With familiar faces from the past, dramatic endings and hints of the future, “Damned If You Do,” closed out the 10th season of “NCIS” on Tuesday (May 14). It also showed why this series just keeps on going — it reveres its past while not being afraid to blow things up.
The episode opens with a dream sequence in which Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is fishing with his late mentor, Mike Franks (Muse Watson, proving once again that death is no impediment to ongoing guest appearances). After some talk about the inadequacies of catch-and-release fishing, Franks pumps gunshots into the water. He vanishes, but Gibbs soon finds himself surrounded by floating bodies that just keep rising to the surface.
By the end of this labyrinth episode, Department of Defense Investigator — and apparently experienced blackmailer — Richard Parsons (Colin Hanks) fails, at least for the moment, in his quest to bury Gibbs under a pile of alleged misdeeds gleaned from reams of government documents.
But saving Gibbs’ neck comes at a high cost. Gibbs’ team — Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Tim McGee (Sean Murray) — resign, taking full responsibility for their rule-bending and legally questionable actions.
We also learn that the international intrigues of the season — including the murders of Ziva’s father and NCIS Director Leon Vance’s (Rocky Carroll) wife — are part of a CIA distraction to keep the focus off an as-yet-unnamed domestic threat.
Toward the end, when Parsons learns that his investigation has been at least temporarily torpedoed, he also is told that Gibbs is on a mission for JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command).
In the final scene, the episode skips ahead four months in time, where Gibbs comes upon the gravely wounded Capt. Wayne (Allan Louis) — commanding officer of a tortured and slain Navy SEAL whose radioactive head was delivered to his widow earlier in the episode — in an empty apartment.
Urged by Wayne to “do it,” Gibbs takes up a sniper rifle pointed out the apartment window and takes aim at a motorcade. Through the sights, we see that his initial target is his old pal, FBI Agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano), but since we go to black before hearing the shot, the actual quarry is more likely the VIP Fornell is guarding.
Some of the best bits:
– Plenty of authoritarian goodness from former NCIS chief Tom Morrow (Alan Dale), and the surprise reappearance of Rear Admiral A.J. Chegwidden (John M. Jackson). Chegwidden used to be the Navy’s Judge Advocate General, before retiring during the run of “JAG,” the series that spawned “NCIS.” This marks the first time Jackson has reprised the role in nine years.
Tony also has a moment in which he almost recognizes Chegwidden, prompting the admiral to say, “I used to hang around the Navy Yard, son.”
– Great exchanges between Gibbs and Franks, both in hunting and fishing dreams and just in Gibbs’ imagination (for a tightly wound former Marine, Gibbs seems pretty cool with chatting up folks who aren’t actually there).
– Upon arriving with Gibbs at his unfinished cabin in the forest — apparently Gibbs’ woodworking extends beyond building boats in the basement — Tony declares it “a little ‘Doomsday Prepper,'” and “very Abe Lincoln.”
– Forensic tech Jimmy Palmer (Brien Dietzen) tells pathologist Dr. “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) that he and his wife are on a waiting list to adopt a child. This echoes an earlier revelation that forensic tech Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is adopted. Kudos to “NCIS” for promoting the gift of love that adoption represents.
– Chegwidden gets Gibbs coffee from “that diner you go to,” a callback to the 200th episode, a semi-fantasy set in Gibbs’ customary morning stop (which also featured a posthumous appearance from Mike Franks).
– Parsons references a season-seven storyline in which Abby withheld a report that linked Gibbs to the murder of the Mexican drug lord who killed his wife and child (the report eventually winds up in Vance’s shredder).
– A clandestine meeting of the team in the oft-used elevator, which prompts Abby to suggest this should become a regular thing.
– Three smooches: Abby leaves a lip-print on Gibbs’ cheek; Tony responds to news about McGee’s love life with a kiss to his head (to which McGee says, “Please don’t do that ever again”); and yet another not-quite-romantic moment with “they’re just friends” Tony and Ziva, in which he plants a chaste one on her forehead.