Thursday, October 12, 2006

Media: NCIS - Navy Criminal Investigative Services - "Faking It"

Four episodes into its fourth season and two episodes since the full-time return of Team Leader Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), NCIS writers ratchet the plot complexity up a notch. A man is stopped for a routine traffic violation and officers discover a recently discharged pistol. While the driver is being apprehended, a second car crashes into the police cruiser, its driver, Navy Petite Officer Marty Allen (Albie Selznick) expiring from an abdominal gunshot wound as the police open his car door, where a bag of quarters spills out.

The apprehended driver, carrying a false ID is identified as a Russian arms dealer Nikolai Puchenko (Ravil Isyanov) (he had “an accent as thick as Polish Sausage”), who turns out to be wanted by the Department of Homeland security. Once Puchenko is identified, Gibbs does a bit of background research, discovering a connection between the Russian, a US covert operation titles “Sunburst” (for which the case file has been removed from government databases) and Gibbs’ former NCIS boss Former Special Agent Mike Franks (Muse Watson), with whom Gibbs had been living in Baja, Mexico at the beginning of the season (see “Shalom” and “Escaped” ).

Gibbs calls Franks and drops the names “Sunburst” and Puchenko, raising the ire of Franks who cautions Gibbs that another Russian, Arkady Kobach (V.J. Foster) is who he really wants and who is especially dangerous. Franks has no love for either Puchenko or Kobach because of their involvement in arms sales, “from Mogadishu to Bagdad” that were responsible for American deaths. Franks joins Gibbs in Washington, DC at the same time that Director Shepard informs Gibbs that Homeland Security Official Roy Carver (Geoff Pierson) had arrived to take Puchenko into Homeland Security holding. Franks is already familiar with Carver, having worked with him while in the CIA 15 years before, when Carver, Puchenko, and Kobach were working together. Carver’s relationship with these Russian sources lead to the deaths of Americans, a fact Franks simmers over.

Meanwhile, Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) conducts the autopsy on Petite Officer Allen and while he can identify the path of the bullet (ending in the man’s stomach) that killed the man, Ducky cannot find the bullet. Without the bullet, Puchenko cannot be held any longer and must be released to Roy Carver. Franks sensing that Puchenko is about to get away plays his “Sunburst” card informing Carver that he made a copy of the “Starburst” case file before he left the government. This buys Gibbs and his team time to find a bullet. By this time Ducky has concluded, with the help of Abby, that the man must have vomited, expelling the bullet and Gibbs sends Mossad Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) and Agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray) on the undesirable journey to locate the vomit and bullet, which they ultimately do.

In the meantime, Franks is taken to a safe house under the protection of Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), who is conked in the head and circumstances appear that Franks was kidnapped, by people who will ultimately suffer if his “Starburst” file is revealed. Carver shows up again in the director’s office wanting Puchenko reasoning that NCIS has lost its espionage angle with the loss (and as he reasons, defection) of Franks. The director again turns Carver away reluctantly, telling Gibbs he has an hour to come up with evidence.

David and McGee produce the bullet, Abby identifies it, and Gibbs presents it to Puchenko and his Lawyer. Meanwhile, Franks appears to be calling Puchenko’s partner Kobach and offering him a tape of conversations implicating he, Puchenko, and Carver in “Sunburst” in exchange for $500,000. Franks meets Kobach in the hotel bar and after some lively conversation shoots him dead after Gibbs killed Kobach’s bodyguard. Franks returns to Mexico after giving Gibbs the tape, which he plays and discovers to be mariachi music.

Overall, “Faking It” offers a more full-bodied plot than the previous three episodes this season. The resurfacing of grizzled Agent Franks is welcome as his character is better developed in this episode and he provides an interesting contrast to Gibbs as well as DiNozzo. Franks gleefully thumbs his nose at the current establishment as he commits murder (though morally justified) and returns to his warm life of dissolution with intent in Mexico. Franks is the real star in this episode and all remaining cast are secondary. NCIS is heating up while still approaching the stretch.


Agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray)
Forensics Specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly)
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon)
NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly)
Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum)
Mossad Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo)

Miguel Fernandez (Armando Molina)
Arkady Kobach (V.J. Foster) Russian Arms Dealer
Officer Lou Giotti (Nolan North)
Marty Allen (Albie Selznick)
Nikolai Puchenko (Ravil Isyanov) Russian Arms Dealer
Roy Carver (Geoff Pierson) Homeland Security Official
Former Special Agent Mike Franks (Muse Watson)

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2006