Wednesday, March 25, 2009

NCIS “Hide and Seek” Finds Fun In Crime

All photos CBS

Unlike last week’s episode of NCIS (CBS) “Knockout“, this week’s episode, “Hide and Seek” was light and it moved well. When NCIS highlights the core team and each person’s idiosyncrasies, this show is great fun to watch. And that is what part of the problem with “Knockout “ was last week – it focused on an uninteresting case involving an uninteresting character, Director Vance (Rocky Carroll).

“Hide and Seek” involved a mother, living in naval base housing, who finds a gun in her son’s room. When the gun is turned in to NCIS, brain matter is discovered on it, leading the team to a murder. The case seems like a real stretch of an excuse to get NCIS involved, but it really is just a backdrop for the interaction between the team. Here’s what happened, and I have more comments about the episode after this brief recap.

The episode opens with McGee (Sean Murray) working hard to order a set of golf clubs on an on-line auction to replace the set he borrowed from Ducky that McGee damaged. Abby (Pauley Perrette) comes in and, as Gibbs would do, orders them to work on a case where a gun was found by a mother in her son’s room on a navy base. When they are reluctant to jump to it, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) comes in and confirms Abby’s orders.

The team investigates the case, starting with the kids who found the gun. The kids finally admit they found the gun next to a body in an open area. Despite McGee using his boy scout experience to help them find the body, the kids are dismayed when the body isn’t where they last saw it. After the kids leave, McGee and DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) work to find out to where the body was moved. Again, McGee’s boy scout training helps to locate it, despite the frequent ribbing from DiNozzo about McGee’s scouting prowess. Ducky (David McCallum) later IDs the body as Dylan Bates, and believes the time of death is about three weeks ago. He can narrow the time of death down by analyzing the insects on the body. Of course, Abby nurtures these bugs as if they were real children, to the point of playing classical music for them (which clearly Abby hates).

Abby later tells Gibbs and Ziva (Cote de Pablo) that she’s been able to track down who fired the weapon. She shows them a newspaper article about a postal worker getting shot, and said this gun was admitted as evidence in a trial four years ago. This was also an NCIS case, and they were the ones who had the gun in evidence. Later, they find that after the case, the gun was returned to its original order. Ziva find that the gun was sold to a man named Eddie Felson. DiNozzo, the movie buff, immediately recognizes the name of Fast Eddie Felson, a character from the classic Paul Newman movie, “The Hustler”. They realize the person is using a false identity, and DiNozzo, reviewing a bunch of photos of possible suspects he has, IDs the man as someone named Ronnie, who he had used the guns to rob some convenience stores. They bring Ronnie in, and he says he threw the gun in a store dumpster. By looking at security video footage, Ronnie’s story seems to pan out, but they also see someone who worked at the store who pulled the gun out of the dumpster. He’s identified as Joseph Ellis. Ellis is a Navy “brat” who couldn’t get into the Navy himself because of a criminal record. His accomplice in that crime was Dylan Bates.

McGee had also been trying to identify tire tracks found where Bates’ body was moved, and successfully finds the tracks belong to wagon tires. He confiscates as many wagons as he can find on the base (it seemed like a lot to me), and he and Abby find evidence of blood on one of them. The wagon belongs to Noah, one of the boys who originally found the gun and the body to begin with. They bring the boy in for questioning, Gibbs doing the honors. Gibbs calm, yet steely questioning gets the boy to admit that he killed Dylan because he was always picking on him and his friends and stealing their money. But Noah’s lack of details makes Gibbs not believe Noah’s story, and then Noah admits it was his father who killed Dylan.

They video conference with Noah’s father Mike, who is stationed elsewhere. He says despite his previous threat to Dylan, he didn’t do it. He only deployed early because he needed the money so he took a more hazardous assignment. Ducky then informs Gibbs that the blowflies on the body mean the time of death was 15 days ago, and Gibbs realizes Mike was already deployed for a few days when the murder occurred. They decide to hone in on Ellis but he can’t be located. They find that despite the fact that his mother had been deployed for a month, there have been calls made from her home on base within the last few weeks. Gibbs sends Ziva and DiNozzo to Ellis’ mother’s home, while Gibbs takes McGee to Noah’s home and ask Noah’s mother to talk to her daughter, Rebecca. Ziva and DiNozzo find Joey dead in his home, an apparent suicide. Back with Gibbs, Rebecca says Joey was her best friend and that Dylan convinced him to commit the robberies and do drugs. She talked to Joey about his life, but he decided to kill himself. She found his body, and took his gun to Dylan to show him how Joey killed himself and when Dylan grabbed the gun, it went off, killing him. Case closed.

Back at NCIS, DiNozzo thinks he’s pulled a fast one on McGee when DiNozzo wins an on-line auction for the golf clubs McGee needs to replace Ducky’s. When he offers them to McGee with an added $100 finders fee, DiNozzo is chagrined to find that he bought left handed clubs, and Ducky is right handed. He threatens that if McGee won’t buy the clubs anyway he’ll tell Ducky that McGee destroyed his clubs. Too late, as Ducky has overheard it all. Ducky gets his satisfaction when he tells McGee to recall an autographed, one of a kind jazz album that he borrowed from him. When McGee asks him, worriedly, what has happened to it, Ducky gets evasive and walks off as McGee looks very concerned.

I think this was a decent episode, but I do have some questions. Is it normal that the NCIS team would be called in to investigate a case of a gun found on a naval base, simply because they was brain matter on it? If there was no evidence that it was a military person who was killed, shouldn’t the police first take the case? How convenient is it that one of the people who found the gun and the body was the brother of the girl who killed the man? If Joey was her best friend, why did Rebecca just leave his body there in his home? Why wouldn’t she have called the police? Did they ever cover why she moved Joey’s body – assuming was her that moved it? I don’t recall them saying who moved the body but I could have missed it.

What made the episode good – and one of the reason why I like NCIS – is the interaction between the main characters. Sure, sometimes they go a little overboard with it, but when then get the mix just right, the show is very entertaining. No one does the simmering calm of Gibbs like Mark Harmon, but when he gets that playful twinkle in his eyes, it lights up the whole screen. He is very tolerant of Abby, yet he seems to care for her in a special way, unlike how he cares for the others on his team. It was great to see Abby back to her normal self – unlike the worried, overly concerned Abby we saw in too many episodes this season. It was cute when she decided to “play Gibbs” on a few occasions by giving orders to the team, with Gibbs showing some low-key delight with it. And there is nothing like a little friendly competition between DiNozzo and McGee, especially when DiNozzo gets burned by trying to pull a fast one on McGee. All in all, a very comfortable episode that, despite a crime that probably wasn’t worthy of an NCIS investigative team, provided a great backdrop for the fun.

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