Friday, March 02, 2007

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

“Skeletons” first aired February 27, 2007

Wet and dripping is the motive of this episode of NCIS. Indeed there are “Skeletons,” but there are also copious amounts of gelatinous matter and the requisite effluvium—a sticky situation indeed. Speaking of sticky situations, Army Lt. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson) makes her way back into an episode where we discover she and Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) have not spoken since ”Sharif Returns”. In addition, Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) has boy problems that only Gibbs can address. Alas, I digress before even starting.

The episode opens on a military funeral. While the service is wrapping up, two service men in charge of maintaining a military mausoleum are trying to remove the door to one of the crypts to ready it for another occupant. The attempt results in an explosion of sorts with extremely disgusting consequences: decomposing body parts and skeletal remains. Thank God there is no smell-a-vision. The scene at NCIS headquarters is equally tense and surreal as Abby is acting odd (perhaps this show’s biggest irony). She accosts Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) for money to feed into the candy machine, ultimately secures the funds from Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), spawning a discussion of exactly what “nugget” is. Gibbs arrives and gathers his forces for an apparent explosion at a local military mausoleum.

At the mausoleum, the bomb squad tells Gibbs, DiNozzo, and Ziva no explosives were found. the bomb squad details that the funeral was for a Marine Lance Corporal 9and thus the NCIS involvement) who was to be interred in the family mausoleum is a space with his grandfather. NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) and NCIS Medical Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) arrive to correct McGee’s metaphor for the mess they have as “effluvium” as opposed to porridge. Ducky notes that there is enough decomposing matter for two people present in the crypt. He further surmises that the bodies were living as of two weeks before and then provides the theory that the lack of ventilation and the amount of gas that would be produced buy the bodies would be enough to provide the explosion.

At the NCIS morgue, Ducky and Palmer have a “Meat Puzzle” not unlike that which the saw in a previous episode involving the sale of body parts (“The Meat Puzzle,” originally aired February 8, 2005). Ducky determines that the bodies were dismembered and that there were actually at least five bodies involved, thus there being the possibility of more bodies in the mausoleum. At least one of the bodies was an elderly woman who was murdered. Ducky fears a mass murder.

Back at the NCIS lab, Abby is still in a gothic foul mood as the scene opens on her instant messaging her apparent problem. Gibbs and DiNozzo come in for information. Abby tells them that the bodies must have been bled dry before dismemberment as she has little of no blood to work with. She also notes that the screws used to close the crypt covers appeared to have been recently loosened compared to the other, rusted screws of the mausoleum. Regarding this, Abby notes that there are two other crypts with similar signs of recent, unauthorized entry, one Marine and one regular army, the latter involvement setting the stage for the entry of Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann.

Gibbs heads out for the mausoleum and encounters Lt. Col. Hollis Mann, fetching in her contemporary camo-green. She immediately takes charge (of Gibbs, that is) and follows him into the crypt, Gibbs ordering Ziva and DiNozzo to remain outside. Gibbs behaves like a school boy much to the glee of Ziva and DiNozzo. The subsequent conversation veers between the matter at had and the pair’s unfinished romantic business. This conversation demonstrates that the NCIS writers can write provocative and amusing dialog when they want to.

Gibbs and Mann do find more body parts and Ducky is able to assemble five full bodys with no apparent trend existing among them save for the fact they are dead and dismembered. Ducky echoes the earlier observations of Abby, that the bodies were all suspended and drained as a butcher would do. Palmer enters to let Gibbs and Mann know that NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly) wants to see both of them. NCIS staff identifies all of the bodies and the elderly woman happens to be the mother of a man that Ziva and Dinozzo see at the mausoleum. After a terse and cursory conversation, Jenny asks Mann to remain behind. Jenny notes that the Sharif (”Sharif Returns”) investigation ended well and Mann noted the commendation she received. Jenny ostensibly offers Mann and opportunity to join NCIS when her commission is up in six months. The two share drinks and some delicious bits of information about working with Gibbs.

Gibbs and DiNozzo host a stakeout for the man seen at the mausoleum, who has been identified as Len Grady (Corin Nemec). He is linked to two of the murders. The two apprehend Grady and take him back to NCIS for questioning. Meanwhile the crew searches his home which reveals that he is a jack-of-all-trades. The team searches his refrigerator and locates…a pork chop…that becomes central latter in the episode. Gibbs and Ziva question Grady who sends mixed signals to Mann who is witnessing the interrogation. Gibbs shows him photos of all of the victims and he denies knowing any of them. Mann believes him at least partially innocent; Gibbs warns her that regardless of appearances, Grady may still be involved. Mann ends the segment saying that, Grady may not be directly responsible, but knows who is.

Mann and Gibbs return to NCIS headquarters and Mann behaves very much like the woman in charge. She takes charge of the team and Gibbs does not interfere. Gibbs and Mann go to Abby who gives them a run down on all of the cutlery found at Grady’s house. Abby notes that the pork chop from Grady’s freezer and the cut rib cage of one of the victims were cut with the same device, most likely a butcher’s saw. Mann comments that Grady has a partner and his partner is a butcher. Further investigation reveals that Grady’s girlfriend, Natalie Dalton (Alexandra Lydon) is a butcher who taught Grady the trade. A search of her shop reveals the presence of human blood and she puts on quite the convincing act. She is brought in for questioning that Grady is allowed to view. Grady cops to the entire gig, protecting Dalton. He is formally taken in to custody. After questioning Dalton, Mann convinces Gibbs to let Dalton go. Gibbs and Mann follow her and find her dismembering her last victim in Grady’s van. This wonderful conspiracy mirrors that in “Smoked”.

A rocking good time is what we are having as season four begins to draw to a close. The end is not yet in sight and should involve the Jenny-La Grenouille angle. For the time being, we can detect some tying up of loose ends. Not discussed here was the failing relationship of Abby with Marty Pearson (Michael Gilden), ostensibly because she is “too large.” This closes Abby’s romantic fling of the season sadly as it does acknowledging the tragic death of Michael Gilden, December 5, 2006. NCIS takes a hiatus, returning April 3rd with “Iceman.”


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)
NCIS Medical Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen)

Guest Stars:

Army Lt. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson)
Len Grady (Corin Nemec)
Natalie Dalton (Alexandra Lydon)
Former Marine LCPL Lloyd Jackson (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez)
Marine EOD Sgt. Dan Trask (Brian Markinson)
Former Marine PFC Kenneth Dixon (Chris Tardio)
Jacob Torrance (Brian Cousins)
Madeline Torrance (Erinn Bartlett)

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007