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NCIS - Pay to Play - Review: “Difficult Choices”

NCIS - Pay to Play - Review: “Difficult Choices”

14.9 - “Pay to Play”
Directed by Arvin Brown
Written by Don McGill
Reviewed by Kelly Anne Blount

The episode opens at an idyllic lake with (yuck) hunters. For warning, I’m a vegetarian and this episode isn’t off to the best start. Anyways, someone in the government is trying to get donations for her upcoming campaign by going out on the hunting trip. Her assistant quickly reminds her that they have a 10AM appointment and she needs to get going. He’s dressed in a suit and tie, which is in stark contrast to her hunting gear.

Ew, Jenna Fleming, the Congresswoman shot and killed ducks.

When she and her assistant get back to her car, there’s a dead rat with a tag around its neck laying in the driver’s seat of her car. It says, “Fleming You’re Next.”

Back at HQ, Bishop is telling the team about her failed appliance situation. Her refrigerator broke and all her food went bad. As she’s complaining about her dire situation to her colleagues she pauses and sniffs the air. She can smell prawn and ketchup crisps.

Clayton Reeves, the MI6 Officer has the special crisps (English term for chips) and has been assigned to a desk at NCIS.

I’m confused, Torres says that Reeves looks taller in person. He just threw him under the bus with Ellie’s brother’s last week, right?

The team heads to the crime scene. Turns out that the Congress woman has been receiving multiple threats. Her assistant shares the info behind her back. She marches into HQ and is angry. She says that she doesn’t need help from NCIS.

Still at HQ, the team is going over the possible suspects. There are quite a few people who don’t like the Congresswoman.

Ducky and Jimmy are looking at the sign left around the rat’s neck. They might have a lead on who tied the knot. It looks like a knot that individuals who have been through the Navy know how to tie.

Uh oh, they make a mistake. Jimmy and Ducky say they are ready to perform the rat’s autopsy, it’s actually a necropsy. I really don’t like this part… I cannot stand anything having to do with animal cruelty. I can’t even kill a fly. True life story.

McGee and Torres are talking in the car as they wait for one of their suspects to finish up a driver’s ed class. McGee tells Torres that he should have told him about Reeves coming to permanently coming to NCIS.

They bring Amy, the teenager responsible for threats to the Congresswoman in for an interview. She claims that she didn’t kill the rat and leave it in the Congresswoman’s car. She did admit to writing threats and sharing them on the internet.

The Congresswoman is back at NCIS. Vance wants her cell phone and computer. He tells her he wants to keep her alive. She’s being careless and trying to brush off the threats, which include photos of her house.

Uh oh, Jenna Fleming’s aid is dead. They found him face down in a pool somewhere in her district. Wonder if she’ll listen to them now?

I’m not sure this is how typical drowning victims are treated. I mean, wouldn’t the police and the firefighters show up first and bring his body in, in case he was still alive but unconscious in the water? Instead they just leave him floating there?

Anyways, Max, the victim, has a gash on his head and he’s a long way from home staying in a cheap hotel with a dreadfully dirty pool. Gross.

A witness reports that she heard shouting between two men. She saw someone drive off in a red Lincoln or Caddy.

Quinn is acting weird around Reeves. She wants to know about the case he’s working on. He doesn’t share.

Max’s girlfriend comes into NCIS HQ. Quinn interviews her and asks if Max had any enemies. She says that the Congresswoman had him working on a secret project and that might have been what got him killed. She doesn’t know any of the details but tells Quinn to talk to Vanessa about the project.

The Congresswoman admits to Vance that she was planning on voting in favor of closing a military base. She tells Vance that this is the secret project Max is working on in her district.

Gibbs and Bishop are investigating the last man Max spoke to before his death. The man, who owns several businesses in the town with the military base that the Congresswoman thinks should close, seems like an upstanding citizen, but he does drive a red car, which matches the description from the woman at the hotel where Max’s body was found.

Jimmy and Ducky are going over Max’s autopsy results with Gibbs. They said that he received a blow to the head, which would have caused him to become very dizzy. Ducky and Jimmy think he became confused and fell into the pool. Due to his head injury, he was unable to get out and he drown.

Quinn and Bishop are at the Mayor local business man’s house, well his garage, to be more specific. They have their guns drawn. Is that really necessary? Jed Hamilton isn’t home and neither is his red car.

No one is there. They send out a BOLO on his red car.

Oh, no, he has dead rats in his freezer. This episode is getting harder and harder to watch.

Abby has figured out that the rats from the freezer match the rat from the Congresswoman’s car. She and Reeves are talking when Torres comes in. They both have massive Caf Pows in hand and are clearly trying to one up one another. Turns out Max, the victim is from Madison, Wisconsin. That’s where I’m from! He went to law school at Northwestern and started working for Flemming in 2009.

Torres and Reeves are still trying to prove who’s the bigger man while Abby is actually working to solve the case. She said that the rats belong to a Navy lab and they are test subjects. Yuck, yuck, yuck. There are few things in this world that get my blood boiling and labs testing animals is one of those things. I’m really struggling to review this episode.

Anyways, both Torres and Reeves hand Abby the Caf Pows and head out of her lab. Torres tells her to drink his first, as it’s the freshest. They are acting like children.

Gibbs and Torres are at the Navy lab. Gibbs asks if Torres is going to have an issue with Reeves. Torres denies it and says that he was just joking. Right…

There is only one person left in the lab. The study ended last month and he’s the only person left in the lab. The guy in the lab looks like Ross from Friends. He denies having anything to do with the missing rats or Max’s death. He also says that he’s friends with the local businessman and the Mayor, Jed Hamilton, who drives the red car. He says that he didn’t have anything to do with this either.

Quinn always looks like her hair needs to be brushed. She asks Gibbs about Reeves. He keeps it vague but confirms that Reeves is working on a specific case.

The Congresswoman apologizes to Vance for being a jerk. She admits that he is well liked on the Hill.

Why does Reeves have Euros if he just came over from the UK? Not the correct currency…

Torres and Reeves have a moment. Vance and the Congresswoman overhear and make fun of them. It looks like they have been placed on the Congresswoman’s detail. They pull up to her house, where Jed Hamilton, the Mayor and local businessman, is pounding on her door and appears to be intoxicated. He’s there with his red convertible. Do I see a red dot on his chest? Sniper? Or no? He reaches in his pocket. Torres takes him down. He was reaching for a note, not a gun.

Quinn and Gibbs are interrogating Jed Hamilton. He says that he didn’t kill Max. He was responsible for the rat.

Bishop interrupts the interview. She tells Quinn that Jed has an alibi. He was at a strip club as Max’s murder took place.

So, we have just over eight minutes left and no clue who the murderer might be. Does anyone else think this is moving a bit slow?

Okay, so there’s a housing project that was due to be built in the town that is potentially losing the military base. If the base leaves, the housing project most likely won’t move forward. While the land is owned by the state, there’s a relator who is bound to lose a huge potential amount of money if the deal falls through.

Guess who’s the relator? The victim’s girlfriend, the same one who came into NCIS HQ and talked to Quinn.

Uh oh. Torres and Reeves have brought Congresswoman Fleming to meet with Ms. Perkins, Max’s girlfriend. They don’t know that she is a possible suspect. The Congresswoman asks to be alone with Ms. Perkins. Not good. As soon as Torres and Reeves leave, the Congresswoman gets real with Ms. Perkins. Vanessa asks if she killed Max. She doesn’t answer, but she goes to her purse. Before she can retrieve anything, Gibbs and Quinn walk in. Torres comes out of the kitchen with a cookie in his mouth, completely clueless.

Vance and Gibbs are pissed at the Congresswoman. She blew their leverage with Laurie Perkins.

Luckily, Abby has a lead and she just solved the case. The victim’s last picture was of his lunch. He used an app to record what he ate every day and Laurie Perkins was the one holding up his protein bar. You can tell by the design on her nails. Laurie admits to hearing him argue with the Mayor about the base closing. She was angry that her housing deal would fall through so she admits that she hit Max. Before admitting anything else, she asks for a lawyer. Why would she tell them that she hit Max?

Torres and Reeves show at HQ in workout clothes. The bromance is on.

Quinn wants to know if Reeves is part of a specific program. He tells her that he is part of that program, but that it’s his choice. Reeves walks away, but Gibbs has witness this encounter. He asks Quinn if she wants to talk.

The episode ends with Vance and the Congresswoman having a drink together in his office. He asks her out on a date, she says something to the effect that it took him long enough. They smile and enjoy their drink together.

My Thoughts:

This episode had some good moments, but overall, it was pretty disappointing. To start with, did the title, “Pay to Play,” have anything to do with the episode? Maybe I just missed something somewhere along the line.

The episodes have clearly been aired out of order as well, which messed with my head. Clayton Reeves was in last week’s episode, but he suddenly just arrived in this one. How did this happen?

I’m not sure why everyone was tripping over themselves to accommodate the Congresswoman. I don’t recall the NCIS agents and director being so easily impressed before, do you?

It seemed a bit strange that Vance and the Congresswoman were flirting at the end. Don’t you think Vance would be pissed she almost cost him the case? Instead Vance ends up asking her out on a date. Seemed a bit strange, especially since they were talking a lot about his wife, who passed several years ago.

Also, what is this “Operation Willoughby” and why is Quinn so worked up about it?

Let me know what you thought of the episode with a comment below. Did you find it disappointing or were their points of redemption that saved the episode for you?

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