Christmas time brings Christmas themed episodes, and NCIS has certain standards to hold up to this time of year. Last year brought an emotional episode revolving around McGee, and this keeps the emotion but chooses another character to focus on: Ducky. It feels like it’s been a time since there’s been an episode centered on the beloved Doctor, so it’s nice to see the writers commending certain characters who deserve to have a holiday episode made around them.
This NCIS Christmas episode, while being mostly about Ducky, brings back another character that hasn’t been seen since last season: young Ducky. The actor who played a young Ducky Mallard is back, bringing all of the charm and charisma from his last appearance. Instead of being about a long lost love, this episode is about family (appropriate for Christmas).
The episode starts with Ducky being forced to meet with a man who wants information on one of his family members, resulting in Ducky being abducted. Luckily, Gibbs and the team find him after attending to the crime scene of a navy officer who tried to assist Ducky and was shot by his captor. Again, an unconventional approach to an episode, even a Christmas one.
The family member that the mysterious man is looking for is Ducky’s brother, who Ducky has never told anyone about, not even Gibbs. Technically he’s his half brother, but as we see in flashbacks, Ducky always treated him as fully his own brother. Then after being separated by his stepmother, Ducky spent most of his life trying to find him, only learning that his brother died in a car crash. It’s a heavy flashback episode, but that’s what makes it so memorable.
It would have never occurred to me that Adam Campbell, the actor mostly known for Date Movie, would be such a perfect match to play a young Ducky, and this episode just proves it again. While he certainly has the look down, he has the spirit you imagine Ducky would have in his younger days. It’s certainly a smart move for the writers to bring him back, and hopefully this will become a tradition once or twice every season.
While the story is a good one and both versions of Ducky are at their best, the episode is overcrowded due to the unnecessary confrontation between Jake and Ellie. It should have been two separate episodes because the Jake and Ellie storyline takes away from what’s going on with Ducky which should have been the entire focus of the episode. Obviously we want to know how that conflict resolves, but it feels like it was just shoehorned in to simply get it out of the way. This ultimately proves that the whole Jake and Ellie storyline was a product of mere lazy writing.
Other elements of the episode are actually also on point, specifically the humor. The writers have a tendency to go overboard occasionally, especially with DiNozzo’s dialogue. Luckily they spread the humor around to him, McGee, and occasionally Gibbs. It is necessary to help alleviate the emotions of the episode, especially since Ducky does end up finding his brother, Nicholas at the end of the episode who tragically has early onset Alzheimers. But fortunately the writers were gracious and had Nicholas remember Ducky, which resulted in a perfect ending to a relatively good Christmas episode.
It’s hard to say where the season will go from here. Hopefully the writers are done with trying to drag out the Jake and Ellie storyline and will move on to more intriguing plots. Fortunately with how most of the episodes have been structured so far, it’s safe to say that the season will definitely keep going strong (and hopefully even improve). While there will probably still be your by the numbers episodes popping up every so often, it’s clear that some of the writers are still looking for new ways to keep the show interesting, and they certainly showed potential with this season’s Christmas themed episode. Now let’s just hope this streak keeps going.