find his dead ex-wife Diane there to insist that he figure out who gave Emily the drugs. “I am not doing this,” he yells, but she forces him into a debate about Rule 10, and he finally capitulates.

At first, Vance says no because, in addition to the personal connection, the working theory is that somebody drugged Emily’s drink at a college party, which means NCIS has no jurisdiction. Then Ducky arrives with a loophole: the party property’s landlord is involved in a lawsuit with a contractor who also does Navy work. Bam. Archivist salary earned for the week.

Gibbs barks at his team to interview everyone at the party, including reviewing their “Chatsnaps,” then sprints to the hospital to answer Fornell’s 911 text. Emily’s okay and headed home! Fornell, though, is not okay and wants Gibbs to swear that he’ll find the drink-drugger, the dealer, the chemist, the chemist’s mom, the chemist’s mom’s dog walker, yadda yadda.

The two students who dropped Emily off describe the dealer as maybe having a nose ring and hand over a white pill they found while cleaning up the party. Kasie determines the pill matches what was found in Emily’s blood, and it’s a bootleg drug, which could help them track it from other busts.

When Gibbs arrives to have dinner with the Fornells, he finds that Papa Tobias has plied Emily with date rape straws, keychain pepper spray, a blinding flashlight, and a stun gun. Ghost Diane, meanwhile, arrives to insist that Gibbs break the rules if necessary to solve the case, and Fornell enters the room just as Gibbs yells, “I don’t know who I am!”

Fornell recognizes that as Gibbs’s “Diane tone” and asks, “Were you having a conversation with our dead ex-wife?” He seems relieved that Gibbs is the loonier of the two of them, and Gibbs is relieved to get called to the scene of another OD.

He and Bishop interview a man who’d been revived with naloxone and is now cuffed to an ambulance stretcher. He’s under arrest for possession and explains that he’s trying to get clean for the sake of his wife and kids. Oh, and he got the pills from “Professor Ralphie,” who lives near campus and sells to all the students.

After that, it’s a simple thing to find Ralphie’s address, where Ghost Diane gets Gibbs to kick in the door. They find the nose ring-sporting dealer dead on the couch with a needle in his arm and—dun dun dun—Emily Fornell stoned out of her gourd in the bathtub. Fornell arrives at the scene in time to ask, “My daughter has a dealer?” Emily shouts that she has it under control and storms off.

Palmer then tells the room that the syringe was wiped clean and Ralphie has a second jab mark in his neck, making this murder most foul. When Ralphie’s roommate shows up, the team is surprised to learn that it’s one of the kids who dropped Emily off and neglected to tell NCIS quite a few details.

After they escort the kid to questioning, Gibbs stays on the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets to get yelled at by Ghost Diane some more. She blames him for not being there when his alcoholic, single-dad friend needed him, and also for being involved in the loss of Fornell’s FBI job.

In light of this, she says, Gibbs owes it to Fornell to get the guy who got Emily hooked on drugs, through any means necessary. Oh, my buddies, the psychology at play with Gibbs conjuring the ghosts of his past so he can argue with himself over self-blame and right versus wrong? Dr. Grace would have a field day!

Anyway, the roommate eventually admits that Ralphie got his supply from a pill-happy podiatrist Emily introduced him to. Fornell recognizes the podiatrist’s name on Ralphie’s credit card statement and beats the team to Heal Your Heel, where he’s close to employing enhanced interrogation when Torres arrives.

Under questioning, the podiatrist argues that his status as a top pill prescriber is perfectly legal—heck, it earned him a tropical vacation. But Fornell’s incensed that he prescribed opioids to Emily for a minor procedure and possibly started her addiction. Between this and the family man trying to get clean, the show presented a low-key, realistic look at a few of the issues driving the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

A desperate Fornell arrives at Chez Gibbs to tell him that Emily’s been skipping class, lying about extra-curriculars, and refusing to go to therapy with him. “I need her mother,” he says, begging Gibbs to ask Ghost Diane what he should do. Yes, he knows Gibbs isn’t really talking to her, but on the off-est of off chances that he is, well…

The next thing we see is Diane sitting in Gibbs’s spot, suggesting that Tobias stop trying to fix things and just be there as a father for Emily. He listens and cries and apologizes for not being able to protect Diane. Then he and Gibbs agree never to discuss this pseudo-Ghost moment again.

The case gets solved when the team learns that Ralphie stole the podiatrist’s prescription pad and took it to a pharmacist who was willing to look the other way. Gee, what did I say about the economy of characters earlier? The pharmacist left touch DNA on the needle, which was sold at his store, and he quickly admits that he went to warn Ralphie about NCIS poking around and things got out of hand.

But Fornell’s not satisfied, so Gibbs heads in to demand the name of the person supplying the gray-market counterfeit Canadian pills that were found in Emily’s blood. The pharmacist is too scared to give the man’s name, so we’re left with that dangling plot line.

During their next encounter, Fornell listens to Ghost Diane’s advice and holds his arms out to hug Emily after she shouts at him to leave her alone. It works, and she moves into his embrace, whimpering that she needs help. She also says she dreamt about her mother in the hospital, and Diane told her that she loved her to the moon and back and also that Gibbs’s house smelled like burnt cheese. (I have questions about that last bit!)

Admittedly, this is a clean and tidy way to wrap up an addiction storyline that’s anything but clean and tidy for way too many families in this country, but we all want the best for the Fornells and we only have 44 minutes here, so we’ll take it.

Ghost Diane’s not done, though, and pays Gibbs one more visit in his basement. She tells him (and of course, by that I mean he tells himself) that since his family died, he’s been afraid to let himself feel again, which is why he put up so many walls at work, the only place he feels alive. But now that those walls are crumbling, and it’s scary and dangerous for him. When he’s ready to talk some more, she says, “We’re all here for you, inside.”

Ghost Diane has just left up the stairs when he’s interrupted by another face from his past. But this one’s alive and there to warn him that he’s in danger. He’s too boggled by her sudden appearance to do more than whisper her name: “Ziva?”

Stray Shots

  • ZOMG! I truly didn’t expect to see Ziva in the flesh so soon! I fully expected to play peekaboo with near-misses and hair-lookalikes well into next season, but the show snatched that rug out from under me. Have you recovered from that surprise appearance yet?
  • If you’re curious how CBS was able to keep something so big a secret, the scene was never included in any script or call sheet, it filmed with a skeleton crew at midnight after the full crew had been wrapped for over an hour, and Cote de Pablo arrived to the stage via a back gate entrance. WORTH IT. WORTH EVERY DIABOLICAL MINUTE.
  • Quote of the night belongs to Torres, upon learning Kasie pegged him as Level II: “Fifth grade science or lower? Okay, I’ll take that.” Also, Kasie reveals that she sees all when she suggests that the rage Fornell feels about his daughter being drugged would match how Torres would feel if the same happened to Bishop. Gotta say, I’m bummed we didn’t get more movement on that storyline in this episode, but there’s always season 17, right?
  • What a sweet callback to the time Emily gave Fornell a Watermelon Pie pedicure.
  • Commence the months-long theorizing about Ziva’s return, friends. Is it possible she’s involved with the scary gray-market pill dealer who wasn’t resolved in this episode? CBS’s statement about de Pablo’s return included a quote from NCIS showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder: “This surprise moment is just the beginning. We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS Season 17 premiere this Fall as Ziva’s warning to Gibbs unfolds.”
  • Exciting, right? But almost as importantly, will we get to see a Tony/Ziva reunion? Guess we’ll find out in the fall…

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