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NCIS - Watchdog - Review

18.10 - "Watchdog”
Written by Brendan Fehily and David J. North
Directed by Diana Valentine
Reviewed by KathM

The episode was unbearably sad. When the team investigates a case of “oops, we didn’t secure the missile properly and it nearly fell completely out of our truck when we stopped quickly, Sir,” in the middle of nowhere, Gibbs looks for the dog the men said they may or may not have hit that caused the accident by running in front of their truck. Not too far from where the truck crashed he finds a frightened, scarred pit bull who has been shot. Gibbs and Torres take the dog to the vet, who removes the bullet and says that the dog should survive. She does, however, have a number of old injuries that lead her to believe that the dog has been seriously abused and possibly used in dog fighting. There have also been two other dogs brought in recently, but they didn’t make it. The bullets were all from the same gun, though. Anybody angry yet?

Gibbs and the gang go back to the area where they found the pit bull, who Kasie has decided to call Lucy (good choice). He talks to a woman who says that she owns most of the land around there, except for the guy over there in the camper. You know, that guy. The guy who is obviously the Bad Guy just because that’s how it works. She says he fishes in her stream sometimes, she doesn’t like it so she puts up a fence which he just pulls down. Gibbs investigates the stream and finds what looks like a tether for a fishing net, so he pulls it up. What comes out of the stream is a dog carrier containing a dead, drowned dog. At that moment the Obviously Bad Guy comes out of his trailer and Gibbs reacts. He sees only anger. He sees only pain and something who hurts those who can’t defend themselves. Now, finally, he can let all of his anger and pain go and begins to beat the crap out of the man before even opening his mouth to question him. Bishop tries to pull him off, only to have Gibbs shove her to the ground. It takes McGee, Torres, and Bishop to get him off of the guy, who is then taken to the hospital.

The problem is that they have no evidence against the subhuman, Stana, to prove he did anything. And so when Inspector General Coyle comes to arrest Gibbs for assault, he calmly tells his agents to “tell the truth,” and is led away. The gang try to cover for Gibbs, but this one is too big. There’s “He tripped and fell,” and there’s what Gibbs did. Which resulted in broken bones and cuts and scrapes and while the audience is no doubt setting up a Go Fund Me for Gibbs’s bail the stream is drained and it comes to light that there were eight more drowned/dead dogs Stana had killed. Meanwhile Gibbs sits in the prison interview room, silent and staring into space, almost as if he were empty. And that may not be far from the truth.

Gibbs has been stewing for a long time, and the pot has finally boiled over. He shot McGee and nearly killed him, and didn't take any time off. Sloane left, and he seemed to compartmentalize it. He and Fornell worked hard to find the dealer who was importing deadly faux opioids into the country, only to have Emily Fornell relapse weeks later and die. Again, he takes no time off. Instead he stews and stews, thinking no doubt of the people he’s lost or that he didn’t protect or both, and the person he cares for that is too far away for him to protect at all. Gibbs internalizes it all, he takes care of everyone as best he can and all that’s happening is that he is being rained on with failure. But he seeks no outlet, because he is Gibbs and Gibbs doesn’t falter. This time, Gibbs is the one who tripped.

McGee tries to get Gibbs to open up, to fight the charges. Vance hires an ambulance chaser in the lobby to try and give Gibbs some time to, what? Come up with a convincing story? Gibbs has no story, only the truth. He was defending someone weaker than himself, because that is what he does. Coyle wants Gibbs bad, and does everything he can legally to make sure that none of his team can help save their Boss and mentor. It doesn’t matter that Stana had steroids to give the dogs to make them better fighters, or that his gun was used to shoot the tree animals who were lucky enough to have made it to the vet, even if two of them did die. Stana had that gun stolen about a year ago, but he forgot to report it. Coyle doesn’t care about any of it, only the assault. Everything else goes to the State Police to handle, and NCIS can no longer investigate or act against Stana in any way. When he finally sits down Gibbs offers up himself if Coyle drops any of the charges against his team for lying, because of course they lied for him. Even before McGee tries to reason with him, even before he tells them to tell the truth, Gibbs knew they'd lie for him. Not because they were expected to, but because they loved him and thought he was right. Gibbs knows that deep inside, but I don’t think that part of him is reachable right now.

Finally Stana is found releasing his remaining pit bulls so he can take a runner with the cute, fluffy dog he truly adores (as much as someone like that is capable of caring for anything) and is arrested by the State Police with the “concerned citizens” of NCIS and Coyle in attendance. Yay.

Gibbs takes Lucy home because duh. His team has bought him liquor and doggie treats to celebrate. As he sits on the couch alternately feeding Lucy treats and cuddling her, Vance arrives to tell him that Coyle’s report is vague enough that Gibbs is pretty much out of legal danger, and also that he’s suspended indefinitely. But Gibbs doesn’t care, barely pays attention to his superior and friend. He has someone new to focus on, someone who needs him and who he can care for. And I think he’s fine being suspended for as long as Leon wants.

There has been a lot of speculation that Mark Harmon is leaving NCIS, and that this is his swan song. If so, it’s one that makes sense. I have a feeling that he’ll be in the dog house (ha!) for some time, and may result in the character appearing less in the series. That’s okay with me, as long as we get to see Gibbs more from time to time. It would be interesting to see the team get used to a new boss, particularly McGee, who hasn’t known another boss while he’s been at NCIS. I’m glad he had a chance to let his anger out, albeit on a human-like potential suspect, and actually hope this gives himself time to get right with himself. His real-life wife, Pam Dawber, will be appearing later this season (which is now just over half over) as an investigative reporter Gibbs meets at his diner. Will his no doubt becoming part of whatever she’s investigating give him the energy and interest to return to NCIS, or could it push him in another direction entirely? What I want, and will never get, is a show with only Dr. Grace (who appeared briefly) and Gibbs working through his “stuff” about all that has happened recently and even in the past. But this episode has put the whole team on interesting roads for now, and I hope they lead back to each other.