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NCIS - The Numerical Limit - Review

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NCIS - The Numerical Limit - Review

15.19 - "The Numerical Limit"
Directed by Leslie Libman
Written by David J. North & Steven D. Binder
Reviewed by KathM

Note: This episode finds two agents in potential peril for various and sundry reasons.

The episode opens with two men in a record store being ordered to beat the crap out of each other somewhere in the DC area while a crowd stands around, watching. One overpowers the other and brings him to the ground by beating him with a tire iron. The man who has fallen is then shot and killed by one of the men in the group. The guy with the tire iron is all, “Damn, I’m glad I won”, at which point he is also shot and killed.

That morning at the Navy Yard Bishop is in a snit because the hipster barista at her local coffee shop called her “Ma’m”. She does not consider herself a “Ma’am” and is busy trying to get others in the bull pen to agree that she is too young to be so labeled. Bishop, at least he was polite to you. It’s more than one can expect anymore. She considers this “drama”, which means that for all she’s experienced in her professional life, none of it has devastated her as much as “Ma’am” has. I wish I had her resilience, or cluelessness.

But she has bigger problems than that: Torres says that Abby is looking for her and he thinks that Abby knows that Bishop killed Major Mass Spec last week when the building was overrun with idiot terrorists. She says that it was all Jimmy’s idea, but apparently that isn’t the story that Jimmy is now telling. But Bishop has no fear; Gibbs promised to support the story about the terrorists murdering innocent lab equipment. As Gibbs enters the bull pen and sits down at his desk, he snorts at the idea of lying to Abby about anything. Bishop continues her denial by saying that hey, maybe Abby won’t figure it out. McGee and Torres look at her like she’s crazy, while Gibbs tells everyone to grab their gear because there are two dead bodies waiting somewhere for them.

It’s the guys from the previous night, nicely laid out together with the tire iron. One is the store owner, Jesse Banks, and the military I.D. identifies that other victim as Lance Corporal Oliver Harris, who Bishop tries look up in the NLAV database to no avail. While the others are working McGee finds, to his joy, a vinyl copy of Yummy Chummy Gummy Bunny, a record he often listened to as a child. In addition to said bunny, who lives in a tree house, he also has a band with a carrot drummer and a turnip as the lead singer. Were that this was an actual thing! Alas, I can’t find it anywhere.

Since the bunny doesn’t solve crimes, Gibbs isn’t interested. What does interest him is that Oliver Harris does not appear to be in the database used by NCIS to confirm the identities of military personnel, which means he isn’t in the military. How did he get the I.D., then? Torres finds dozens of blank I.D. cards, and a printer, which explains a lot. An I.D. card will allow the holder access to any military base in the world. Looks like Jesse Banks has a side job going.

It’s not only that, Bishop tells the gang when they’re back in the bull pen: Banks has been arrested in the past for bank fraud and ticket scalping, too. What a guy! FauxOliverHarris is revealed to be Daniel Lucas, who has no attachment to the military but does have ties to the international gang La Vida Mala. They are known for hiring themselves out as hitmen, running drugs and brokering weapons. Lovely. Lucas has tattoo on his stomach linking him to La Vida Mala. Gibbs sends Bishop down to Abby’s lab to see what she’s found out.

One thing Abby hasn’t found out yet is who killed Major Mass Spec. Did anyone else expect Abby to have erected memorial to it, or that she’d at least be wearing black? Before telling Bishop about the research she’s done on the faux I.D. cards, Abby questions her again about the terrorist attack. Bishop maintains that the “bad guys” killed Major Mass Spec (known for this recap/review as MMS), but Abby is confused because when they blew up the power grid there was no other damage to the fuse that MMS was plugged in to. She still hasn’t figured out what happened yet, but she vows that she will. Agent in Peril! I don’t think Bishop can lie to Abby much longer, and even though Abby doesn’t seem as emotionally invested as she usually is of inanimate objects, the “mystery on top of a conundrum wrapped in a riddle” will be solved! Personally, I think they should spin a tale about how, knowing that MMS could help process information that might link them to their attack on the building, the terrorist idiots killed it. Works for me.

Abby has been working on the printer Banks used for his fake I.D.’s; he’s easily printed 500 or so with it and while Abby can’t tell Bishop what I.D.’s he has printed, she can scan the printer ribbon to find out the last I.D. he made. And the lucky fraud is “Marine Sargent Rico Ruiz”, who used his I.D. only minutes ago at the Joint Base Hanover Commissary.

McGee and Reeves are on the case, looking around the Commissary for FauxRuiz. They ask a cashier who couldn’t be less interested and barely makes eyes contact. His focus seems to be on a group of children who keep using the drinks machine to get every drink on offer instead of water, which are what the cups they have are for. He also has issues with the children using straws. A woman standing by two tables filled with children apologizes for the straw thieving, and Cashier shrugs and points out to McGee and Reeves that the woman and children have been there over an hour. Maybe they saw something.

I love the way McGee approaches her and at first calls her “Ma’am”, then quickly changes and calls her “Miss”. I’m not sure which I prefer, but “Miss” just sounds weird. Always. Her name is Kelly and she hasn’t seen FauxRuiz, as she is busy with ten children and only has two eyes. Fair enough. Reeves asks if they can ask the children about the picture, or do they need the parents permission? They learn that the children don’t have parents but are “unaccompanied minors”, refugees from largely Central American countries who ran from their own countries to escape gun violence. They either came on their own or with their parents, who didn’t make it to the US. With so many the children coming in the usual housing facilities are at capacity, so some of them are being housed on the base until their cases are heard. Kelly shows the photo to the children and one whispers to her that he has seen the FauxRuiz, and that he was taking pictures.

Leon wants to know what he was taking pictures of and hopes the McGee can work his magic to tell him. McGee tells Leon and Gibbs that while the boy didn’t know what FauxRuiz was taking pictures of, McGee was able to pick up some of his movements using the base security cameras.

FauxRuiz wandered around for an hour or so before he went to the cafeteria, looking a lot like he was doing recon, which raises some red flags that were already at half-staff with Leon, Gibbs, and McGee. Fortunately, McGee pulls off some of that McGee Magic and manages to get the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) from the cell phone FauxRuiz was using, and which was registered to the deceased Oliver Harris/Lucas in the morgue. And despite FauxRuiz turning off the locator on his phone, McGee can access the “cloud locator” and see the pictures that he took. I have no idea how McGee has done this, which is why McGee gets the big bucks.

At first it just appears that FauxRuiz was taking random pictures, nothing they can link to anything criminal. But as McGee looks for more images it becomes apparent that the subject of the photos is one of the refugee children, a young girl about nine or ten years old. She is La Vida Mala’s real target.

Gibbs and Bishop head over to the children’s overflow refugee shelter, where the children aren’t yet back from school (Bishop is surprised they were in school but hadn’t really thought about what the kids were doing all day) Kelly asks if they want to talk to all the children, or just one. Gibbs spots the girl from the pictures immediately and wanders over to her bunk where’s she unpacking her school bag.

The girl’s name is Elena, and she lays out her markers and paper so that she can draw. She has drawn a picture of a triangle with a heart inside, and turs to a blank page to start something new. Gibbs picks up marker and hands it to Elena, gently asking her questions in Spanish. Kelly is surprised that Elena seems to be talking so comfortably with him, as Elena doesn’t like strangers as a rule. But Kelly does not know Gibbs and his seemingly magical connection to children, particularly children in crisis.

Elena explains that the triangle heart reminds her of her mother, who died on the trip from San Salvador to the US. When authorities found the boat they used to try and get into the country, Elena was clinging to her mother’s body. Kelly says that like most of the children, Elena will most likely be sent back to the country she was fleeing from.

Gibbs shows her the photo of FauxRuiz, but she says she doesn’t recognize him. They tell Kelly that while they don’t have any further questions for her now, guards will be posted outside the doors of the shelter until they figure out what La Vida Mala wants with Elena. Well, that isn’t going to work, because Kelly tells them that Elena is scheduled to be moved tomorrow to a shelter in North Dakota, nearer to where her court case is will be taking place. Gibbs is not having that.

In the bull pen McGee and Torres are trying to figure out why Lucas had an I.D. card. Torres thinks that they need to search his house, but McGee isn’t sure how to find it since the address Lucas gave the DMV is fake. I’m sorry, but McGee sucked pictures from Lucas’s phone that FauxRuiz was using basically from think air. I’m thinking that he’s being modest and has something up his sleeve.

Gibbs, Bishop, and Elena arrive at the bull pen. Since Elena might be a witness to something, or at least appears to be the subject of a violent gang’s obsession, Gibbs has put Elena in protective custody until they get things sorted out. When Bishop mentions that Elena doesn’t speak English Torres steps up and tells them that he will be her translator since he speaks her native language. His attempt to communicate with Elena, though, only results in her asking Bishop why Torres’ shirt is so tight. Love. Her.

Bishop takes Elena off to eat as Gibbs gets back to work. McGee has confirmed with Metro’s Gang Division that Lucas has been seen with La Vida Mala gang members and particularly with Javier Martinez, the gang leader of the East Coast branch (La Vida Mala is huge, with over 10,000 members in 15 states). Martinez is known to have killed 20 people, but since nobody will testify against him he can’t be convicted. But Vance thinks they have bigger problems than Martinez right now; the Commendant of Hanover just contacted him to say that when FauxRuiz left the base, so did three crates of rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Interesting coincidence, that.

Meanwhile, in Autopsy, Jimmy is chatting to Banks about the history of US immigration policies when suddenly Ducky appears on a video screen at the foot of the table. Apparently Kasie set up a link between the autopsy room and Ducky’s office in New York, so Ducky can appear in the building whenever he likes. Um, joy? Maybe not for Jimmy.

I’m all about ScreenDucky and think that his is how he will live on. You’ll just be able to either begin talking about a topic or ask him about something and he’ll just start going on. Ducky will never truly leave us.

Jimmy is glad for the company and wanted someone to bounce ideas off, anyway. After mentioning that Banks and Lucas both seem to have similar abrasions to their hands (which means they beat each other up), but what is really confusing him is that Lucas’s gums have receded almost to the point of non-existence, and his teeth are transparent. Pardon? Not only are they transparent, they seem to have no interest in being attached to his mouth. Ducky is fascinated and may have to ask Kasie whether he’s allowed to clear his schedule for the day, so he can investigate it.

Bishop and Elena are in Gibbs’s basement (of all places), and she is talking to McGee on the phone. The highlights of the evening were Elena eating many cheeseburgers and watching Gibbs make a bed. Domestic!Gibbs would freak me out, too. I mean, Gibbs cooking a steak and putting fire in the fireplace and drinking beer is one thing, but Gibbs doing general housework seems strange to me. Laundry maybe, but vacuuming? Tidying up and scrubbing the toilet? I wonder if he has a House Elf. Elena starts messing with the woodworking tools that Gibbs has laying about to work on his boat. Bishop tells her to leave them alone, but Gibbs is okay with it. Seem that Elena knows how to handle the tools. While Bishop fills Gibbs in on the latest from Hanover (they report a lot more missing weapons aside from the RPGs), Elena takes a music box out of her backpack and begins to mess with it gently using one of Gibbs’s tools. Once Bishop has left for the evening (Gibbs says that he doesn’t need anyone to help him watch over Elena) he goes over to Elena and says that he’ll take over his wood project because she isn’t strong enough. “Yes, I am.” Elena tells him. Looks like she has suddenly been gifted with the English language!

How did Gibbs know? Because of how her eyes bulged out when Bishop mentioned getting hamburgers for dinner. If she didn’t speak or understand English, then she wouldn’t have reacted that way. She tells him that despite never going to school (which she now loves), her mother was able to teach her English. She also tells Gibbs that she learned how to use some woodworking equipment from her father, who was a carpenter and died years ago. He made the music box for Elena, but it stopped working and she thought she could see if she could fix it with Gibbs’ tools. Gibbs agrees to look at it and Elena hands it to him. She also wants to know how long she’ll be staying with Gibbs, and he smirks and asks if she’s got someplace she has to be. He likes having her around.

McGee and Palmer call with a breakthrough; seems that Lucas overbleached his teeth, and eventually they became transparent. The type of bleach he used is only available from a mail-order company, who McGee convinced to give him the address where the orders were delivered. They now have an address for Lucas. I told you McGee (along with Abby and Jimmy) could pull it off!
The next morning Torres and Reeves go to Lucas’s house to check it out. The place looks abandoned despite the fresh tire tracks. They enter the house cautiously; inside the walls are practically vibrating with loud music. Torres is looking around what must be the living room when suddenly Reeves literally falls through a wall, fighting with someone I’ll call Houseguest. Torres checks in to see whether Reeves is okay fighting with the guy (along the lines of, “You okay, Bro?”), and Reeves sarcastically assures him that he’s fine before Houseguest hurls Reeves into another wall. While the continue to struggle Torres puts his gun away, then picks up a large piece of wood and knocks Houseguest unconscious with it just as he pulls a knife on Reeves. Torres is kidding Reeves a bit about being “just fine” after he checks Houseguest’s pulse to make sure he’s alive, then looks up to see a body neatly wrapped in plastic inside the wall that Reeves was knocked into. They pull back the paneling and find two more bodies wrapped up the same way.

Because of what Reeves and Torres found in Lucas’s house, Gibbs has invited Javier Martinez over for a visit to Interrogation. McGee is watching from the Observation Room and Sloane joins him, wanting to see the crime scene photos. The guy Torres hit isn’t talking (but apparently can still talk, so that’s good), but his cell phone shows numerous texts to Martinez. Gibbs has questions about that.

Martinez starts the interview as many criminals do, telling Gibbs how much he appreciates law enforcement and the job they do. Gibbs just smiles to himself and gives Martinez the option of either talking about the three bodies the found at his “stash house” OR the two they found in the record store. When Martinez jokes about how nobody buys records anymore, calm and acting a bit confused by the whole thing, Gibbs rolls out pictures of the RPG’s and mentions a ten-year-old child. Martinez reiterates that he’s a simple man who knows nothing about dead bodies or RPG’s or ten-year-old girls. Ooops! Gibbs never said it was a girl.

Now Martinez get weird and begins stripping for Gibbs. He gets all menacing and pulls up his sleeves and then unbuttons his shirt. He’s sporting tattoos the say things like “Kill Pigs” and “La Vida Mala”. He goes on talking about his distain for people like Gibbs, who had two parents and enough to eat. He grew up in a world where you either eat or get eaten, and he’s gonna eat. He tells Gibbs that he has no idea what La Vida Mala is capable of, and that anyone who gets in their way, even a ten-year-old girl, is gonna pay.

Okay, did anyone get a kind of Manson vibe from him? The tattoos and a crazy glimmer in his eye and all.

Martinez tells Gibbs to arrest him if he has anything on him, which Gibbs does not. And they never will, Martinez tells him. In Observation Sloane asks McGee what he thinks La Vida Mala is planning, and how Elena fits in. McGee doesn’t know and says that Elena would have told them if she did. But maybe she knows something without realizing she does , Sloane tells him.
The next logical step is for Sloane to take Elena up to her office and play virtual soccer. Or something. I don’t know. Although they’re having fun, Elena is perceptive enough to know that Sloane wants something from her. Again, I like this kid. Elena sees the lollipop and grabs three, but Sloane tells her she can only have one. Elena chooses a red lollipop.

She goes on to tell Sloane that she told Gibbs everything she knows, which isn’t much. Sloane asks Elena if she’s heard anyone from La Vida Mala talking about attacks or weapons and she shakes her head. However, she does know them from when they used to visit her village. Her mother used to tell her that the men brought guns and death and cavidades.

After a chatting some more with Elena, Sloane says she thinks she’s figured it out. She thinks they were selling the guns in places like San Salvador and smuggling them in to various countries in ice cream trucks. You heard me. It seems that every month a large truck filled with ice cream came to Elena’s village and they’d give it away free to all the children. Once the truck left there would be more violence in the area. Elena was too young at the time to put it all together, but her mother wasn’t. That is one reason she tried to get Elena out of the country. The smugglers seem to have partnered with the oddly-named Moochie’s Creamery, which is conveniently located not too far away in Delaware and has a warehouse near where the weapons were stolen. “Rule 39: no coincidences.” Torres remarks as he makes his way back to his desk. Bishop is surprised that Torres has memorized all of the rules because he though it was mandatory. Which many of them should be, but not all. It’s nice to hear a Rule again, though It seems like it’s been too long.

But as Team Gibbs is heading out to the warehouse an alarm goes off on McGee’s cell phone goes off, telling him that the motion sensor he installed on Gibb’s front door has been triggered and someone may be trying to get in.

“My what on my what?” Gibbs asks suspiciously. It seems that, without asking Gibbs, McGee decided to put up a small motion sensor on his house without asking him. You now, what with Elena being there and all. Agent in Peril! Surely there’s a rule about touching Gibbs’ stuff, right? Let’s check with Torres. Gibbs sends Bishop and Reeves to the ice cream company and takes Torres and “Peeping Tim” along with him to his house. Oh, what a car ride it will no doubt be.

The three of them arrive at Casa Gibbs but can’t find anything wrong except that Elena’s music box is on the floor in the basement. He has Torres bag it as McGee tells them that a neighbor (“the one you like”) identified FauxRuiz from the photo. He’s been watching them to get to Elena. But before they can act on anything, Bishop calls McGee to tell him that they have found and secured the missing weapons.

There is a Moochie’s truck in the NCIS garage, and Abby needs help because she can’t stop eating the Rocky Road. She gives it to Bishop and proceeds to explain how the smugglers hid the weapons. It was simple, really; they just took the weapons apart and hid them in dry ice. Once they had given all the ice cream away they just had to turn off the air conditioning in the truck and the weapons would magically appear. I seem to be talking about magic a lot today, don’t I? Anyway, Bishop notices something on the evidence table and asks Abby what it is. Well, it’s her lab door keypad, which is the source of the power surge that killed Major Mass Spec. Soon, she tells Bishop and McGee, they will know who its murder is. Bishop = Agent in a Quandary.

They move back to talking about the evidence, and Abby says that while La Vida Mala has a ton of potential firepower, none of it actually works. Someone has snipped the spring coils, so they won’t fire, and have been rendered largely decorative. And who is the saboteur? Surprisingly, it’s FauxRuiz. Abby confirms that along with the RPG’s, every weapon has been disabled by him.

Sloane and Elena come into the bull pen, hoping someone is up for burgers. They seem to be Elena’s favorite and she can’t get enough. As they are talking about getting her back to Gibbs’ to feed her and get her to bed, Elena sees the pictures of FauxRuiz and stares at it. She thinks she recognizes him from back home; he’s the Ice Cream man from her village. She recalls that he had long hair when she knew him: he made her cry and she ran away and hid. That’s all she remembers. Wait a minute, didn’t she already look at a picture of him at the shelter? Gibbs takes her back to his place, where she is stuffed with burgers and puts her to bed.

Sloane arrives later, bearing ice cream company shipping records and burgers. However, the remnants of an earlier burger party are on Gibbs’s coffee table, he’s into his second while Elena managed four. I foresee a possible career for Elena as one of those professional food contest eating people, which ick. I do not approve. She is completely conked out upstairs and practically falling off the bed, so Gibbs gently covers her up. Sloane tries to get him to talk about the feelings he has about having another little girl in Kelly’s room, but he just stares at her blankly. He won’t give up that easily. His girls are wrapped too tightly around his heart in a very private place.

Sloane and Bishop have gone through the ice cream company’s files; they’ve never had a Rico Ruiz driving for them, and none of them recognized his picture. Another dead end, it seems. Elena wakes and agrees that FauxRuiz won’t leave until he “punishes” her for what she did. Elena blames herself for her mother’s death, because she gave Elena the last life jacked instead of using it herself and just holding on to Elena and hoping for the best. Gibbs and Sloane explain that it isn’t her fault at all, that parents protect their children and that is what her mother was doing. Gibbs promises that he’ll keep her safe, and the he and Sloane won’t let anything happen to her. Elena figures this is a good time to ask for hamburgers for breakfast, which is just fine because Sloane just hauled in a few new bags. As he and Sloane get ready to leave the room he glances at the window and notices that the latch on the bedroom window is unlocked.

Poor Jimmy! ScreenDucky is going strong, telling story after story and contradicting everything Jimmy tells McGee about the autopsies he’s performed on the men Torres and Reeves found in the walls at Lucas' house. Since yesterday when Jimmy asked him a simple question, colleague to colleague, Ducky had decided to buckle down and immerse himself in the case. Like a guest who won’t leave, Jimmy murmurs. Then, much to my delight and horror, Jimmy pulls the plug on ScreenDucky, disconnecting him entirely just so Jimmy can get a word in and do his job. Wow. But Jimmy continues with business as usual, showing McGee something that looks something like the spring coils that were missing from the disabled RPGs. It looks like they were trying to replace the broken coils with something else to keep the weapons viable when the men blew themselves up. McGee doesn’t get it; why disable something and then try and fix it? These are important points to ponder, but Gibbs has called him and Torres to his place ASAP.

FauxRuiz slips through the unlatched window into the room where Elena is mean to be sleeping. He pulls the blanket away from her face and finds only a USMC sweatshirt. Gibbs, McGee, and Torres block all the ways he could get out of the room, trapping him. FauxRuiz wants to know where Elena is, and Torres tells him that she’s in a place safe from him. He won’t be able to find her or hurt her. But why would I hurt her? FauxRuiz asks? “She’s my daughter!”

Okay, I’ve lost a lot of interest. Seems that FauxRuiz (who may be called Ruiz, but I don’t think they ever mention his actual surname) isn’t a terrorist or a member of any gang. He’s a carpenter, he tells Gibbs as the two of them talk in Interrogation. He came to the U.S. work and send money to Elena, so she and her mother could live in a safe place. Then no place was safe anymore. He bought the I.D. so he could get on the base and get Elena out before she was deported or moved. He couldn’t go to Immigration to fill out paperwork because he was illegal, too. But he did work with La Vida Mala. They got him on to the base and in turn he drove a truck for them. He picked it up in DC and drove it to Virginia. Yes, he knew it was full of weapons, but he went in and disabled them, so they couldn’t hurt anyone.

When Javier found out what he’d done, he killed the men who’d vouched for him (Banks and Lucas), then put a hit out on FauxRuiz and Elena. So, wait, this guy might have something on Javier?

McGee and Gibbs find Martinez in a church, where he and a small group of people are burying one of their own. Or maybe someone Martinez killed, I’m not sure. Martinez taunts Gibbs and McGee about how nobody is going to testify against him, so NCIS and all the other law enforcement agencies just shove….oh wait, who’s that at the end of the aisle? It’s FauxRuiz, who is more than happy to testify against him. And to make sure that everyone in the church knows that he will be testifying, so they can all try to kill him and gain favor with La Vida Mala. Because why would you bring your ONLY witness against a criminal NOBODY else will testify against to where you’re going to arrest them??? Gibbs, how much sleep have you had, my friend?

So, we come to the end of the episode. The team is in the bull pen with Elena, waiting for her to meet (or reunite with, whatever) her father. Gibbs gives her back her music box, which now runs perfectly. Just needed a little oil. Love you, Gibbs. Can you imagine what a great grandpa he’d be? Anyway, Elena is introduced to a man she doesn’t know, who she is told is her father. She’s apprehensive, as well she should be. He shows her a picture of her with her mother and himself, and the tattoo he got for their family: it’s a triangle (one side for each of them) with a heart in the middle. Okay, that’s sweet. She then takes out the music box and he begins to sing along with the song. The crying and running away from the man she remembered (her dad) was because he was leaving to look for work, not anything horrid. They embrace.

As Elena embraces her father, we are left with the gaping hole that is their lives going forward. Both she and her father are illegal: he has a criminal past but will also be testifying in a high-profile case. What will happen after that? Leon thinks it’s complicated, and Gibbs wonders “What happens now?”

What I’m Really Trying to Say Is: This episode filled me with blah. Well okay, maybe not blah. I was hoping for more action given the whole dark and evil La Vida Mala, but the episode was dark is a different way. The ambiguity at the end kills me. The refugee situation is a huge issue right now, and my thoughts about the end of this episode aren’t exactly joyful. I think that Elena’s father will live about 10-15 minutes in prison (he’ll be there for his own crimes while he’s waiting to testify against Martinez) before someone in or around La Vida Mala kills him. They will then send Elena back, even though she has nowhere to go there. And if they do convict Martinez, I don’t know that anywhere would be safe for them to live, in the US or San Salvador. I am a pessimist, on that you can rely.

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