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S19 E7
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Patricia Richardson climbs on board this week's NCIS as McGee's feisty mother-in-law Judy, who's here to teach us how to live life to the fullest (and to remind us not to leave fingerprints on our hookup's wine glasses).

Judy snuck off on a Zenith cruise without her daughter's knowledge, as McGee learns when the team's summoned to the docked ship to investigate a murder.

The victim is Navy Cmdr. Roger Burrows, whose tuxedo-clad body was found cooked in a sauna with two neat puncture marks in his neck. As this is airing a week after Halloween, we can rule out vampires, at least.  

Ship security office Grainger explains that the sauna wasn't covered by onboard security cams, and ship captain Finch isn't thrilled to be arguing with an angry employee over the mandatory NCIS lockdown of everyone on board.  

The NCIS team is also adapting to a new app for virtual communication about cases. McGee and Parker are immediately on board, Palmer and Knight are game to try it out, and Torres haaaaates it. I, meanwhile, have a million questions about security and encryption and generally how this isn't a terrible idea for confidential investigation materials.

When Judy's released after giving her statement, helicopter-daughter Delilah wants her to stay the night. Judy declines, but when she activates her alarm from outside her condo, the place explodes. You know what that means! She's got a date with the McGee guest room after all. And bless her heart, glass-half-full Judy immediately starts thinking about remodeling plans.

When Judy's prints are found on a wine glass in Burrows' cabin, the team realizes why she might be a target: the killer assumes she was involved in whatever got Burrows killed.

Although Burrows was just a vacation fling, Judy leads them to the real reason he was on the ship: to investigate the death of Allison Howell, the daughter of an old family friend, who was a waitress at Zenith. She fell from the ship's top deck three months ago, and the coroner ruled it an accident without investigating.

Torres and Knight's phones blow up with notifications from the new app (just silence them, geez!) while they're interviewing a Zenith waitress who says Allison had both a mystery boyfriend and large piles of cash. And with NCIS on the case, they're able to confirm that Allison's hyoid bone was broken, which even casual fans of crime-based television know means she was strangled.

Into protective custody goes Judy, who argues with Delilah about, well, everything, from wearing a GPS-equipped panic-button bracelet to not inviting her friends over for book club. Eventually, McGee has to stop acting like Switzerland and tells the women to talk their issues out.

One of the things they'll have to discuss is Harold, the former fiancé Delilah didn't know existed. When he sneaks into the McGee home to win Judy back, Judy tells him it's over and dumps out the fancy handbag he gave her to return it to him. When she does, a used playing card tumbles out.

The card leads them to magician Christopher Blaze, the entertainer complaining to the captain earlier in the episode. He was Allison's secret boyfriend, and they were selling ED meds and other drugs to the mostly older passengers. Blaze, who has an alibi for Allison's death, says she never returned from the engine room the night she died.

When Kasie turns up toxic industrial waste on the playing card, the team realizes that someone on the ship was involved in illegal dumping. And when they get word that the Zenith CEO pulled strings to get the ship released to sail in three hours, they have to scramble to figure out who it is.

Judy to the rescue! She and Delilah swing by the big orange room and she spots security footage of workers loading barrels of her favorite ginger ale, which she swears wasn't available on the cruise.

One delivery truck license plate search later, and the team finds Peterson Waste Management. Jake Peterson identifies security officer Grainger as his inside man, and once they bring Grainger in, he widens the villain circle to include Capt. Finch.

When Allison discovered Grainger dumping the waste, she reported him to Finch. But Finch wanted a piece of the illegal dumping money, so he killed Allison and then Burrows, who got the pointy ends of navigation calipers to the neck. Peterson was the land-based baddie who planted the bomb at Judy's in case she'd learned anything from Burrows.

With the case closed, Torres apologies to Parker for accidentally complaining about him in a public post on the new app, and Parker proves himself to be a chill boss, critiquing Torres for unoriginal language.

In happily-ever-after land, Judy and Harold rekindle their romance and are off on an African safari. Although she promises to email Delilah an itinerary, the McGees know this isn't likely. But hey, at least Judy's still wearing her panic button bracelet.

Stray shots

  • In the battle of the no-nonsense sitcom moms played by actresses named Patricia, I always favored Richardson over Heaton, so seeing her this week was a treat — and not just because she continues the NCIS tradition of supernaturally gorgeous white hair. (See also: Harmon and Dawber.) Is it completely off base to hope that the GPS tracker on her bracelet will go off at some point in the future and we'll get another episode with McGee's mother-in-law?
  • In this week's revealing tidbits about the crew, Parker doesn't like boats (big LOL!) and Torres used to watch The Love Boat in Spanish with his mom.
  • The roots of this week's case are based in reality, by the way: cruise ship deaths are often go uninvestigated and unsolved.

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