The show opens on the joyous reunion of a military father and his family. Their joy is short-lived when the father goes to check on his daughter, who came home from school with a fever. The child, Emma Daly, is found barely breathing.
Tony and Bishop are both in the holiday spirit. Tony is planning on a sun-filled Christmas in Jamaica, while Bishop is heading to Oklahoma to spend the holiday with her parents, brothers and husband. Of course, no one enjoys Christmas more than Abby, who is handing out her famous lab-baked ginger cookies, while clad in a posh red coat and hat with an accompanying Christmas sweater. I love Abby's holiday spirit and bold fashion choices!
McGee is not feeling festive when he receives a call that the daughter of one of his friends was rushed to the hospital with a high fever and swelling in the wind pipe. Bishop mentions that the son of a Marine that she knows has the same symptoms and is also in the ICU.Piecing Together the Puzzle
Gibbs, accompanied by Carol Wilson (Meredith Eaton), enters and lets the team know that there are a total of eight sick children. Wilson, who works at the Naval Medical Research Center, is there to help solve the case. All of the sick kids are from around the DC area, and all live in military housing. Abby fears bio-terrorism.
Since Navy and Marine families are affected, the NCIS team will be a part of the investigation. Abby and Carol will work with the CDC to find out what is causing the illness and how to treat it.A Stranger's Visit
Director Vance is getting ready to drive his kids to school when a stranger arrives with a bag of gifts. The stranger, named Lamar Addison (Ben Vereen), wants to see the children. Vance is furious and tells the man to go back to New York, and he doesn't tell his children the man's identity.
The number of infected children grows to 19 kids, and the team is meeting with their families at local hospitals. Bishop wonders aloud about SARS, and Emma's parents, the Dalys, hear her and are terrified.
Ducky and Jimmy examine a map of the location of the infected children. Ducky volunteers Palmer to assist Abby and Carol.The Trouble with Vance
Gibbs briefs Vance on the case and notices something is bothering Leon. Vance shares that Jackie's estranged father visited her brother in prison and asked for information about his family. Addison walked out on his own family when Jackie was a child. Gibbs offers his help, but Vance refuses.Daddy-to-Be?
Meanwhile, Palmer's wife, Breena, stops by to tell him that they have an appointment to meet with a birth mother. Abby is thrilled, but Palmer is both excited and panicked.Bishop's Lead
Bishop has a possible lead and offers Gibbs one of Abby's delicious ginger cookies. When Gibbs refuses because he doesn't like ginger, Tony comments that Gibbs doesn't like ginger "in his cookies anyway ... He is a cinnamon man!" I love it!
Bishop finds out that a man named Max Comey was recently added to the government watch list. Comey was fired from a chemical research company after stealing toxic mold spores. He lives down the street from one of the schools where a child was taken ill, and he also recently fought with a Marine recruiter.
Gibbs, Bishop and Tony go to Comey's apartment, and it is vacant. They do find a plastic bag from the lab, but it is empty. Comey's former co-workers tell NCIS that Comey called himself Dr. Max and was boastful in front of the ladies.A Deadly Turn
Ducky also has his first fatality from the epidemic. The victim is an elderly Marine named Lloyd Grunfeld, who operated a dry cleaning business at Quantico. Ducky and Palmer conduct Grunfeld's autopsy, where Palmer voices his concerns over becoming a father. Grunfeld died from an aggressive form of pneumonia, but the children have a great chance of recovering with treatment, but only if the strain can be identified.
Vance has his father-in-law brought in after his nanny reports seeing a strange man on the premises. Addison tells Vance that he is a changed man, and he wants the chance to show his grand-children that he is not a bad person. He is shocked when Vance tells him that the children think he is dead. Addison wants to pay for the children's college if Vance will reconsider. The irate NCIS director tells Addison to leave and threatens him.Patient Zero
Abby, Carol and Palmer identify the bug as a strain of strep and begin celebrating. The team also goes through surveillance footage to find out where Grunfeld and the kids crossed paths in the hopes of locating patient zero. Bishop feels bad about what she said in front of the Daly family, and Gibbs tells her to get over it. When Tony calls Gibbs "Ebenezer," Gibbs calls Tony "Bob Cratchit." Now it definitely feels like a holiday episode.
When Comey is located, Gibbs sends Bishop to a Christmas tree lot where he is working to charm him. In Comey's van, they find a cooler from Labsynthe, and Gibbs cheerfully takes him into custody. Comey admits that he took the mold spores and used them for experiments. The suspect's plan was to make his girlfriend, Bernadette, sick so that he could cure her. He denies harming any children.
Abby is sad when she discovers that the outbreak is not strep pneumonia, because the bacteria is morphing, and none of the children have responded to the antibiotics.
Vance hears the bad news by phone as he and his children decorate their house for Christmas. Addison comes to the house again and begs Vance to hear him out. He shows Vance a letter from Jackie the previous Christmas. Addison saw news of Jackie's death and wanted to see his grandchildren. Vance tells his father-in-law that the fact that Jackie sent him a card doesn't mean anything.New Symptoms
The kids also develop a rash, and the count of infected children increases as their conditions deteriorate. Abby tries to send Palmer home, but he insists on staying to work on the case. At the hospital, Bishop apologizes to the Dalys and gives them hope of a cure.
When Gibbs sees volunteer Santa's helpers being sent home from the hospital, he gets an idea. Perhaps one of the volunteers at the military base holiday parties is patient zero? Abby has had enough of Palmer saying that he doesn't want kids, and she lectures him on having faith.
The gang figures out that the virus came from Africa and was spread by Marine Captain Louis Boggs, in his volunteer duties as Santa Claus. Boggs came in contact with the children at the holiday parties and infected Grunfeld when he sent his Santa suit in for cleaning. It turns out that Boggs contracted Meningococcal-A when he was in the Congo. Thankfully, antibiotics will cure the illness. Christmas Tidings
Vance has a change of heart and introduces the children to their grandfather. Back at headquarters, Tony and McGee decide to head out for a drink and offer Bishop a ride to the airport. Before leaving, Bishop presents Gibbs with one of her mom's cinnamon coffee cakes since Tony mentioned his love of all things cinnamon. When she leaves, Gibbs savors a bite.
I enjoyed this episode of NCIS
, but I do feel that it was a bit dark for a holiday episode. I guess I prefer things a bit more merry and bright.
airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.(Image courtesy of CBS)