“Friends and Lovers” first aired February 13, 2007
The NCIS writers use the cheapest convenient coincidence convention to create the most delicious plot twist of the season. And it has nothing to do with the dead sailor found in an abandoned building, whose cause of death is a bit mysterious.
A couple returns to the place of their first meeting to seal the deal on marriage. While proposing, the erstwhile groom stoops to a knee in proposal and notes a dead body, replete with maggots, killing the moment. The team is meanwhile receiving knife training from Mossad Agent-on-loan Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), trainees including the delectable NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira), who almost skewers Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) before he orders the team to Georgetown to pick up the stiff.
Things move quickly. NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) notes advanced liver disease and a high blood alcohol. First indications show death through overdose misadventure as several other agents were identified in the sailor’s blood. Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) identifies the toxic agent that killed the sailor as oleandrin and neriine, naturally-occurring cardiac glycosides similar to digitoxin, derived from the oleander plant. The sailor was murdered.
But that is just the boring subtext to the story. The Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) - Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson) story hits a high note the day before Valentines Day. Over a romantic martini, DiNozzo and Benoit are interrupted by Benoit’s persistent former boyfriend, whom DiNozzo wants to help out of the picture and who Benoit wants to take care of herself. Later, DiNozzo shows bigger balls in his exchanges with Benoit than previously regarding this mysterious suitor and her reluctance to dispatch him when he discovers that he and the mysterious suitor both arranged for an island get-a-way with Dr. Benoit. Tony waffles none at all, making his displeasure and suspicion perfectly clear.
At headquarters, Ziva looks at a police sketch of a woman seen at a local bar with the dead sailor, shortly before her death. Noting a resemblance to pop star Shakira, Ziva proceeds to shake her assets in DiNozzo’s face, mimicking the beautiful Latina, while he looks for an intimate vacation for him and Dr. Benoit. City cops Detectives J.D. Morris (Michael Whaley) and John Carson (Jonno Roberts) interrupt the proceedings, bringing Gibbs a junkie with the dead sailor’s credit card. The junkie implicates himself is hinging around long enough to rob the sailor before he died.
Meanwhile, Abby and Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) look at a laminated card found in the dead sailor’s pocket. Abby notes that a blood stain was intentionally laminated. Further investigation revealed that the killer had left NCIS a message written in blood and then cleaned, “Expect More.” Ducky determines that the oleander was administered in the alcoholic beverages consumed by the unfortunate sailor. At the same time, NCIS Medical Examiner Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) and NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee are playing grab-ass beneath a table.
Gibbs wants to search the private club where the sailor had been in attendance but has the jurisdictional problem of not being able to get a warrant through detective J.D. Morris. Gibbs takes the problem, with NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee, to NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly) and receives no satisfaction. DiNozzo identifies the strange woman last seen with the dead sailor. DiNozzo and detective John Carson strike up a relationship while investigating a case. Carson just lost a girlfriend and DiNozzo has gained one. The circumstances, while depicted as unassociated, are weirdly intertwined. The exchange while viewing a stake out is foreshadowing. The two prove to be kindred spirits and strike up quite the budding relationship.
Abby identifies the blood on the laminated card as that of a woman who was murdered some months ago. She turns out to have been poisoned with oleander. An investigation of the crime scene evidence reveals a planted bloody footprint containing a covert message on the sole of the boot. When photographed and folded, it reveals the message, “Dead Whore.” The team has a serial killer.
The team still has no legal way to enter the club and the security is hip to the city’s attempts to infiltrate, not allowing any agents in. The team works their collective way around this problem by sending in McGee under his pen-name Tom E. Gymcity (Deep Six) with Ziva, Abby and Lee, all in heels. They are to locate the missing woman last seen with the dead sailor. Jon Carson notes the woman in the alley. She presses the head of the clubs security for money not to tell the authorities that the club was involved in the two known murders. The security chief breaks her neck and is met with the NCIS team and gunfire is exchanged. The security chief and girl lay dead and John Carson collapses with a gunshot wound to the chest. DiNozzo gives aid until Carson expires.
The bloody boot print is traced to the dead sailor, who turned out to be the murder of the girl whose blood was left on the card. The final scene shows DiNozzo asleep in Benoit’s sofa and Benoit deleting one last email message from her persistent suitor, who has finally accepted that she is gone. It is a picture, which she opens before deleting, showing her and a smiling John Carson, disappearing into the ether.
While the writers fooled around with passable scripts for the better part of the season, they have finally arrived in living color. A season climax is looming and we can see it beginning to take shape. The story line is developing in such a way that we should expect a renewal for next season.
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)
Matt Barrows (Daz Crawford)
Mary Elizabeth Donahue (Debbie Campbell)
David Cross (Brady Smith)
Lisa Delgado (Corri English)
Frank Holtz (Dean Cechvala)
Detective J.D. Morris (Michael Whaley)
Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
Metro Police Detective John Carson (John Carson)
NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira)
NCIS Medical Examiner Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen)
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007