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NCIS - Sunburn and Head of the Snake - Reviews

18.4 - "Sunburn”
Written by Marco Schnabel
Directed by Rocky Carroll
Reviewed by KathM

Welcome back! Thanks for your patience as I try to get my reviews out in a more timely manner. Last week we were hit with two episodes in a row, which I’m not sure CBS has ever done before. And while the episodes technically focus on two different issues, to me they’re both about McGee.

Our first episode, Sunburn, takes McGee and Delilah to the sunny Bahamas for a long-overdue vacation.

As they relax in the sun and try to hide the fact that they’re checking with work/her mother (who is babysitting the cherubs) from each other, back at the Navy Yard they’ve got a corpse who ran an escape room out of his house. Norman Mason was a Reservist who has his very own hidden room rife with computers, money, and various confidential documents. He’s also been calling the Bahamas quite a bit, which gives Gibbs an excuse to hone in on McGee’s holiday and ask him to investigate by seeing who answers the phone attached to the number Mason has been calling. This is a blessing in disguise for Tim and Delilah, who find that without the kids or work to talk about, they have nothing to say to each other. But when Tim wants the Mrs. to stay at the hotel while he runs to little errand for Gibbs, Delilah will have none of that. And thus Team McGee-Fielding is born.

It’s nice to see Tim and Delilah working together to solve the case. It’s been so long since we’ve seen her that I’d forgotten how well they complement each other. The woman answering Mason’s calls looks petite and once she beats up McGee and rides off on a scooter, it takes both Tim and Delilah to get the information they need to hunt her down. Instead of just buying a scooter like a normal person, she rents the scooter. Delilah thinks that it will be easy to come up with a story that will convince the attendant to give her the information they need to find the mysterious woman on the scooter, but it’s not that easy. Tim’s not too sure how to get what they need, either. But then, out of the past comes Thom E. Gemcity! Just when we thought that the show had forgotten about McGee’s foray into authorhood, his notoriety pops up when the McGee-Fieldings least expect it. For the price of a selfie and an autograph the starstruck scooter attendant practically hurts Scooter Woman’s information at them, thinking she is helping "Thom" research his next book.

Armed with Scooter Woman’s name (Sienna Michaels) and address, the duo heads over to her place to see what she has to do with Mason. In the meantime, Gibbs and Co. find out Mason had been working on a project involving a new type of underwater drone. The project was shut down after the drowning of William Lucas, the chief scientist. Mason appears to be looking into Lucas’s death, and Michaels is apparently helping Mason out. It also seems like all of the team who worked on the drone project are also being killed. Delilah remembers Lucas, which helps when they break into Michaels’s apartment and find him alive and well, albeit a little paranoid. You can’t blame him, though, given the fact that he was trying to stop the drone project, Deep Raven, from being used as a weapon. Mason was keeping watch to make sure the project wasn’t reactivated or the data used for something else. He called Miller every day and asked her to tell Lucas that so far, so good. But now Mason is dead and so is Reynolds, the other scientist on the project. So, who is killing the Deep Raven crew? Turns out it’s Michaels, who was planning to sell the plans to the Russians and flew up to DC to kill scientists in her spare time. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t see that coming.

At the end of the episode (once they are rescued from Michaels by Clarence, a friend of Gibbs's who works at the the hotel Tim and Delilah are staying at) the McGee-Fieldings are talking about how much they enjoyed working on their caper and have decided to devote more time to one another, going out on dates, etc. Glad they have that figured out because McGee is going to need all the support and love he can get starting with the next episode.

18.05 - "Head of the Snake”
Written by Brendan Fehily and David J. North
Directed by Tawnia McKiernan
Reviewed by KathM

In Head of the Snake we find ourselves back at where the first episode of the season ended, with Gibbs and McGee at an airfield and Gibbs shooting McGee to stop him from getting on a plane. I thought it was just a plan with some well-timed blanks, but it turns out I was wrong. Horrifyingly wrong.

On a positive note we get to see the Merriweather/opioid storyline wrapped up, with the extremely disappointing, anticlimactic arrest of Merriweather (who is unmasked as Russian dealer Alexi Myshkin) at his spoiled daughter’s birthday party. She’s an accessory, by the way, since daddy used some of her accounts to launder his drug money. SO sad! Fornell has completed his self-appointed task and can now move on and spend time with daughter Emily, who got her six-month sobriety chip (Toby wasn’t there, but Uncle Gibbs was proud enough for both of them). A relieved Em hugging her dad in his cobbled-together garage office is such a contrast to Merriweather and his brat of a kid interacting that it highlights how genuine the Fornell’s relationship has been portrayed throughout the years. But where has Tobias been all his time?

We find that he left Beltway Burger because he’d been recruited by the Merriweather gang, which does not require an ugly uniform and pays better. He couldn’t contact anyone because he was in deep cover and didn’t want to risk anyone in Merriweather’s world finding out about Emily or that his plan all along was to see them all in jail. But he and Gibbs inadvertently encounter one another in an airplane hangar where Tobias was doing some work for his “boss”. He begins shooting at Gibbs and tells him that since there are cameras in the hanger they have to shoot at one another, but since there aren’t listening devices they can speak freely while they do it. I still think their sniping at one another in the truck while doing surveillance was funnier, but only just. Fornell “escapes” from Gibbs before he can find out how to contact his friend again, which frustrates both.

While this is happening the bullpen crew (who have been read into the whole Merriweather thing; even Vance knew!). There is reliable intel about a massive attack at the naval base, but nobody knows which one or what form the attack will take. A chat with dealer Petty Officer Miles confuses Bishop and Torres more: he was told that the opioids he’d be selling were new, but they looked the same to him. And he was also told to sell them around the base at ¼ of the price. This makes no sense until Kasie analyses one of the pills and comes up with the answer: they are filled with lethal, toxic substances, which will kill anyone who takes them. So when Miles sells the new opioids on the base, anyone who takes them will die. This weakens the US military and is an incredibly innovative way to go about things in my opinion. It doesn’t say much about military consumption of opioids, however.

When Torres tries to scope out the home of Vladimir Ivinov, one of Merriweather’s associates and “Toby’s” old boss at Beltway Burger, he's intercepted and blows his cover when he's caught in a lie. Before Ivinov can kill Torres Fornell, who has been in the house, comes out and kills Ivinov. Torres and Fornell go back to the surveillance truck where Bishop was stationed as backup but she's gone, taken prisoner by the Merriweather gang. They want to exchange her for Ivinov, who they don’t realize is dead.

Now we finally get to the good part. For all that this episode had been lackluster thus far, the end sure packed a wallop. Gibbs, as Fornell, agrees to the exchange but sends McGee in his place. The plan is to rescue Bishop and capture Myshkin/Merriweather, with Gibbs and his trusty sniper rifle as backup. But things are not as they seem: the plane McGee is approaching shows two life signs, but also a bomb. Vance and Sloane, who are watching at MTAC, tell Gibbs to make sure McGee doesn’t get on that plane. Sadly, it’s better to lose one agent than two. But comms are out, and Gibbs can’t tell McGee. Instead of just throwing something at him or trying to shout, Gibbs shoots him in the arm. McGee still tries to move toward the plane, and Gibbs tries to block him with random shots until finally, feeling he has no options left, Gibbs shoots McGee in the thigh.

I’m sorry, what happened? Gibbs. Shoots. McGee. In. The. Thigh. You know, where the femoral artery is? So McGee is finally stopped and is bleeding out on the airstrip while Torres and Fornell arrive just in time to watch the plane explode, theoretically killing Bishop. But Ellie is alive! The plan had obviously been to kill her all along. But even beaten up Ellie is not one to be messed with, so she disables her killer and joins Gibbs and the gang to let them know she’s alright. Looks like her training with Odettete is paying off. It was nice to see how much both McGee and Torres care for their teammate, it shows how close the gang has become. People may say that Torres was so upset about Bishop’s situation at the airfield because he has romantic feelings for her; that may be part of it, but Gibbs shot McGee to make sure he didn’t sacrifice himself when he didn’t think that Bishop could not have survived.

For me, the real story is McGee and what this will do to his relationship with Gibbs. And, really, with Gibbs’s relationship with himself.

Gibbs has come a long way in these last few years, becoming more open and letting people in. But McGee is like a son to him, someone who has been with him through thick and thin (remember when they were prisoners in South America?). And he, Gibbs, shot him, nicking the femoral artery and nearly killing him. This is the one thing about the shooting story that I have trouble with; Gibbs is a crack shot, surely he could have been able to find a better way to signal McGee. He knows what a potentially harmful area he was targeting, and I’m honestly not sure he’d take the risk.

I wonder where this will put Gibbs emotionally? Will he retreat again, or continue to make deeper connections with others? I think if he can work through the McGee stuff with Tim, then he should be okay. While McGee might come to eventually forgive Gibbs, I think there are the feelings that are going to be floating around the bullpen for quite a while, spoken or not. I wonder about how McGee will heal, and if either of his injuries will impact his ability to do the fieldwork his job requires. I’d like to see Dr. Grace step in to help manage the situation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in action, and I hope we’ll see a little individual and group therapy with both McGee and Gibbs. This is a huge opportunity to really see Gibbs look at himself and his choices, and for him and McGee to hash some things out from the past. Will the producers take the risk? I hope so.

I still haven’t watched last night’s episode yet, so I’m off to take a nap and then I’ll check it out. If it’s full of McGee forgiveness and Ellie/Torres romance, though, I will not be happy.

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