Vance finds himself in the middle of the case in this episode of NCIS, “Double Trouble,” when a former agent not only claims to have information that can help with the team’s case, but also has not one but two hidden agendas that are revealed over the course of the episode.
Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that Vance is not my favorite director — that will always be Tom Morrow, in part because he was the first — but over the years, not only has he grown on me and earned my respect (despite separating the team), but it has also gotten to the point that I strongly object to even the suggestion of someone else in his chair. However, that’s the possible future the agency is facing in this episode as the case goes on.
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You Know What They Say About People Who Assume…
“You can have it, but you won’t be alive long enough to spend it” is the warning a guy gets when he robs the bookie in the backroom of a lingerie store, and the bookie is right because the guy is Navy Seaman Apprentice Brian Dokes, the team’s victim in this episode. But did a car crash kill the “poor man”? As Tony and Ducky learn, it’s best not to make assumptions here because Dokes has practice grenades in his trunk, the bag of money from the bookie under the seat and his eye has been clawed out. What they can correctly assume is that this was no accident.
But why did Dokes rob the bookie? His father has a drug problem and he needed the money to afford a lucrative rehab center since a state-funded facility didn’t work. And did the bookie make good on his threat? Well, according to one Kip Klugman, he did. The only problem? They can’t trust a word he has to say.
Klugman vs. Vance — Who’s Going for the Knockout?
Ten years ago, in Vance’s last case as a special agent, he arrested Klugman for stealing evidence. He always has an angle, the Director warns Gibbs. In this case, it’s very possible that Klugman just owes the bookie, Kobe “Beef” Carver, money and wants him behind bars so he doesn’t have to pay up. The former agent claims he just wanted to help after Vance warns him — very publicly — that he’ll be sorry if he doesn’t stay away.
Surprisingly, the only source of DNA under the victim’s nails is his own, but that’s explained by the drugs in his system. He clawed at his own eyes due to the violent hallucinations from the drugs, and that can also explain the car crash. But given how desperate he was to get money to help his dad get clean and the fact that there were no narcotics found in the car, someone had to have drugged him between the robbery and the car crash.
Beef’s lawyer, Laura Strike-DePalma, is waiting at the lingerie store when Tony and Bishop show up, and the back room looks like it should: a store room. Her client has an alibi for the time of Dokes’ death, she insists.
Later that night, Vance has just finished boxing when Klugman shows up on his doorstep, looking beat-up and ready to blame him. In fact, he even makes a statement that he came by to apologize and Vance made good on the threat from earlier at NCIS. It doesn’t help that his hands are bruised from boxing, but that’s common knowledge. (And here is when NCIS: LA‘s Sam Hanna would bring up changing up his routine.) So what does Klugman want? As SecNav Porter tells Vance, he’s willing to drop the entire thing if Vance steps down. He’s been in the chair longer than his two predecessors combined, she points out. Maybe it’s time for a change. Vance’s attitude towards that suggestion boils down to two words: not happening.
Butch and Sundance, or Batman and Robin?
Whoever drugged Dokes knew it would be fatal, Ducky reports, and he has some good news as well when Gibbs and Vance pay him a visit: whoever hit Klugman was left-handed; Vance hits with his right. However, the Director knows that while that may prove his innocence, it is all about perception, and he decides to join Gibbs in the field to figure out Klugman’s endgame.
While Tony, McGee and Bishop speculate about “personal errands” and stall the Alexandria PD detective ready to take their files for the case transfer, Gibbs and Vance follow Klugman … to Beef’s lawyer, who’s all too happy to invite them inside and let them know she’s on the phone about them harassing her client. No, she sees nothing strange about representing their prime suspect and the person accusing him because as she admits it, she’s greedy. (And with that, I’m 99% certain she’s involved.) When Porter shows up to smooth things over in person, that gives Gibbs and Vance the chance to look around the lawyer’s office.
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With three hours to wrap up the case before it’s transferred to Alexandria, and Vance’s retirement is announced the next morning, the team begins to put everything together. Security footage of the backroom offers them a look at how the robbery went down and also provides them with what they need when it comes to interrogating Beef. A substance was added to the drugs in Dokes’ system so that they could be absorbed through the skin, and a tracker was placed in the bag of money so it could be recovered — and Abby manages to hack the tracker to locate the person responsible.
Yes, it leads them to Beef, and when he insists on waiting for his lawyer, Tony and McGee decide to reenact what went down. When Beef gave Dokes the money, he grabbed his arm and transferred the LSD using blotters they found in the safe in the floor of the back room. It’s when they mention the tracker that Beef objects. See, he doesn’t use trackers, so someone else was tracking his money.
It’s All About the Money
That someone else would be Lump, his “muscle,” who they realize has been working with Klugman. Klugman framed Vance because, as a former agent, he knew they would have to transfer the case in that event. He’s planning to rob them while the money recovered at the crime scene is being transported. So Gibbs and Vance are the ones to handle transporting the evidence, with Lump stopping them and ordering them to get out of the van at gunpoint. Vance wants to let him take the money in hopes that they can track them back to Klugman, and after a brief hiccup — Vance tells Lump about the gun on Gibbs — Lump drives off, with the money and without the tracker.
Or so Vance thinks. Gibbs had Bishop put his phone in the evidence box because he knew the Director would be too focused on Klugman. They track the phone to Laura’s office, where, off-screen, Gibbs and Vance burst in and take care of the situation so that when we — and Tony, McGee and Bishop — enter the picture, Laura and Klugman are being cuffed and Vance has taken a bullet to the vest.
Change is Hard, So Let’s Not Change
Vance tries to claim that he wasn’t on the scene when SecNav arrives, but the spots of blood on his shirt say otherwise. He forgot to trust his agents to do the job, forgot what his job is, but it won’t happen again, he tells her. He gave up being an agent so he could lead and protect the agency, and that’s where he can make a difference. But will he still get the chance to? The answer is, of course, yes. “Yes, I’m still in charge, now get back to work,” he announces upon returning from a meeting with SecNav. “You’re stuck with me,” he adds to Gibbs. And I, for one, am glad that’s the case.
NCIS season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)