Friday, February 23, 2007

Media: NCIS – Navy Criminal Investigative Services - "Dead Man Walking"

“Dead Man Walking” first aired February 20, 2007

With a plot stripped from the current events surrounding the decidedly Cold War murder of former Soviet operative Aleksander Litvinenko, the NCIS team is asked to investigate the poisoning murder of an American nuclear inspector. The twist is the inspector himself is requesting the investigation.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspector Navy Lt. Roy Sanders (Matthew Mardsen) enters NCIS headquarters with Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) (wearing a $2000 Armani Jacket – the spoils of his writing career) requesting Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) to investigate his murder while dramatically pulling out a clump of his own hair and showing it to Gibbs during his request. Mossad Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) begins the first segment with a strange déjà vu regarding Lt. Sanders. Ziva seems to know him from somewhere. Gibbs enters and reveals that Sanders is still being examined by NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) and his thought is Lt. Sanders is suffering from radiation poisoning, but the source is yet unknown. Ziva tries to think of where she knows Lt. Sanders.

Fearing the McGee has also been exposed, he is forced by Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) to strip completely so that he and his clothes can be analyzed for radiation. Abby wants his Armani jacket also, promising she will not harm it. Meanwhile, Ducky has a living client for a change who is able to talk back to him. Blood samples are drawn and sent to radiobiology for analysis. However, Ducky and Lt. Sanders believe that he has been poisoned with an alpha emitter (such as Polonium-210 as in the Litvinenko case) rather than beta- or gamma- emitters (such as Uranium-238 and Plutonium-239). Alpha particles can be stopped by the dead skin cells on the epidermis, but when ingested can wreck havoc on internal organs).

Ziva is ordered to accompany Lt. Sanders to Bethesda, where he is being transferred. Gibbs is hoping that this will jog her memory of where she has seen Sanders. Sanders registers what looks like flashing recognition before Ziva launches into her attempts to make a connection. Make a connect they do, but it is just Ziva’s dumb luck. The scene breaks to Gibbs and Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) visit IAEA headquarters and meet Sanders’ colleagues Mark Sadowski (Marc Vann) and Diane Russio (Kate Norby) and the harried secretary Holly Stegman (Erin Torpey). Gibbs appraises them that Sanders was poisoned with radiation. DiNozzo searches Sanders’ desk finds a picture that proves to be his sister. The radiobiology lab returned the results showing that Sanders was poisoned with Thallium no longer than 72 hours previously. This send the NCIS team into an investigation of where Sanders had been in the previous 72 hours.

Meanwhile, at the hospital, Dr. Timothy Hass (Scott Klace) explains to Sanders that the two tables he is taking, Prussian Blue, has been used for many years as a poison antidote. He goes on to say that it works best as a preventative. Abby begins her analysis of everything Sanders could have ingested. While Ziva is questioning Sanders she discovers that she knows him from passing him while running in the mornings. This sets a spark between to two that appears to be ultimately doomed by Sanders’ impending death. While DiNozzo and McGee search Sanders car, they note the smell of cigars (yes, this is foreshadowing). They remove Sanders’ gym bag for analysis by Abby. Gibbs arrives and sends the pair to Sanders’ apartment to look around.

Ziva walks in the garden with Sanders and questions him about his personal life, trying to find if he has a significant other. He says there are none. Ziva begins to look doomed in her attraction to him. She asks him to detail his day, which included a trip to the local shooting range. After Sanders falls faint into Ziva’s arms, the two return to his room to find Sadowski and Russio, the latter of whom Ziva questions more closely about his personal life. When Ziva suggests that he may be gay, Russio says no and proceeds to tell her why (but it is not what you think).

Dr. Timothy Hass (Scott Klace) reports to Ziva that Sander’s radiation levels continues to increase, indicating that he is still being poisoned. As Ziva relates this to Gibbs, Gibbs’ ears perk up at the thought that Sadowski and/or Russio may be trying to kill him. Meanwhile McGee and DiNozzo go to the shooting range where DiNozzo is assaulted by the proprietor, who had previously been sued for sexual harassment. McGee found a hot source at the range, but could not discreetly identify the source. McGee notes that one common denominator is Sadowski who was at the shooting range and in the hospital room. Gibbs had him brought in and leaned on him with no results.

Abby determined that there was cigar ash among the most radioactive of the micro-debris. Thus, the cigars were spike with thallium, which was subsequently delivered by insufflation. This method of delivery is similar to that of intravenous administration as highly lipid-soluble substances readily pass into the blood stream when inhaled into the lungs. Ziva secured the cigars, and Gibbs requested all of the bank records of everyone at the IAEA. Sadowski falls ill at the same time Gibbs looks at footage from the firing range where Sadowski inhaled second-hand smoke from Sanders’ cigar, thus exonerating him. Russio emerges as a likely suspect. DiNozzo and Ziva have a heart to heart in the hospital lobby.

At NCIS headquarters, Ducky provides Gibbs his results of the checkups of all the IAEA personnel. He notes that one person had traces of ferric ferrocyanide, the chromophore in Prussian Blue, indicating that one of the staff was taking the substance to protect against radiation poisoning. Ducky pointed out the guilty party on a computer screen and referred to the party as her. After some harrowing minutes, Gibbs and McGee go to the IAEA and apprehend the secretary Holly Stegman, who had poisoned him on the $50,000 behalf to scare him from going to Uzbekistan where he was to conduct an inspection that would have found them not in compliance. The episode closes with Sanders still alive and sharing a tender moment with Ziva. Perhaps, finally, Ziva will find love.

“Dead Man Walking” is an above average episode of NCIS. While not a disappointment, it did not carry the momentum established by the recent ”Friends and Lovers” and ”Blow Back”. The next episode, “Skeletons,” promises the return of Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, who will undoubtedly heat things up for (and with) Gibbs.


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)

Guest Stars:

Mark Sadowski (Marc Vann)
Dr. Timothy Hass (Scott Klace)
Diane Russio (Kate Norby)
Holly Stegman (Erin Torpey)
Dee Dee Chesney Diane Delano)
NCIS Special Agent Michelle Lee (Liza Lapira)
Navy Lt. Roy Sanders (Matthew Mardsen)

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007