Another episode about which I knew virtually nothing before I saw it. I wasn't even sure if it was the Vance-centric episode of the one where we learn about Tony's kid from Baltimore. I sometimes think going in not knowing much about an episode is the best way to go as there are no pre-conceptions - but it's not always easy to avoid knowing things.
I thought it was an excellent episode. I didn't really take to Vance when we first met him, although I always liked his interaction with Gibbs. However, as time went on the more I grew to like him and this was another really good Vance-centric episode. I liked the case and it was a real naval case (so much better than the rubbish they came up with last week) it had an excellent red herring and several twists to keep me guessing and interested. I liked the family aspect of the case, not just Vance's actual family, but also Abby's reference to Vance being family, thus she would do for him just what she'd do for Gibbs. I found it moved at a good pace, not so fast you lost things, but not so slow that it was boring (like last week's) it was a great balance between action and talk - a really well put together episode.
I enjoyed the look into Jackie Vance's life, meeting her baby brother and also learning that they had lost their parents when Michael was only eight and how Vance had in effect become a father figure to him. It was also moving to learn just how much Vance had done for Michael, the lengths he'd gone to in an attempt to try to help him rebuild his life and get back on his feet. Sadly I think it showed that there are just some people that you cannot truly help, no matter how much money and love you throw at them.
Michael wasn't a bad boy or man, he was just in some ways a weak person, a person who was never going to settle to one thing and a person who, in the end as Vance realised, would be best helped by walking away. Quite what the length of custodial sentence he'll get I have no idea, but maybe it will be the one thing to turn his life around.
I certainly believed him when he said to Gibbs he'll remember the the sailor's eyes for the rest of his life. And I do believe he really didn't intend to kill, it was a genuine accident, but he wasn't completely blameless, had he not got caught up in the card game and then acted as a 'stooge' to get other people involved then he'd never have come across the sailor and none of it would have happened. I thought he was an excellent red herring for most of the episode as I did believe in his innocence and although Gibbs knew he was missing something, I did believe it was just Michael's juvenile record and the way Vance was behaving all fitted with the knowledge of his record and also how much he'd tried to help Michael.
Yes, Vance did cross the line, he knows he did and Gibbs knows he did too, but let's not forget he isn't the first member of NCIS to do that thing when it comes to family or pursuing a personal vendetta. We have Gibbs and his mother and of course we can't forget Jenny and The Frog. I really did feel so sorry for Vance and Jackie and the kids, but mostly for Vance, because he truly believed in his brother-in-law's innocence and truly believed in him and really believed in the fact that he had helped him throughout his life and that he was going to make good and set up a repair shop.
It was interesting that Jackie saw her brother with more realism and less 'rose coloured glasses' so although she will no doubt be upset and hurting after discovering Michael was guilty of manslaughter, I don't think it will hurt and affect her as much as it has Vance, because in many ways Vance was closer to Michael than Jackie was. Jackie had already learnt some years ago she had to let Michael go - now Vance has learnt it too. A very hard lesson indeed. It was a poignant and sad lesson Vance had to learn and a hard one - at least he has his two families, Jackie and the kids and his NCIS family.
I knew Smith wasn't guilty of killing his friend, I did wonder at one point if the wound had been self-inflicted and Smith had seen it and taken the knife with him in panic, hence all the blood on shirt that Meredith had washed - I guess we have to assume that all the blood came from the fight. Smith and Meredith, Smith in particular actually, were also worthy of sympathy - I don't think either of them meant their affair to happen.
I did get spider sense tingles when we met Mr. Pizza man for the first time, I thought we'd be seeing him again in some way or another. It was a nice little twist to have him running and providing the setting for card games that were rigged not in the normal way by cheating with the cards themselves, but by drugging the poor saps daft enough to a) believe being told by Michael that he'd won a load of money and b) actually play cards.
The drugs were a different take on the usual 'extra ace up my sleeve' or however these card sharps do what they do in order to win all the time and it was a good one. And Mr. Pizza man will now find himself considerably worse off because even if he isn't in the end charged over the drugs and illegal gambling (which I would have thought he would have been) his pizza shop will now be declared off-limits to naval and marine personnel on liberty. So his life is also all washed up.
I did like the wee sub-plot of Tony discovering Gibbs thinks he talks too much and his obsession with it and how he was determined not to talk as much, but of course always failing. Unlike so many of these kinds of sub-plots, it wasn't overplayed and didn't go on for too long. It was well balanced. And nice that even though Gibbs does indeed think he talks too much, he also relies on it - that was a nice twist and not one I was expecting at all. So kudos to the unexpected twist.
I can't fault any of the characters this week, I thought they were all really well written, all in the character I love and no one needed shaking or slapping. There was no bitchiness between the field team and no 'I'm better than you' and no sly digs and worse still out and out nastiness, everyone was spot on in character.
I also liked how in a rare moment of continuity they brought Wendy back into the picture so to speak insofar as we know that Tony and she are not going to give it another go - at least not for now. Again, I thought that little addition was well played, just leave it up in the air enough to make people wonder if they might change their minds later, but also to keep other shippers happy.
It wasn't a hugely humorous episode, understandably so, but what humour there was was again well done and not slap-stick or at the expense of one character or another. It was gentle and under-stated humour.
It was an excellent balance between the case and the personal - something that was definitely lacking in last week's episode when it was pretty much all about the personal and nothing about the case. The balance in this episode was spot on - again it's old-school NCIS.
It really was a well and subtly written episode overall. So well done on the character front, not just the team but also the guest stars as well as the story line and the non-overplaying of things and the subtle touches - kudos to the writers for coming up with such a well written episode. It was a feel good episode, despite the subject matter - I had very little to fault about it and nothing major as far as the plot line went.
I really enjoyed it.
- The opening squad room scene with Tim and Ziva thinking Tony must be sick because he'd been silent for so long and Tony having somehow obtained his performance review for the previous year to discover Gibbs thinks he talks too much.
- The crime scene. I'm sure Gibbs had told Ducky about Tony obtaining his performance review, hence Ducky's playing with Tony over how little he was saying. The twinkle in Ducky's eye said he knew fully and was playing with Tony. I love those little touches.
- Gibbs and Thomas in interrogation for the first time.
- Gibbs, Ducky and Vance in Autopsy. Gibbs admitting to Ducky before Vance got there that he's missing something, there's something he can't put his finger on and also admitting he has to treat it as just any other case.
- Gibbs, Vance and Abby in her lab - Abby was wonderful so Abby without being OTT.
- The wee video conference call, Abby thinking it was just Ziva and saying 'hi' and then seeing everyone is there and saying 'hi' to them all.
- Gibbs and Vance at the end.
- Vance and his son bonding.
Things we learnt/had confirmed:
- Tony and Wendy seem to have decided not to start up again (at least for now).
- We had confirmation that Rule #22 hasn't changed *g* when Tony said to Gibbs he was having to break rule 22 because the lawyer was there.
- Too little Ducky
- No Jimmy
Pairing of the week:
Gibbs & Vance
Character of the week:
Actor of the week:
Jocko Sims who played Michael Thomas