“Sharif Returns” first aired January 23, 2006
Traffic lights go haywire, spelling “SOS” in Morse code. This leads authorities to an underground utility room where the local guts of the traffic signal system are. There is a dead man sans his right eye. The dead man is Marine Major John McGuire involved with nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare preparedness and now NCIS has jurisdiction. It is determined that McGuire was locked in the facility. Just prior to this, NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) determined that McGuire died from Hyperthermia, or high body temperature, most likely brought on by some type of chemical exposure. The Marine’s missing eye is found in his stomach, Ducky determining that the Marine had plucked his own eye out and swallowed it.
Abby’s forensics indicates the Marine was poisoned with a chemical warfare agent that induces hallucinations and psychosis, explaining the McGuire’s ocular enucleation. A video remote camera is found by NCIS agents and it is returned to headquarters where Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) determine it was being monitored in a near by bowling alley.
Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Mossad Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray), and Special Agent Anthony "Tony" Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly) go to the bowling alley and find a covert interrogation taking place. The NCIS team barges in to find none other than Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson) and her CID investigative team following leads in a possibly related case. Gibbs and Mann last worked together in ”Sandblast”, where their personal rapport was provocative to say the least.
With the entry of the fetching Co. Mann, Gibbs’s demeanor changes completely and he almost behaves as a schoolboy with his first crush. Mann behave likewise, injecting a heady love levity into the episode. Gibbs and Mann discuss the presence of a terrorist, Mamoun Sharif (Enzo Cilenti), who has recently entered the U.S. Sharif is thought to have stolen the nerve gas that killed the Marine officer. DiNozzo brings intelligence that NCIS and CID’s cases are related. Sharif was previously a bomber, now turned to chemical terror. Ziva allows that Major McGuire had the duty of delivering samples of nerve gas to analytical labs for testing, sending she and DiNozzo to track down where McGuire had been. In the mean time, Gibbs and Mann have a brow-raising conversation that piques McGee’s interest in the pair. Ah, Love is in the air again. Gibbs and Mann decide that Sharif was testing the chemical agent on McGuire.
This lands the pair in the office of NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly). The subsequent discussion is of minor concern. The sexual energy expended between Gibbs, Mann, and Shepard reaches near detonation at critical mass. The Gibbs-Mann-Shepard triangle is complete and its development should make the rest of the season interesting. The conversation is titillating, forget the plot, the subplot is all. The smile on Gibbs’s face at the end of the scene says it all.
DiNozzo and Ziva visit a gas mask facility that McGuire had delivered samples of the nerve gas. The pair encounters a strapping chief engineer that Ziva is smitten with, one Dane Hogan (Victor Webster). They question the man to confirm shipment details and determine that 10 kilograms of the gas is missing. Tony gets a call from his love interest, Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson), who breaks a date with him and Ziva becomes more suspicious of DiNozzo and his relationship with physicians.
Back at head quarters McGee is talking to Abby about Gibbs and Mann while Abby executes a computer program that shows what the child product of two photographs, namely Gibbs and Mann would look like, while Gibbs and Mann catch them doing so. While looking at a schematic Gibbs and Mann share some Chap-stik®, an act lost on McGee and Abby. McGee and Abby found the stream of McGuire’s final moments and show Gibbs and Mann. Gibbs and Mann return to the war room where a frustrated Gibbs leaves to do some thinking…at home.
Mann, who has previously been to Gibbs’s house, once again helps her self to an entrance, finding Gibbs’s working on a new boat in his basement, where she wants to know where the other boat went (and where Gibbs is a walking billboard for Carhartt clothing). Gibbs instructs Mann that Sharif is motivated by hate and revenge and not money and he knows this by looking into his eyes. Mann questions Gibbs on what the eyes reveal leading to the clincher in their relationship. Gibbs and Mann will consummate their relationship, but not until Sharif is apprehended. This speeds things along and adds that delicious tension that makes such silly television shows have some relevance…by providing vicarious pleasure.
But back to terrorism, after Mann takes her leave, Gibbs gets a phone call from Sharif who informs Gibbs that he has the gas and that he wants six Chechen operatives released from Afghanistan or he will distribute the gas everywhere. Just to give Gibbs a taste, Sharif reveals he has tested the gas on six civilians…and Gibbs, scaring the shit out of him as Gibbs does not know how he would have been exposed.
After decontamination Gibbs receives word from McGee that Sharif conducted his second gas test under the guise of pest control officer spraying people’s houses. Gibbs goes hunting for DiNozzo and sends Ziva after him, but DiNozzo is at Benoit’s apartment trying to find out what is bugging her. The subsequent conversation reveals the true natures of the diminutive and uppercase “no.” While she retires to the ladies room, DiNozzo snoops her computer and finds a previous suitor has come calling in an unwelcome fashion. A rift is brewing. At the same time, DiNozzo negotiates a communal bath but is drawn away by the news of another gas exposure. He calls Ziva and is on his way.
Confidently, it turns out, director Shepard reveals to Gibbs and Mann that Sharif has been working for a pest control company but has recently taken leave, sending the NCIS/CID team into action. Mann and Shepard trade clipped sentences. While the sniping is going on, Gibbs begins to experience the effects of the gas, contains himself and leaves. This alarms Shepard. Shepard and Mann joust again about Gibbs’s health.
Per usual, the episode accelerates from here. McGee and Abby are able to trace a portable gaming console being used by Sharif to a train station. Dane Hogan is tapped as the gas source and gives up Sharif and adds that he has attenuated the gas so it cannot be used as an aerosol. NCIS notes that Sharif has withdrawn a large amount of money all in ones to use as a dispersion device for the gas, which now has to be ingested to be active. It is discovered that Sharif dissolved the gas in dimethysulfoxide, a lipid soluble delivery system that can facilitate transport of chemicals through the skin. Gibbs chases Sharif in the train station as the effects of the gas ravage the NCIS agent. In the final confrontation, Gibbs collapses and Mann enters in the nick of time to dispatch Sharif to his just reward. Gibbs and Mann can finally kiss.
The episode this season that has crackled with the most interpersonal sparks was ”Sandblast”. The reason for the sizzle (besides DiNozzo peering down Ziva’s shirt while she deactivates a bomb) was one Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, who Ziva dubbed “Gibbs[’s] … fourth ex-wife.” Gibbs and Mann certainly have a charged simpatico: both are headstrong and smart, both are guarded, and both certainly interested in each other. “Sandblast” overtly set up the collaboration between Gibbs and Mann in “Sharif Returns” and we are not disappointed.
Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
Special Agent Anthony "Tony" Dinozzo (Michael Weatherly)
Special 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)
Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson)
Mamoun Sharif (Enzo Cilenti)
Dane Hogan (Victor Webster)
Allan J. Carter (David Starzyk)
Charlie Milla (David Barrera)
Wayne Gordon (Rob Brownstein)
Army CID Special Agent Jack Reynolds (Brandon Molale)
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007