Out of the miasma of NCIS’s stormy fourth season emerges the link between NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard’s (Lauren Holly) and her nemesis Le Grenouille, who we have learned is Rene Benoit, father of Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson), paramour of Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly). If that were not a full dance ticket for the Director, Shepard’s father, Colonel Jasper Shepard (Webster Williams) resurfaces after having been dead for 12 years in relation to the Le Grenouille case.
That is the plot line on screen. The bigger story is the exit of producer/writer Donald P. Bellisario from the set of NCIS. Web and print scuttlebutt pitted Bellisario with a discontented central star Mark Harmon. Harmon and the staff were allegedly frustrated with Bellisario’s micromanagement which led to 16- to 20-hour work days by the end of Season Four and they squeaked…loudly. The result is this changing of the guard as the series reaches its maturity in its fifth season. In any event, it should be interesting if not exciting to see how Season Five plays out.
And speaking of Season Five, the season premiere “Bury Your Dead” picks up where the limping Season Four finale left off, but in grand style reflecting the absence of Bellisario from the writing team. This episode opens with Director Shepard dreaming of the death of her father which reveals a fragmented subconscious link to Le Grenouille.
Festivities break to Tony just having met Rene Benoit (being greeted by his deep cover name Professor Anthony DeNardo) at the end of last season’s ”Angel of Death”. Jeanne, her father, and Tony are riding in a limousine, ostensibly on the way to breakfast together. In the car the three converse about Tony’s ability to shoot a gun having killed a junkie threatening Jeanne in “Angel of Death.” The conversation is interrupted by Jeanne’s beeper reminding her that she did not sign the death certificate of the two unfortunates back at the hospital.
The limousine returns to the hospital and seeing the opportunity to get away, believing his cover, his cover has been blown, Tony begins his exit. The scene breaks to NCIS headquarters where the viewer is reminded that it is actually Saturday morning and Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) and Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) run into one another as an elevator door opens. Ziva interrogates McGee about his presence at work on a Saturday only to find that both McGee and Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) have been at headquarters all night. The central question to all then becomes where is Tony.
The scene returns to the Benoits and Tony at the hospital. Tony manages a telephone call before being beckoned for coffee by Rene, who wants to know how Tony “stole [his] daughter’s heart.” Back to NCIS Headquarters, Director Shepard enters NCIS Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) laboratory while Abby lay asleep on the floor. The Director notes that the fingerprint analysis started at the end of last season on the glass of scotch left in her study has completed, indicating that the fingerprints belong to her father, Colonel Jasper Shepard, thought dead from a suicide 12 years earlier. The director attempts to erase the search while Abby wakes up.
While talking with Abby, the Director receives a phone call that is immediately dropped and alarmed, exits the lab, informing Abby that the search was unsuccessful. Abby returns to the computer screen to discover that the Director was unsuccessful in deleting the search. The cat is out of the bag. Meanwhile, Gibbs, McGee and Ziva discuss the fact that the CIA is interested in the Director and her recent activities. The Director enters and requests that McGee triangulate the cell number for the dropped call she received. The Director reveals she is trying to locate Tony, angering Gibbs, who was completely left out of the loop. The Director explains that Tony would have only used that number had he thought his cover was blown. The team locates Tony at the hospital were Jeanne works.
Meanwhile, Tony and Rene are buying coffee. After a bit of provocative conversation where Rene shines Tony on, Jeanne returns and Tony attempt to break away to move his care so it will not be towed. Rene and Jeanne return to the limousine and the scene cleverly breaks back to NCIS Headquarters where the Team is trying to gain satellite coverage of the area. When that cannot be accomplished in a timely manner, the team switches to the traffic cameras. The team notes that his car is in transit, the Director tries to call his phone, gets voice mail. The team accesses the traffic cameras in time to see Tony’s car explode.
Among the confusion of the moment, Gibbs notes that Tony’s car was following a limousine. The team gathered visual information and began research on the company. Enter Trent Kort, CIA deep undercover, coming to spar with the Director about the whereabouts of Tony. He informs the team that it was not Tony that was killed, but that had been previously determined by NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) on autopsy of the body extracted from the car. The elevator opens, there is Tony. Tony and Kort trade uspleasantries and Tony is debriefed. He explains that Rene revealed he knew Tony’s real identity and took him in the limousine, allowing a lackey Henri to drive Tony’s car, but not before making Tony leave all of his phones and identification in the car.
When the Director questions Tony of where he went with the Benoits; Tony expresses his misgivings about Jeanne and tells the Director that he has no idea where Rene Benoit is. He was dropped off at headquarters and Benoit headed west. Tony attempts to contact Jeanne multiple times while conversing with Ziva and noting that all of his personal items have been procured by his peers in their collective misconception of his demise. Some fast information gathering by Abby reveals that the bomb signature belongs to a group who assassinate arms dealers. Tony reveals that he picks up Jeanne each morning, there is a bit of connect-the-dots and Gibbs concludes that Jeanne was the target because of her relationship to Le Grenouille and not Tony. This also negates the theory that the CIA was responsible for the bombing.
The remainder of the show passes in blur fashion. The scene breaks to the Director entering her home and receiving a cell phone call from Le Grenouille wanting to arrange a meeting. Eager, the Director demands where and out of the Director’s study walks Rene Benoit. He addresses the Director as Jenny. Tony goes to Jeanne’s and finds her gone. Rene and the Director talk about sanctuary for the arms dealer in return for international information he can provide. Le Grenouille believes himself to be the target of this group of assassins and will only trust NCIS (ostensibly because of a veiled relationship he once shared with the Director). Mixing things up, Gibbs enters the conversation and the three commiserate about the arrogance of the CIA and how they like to control, revealing Benoit’s knowing cooperation with them.
The conversation then turned to the Director’s father as Rene, confronted by the Director, admitted to having been in her study, providing the bottle of scotch and incriminating fingerprints. He called the Director’s father a fine man and validated that he had in fact taken a bribe related to the Colonel’s Pentagon arms job. He also as much admits killing Colonel Shepard, prompting the Director to remove her pistol from the drawer (from which Benoit had apparently removed the clip). Penitent, Benoit again requests refuge from the Director who pushes the pistol in his hands and demands he protect himself. Rene states his death warrant has just been singed and leaves an address if the Director changes her mind. Gibbs chides the Director about personal versus professional responsibility and leaves to pursue Benoit, leaving the real pistol clip on the desk.
Elsewhere, Jeanne leaves a note at her empty apartment for Tony, where with Ziva the two go. A flashback reveals that Tony comes clean with Jeanne who understandably does not take things well. Tony takes the next day off, McGee locates a boat where Rene Benoit has been staying. The team investigates, finds nothing and the scene fixes on the dead body of Rene Benoit laying in the water nearby, a bullet hole in his forehead.
Season Four is adequate salvaged by “Bury Your Dead.” Closure is reached on several levels while the series still retains the necessary sexual tension between Tony and Ziva and the possible return of Jeanne Benoit. Armand Assante was perfect in his brief role as Rene Benoit. If “Bury Your Dead” is any indication, then the writer change will only benefit Season Five.
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)
NCIS Forensics Specialist Abigail "Abby" Sciuto (Pauley Perrette)
NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum)
NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly)
NCIS Medical Examiner Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen)
Dr. Jeanne Benoit (Scottie Thompson)
Armand Assante (Le Grenouille, Rene Benoit)
Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher)
Colonel Jasper Shepard (Webster Williams),
Henri Rousseau (Mesrop Agjanyan)
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007