'NCIS' Winter Finale Recap: Jack Faces Her Past in Afghanistan
'NCIS' Winter Finale Recap: Jack Faces Her Past in Afghanistan
Kim Stempel
Kim Stempel
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Last time on NCIS, Delilah and McGee finally welcomed their twins and named the boy Johnny and the girl Morgan. I love the names, but I was hoping that there would be a nod to Gibbs somehow when the monikers were revealed. 

The winter finale of NCIS season 15, "Double Down," has Torres and Jack tasked with protecting a senator on his journey back from Afghanistan. That doesn't sound like a recipe for holiday cheer.


A Call from Back Home

Jack and Torres are in Afghanistan to protect Senator John Phillips for the holidays. Phillips heckles a comedian who is on a goodwill tour of the base. Apparently, Marine General Philips doesn't find much humor in the man's routine. Jack receives a call from Gibbs giving her some bad news. Chandler, Senator Phillips' son, is in the ICU, and his condition is grave.

Gibbs and McGee video conference with a shocked Senator Phillips from the hospital. Chandler fell from a stairway landing in his apartment building. Chandler hit his head on the concrete steps and broke his foot. When the Senator asks if there is any more information, Gibbs reluctantly adds that the police believe that Chandler was drunk. Senator Phillips states that he is coming home to see his son, and Torres tells him that they are trying to arrange an earlier flight.

At the hospital, Vance speaks with the head of the neurology department, and the news is not good. Senator Phillips won't be able to get back in time before his son passes away. Vance adds that he knows that Gibbs and Philips have known each other a long time and that Gibbs had wanted to be on Phillips' security detail. Gibbs responds with, "What's done is done."

Stealing the Case

Bishop is staking out the hospital lobby and quizzing Detective Mayer for the newest information from the doctors. Mayer says that Chandler's injuries are the result of "a drunken fall." Bishop counters with the fact that Chandler's blood alcohol shows that he had been drinking but was not drunk. Mayer warns Bishop not to handle the file, and once she does, Mayer gives Bishop what she really wants for Christmas -- NCIS now has the case! 

Senator Phillips takes a moment to chat with Jack. He realizes that she has been to Afghanistan before. Jack confirms that she was part of Army Psy-op 10 years ago. She skirts his other questions and tells the Senator that they cannot get a flight out for 48 hours. The air field is no longer secure because of a large number of Taliban in the area, and Senator Phillips will need an air escort. Phillips is not going to give up and decides that they will switch air fields. 

That night, Torres hears a noise and rolls over in bed with his gun drawn. Senator Phillips is packing his belongings to catch a flight in the morning from Lashkargah airport. The airport is a few hours away. Jack has figured out a way to take one Humvee to the airport. It will be a dangerous journey, and Jack had to make one small adjustment to make the plan come together -- riding with Chet, the comedian. No one is pleased about this, except for Chet.

A Not Merry McGee

Back at headquarters, McGee is upset that Bishop poached the case from the Metro police just before his twins' first Christmas. Bishop's gut is telling her that this may not be a simple accident. Chandler is a case of the apple falling far, far away from the tree. Unlike his father, Chandler is unemployed and was arrested for possession of illegal prescription drugs the previous year. Senator Phillips had just presented an anti-drug bill, and his only child's conviction was big news. Senator Phillips paid his son's bail, then disowned him. Yikes! Bishop thinks this is really harsh, especially because it happened right after the death of Senator Phillips' wife. Gibbs tells them that all parents love their kids, period. 

Bishop and McGee check out where Chandler's accident happened. The building is run-down and a far cry from all the fabulous locales in Chandler's social media posts. So who was paying the tab for Chandler's partying lifestyle? The duo knocks on the door to talk to Seth Hendrix, Chandler's roommate. They enter when no one answers. Hendrix didn't hear them over the loud rap music, and he is grieving for his still-living friend. What is also interesting is that there is a huge casino table in the apartment, but it is solely for practice as Hendrix and Chandler are professional gamblers. Hendrix tells Bishop and McGee that he and Chandler were playing video games and drinking, and Chandler decided to go and get coffee. Hendrix was in the apartment the whole time and didn't see anything.

A Large Bump in the Road 

Back in Afghanistan, the group calls Gibbs from the Humvee. Gibbs tells Senator Phillips that his son is still holding on, even though the brain swelling has not decreased. Jack notices that the driver is taking them on a different route, and it turns out that Senator Phillips changed the route to make it faster. Jack isn't thrilled with this idea. 

She is even less thrilled with the constant bickering between Chet and the Senator. When something is spotted ahead in the road, everyone exits the Humvee. It is an old IED, and that means that the Taliban is back in this area. The driver of the Humvee states that they cannot continue this route and goes to call in what has happened. A moment later, the Humvee explodes. 

The group has no radio and no satellite phone, and no one knows their location. It was clearly an IED that caused the explosion, and the group knows that they must find shelter -- and fast. Adding to their woes is the constant chatter of the comedian bemoaning his lost Christmas plans. 

Palmer goes to see Abby in the lab, and he has the Christmas blues. He was preparing to have Breena's parents over for a "themed" Christmas celebration. Palmer was set to make his best figgy pudding and don his Dickensian coat. Abby shows him the first 3D model that she constructed. According to Chandler's medical file, it is not possible for him to have fallen forward and sustained the head injuries that he suffered to the back of his head. Abby's second animation model shows that Chandler had to have fallen backward and with a high rate of speed. Abby and Palmer both realize that Chandler was pushed and that their holiday plans are in jeopardy. They say a sad "Humbug!" in unison. 

Abby has checked out Chandler's craps table, and it makes a stunning addition to her lab, which is otherwise decked out for Christmas. You can always count on Abby to be festive. She determines that the casino-grade dice are, in fact, rigged. They are exquisitely made, and Abby posits that someone with a degree in chemical engineering would have made the dice. Hello, Seth Hendrix! 

Bishop and McGee go back to Hendrix's place and surprise him and a woman in bed asleep. They also note a large amount of cash on the nightstand. In interrogation, Hendrix admits to tampering with the dice. At headquarters, Hendrix says that he didn't know that Chandler was giving up their scheme and joining the marines. He also explains that Misty is part of the con.


Where No One is Searching

In Afghanistan, they finally find a deserted cave. Jack believes that in a few hours, they will send out a search team to locate them. Everyone is a little less hopeful once Senator Phillips tells the group that he did not file the route change at base camp because he knew that they would insist on him taking the longer, safer route. Chet continues to needle Senator Phillips about how he disowned Chandler. Chet mentions how Phillips just caused the death of a marine, and Phillips comes out swinging. The fight is broken up a second before gunfire is heard. Jack and Torres shoot as some Taliban members enter the cave. But there is even worse news -- Senator Phillips has been shot. Jack tends to the Senator's injuries, and Chet (sort of) thanks him for saving his life. 

Gibbs calls Vance to the hospital because Chandler is awake. That is not the only surprise in store. A gunnery sergeant stops by and informs the two men that Chandler had stopped by the recruitment office the previous day and enlisted in the Marines.  

Vance summons Gibbs to M-TAC. Chandler's breathing tube has been removed, but he has no memory of what happened. Vance tells Gibbs that the transport carrying Phillips, Bishop and Torres never arrived and that a search is underway. Vance states that he denied Jack's request for the assignment. He wanted Gibbs on that detail, not Jack. Gibbs gave up his spot to Jack because he thought that it was important to her. Vance doesn't want "history to repeat itself."

How to Con Everyone

Abby, Palmer, Bishop and McGee re-enact how the con works with the craps table. I love it! Misty states that there was a pit boss from New Jersey that Chandler thought was following him. Misty recalls that he was tall and thin with a mustache. Bishop whispers to McGee that she saw a man who looked like that pounding on Hendrix's door that morning. Bishop uses her computer skills to locate and identify the name of their suspect: Axel McKenzie III. A moment later, McKenzie strolls into the office with Gibbs.

McKenzie was looking for Chandler, but no to harm him. He wanted to hire him to spot other cheaters. He claims that he talked to Chandler at the hotel bar, and Chandler admitted to the entire scam. Chandler asked McKenzie to not press charges, and he agreed to turn his life around. McKenzie floors the team when he explains that Chandler paid back the entire $90,000, which was both his cut and Hendrix's cut. 

Bishop and McGee once again confront Hendrix about his role in Chandler's fall. Hendrix reluctantly tells them that Misty was angry and pushed Chandler. A furious Misty tells Gibbs that Hendrix is the culprit. She even claims to have proof. She was videotaping herself practicing changing the dice when Hendrix confessed to pushing Chandler. The case is finally closed before Christmas, but the team isn't in the mood to celebrate until Jack and Torres are home.

Jack Has Secrets

Torres puts his dirt bike skills to use and roars out of the cave. Senator Phillips asks Jack if she was part of the "Wingos." He saw her staring at a name etched on a wall at the base camp. The operation was classified, but Phillips knows that not everyone survived. He also confides that he avoids being home for the holidays since the death of his wife, and he now regrets his decision.

Jack uses bullets that she places on the ground to show the vibration of approaching vehicles. She sees a Humvee approaching, flying the American flag. The medics get right to work on Senator Phillips. At camp, Jack digs in the gravel under the "Wingos" carving and pulls out a small metal box. It is engraved with names on the back. 

Four days later, Senator Phillips is brought to Gibbs' house by Torres and Jack as soon as they land. The Senator is surprised to see Chandler, and they embrace as they tell each other how much they love each other.

I enjoyed this episode of NCIS, but I would have loved to see the Dickens-style Christmas!


What do you think is in the box that Jack recovered? Why did Vance not want Jack on the security detail? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

NCIS season 15 returns Tuesday, January 2, 2018, at 8/7c on CBS. Want more news? Like our NCIS Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)



whichncis.jpg