Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Media: NCIS – Navy Criminal Investigative Services - "Brothers in Arms"

“Brothers in Arms” first aired April 24, 2007

The Le Grenouille storyline on NCIS has its roots in the earlier episodes, “Suspicion” and “Blowback”. In the former, NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly) has Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) working undercover for her without the knowledge of DiNozzo’s boss, Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). DiNozzo is watching a group of international arms dealers for the Director. In the latter episode, we are introduced to Le Grenouille, a major ringleader in the arms trade, who is associated with the group under DiNozzo’s earlier surveillance. It turns out that the FBI has a man in deep cover with Le Grenouille, which saves the arms dealer’s life at the end of “Blowback.” It also appears that the Director has a bit of a history with Le Grenouille, one that goes beyond the professional level and this is where the otherwise cool professional begins to lose her perspective.

The episode opens with the Director meeting a man in homeless community. They are speaking by cell phone as the director approaches. The director requests some unidentified information from the man, assuring him that he is doing the right thing. Just as the Director opens her car door to get out, a second car’s lights come on and that car speeds past the two, riddling the scene with bullets. The Director empties her pistol through the back window of the retreating car, asking her contact his he has been hit. He fails to answer because of the bullet holes in his head and throat. After the introduction, the NCIS team is at the site doing what they do and discover that the Director’s contact was not a homeless person but had shown up the previous night, newly bathed and fresh. An expensive cell phone is recovered. Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) queries DiNozzo on whether the Director was working on an operation, doubting the veracity of DiNozzo’s negative answer.

Gibbs and the Director converse by the ambulance where the Director identifies her contact as Troy Webster (Peter Birkenhead). Gibbs proceeds to fuss at the Director for her carelessness, during which she approached the team, who is trying to find witnesses to identify the car. The Director provides everything except the VIN number and the question is posed, who was the target, Webster or the Director? Back at headquarters, the team discusses Webster who is an accountant closely associated with Le Grenouille’s, possessing information on the dealer’s past, present and future arms deals. The Director updates the team that Webster was apparently having a change of heart and was going to provide her information that would help NCIS arrest Le Grenouille. Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) turns the discussion to the cell phone, from which some information could be gleaned. The phone is sent to Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) for evaluation. The Director starts barking orders over Gibbs, something she has to apologize for later. Gibbs begins to divine from the Director her obsession with Le Grenouille, but obtains only the fact that the Director is completely focused on the arms dealer’s capture. The Director is visibly distracted by the entire affair. Gibbs and the Director spar over methods and begin to address the Director’s personal feelings toward Le Grenouille. The director frames her intentions by comparing her intent with Gibbs’ when Gibbs was pursuing Ari, Ziva’s terrorist half-brother finally killed in “Kill Ari, Part 2.”

Meanwhile, NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum), is conversing with the dead Troy Webster, expounding on Mata Hari and her role in World War I when Gibbs comes at Ducky’s request. During autopsy, ducky noted that Webster was perfectly executed, i.e., that he was the target. Had the assassin wanted the kill the director, he or she would have. Ducky also noted an elevation in cerebrospinal protein that supported the discovery of an inoperable brain tumor that Ducky suspects would have killed Webster within six weeks. Gibbs thinks this is why Webster had a change of heart, but Ducky adds that Webster may have not known about the tumor as his medical records did not indicate the presence of the tumor. The two decide that because of the tumor’s size, Webster knew something was going on and decided to come clean. About this time, the lights flicker and the back-up generators start. Abby was trying to extract data from Webster’s phone which was electronically booby-trapped to destroy itself and any computer being used to access the data. To the horror of the Director all of the data was lost and she reacts with uncharacteristic pathos. The Director yells at Abby and is confronted by Gibbs. The Director changes direction, now seeking to hang a murder on Le Grenouille.

After the break, Gibbs is in the Director’s office learning that she has called the CIA. Gibbs doubts the veracity of the Director’s power in the situation. Low and behold, The CIA sends FBI Agent T.C. Fornell (Joe Spano) under the auspices of his authority in the Office of Homeland Security. After a jurisdictional discussion, Fornell reveals that he is here because he drew the short straw when the Agency was deciding who to send to the Director’s office. The Director informs Fornell that she needs to meet with CIA operative Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher), currently undercover with Le Grenouille. Fornell is skeptical of the Agency’s desire to cooperate. The Director informs Fornell that the Agency owes her and should he want to know why, he should ask them.

The scene breaks to Abby’s lab, where she has summoned DiNozzo (who brings Ziva and McGee) to discuss some of her findings regarding the assassin’s car and the director’s car. Abby addresses the typical procedural things regarding the assassin’s car. Abby found blood on the glass of the window shattered in the assassin’s car indicating that the Director hit someone in the car and this blood was not Webster’s. Before the team can leave, Abby notes that she found something sensitive in the
Director’s glove compartment: a pair of women’s underwear. Abby reasons that this item should not show up on a government inventory log (to which Ziva agrees) and the team discusses who will approach the Director. Abby bows out and tells DiNozzo that it his responsibility. DiNozzo receives a call from Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson) who tells him that her mother is coming into town and she wants him to meet them from dinner. DiNozzo tries to beg off but says he will try. Back with the team, McGee points out that as the senior field agent, DiNozzo should approach the Director about this delicate matter. As the senior field agent, DiNozzo elects to draw straws…and draws the short one.

The scene changes to the Director’s office where she schedules a meeting and asks that DiNozzo be sent to her office at the same time he is entering. The conversation that ensues is clever and funny. The Director wanted to know what DiNozzo wanted but he opted for her to tell him what she wanted first. The Director tells DiNozzo that one of the surveillance devices he tag the Le Grenouille entourage bags with has gone dark. The Director is interested in knowing when it was discovered in relation to when DiNozzo placed it (in “Suspicion”). Fornell calls the Director and DiNozzo asks about his involvement, suggesting that Fornell was chosen to handle her. The Director informs DiNozzo that the Agency drew straws and she could not believe that her reputation was such that it instilled such fear. DiNozzo elects not to address the Director’s unmentionables as well as his own collusion in straw-drawing.

The scene breaks to Abby’s lab Gibbs arrives for the DNA results on the blood spatter from the assassin’s car window. Abby shows that the blood spatter came from the driver who had a rare genetic mutation that causes Gaucher’s (pronounced "Go-Shay") disease, which is caused by deficiency of the enzyme, glucocerebrosidase. This enzyme deficiency causes a fatty substance to accumulate in certain body tissues such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow and is treated with a drug called Ceredase® for which only one local prescription could be found, supplying Abby the address of the afflicted. This sends the team to the address to discover bloodied bandages and the driver dead. The Director is foiled once again in finding a human being to connect her beloved Le Grenouille to arms dealing or murder.

Following the third break, the scene changes to the Director’s office. The Director is having a snifterful of cognac while reading Ducky’s autopsy report. Ducky arrives at her office and they discuss the results. It is immediately apparent that Ducky is there to discuss his psychological profile of Le Grenouille. Ducky points out that the arms dealer is refined and educated and that this type of assassination is not his direct style. Ducky states that a man whose favorite opera is La forza del destino (Giuseppe Verdi, 1862) “is sophisticated and is far more likely to use that sophistication as his weapon. Violent murder is just not his style.” The Director confronts Ducky’s admiration of Le Grenouille and ducky confronts the Director on her unresolved feeling about the man (Ducky is searching for answers on Gibbs’ behalf). Ducky applauds Gibbs for at least listening to him while the Director blew him off.

The scene then changes to DiNozzo at a restaurant awaiting the arrival of Dr. Benoit’s mother, who is also a doctor, Dr. Helen Berkley (Sara Botsford). DiNozzo meets her alone while Dr. Benoit is in the lady’s room and finds himself under immediate attack and scrutiny. Dr. Berkley possesses an air of arrogance that while DiNozzo is familiar with from his own pedigreed rearing, he is not used to being on the receiving end of. The conversation is tense and candid. As a viewer, it was difficult to watch DiNozzo be dismembered by Dr. Berkley. At an opportune time, the scene changes Gibbs and the Director entering a limousine to meet with Trent Kort to find out if Le Grenouille was the murderer. Kort supports Ducky’s conjecture that this is not the arms dealer’s style. If Le Grenouille contracted a murder, he would use one Andre Jones (Mo Gallini).

The scene changes to the team preparing to capture Andre Jones for questioning. Jones suspects Le Grenouille sold him out and attempts to pick up a gun leading to his shooting death. Again, the Director is without a living human to implicate Le Grenouille in either arms dealing or murder. Back a headquarters, Gibbs has a heart-to-heart with the Director, warning her that she will no longer be director should she not change her focus and approach. Gibbs again tries to divine what the deal is between the Director and Le Grenouille. Gibbs receives a call from Abby who has been performing some space-age investigative work with cell phones, determining that the next arms shipment is to occur within 24 hours. The Director again meets with Kort who reveals that Le Grenouille ordered no one to harm Troy Webster. Kort also reveals that Le Grenouille retains a forgery artist to produce documents legitimizing shipments. The team tracks the forger down (an art teacher) and Gibbs and the Director lean on him, demonstrating their unique interrogation techniques. Through several other twists and turns that includes customs and a shell company, the team identifies the dock and container number and all head out. Once opened, the team discovers a load of squirt guns, a bottle of Champaign and a note to Webster from Le Grenouille wishing him best wishes on his new career.

With three episodes left in the season, NCIS writers predictable turn up the plot level by an order of magnitude. Revealed here, as with a two-by-four, is the fact that the Director and Le Grenouille had a significant history only she knows about. This is one plot element to resolve by season’s end. Also, it is difficult not to have a suspicion of DiNozzo and Dr. Benoit’s relationship when one considers that someone is stalking them. Could Ziva be smoldering for DiNozzo? DiNozzo might just not care for his treatment at the hands of Dr. Helen Berkley and takes exception to Benoit’s description of him “wearing expensive shoes.” Previews of “In the Dark” show an angry Army Lt. Col. Hollis Mann (Susanna Thompson) possibly giving Gibbs the relationship what-for while Gibbs possibly breaks off with her. A dark embrace is seen along with more feminine unmentionables. Now things are really rolling.

The next episode, “In the Dark,” will air May 1, 2007.


Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon)
Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly)
Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo)
Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray)
Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum)
NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly)

Guest Stars:

FBI Agent T.C. Fornell (Joe Spano)
Mitchell Reese (J.C. MacKenzie)
Andre Jones (Mo Gallini)
Tim Gerber (Patrick Robert Smith)
Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher)
Troy Webster (Peter Birkenhead)
Dr. Helen Berkley (Sara Botsford)

This review was first published in

© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007