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NCIS - The Helpers and First Steps - Reviews

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19.13 "The Helpers”
Written by Brian Dietzen and Scott Williams
Directed by Diana Valentine
Reviewed by KathM

Way back in Season 2, there was an episode where Tony opened an envelope which ended up containing a genetically-engineered plague. He and Kate spent most of the episode stuck in an isolation area while Gibbs and Co. seek out a cure before they succumb to the dastardly disease.

This week, Jimmy and Kasie are exposed to a deadly toxin that is much more dangerous than anything Tony and Kate ever faced. And this episode is so, so much better than the one that aired back then.

I was all about the tears pretty much from the beginning. Brian Dietzen co-wrote this episode and I think his intimate knowledge of Jimmy and the other characters really shows through. Despite the action around identifying the toxin and saving our favorite sciencey-types, I saw this more as an episode about relationships. Jimmy has unfortunately brought his daughter Victoria to spend the day at work with him. She’s spending her day at the Navy Yard as part of her suspension in A Boy Touched Me Inappropriately So I Hit Him Day (Knight has helpful suggestions). When she hears about what happened to her father, Victoria immediately pulls over a chair and makes herself comfortable, ready to keep her dad and Kasie company from the other side of the protective glass. What a Jimmy move.

Carol Wilson’s in the house! The brilliant scientist has been brought in to help find a cure, but despite the optimistic face she shows, Victoria Carol isn’t sure she’ll be able to save Kasie and Jimmy in time. The one person who can provide an antidote, a Russian scientist, has vanished, and as Carol pores over his research she realizes that without the notes, she isn’t sure she can help.

The relationship between Torres and Jimmy continues to surprise me. Nick watches over Victoria when Jimmy visits Breena’s grave and tries to make sure Victoria is in a good place emotionally as she risks the potential loss of another parent. They’re such different men, but the same in some ways. Torres has an uncle-type relationship with Victoria, given that he has a sister and a niece that we know of, but the way he is with Victoria and Jimmy you can see that he’s found a different kind of family. I think the Palmers have gentled him. Breena also appears in the episode, as a ghost gently encouraging her husband to wake up from his coma and take hold of life again. It’s a very popular trope, but on Jimmy, as with Kasie and her conversation with her father during her own coma it works better.

As expected, the Bull Pen Crew solve the case and Carol brews up some antidote. Kasie’s Three Strike speech was great, as was her furious reaction to Jimmy’s go-to half full speech. They’re such easy-going people, it was fun to see them fighting (despite the reason). But it looks like Kasie will be staying around for awhile.

I’ve wondered in the past about how Victoria is doing and what kind of parent widower Jimmy has become. It comes as no surprise that Victoria misses her “old” dad, the one who was always honest with her. Jimmy devastates us all with the honesty he shows Victoria as he explains to her that he is dying (Carol had told him and Kasie to say their goodbyes), but that what matters is how you live.

19.14 "First Steps”
Written by Yasemin Yilmaz
Directed by Michael Zinberg
Reviewed by KathM

They grow up so fast! She’s all graduated and now newly-minted Probie Kayla Vance is anxiously awaiting her very first case! Papa Leon wants to make sure her first case is a “toolbox” (simple and safe as can be). But, honestly? When has anything this team has touched been remotely safe and easy?

This time it’s the supposed heart attack of Dr. Tom Masuda, a reservist who collapsed mid-surgery. The tools begin to fall out of the box the minute Jimmy declares that Masuda died from poisoning, which moves the investigation into murder territory.

Daddy Leon is not happy, especially when he finds out that his baby girl disobeyed Torres’s orders. As a punishment he “grounds” Kayla down to the lab to work with Kasie. They discover the source of the poison, which slowly leads the crew to a wild roller coaster ride with drug cartel leaders trying to escape from prison by having surgery and killing Masuda when he says the procedure is unnecessary. Kayla hurries into the fray and is kidnapped by the cartel members and Pedro Rodriguez, the cartel leader’s right hand man. Leon goes ballistic again, but Leon, that’s what probie’s do. They do things they aren't supposed to like jumping out of cars instead of staying inside and getting kidnapped by members of drug cartels. But instead of freaking out, Kayla keeps her cool and uses her training, eventually convincing the man holding her as a human shield to surrender.

So, Leon Vance has some issues. This is a guy who still lives in the same house his wife was killed in, after all. But as usual he decides that he has to let his little girl grow up and pursue the career she wants. He moves her to another unit so she’ll be able to shine on her own. Good work, Leon.

What interests me the most about this episode is that Torres was chosen as Kayla’s mentor. It seems more like a McGee thing, as he’s the senior field agent, or maybe partnered with Knight because she’s a woman (I know, but still). Even though Victoria is much younger and they have a different relationship, Nick is the nurturer, which is not the person I thought he’d be after Ellie left. I think boxing helped him, but I think Jimmy and a little understanding did, too.

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