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NCIS - Double Down - Review

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NCIS - Double Down - Review

15.10 - "Double Down"
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Christopher J. Waild
Reviewed by KathM

As the episode begins we're looking through binoculars at a dusty, mountainous, barren landscape. We're in Helmand Province in Afghanistan, the text tells us. After the scanning the perimeter we zoom in to see that we've been looking through the eyes of a guard tower on a remote Marine base. It's December 22, and Senator (also retired General) Phillips is making his annual trips around various bases to show support for the troops. A small number of troops are being entertained by comic Chet Goodwin, if one takes the term “entertain” in the loosest way possible. Chet likes to compare being deployed in the area with everyday life. (“Afghanistan desert. I've been in a situation like this before. Hot air blowing in my face all day, icy cold at night. Never knowing when the enemy is going to attack. Finally, I had to divorce her.”), because that has never been done before. If my feeling about cheesy comics isn't apparent then you aren’t paying attention. My dog with his stuck nose in a yogurt cup, running around the kitchen? Funny. This, not so much. 

The small group of Marines are enjoying the show well enough, but a gray-haired man sitting ramrod straight in the back of the audience is not. Three guesses ho this is. He tells Torres, who is standing beside him, that he doesn't understand Chad's sense of humor. Torres tells the man the Senator that they're just jokes, but the Senator finds nothing funny at all about any of it. Sloane, who is sitting next to him, does seem to be enjoying the show, but I have no idea why. At one point the Senator relies to one of Chet's derogatory jokes with an “Oorah!”, which is taken up enthusiastically by the soldiers around him. Chet rolls his eyes at the Senator, joking that he's being heckled by a Senator. Which yes, yes he is. “And a three-star Marine General!” shouts Sloane, which rouses the crowd into another proud Oorah!. I've always liked a nice Oohrah!; it sounds proud and a little threatening. Chet goes on to say that generals send out others to fight their battles, which is met with dead silence. Senator tells Chad that when he's fighting, Chet will know. He then counters some of Chad's barbs and the Marines are now laughing at the comedian. And comedians don't like that.

The satellite phone Sloane is carrying rings, and she steps away from the group to take the call. It's Gibbs, and he's calling from a hospital stateside. Sloane tells Gibbs that the tour has been a bit rough, but that things are getting better and she can see why the people in Desert Storm liked Phillips so much. Gibbs cuts her off; he's not calling to chat, he's calling to tell them that Phillips' son, Chandler, is there in the ICU. Can you imagine Gibbs chatting? "Small talk" are two words he's never put together. He tells Sloane that he has no idea what's wrong Chandler yet, but he's going to find out. As Gibbs looks through a glass observation area into a hospital room with a young man lying in bed, his head wrapped in bloody bandages, bruised and wearing a neck brace, Gibbs says that Chandler may not survive. Dum dum!

Gibbs and McGee are Skyping (or the non-product-placement alternative) the Senator from Chandler's bedside, because they need to remind everyone of the dire situation. Chandler is on a ventilator but has been tidied up (no bloody bandages, yay!), and despite being critically injured at least he looks tidy. According to the police report Chandler fell twenty-odd feet from a stairwell in his apartment building. In addition to a broken foot, he also hit his head on concrete steps. The Senator asks if there is any more he should know, and Gibbs tells him that the police think Chandler was drinking. The Senator tells Gibbs that he's coming back right away to see his son. Torres says he's trying to arrange earlier transportation for them, and the General reiterates to Gibbs and McGee that he will be there for his son. Once they sign off Vance joins Gibbs and McGee in Chandler's room; he's talked to the neurologist and barring a Christmas miracle, Senator Phillips will not arrive in time to see him before he dies. DUM dum! He also gives that great Vance “Papa is mad at you” look he does sometimes, reminding Gibbs that he knows that he and the Senator go back a long way; in fact, Gibbs wanted to be part of Phillip's security detail (but obviously wasn't). Gibbs tells Vance that what's done is done because Gibbs rolls like that.

Meanwhile, over by the nurse’s station, Bishop is cheerfully pestering the Metro Police detective for more information about the investigation from the Metro PD detective. Initially I loathed Bishop, but her surprising complexity has grown on me. Today she's playing cheerful and easily confused. The detective tells her that Chandler's injuries are consistent with a drunken fall. But, Bishop says, Chandler's blood alcohol limit was below the legal limit. Could he have had a drunken fall if he wasn't drunk? Good with the slight head tilt, Ellie! She continues peppering the detective with questions, trying to get her to let Bishop see the information that Metro has thus far. The detective patiently reminds her that NCIS can look at the report once it's finished, which will be before her well-earned holiday vacation. But she can't finish the report if Bishop is hovering. She gets it, Bishop says casually, making small talk (which she totally owns) as she picks up a file and starts perusing it. But wait, she can't touch the file, she's not authorized! No worries, Bishop tells the detective, she'll just sign the log, which she does before the detective can stop her. Oh, no! Now that she's signed the log NCIS is part of the chain of evidence, and therefore needs to be read in on the investigation. OR, the detective replies, she can just sign the whole case over to NCIS. Which she does, dropping a pile of folders into Bishop's arms and wishing her a Merry Christmas as she stalks off. “And a Happy New Year,” Bishop murmurs, smiling to herself. Ellie Bishop, you have grown on me.

Back in Afghanistan, Sloane is staring sadly at the word “Wingos” scratched on a concrete wall that seems to be a wall of remembrance. The Senator approaches her and tells her that he has a better idea now of why Torres and Sloane were his security detail and not Torres and Gibbs. “You've been here before,” Sloane confirms that she was working at the base ten years ago as part of an Army PSYOPS (psychological operations) team. When asked why she came back Sloane doesn't reply, instead she tells Phillips that the earliest flight Base Command can get won't leave for over 42 hours. Not soon enough, the Senator snaps. Sloane reminds him that the province they're in is overrun with Taliban and that the base's air field isn't secure which is the Marines were sent back, to secure the base. Until the Afghan Army and the Base are running more smoothly their party would need an Air Escort, and 42 hours is as soon as one is available. That doesn't seem to be a problem for the Senator, though, he just tells Sloane that they won't use the airfield. Oh, crap. This does not bode well.

Now it's deeply dark out and the Senator is packing his belongings. The noise startles Torres, who is sharing his tent, and he pulls his gun on the Senator (Torres keeps his gun under his pillow because of scorpions, which makes complete sense). The Senator informs him that there is a plane leaving from the civilian airport a few hours away, and asks Torres if he's up for an adventure. Since Die Hard is Torres' favorite holiday film, he's on board. Sloane shows the boys a map and tells them that, magically, there is a Humvee leaving for the civilian airport right now, then shows them the route they'll be taking. One small compromise and it's theirs. Notice how she slips that in? This can't be good. The Senator, who's totally a half-full kind of guy (surprise!) says the route is too dangerous for one Humvee for four people, and that he should go alone. I see him in a kind of Lawrence of Arabia getup, riding a trusty camel, loping ever closer to International Gate B. Sloane says that's all they got while Torres reminds Phillips that wherever he goes, they go. Pack up the camels, y'all! Oh, and why was there a Humvee going to the airport, anyway? Because Chet must get back to the US for a sitcom audition! The Senator and Torres look vaguely horrified at the idea of several hours in the comedian's company, but there is no other way to get to where they need to go.

It seems that Bishop is the only one who is pleased that she snagged Chandler's case from Metro PD three days before Christmas. While she lets McGee know that she has holiday plans, too, McGee reminds her that they do not include “twin newborn cherubs”. Does this statement conjure up visions of years and years of McGee-Fielding family Christmas cards featuring the twins in increasingly bizarre sci-fi and/or fantasy costumes for anyone else? Bishop insists that while she knows their original mission was just to inform the Senator of his son's accident, she thinks she wants to see the case through. She insists that Metro overlooked key pieces of information that made the case seem like more than a simple accident. For example, Chandler had been arrested for possession of prescription drugs after the senator sponsored an anti-drug bill. Phillips bailed his son out, but then disowned him a week after his wife died of cancer. I'm not sure how this fits into the “more than an accident” scenario, but Gibbs says that all parents love and forgive their children and that's why the Senator is hurrying to get back. McGee wonders if children still love their parents if they miss their first Christmas, and Bishop tells him that the twins are only a month old and they can always Photoshop any pictures if needed. Gibbs says that if there is more to the case than it first appears he wants to know by the time the plane takes off in Afghanistan, and motions for Bishop and McGee to get to work.

In Afghanistan Chet calls shotgun, then tells Torres that he hates being at the base and he got the Humvee to take him to the airport because his agent also reps Colin Powell. And no doubt Colin would support getting Chet as far away from the base as possible. The Senators barks to them to get in the Humvee; when Chet asks him about the seating arrangements, the Senator as him a riddle. “Knock, knock.” “Who's there?” “Chumps ride the hump.” Even though Chet is miffed that the joke, “wasn't even a joke”, it made Torres and Sloane smile as they loaded up. I really hope one of those backpacks has at least one bottle of strong alcohol to make the ride smoother.

At Chandler’s less-than-impressive apartment building Bishop expresses her surprise. All his social media pages show him staying at posh hotels and living a much more lavish lifestyle than a man who McGee says hasn't used his bank account in a year. Metro didn't follow up on the money angle, but they did interview his roommate, Seth. Which means they should interview Seth, too, because Metro PD obviously has no idea what they're doing. When they don't get a reply to their knocks on the door they open it and go inside to get a look around. The shabby apartment is furnished in contemporary hi-grade craps table with some video cameras pointing at the table and a small television screen. Seth stumbles out of the the bedroom, clearly more than a little drunk and with a bottle in hand. The table is for practice, his says. He and Chandler were professional gamblers. He says he's drinking to Chandler, who was his very best friend. Bishop and McGee remind him that Chandler is alive. Twice. According to Seth, the night of the accident he and Chandler were drinking and playing video games when Chandler decides to go out to get coffee. Seth became all involved with the game again and next thing he knew, Metro PD was knocking at the door to tell him about Chandler. Seth had been inside the whole time. A call to the Humvee has Sloane telling Gibbs that all is well because therapists are super good liars. Gibbs says that Chandler is hanging on, which is great news for everyone (except possibly for Chet, who only has eyes for possible syndication rights). As they amble along Sloane suddenly realizes that they're not on the right road. Because as a therapist she's super observant. The driver assures her that this way is faster, which is why he and the Senator agreed to use it this morning. Eh, ummmmm...really?

Back at the Navy Yard, Jimmy Palmer is facing a potential holiday crisis. It's the first year they've invited Breena's parents over for a Dickens-inspired “theme” Christmas, and now his father-in-law will roast him like the prize goose the butcher just brought over. Waistcoats would have been worn, figgy pudding would have been consumed. Unless the case can be proven to be an accident, his holiday plans would be for naught. Unfortunately, Abby is not helping by producing a 3-D model of how Chandler had fallen that proved he was pushed down the stairs instead of stumbling drunkenly down them. Humbug!

In the Humvee it seems by the look on everyone's faces that Chet and Senator Phillips have been “discussing” the Senator's treatment of Chandler. Chet said that his father had disowned him when he was nine for wanting to be a comic; Phillips tells Chet that he didn't disown Chandler, he turned his back on him because Chandler was self-centered and lacked purpose. Why didn't he ship Chandler off at an military academy once the kid was would of diapers? At least Chandler still "has a chance" to be a decent human being, the Senator murmurs at Chet. Which implies that Chet doesn't, which I support. The whole central casting "I'm a self-centered, talentless jerk" guy is really grating on my nerves. I can't wait for him to get shot or shived or something. Hopefully. At this point Sloane threatens to turn the car around, which would have been a much better line if Torres had sad it. But Torres says that they may have to anyway because there is a large hole in the ground from an exploded IED. Despite knowing what it is (except Chet) everyone gets out to look at it so they can explain it to Chet. I guess Chet exists so that the characters of value have someone to explain stuff that the audience may not know. The driver says they need to turn around, and runs back to the car to radio the base. Chet starts bitching about how much this inconveniences him when the Humvee suddenly explodes. As Torres covers up the body of the driver he tells the group that the radio was lost in the explosion while Sloane tells them she left the SAT phone in the back of the car when they got out. Now, because of the new route that the Base isn't aware they're using, nobody knows where they are.

Chet doesn't understand what really happened to the Humvee, despite its being in a big, smoky pile of metal right in front of him and wants to know if the exploded IED crater had anything to do with it. Nope. The Senator explains to him that sometimes the Taliban just buries IEDs in the road for fun. Sloane and Torres are sure that the Taliban were close enough to hear the bomb go off and lead an angry, shouting Chet and a stoic Senator up into the hills to seek shelter.

Abby has found something "hinky" in the things Bishop and McGee took from Chandler's apartment. Illegal gambling? Kinda. Abby shows McGee that Chandler and Seth have the most advanced loaded casino-grade dice she's ever seen. The “pips” (dots) are filled with plastic of the same density as the rest of the material the die are made of, which allows them to roll evenly. The loaded have pips that are loaded on one side with something heavier than the rest of the pips and makes the dice fall to one side when rolled. And that concludes Miss Abby's Science Minute. Although loaded dice are normally easy to spot, Abby explains that these are virtually perfect. You'd need to be Chemical Engineer to make something like it, she tells him. Chandler dropped out of college but Seth did not! He not only went to MIT; his GPA is slightly higher than McGee's. Dang.

After wandering through the hills for a while, the Humvee refugees find a cave where they can all rest. All they must do wait a few hours until a search team comes out looking for them and takes them back to the base. Yeah, about that...seems that the Senator changed the route with the driver only and didn't tell anyone else. So nobody knows where they are.

McGee and Bishop are back at Chandler’s apartment again, where they can hear the loud music reverberating out of the apartment and down the hall and possibly down into the lobby of the building. Okay, maybe not that loud but the kind of loud I haven’t heard since I lived in the dorms back in college. There’s a large man who vaguely resembles Wayne Newton pounding on the boy’s door. Deciding nobody is home Wayne struts down the hall past our intrepid NCIS agents, who look at him as of something like that is completely normal. And maybe it is, but still. Isn’t the whole point of investigating to investigate? I would at least have tried to get his name, or possibly his autograph.

After kicking in the door and making sure that nobody lying in wait, McGee and Bishop push open the bedroom door to find Seth very sound asleep next to a woman one assumes with his girlfriend. Because one-night stands don’t generally get to wear the pajama tops. On the bedside table there’s what McGee estimates as about $10,000 and a nice bottle of champagne. “NCIS” they shout, and the snoozy duo wake up, hands in the air, looking appropriately freaked out.

At the hospital, Vance rushes down a hallway towards Gibbs, asking if everything is all right. Gibbs does that thing where he imparts important information like it’s nothing and says, “He’s awake.” It's a Christmas miracle! Vance tells Gibbs and Gibbs takes out his awesomely ancient cell phone, a sly smile on his face. Um, yeah, about the SAT phone… When he gets one of those annoying fast beeps, Vance wants to know when Gibbs had last spoken to Sloane. Before he can reply, a Gunnery Sargent approaches and asks how Chandler is doing. He read about the accident in the paper, and then drops the tiny bombshell that Chandler had been in the Gunny’s recruiting office the day before his accident, looking to enlist. “He said he wanted to turn over a new leaf,” he tells the two men, who look completely baffled. “Chandler Phillips just enlisted in the Marines.” Gibbs smiles at Chandler, no doubt silently giving him an Oorah.

Back in the (bat) cave, the survivors assess their supplies. There’s some gum, four protein bars, a couple of flashlights and a map. I don’t hear that they have water, which isn’t good. Chet is less interested in the “grocery list” and more interested in what they’re doing to get out of the cave and back to civilization. Sloane tells him they just gotta wait until they’re rescued, and then Senator Phillips tells him to man up. This triggers Chet’s terrifyingly deep daddy issues and he starts in on the Senator, saying that his expectations were too high for Chandler and how he abandoned Chandler and takes no responsibility for what happens to him. He gets more and more upset, which makes me wonder what Chet’s home life was like and whether his daddy was a Marine. “Whatever issues you may have, I am not your father,” the Senator reminds him. That’s right, Chet says with great satisfaction, “My dad never got an innocent Marine killed,” OUCH! And the Senator finally punches him, which someone should have done a while back. Sloane and Torres pull them apart, and Sloane asks them if they feel better for the way they’ve behaved. I would just like to go on record to say that yes, I feel better, and am disappointed nobody has done it before now. Out of nowhere gunshots fill the cave, and everyone drops to the ground except for Chet because he has a survival instincts of a lemming. This seems to be a missed opportunity that nobody realizes, because the Senator stands up and grabs Chet, heroically putting himself between Chet and danger and throwing them both to the ground. Two central-casting bad guys of indeterminate bad guyness, most likely Taliban, appear at the mouth of the cave and are easily taken out by Torres and Sloane. While they’re checking out the mouth of the cave to see if the dead guys brought any friends, Sloane asks if everything is all right in the back, and Chet tells her that the Senator has been shot. Crap.

In MTAC Vance is watching an update on the search for the missing Humvee, who have finally realized that the Senator and Co. are not where they’re supposed to be. Gibbs joins him, and Vance asks about the casino grifters, aka Chandler’s nearest and dearest. No luck there, Gibbs tells him. This is hardly a surprise because I doubt people who cheat at chraps for a living are big on sharing. According to the hospital Chandler's doing better yay! But he can’t remember what happened, boo! And currently ground and air support have been searching for the Humvee but still haven’t found it, which Vance seems to have decided is Gibbs’ fault. “I wanted you to be on that detail,” Vance growls, referring to the opportunity to be the Senator’s body guard. Why did Gibbs give his place to Sloane and tell her Vance said it was okay when she’d specifically asked Vance to send her and he said no. “It seemed important to her,” Gibbs shrugged. “The question is, why did you say no?” “I’m trying to prevent history from repeating itself!” Oh man, has Sloane been stuck in a Humvee with Chet before?!? Something tells me it may actually be worse. “She can handle it.” Gibbs tells him as he saunters off. I love how Gibbs and Vance argue, it's like sound waves (Vance) bouncing off a wall (Gibbs). Still, I hate it when Daddy and Daddy fight.

Sloane is currently “handling it” in the cave, where she’s bandaged up the Senator as best she can. Looks like at least some kind of First Aid kit was included in their supplies, unless they’re using gum wrappers. The bullet, of course, has just missed his body armor. “Are my guts on the inside?” He asks, trying to make light of the situation. Sloane smiles and assures them that they are, but unfortunately so is the bullet. “So, no more fistfights, kid” she tells Chet who is standing by them and looking completely freaked out. He says that since the Senator did save his life, he supposes, he does owe the man something. Freak. “Silence,” the Senator tells him, speaking for everyone in the viewing audience. Torres is conspicuously absent.

Back in the NICS interrogation room. Seth is not thrilled that there are agents back at his place taking down the magnificent table he and Chandler had been using to “practice” with before cheating various casinos. But it's evidence, and “Cheating a casino means serious prison time." Gibbs tosses the fake dice on the table, which land in front of Seth. “They don’t always roll a two,” Seth shrugs. McGee is surprised that Seth admitted to loading the dice, and asks if Seth wants to admit to attacking Chandler. Nope, but he’s happy to admit to the dice if it proves that he didn’t commit attempted murder charge. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that like, and so Seth reminds them that while he did admit to loading the dice, he never admitted to using them. Slick!

And the fancy hotels and wads of cash McGee asks him about? Just luck, it would seem. He’s so casual about it I want to drive to Atlantic City and give it a shot, it sounds so easy. If you have loaded dice you may or may not have used, that is. Come on, he totally used them!

Gibbs then pulls out a large picture of Chandler looking his most death-like from the hospital and McGee tell Seth that they think he attacked Chandler because Chandler wanted out of their little scheme. He even joined the Marines, which Seth finds hysterical. The copy of Chandler’s paperwork proving that he was now one of the few and the proud makes his eyes bulge. “Chandler never wanted to be like his dad,” he says, “So, if he was going straight, this is the first we’ve heard about it.” And who, exactly, is we? That would-be Misty, the third member of the band of merry thieves, currently be questioned by Bishop. Misty was also at MIT but dropped out, but not because Seth, she quickly assures Bishop. It seems that they met at MIT where she realized that Seth was a genius? Okay, whatever, did you try to kill Chandler? No, Misty wasn’t even there. “The guys would rather spend their money on a party than a nice apartment, so I have my own place.” Yes, you do! And I’ll bet it’s a whole lot nicer than Seth and Chandler’s, which wouldn’t be hard. And while she can’t prove she was home alone when Chandler was attacked (which I hope she wasn’t, because she deserves better), she or Seth would never hurt Chandler. And why is that? Well, Misty will just have to show them. Field trip?

In the cave, Sloane and the Senator are having a little chat. Does she regret coming along on the trip now? No, she doesn’t. Did she find what she was looking for? Well, Sloane asks, slipping into therapist mode, did you? The Senator thinks so; he’s been spending his holidays visiting the troops in battle zones for years. “For the troops,” Sloane says in a Gibbs-like manner, which makes the Senator more than a bit uncomfortable. “Are you saying I’m running away from spending the holidays alone, or with family?” Of course she is!! Sloane makes a big deal about being nonchalant about her question saying hey, they’re just talking in a cave. Looks like what happens in the cave stays in the cave. To my absolute horror the Senator admits that Chet is right; I am expecting the ceiling to collapse but it doesn’t. Once he wife died his was miserable, but took it as another kind of “campaign” and put on his stoic Marine face. Chandler thought the Senator just didn’t care. He pushed Chandler away, and didn’t realize that until Chet punched him in the face. Okay. Suddenly Chet has peripheral importance in the storyline, and I’m confused. So, from the look on his face, is Chet, who I am sure has never been right about anything in his life. “I gotta tell my boy I was wrong,” the Senator tells them.

Torres pulls up on a motorcycle, which explains where he’s been. The central casting Taliban duo were bikers, and most likely scouts. So, they’ll be missed, and their Taliban buddies will eventually come looking for them, which sucks. But Torres found their bike, which is great. But it doesn’t have enough gas to get back to the base, which sucks.

In the basement of NCIS headquarters (at least, I think it’s the basement), Abby has donned one of those green visor things and it's time for the Seth and Misty show! Bishop, McGee, and Jimmy watch as Misty parlays $3000 into $90,000 in like two minutes using the loaded dice! At this point she tips the dealer and saunters away, leaving Chandler to switch the dice back before any of the casino staff get curious and they “party for the next few months.” Which would be fun, but $90,000? If I could do that a few times, I’d be doing a lot more than just partying. There would be a BMW in my future, for example. It took Chandler a year to learn the sleight of hand to do that trick, and since Seth and Misty can’t do it they’d never hurt Chandler. Slay the golden goose, they tell the agents, and the fun stops. And they have no idea who would hurt Chandler, right? Right? Misty, did you have something you wanted to share with the class? Oh, well, Seth’s job is to watch to make sure none of the casino staff gets too curious, and it seems that on their last jobs someone was curious. Seth brushes it off, though, saying it was nothing despite the fact that Misty was worried. Chandler didn’t say anything, Seth assures them. But when Seth describes the guy, he sounds just like the faux Wayne Newton (which is apparently a hipster look now) who was pounding on Seth and Chandler’s apartment door earlier that day! And we roll the dice and come up with a suspect!!!!

Sloane has an idea of a shortcut that will get Torres back to the base. A shortcut? What have we learned about shortcuts today??? Nothing at all, apparently. She’s sure this shortcut (!) through a dry river bed will get Torres back to camp with no trouble, can if he goes alone to save gas. At least, she hopes the route will work. Hasn’t she been here before? Torres asks her. Yeah, but it was a long time ago and the area is big, Sloane reminds him. She may be fooling him, but she ain’t fooling any of us. How many of you think she’s used that river bed before? “Don’t put doubts in my head.” Torres tells her.

Chet, who is now looming over the Senator like an anxious bird of prey, announces that he thinks the Senator has passed out. Looks like the bandages Sloane used didn’t work to stop the bleeding, and she needs Chet to reach under the bandage and put pressure on the wound. Directly? Yes Chet, directly!!! Okay yes, I’d be grossed out by that, too, but only moments ago Chet was feeling the Senator’s forehead and fussing over him and so while this is an icky thing, it may also save his life. And I’m pretty sure that Chet has done ickier things in his life. Sloane pulls Chet’s hand under the bandage and Torres to skedaddle. With a stoic "Yippee ki-yay", he rides the motorcycle out of the cave and off to the camp. Hopefully. I think the Die Hard adventure thing has worn off for him.

Bishop is at her desk looking at photos of employees of the Atlantic Diamond Casino and McGee comes over to check her progress. He brings an update on Torres, Sloane and Co.: nothing. No news at all, which in this case is not good news. Regardless, McGee insists that they have to close Chandler’s case as quickly as they can; he promised the twins. Looks like out winner in the “Atlantic Diamond Casino Mustachioed Employee of the Month” is Axel McKenzie III, who works security. While Bishop and McGee get all excited about looking up his address and getting ready to hunt him down and question him and all that fun stuff Gibbs walks past, McKenzie at his heels. No need to go looking for him, McKenzie called asking to come in. That's no fun! But it does save a lot of time for the team. Axel looks less like Wayne Newton without his sunglasses.

Sitting in the upstairs conference room with the team in attendance, McKenzie laughs when he’s asked if he wanted to kill Chandler. Kill him? No, no; McKenzie wants to hire him. “His sleight of hand is flawless, and I’ve seen a lot.” So he cornered Chandler in the bar and was surprised when Chandler admitted to the whole grift, then begged McKenzie not to press charges. “Said he’d get help, turn his life around.” AHA! That explains why he went to the Marine Recruiting Office! McKenzie was representing the casino, who thought they could use Chandler’s skills to catch other cheaters. He tried calling and calling, but Chandler never answered and never called back. When he saw the story about Chandler on the news, McKenzie called in to see if he could help. Who knew people watched the local news anymore? It just goes to show that you should never rely on first impressions, even if they walk past you in a noisy hallway in a victim’s apartment building and you don’t ask him any questions.

McGee still think the casino, or McKenzie, might have another motive: the money! Won’t the casino miss that? He gave it all back, McKenzie told him. It was part of the deal. But, only his part, right? His $30,000 cut. Why no, Bishop, he gave back his partner’s shares, too. MOTIVE! Gibbs gets up and leaves the conference room, no doubt to eviscerate someone in interrogation.

In the cave, Chet is telling the seeming unconscious Senator that he is making him feel guilty about his dad, and now he may even have to call him. And that would be a conversation I’d like to hear. But the Senator only has eyes for Sloane, and not in that way. “Wingos?” he asks her, remembering the writing on the wall back at camp. “You were part of that?” It was classified, Sloane reminds him. Because everything interesting is classified (my personal Rule 1). Regardless, the Senator (who obviously knows all about it), “Not everyone made it.” He says, “Must have been hard.” Sloane tells him that she “coped the best she knew how”, and with that discussion over the Senator slips back into unconsciousness. Chet is a basket case yet again, asking what they should do now. “Have faith,” Sloane tells him, and holds up a bullet. Which might be for Chet in case he starts whining again, but apparently not. Sloane places the bullet on a small stone on the ground, then another. Whatever could she be doing? No, really, I have no idea what she's doing. Thoughts?

We won’t find out now, because McGee and Bishop are having a chat with Seth in Interrogation. Seems like since Chandler gave away all his secrets, including the formula for the dice, it was a pretty good reason to try to kill him. The dice were Seth's life’s work, after all. However, they could take the charges down from Attempted Murder to Aggravated Assault if they had a confession. Seth immediately tells them that they were both mad at Chandler, but then Misty pushed him and came back into the apartment and told Seth all about it. Right. Because Seth was inside the apartment, which he has made clear a couple of times now. “I love Misty, I do.” Seth says, all chocked up. “But, it was her.”

“Oh, screw this!” Misty shouts from Observation, where she’s been hanging out with Gibbs and Vance. Okay, she lied, she was there, but Seth’s whole story happened in reverse. They were mad at Chandler but then Seth followed Chandler out while Misty went to the table to practice so she could be NewChandler. Then Seth came in and told her what happened. Well, it’s your work against your boyfriend’s, Vance says. “He just accused me of murder,” Misty reminds him, “We’re no longer dating.” I love you, Misty! This sucks for Seth, it would seem, as Misty has protecting him without his knowing it. How? Well, since Chandler practiced his sleight of hand with cameras Misty was, too, and Seth came running in and confessed to her while they were still on! Clever Misty hid the tape, and Seth didn’t even know it existed. Until Seth saw it, that is, and decided to cop to Assault after all. Which means McGee and his cherubs will be together for Christmas! Yay! Or, well, a more subdued yay. McGee still feels wonky about the whole thing, and Bishop reminds him that it was because the whole “family” wasn’t home yet.

And we are finally coming to the end of our story, with lots better Chandler worried about how long his dad’s been gone and that he wants Daddy Senator to come home so Chandler can look him in the eyes. He wants to tell his dad that he was right, which is hard for pretty much every child I’ve ever known. “The last time, we spoke, there wasn’t much love.” Chandler says, “I need to change that.” Gibbs tell him that parents always love their kids, which makes me think of little Kelly Gibbs and now I’m sad.

Chet is begging the Senator to live (huh) while Sloan is staring intently at the tree bullets she’s placed on separate little stones in the sand. One falls over, then two, then three. Oh cool, she did that so she’d be able to tell when vehicles were approaching and how far away they are! I like it! She tells Chet to be quiet and slips out of the cave, then settled behind a big rock. She gets into position, ready to shoot, as a cloud of dust rises in the distance. You already know who’s coming but it a tense moment, anyway. A big truck drives toward them, an American flag waving in the breeze and Torres riding shotgun.

Cue a version of “The Little Drummer Boy”, as a montage of the Senator being brought into surgery and treated, then Torres and Chet standing outside, watching as a body bag is taken from a Humvee. Chet wants to know if it’s the Corporals body, and Torres tells him that it is. “No man left behind.” Later that night Sloane is standing before the small memorial wall again. This time she finds “Wingos”, she digs in the dirt under the name and finds a box with four names etched on top, including Sloan's, along with that I presume are military ID numbers on top. She opens it, teary, but we don’t see what’s inside. That is no doubt for another episode.

Four days later Chandler Phillis is standing in Gibbs’ living room, a few stitches in his head, as the Senator is grumpily escorted inside in a wheelchair. He doesn’t need a wheelchair, he insists, or a military detail. He wants his son who, surprise! is standing right by Gibbs’ fireplace. “Welcome back, Sir,” is all that Chandler has to say as the Senator stand up out of his wheelchair and tells his son his loves him, then wraps him in a huge hug. “I love you too, Dad,” Chandler says, teary. In the background we see Gibbs giving Torres a big ‘ol hug, too, and it reminds me of how much I’ve loved watching Gibbs grow as a character over the years. It’s not something he’d have done too many years ago.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd that’s it until next year!

What I Really Mean to Say Is – A lot happened in this episode, but when it comes down to it the whole thing was basically a father/son reunion story, which I’ve seen before. Often. And as much as I wanted to like it, I didn’t really enjoy the episode. There was some more back story about Sloane, which interests me only in that I dislike her and would like to find something that would make me care. Which this new discovery might. A little. Still, the idea of McGee cherubs and A Palmer Dickens Christmas were fun, as was the good-natured sparring between McGee and Bishop. They seem like brother and sister when they do that, and it makes me smile every time.

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