Last time on NCIS, Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. (Robert Wagner) paid the team a visit. The DiNozzo men met a homeless woman who believes that Senior is her father. The woman had a brain tumor and was terminal, and her own father had already died. In a touching moment, Tony’s father told the dying woman that he was, indeed, her father to give her comfort.
This episode of NCIS, “Charade,” is about Tony’s identity being stolen by multiple con men who then decide to blackmail senators. Yes, seriously! I imagine that must really aggravate Tony. I once again encourage a moment of silence as we ponder all the reasons that we love Tony DiNozzo and how much we will miss him. Sigh.
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What is in This Envelope?
Tony is Vance’s plus-one at a political soiree. They are attending since the Secretary of the Navy will be there. Ms. Marsden, Senator Kelly’s aide, is upset that Tony is there and not Gibbs, since the invitations are non-transferable. Vance irons out the whole thing quickly. When Tony is introduced to Senator Bransfield, the Senator looks spooked and excuses himself. Later, while Tony is at the bar, Senator Bransfield calls him some unflattering names and states that they were not supposed to meet until that night. Bransfield shoves an envelope of cash at Tony, who is totally bewildered by the Senator’s behavior.
When McGee and Bishop arrive in the morning, they are tossing around ideas for the name of a new naval aircraft carrier. Tony does not wish to participate, as he is busy counting the $20,000 that he pulled out of his desk drawer. Before Tony can explain his mountain of money, Gibbs comes in and informs the team that an NCIS special agent was killed in a car crash. The biggest surprise is the name of the victim — Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.
More Money, More Problems
At the scene of the accident, Deputy Sheriff Hicks suspects that the driver may have been drunk. That theory is quickly discounted when Bishop notices two sets of skid marks, and McGee finds white paint on the side of the blue vehicle. Tony pulls a briefcase from the trunk that is filled with cash.
Gibbs is a bit unhappy that Tony didn’t mention the fact that Senator Bransfield handed him a wad of cash. Tony wanted some answers, but I am sure that identity theft isn’t what he was hoping for. Yikes! The team has discovered that the car crash victim was Scott Byers, a 35-year-old from Virginia. Byers had DiNozzo’s badge and identification, and he is somehow linked to a forgery ring. McGee thinks that Byers stole Tony’s identity, used Tony’s credit cards and then tried to extort money from Bransfield. Senator Bransfield has agreed to come down and talk to the team, but Tony is not looking forward to it.
McGee makes a special visit to autopsy to see how Byers died. He did die from blunt force trauma from the accident. Ducky has found Byers’ cell phone, which shattered on impact. Meanwhile, Abby is working on “phony Tony’s” car. The scrape on the side of the car is from a bumper sticker where the cars made contact. The paint chippings are the color Arctic White, which was used in European cars in the early 1970s.
Abby’s Bad Deed
A nervous Tony is practicing his apology for Senator Bransfield. Bransfield arrives and offers Tony some more money just as Gibbs comes in. The blackmailer has been taking money from Bransfield for the past few weeks. Gibbs asks for the Senator’s cell phone, but he doesn’t want to turn it over because it will reveal the secret that he is hiding. As soon as Gibbs explains that the blackmailer is dead, Bransfield’s mood greatly improves and he grabs his phone.
Abby is waiting outside to see Gibbs. She tells him that she did something “bad.” Abby hacked Bransfield’s e-mail account and found out that Bransfield was having an affair. The pictures were sent with a note from Special Agent Tony DiNozzo threatening to release the pictures to the press. Suddenly, Bransfield gets an e-mail stating that he stood up the blackmailer, so the price is now doubled. It is also signed ‘Tony DiNozzo.’ So there is one more “phony Tony” in the mix. The next morning, McGee arrives with a huge list of possible air craft carrier names that he and Delilah came up with. When Bishop tells him he can only submit one name, McGee’s mood plummets.
Setting the Trap
Tony tells Gibbs that Bransfield isn’t the only senator who is being blackmailed. McGee found out that the sender who sent Bransfield’s extortion e-mail also sent similar e-mails to two other senators — Senator Shawn Kelly and Senator Will Matheson. Byers was blackmailing Kelly, so there are two other pretend Tonys involved in this scheme. Tony has a plan that when Matheson and Bransfield drop off their payments later that day, the perpetrators will be caught. Gibbs has qualms about using two senators as bait, since Tony’s plan has McGee and Gibbs impersonating the senators. Bishop keeps a close watch on the trash cans by the busy youth soccer field.
Gibbs is waiting on a park bench when the “phony Tony” approaches and flashes his fake identification. Bishop spots the other pretend DiNozzo. Tony sits down with both of his namesakes in the interrogation room. Both fake Tonys claim that they were hired by a woman through Craigslist. The struggling actors explain to Tony how boring his life is, with no wife, no children and even the same apartment. Tony looks sad for a moment. When he tells the fake Tonys to call their boss, they state that she calls them to tell them when and where to make the pick-up. The money is always dropped off at a bus station, in locker 177.
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Know Your Enemy
Abby pulls surveillance footage from the bus station. A tall blonde woman goes to the locker and removes the money. When she turns to face the camera, Tony is stunned because he knows the woman. She told Tony that her name was Leah Ramsay, but there is no Leah Ramsay in the country that matches her description. Gibbs is angry that Tony doesn’t know more about the woman who had access to his apartment and, apparently, his identity. When Gibbs hears that Tony met her in a bar, he states that Tony was an easy target.
Tony asks Abby to come over to his apartment to look for clues or come up with ideas about how this could have happened. Tony wonders if, when he went to the kitchen, Leah used a flash drive or cell phone to take a picture of his identification. Abby also finds a picture of Tony with his cat and, on the reverse side, a picture of Tony with his dog. Since he has neither, Abby calls him out on pretending to have a pet to impress women. She explains that he is a keeper and that he shouldn’t hide behind smoke and mirrors. Tony believes that he hasn’t met the right woman yet.
When Tony mentions that the woman drank chardonnay, he remembers that the bottle has been untouched in his fridge since she was there. Besides a fake name, Leah also told Tony that she was the heiress to a huge trust fund. Abby lifts a print and identifies the woman as Elizabeth Elliott. She was arrested twice for embezzlement and writing bad checks. Shocking, right? There also two warrants out for her arrest, but Tony wants to be the one to bring her in.
Tony is Cuffed
Tony heads off in his car, cranking some tunes to de-stress and think, when he sees the police pull up behind him. His rental car was flagged because the credit card used to rent it was stolen. Tony explains that he is the victim in this scenario, not the thief. Tony is pushed down on the hood of his car and arrested for impersonating a federal agent. Poor Tony.
McGee goes to get Tony out of lock-up. Not only was he taken into custody, but because he was sitting between two fellows who stole a hot dog cart, he reeks of sauerkraut. Tony tells his friend that he is losing his edge and that he is feeling like a loser. McGee assures him that he is on the way to reclaiming his famous DiNozzo edge.
A Disturbing Theory
Bishop and McGee have a theory about who murdered Byers. Senator Kelly drives a white 1972 Mercedes. He also bribed a doctor to lie for him when he was in the Navy so that he could stay out of the action. He also has a parking decal that could have made the vinyl marking on the victim’s car.
The woman who is in charge of the extortion ring texts one of the “phony Tonys” to arrange a meeting. The taller Tony is wearing a wire. The team takes positions all around a park, except for the real Tony. He is lying down in the back seat of McGee’s car. The pretend DiNozzo begins to sweat profusely and removes his jacket and tie. He has changed his mind, and Bishop and McGee hustle him out of the area. The fake Leah watches this and returns to her car with her dog. As she gets in, we see that Tony is really waiting for her in the back of her car.
A Moving Tribute
At headquarters, Leah is busy writing on a legal pad. She is actually writing about how her friend Byers was run off the road and killed by Senator Shawn Kelly. The con woman tells Gibbs that Byers called to tell her that Kelly was following him, and then the phone went dead. She wants a deal, but Gibbs informs her that isn’t going to happen.
While Senator Kelly’s car is Arctic white, it was recently repaired. Gibbs and Tony head out on a hunch. They go to Senator Kelly’s office, where they confront Ms. Lisa Marsden, his aide. So that is how fake Leah learned about Kelly’s secret. It turns out that Marsden was driving the Senator’s car when she hit Byers. Marsden and fake Leah once worked together at a mortgage company.
Tony fills in the other two “phony Tonys” and breaks the news that they will be doing some jail time. Bishop cannot hide her excitement when she learns that she is a finalist in the air craft carrier contest. What name did she choose? The USS Admiral John McGee, after McGee’s father.
I loved this episode of NCIS. It was fun and breezy. I also loved how Bishop honored McGee’s father with her contest submission.
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)