By Sara Netzley
October 22, 2019 at 10:46 PM EDT

Oh, my kingdom for Torres hypnosis outtakes.

Gibbs’s morning gets off to a rough start this week when a baseball comes crashing through his front window. The obvious culprit is young Phineas, who just moved in across the street and is toting a bat and glove to school. Gibbs is super cool, gives the kid an eyeful of his badge and gun, and tells him not to worry about the cost of the window.

Gibbs’s morning is definitely better than Marine Cpl. Laney Alimonte’s, though. She suffers from terrible insomnia and is thrilled to have finally slept through the night thanks to hypnosis. She calls her therapist to thank him, but dun dun dun finds a mysterious bloody gun in her fridge.

NCIS arrives and identifies the 9mm as belonging to Joe Cortez, who lives two miles away. When Bishop and Torres get to Joe’s place, they find him dead of a gunshot to the heart. He hosts the Low Joe Crow Show, and his place is filled with discarded peanut shells and a huge cage full of crows. Also of note: Joe’s license plate says Crowtez, which is adorable. RIP, Low Joe.

Kasie runs ballistics tests and confirms that the fridge gun is the murder weapon, and fingerprints on the grip match Laney’s. Also, Joe’s missing signet ring was found in Laney’s car. Under questioning, Laney, who recently received an “other than honorable” discharge from the Marines, bleakly admits that the evidence really does point to her. She doesn’t remember anything after video-chatting with her hypnotherapist the night before, so suggests that Dr. Pershing could’ve made her do it.

Enter Dr. Grace Confalone, who’s always a welcome guest star. She’s there to demonstrate hypnosis for Sloane and show her what’s possible when a person’s in a highly suggestible state of focused attention. The working theory is that a hypnotist could change a patient’s perception of reality and possibly make a law-abiding person think she has to shoot a bear to save her child. (In this scenario, “bear = Joe.”)

Gibbs pulls McGee out before he can get hypnotized again, so Bishop agrees to do it, requesting that Grace plant a suggestion while she’s under that she stop biting her nails. Torres hunkers down to watch and, naturally, ends up as the hypnotized party. Let the games begin.

At Dr. Pershing’s, a fussy patient in the waiting room advises Gibbs and McGee on the proper procedure for entering Pershing’s treatment room. They kick out the current patient and present Pershing with a signed, notarized HIPAA release form from Laney so he can discuss her treatment with them. Pershing swears that he couldn’t force someone to commit a crime under hypnosis, which leads Gibbs to believe that Laney’s playing them.

Not playing Gibbs? Phineas, who slips his $3.50 in lunch money under Gibbs’s front door with a note asking that Gibbs not tell his mom. But Gibbs returns the cash and meets his mother Sarah, who’s working two jobs and, with Phineas’s dad out of the picture, can’t find the time to teach Phineas how to play catch. GEE I WONDER HOW THIS WILL END.

A police report from 2007 shows that Pershing’s roommate was picked up for robbing a liquor store, and Pershing admits to practicing hypnosis on the man beforehand. Thanks to this new information, Grace allows that with the right patient during many sessions over many months, a hypnotist could possibly get someone to commit murder.

Michael Yarish/CBS

To learn more, McGee and Bishop head to Quantico to meet Laney’s former C.O., who says she received the OTH discharge the previous week when her insomnia left her catatonic and stabbing the wall with a pair of scissors that she turned on the C.O. when confronted. Um, that’s not a sign pointing to innocence.

In Sloane’s office, a still-hasn’t-slept Laney dreamily talks about needing to water her neighbor’s orchid that night. Sloane points out that she’s probably not going home any time soon, and Laney asks Sloane to convey her apologies to Joe’s family. Then things start to break Laney’s way. Kasie discovers that one of Laney’s fingerprints on the grip was backward, indicating it was planted, and Palmer announces that Laney’s so allergic to peanuts that walking into Joe’s house would literally have killed her. So who framed Laney?

The answer comes in the private messages on Joe’s crow site, where he was carrying on an affair with a married woman whose screen name is HiHoBirdie. She doesn’t know Joe’s dead, so Torres and Bishop use their millennial chat-speak to set up a meeting.

When NCIS apprehends her at Joe’s, she admits the affair and tells them her lover was likely killed by her husband, who’s currently in his OCD therapy session with, yep, Dr. Pershing.

It’s the fussy guy from the waiting room! Gibbs spills coffee on him shoves pictures of Joe’s messy house in his face and the OCD husband cracks. He regularly overheard Laney’s therapy sessions and when she left her purse in the waiting room, he helped himself to the items he’d need to stage the crime. It’s a happy ending for Laney, whose discharge gets upgraded to general, meaning she’ll have VA benefits that will allow her to be checked out by a medical doctor.

It’s also a happy start to Gibbs’s relationship with his new neighbors; he buys Phineas a proper glove and has a nice game of catch while Sarah watches from the porch with a smile. I hereby petition that every episode ends with Gibbs playing catch and smiling in the sunshine.

Stray Shots

  • Okay, but what happened to Joe’s crows?
  • Here’s a bit of forward motion on a plot point from last season: McGee got a lead on the counterfeit Canadian opioids that ensnared Emily Fornell in the season 16 finale. But Gibbs orders him to hand it off to the DEA because Fornell just wants to move on. I’m guessing this isn’t the last we’ll hear of the Canadian counterfeits.
  • Things Torres did under hypnosis: sang Beyoncé, ate an apple fritter, wrote Bishop a note full of personal stuff that she refuses to reveal. And now I’m dying of curiosity.
  • In conclusion, Bishop’s jeans are an offense to humanity. Please discuss in the comments.