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NCIS - Unseen Improvements - Review

18.14 - "Unseen Improvements”
Written by Scott Williams and Steven D. Binder
Directed by Diana Valentine
Reviewed by KathM

This was another NCIS episode that made me wish that there wasn’t anything NCIS-y about it, because the underlying stories were more than enough to make for an interesting hour. Captain Tubman’s death and the missing laptop along with Uncle Hassan’s hunt for Phineaus didn’t really bring anything to the story, although it did help keep The Bullpen Crew in the loop. Because come on, a man who has $1 million to put a “bounty” on Phin could easily have used quite a bit less cash to bribe someone to find where Phineaus lived more efficiently. It would have made more sense, too.

I was surprised that Ducky’s concern about Gibbs extended to trying to force him to interact with people via a shiny new Tablet, but stranger things have happened. Duck usually tries to be more subtle, and I rather wished Gibbs had been pointing his gun at it when he opened it. Making the new bit of technology into a coaster was not unforeseen, either, and I'm glad he didn’t toss it into the fireplace. I think Gibbs appreciates the sentiment, but as bored and lonely he may be, I don’t think he’ll admit it in a Zoom situation. Except maybe to Sloane. It was wonderful to see Ducky, though, and wish that Gibbs had asked him how he’s been spending his COVID isolation. Somehow I doubt Dr. Mallard has been idle.

Phin was a welcome face, although a slightly more agitated version than one we’d seen before. The Kaydar’s were injured and one or both of them might die: Pineaus feels it’s all his fault and so where did he go? To Gibbs, of course. Who had kept him safe before.

Gibbs gladly welcomes the boy back, tells NCIS that he’ll handle taking care of Phin, then makes him something to eat and answers questions. Dozens of questions, both easy ones and rather rude ones. You could hear a bit of anger, could see a flash of Phin’s fear as he risked having Gibbs reject him as he seemed to be deliberately testing him, and more than a little frustration on Gibbs’s part. Would he shout? I thought he might, but Gibbs never faltered. One thing he knows, and that’s kids.

Another thing he knows, and that’s feeling scared of being abandoned. About walls. He lets Phin talk things out and helps him understand that he didn’t keep Phin because he thought that his living with the Kaydar's was the best choice for him. That Phin was loved and would never be alone. To prove it, he gave Lucy to Phin because they’d become so close throughout the episode. And Gibbs admitted to his de facto grandson that he was sometimes lonely himself. That is possibly the biggest personal reveal of the season, if not the last few years.

When Phin agreed to be a bone marrow donor for his cousin (Hassan’s son, who was looking for Phineaus to force him to donate rather than just asking nicely), I was proud of him and glad to see Gibbs supportive. My biggest fear is that one day Phineaus will find out who killed his mother. I don’t think their relationship could survive that.

An episode that seemed to be largely about Gibbs and Phineaus in many ways ended up being about Bishop for me. Like Jimmy tells Kasie, a year can make a real difference. Ellie isn’t the same girl she once was, and he doesn’t mean COVID. She knows many ways to kill things that he doesn’t think she should, and she’s certainly a much better fighter. Who can forget when she gave away some of her most beloved possessions last season? Nick in Bishop’s college sweatshirt was funny at first but then made me feel as uncomfortable as the gesture. Now she’s looking at maps of Bulgaria on the internet and by the end of the episode was getting ready to have “the talk” with Torres about how they felt about one another and what it meant. That, combined with part of the Press Release with a short blurb about season finale (“While pursuing a dangerous arms dealer, the team is shocked when Bishop is implicated in an old NSA leak.”), leads me to think that she’s either going rogue or running away or...something. Which can only mean one thing: Odette.

Show of hands: who hoped that the writers had forgotten about this plot entirety? This just does not bode well. I’m worried about Bishop, and Bishop and the team, and Bishop and Nick. I’m hoping that this won’t be the end of Ellie, but you never know. They do have another female character on the horizon. I just hope she’s back and more rational when the new season starts, hopefully in the fall.

PS - Phin’s question about how Gibbs gets the boats out of the basement was one I hadn’t heard in a long time, and now it’s been asked twice in one episode! My husband thought that it was the same boat for all of these years and was surprised to learn that it wasn’t.

PPS - What is up with the fireplace facelieft, and who ok'd it? Because that is definately a faux pas.

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