NCIS recap: Never con a conman
Petty Officer Jeremy Whistler was a saint: soup kitchen volunteer, kitten-rescuerer, literal Boy Scout. So what if he committed a few federal crimes along the way and ended up dead in a lake with strange strangulation marks around his neck?
On his phone are increasingly frantic texts from his wife and a threatening voicemail from an unknown caller. Although his wife Ramona claims he didn’t have gambling or infidelity problems or anybody who’d want to hurt him, the caller’s traced to Beverly Berkshire at the Aspire Technical College, where Whistler was an A+ student
At the college, McGee and Torres meet the dean, Neil Patterson, who leads them to Beverly as he talks up their high-end equipment and tries to steer them toward a student loan seminar to get them to enroll.
They decline and instead locate Beverly, who was Whistler’s lab partner until he bailed and she got stuck with a wild-haired burnout instead. She admits to leaving the voicemail and immediately spills the tea: she saw raw code on their shared computer indicating that Whistler was none other than TerrorCastor.
Oh, you don’t know TerrorCastor? He’s No. 9 on the FBI’s Cyber Most Wanted List for defrauding grandmas and food stamp recipients with everything from phishing attempts to Nigerian prince scams.
“That guy was the devil,” Beverly summarizes. Plus she’s got a solid alibi, and Palmer discovers a fresh-ish knife wound on Whistler’s body, so back to Ramona they go. At first, she’s combative, but she soon admits that he scammed people to pay their daughter’s medical bills after she was born with neuroblastoma. But she swears he was looking to make a fresh start.
Furthermore, she says his best friend Taye Tanner’s the one who stabbed him, so the team has a new target. Whistler and Tanner were arrested together as juveniles and joined the Navy together, but Tanner was dishonorably discharged for swiping SSNs from his shipmates.
Good thing Kasie has a lead on where to find him. As TerrorPollux, Tanner posts on an Instagram account that indicates he gets mint chocolate chip ice cream after laser tag. As McGee heads out to a likely ice cream parlor/laser tag location, Kasie tells him to, “bring mama back some Rocky Road.” I really do love her.
In questioning, Tanner admits to a little light stabbing after Whistler drained all their computer virus scam money from their offshore account (to pay back the people they’d previously scammed, as it turns out). Furthermore, Tanner’s alibi checks out, so Gibbs barks at the team to look through the victim list again.
And why is Gibbs big mad this week? In a word: Sloane.
You see, her daughter Faith is going through fertility treatments and asks Sloane about her biological father. When Sloane appears in his office upset, Vance ends his phone call with the secretary of the Navy to counsel her on what to do.
Before she talks to Faith, though, she confides in Gibbs: she was 19, drunk at a college party, and she let someone she trusted take her home. He raped her, and she blamed herself for being drunk, putting herself in that situation — “all the things that survivors put on themselves." Good for Sloane for acknowledging her feelings at the time but also for showing that she worked through it and realized that the only person to blame was her attacker.
Anyway, after she dropped out of school, she found out she was pregnant. Then she joined the Army after the adoption, tested into PsyOps, and the rest is history.
As for Gibbs? He only has only one question: “What’s his name?” *shiver* But she shuts that down immediately and insists that she’ll handle it on her own, having avoided telling Gibbs for so long because she didn't want him to treat her like a fragile teacup.
And she does handle it, confronting her rapist in his posh home. At first, he calls her “Jackie” and insists that she’d been flirting with him for months and obviously was too drunk to remember that night properly. But Sloane hits back that she said no, over and over, and she even gave him the scar on his chin just before he pinned her shoulders down. She taps the gun at her waist, and he finally stops his gaslighting.
She stonily tells him that when a woman with half his DNA comes knocking, he’ll give her his medical history, tell her it was a college fling, and send her on her way. When he protests that Sloane has no right to tell him what to do, she straight-up punches him in the damn mouth. YESSSS, SLOANE. You work your healing process.
Okay, back to the case: McGee and Bishop arrive back at the Aspire campus and find it… empty. Absolutely cleaned out.
A little digging shows them that it was a pop-up scam school, which Kasie knows about because she googled her birthday plus “Florida Man” and read all about it: scammers rent a space, put up a shingle for a trade school, and squeeze students for as much loan money as possible before disappearing to start over again elsewhere.
Time to revisit Dean Patterson, who’s actually a used-car salesman hired to sucker as many students into enrolling as possible. But he’s happy to flip on the person who recruited him, and it’s Beverly’s wild-haired burnout lab partner Portland Douglas, now slick and put-together and out hustling students to use their GI bill money at the Bright Future College.
Yep, Whistler figured out that Aspire was a scam—never con a conman!—and set out to blackmail Douglas, who posed as a student to smoke out the culprit and then used his fancy patterned belt to strangle Whistler. Gotta say, Whistler's version of a fresh start still looks a little dingy. Some habits are hard to break, I guess.
At the end of the hour, Sloane meets Faith for coffee, and Faith gently tells her that she recognized the look on Sloane’s face during their initial conversation, having seen it before on the women she works with at the hospital trauma center.
She tearfully tells Sloane that she’s sorry about what happened to her, and Sloane finally explains everything: she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to love Faith because of what happened, and then once Faith was born, she was scared that she couldn’t be the mother Faith deserved. “I felt so damaged," Sloane says.
But Faith simply thanks her. “You gave me a wonderful life. You did.” Then they join hands, and that tender, emotional scene is only ruined a little by me muttering, “No touching!”
- I’ve so enjoyed how Sloane’s story has evolved, alongside her relationships with Vance and Gibbs. And if Faith wants to come around a little more, that would be fine, too. Who's ready for Grandma Sloane?
- Speaking of relationships evolving, how great was Torres’ “You should be proud” speech to McGee? We stan a supportive colleague, even if McGee mixed up his reunion dates and missed the whole thing.
- Please tell me somebody else out there joins me in always, always, always thinking about the John Travolta/Nic Cage extravaganza Face/Off any time Castor and Pollux come up?
- Bishop and Torres harmonizing on McGee’s poop song might just be the highlight of my week. (To be fair, it’s been kind of a bummer week.) And you’ve also gotta love McGee classifying his knowledge of Gibbs’ "dating life" as somewhere between knowing about his parents and Ducky.
- What did your Florida Man do? Mine was arrested in a thong while building a shed with garbage on a stranger's property. Oh, Florida!