“Grace Period” first aired April 3, 2007
The fourth season of NCIS has dealt very little with contemporary personal loss. Past loss has been covered in detail. The murder of Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) family surfaces with quiet regularity. The death of former NCIS Special Agent Mike Franks (Muse Watson) was the topic of the previous episode, “Iceman”. We get a little closer with Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David’s (Cote de Pablo) budding relationship with a poisoned and dying IAEA agent in “Dead Man Walking”. However, these episodes may only be considered a Wagnerian prelude to “Grace Period” where Gibbs’ team is face with their own fragile mortality.
The episode opens with an NCIS team from the Pentagon manning a weekend stakeout on a tip of possible terrorist activity. The team is made up of group leader NCIS Agent Paula Cassidy (Jessica Steen), NCIS Agent Rick Hall (Sasha Roiz), and NCIS Agent Jim Nelson (Jacory Gums). Cassidy receives a call from her ostensible Middle Eastern operative who wants to meet in an empty building. Cassidy dispatches Hall and Nelson into the building which promptly explodes…break to the introduction. Meanwhile, Gibbs and Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson) are taking batting practice with Gibbs playfully instructing Mann while Mann shines him on. Gibbs gets the call, going to headquarters not using his inside voice, dispatching his crew to investigate the bombing.
At the crime scene, a space rented by an Islamic nonprofit group, NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum), observes what Gibbs states that the explosion appears to have been the part of a suicide bomber, whose head the team cannot find. A distraught Cassidy helps at the scene, visibly shaken when seeing her dead colleagues. Gibbs takes her outside for a sit down, instructing Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) to find the bomber’s missing head. Gibbs gives Cassidy the old heave ho in the back of an ambulance. Cassidy holds herself responsible for the death of her team Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) is dramatically affected by the agents’ deaths as he had attended school with one of them. Gibbs informs the crew that it was supposed to be his team taking care of that weekend, inferring that it could have been two of their team dead.
The discussion is interrupted by the arrival of two Middle Eastern men, greatly anxious at the damage at the scene. They are members of the Islamic nonprofit Coalition for Peace. The two men, Jamal Malik (Dominic Rains) and Abdul Wahid (Haaz Sleiman) are looking for their friend, Yahzeed Fahad, who is the president of their organization. Conveniently, Ziva locates the bomber’s head in the building’s rafters and drops it to the floor where it is identified by his partners. The two men are taken back to NCIS headquarters and questioned by Gibbs and Ziva together, where they try and convince Gibbs they are not criminals. They do convince Gibbs they are innocent while on the other side of the glass DiNozzo tells Cassidy Gibbs wants her to remain at headquarters.
Meanwhile Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) is analyzing the voice data from the phone call received by Cassidy before the explosion. She discovers McGee grieving in her lab and she comforts him. Gibbs enters and Abby identifies the dead suicide bomber as Yahzeed Fahad and further reveals that he was in the US Navy, discharged in 2004. Ducky chirps in to bring Gibbs and Cassidy to the morgue to let them know that Fahad had been dead 24 hours (based on deterioration of the brain) before the explosion and therefore could not have made the phone call credited to him. This establishes the either Abby or Ducky as being wrong, providing the necessary internal conflict for the episode.
Breaking to the next scene, Ziva details the search of Fahad’s apartment which revealed no evidence that the dead man would have been a suicide bomber. Cassidy reveals an intense dislike for Ziva evidenced with impatience. DiNozzo attempts levity to lighten the mood, Gibbs pops the back of his head and sends Cassidy and DiNozzo back to the crime scene to investigate if there was another way out of this building that appeared to have only one. At the crime scene, Cassidy and DiNozzo reveal their previous personal history and discuss DiNozzo’s floundering love life. Cassidy councils DiNozzo that life is too short not to tell those you love that you love them.
Meanwhile, Abby determines that all of the suspect telephone contact came form the same disposable phone and that the first call could be traced to a company, Kertek Computing where Fahad worked. This company was responsible for developing software for the disabled. McGee reasons that NCIS can obtain vocal samples from all employees to identify the caller. Gibbs, Ziva, and McGee head for Kertek where they meet Azid Abu Selom (Shaun Duke) and learn that Fahad was an instructor. Abby compares the voice samples with the suspect sample with negative results. Abby was given a Fahad training video to which she compared the suspect sample and got a positive match. Who is right…Ducky or Abby?
Back at the crime scene, DiNozzo searching for a secret passage employs a clever method involving cigar smoke being pulled through cracks in the wall and the two locate a secret passage into an office where they discover pieces of sunglasses like those worn by the bomber of the true bomber having been there. Ziva and Gibbs go to see Ducky who has determined Fahad’s cause of death, which was from suffocation due to having a silicone substance poured in his mouth and nose. Ducky insists that his opinion on the time of death is correct.
Gibbs and Mann meet at Gibbs’ house for dinner in the basement and Mann reveals to Gibbs that she plans to retire and pursue her private life, ostensibly with Gibbs. Meanwhile, Abby lifts a print from the sunglasses that leads the team back to Kertek, where the team has to fight it out with the operative, who is ultimately shot and killed by Cassidy and the rest. From a recovered flyer, the team learns of a conference of Islamic clerics to address the Shiite-Sunni rift. McGee’s evaluation of the dead man’s laptop reveals experimental vocal simulation software for use with the disabled who can no longer talk. The team determines that the silicone poured in Fahad’s oral and nasal cavities was to make a mold to develop the software to mimic Fahad’s voice. So both Ducky and Abby were right (as if it were to be any other way).
Jamal Malik and Abdul Wahid are called back in for questioning and reveal that the most important clerics in the Shiite-Sunni issue will be attending. The clerics wish to visit the site of the explosion for prayers. The team prepares to accommodate the request. The clerics are divied up by the agents, leaving Cassidy with no one to watch. At the explosion site everything is ready and the clerics arrive and prepare for prayers. Gibbs tells Cassidy that this is her time to pray for her team, not work. Meanwhile, Abby evaluates fingerprints from the laptop and finds Jamal Malik’s, indicating his involvement. McGee calls Gibbs who finds Malik missing. The secret door opens with Malik wired, prepared to push the button. Cassidy runs through the door, knocking the bomber down as the door closes and the bomb explodes.
DiNozzo is devastated and the episode ends with DiNozzo telling Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson) that he loves her. “Grace Period” is one of the three best episodes of this season. The loose ends begin to be resolved, with several still evident (Shepard’s association with "La Grenouille" and the strange woman stalking DiNozzo and Benoit). We are roaring into the end of the season.
The next episode, “Cover Story” will air April 10, 2007
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-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo)
Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
NCIS Agent Rick Hall (Sasha Roiz)
NCIS Agent Jim Nelson (Jacory Gums)
Abdul Wahid (Haaz Sleiman)
Jamal Malik (Dominic Rains)
Salman Umar (Ankur Bhatt)
Azid Abu Selom (Shaun Duke)
Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson)
NCIS Agent Paula Cassidy (Jessica Steen)
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007