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NCIS - Family Ties - Review

NCIS - Family Ties - Review


15.13 - "Family Ties"
Directed by Rocky Carroll
Written by Brendan Fehily
Reviewed by KathM

Phillip and Rachel are having an argument while driving in their car. Well, he's driving; she's walking on the side of the road as he slowly rolls alongside her and implores her to get back inside the car. Nope! She will not be doing that, not until Phillip tells her who “she” is. Because there is a thing. In Phillip's glove compartment. We don't know what it is, but Phillip can explain. Really, he can. He finally admits when someone drives by and calls him a dumbass for driving too slowly, that “it” belongs to Shelley. But the "it" in his glove compartment which belongs to Shelley isn't what Rachel thinks! And Phillip CAN explain everything! We are quick to find out that what Rachel thinks is that it would be a good idea if she pulled off her engagement/wedding? ring and tossed it over a road barrier. Phillip asks for her help to find it because, well, did she know how much it cost? FYI folks – there is never a situation in which this is a good question to ask. But Rachel gets into the car and drives past Phillip, practically side-swiping him, before showing him that she hadn't thrown her ring away. “This is mine,” she tells him, then reaches unto the glove compartment and pulls out the inevitable tacky red, lacy bra, “This is yours.” Then she drives away, leaving poor Phillip alone on the dirt road in the area of Virginia whey they happen to be arguing. He calls her a psycho and is rewarded by seeing someone face-down, dead in the creek below.

Over at Chez Vance, Kayla is making a scary-looking brown smoothie and asks Leon if he wants some. Since Leon is smart, he tells her that he and Gibbs are having breakfast at the diner. I love the diner and thinks that Gibbs secretly owns it. Kayla is vaguely appalled, and when Vance reminds her that she ate Fruity Pebbles for a year, she tells him that things change. Says it with a little sass, too. He does start to sip some of the scary brown stuff, though, but is saved by the bell. It's Kayla's friend Mandy, come to drive her to school. While Kayla is grabbing her backpack, Vance does that thing parents do when they try to make small talk with their friend's kids and realize they have no idea what's going on in their children’s lives. In this case it's a good thing; Kayla is helping Mandy focus on studying more and is helping her with college applications. Once the girls leave Leon gets a call from Gibbs; breakfast is off due to the case of a dead Marine, Scott Jenkins. Scott is the body Phillip saw in the creek.

Scott liked to train at night, his fellow Marines told them, and had only been dead about 7-8 hours. Jimmy says blunt force trauma looks like the initial cause of death, Scott looks like he was hit by something from behind. Like a car? Torres asks, approaching with some pieces of broken glass from a car, possibly a headlight. There were no skid marks, either, he tells Gibbs. And we know what that means.

Phillip is over by the Coroner's van, trying to flirt with Bishop who is not having it. She remains stoic and businesslike as Phillip tells her that he was having a conversation with “a friend” (oh, how quickly they downgrade) in his car; the “friend” took the car because they had to get to work. Which is why he was chilling in the middle of nowhere with a dead Marine. When McGee comes over with a red lacy bra that he found in the bushes, Phillips identifies it as his. Which I'm sure is just another reason for Bishop to not give him her business card.

Back in the Bull Pen, everyone is discussing how far Jenkins flew when he was hit and how maybe nobody could see him in his reflective clothes because it was foggy (apparently the area he was found in was in a valley), but at least the person who hit him should have recognized that they had hit something if nothing else. While they hypothesize Vance calls Gibbs to his side as he stalks toward the elevators. Everything all right? Gibb asks. Nope. Vance tells him that Kayla has been arrested.

Down in the morgue Jimmy is playing a creepy game what seems to be Blind Man's Bluff with himself. When Gibbs joins him, we find out the Jimmy got glass in his eyes looking at bits of glass evidence from the crime scene and was heading for the Eye Wash Station. Gibbs leads him over to it and once he's all washed up, as it were, Jimmy pronounces that Jenkins' death was due to drowning but also had catastrophic injuries, I'm guessing from the car. I see no reason at all for this scene, because if Jimmy can’t look at glass without hurting himself then they need to take his degree back. Besides, doesn’t Jimmy wear glasses? They should have protected his eyes.

Abby is upstairs taking pictures of the car's largely reconstructed headlight and while McGee admires her handiwork she tells him that the car they're looking for is a blue 2013 Maserati GranTurismo. As a matter of fact, it is the ONLY car that uses the specific glass that they found at the scene in their headlights. Fortunately, there are only three of them in the tri-state area, and she has printed out a list of their names and addresses for McGee and Co. to do his sleuthing thing.

Kayla was shoplifting, the detective tells Leon when he arrives at the police station; she had a purse in her purse and admitted that she did it. The police had to pick her up and formally arrest her because the owner of the store is pressing charges. Kayla was also skipping school and didn't tell anyone at the police station that Leon was her dad. If she had the detective intimated that the might have been able to sweep things under the rug, but it's too late now. Kayla is released and tells Leon that she wants to get back to school because she is missing her Chemistry class.

Torres and Bishop arrive a house where one of the Maserati’s live. Torres can see the car in the garage, but can't see whether or not the headlight is damaged. As they walk to the front door of the house Torres says that the Maserati is the kind of car Luis would drive. Luis, remember? From that time Torres and Bishop went undercover earlier this season and Bishop had the bad part-time accent? And Charlie (Bishop's undercover character) would be right beside Luis/Torres in the Maserati. Because they're a couple, you see, Torres reminds Bishop. That is, Luis and Charlie are. Right.

As they knock on the front door Bishop and Torres hear a smoke alarm going off inside. Bishop breaks the glass in the front door with the Roaming Gnome's cousin, so they can get inside to see what's going on. It was a semi-typical kitchen accident; the oven had a pizza in it that was left to die and burn to a crisp, at which point smoke began to billow out into the house. There's man in a lounge chair in the living room but he’s not suffering from smoke inhalation or anything; he's just sleeping in a wasted pile, passed out drunk. While Bishop tries to wake the wasted guy (John Kendall) up, Torres grabs the garage door opener from the table and heads out to see the car. He does this because Torres needs to assess any potential damage relevant to their case, and because it’s a Maserati. The car is so pretty. So very, very pretty, and missing a headlight. Uh-oh!

McGee is telling Kendall how much they appreciate honesty in the Interrogation Room as John admits to drinking $120.00 worth of booze the night before. He has three DUI's but claims that he didn't drive the Maserati last night, he took a cab. Which is passé; he should have taken Lyft or something. John's as positive as his liquor-addled brain can be that he wasn't driving the night Jenkins was killed, and hopes his Maserati is okay. Not really what you need to be worrying about, McGee tells him. As much as I loathe the fact that people with loads of DUI’s are still allowed to own cars and drive, at least Kendall didn’t drive when he knew he was going to tie one on.

Torres is helping Abby search the Maserati (I've been informed that referring to it as a “car” is inappropriate) for prints or anything else that allows him to spend time it. But the car has been wiped clean, which isn't something Kendall would do if it were his car. Torres is kvelling over the personalized floor mats when he finds a bracelet partially hidden underneath the passenger side of one. It’s not John's bracelet; he is divorced with no kids and who would possibly date him? Torres and Abby also find an Ignition Interlock in the Maserati, a court-mandated device that will only let you start your car if you use it (it looks like a breathalyzer) and no alcohol registers as being in your system. I like this idea. So, since Kendall was drunk last night, he couldn't have started his Maserati. He did, however, leave his garage open and the keys inside it, so it was ripe for anyone who wanted to take a joy ride.

Over at the Bull Pen Bishop tells the gang that Abby has confirmed Kendall's Maserati is the murderer. But due to the Ignition Interlock device Kendall was not an accomplice. Instead, they turn to a local high school where their mascot, a Marauder (pirate), is the symbol found on the bracelet Torres found in the ca... Maserati. The bracelet also has someone's initials on it, leading them straight to Genevieve Bell, your typical high school Sophomore girl whose social media page shows a selfie of Genevieve and a friend around the time of the killing the night before. She is wearing the bracelet in the picture. McGee and Torres head over to Genevieve’s house while Bishop goes back to working with the Maserati's GPS to find out where it was driven.

At Genevieve’s house her parents tell the boys that Genevieve at volleyball practice. Upon hearing that her daughter might have been a witness to a crime her mother begins calling her, while dad identifies the other girl as Maya Guzman. They aren't sure if Genevieve went out last night; she was at a sleepover at Maya’s. Mr. Bell tells Torres and McGee to head on over to the school to question the girls and he'll meet them there as soon as he can.

Leon is in his office, staring outside the window and trying to figure out how badly the Internet/press will spin the story of Kayla the Thief and her dad, who happens to be the head of a federal crime-fighting agency (which makes it sound like SHIELD). Gibbs reminds Leon that it's about his family, and Vance tells him that the Internet/press will make it about both. If Jackie (his wife, RIP) were alive, she'd know what to do, Vance is sure. He's also equally sure that none of this would have happened if Jackie were alive. Leon goes on to tell Gibbs that he doesn’t see himself as a good father; he's got two latchkey kids and because of that Kayla lost her way. Gibbs tells Leon to take the rest of the day off and go be with his kid, but Vance folds his arms stubbornly and tells him that as long is Gibbs is there, he's there. Sometimes he really doesn’t get it, does he? Gibbs says that he has nothing to go home to but Leon does, and that you can never get time with your children back. Oh, Gibbs.

Kayla comes home from school and she's surprised that Leon's home early. She figures she should sit down with him and plops into a chair by her dad in the dining room. Kayla tells Leon that she already knows what she's done and that it’s wrong and besides, she only skipped her first two classes at school, not all day. Kayla seems to know quite a lot about the law (the theft is only a misdemeanor and while there could be a $5000 fine and a year in jail, she doubts she'll get that because she's still a minor at seventeen). She's looked it all up online and knows all the potential consequence of her actions. She tells Vance not to worry, it won't happen again, she's sorry, blah, blah, then storms out, leaving Vance alone at the table, frustrated and sad.

Back to Torres and McGee, who are walking down a high school hallway with one of Genevieve’s teachers. Seems that Genevieve is a typical atypical criminal; great grades, on the student council, plays in the band and she’s on the volleyball team, too. And her friend is similarly spectacular, they're “good kids” who would never do whatever they are suspected of doing. Remember hearing that about some of the secretly shadiest kids in school, or possibly yourself? Anyway, Torres and McGee end up missing Genevieve entirely because, according to Maya, she went home moments ago because she’s worried about all the messages her mom’s been leaving her. And Papa Bell never showed at the school to meet with McGee and Torres, so McGee heads back to their house while Torres gets ready to question Maya. Miss Volleyball, however, wants to wait until after practice to talk to Torres; I mean, they are playing their rivals tomorrow. But yeah, no. Torres does not take appointments.

At the Bell's house McGee sees a strange man enter the house and follows him inside. The man actually is the homeowner; the Bells were just renting. They called him a few minutes ago and said they were leaving, so he came over to check out the house. Both men note that it looks like the Bells left in a hurry; half-packed suitcases and cut-up credit cards litter the floor. They even left their cell phones behind. The men hear a noise and McGee runs outside to find the Bells van pulling out of the garage. He tries to get them to stop but they drive right past him. They've also punctured his tires, so Tim has no way to follow them.

At this time, I would like to put forward the idea of witness protection.

Gibbs and Bishop are talking to Maya and her father up in Interrogation Lite. Maya shakes her head when she's asked if she knows where Genevieve is, and Dad wants to know what this is all about. So, Gibbs shows him the selfie from the previous night. Bishop tells Maya she wants to know what happened after the picture was taken, but Dad says no way. He's not only Maya's dad, he's also her attorney! This tends to happen a lot with minors in various and sundry television shows, particularly procedurals. Until he knows more, Mr. Guzman says to Gibbs, he won't let Maya tell them anything. Gibbs tells him that the charge may be vehicular manslaughter. John Kendall's Maserati was stolen last night and somebody went for a joy ride, then hit a man and killed him. Kendall is the Guzman's neighbor, but once he finds out that the found Genevieve's bracelet in the car, Guzman says that they have no proof Maya was involved at all and they leave.

Vance and Jack are arguing in her office, which is almost the same freakish color of orange that you find on the non-brick walls around the floor that Bull Pen is on and in Interrogation Lite. He won't let Kayla get special treatment, Vance shouts. But he hasn't called the detectives and told them that, Jack reminds him. There is nothing wrong with calling in a favor, she says. Apparently, Vance did for her years ago, and he quickly reminds Jack that it was a life or death situation. What Kayla did was a life lesson. For who? Jack asks him.

Put himself in her shoes, Jack tells him when Leon asks how he can get his daughter to open to him Maybe she's hiding something, Jack says. Vance hopes that Kayla is just embarrassed by her behavior. Note: No lollipops were distributed during this scene.

In the Bull Pen everyone is brainstorming. The Bells left their cell phones and cut up their credit cards, emptied their savings account and abandoned their car on a quiet, residential street. Why? They think Genevieve was the one driving the car and her parents ran with her to protect her. It seems extreme to Gibbs and to Torres, too. They're established in the community and mostly clean records; dad has only one conviction for assault when he was eighteen and mom has no arrests at all. McGee thinks the Bells are hiding something; Gibbs rolls his eyes at him and sends the photo down to Abby to do some of her Kaf-POW induced magic.

At this time, I would like to withdraw the idea of witness protection.

Aaaannd now Maya and Guzan pere are in the proper Interrogation room, where Guzman admits to Gibbs that he was the driver. Maya denies that this is true. Gibbs shows them a CCTV video of Maya and Genevieve getting out of and back into the Maserati at a convenience store, the night Scott Jenkins was killed, and it's obvious that Maya is the driver. A teary Maya admits they went over to look at the car, which was sitting in the open garage, and take pictures of themselves in it. But when they saw the keys just sitting there they couldn't help but take a ride. She goes on to say that it was foggy that night and they felt something hit the car, but when they got out and searched but they didn't find Jenkins and thought it must have been a deer. Maya cries in her father's arms.

Meanwhile, Abby is pulling Bishop and McGee into the lab, telling them that time's a'wastin'. Turns out Abby noticed (and Gibbs, too, because Gibbs notices everything) that the Bells both have blue eyes but Genevieve has brown. While two people with blue eyes can have a brown-eyed child, but it's extremely generically rare. When she runs the DNA for all three Bells using the toothbrushes they left behind it turns out that Genieve isn't their biological child. So, was she adopted? Nope. The West Virginia birth certificate they gave the school (they have to do that?) was a forgery; Genevieve must have been kidnapped when she was a babt.

Leon is cooking dinner when someone knocks on the front door. It's Mandy, and she's looking for Kayla, who is at the library. When Mandy says that she'll stop by later, Vance tells her not to. You get the feeling that he thinks of Mandy as one of the people who led Kayla astray. Leon shuts the door in her face but opens it again when Mandy pounds on the door. Mandy lets Vance know that she thinks Kayla is a great person, and that Mandy didn't think she could even go to college, but Kayla is doing everything she can to help her make that possible. Kayla cares more about Mandy than Mandy’s father does, she tells Vance.

So, we find out that a familial DNA match has linked Genevieve to Martin Curtis, who is just out of prison. He's the biological father listed on Genevieve’s actual birth certificate, with a Brittany Rudd listed as Genevieve 's mother. She was seventeen when Genevieve was born and died of a drug overdose six months later. Shortly after Brittany’s death the Bells pulled up stakes and headed out of West Virginia, and Genevieve Curtis vanished from the world. But how are the Bells and Genevieve connected? Turns out that Mrs. Bell was Brittany's high school English teacher.

McGee and Abby use the Bluetooth headphones app on Genevieve abandoned cell phone to find out where the Bells are currently hiding (Genevieve took her headphones with her). When Ma Bell recognizes McGee by the front desk she tells her husband and “daughter” they have to run right now so they won’t get caught. But Genevieve says her family can't run anymore, and the Bells let NCIS take them in.

Down in interrogation the Bells tell Gibbs that they watched Genevieve when her mother was out partying or working. Then one day, Brittany didn’t come to pick up her daughter because she had die. They couldn’t adopt her because of Pa Bell’s assault conviction back in the day, and they didn’t want Genevieve to go into foster care, so they just kept her. Ma Bell tearfully asks if they’ll ever see their “daughter” again, but Gibbs isn’t sure. Watching in the Observation Room McGee feels for the couple, and Vance looks thoughtful.

Martin Curtis is brought in to Interrogation Lite to chat with Jack. He knew about Genevieve, knew that Brittany had died, and wasn’t hugely interested in where Genevieve had ended up after that. Until Jack mentions the Bells, and it occurs to Martin that if the Bells have money he could sue them. Maybe not the best idea for this daughter, but Martin thinks it’s the best idea for him. Jackass.

Jack brings Genevieve in to meet Curtis, and her biological father says that she’s bigger then he expected her to be. He tells Genevieve that her mother, Brittany, was the same age Genevieve is now hen he met her, but Genevieve tells him that her mother is in the next room. She asks Curtis to let her go home with her “parents”, the Bells. If he sues the Bells he'd be taking custody of Genevieve, Jack tells him. At which point Curtis immediately loses interest in Genevieve except to tell her that he was the one who named her, then signs the papers giving the Bells custody of Genevieve so fast I think the pen may have caught on fire. At least he wasn’t a jerk to Genevieve.

This magically ends the story of the Bells, who get to go home with their (legal) kid and resume their lives. I guess. Wouldn’t there be charges pending from before Curtis signed the custody papers? Maybe NCIS backdated them so that the Bells never had any problems again and they all live happily ever after (except Martin Curtis, who wouldn’t have said no to a little $$ from the Bells in compensation).

It’s nighttime at Chez Vance, and Leon is telling Kayla the story about Genevieve and how she gets to live with the only parents she's ever known. She's lucky to have parents like that, Kayla says. Vance says he's like he's lucky to have a daughter like Kayla. Awwww! As the two chat it comes out that Mandy has been convicted twice for shoplifting and was a juvenile when she was convicted. Now that she’s eighteen, if Mandy was arrested again she'd be prosecuted as an adult. Kayla is only seventeen, so she'd be tried as a juvenile and would most likely the case would be dismissed if Vance called in a favor or if she just pleaded out and did community service. Kayla took the rap for Mandy so that she could still have a chance to go to college. Vance listens to Kayla as she talks about how she might best use her community service hours and decides that she’d like to work helping in adult literacy classes. She and Vance hug, and he looks at peace.

What I’m Really Trying to Say Is: Snooze. I just wasn’t feeling it. The whole Bells storyline was just kind of tossed in, and I wasn’t really interested in them or what happened to them (once Witness Protection was off the table). I mean, the story was theoretically about the Marine who was killed and who killed him, not why the Bells ran away from home. The story could have been better served by shoring that up and maybe expand on the Vance storyline, which was stronger. It also had a theme in it about crimes you commit as an adult and how that can screw up your life, but it was pretty subtly done. I felt like the age thing kind of boiled down to: commit crimes prior to your eighteenth birthday and it won't mess up your life.

How sad am I that I was thrilled Kayla got arrested, then disappointed that it was all out of loyalty to her friend? Let me share my issues. Ever since their mother was tragically murdered in their home (the one they still live in, BTW), whenever they appeared on-screen Kayla and her brother have basically been cardboard cut-outs of sad who look warily at anything or anyone who approaches them until Daddy tells them it's okay. They also appeared to be completely obedient, like scarily well-trained spaniels.

I really wanted the Vance kids to act out when their mother died, to really experience that loss and the fact that they still lived in that house (I know, I know. But I just can’t let it go.). Vance is very no-nonsense, and I would have liked to see him battle against his own feelings of loss and his stubbornness and his emotionally unraveling family. It didn’t have to be a one-off where the kids were mad and then at the end of the episode they were all happy, but I would have loved to hear that that things were “doing better” when Gibbs asked, maybe talking a bit about some of the normal things that happen when kids experience a loss and how Vance (and maybe a therapist) helps his family get through it. Leon helping his son learn to box to help with his anger is something that comes to mind as something that would have been cool to see. I think the show lost good opportunity by ignoring the long-term ramifications of this sub-plot. I also think that it would have provided Gibbs an opportunity to see how people deal with life-altering grief (as opposed to suppressing it for years until it just seeps mostly away).

OH! P.S.- Ma Bell is played by Gabrielle Carteris, who used to be on 90210. I would have mentioned it earlier, but it means nothing to me and I forgot.


 
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