It’s the heartbreak that doesn’t go away for Gibbs. As the team discovers, his connection to the DEA agent seeking their help isn’t the only thing that’s personal for their fearless leader in this episode of NCIS, “Personal Day”; his connection to the suspect is personal as well.

Robert Knepper guest stars as Benson Long, the drug-running Moby Dick who has opened up shop near Quantico and has been DEA Agent Luis Mitchell’s target for years. His best shot at catching him is by turning one of his new recruits — a Marine, Sergeant Cole Gleason — but he missed their meeting, and Mitch is hoping the team can help him find him. Gibbs tells him they’ll see it through, whatever it takes, because he doesn’t forget his debts, the first hint at there being something more to the case and the team taking it on than meets the eye.

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Who is Mitch to Gibbs?

Gibbs and Mitch head over to Long’s house with a warrant for Cole, but he’s not there. And according to Long, he cleared out his stuff last week. He was supposedly heading on a road trip, but it’s hard to believe that Long would just let him go. They may not find anything in Long’s house, but the gun on his cousin, Roy, has three sets of prints on it: Roy’s, Long’s and Fisher Hyland’s. Hyland has done time for possession and could be working with Long and is pretty much their only lead.

Though Fisher insists that he’s reformed, the contact high McGee mentions from his yarn suggests he’s lying and serves as a great way to get him talking. He tells them about a rave, but it’s not the fun dance party kind. This is the kind where drug dealers get rid of product they need pushed fast, and these things go down in such places as abandoned schools. It’s also a good place to kill someone and leave their body (like, say, Gleason’s) because getting prints from there is a nightmare.

To Tony’s surprise, Gibbs benches him and leaves him behind to read through the DEA’s case files while the others go out into the field. That’s how he discovers that Mitch is the son of the NIS agent who died protecting Gibbs’ wife and daughter, and he suggests they turn the case over to another team “because if things get sticky,” he explains to his boss, “you and I both know that you’re going to do whatever it takes to protect him.” Gibbs brushes aside his concerns (and Tony has a lot of them in this episode) and instead tells him to “take care of [his] team” and keep Mitch’s family tree to himself. 

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Tony isn’t the only one to call Gibbs out for his connection to Mitch; Ducky does as well, but he knows that this is about Tony, not the fact that the DEA agent is the NIS agent’s son. Ducky understands about adopting a new perspective and seeing life differently, as he did the same after his heart attack. But as he tells his friend, others need time to see it as he does.

Abby identifies fibers Ducky found on Gleason’s body as coming from a rug from Afghanistan, a rug that was in Gleason’s trunk and could contain the evidence that he was going to bring to Mitch. (Abby and Ducky later discover that there are drugs sewn into Roy’s rugs.) It just so happens that Roy, Long’s cousin, owns the store that sells just that type of rug. When they go to talk to Roy, however, McGee has to shoot him to save Mitch. And when Roy dies in surgery, Mitch blames him for taking away their only shot to get Long.

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Who is Long to Gibbs and Mitch?

When McGee returns to the office after shooting Roy, Tony jumps on him for a play-by-play of what happened and asks if Gibbs jumped in front of Mitch or did anything crazy. McGee picks up on the fact that there’s something Tony’s not telling him, and Tony calls a campfire in the conference room and tells him and Bishop who Mitch is to Gibbs. While reading the old NIS file, however, Bishop stumbles across a new piece of information: Long is mentioned.

It turns out that Long was the one running things in Pendleton back then, and while Hernandez may have pulled the trigger, Benson was his boss. Tony confronts Gibbs about it, accusing him and Mitch of wanting revenge for their families, but Gibbs insists that they’re going to get Long with evidence. Well, at least Gibbs thinks they are; what he doesn’t know until Tony tells him is Mitch isn’t in his hotel room but rather at Long’s house. Once he finds that out, Gibbs goes off on his own … but not for long. Tony and McGee follow, leaving Bishop behind to keep looking for something solid on their killer.

At Long’s, while waiting for the man himself to arrive, Gibbs tells Mitch that the agent who was assigned to protect his family passed off the detail because it was too dangerous. Mitch’s father volunteered, telling Franks, “I’d want someone to do the same for my family.” So here Gibbs is doing just that. But when Long joins them, he has no problem boasting about what he’s done and declaring himself “untouchable.” When Mitch pulls his gun on him, Gibbs speaks up. “You know what I did,” he tells him. “It didn’t fix a thing. It didn’t bring them back.” He gets through to Mitch, and that’s when Tony and McGee burst in to arrest Long. Thanks to a little teamwork, they were able to get the poker chip camera they talked Hyland into delivering to Roy and recorded him confessing to Gleason’s murder.

Gibbs Has a Reason, But Does Tony?

Tony stops by Gibbs’ to bring him a garment bag for his trip out to California and uses the opportunity to try to talk to him again. “It’s not about Iraq,” Gibbs says, and instead asks if he wants to be there. Years ago, he had the opportunity to lead his own team, and he turned it down. Does he want to be a leader or not? When Gibbs joined NIS, he had a reason, and while things change, the reason stays the same and never leaves him. Either you have a reason or you don’t, he tells his second-in-command.

In California, after joining Mitch in spreading his father’s ashes, Gibbs pays a visit to what was once his house, where this still stands:

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A Spectacular Makeover, Sprained Fingers and High School Flashbacks

Everyone’s talking about Gibbs’ new look, from the change in shirt to the new haircut, with Bishop describing it as “the makeover of the century” and McGee declaring that his boss “looks spectacular.” Abby even has photos in case Gibbs decides he’s ready for another makeover. But it’s not just his look; Gibbs seems to be more focused as well.

Abby sprained her fingers dancing in her room, putting her hands up because the song told her too and smashing her fingers into her skeleton head disco ball. Gibbs didn’t know that any of that was a thing. Fortunately, she has Ducky around to act as her hands when she needs the help.

Mitch takes to calling McGee “buddy,” which gets on his nerves. (It is a bit much.) “Are you complaining about someone being friendly?” Tony asks in disbelief. As McGee later explains to Bishop, he’s getting flashbacks to high school and the one pity vote he got for homecoming king (from his mother) because of Mitch, the super-cool agent who walks in such a way that he would look good in a slow-motion action sequence.

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NCIS season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.

(Images courtesy of CBS)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.