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NCIS - Sight Unseen - Review

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15.20 - "Sight Unseen"
Directed by - Bethany Rooney
Written by Brendan Fehily
Reviewed by KathM

It’s the 350th episode of NCIS! And Sheriff Greg Pearson roaring down a country road in middle of the night, sirens screaming as he shouts to his dispatcher over the radio that he’s in pursuit of a drunk driver. An unwilling passenger is Petty Officer Thomas Billings, who Pearson is escorting to jail on an assault charge. I didn’t think you were supposed to do that. It seems like a recipe for danger to me, and it turns out that the dispatcher agrees. Don’t chase them, they say. I can handle it, Pearson tells them, nearly taking out a campsite as he loses control of the car and plows into a lake. Three people witness the crash; a brother and sister whose campsite was nearly obliterated and a guy in a boat. Pearson manages to get out of the car and makes his way to the boat, but Billings still seems trapped in the car. The female camper tries to jump into the lake to try and rescue him, but her brother holds her back.

In the bullpen, Jimmy is giving clothes his daughter Victoria has grown out of to McGee for Morgan. The clothes look kinda big; who knew cherubs grew up so fast? Television, that’s who. Jack and Morgan could be teenagers by the time the show comes back in the fall, who knows? Bishop is on the phone chatting with Thomas Buckner, a bully from back home who tormented her and is now a grown-up Navy man and somewhat repentant for his past actions (see “Skeleton Crew”). He seemed like a tool in the episode, and I have no idea why she’d even talk to him. As long as they don’t end up dating, I’ll be okay. Torres is disappointed that it’s Bruckner’s last day in port, as the boys had bonded and promised to get together and paint the town red. But Bruckner never called; instead, he went out and had dinner and drinks with Bishop. Which he paid for. That made it seem like a date, which Bishop half-heartedly denies. It’s hard to tell who is trying to hide their emotions more about the potential date; Torres or me. But no matter – Gibbs herds everyone off to a new crime scene and Bruckner is hopefully forgotten and never mentioned again.

As the crew questions those involved in the early-morning lake debacle, Torres draws Annie Barth, who was camping with her brother and was nearly run over by Pearson’s horrifying driving. He asks her about the guy in the boat, who they have yet to find. Did Annie get a good look at him? No, Annie says, she’s blind. Torres immediately tries not to be all awkward about it and is making things worse by apologizing as Annie wryly reminds him that blind people can be startlingly like those who can see. She can swim (that’s why she wanted to go in after Billings) and cut their meat and everything. Torres slinks away, and it’s really for the best.

As the police car is pulled out of the water we find that Billings body isn’t there. Where is it?

At the bull pen Torres is still kinda whiny about Bruckner not calling him when he was in port. I thought we’d agreed to stop talking about him, Nick. The sooner we stop talking about him, the sooner he will fade from our memories. The gang goes over Billings’ background details and split up to find out more about him: Bishop will question his C.O., Torres will search his apartment, Abby will no doubt process things, and McGee will go with Reeves to talk to Billings’ fiancĂ©e, Louise Cabrisio.
Enter Sheriff Pearson, who is there to answer additional questions. He is anything but helpful: no, he didn’t know the guy in the boat; no, he didn’t get the plate number of the driver he was supposedly chasing; no, he has no idea about who this Randall Peters Billings was trying to talk to Pearson about is. The guy that Billings beat up was called Nordstrom, that’s all he knows. Gibbs and McGee say they’ll check Nordstrom out.

Before he heads off, Reeves stops by Abby’s office to give her Billings’ phone, which they found in the lake. She’s going to try and get it to work and Reeves is being kind of cluelessly flirty. Abby is maybe flirty back? I can’t tell if she’s just teasing him to get him to ask her out or enjoys taunting him. Before Reeves leaves Abby presents him with a small box of things for children for a charity drive Reeves seems to be working with. Besides some scary goth clothes, she presents him with Winifred, Abby’s favorite cuddle toy when she was a child. Winifred is an ordinary doll that Abby appeared to use paint and clever costuming to reimagine her into a Creepy Doll/Clown hybrid, and Reeves is visibly freaked out. He may not be able to handle the coffin, after all.

Bishop is talking with Billings’ C.O., who shows her the warrant that was issued for Billings for felony assault. C.O. goes on to say that Billings was a crap sailor, always late, out of uniform, and basically unable to assimilate into Navy life. When the Sheriff picked him up Billings said he didn’t do anything, but C.O. isn’t buying it. Also, they’ve had some things stolen from the Armory; no actual weapons and bullets, but things like flare guns and smoke grenades. They were going to call NCIS about Billings, who was their top suspect, but now that he’s been arrested Billings is now no longer the Navy’s problem.

Louise Cabrisio can be found in her father’s pharmacy in Hastings, Virginia. McGee and Reeves ask Dad Cabrisio if they can talk to Louise as Billings, who they say have been in an “accident”. When Louise comes out from the back room in tears her dad comforts her, assuming that she knows the news already. But that’s not why she’s sad; Billings broke up with her. On the phone. Moments ago. He told her the he was in his apartment, and McGee calls Torres to let him know.

At Billings’ apartment Billings is packing a few things in his apartment (like his gun) and is reaching up in one of the lights over his bed when Torres arrives. Torres enters the apartment but he’s too late, Billings is gone. Torres follows Billings’ footprints to the light over his bed. He unscrews the bulb and roots around in the ceiling, and suddenly money comes raining down on him.

While Leon, Gibbs, and Torres are talking over the case (which basically consists of needing to find loads of people they can’t find and trying to figure out where Billings got the $26,460 he had in his ceiling), Bishop comes in to tell them that Annie Barth called and has some information about the case. Torres says that he interviewed her at the lake and doesn’t have any information because she’s blind. Leon does not look favorably upon this statement, and Gibbs sends Torres over to Annie to see what she knows.

Abby is finally gets Billings’ phone to work, but it’s password locked. Grumble.

Torres arrives at Annie’s, where she’s in the process of hanging a picture. She has “Harlan”, who seems to be a voice-activated device, light up the apartment at her command so that Torres can see what’s going on. While Annie hangs up her braille map of the U.S. (very cool) Torres looks around and finds out that she’s a lawyer. He’s impressed, and kind of embarrassed about it. Annie says that she does have information about the case, but he needs to come on a “field trip” with her to understand it.

Sloane is going to have a talk with Louise in Interrogation Lite, where the conversation is usually easy and non-confrontational. Louise, however, has brought along an attorney/family friend, Webber Silk, at Daddy’s insistence. Webber forgets the “Special” in Sloane’s title and hands her his business card upside down. She declines to take it, and I’m thinking he will not be getting any lollipops. Her questions for Louise, posed gently, are general; have you heard from Billings since yesterday’s call, what did he say when he spoke to her, etc. She mentions the money and Louise and lawyer friend seem stunned. Louise says that she’s never seen Billings with more than $25 at a time, much less over $25,000.

When Sloane mentions Randall Peters and Louise says that he is Billings’ business partner. What kind of business? She has no idea. When Sloane asks Louise if she knows how to reach Peters, Silk the Family Friend/Lawyer accuses her of badgering “the witness”, then sustains the conversation. I’m sorry, what? Even my dog knows that makes no sense. Louise tells him that she’s happy to continue but has no information about Peters or how to reach him. All she knows for sure is that Billings had meetings with Peters scheduled on his online calendar. He did tell Louise that the next meeting that he was having was their last but has no idea why. Louise, you’re sweet but not interested enough in the world around you to be useful. Okay, Sloane wonders if Louise happens to know the password to Billings’ phone. Webber objects, Sloane gets exasperated with him, and Louise gives Sloane what she thinks is Billings’ phone password.

Which is wrong. Abby and Reeves are in her lab trying to come up with the password for Billings’ phone. They only have 10 chances before it locks and erases everything, and they’ve tried eight. They’ve gone though all the normal, stupid things people often use (birthdays, part of his SSN, an anniversary), so they don’t have many more options left. Sloane arrives with the password Louise gives them but it’s wrong, too. A pop-up calendar reminder appears, letting the group know that Billings has a meeting with Peters that night at 6:30 pm. But where? Only the phone knows, and they only have one more chance to open the phone.

Torres and Annie arrive back at the lake. On the drive Torres learns that Annie has Rod-Cone Dystrophy, a degenerative disease she inherited from her mother. She can see some shades and shadows and some light and dark. She and Torres talk for a bit as they walk towards the campsite, and he’s all awkward again, but Annie has him close his eyes and listen to see what he can hear. He’s kind of getting into it, listening to a duck landing on the lake and birds chirping. He hears a car go by and Annie explains that every time a car goes by you hear a “th-thunk” noise, which Torres thinks is a grate or something on the road as they drove in. On the morning of the accident, Annie only hears one “th-thunk”, the idiots Sheriff’s dive into the lake. Where was the car he was pursuing?

Bishop and Gibbs are questioning Pearson again, who is furious that they might believe “Helen Keller” over him. No, nobody saw the car because it was early. Annie didn’t hear the "th-thunk" because she was distracted (what with him nearly running her over and all). He tries to paint himself as the victim, but Gibbs reminds him that Billings is the victim. Pearson rants that Billings is alive, and he doesn’t owe Gibbs any explanations. Which is wrong, because everyone owes Gibbs whatever he wants at any given time. Pearson asks whether he needs a lawyer, and Gibbs parrots the question back to him. Then someone shoots though the windows of the Sheriff’s Office and kills Pearson, so the answer is no.

Bishop is back in the bull pen, a little shocky from being mere feet from someone shot and killed. Gibbs is Gibbs,though, and checks in with Palmer down in Autopsy. Pearson was shot through the heart, and Jimmy finds a bullet that does not match Billings’ Glock. Gibbs thinks that he might have another weapon. Jimmy says that Pearson has a dark substance on his pants, which he sent up to Abby for analysis.

Sloane is giving Interrogation Lite a try again, this time with Nordstrom, the man who was reportedly beaten by Billings. He’s all impressed that he found a drill bit that let him drill through the tooth Billings knocked out of his mouth, so he can wear it on a string as a lucky charm. Then he wants to smoke, but he can’t because it's not allowed in the building. He tries to persuade Sloane to open a window, but she pretends not to hear him. Nordstrom is kind of vague about the attack and can’t identify Billings from a photo array. Sloane adds up the complaints of excessive force against Pearson and the number of possession arrests Nordstrom has and comes up with the idea that Pearson said he’s let Nordstrom off his most recent arrest if he let Pearson beat him up, then claim it was Billings. Through a series of nods Nordstrom agrees, then asks if he can have a smoke. Stay away from Interrogation Lite for a few days, Sloane.

Bishop is laying it all down in the bull pen. Pearson falsified a warrant to arrest Billings, then cuffs Billings in the back of his police car and crashes it into the water, hoping he’ll die. There was no drunk driver, which I pretty much knew because they didn’t show one at the beginning of the show. But how to these guys know each other? More importantly, why do they know each other?

Abby figures out that the substance on the Sherriff’s pants is red phosphorous, which you can find in flare guns and smoke grenades. Oh, and meth. Which, you know, might start to make some things become clearer. Like a motive?

Abby is still struggling with Billing’s phone. She has one more chance to get in before all of the information is erased. In a stroke of Abby brilliance, she uses Billings’ thumb print (it’s on file), some hot wax, and Palmer’s thumb to get them into his phone. Yes, Abby! I love it when you do something out of the box and save the day with your wily Sciuto ways.

They now have Peters’s address, which ends up being the warehouse where he and Billings are cooking the meth. You remember Peters, right? He’s Billings’ partner. Or not. Come to find that Randall Peters is a code name for Red Phosphorous, which is Billings’ contribution to the meth operation.

Billings meets Louise in a skanky warehouse and tells her that he’s no good for her. Duh. And he’s trying to protect her from everything. The warehouse smells like bleach, and Louise is freaking out. Billings tells her that only yesterday the skanky warehouse as a skanky meth lab, and he was in the process of destroying all of the evidence with the bleach. Reeves and McGee arrest Billings, and Louise is confused and freaking out. I hope her dad’s pharmacy carries tranquilizers.

Bishop and McGee chat with Billings about RP. They’ve figured out that Pearson was the muscle in the operation, and that Billings supplied the RP. But they can both tell he’d not a cooker, and meth needs more than RP to create meth. But where could all the other ingredients come from? Well, you could possibly get them at Costco. Or Target? Maybe Home Depot, but I’m not completely sure what they carry because nobody is ever available to help me find anything. Definitely not Ikea. But why make it complicated? You can get all of the rest of the ingredients at a PHARMACY. Huh. I wonder whether any of our characters this week has anything to do with a pharmacy?

That would be Cabrisio; not Louise, her daddy. McGee and Bishop figure that when Billings tells Pearson (the distributor) and Cabrisio (the chef) that he can’t get any more red phosphorous for them, he’s suddenly being driven to his potential death in the back of Pearson’s car. Gibbs and Reeves are sharing their theory when Webber Silk, Attorney at Law (does anyone think he passed the bar, or that be even knows what the bar is?). He wants to know what’s going on and advises Cabrisio not to talk. Gibbs asks Cabrisio if he likes to fish, and he admits that he does. The gang thinks that the ubiquitous person in the boat the night of the accident might also be involved, and that the man in the boat was Cabrisio.

Torres and Gibbs invite Annie in for a “hear-up”, similar to a lineup but with voices. They want to see if she recognizes any one of four-people saying, “Hey, are you alright?”, which is what the person in the boat called out before Pearson got out of his car and swam over to them. Our voices are McGee, Jimmy, Leon and Cabrisio. Sloane runs the hear-up, which ends up failing because Annie didn’t recognize any of the voices. Torres takes her home and Silk (who was also in the Observation room), asks if he can take his client home because he obviously isn’t guilty. Gibbs says he can go, for now. As Silk and Cabrisio prepare to leave Interrogation, Sloane wonders how they’re going to get Cabrisio to confess or find some way to prove him guilty. Gibbs smiles and Sloane realizes that he has a plan.

Torres continues to learn interesting things about Annie as he escorts her home. Did you know that she works with Congress to help draft bills? And she that she’s held on to a lot of biceps, but his are “more than decent”. Now you’re talking Torres, Annie. You flirt, girl! She offers him coffee, but he declines, and Annie gives him a firm, “Okay , sorry I couldn’t help. Guess my work here is done.” kinda thing. Annie, we barely knew you.

Poor Louise. First her boyfriend is a crap Navy man and meth ingredient supplier, then her dad admits to her that he’s totally involved and cooks meth because he’s tired of living a small life in a small town and being poor. She can’t believe it, but that’s okay because she’s wearing a wire so Gibbs and Co. can get the whole story. One thing Daddy Cabrisio was particularly worried about was that Billings would “rat the three of them out”. Which three? Daddy and Pearson are two, and Billings can’t really betray himself so there must be another player.

That would be Silk, which was obvious since he’s the only other character of note in the episode that we see more than once. He goes over to Annie’s house and tries to kill her, but she has Herman (her computer house management thing) turn off all the lights to give her an advantage. Can’t it call 911 for her? Unfortunately, Silk has the light from his cell phone to guide him, and he locates Annie. She has the coffee she made earlier to throw at him, but that only pisses him off more and he tries to strangle her. Fortunately, Torres changed his mind about the coffee; he returns just in time to take on Silk and knock him out.

The case is solved and our witness is okay!

McGee and Bishop arrive to dine at the diner. I didn’t think people could go there without Gibbs, but apparently I’m wrong. They begin to chat about the case when suddenly Torres enters, Annie on his arm. The case is over, he saved her and now Annie is repaying him with breakfast. Awww! Torres introduces her to Bishop and McGee, and Bishop asks them to join them. Annie’s up for it but Torres would rather they find their own booth, which he quickly secures. It’s the most private booth he can find, and as he leads Annie away McGee mentions that he thinks that Torres wants to be alone with Annie. Bishop suddenly comes over all, “Really”? and keeps looking at the duo a few booths down. Torres and Annie are chatting away and laughing, and Bishop is wondering if it’s a date. Hummm…

What I’m Really Trying to Say Is: It was okay. I thought the main story was a little weak and was more interested in the side story about the witness instead. I loved Marilee Talkington, the actor who played Annie and who also happens to be legally blind. I’d like to see her again, I find her a compelling character and perhaps someone Torres could get together with.

So, we’re down to two more episodes of the season, the last two with Abby. How is everyone feeling about that?

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