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NCIS season four episode reviews

NCISt

Season 4, Episode 1. "Shalom" One of my favourite things about NCIS is the way the central characters interact with each other. They come across as a bunch of close friends who will do anything for one another when the chips are down. This episode plays up that side of things, with one of the regulars framed - and on the run - for a crime she didn't commit. Consequently, the rest of the team must pull out all the stops to get her name cleared. It's action-by-numbers and it's really, really good.

Season 4, Episode 2. "Escaped" Gibbs left NCIS at the end of Season 3. He's in early retirement but contemplating coming back. The case that brings him back - again - involves an escaped prisoner. Someone Gibbs sent to prison. Someone who has always protested his innocent. Did Gibbs get it wrong? Did he send an innocent man to prison? Since this is an episode supposed to renew Gibbs faith in himself, it's very surprising that the writers chose to end it the way they did. Surprising, but brilliant.

Season 4, Episode 3. "Singled Out" The coolest action show on TV delivers a nice mystery and lots of funny character playing around in this outing from early last season. A woman disappears, after being seen calling out for help from the back of a stolen car. The thief, by the way, didn't know she was there! Meanwhile, the team adjusts pretty well to having Gibbs back in control, and not at all well to his new mustache!! Funniest part? Ziva goes undercover as a bookworm at a speed dating night. Cote de Pablo looks so sweet & adorable, trying to look ... sweet & adorable for a change. Coolest part? Tony has a promotion but refuses it, and keeps it all a secret because... he wants to stay with Gibbs and the team. Awesome.

Season 4, Episode 4. "Faking It" Gibbs' old partner fakes 15 year old evidence to get revenge on a bad-guy that got away. This is meant to be the twist at the end, but it's very clear that that's what is going on. Much cleverer is the eventual location of a missing bullet. The victim threw up in an alley after being shot. And the bullet exited the body, with his lunch, and was nowhere nearby when he expired.

Season 4, Episode 5. "Dead and Unburied" It's always great fun watching NCIS. This episode opens with the discovery of a body, but after that it's fun and games all the way as the team investigate the crime. There's lots of bumping into one another, good-natured banter back and forth and a humourous case-of-the-week to solve. It seems that the victim was engaged to be married... to two different women. Virtually every scene puts a smile on your face as you watch the gang in action and - to cap it all - it is Ducky that pieces it all together, confronts the killer and solves the case.

Season 4, Episode 6. "Witch Hunt" One of the coolest things about NCIS is the twist they usually manage to pull in their stories. But, for once, I was able to see the twist from the start. Maybe they were having an off-week, or maybe I'm just getting that good. A little girl is kidnapped, her father lies in a hospital bed and the NCIS team work with the girl's mother and aunt as they deal with the kidnappers. There is a twist with regard to the aunt and - as I said - I was able to spot it. It's didn't ruin my enjoyment of the episode in the least, but normally I don't see the twists coming. Other than that it was a cool episode. For the second time in a row, Ducky got a lot of screentime, which is always fine by me.

Season 4, Episode 7. "Sandblast" There is a wonderful scene in this episode where Ziva rushes forward to disarm a bomb, Gibbs tells the team to run for cover and... nobody moves. They just stay right by her. It's an understated moment. Nobody comments on it. It's not reflected in the dialogue or the acting. The camera angle switches for a split second to show everyone huddled around Ziva and then it switches back and... it's back to business as usual. It's one of my favourite things about NCIS: the central characters come across as a bunch of close friends who will do anything for one another.

Even aside from this stand-out moment, it's an especially enjoyable episode. Susanna Thompson appears as an Army Office working closely with Gibbs on the case-of-the-week. The sparks fly. And part of the fun is watching the rest of the NCIS family react to Gibbs liking somebody.

Speaking of liking somebody: this episode highlights two new sides to Tony. First off: we witness him off-duty with his girlfriend (Scottie Thompson) and apparently in love!! This comes as a shock to the viewer and is absolutely delightful. Secondly: Tony takes an interest in the well-being of the son of the victim and takes some time off-book to spend time with the kid and convince him to continue his college education. There's a wonderful exchange about this between Gibbs and Tony which, like most of the really cool things in this episode, is very understated. Blink and you've missed it.

Finally, the bad-guy gets away at the end. I love when that happens. It's gonna be fun when Gibbs eventually catches him.

Season 4, Episode 8. "Once a Hero" This show is on a roll. For the second week in a row, we get to see Tony off-job and hanging out with a girlfriend that he really seems to be falling in love with. Wow. Never thought I'd be saying that about Tony DiNozzo. Meanwhile, back on the job, the gang investiage when a thrice-decorated Marine takes a nose-dive off a hotel balcony after (apparently) attacking a political aide and (sometime before that) murdering an asian teenager. Gibbs isn't buying it any of it. It's great how NCIS can make us care about these murder victims that we have never seen on-screen and root for them to be cleared as Gibbs and his team do their thing.

It's a stong story, well told. And the cast/characters are fantastic, making the show an absolute delight from start to finish. As well as the cool Tony storyline, we get to see Abby going to extreme lengths to get some evidence analysed. Her status as one of the sweetest, most genuine, characters ever to appear on TV is cemented a hundred fold at the end of the storyline when the show throws a minor curveball I certainly didn't see coming and you watch Abby and wonder does she every notice or care about such things (her handsome lab partner is revealed to be a little person). And you can't help but love her all the more for it. So sweet. So cool.

Finally, the episode builds to a superb climax by putting Agent Lee into danger. Lee is a minor, but recurring, character that the audience has come to care about because of her (hilarious) romance with Palmer (another minor but very important character). When she is suddenly thrust into the limelight and sent on a dangerous mission alone veteran TV watchers cannot help but panic and expect her to get killed off. It makes for a thrilling, action-packed conclusion to a genuinely superb episode.

Season 4, Episode 9. "Twisted Sister" is the one where McGee's sister shows up at his appartment covered in blood and thinking she may have killed someone. There aren't enough ways to praise this episode! It's a great story, a great mystery. You just never know whether she did it or not. The character work on McGee is fantastic. There's a superb scene between McGee and Gibbs in an elevator that does wonders for both characters and (one hopes) strengthens the bond between them.

Meanwhile, the superb subplot of Tony's romance continues to delight. "If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always get what you always got," he tells his girlfriend when she asks him why they aren't moving into the bedroom faster. It's a superb moment. Cool. Romantic. Character-defining.

Season 4, Episode 10. "Smoked" Part of the joy of NCIS is watching wonderful veteran actors like Mark Harmon, David McCallum and Joe Spano do their thing. I feel like I've been watching them forever, and they never let me down. Harmon and Spano have a great on-screen chemistry that is always fun to watch. Harmon and McCallum have a wonderful scene in this episode, where Ducky finally gives Gibbs an overdue apology. Great TV. Part of the joy of NCIS is watching the wonderful twists in the stories. Particularly in season one, I was always blown away by the surprise endings. It was great. This particular episode, which deals with a serial killer found in a chimney has one too many twists for me. Twist after twist until, by the end, it just didn't make sense any more. Twists for the sake of twists? I get enough of that on 24!

Season 4, Episode 11. "Driven" Most NCIS episodes are alike. The cases unfold in similar fashion and the joy of the show is in watching the characters do their thing. Sometimes the writers deviate completely from format by having a "special" episode (a regular framed for murder, or somesuch) and sometimes the case-of-the-week is a genuine original. Such as here. Where the murderer is... a robot car. Well, actually, the car (which possesses artificial intelligence) has been programmed to kill but the fact remains: the murderer is a robot car. How cool is that?

Meanwhile, over in the ongoing subplot, Tony goes undercover for one scene (tailing the same three bad guys we saw him tail before) and the result is one of the coolest, funniest scenes I've ever seen in NCIS or any other show. Tony stands on the street in a crazy disguise and busking to people passing by. As he watches his three nefarious subjects, across the street in a restaurant, he sings aloud everything that they are doing. It's an amazing scene. One that has to be seen/heard to be believed.

Season 4, Episode 12. "Suspicion" The team investigates a murder in a small town. McGee seems to like a very cute small town girl (who ends up solving the case for them) and - in the episodes shocking final seconds - we learn that somebody is tailing Tony and his new girlfriend. Frak! Frak! Frak!

Season 4, Episode 13. "Sharif Returns" NCIS has a rhythm all it's own. The dialogue, delivery, pace and camera angles are unique to this show. It grabs you by the lapels and whisks you along. And it's always a fun ride. Susanna Thompson returns to the show in this story and there is considerable romantic tension between her character and Gibbs. The team watches all of this gleefully, and so do we (the viewers at home). It's nice to see continuity with Episode 7, but frustrating to find no continuity with Episode 12. Namely, I want to know who was spying on Tony, but the show - of course - is going to drag that out a bit.

Season 4, Episode 14. "Blowback" A complete change of pace, makes for a less enjoyable outing than usual. Jenny takes center-stage and we finally get a pay-off (of sorts) for all the undercover work Tony has been doing behind everyone's back. Because nothing much is resolved - and this feels merely like a set-up to future episodes - there is less satisfaction than usual.

Season 4, Episode 15. "Friends & Lovers" Another complete change of pace episode, as Tony's love-life (and, indeed, love in general) takes center-stage. Several scenes are devoted to the problems of Tony and his girl-friend, while a lot of the case-of-the-week scenes are dominated by a friendship between Tony and a cop on the case. They talk about the nature of romance and getting over the one-that-got-away. It's wonderful stuff. The episode packs two superb twists into the final minutes. One of which I saw coming. One I didn't.

Season 4, Episode 16. "Dead Man Walking" Wonderful story. Ziva falls for a dying man. He shows up at the start of the episode, with radiation poisoning and asks the team to solve his murder (Dramatic, much?). For a while the episode teases us with the idea that Ziva knows him somehow, but once we discover how she knows him we realise we are watching a tragic little love story. What I love most was just how low-key everything was. Everybody underplayed everything. It was very sweet and very sad.

Season 4, Episode 17. "Skeletons" was a so-so episode. The best moments were the ones where Ziva referred to what happened in the previous episode. The case-of-the-week was average. Nothing about it was unique to NCIS. It was a serial killer. So what? It was great to see Susanna Thompson back, but I lost interest somewhat as soon as I realised that the romance with Gibbs wasn't going smoothly. I want to see him in a relationship, see how that effects him. The character needs to be fleshed out. Putting Tony in a relationship has done wonders for him. Can't it be Gibbs turn now?

Season 4, Episode 18. "Iceman" There is one thing that NCIS does really well and that is: surprise you. It was one of the first things I noticed when I first started watching the show a few episodes into the first season. The identity of the killer was often a genuine surprise and the show has since found many others ways to play with our expectations as it tells it's stories.

This episode is a fine example. First off, Gibbs old friend Mike Franks returns to the show when the son he never knew he had is found close to death. Being NCIS you never know how this will all turn out. Will Franks turn out to be the killer? Or, more likely, will he go after the killers himself and force Gibbs to take him down (in a emotional climax). As you watch it, all of this is running through your head and you are dreading what might happen. Yet, as always, the show manages to pull a complete twist and give you are wonderful upbeat ending when one did not seem possible. I love this show, and I really loved the ending to this story. Left me with a nice warm feeling inside. Great stuff.

No warm fuzzy feelings over in the b-story. Tony's relationship is suddenly on the rocks, cos the big lug can't find it within himself to say the three words she most wants to hear. Idiot. Anyway, this is where those little black and white snapshots at the start of each segment come into play. I usually pay no need to them. One of my friends gave up on the show altogether because he hated them so much. He felt that they ruined the upcoming surprises for him.

They never bother me. Except here. Because, for a full ten minutes, I was sure that the the b/w snapshot had ruined the ending of the Tony subplot. I was sure that it was all there in black and white: a nice kiss between Tony and his lady back where all the trouble started. How wrong I was!! When the episode actually drew to a close, we were looking at something complete different and I was in shock. Wow. What a superb show.

NCIS is another one of those shows that seems to miss out on critical praise. It's the Simon And Simon syndrome, I suppose. The 80s private eyes ran for years - and was a huge hit - in the shadow of the very similar Magnum, PI. Sometimes it was better than the Hawaiian show and if asked to choose between them I would always say I preferred the Simon brothers. Now we have NCIS, forever in the shadow of CSI. In fact, they are not alike at all. But they are CBS procedurals and they have the same general cast structure. All the buzz is around CSI and NCIS - frequently a much better show - gets none of it. What gives?

Season 4, Episode 19. "Grace Period" I love Jessica Steen and I love her guest shots on NCIS. This is a particularly good one. Her team is killed and she's feeling responsible. The ending is truly shocking.

Season 4, Episode 20. "Cover Story" I like McGee and it's great to see him take centre-stage but the premise for this episode is too goofy for me. Someone is killing people based on what they read in a book that McGee wrote!! Seriously? Nope, don't buy it. The interplay between the regulars is great (as usual) but the story is rubbish.

Season 4, Episode 21. "Brothers In Arms" The kind responses to my recent Supernatural reviews in the TV Guide Community have got me thinking about what I get from various other shows, too. For me, NCIS is all about the group dynamic and the bond between these people. And this is a great episode to provoke thought on that: it's the one where Jenny goes overboard in an effort to catch that French bad guy she's been after all season.

The story starts off with Jenny nearly getting herself killed. This is followed by a Jenny-Gibbs private conversation. Nothing unusual about that. They often talk in private. They are superior to everyone else and they have a shared history. Their scenes together are frequent.

The episode also gives Tony and Jenny some alone time. This always fascinates me. These meetings are rare and in-secret. We know she trusts him from the time that Gibbs was away and we know that she has given him secret assignments. Unlike the Jenny-Gibbs bond, this is a friendship that nobody really knows about. It was revealed in one episode, yes, but - apart from that - it is still very much clandestine. And much more interesting because of it.

The biggest surprise for me, however, was when Ducky went to see Jenny and began to speak his mind about the case. This never happens. Utterly fascinating. Then it is revealed that Gibbs put him up to it. Suddenly it makes a lot more sense, and it nicely underscores the bond that exists between these two men. A bond which was - briefly - fractured early in the season. Something else I watched with great interest.

The episode is full of other little relationship/bonding moments. Tony has a stressful meeting with his girlfriend's mother and when it is all over there is a quick line of dialogue telling us that McGee knew about it. Quite a change-of-pace in the normal dynamic of their friendship. I love to think of Tony maturing enough to talk about stuff like this with McGee.

When I was a teenager there was a very attractive, very funny older girl at my school. Because we were both involved in debates and plays and so on, our paths frequently crossed. I was always confident and funny so I had no problem flirting with her and making her laugh and keeping things on a superficial level. I never thought much about it until the day we were both on the bus together heading to some school event or other. And I realised I knew nothing about her! I knew she had a brother, and I had a vague idea of where she lived, but I didn't know any of the important stuff. So that was the day I learned to stop "impressing" her and starting talking to her. All told, it was a great day. And very much part of the maturing process teenage boys have to go through.

Good fiction holds a mirror up and allows us to see ourselves. Even fantasy like NCIS has to have depth, and meaning, or it will fail to connect with us.

NCIS has depth. And it always connects.

So, what else did I like?

Well, Gibbs seems to smile more in this episode than he ever has. He seems extra friendly (for once) even as Jenny becomes more and more deranged. Nice switch.

And, in terms of group dynamics, I love the scene where Abby sends for Tony to come alone when she has an embarrasing problem to deal with. And Tony brings everyone. And then they all huddle around and figure out a (typically childish) way to proceed. Funny. But also very revealing. We learn so so much about these people from this little bit of comedy.

I watch NCIS for the laughs and the palatable crime/adventure yarns. But I also watch to see the friendships evolve and develop. I love these people. If I ever write an NCIS script, I'll end it with a giant sleep-over where they all stay at Gibbs' house. (And he stays awake a little longer than necessary to stand guard over them all.)

Season 4, Episode 22. "In the Dark" A solid case-of-the-week and good scenes on the personal lives make for another enjoyable NCIS. John Billingsley (why is he not a superstar by now?) guests as blind photographer who takes a snap of a dead body without knowing it. Meanwhile, Tony and Gibbs are under pressure from the women in their lives to make a stronger commitment. I can understand why Tony is skittish. The scene between him and Ziva is wonderful (where she says what a good man he is). But Gibbs is a different story. He's being too closed off for no good reason. I feel sorry for his girlfriend.

Season 4, Episode 23. "Trojan Horse" NCIS delivers a nice change-of-pace episode, when a dead body arrives at their HQ in a taxi! Michael Patrick McGill is great fun as the taxi driver, scared of both his wife, who nags him on the phone, and Gibbs, who won't let him go. The story delivers a great twist, too. And a pretty good cliff-hanger, also.

Season 4, Episode 24. "Angel of Death" NCIS ends it's fourth season with a superb story, a superb twist and a superb cliffhanger. Triple wow, huh? It's a dark and stormy night and Tony is visiting his girlfriend at the hospital where she works. Some bad guys are on the loose and they need to get a dead body out of the hospital (for the drugs contained within) and Tony (alone and unarmed) finds himself in the line of fire. It's an episode that completely departs from the formula we know and love, and it is all the better for it.

Most of the scenes with Jenny (and her quest for her dead father) were distracting and uninteresting, but it was cool to see Ducky and the gang out for a night on the town. Particularly nice was the scene were Ducky probed Ziva for her true feelings on Tony. Great stuff.

And then there was the final minutes: a superb moment that the show has been building to all season. I never saw it coming. I am gob-smacked and I have no idea what to think now, of the season that has gone before and the relationship between Tony and his girlfriend. Is it completely fake? What the heck is going on? I can't wait to see what comes next...

Ignoring Friday Night Lights renders the Emmy's meaningless.

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