Now we’re getting into the character-piece episodes of this new NCIS season. No hint of an over-arching plot yet, but this week’s episode proves that the writers are still capable of good one-off story lines that are meant to develop one specific character.
In Tuesday night’s episode, Navy Seamen Apprentice Brian Dokes is found dead after robbing an illegal gambling operation that dabbles in some other unsavory activities (huge hint: it’s drugs). This leads Director Vance to be reunited with former NCIS Agent Kip Klugman who went dirty while working with Vance years ago, stealing evidence and attempting to frame Vance. And now Klugman offers his help in solving this new case which Vance wisely refuses. Well…wisely to a point. Klugman ends up being caught up in the whole case itself and frames Vance for attacking him without proper cause, leading Vance’s job as director of NCIS to be in jeopardy.
As you may have guessed, this is very much a Vance centered episode. While at first it leads you to believe that Vance is being too hard on the former agent, it rightly shows that Vance still has a pretty solid intuition. Instead of throwing in silly subplots to focus on other characters, this episode really does focus all on him, especially his relationship with Gibbs.
After being scolded by the Secretary of the Navy, Vance asks Gibbs if he can ride along on this case as his partner, not his boss. Gibbs quickly accepts and immediately takes advantage of the situation by calling Vance probie. This is only the beginning of their wonderful dynamic, which is rarely seen in most episodes. In fact, Vance has been strangely absent so far this season, so having his first major episode be so strong is a smart move by the writers, reminding fans that Vance is still very important.
Gibbs and Vance’s partnership brings a little old school quality to the show, proving extremely enjoyable to watch. The scene in the car together in which they’re tailing Klugman is particularly entertaining, showing that Vance has a little snark and wit to him. This episode really did him justice, establishing him as a vital part of the team and character to the show.
Despite it all being about Vance, this episode does a decent job at having McGee, DiNozzo, and Bishop be useful while still being in the background. Their involvement isn’t part of a needless subplot but actually key to solving the case. The humor the writers attempt to inject into episodes can be a bit too forceful, but they are on top form here, specifically in the scene when McGee and DiNozzo are interrogating the man who is in charge of the illegal gambling/drug operation. It’s playful yet smart and deeply fun to watch.
It’s tricky for a season of a show to stay solid the whole way through, and NCIS has definitely struggled in that department. With decent episodes so far, this week’s episode hopefully hints at stronger ones to follow for the season. It’s great to see that the writers know that Vance is an important character to develop, and they did a great job at making him relevant again. I’m eager to see what they have in store for the rest of the team. Personally, it’d be great to see an Abby episode since she’s been a little too much just in the background lately. But I digress. All in all, this episode bodes well for the future of the season. Let’s hope that the writer’s put as much care into forming the overarching storyline as they put into this episode.