Sunday, October 01, 2006

Media: NCIS – Navy Criminal Investigative Services - "Shalom"

Out of the ashes of Jag in 2003 sprung NCIS: Navy Criminal Investigative Services. At the time, CSI and its progeny CSI: Miami were proving to be two of the most provocative dramas, a franchise to rival the almighty Law & Order juggernaut. This made for a crowded crime scene on television. With this kind of competition, what has kept NCIS in the hunt?

In a word, it is humor.

Humor and a cast of characters who are as competent as they are quirky. This is a program that does not take itself too seriously as do the CSI clones, and this is good. So, how does the beginning of the fourth season shape up? That must be answered with a brief look at the end of season three.The two-part season closer, “Hiatus Parts 1 & 2” finds Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) — in a coma from an explosion aboard a cargo ship -- under investigation for connections with Islamic terrorists. After a stint with amnesia penetrated by Gibbs’ former boss, NCIS Agent (retired) Mike Franks (Muse Watson) who left the sunny Mexican beach of his retirement at the request of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly) to help with Gibbs’ rehabilitation, Gibbs decides to join his old boss in retirement, making Anthony Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly) in charge of the group.

Now, up to date, in the season opener “Shalom,” Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) is framed by parties unknown after having witnessed an assassination made to look as a Mossad hit. This places Ziva under federal suspicion as an Israeli double agent and a person of interest to the FBI. In hiding, she calls Gibbs in the sunny Mexican climes to save her.Ziva’s welfare ultimately requires the cooperation of the entire NCIS team without the Director’s knowledge. After plot twist and turn, it is revealed that an Iranian intelligence agent is responsible for Ziva’s being framed. The goal of the frame was to turn the United States against Israel. The team, with the help of Gibbs, ultimately tracks down this agent, Faatin Amal (Saba Homayoon), but not before Ziva gets there first and, after some tense moments, kicks the shit out of Faatin’s sandy ass. Ziva is ultimately exonerated and Gibbs is on his way back to the beach.

NCIS is approaching middle age as far as 21st television dramas go. It is not so much getting long in the tooth as it is sacrificing its believability for an ostensibly better story line. Point of fact, it is had to imagine Ziva David calling for Jethro Gibbs to “save” her. She is much too proud and capable for that. Anthony DiNozzo is still struggling to find his place as the new boss as the old one reenters the picture. Gibbs will have to come back fulltime or not at all for this season to work, and the latter alternative will deep six the series. Ziva did issue Faatin a good old fashioned Southern ass whippin’ though and that alone floated the episode.

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2006