And, Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and girlfriend Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson) consummate their relationship. But for Tony, things never seem so simple. He still plays with Ziva, though not as much and not as ardently as he did in “Sandblast” and he is now running special errands for NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly), who he refers to, with more familiarity than is comfortable, as “Jenny” (much to the chagrin of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). Tony’s love line develops complexly. But we digress at the beginning.
While replacing a furnace at a Quantico Marine Military Base middle school, workmen discover the well-preserved body of a man in the flue. The team quickly determines that the dead man is not military personnel and when Gibbs asks NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) the time of death (TOD) he is greeted by the doctor tersely, further indicating Ducky’s apparent resentment of Gibb’s “quitting” NCIS. Ziva and Tony confront Ducky on his hostile behavior toward Gibbs. Ducky blows them off and estimates the TOD as two to four months previously.
Using Ducky’s TOD, the team scour missing persons’ reports from the period and finds no one meeting the deceased’s description. Ziva and Tony have a close encounter, broken up by Gibbs who wants and ID. Tony admits he has none at the same time that Ducky enters and owns the responsibility because of a faulty TOD. As it turns out, the deceased did not die two to four months earlier, but five to six years earlier. Ducky reasons this is because the body was preserved by the smoke generated by the furnace.
The scene shifts to McGee and Abby in the lab where Abby gets a hit on the corpse’s fingerprints, but is surprised when the AFIS system denies them access and deletes the files. The scene abruptly changes to the NCIS Director’s control room where Jenny orchestrates the surveillance of some foreign operatives entering the states at an air port. She has Tony mark the bags with GPS devices, all without the knowledge or permission of Gibbs.
Back at the shack, Abby tells Gibbs it was the FBI that deleted the fingerprint files, but Gibbs already knows because his old friend and nemesis FBI Special Agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) who has arrived to pick up what he claims to be his body at the same time that Ducky and NCIS Medical Examiner Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) discover a human toe in the stomach of the corpse. Fornell identifies the corpse as a cannibal serial killer that the Agency has been tracking for the over a decade. The murderer’s trademark was gnawing off the toes from the left feet of his victims. The Agency does not know the corpse’s age but did find the prints at a crime scene. Gibbs and Fornell bump heads and Gibbs remains in control, taking Fornell to show what the corpse looked like in life, identified at Charles Bright, who disappeared five years and seven months ago. The Team gets an address and the team, after obtaining a search warrant (delivered by the delicious NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira)), all head over.
Gibbs and Fornell go to question Bright’s wife, Amy Bright (Marcella Lentz-Pope), who has two children. Fornell freaks out when he sees Amy Bright, who looks like all of the alleged murderer’s victims. Meanwhile, Tony finds a skeleton in the Bright’s backyard. Bright was identified as a building inspector for the Department of Defense and was scheduled to visit the middle school where his corpse was found when he disappeared. Gibbs does not believe that Bright’s death was an accident. The FBI uncovers several more skeletons. Ducky declines to offer a TOD and proceeds to tell a story of him, Gibbs, and Jenny had a French warrant for their arrest for Ducky’s assault of a French officer. Ducky recalls this fondly and the thaw with Gibbs begins.
Gibbs and Spano return to question Amy Bright who vehemently denies that her husband could have been the murderer in spite of the fact the authorities were removing four bodies from her backyard. The tearful Bright is convincing. Perhaps the murderer was not her husband. Back at headquarters, Ducky and Gibbs have a heart to heart about Ducky’s animosity toward Gibbs. Ducky’s feelings were hurt that Gibbs did not tell him goodbye when he quite nor about his family that was murdered. Gibbs apologized. The rift is completely defined and resolved.
After Tony and his paramour finally do the deal, the scene shifts to the next morning and Ziva detecting that Tony had enjoyed sensual release the previous night. Fornell enters with a Justice Department Order to turn the body and investigation over to the FBI immediately. While Gibbs, Fornell, and Jenny discuss the situation in the Director’s office, Ducky announces that he has determined the cause of death of the smoked corpse. Ducky points out to Fornell on a CT scan of the body that reveals several abdominal punctures with either an ice pick or a Phillips-head screwdriver. The man was murdered on a marine base saving the case for NCIS’ attention.
The rest of the episode goes fast. Gibbs dispatches everyone to find out who wanted Charles bright dead. Ducky tells Fornell and Gibbs that the bodies recovered from the Bright house had no definable TOD. Ducky evaluated the profile of the killer and discovered that he more than likely knew his killer, hence the ultimate identification of his wife. This leads to connections Bright would have had at the middle school where he was working and this ultimately points to Amy Bright, who worked there as a part-time teacher before she married Bright.
Abby taps Marty, who was a forensic botanist, to evaluate the growth of a bushes roots through the skeletal remains found in the Bright’s backyard. Amy Bright is brought in for questioning and gives up that she discovered her husband was a killer and killed him to protect her family. Amy Bright revealed toes missing toes from her right foot, further sealing the deal against Charles Bright. Right when Fornell was about to let her off the hook Abby, who with Marty, determined that those bodies in the Bright’s backyard had been there were buried more recently than five years, interrupted Gibbs’ interrogation to give him the news. Gibbs identified Amy Bright as the serial killer but leaves us with the question, “What is a toe doing in her husband’s stomach?”
“Smoked” improves on previous episodes with its well-paced character development and story. While the season remains in adolescence, it is late adolescence, on its way to adulthood. We have closure on the Ducky-Gibbs riff and a deepening of the Tony storyline, all cozily nestled in a macabre story of cannibalism, collusion, and carnal delight.
Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
Special Agent Anthony "Tony" Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly)
Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray)
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon)
NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly)
NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum)
Mossad Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo)
NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira)
NCIS Medical Examiner Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen)
Amy Bright (Marcella Lentz-Pope)
Rick Samson (Rico Anderson)
Miles Larson Christopher (Michael Moore)
Marty Pearson (Michael Gilden)
Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher)
Karen Bright (Mandy June Turpin)
FBI Agent Ron Sacks (Don Franklin)
Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2006