In the previous episode of NCIS, Hollis Mann once again assisted on a case, and she was able to finally get Gibbs to admit that he was pushing people away because of his guilt over Diane’s death. Anyone close to him is a target, and he doesn’t want to lose anyone else. On a happier note, Breena and Palmer welcomed their daughter Victoria Elizabeth, who was named after Ducky’s mother.

This episode of NCIS, “Cadence,” sees Tony and the team work on a case that has a connection to the military school Tony attended as a teen. I love the episodes that delve into the backstory of the characters.

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A Familiar Motto

We start off in a wooded area where someone dumps the body of another man, who is wearing a ring with a special insignia on it. Back at NCIS, Bishop and her husband, Jake, come in after a couples yoga class. Tony observes that they have been doing a lot of couples activities lately, and Jake says that they are working on their marriage. All of this marital information is TMI for Tony, who pretends to have work to do.

It turns out that Jake and Bishop want to take McGee, Tony and Gibbs out to dinner so that Jake can get to know them better. Tony and McGee warn that Gibbs will never agree, but apparently Gibbs has, and he also expects McGee and Tony to be there. They hastily accept because they have been called to investigate the murder of a Marine.

The victim is 19-year-old Private John Wallis, and he was found with his wallet, cash and jewelry, but his cell phone is missing. Wallis was dumped there, and Gibbs spies a blood trail leading off into the woods. Ducky reads the Latin on Wallis’ ring, and the words are familiar to Tony: “Truth, valor, duty.” It is the motto of the Remington Military Academy, which Tony attended. Tony notices something clutched in the dead Marine’s hand. It is a photograph, but it is covered in blood, so it is impossible to make out the image.

Following the Clues

Bishop and Tony follow the blood trail further into the woods. Bishop is surprised that Tony attended military school, and Tony explains that he had been in six prep schools in four years, and the Remington Military Academy was meant to help straighten him out. Tony and Bishop find a partially-burned tarp that was used to dump the body and tire racks next to an access road.

Ducky finds that Wallis was stabbed 20 times, with a neck wound that resulted in death. Ducky states that the knife that was used has a straight six-inch blade. Gibbs and Ducky are surprised that there are no defensive wounds on the victim’s body, leading them to believe that Wallis knew his killer and was taken by surprise.

Bishop and Tony run down their research on Wallis. Wallis, who was a scholarship student at Remington Military Academy, earned excellent grades. He was set to deploy, but after receiving a call on his cell phone five days prior, he emptied his bank account and went off the grid. The call he received was from a dorm phone at the military school.

Tough Advice, Skippy

Tony doesn’t want to go back to Remington Military Academy and confides in Gibbs that he needs to prepare mentally to return there. Gibbs points out that he has a long car ride and a night in a hotel to prep for the visit, and adds, “Make it count, Skippy.” I love it!

McGee goes to see an overwhelmed Abby in the lab and offers to lend a hand. They start to work on getting the blood off the photo, and McGee accidentally lets it slip about Bishop’s dinner invitation. Awkward! Abby isn’t upset at all since she and Burt hang out with Bishop and Jake all the time.

Arriving at the Academy

Tony and Bishop are on the road, and Bishop shows Tony a picture of a young woman in the Remington school uniform. Tony flashes back to when he first arrived at the school. He received limo service from the train station. The man driving him throws a quote from The Godfather, but young Tony obviously hasn’t seen it. What? I am shocked and appalled! Mr. Tanner takes Tony to his dorm room, and Tony gives him an attitude.

Back in the present day, Tony once again runs into Coach Tanner, who gives him a warm greeting. Tanner tells Bishop that he always knew that Tony would make him proud. Tony seems really uncomfortable, and it is sort of enjoyable to watch. Bishop shows Tanner the picture, and he identifies the girl as Christine Sanders. Bishop and Tony can’t speak to Sanders because she is dead. She was a junior and on the dean’s list, just like Tony. Recently, her grades had started to slide and she became withdrawn. Ten days earlier, she was found dead in her room from a drug overdose. Wallis was Sanders’ commanding officer. Tanner states that dating between the ranks is forbidden. If Christine was already dead, who phoned Wallis from her dorm?

Gibbs Goes High Tech

Meanwhile, at the lab, Abby is trying to find a match for the knife that was used to kill Wallis. Gibbs, still in a chipper mood, tries to talk tech with Abby, but it is an epic fail on his part when none of his words actually correspond to anything real. Hilarious! Abby decides to try and remotely turn Wallis’ cell phone back on. McGee has also traced the caller who called Wallis from the Remington Military Academy. His name is Cadet Lucas Craig. Abby is able to trace Wallis’ phone, and it is at the home of Frederick Cantor in Richmond, Virginia.

Not Backing Down

Tony explains to Bishop that Lucas Craig is the highest ranking cadet at the academy. Bishop asks Tanner if Tony was ever a senior cadet, but Tanner responds that Tony was too busy on the basketball court. After Tanner leaves, Bishop sees a photo of Tony on the wall as a flag bearer and calls him “dashing.”  Tony looks out the window at a drill, and once again flashes back to his time at the academy.

He remembers a drill, led by Drill Leader Goren, when an overweight boy, nicknamed “Cadet Piggy,” isn’t able to keep up with the drill. When Tony tells Goren to get the other boy to the nurse, he receives two demerits, which does nothing to hamper Tony’s sarcastic demeanor. The actor playing young Tony has all his mannerisms down. Color me impressed!

Craig tells Tony and Bishop that he called Wallis to tell him about Sander’s death. Wallis and Sanders were dating, even though it was against the school’s policy. Before walking away, Cadet Craig tells Tony that it is graduates like him that make the school proud. He salutes Tony, and a reluctant Tony salutes back. Tony has had his eye on the man with the pick-up truck that has been watching them.

Dinner for Two

On the drive back to headquarters, Tony orders Bishop not to tell McGee anything about what she saw or heard about Tony’s past at the school. I wonder why Tony is trying so hard to cover up his past? They receive an incoming call, and it is a man who has information about Sanders and Wallis. He wants to meet in person at Nutley Hardware, which is next to the Remington campus.  Tony and Bishop head back to the school, while Gibbs and Jake are grabbing dinner at Gibbs’ favorite diner. McGee pops his head in, but when he sees that Gibbs and Jake are alone, he runs back out.

Gibbs has a question for Jake, and he wants it to stay just between them. Gibbs wants to know what Jake knows about the relations between Russia and Palestine.

Meeting a Mentor

Gibbs pays Cantor a visit. Cantor, an alumni of Remington Academy, was Wallis’ mentor. Wallis came to see him after he went missing. Cantor established the scholarship that paid for Wallis to attend the academy. The night that Wallis came to see him, he was upset about his girlfriend’s suicide. Cantor also reveals that Wallis’ family left when he was a sophomore.

The man who called Tony and Bishop instructs them to get in his pick-up truck because someone could be watching. Tony recognizes the man as Travis, also known as “Cadet Piggy.” They go to Travis’ house, and he is afraid of Remington Military Academy because he is employed there. Travis tells Tony that Sanders was pushed to the brink by Honor Corps.

Honor Corps

Tony flashes back again to being at the academy. He was on the basketball court when a group of cadets, led by Goren, surrounded Tony and told him since he is in violation of the rules, his punishment will be doled out by the Honor Corps. Just then, Tanner arrives and tells the group that they are going to have to do without Tony. Tanner tells Tony that he is officially joining the basketball team.

When Tony tells Travis that Tanner banned the Honor Corps, Travis tells him how he suffered at their hands and how Coach Tanner made the basketball players off-limits. Sanders was disciplined every night for a month before her death. Travis told Wallis what happened when Wallis returned to campus after Sanders’ death. He went off to confront the Honor Corps. When Tony apologizes to Travis for not doing anything to help him, Travis counters with, “You never asked.”

Pursued by a Stalker

McGee answers a strange cell phone on Gibbs’ desk and is surprised to find Bishop on the other end. She wants to know why her husband’s cell is on Gibbs’ desk. Gibbs found a police report that Sanders filed during winter break that she was being stalked by someone that she knew.

Tony and Bishop confront Cadet Craig, who admits to following Sanders and being in her bedroom at night. Tony states that Craig had Honor Corps punish Christine for rejecting him. He denies it, but Tony pulls a gray armband out of Craig’s closet. Tony and Bishop tell Craig that he is on the hook for Wallis’s murder. Craig replies that Tanner stopped Wallis.

A Vintage Car Clue

Abby, in her lab, finds a tire print match to a 1970s European car. Bishop and Tony are waiting by Tanner’s vintage car when he storms out after receiving an angry call from Cadet Craig’s father. Tony asks Tanner to open the trunk, and Bishop examines the trunk and finds a lot of blood. Tony arrests Tanner for the murder of Wallis.

While Wallis sits in interrogation at NCIS, Tony flashes back once again to trying to hot-wire Tanner’s car and make his escape. Tanner finds him and talks him into staying by reassuring him that the Honor Corps won’t bother him because he is on the team, and that he is going to discontinue Honor Corps. Tony is disappointed in his mentor and attacks him because he never banned Honor Corps. Tanner stated that he stopped Wallis from attacking Craig.

Wallis planned to expose Honor Corps and left Tanner’s office. Tanner denies knowing how the blood got in his trunk and reminds Tony that everyone knows he keeps the spare key above the visor. Tony explains to Tanner that a small part of him still believed in the code of the Remington Military Academy, but that was no longer the case.

A Betrayal of Trust

Wallis took Tanner’s car, and Abby finds traces of paraffin wax in the car. Gibbs goes to see Cantor again because Cantor appears on surveillance footage at the bus station near the military academy. Cantor tells Gibbs to take the murder weapon, a chisel. He admits that Wallis came back to his house and asked his advice about how to go public about Honors Corps. Cantor didn’t want to ruin his legacy, so he killed Wallis. Gibbs tells Cantor that Wallis followed the motto and that Cantor betrayed it.

Before leaving, Tanner finds Tony and tells him he is resigning and that he is proud of Tony. Bishop presents Tony with a photo of him in the flag guard from the academy. Jake arrives and tells Bishop that he had a great time at the diner with Gibbs. Tony puts the photo on his bulletin board and calls Travis to meet for a late dinner and catch up.

I really enjoyed this episode of NCIS. I loved learning more about Tony’s past, and I am looking forward to finding out what Jake told Gibbs about the intelligence he requested. All in all, it was a great episode, but I do wish that the team dinner had happened.

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

Kim Stempel

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

Kim has been covering television entertainment since 2013. She is addicted to Real Housewives, Pump Rules, Dancing with the Stars, and many more shows.