The previous episode of NCIS featured several scary things. First, there was a 10-year-old little girl who brutally killed her mother. Tony ran into Special Agent Zoe Keates, an ATF agent that he knew from his rookie days in Philadelphia. Then, after much agonizing, we saw Bishop finally choose a Halloween costume for Abby’s party: the spandex-clad sexy Sandy from Grease. For the record, I liked the chemistry between Tony and Keates.

This week’s episode, “The Searchers,” deals with the team’s investigation into a murder and a charity that preys on the families of missing military members. Bishop also eagerly awaits her probie evaluation.

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Tony’s New Friend

We start off with two young boys breaking into a neighbor’s garage. While checking out the military stuff, they notice the body of Old Man Hawkins on the floor.

Meanwhile, Tony has pity on a stray cat that followed him home and lets him in. The only problem is Tony doesn’t like cats, and he has a strict 48-hour deadline before the furry feline is back on the street. Tony seems to have a connection with how “thoughtful” the cat is, and Tony has even moved his fish, Kate and Ziva, into the bathroom for their own safety. Hilarious!

Bishop has her probie training evaluation in front of her but is too afraid to open it. McGee and Tony tell her to downgrade her expectations, as McGee only received a score of 60, while Tony finished with a 58. Bishop finally opens it, and she has an 82, much to Tony and McGee’s shock.

Dog Tag Clue

The victim, George Hawkins, was a 65-year-old master sergeant. While the team waits for Ducky to arrive, Gibbs notices that Hawkins is clutching something in his hand. It is a dog tag with the name CJ Kent on it. Kent was killed during the Vietnam War, which torpedoes the theory that Kent killed Hawkins.

Brothers in Arms

Tony volunteers to stay behind and process the victim’s garage since he has “cat issues” to mull over. I think that Tony should keep his feline friend. Gibbs arrives, and Bishop and McGee bring him up to speed on the investigation. Hawkins and Kent served together from boot camp through Vietnam. During a reconnaissance mission, the group was ambushed by the Vietcong and four squad members were killed. The bodies of the other three soldiers were recovered, but Kent’s body was not. The joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, also known as JPAC, did an excavation of the area, but neither Kent’s remains, nor his dog tags, were found. Adding to the mystery is a large number of phone calls between Hawkins and Kent’s daughter, Alice Kent Staley.

Gibbs meets with Alice, and she explains how Hawkins, or Hawk, as she affectionately called him, watched over her and supported her. She is puzzled as to how, or why, Hawkins would have her father’s dog tags. Hawkins had been doing research because he wanted to bring home Kent. He was even making videos for Alice’s daughter about her grandfather.

Bishop Learns the Truth

Ducky tells Bishop that Hawkins was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the previous month, and his condition was terminal. Ducky also takes a moment to tell Bishop not to worry about the score on her probie evaluation. He explains that Gibbs gives low scores to motivate the agents, and the lower the score, the more potential Gibbs thinks that you have. This certainly deflates Bishop’s feelings about her high score.

While Tony and McGee continue their work in Hawkins’ garage, Tony tells McGee that he is moved by Hawkins’ quest to bring his fellow marine home, and this has caused Tony to really think about friendship. McGee thinks Tony is talking about him, but in reality, Tony is talking about Rick Blaine, his cat that he named after Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca. That’s right: Tony is keeping his feline buddy.

Sending a Message

Meanwhile, Abby has lots of news for Gibbs. The dog tag didn’t belong to Kent after all. It is a fake and even listed his blood type incorrectly. Hawkins dragged himself over to a table after he had been shot and pulled off the dog tag as a final clue.

The next morning, Tony runs into NCIS headquarters because Rick Blaine sat on his alarm clock and turned it off. What a furry scoundrel! Hawkins had paid several private investigators, charities and for-profit organizations in his search for Kent.

Questioning the Boss

Bishop is lost in thought, and asks why Tony and McGee didn’t tell her that a good score on the evaluation wasn’t actually good. They tell her that Gibbs has his methods.

Gibbs tells Bishop to look into locating Kent’s remains. Bishop responds that the case is about Hawkins’ death, not locating Kent. Gibbs replies that a missing marine is always relevant. What, no head slap for Bishop?

Bishop speaks to Colonel Leland, who is in charge of the dig where Kent’s body was last seen. She says that the Vietcong would sometimes take bodies of dead American soldiers to use as bait, and theorizes that is what happened to Kent.

Abby has been busy working her special scientific magic and discovers an envelope in Hawkins’ belongings that held the dog tag. Abby is able to reconstruct the logo of the returned address. It is Blue Summit Travel, or BST.

A Scam Uncovered

Tony and McGee go to the travel agency and see the same distinctive writing on messages written by Henry Caldwell, who was fired last week after he was caught stealing cash. Bishop and Gibbs go to Caldwell’s apartment, but Caldwell spies them looking at his car. When the suspect takes off on foot, Gibbs orders Bishop to cover the back. When she hears a noise, Bishop enters the pizza shop and comes face to face with Gibbs with their guns aimed at each other. The suspect gets away, and a furious Gibbs walks away from Bishop.

While Caldwell is in the wind, McGee has found a treasure trove of information on his laptop. Caldwell has a list of names of people who contacted the charity Lost Heroes Alliance. Caldwell would call the family member of MIA and POWs saying that he found a dog tag, and then ask for money to continue the bogus search. Bishop realizes that Caldwell, who is diabetic, called in a refill for his insulin two days before but never picked it up. Gibbs sends McGee and Tony to the pharmacy to apprehend Caldwell. Bishop tries to apologize for losing Caldwell, but Gibbs dismisses the apology and asks where she is on finding Kent’s remains.

Getting Their Man

After pulling an all-nighter in the pharmacy, Tony confides in McGee that Rick Blaine escaped when the cleaning lady opened the door. Tony cannot fathom why Rick would want to leave. Poor Tony! Caldwell finally shows up, and McGee and Tony get their man.

Ducky finds Bishop sitting on the floor in autopsy, working. Ducky reflects on his service in Vietnam, then asks Bishop what is really bothering her. She explains about what happened with Caldwell and Gibbs. Ducky gives her some sage advice: when feeling overwhelmed, start by accomplishing just one small task.

Who Pulled the Trigger?

Caldwell freely admits to contacting Hawkins and pulling the con, but Hawkins knew it was the wrong blood type on the dog tag. Caldwell finally tells Gibbs that he had a partner, Todd Price, who owns Blue Summit Travel. Caldwell told Price that Hawkins was going to call the cops, and it turns out that Price also owns the same type of gun that killed Hawkins. Abby matches the ballistics, and Price’s fingerprints are also on the revolver.

Price hopped a flight to Vietnam after McGee and Tony’s visit to the travel agency. Bishop finds a lead on Kent’s remains through a photo of a young Vietnamese boy that Kent helped. She thinks that the boy moved the body because his necklace was found at the excavation. She tells Gibbs she wants to go to Vietnam to prove herself.

When Gibbs asks if she was trying to prove herself by entering the pizza shop, she states that she has no choice because Gibbs doesn’t believe in her. Tony and McGee beat a hasty retreat. Gibbs tells Bishop that he is doing the evaluations differently now and that a high score is actually good. When Gibbs brings up Caldwell and yells at Bishop, she accuses him of going easy on her the entire time.

Welcome to Da Nang

Abby, McGee and Jimmy know that Price bought a graphotype machine in Da Nang, but there is no record of where Price stays. Abby pulls up lots of e-mails to a woman named Phan Thi Kim, and they are love letters. Abby traces the address.

Gibbs and Tony go to Da Nang, Vietnam, and meet up with Colonel Leland of JPAC. They meet in a market where dog tags, both real and fake, are sold.

Gibbs and Tony apprehend Price, who states that he shot Hawkins in self-defense. Colonel Leland finds the boy that left his necklace where Kent died. The man recounts how he saw Kent get shot, and how he brought a cart to bring Kent’s body to bury next to his parents to thank Kent. Leland excavates the grave and finds Kent’s real dog tags. Gibbs returns them to Kent’s daughter and granddaughter.

Gibbs’ Confession

After McGee and Tony go home, Gibbs tells Bishop that she did a good job. He also tells her that he has been going easy on her, but not for the reason she thinks. Gibbs tells her that it has to do with Ziva’s desk. He confesses that he lost two good people from that desk, and that is his fault. Bishop tells him that McGee and Tony are amazing agents, and she asks Gibbs to push her so that she can be more like him. Gibbs agrees and promptly tells her to sit in her chair, not on the floor.

I liked this week’s NCIS episode, and I liked the explanation of why Gibbs has been going easy on Bishop compared to the other probies that he has trained. It does explain why some of her behavior has been tolerated, when it would not have been acceptable from someone else.


NCIS
airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.

(Image courtesy of CBS)