Last time on NCIS, we saw Tony go on a Parisian adventure to bring back a wayward Admiral’s daughter that demonstrated two important points: he is an excellent agent and also knows his way around a party bus.

This week’s finale, “Honor Thy Father,” has Gibbs dealing with his father’s death as the team probes a fire on a Navy ship that secretly houses terrorists under indictment. The episode also pays tribute to the late actor Ralph Waite, who played Jackson Gibbs for the past six seasons. It looks like this is going to be an especially emotional NCIS episode.

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The Snail

We kick off with McGee and Bishop at a mixer. It seems they are working a case, and Tony and Gibbs are outside in the surveillance van. They are looking for Wayne “The Snail” Levinson, who is a burglar. What self-respecting burglar would want the nickname “The Snail?” Anyway, McGee and Bishop get eyes on their suspect, and follow him into the back. He naturally runs off, and Gibbs and Tony catch him.

Gibbs is distracted and has a memory of his father’s voice and flashes back to walking beside his Dad as a child. This is tough already, and the episode just started.

A Shocking Call

The next morning, Bishop takes a moment to discuss one of her favorite things with Tony, which is food. As the team re-hashes the previous night’s exploits, Vance summons Gibbs upstairs. Vance asks him to take a seat and then tells Gibbs that one of his father’s employees called looking for him. Jackson suffered a stroke and died. The expression on Gibbs’ face is absolutely heartbreaking.

After Gibbs heads to Stillwater, the team tries to decide what type of flowers to send Gibbs. Bishop mentions that after her grandmother’s death, it helped to talk about her. Abby recalls how Jackson gave the best hugs, and McGee mentions how Jackson could do the signature Gibbs stare back at his son. Tony reflects on the very soft sweater that Jackson once gave him. Abby is concerned that Gibbs went back to his hometown alone.

A Jail Break

Their concerns will have to wait as Vance calls them in to MTAC to talk with CIA agent Sandra Jenkins. There has been a fire on the USS Niagara, but it is not as it seems. Although it has been reported as a galley fire, it was actually some type of explosive device that a civilian contractor smuggled onboard. The ship is carrying indicted terrorists, and two of the prisoners escaped after the explosion. The terrorists were members of Parsa’s group, the Brotherhood of Doubt, but it appears unlikely that the group could have launched the attack since they were financially ruined after Parsa’s death. It is believed that the prisoners escaped on an inflatable boat, or RIB.

Tony steps outside and begins texting. Vance follows and tells him to put away the phone and leave Gibbs in peace. Tony argues that Gibbs would want to know, and Vance asks if he is up to taking the lead on the case. Gibbs is to remain where he is, without any contact from his team.

The Parsa Connection

The escaped prisoners are Canadian Edwin Smith — and he has no ties to the Brotherhood of Doubt — and Lateef Mir, who has been with Parsa’s group since the beginning. Mir is also skilled at altering his appearance.

Abby locates an image of what she suspects is the RIB on a beach in Delaware. Bishop and Tony locate it, and find Edwin Smith’s body inside. Mir, also known as “the chameleon,” is nowhere to be found.

Ducky and Palmer chat about Palmer’s fatherhood plans while looking at Smith’s body. Although Smith has shrapnel wounds, he was actually strangled. Gibbs calls Tony’s cell, and Tony ignores his call.

The Family Store

In Stillwater, Gibbs goes to the empty store. He tenderly picks up his father’s cane and reminisces about his father’s saying: “Tell a kid he can’t have a rifle and he grows up to be a sniper.” Gibbs also goes to his father’s garage. He finds a box that sparks a memory of his father and mother arguing, and watching Jackson making a wooden box.

Gibbs’ thoughts are interrupted by a young man, Cal Frazier, who works at the store. Frazier was there when Jackson passed away, and he was sad that he couldn’t save him. When he hands the store keys over to Gibbs, he tells him that his father kept him from going down a bad road. Gibbs asks Cal to stay and help get the store ready to sell. I think it would be cool if Gibbs let Cal run it.

A Change of Appearance

Back in MTAC, the NCIS team touches base with the USS Niagara again. Hansur, who was Parsa’s right-hand man, was never captured. He released a video claiming responsibility for the attack, but CIA agent Jenkins thinks that he is lying.

Abby finds some hairy evidence on the inflatable boat. It is Mir’s hair, and he shaved his head and beard. He also bleached his eyebrows. Someone spotted Mir going into the Green Star Bar, which is the place Levinson attempted to rob. Tony has a heart to heart with Levinson, and Tony convinces him that he is in danger unless Mir is captured. Levinson finally admits that the money in the safe was his as payment for three guns that he left for someone to pick up. He heard about the job in prison from Rivera, who is part of the Mexican drug cartel. Yes, this is the same Rivera that tried to murder Gibbs years earlier. I wasn’t expecting that!

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Prison Blues

Tony gives Gibbs a call about Rivera before heading off to talk with the man himself. Rivera mentions his dead sister, Paloma. Rivera denies knowing Mir and says he hasn’t spoken to Levinson since the burglar was in prison. The owner of the Green Star Bar is one of Rivera’s cousins. All roads lead to Rivera, it seems. Bishop does her homework and pulls a name from the prison visitor’s log — Leticia Gomez, who matches the description of the woman who gave Levinson the first part of the payout for the guns.

Staying in the Loop

They are surprised to see Gibbs back at headquarters. He angrily confronts Vance about his team being in danger. Vance reminds Gibbs that he recommended he take time off after his wife’s death. Gibbs insists on still doing his job, so Vance places him on administrative leave. Gibbs states how important his job is to him and tells Vance not to instruct his team to keep him out of the loop again.

The Devil You Know

Gomez arrives to talk with McGee and Bishop. For the sake of her daughter, she confirms that Rivera connected the Reynosa Cartel with people in the Mexican government. Rivera also contacted the Brotherhood of Doubt after Parsa’s death and offered to bankroll their escape from the USS Niagara. So why would Rivera do this? The plan is for any escaped prisoner to kill Gibbs.

Gibbs goes home and hears water running in his basement. While working on the water heater, he sees some wires, and then the lights go out. A figure enters, Gibbs fires and Mir falls to the ground and is electrocuted.

Making It Right

Gibbs is once again recalling asking his father why his mother was mad at him. Jackson tells his son, “There’s a lot in this world that you can’t make right. But this … this you can always make right, and that’s a start.” Gibbs learns his love of wood working by his father’s side. Ducky urges Gibbs to go back to Stillwater.

Visiting Rivera

Gibbs has one stop to make first, and that is the prison where Rivera is housed. Gibbs mentions Gomez and tells him that his girlfriend gave him up. The CIA followed the money to Hansur’s compound, and all remaining leaders of the Brotherhood of Doubt were killed. Rivera tells Gibbs that his father was important to him, even though he took the lives of Gibbs’ family. When Rivera finds out that only one prisoner escaped, and now Mir is dead, he gives up and calls for the guard.

Case of Mistaken Identity

Abby has some shocking news for the team. She gets the DNA back, and the man that Gibbs killed is a hired mercenary. Mir planted the hairs in the RIB to throw everyone off of his track.

Meanwhile, Gibbs is back in Stillwater, listening to country music and working on his dad’s truck. He hears the garage door and ducks just as Mir fires on him. After a struggle, Gibbs knocks the jack out from under the truck and it slams down on Mir.

Passing on a Legacy

Cal and Gibbs meet up in the store before Jackson’s funeral. Gibbs tells Cal that his father would have wanted him to have the store. At the cemetery, Jackson’s friend LJ tells Gibbs how proud Jackson was of him, and Gibbs echoes the sentiment. He clutches the flag from the casket as Taps plays.

After the service, Gibbs pours a drink and looks at the contents of the box. It is a model boat, named “The Chickadee.” It is obvious that Gibbs’ mother was ill, and he remembers them sailing the boat together. After he and his father made it for her. Gibbs starts sketching out a plan, perhaps for the next boat that he will build.

This week’s season 11 finale of NCIS was such a touching tribute in memory of actor Ralph Waite, Jackson Gibbs and of the relationship between Gibbs and his father. It was poignantly told and achingly beautiful. It is, hands down, the best episode of the season.

(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.