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There’s our Ziva. Tonight, the back-from-the-dead agent was clever, tough, and always a step ahead. Just how we like her.

The episode beings with two small-town sheriff’s deputies in sleepy Hastings, Virginia, who are thoroughly unprepared for the Gibbs-and-Ziva show when they commandeer the station to interrogate Zahar. The woman’s taunts get under Ziva’s skin, and when she steps outside to cool off, she comes face to face with Bishop, who’s there with tons of questions. And she’s able to ask all of them on the Navy chopper back to D.C.

We also learn that Zahar was close to taking over a splinter terrorist group, but Treasury froze their assets and they were all imprisoned. So why go after Gibbs?

Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS

Before NCIS can come up with an answer, ZNN breaks in with news of a foiled suicide bomber at a banquet with 30-plus senators in attendance. Although U.S. Capitol Police Chief Freydano had initially scoffed at the idea of a terrorist bomb threat, he’s a hero after killing the bomber at the event.

Gibbs then takes a pass on questioning Zahar, leaving Sloane to crack that nut by bonding over how hard it is to live in a man’s world. “I bet you kill twice as many heretics for only half the martyrdom. Am I right, girlfriend?” But Zahar just smirks and says oops, she didn’t mean senator, she meant congressman.

Aaaaand here comes the second foiled second suicide bombing attempt, this time at a congresswoman’s retirement gathering. But there could be more, which prompts Capitol Police to grant NCIS emergency powers under the Patriot Act’s Iron Citadel protocol. Meanwhile, Palmer discovers that the dead bombers have white power tattoos, which is an odd fit to pair up with Zahar’s splinter group. He’s also worried about what to say about Ziva during his monthly Fortnite meet up with Tony.

The woman herself returned to Gibbs’s shot-up basement where she discovers Ducky, who’s been waiting four hours for her. They hug, and when he spots one of her pills, he gently tells her that he can’t imagine what she’s been through. Ziva says she’s been watching her daughter from afar when she can, and “the less Tony knows the better.” She also tells Ducky that she left Gibbs a trail that only he could see, but he didn’t come looking.

Afterward, Ziva and McGee meet at the diner. He wants to know why Ziva didn’t reach out to him, and she says it’s because Bishop found her first. Then she says that her brother Ari was a big part of the splinter group, and his death led to its downfall, after which McGee persuades her to return to NCIS HQ.

She enters the big orange room and sits at her former desk, looking longingly at the empty chair where Tony once sat. Bishop and Torres enter, the latter of whom hopes to pick up some pointers from a fellow “ass-kicking demon.” Kasie, though, is less impressed by Ziva. Also, the bomb triggers had been disabled, which meant the attacks were fake, and an IP address leads them to a white supremacist named Dwight Colton. RF interference interrupts the briefing, but Gibbs fixes it by slapping the TV and shaking loose a bug courtesy of… Ziva, of course.

She joins Bishop and Torres outside of Colton’s compound and immediately assumes command, telling Bishop to wait in the car while she and Torres get into a fight to lure everyone outside. At first, Torres refuses to engage, but she gets in a few shots, and before long it’s an out-and-out brawl. She gets him on his knees with her arms around his neck, and the distraction’s enough that Bishop can advance on the baddies with her gun drawn. In the middle of the hubbub, Ziva whispers to Torres, “Don’t be a wuss, tell her how you feel.” That sound you heard was Ellick shippers screaming with joy because Ziva’s on their team.

In questioning with Gibbs, Colton mutters things about plastic straws and then says Chief Freydano helped them get those bombs through security because of course that guy was easily bought off. Ziva beats McGee to Freydano’s house, but he’s already on the run. Then Gibbs shows up, tells McGee to bounce, and he and Ziva finally have it out.

How’d she get that scar he noticed in the previous episode? In Paraguay, working every contact she could to rescue Gibbs and McGee from captivity. Then when the rescue helicopter beat her to them by an hour, she was wounded making sure none of their captors came looking for revenge. Before she can ask Gibbs how he likes them apples, McGee interrupts with a burner phone from Colton’s house, on which Kasie finds communication between Colton and Zahar indicating that they faked the bombs to activate Iron Citadel.

They also discover that Freydano’s been talking to Ducky, who lent his phone to Ziva. Oh, and somebody just hijacked Zahar’s transport and helped her escape, and Ziva’s nowhere to be found.

That’s when Freydano admits that Zahar’s original plan was to kidnap Gibbs and force Ziva to help her rebuild the splinter organization, but when that didn’t work, Zahar offered Ziva a deal in that Hastings sheriff office: help them rebuild, and she’ll get her life back.

So while Ziva was at NCIS, she used the Iron Citadel access to unfreeze the group’s $50 million in frozen assets. Suddenly Ducky’s cellphone comes online, giving the team Ziva’s location. It’s the Hastings sheriff station, where she’s cuffed the two local lawmen to the radiator while she waits for Zahar and her people to arrive for a meeting.

Once they’re there, they confirm that the money was properly transferred and are about to kill Ziva when NCIS bursts in to arrest everyone. Ah, but Ziva alerted Interpol about the money, so they’re on hand to nab the rest of Zahar’s people when they go to retrieve it. Of course, Gibbs hoped Ziva was one of the good guys all along, but when Zahar asks if she was ever tempted, she replies, “I don’t kiss and show.” “Tell,” MCGee says quietly. Well and truly caught, Zahar and her people start a gunfight with NCIS and are all shot dead.

Afterward, Gibbs finds Ziva cleaning out her old apartment, and he says he didn’t go looking for her before because if he let himself believe she was alive but was wrong, well… it’s unthinkable. Ziva says, “I would’ve lost you a thousand times if that’s what it took.” He admits that he made a mistake and looks truly regretful.

And now she says she has one more thing to do before she can put it all behind her, but before she leaves, Gibbs gets a call from DiNozzo. Ziva promises that Tony will hear the news of her survival from her. But … but … friends, I don’t think we’re going to get to see it. Sniff!

Stray shots

  • This second installment was worth the wait, with Ziva back in action and in complete control. And how interesting to have her working to resolve crises from past seasons without NCIS being aware of it.
  • Very cool to hear Ziva thank Bishop for rescuing Morgan Burke. It’s a nice reminder of how they show laid the groundwork for this resurrection months and months beforehand.
  • Did you enjoy seeing a beloved returned agent meeting two of the new guard? How great was watching McGee show her a picture of his twins? And who wins in a fight: Torres or Zi­—hahahaha, I’m kidding, it’s Ziva, obviously.

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