Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NCIS “Faith” The Sappy Christmas Episode

All photos from CBS

Christmas episodes always annoy me as they are often sappy and saccharine. It’s even worse when it is a Christmas episode for a crime show. NCIS (CBS) “Faith” lived up to all my preconceived notions. The combination gets even more odd when the case involves the death of a marine who converted from Christianity to the Muslim faith, the only thing that did not have a Christmas theme.

The murder itself is just a backdrop to all the personal NCIS Christmas issues going on, so let’s get it out of the way. When a murdered marine is discovered by two people stealing a Christmas tree out of the park, the NCIS team arrives to find that the marine was killed while praying, and he was nearly naked. At first, it seems like his father, a colonel turned preacher, had motive; then it seems his cheating wife had motive. In the end, it all pointed to his own brother, who felt his brother, by changing his faith, had humiliated his father. Such a dumb reason to kill someone, and frankly it was a relative boring crime and added nothing to the episode.

The big issue for the show was the arrival of Special Agent Jethro Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) father, Jackson Gibbs (Ralph Waite). Gibbs is always somewhat of an aloof, cold fish, so it is no surprise when he treats his father with the same demeanor. Things start off badly when his father arrives early, and Gibbs seems not to happy about it, in fact, he seems surprised his dad even showed up. When his father starts a fire in the fireplace but there seem to be problems with the flue, the fire department is called. (By the way, Ralph Waite also played Seely Booth’s father on “Bones” and he started a fire in the kitchen in his appearance on the show. Keep this guy away from matches!) Gibbs also tries to occupy his father by asking him to help make wooden toys to give away for Christmas. But things continue to get more testy with Gibbs and his dad, so Gibbs enlists the help of Dr. “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum) to have an informal chat with Jackson to find out if there is something wrong with his father. Ducky tells Gibbs that he doesn’t think there is anything physically wrong with Jackson but thinks he may have suffered an emotional trauma. He suggest Gibbs makes some calls home. Gibbs later has a talk with his dad, telling him he knows what happened, and Jackson recounts how he shot and killed someone in his store while they were attempting to rob him and possibly do harm other store patrons. He’s never seen the face of someone that he killed, being in the military, he’s never had to look those he’s shot in the face.

Meanwhile, besides the murder, the rest of the team is more involved in Christmas issues, well, except Ziva (Cote de Pablo) who is Jewish. Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) is worried about finding the perfect gift for his “Secret Santa” gift exchange with Delores Bromstead (Kate Fuglei), who works in HR and seems to be a rather caustic person. But Tony finds out, by looking through her personnel file, that when she was eight all the girls in her neighborhood got a special kind of doll and she didn't. Now exactly what kind of personnel files they have there at NCIS I don’t know, but that seemed to be a strange piece of information to be in one. My only guess is that maybe the information was in some notes from some kind of psychological interview? Anyway, she opens this huge box and sees a huge doll, which to me looks a little bit like Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette). It brings a tear and a smile to the usually cranky Delores. I, on the other hand, am groaning.

Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) is helping with wish of Abby’s friend Carol’s (Meredith Eaton) nephew to have a satellite video connection so he can talk with his mom who is on a destroyer in the Indian Ocean. Despite all the security issues, it seems that McGee is able to easily make it happen. Another groan from me.

And Abby is just being Abby, dressing up a skeleton in a Santa suit, and baking gingerbread cookies that look like herself. Ziva refuses one, saying she will not "eat Abby." I groan again. Every now and then Abby’s immature behavior annoys me, and for some reason this was on of those times that her goofiness grated on me.

NCIS is one of those shows that I have watched for a long time and I am not always consistent in my opinion about the series. The show continues to grow in popularity, party because the cast is highly engaging. I give Harmon, Weatherly, and Paulette the credit here, that and the fact that American Idol doesn’t start up until January. The good thing is that NCIS has won many more viewers this season, and now with the spin off NCIS Los Angeles immediately following it, CBS may give Idol a run for its money this season. But I must admit that the cases themselves are uninspiring and frequently seem to be more of a backdrop for Gibbs’ crisp and cranky demeanor, Abby’s goofiness, DiNozzo’s wisecracks, McGee’s nerdiness, and Ziva’s continued lack of the grasp of simple colloquialisms. A prefect example of the latter is when Ziva, in a bar with Tony, refers to the patrons as (if I recall correctly) “red throats” and not “rednecks.” Ziva's been in the US long enough that he inability to pick up on these simple slang phrases makes me wonder how good of an agent can she really be?

This episode lived up to every expectation I had about Christmas episodes. It had a dull crime, predictable family issues, and forced Christmas storylines. I’m not being a grinch when I say if you missed it, you didn’t miss much.

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