NCIS does things a bit differently with this episode, “Blood Brothers.” As the team prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving, Vance gives them a somewhat unusual case in that there’s no body and no actual case. Instead, it’s up to them to track down the missing brother of a sailor battling leukemia. That’s what leads them to an FBI/Secret Service investigation into a counterfeiting ring, and Fornell returns to work with Tony and McGee.
Meanwhile, Bishop spends some time at home in Oklahoma for the holiday, and her brother makes his feelings about Jake and what he did very clear. But how does Ellie feel about her marriage?
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This Family Deserves a Break
Moments after her son, Alex, who has leukemia, brings up writing his eulogy, Paulette Quinn steps into the hospital hallway and receives news that her daughter, Rebecca, was killed in action. The oldest Quinn sibling, William, was also killed in action. Alex’s best chance for survival is a bone marrow transplant, but they haven’t found a viable donor. His best hope lies with his youngest brother, Sean, who had a falling-out with his family six months ago and no one has been able to reach him since.
Sean was medically denied from serving like the rest of the family due to a heart murmur, and that rejection stuck with him, his mother tells Gibbs. He began spiraling when William died. He started drinking, was fired, fell in with a bad crowd, moved into a new apartment and disappeared for weeks at a time. He doesn’t even know about Rebecca. When Tony and McGee check out his apartment, they find cash and forged passports, all for him. Whatever he’s up to, it can’t be legal.
Abby discovers that the cash is all fake and not a particularly sophisticated type of counterfeit either. It’s good enough to fool someone with an untrained eye. Sean has been making multiple trips to casinos and trading the fake cash for real bills, and the passports are all under known aliases of his.
That’s when Fornell joins them to comment on Gibbs’ look and bring them into the loop. The FBI and Secret Service have been tracking a counterfeit ring for the past year, and Sean was recruited into the scheme by a high school friend. When that friend got sticky fingers, however, he was killed. Sean then came to them and is now an informant. They can’t risk bringing him in for a blood sample to see if he’s a match for his brother, but Fornell can bring them to him. Oh, and did Gibbs get his fruit basket? Oh, it’s always so good to see Fornell.
When Fornell brings Gibbs and Ducky to Sean, however, they find his FBI handler dead. Sean’s missing. Though it looks like Sean may have shot the FBI agent with a gun registered to one of his aliases, it turns out that the bullet in the agent’s chest had DNA from two individuals: himself and Sean’s. Sean was also shot, which means he’s going to need medical attention. Since he knows someone’s after him, he has to be hiding out somewhere, but where?
Gibbs turns to Paulette in hopes of getting that answer. When she asks if he has children and he tells her he did, a daughter, she says that he then knows the unimaginable pain a parent goes through having to bury a child. And she’s had to bury two already, with a third out there seriously injured and her fourth dying in a hospital bed in front of her. She doesn’t know how much more she can take.
Gibbs tells her that they’ll save both of her sons, but in order to do so, right now they need a lead on where Sean might go. She suggests the storage unit holding the boat he was restoring with William — and she’s right. However, while he is going to make a full recovery despite losing a lot of blood, there is bad news: he’s not a viable donor for Alex.
Will a Man Serving a Life Sentence Save Alex?
Fortunately, they have one other option: a viable donor who denied the transplant request and just so happens to be near Bishop. The only problem? Former Army Sergeant Richard Doogan is currently serving a life sentence in Leavenworth for double homicide. “I’m sure the convicted murderer is a reasonable man,” Bishop’s brother comments as she goes off to see him.
George is right, which is where the unfortunate part of the match comes in. Doogan agrees to be the donor, but he wants to make a deal: in exchange for his bone marrow, he wants his life sentence reduced to time served and wants to walk out a free man. There is no way that’s going to happen. Bishop had to know it couldn’t be that easy.
Meanwhile, back in DC, Abby is able to identify another person in the counterfeit scheme. After watching casino footage of Sean and not seeing him meeting anyone, she checks the security footage for frequent visitors in the time before he was part of it and finds Brinkman, Sean’s building manager.
With the others helping to wrap up the case, Gibbs flies down to join Bishop in Oklahoma and goes with her to bring Doogan a deal: possibility of parole in 40 years. He’d be 70, the inmate argues, refusing to take any deal but the one he proposed. He killed two men, they remind him, but he argues that they were terrorists. That doesn’t matter. He acted as a judge, jury and executioner, and that is not justice. This deal is the only one he’s ever going to get, and he can take it leave it. Doogan leaves it.
Brinkman’s plan to not say anything until his lawyer arrives doesn’t last very long. As Tony and Fornell lay out everything they have on him — the gun he used to shoot the FBI agent and Sean, Sean IDing him and the tell that confirms everything — Brinkman agrees to talk and help them take down his boss in exchange for protection. He worked as Michael Turro’s monitor and had to act after seeing Sean with an FBI agent or Turro would have killed him.
His operation is based out of a warehouse, Brinkman tells them, and that information leads to them taking down Turro and his operation. And thanks to Tony hitting Turro over the head from behind, there’s a third option when Fornell faces off with the man who seems about to raise the gun in his hand.
With Alex’s time running out, Bishop goes to see Doogan again in hopes of changing his mind. She tells him that he’s a good man who made mistakes. The detainees he killed were responsible for targeting US troops with roadside bombs, and one of the victims was one of his friends. He says he saved soldiers’ lives, and she uses that. He can’t change his past, but he can change the future, for himself and for Alex. He can save Alex’s life. He may not be getting the fresh start he thought he needed to be out of prison to get, but he can get a new beginning this way. He agrees to donate his bone marrow.
Alex will be on his feet in the new year, thanks to Doogan and Bishop. In the hospital, Sean sits at his brother’s hospital bedside.
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Palmer is so proud of his 20-pound turducken (or at least what is apparently the practice run) that he’s showing everyone photos on his phone like a proud father. McGee lets him know that he and Delilah will be late to Ducky’s for the dinner because they’re joining Abby at the soup kitchen. (She’s even made pumpkin proxies of the team for the centerpiece at the soup kitchen.) As for Tony, he’s planning to take some alone time after recent events since his girlfriend and father are both out of town. (Anyone at all surprised that Senior is out of town for Thanksgiving, a time meant to be spent with family? No? Me neither.)
After the case is wrapped up, however, Tony’s finishing up the paperwork when Fornell walks by, on his way out. Unable to leave him there (especially since he heard about him seeing Jeanne), the FBI agent invites Tony over to join him and Emily. It’s an invitation/punishment since Emily’s cooking is worse than Diane’s, but the only thing to complain about here is we don’t get to see Tony and Fornell having Thanksgiving together. And unfortunately, no, Tony cannot call him Toby now.
What Will Bishop Do About Jake?
Well, it seems that Bishop would rather chop enough wood for the next few winters for her mother than talk about her marital problems. “Whatever problems you two are having, you know you have to address it,” her mother, Barbara, advises her. “It’s so much better to nip it in the bud than let it drag on.” Bishop at least decides to nip one problem in the bud — Jake calling her over and over — by taking an ax to her phone.
Her brother, George, comes home early for what he tries to pass off as bonding time with his sister, but Bishop knows that their mother called him. When he finds out what Jake did, he’s ready to go after him, just like a big brother would. He points out that she’s still wearing her wedding ring, so does that mean she wants to try working things out? “Marriage isn’t something you just give up on,” she insists. Her vows meant something to her, and even when things were bad, she always thought they’d find their way through it. Still, George tells her that he and his wife lean on each other during challenging times and are stronger for it; that kind of love can’t exist without trust.
After Gibbs flies down and they go to see Doogan for the first time, he joins the Bishop family for dinner. Sharing memories about Bishop’s childhood is cut short when Jake calls the house phone. Bishop reminds him that she told him not to call her there. No, she’s not coming home for Thanksgiving, and he can spend it wherever and with whomever he wants. Ouch, but fair.
George wants nothing more than to just call Jake back and give him a piece of his mind, and that’s when Bishop has had enough. It’s her life and her marriage and therefore her decision, she tells him before walking away.
Gibbs is sitting out on the porch when she walks out of the house to go on a run, and he suggests that Bishop has done enough running. She’s not in the mood for a lecture. What she wants is for everyone to stop treating her like she’s a fragile thing about to break. When he reminds her of how often she checked on him after he was shot, she’s surprised when he suggests that she needs to talk things out. That’s when she finds out he’s been talking to Dr. Taft. “Everyone reaches a point, Bishop, even me,” Gibbs explains. Rule 28: When you need help, ask.
As the episode ends, Barbara joins Gibbs in her kitchen as he peels potatoes. Her daughter doesn’t open up to many people, so if Bishop trusts him, she does too. If she had things her way, Ellie would be living there, working as a teacher or would maybe be a nun. It does help knowing that she’s surrounded by people who care about her. (That may be the only positive thing about this Jake cheating storyline, how the team is rallying around Bishop.)
When Bishop joins Gibbs, she tells him she’s ready to go home, and he asks if she has room in her truck for one more. He only booked a one-way ticket because he wasn’t leaving without her.
NCIS season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)