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NCIS - Silent Service - Review

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16.7 - "Silent Service”
Written by Scott J. Jarrett and Matthew R. Jarrett
Directed by Rocky Carroll
Reviewed by KathM

A Navy SEAL (White) is dead following a routine training exercise on the nuclear submarine Memphis, and Gibbs grabs Bishop to check it out. Palmer comes along to study the body before whisking it off to the Navy Yard. Lucky Jimmy, lucky White. Yes, even though he’d dead. Oh, and Jimmy? It was wrong of you to refer to the sub as a “giant underwater coffin” in front of Ellie, particularly given her recent unfortunate underwater experience. I wonder if Gibbs specifically chose her to come along to help her get over it.

The crew could not be less helpful, they're closed-mouthed and keeping their thoughts close to the vest. Every time they see Gibbs or Ellie or one of them asks a question they’re immediately defensive and scurry away as quick as they can. Why the secrecy? Maybe the captain will be of help.

No, not really. He’s surprised that they’re still on the rapidly diving submarine (official orders) and would like to know why they haven’t solved the murder yet. Oh, and they should get off his deck before he launches them out of a torpedo tube. Yeah, Gibbs is not feeling that attitude at all, but they do their best to carry on with the investigation despite the fact that nobody but he and Ellie want to know who killed this guy. I understand that emotions are running high, but can’t these people multitask?

Back on land, the Undersecretary of the Navy calls Leon while he’s writing a “lame” goodbye speech for Ducky to let him know that the US government has lost touch with the nuclear sub that Gibbs and Bishop are on. Worse yet, the sub is getting instructions from someone other than the US government. Like dive and head over to Russia and maintain radio silence, stuff like that. This is not good. The remaining gang at the Navy Yard are trying to figure out what’s going on and how to help get things back on course. Leon is able to get the sub’s last trajectories so that Kasie can try to figure out where the signal being sent to sub is coming from. She and McGee discover the signal from the person sending instructions to the Memphis is on land, and the only way to disable the signal is to find the location and disable it there. Also, someone is also helping on the sub itself, or the device that is sending the directions wouldn’t be able to get through.

Kasie initially traces the signal to a storage shed in rural West Virginia, and McGee and Torres arrive just in time for the Fire Chief to tell them that the storage unit has been deliberately set on fire and burned to the ground. Great. Fortunately for everyone, the guy who rented the unit was stupid enough to use his own name. Walter Miller, a former computer teacher who kind of dropped off the grid several years ago. Sloane reviews an old blog Miller created where he discusses how the US should strike before they’re struck. So, yeah. Bad idea for him to be controlling a nuclear submarine with a friend helping him on the inside.

Once they find Miller in his compound (I won’t say he’s living off the grid because you doesn’t have so many antennas when you're trying to be stealthy) it’s fairly easy to subdue him, but now Tim and Torres have to get the sub to stand down before they start blowing up the Russian Navy. But the message has to be sent in a very specific format or the sub won’t follow the order. For the first time in a long time Tim has no idea how to do that, so what does he do? He calls up a friend who is making a game that includes submarines and can send the message in the correct format. With literally seconds to go, the captain stops the weapons launch and the Navy doesn’t fire on the sub. Oh, did I forget the part where the Department of the Navy was going to blow up the sub so that it couldn’t start a war with Russia? A sound idea, but I’m glad everyone is safe, and that Hardy is locked up.

Despite the stress down under, and the overall lack of help from the crew, it was surprisingly easy to figure out the villain. Initially I thought it might be multi-crew conspiracy involving the captain, the COB, White, and Hardy, but in the end, there can be only one. Aside from the fact that he was doing things he shouldn’t, Hardy also looks the most like a WWII-era Nazi. I may have watched too many WWII movies, but I call 'em like I see 'em. And I was right. He seemed even more scary-crazy than the guy who was sending the messages controlling the sub, which is saying a lot.

Hardy is hinky from the get-go: he’s telling Gibbs that they have new orders to get ready to prepare their defenses, he’s doing weird things in the wiring in the kitchen. Even Ross, the COB (Captain of the Boat) is having White look into what Hardy was doing by reading a manual showing what each wire and switch does in the kitchen because Hardy was caught randomly snooping around in the kitchen, taking panels out and messing with the wires! What does the kitchen have to do with weaponry? Ross may defend him vehemently to Gibbs, but she’s still checking Hardy out. That, and Hardy controls the weapons. Shudder.

In the Navy Yard, Ducky has a new job! Leon came up with the best possible way to use his skills and keep Dr. Mallard around. Glad he’s staying, and in such a great position. I'm a total research freak, and I could die happy doing that job. This will let David McCallum stay on the show while limiting his appearances. For some reason I didn’t think of Ducky’s fabulousness as spreading throughout the Navy Yard. It was great to hear about all the elebrations planned for him; I would love to have seen the barbershop quartet serenade, and who wouldn't want to hear Jimmy and Torres warble a Cole Porter duet during the Karaoke portion of the evening? Ducky will also have the best office in the entire building, albeit the hardest to find. Love those curved windows.

Thoughts and Observations:

Rule 39 is invoked! There is no such thing as a coincidence.

Gibbs and the submarine captain have the dynamic of two wolves circling the last piece of meat. It was fun in a nail-biting sort of way. I've never seen anyone give back the attitude Gibbs threw at them. The captain kept dismissing the agents and said he’d throw Gibbs off the “bridge” and Gibbs was all, “I’d like to see you try”. In a small space where virtually every piece of equipment is needed, I’d prefer that they just try to kick each other’s ass when the sub was back in port. Near the end of the episode they came to some kind of Alpha male resolution where they just nodded at one another as the creepy Weapons Officer was led away. Howl!

How many ways can Torres call Miller a "weird, creepy hermit"?

McGee continues to show how he’s grown as an agent as he directs various teams where to look for crazy man in the mountains. He shows a quiet, natural confidence. He even got Leon working for him! Proud of you, Tim.

Sassy Katie making sure that everyone knows that they need to keep their phone on in case she needs to talk to them! Even Gibbs answers his phone, y'all. And on the first ring.

I enjoyed that Torres inadvertently freaked Tim out by showing him how much money he’d saved for retirement or whatever he’d like to do. Being undercover for so many years makes your bank balance all happy, because you don’t spend your money while you work. I’m honestly surprised that Tim didn’t try to get Torres to invest some of this savings, it seems like a McGee sort of thing to do. Especially since Tim’s been saving for retirement since he was 14.

This shows us another way in which Inner Torres is at odds with Public Torres. When Sloane and Ducky find out about Nick’s very positive financial situation, they foresaw a retirement for him not unlike the one Mike Franks had. Shack on the beach, whiling away the days drinking Tequila (although I think he had a fair amount of beer, too). Torres laughs it off, but when McGee starts talking in the car about the cost of having a family (don’t forget that you have a wife who works at a no doubt a very well-paying job, Tim. Even with the nanny and college for two, you’ll still come out okay) and how Nick has all this carefree cash, Torres quietly admits that one day he might like a family, too. It’s not that the NCIS crew doesn’t think Nick might not want those things, it’s just that the person he normally shows the world doesn’t shout "husband and father". I wonder who he might want to have that life with, hum? Could it be the lovely women trapped on a nuclear sub?

Think this whole sub thing might get McGee writing again? I know his two-thriller career didn't exactly turn out the way he wanted, but it never hurts to keep trying.

I don't see Gibbs ending up like creepy HermitMiller. He's much more a cabin in the woods guy, maybe with a ham radio set-up in case he wants/needs to talk to the world. Unless there's a Zombie Apocalypse, then he'd go full on electrified fence and possibly a rocket launcher.

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