Last time on NCIS, we got a glimpse of Ducky’s past as a groovy young chap in England when he and Bishop went across the pond to work on a case involving Ducky’s best friend. We also learned about how he lost his soulmate, Margaret, when they were reunited by the case. I hope we will see more of Margaret in the future. Come on, give Ducky some love!

“Choke Hold,” this week’s NCIS episode, focuses on the team’s work when they investigate the murder of a research scientist working for the Navy. We will also meet FBI Special Agent Leia Pendergast, played by guest star Stephanie Jacobsen. Her character is a possible new love interest for Tony.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Sex

The episode starts with two police officers patrolling a park, where they see a woman sitting on a park bench. She has been strangled but is still alive, but barely. Her name badge says Sofia Glazman, and she whispers for the officers not to touch her.

Back at NCIS, McGee is reading a magazine that details sexy moves in the bedroom. While McGee thinks that they are made-up, Tony drops a bomb on McGee while confessing that he has, shall we say, rather intimate knowledge of those sexy moves. Hilarious! Bishop approaches and bristles when they change the subject, because she is married and knows for a fact that she has a better sex life than her two male co-workers. She also has knowledge of many of the items on the list. I am a bit shocked about Bishop.

Weird Weapon

Gibbs tells the team that they have a Navy research scientist that was attacked in the park. When the team arrives on the scene, they are shocked to learn that Glazman is dead. She was moved to an ambulance, and then her head was severed by some type of motorized garrote. Gibbs thinks that someone is sending a definite message, but who?

Dr. Havana, Sofia’s boss, tells McGee and Bishop that there is a test run scheduled for the next day for laser technology used in transferring data. Havana recruited Glazman from Moscow, and she became a US citizen. Bishop shows Havana a picture of one of Glazman’s friends. Her name is Nelly Benin, and she was Sofia’s lab partner in Russia. Benin stayed on and continued to work in Russia. While both scientists were best friends, they also had a competitive, professional rivalry.

Abby’s Find

Meanwhile, down in the lab, Abby is using the mechanized garrote on a dummy. She found a sticky substance when she took the machine apart. It was smoke residue from marijuana, or, as Gibbs puts it, “grass.” Abby finds this terribly amusing and even has a proud moment when Gibbs busts out the word “stoner.” Abby tells Gibbs that if they can find the stash, she can match the residue.

Secret Meeting

Vance has Gibbs and Tony meet him at the Pentagon. Ms. Porter, the Secretary of the Navy, has called a secret meeting in the men’s room. Poor Tony has to guard the door. Secretary Porter received credible intelligence from a foreign embassy about Glazman’s murder. 

While Tony is guarding the door, a striking brunette walks out of the ladies room. She busts his chops and asks if he hangs around ladies rooms to pick up women. Their flirting session is rudely interrupted by Russian Counselor Pavlenko.

Pavlenko is the same man who refused to try and rescue Gibbs and McGee when their helicopter was shot down. Pavlenko joins the meeting in the lavatory, and Gibbs is pretty angry to see him. Pavlenko is there to ask for help. Nelly Benin is now working for terrorist Sergei Mishnev, who is the man who shot down the helicopter Gibbs and McGee were in. Benin’s co-worker was found dead in Russia, and the same type of weapon was used. Benin is in Washington, and Pavlenko wants her stopped “by any means necessary.” Porter agrees to the request, and tells Vance and Gibbs there will be a joint task force with the FBI.

Tony asks for the mysterious woman’s name, along with her phone number. That won’t be necessary because FBI Special Agent Leia Pendergast will be working with Tony on the case.

Not Star Wars!

Bishop, McGee and Tony await Agent Pendergast’s arrival in MTAC. She calls McGee “Gumby” because she is horrible with names. She asks everyone to call her Leia, then goes on to remark about how much she hates Star Wars. Tony refuses to accept that she hates the cinematic masterpiece. Gibbs joins the group, and so far he isn’t impressed with the amount of information that Pendergast knows. She asks for what NCIS knows, so they give her an update on Benin. Her record in Russia is clean, and Gibbs points out that Russian intelligence is difficult to verify.

Pendergast goes down to Abby’s lab, where Abby peppers her with questions involving her name, title and some presidential trivia. Abby is less than thrilled with the fact that Pendergast is a hunter. Abby does share some new information, however. She found a deleted e-mail in Glazman’s computer that mentions a meeting in a bar around the same time as the murder. The victim was on her way to the meeting when she was killed, and the e-mail originated in Russia.

Tony’s Partner

Tony likes Pendergast, but Bishop cautions that she is only using him for task force purposes. There is also a problem with the timeline, as Benin was still at the airport when the murder was committed. The bar where Glazman was headed calls her cell phone, which prompts McGee and Bishop to share their own theory. They think that Benin could be defecting and trying to reach out to Glazman for help.

Tony is solidly behind Leia, but Gibbs wants to go to the bar. Tony is supposed to come up with a story if his “girlfriend” asks. Tony yells to ask the team if she mentioned him by name as the elevator doors close.

Benin is at the bar, and when McGee goes to talk to her, she discreetly shows him a hidden explosive device. She is seeking political asylum, and her bomb is really just pieces of a calculator. Bishop accompanies Benin to the ladies room, and the mystery woman is waiting in a stall with one of those handy garrote machines. Gibbs comes in to tell the ladies to hurry up, and he smells marijuana when the woman from the stall walks by, but she escapes.

Victim or Killer?

Benin tells Gibbs that she doesn’t know who the woman was, but she knows who is behind the murders: Sergei Mishnev. Mishnev approached her recently and tried to get her to work for him. Her dead Russian co-worker received a job offer from Mishnev on the same day. Benin tells Gibbs she got a phone call saying Mikhail was dead, and that she would be next if she didn’t accept the job offer. Gibbs isn’t convinced that Benin is as innocent as she appears.

Pavlenko goes to see the Secretary of the Navy and wants the Russian scientist so that they can take her back to Russia. So how did Pavlenko know that Benin was in NCIS custody?

Cold Hard Facts

Pendergast is also angry that no one told her that they found Benin. Tony asks her to join him in interrogation. She refuses, and Tony confronts her about telling the Russians about Benin. He also tells her that she has been assigned to protect several Russian emissaries lately and was requested for this assignment by the Russian embassy. She received a large sum of money transferred to her bank account. Tony wants some explanations.

Pendergast got the money from her father, and their relationship is a bit complicated. Tony can relate. Pendergast drives off with Benin to catch the flight to Russia arranged by Pavlenko. Bishop rushes in and identifies the hit woman as Renata Atal, a Russian killer who utilizes strange weapons in the murders she commits. I agree that a mechanized garrote is pretty strange. Gibbs orders Bishop to send the information to Tony and McGee’s cell phones right away.

Parking Garage Danger

Pendergast notices that they are being followed and pulls into a parking structure. Tony calls and tells them to stay in the car because he has been following them, and the hit woman has entered the garage. When Atal is cornered, she puts one of the garrotes on herself. I feel a bit queasy now after that!

At NCIS, it’s Benin’s turn to be furious that she was used as bait for the hit woman, and that now she is still being turned over to Pavlenko. Pendergast tells Gibbs there still isn’t enough evidence tying Pavlenko to Mishnev or the hit woman. Tony and Pendergast’s bickering is silenced when Gibbs orders Pendergast to come with him. Atal was definitely the murderer, but no one can find a link between Pavlenko and Atal.

Back to Russia

The Secretary of the Navy orders Benin to be returned, and this time Pavlenko comes himself to pick her up. Gibbs tells Pavlenko to say hello to Mishnev. When Benin steps off the elevator, she grabs a gun and holds it on Pavlenko. Gibbs tells her, in Russian, that they will get him. Pendergast draws her weapon and kills Benin. When Porter arrives on the scene, she is shocked to find a still-living Porter, safe, in an ambulance with Ducky.

Tony and Pendergast have a chat in a store room, and Pendergast confesses that she had blanks in her gun. Tony is surprised that he was left out of the loop, and after some more bickering, Tony asks for her phone number again. She tells him to track it down. After Pendergast leaves, Tony admits to Bishop and McGee that he knew about the ruse all along, but enjoys his verbal sparring with Pendergast, as he has “a type.”

This episode of NCIS was great, from the twists and turns in the story to the humorous sections. I really like the chemistry between Pendergast and Tony.

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.