The opening scene reveals a uniformed Marine officer approaching his car at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington. After gaining entrance and preparing to drive off, the driver’s side window is imploded by a raging man. The viewer is treated to alleged carjacker’s trail back to the hospital where a secured psych unit has just been blown and the alarms are singing. A less than stable veteran has just checked out AMA.
In the typical levity sequence of the show before the real action begins, Special Agent Anthony "Tony" DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) is egging Special Agent Timothy "Tim" McGee (Sean Murray) on to punch DiNozzo in the stomach so the latter may show off his granite six-pack abs. No luck their, DiNozzo requests the same from the recently arrived Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) to do the same, but she thinks DiNozzo is talking about beer. Just as Ziva is about to issue DiNozzo when Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) enters, gathering his team for the search for the disturbed escaped veteran. Ziva and DiNozzo continue with Ziva drawing back before striking DiNozzo. While admiring his abs, Ziva informs DiNozzo that Gibbs’ are still better.
The NCIS Team arrives at the hospital immediately establishing that the Marine, more than likely suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), is very strong, having made his way out of a straightjacket using brute force. Gibbs finds that the Marine whose car was attacked has yet to report in and realizes that he may have a hostage situation on his hands. McGee identifies the hostage from the hospital’s internal video system. DiNozzo does a damn good Tommy Lee Jones imitation from The Fugitive, confusing Ziva, annoying Gibbs.
McGee pulls up one Marine Corporal Damon Worth (Paul Telfer)'s file, reciting his myriad of his symptoms which include paranoia, depression, aggression). Meanwhile a senatorial public relations suit, Ray Vincent (Patrick Fabian), arrives, talking on the cell phone via Bluetooth, marching around like he is someone special. He proceeds to inform Gibbs that the central issue with Corporal Worth is that a senator (from Worth’s home state of Michigan) was due to award him silver star him in three days as the Corporal went above and beyond the call in the desert theater and has been crowned a certified war hero. Gibbs is nonplussed by this Federal sack of shit, rolling his eyes.
Back at headquarters, DiNozzo attempts a failing effort for a psychological profile of the missing Corporal. DiNozzo does this by considering cinematic scenarios. Ziva and McGee discuss the Corporal’s case, revealing that Worth had a medical denial (an undisclosed anemia we learn later) to the Corps early on but this condition magically cleared up and Worth blasted through his early enlistment, improving both his mental and physical capacity and was due for a promotion to sergeant. His only break from the Marines seems to have been a hitch with the British SAS, acing the course of study. The Corporal’s nickname is revealed to be “Corporal Punishment.”
The NCIS team focus their collective attention on where the Corporal may have taken his hostage, one Navy Capt. Dr. Adrian De La Casa (Jose Zuniga). The missing doctor’s address indicates that he would have to take a toll road to work, tracking the Doctor’s car by its toll tags. The team arrives at the Doctor’s house to find him in the trunk of his own car. The garage is rigged in such a way that the paranoid Corporal can identify “his enemy” by a video camera attached to a laptop. The corporal may be bug-fuck crazy, but he is smart bug-fuck crazy.
Dr. de la Casa and the team return to NCIS headquarters were his is debriefed by Gibbs and NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum). The discussion allows for a through discussion of what appears to be a case of post-traumatic stress syndrome in the Corporal. Ducky is trying to find if Worth is merely PTSD or truly psychotic. The doctor tells Gibbs that the Marine was asking about his buddies, prompting Gibbs to find the buddies, hoping they can lead him to the missing Marine. As he is leaving the debriefing, DiNozzo alerts Gibbs that the Corporal hacked the computers to find what happened to his buddies after they left the Middle East. The team notes that one of the Corporal’s comrades is currently rehabilitating in Walter Reed.
The team heads to Walter Reed were the Corporal’s friend was rehabbing a traumatic leg amputation. The buddy, Marine PFC Nathan Stone (John Siciliano) recognizes Gibbs as a Marine. Stone proves fiercely loyal to Worth, who saved his life in Iraq, Carrying the wounded Stone out of a fire zone on his back. Gibbs convinces Stone that Worth needs his help and the private cooperates. Meanwhile Ziva and McGee are reviewing the Walter Reed video feed, noting that Worth is in the building. The quickly call Gibbs to warn him, but are too late. Gibbs already knows as the Corporal has him at gunpoint. Stone begins to tell Worth that Gibbs is also a Marine and means him no harm. Gibbs speaks softly to Worth, ultimately disarming him. As McGee place handcuff on Worth, Worth explodes, dislocating McGee’s shoulder, breaking DiNozzo’s nose and giving Ziva one hell of a shiner, but not before Ziva issues the Corporal a bit of her own brand of Israeli ass-whipping. Watching the affair is a woman at whom both Gibbs and Worth look, a representative from a commercial concern called BioTech.
Breaking to NCIS headquarters we find Ziva’s shiner going full purple. Histrionically, Abby comes in hyperventilating over her team. Of questionable social skills, Abby overreacts considering Corporal Worth and “animal” as opposed to a very sick man. This is utter bullshit. But the show gets away with such frequently. Abby and Ziva have a full contrived exchange so the writers may further juxtapose the two vastly different personalities.
NCIS Director Jennifer "Jenny" Shepard (Lauren Holly)’s office we find the female civilian suit (Karen Sutherland [Amy Carlson]) from BioTech, who witnessed Worth’s attack on Gibbs and company. She has a personal interest in the case because her company develops therapies for both physically and mentally wounded veterans. Gibbs is suspicious of Sutherland not believing her interest to be purely altruistic. She wants to know Gibbs’ intentions. Gibb replies that he just wishes to talk to the Marine.
Ducky and Ziva observe Gibbs’ interrogation of Worth from the media room. The handcuffed marine strains against his bindings; an act that makes Ziva tense. Gibbs employs a schizophrenic solo Good Cop-Bad Cop routine gain the Marine's trust. The Marine reveals that he has urges to kill and does not feel that they are right. He says that he is suffering from “needles and pills” which cloud his head. The Corporal describes the edge of insanity. He asks Gibbs for help and Gibbs offers to provide it.
Ducky later informs Gibbs that the Corporal’s symptoms predate his Iraq stint, cast doubt on a simple case of PSTD. Ducky requests urine and blood toxicology screen. Meanwhile, Gibbs says that he intends to keep his promise to help the Marine. The Marine’s initial toxicology screen revealed nothing. Following further histrionics by Abby in her lab, Abby finally asks Duck what he is looking for. Ducky replies he seeks the presence of masking agents (in this specific case uricosurics used normally in the treatment of gout) that could be hiding the presence of other substances, specifically anabolic steroids.
Upstairs in NCIS headquarters we find DiNozzo with his nose bandaged, staring at his reflection in Gibbs’ framed Purple Heart (DiNozzo keeps all of Gibbs’ commendations in his drawer to keep Gibbs from throwing them away) admiring his resemblance to Jack Nicholson’s character in Chinatown, Jake Gittes. McGee limps in with a Diet Coke trying to open it with one hand, breaking off the tab. Ziva efficiently corrects the situation with a violent blow to the can with a sharp instrument while DiNozzo, full of painkillers, does a damn good Jack Nicholson imitation.
Public relations specialist Ray Vincent clashes with Gibbs over priorities for Worth, with the series writer’s issuing the show’s statement against the war in Iraq. Ducky informs Gibbs anabolic steroids have been identified in Worth’s tissues and there is evidence that the steroid use has been over several years. PTSD is no longer the diagnoses; now it is steroid-induced psychosis. Ducky prematurely believes that Corporal Worth is the object of an experiment to create the perfect soldier. The team discusses the significance of Worth having failed his first try for the Marines because of anemia, wondering where this tidbit of information fits into the “lab rat” scenario. Gibbs elects a visit to the BioTech Company.
Gibbs and DiNozzo pay a visit to Karen Sutherland’s laboratory at BioTech. They question her about her research and the possibility that her company is experimenting with anabolic steroids on soldiers. This interview combined with further research by McGee and Ziva reveal that Karen Sutherland is legitimate and a true blue bleeding heart that volunteer’s for Doctors Without Borders using her company’s considerable resources for rehabilitating children damaged by land mines. This provides the NCIS team with the leverage to force her to hand over the project log for BioTech. She tells Gibbs that she would have provided what he wanted had he asked nicely. Gibbs replies indignantly, “This is nicely.”
The BioTech project lag reveals nada, nothing. Everything the company is involved in is legitimate and there is no drug research being conducted on soldiers, covert or otherwise. The true threat not recognized the team proceeds to the hospital to provide the Marine protection.
En route to the Corporal’s hospital room the team meets the Senator’s PR man. It is not pleasant. There is a scuffle and the PR guy manages to lose his ear piece which DiNozzo takes the opportunity to step. Gibbs informs Dr de la Casa about the steroids evidence and when pressed explains that the VA is overwhelmed by patients, more than can properly be handled. Ziva requests to see the Marine and does so against the desires of the doctor. During the visit it is apparent that Worth has been administered something that causes him to seize, the doctor claiming he is going into cardiac arrest. He tells Ziva to administer epinephrine (yea, right, like this would ever happen in real life, as likely as a razorback flying out of my ass). She does so and Worth goes wild pinning Ziva against the wall. It is instant love.
The Arthur Conan Doyle stuff: the NCIS Team figures out that the person who resetting the Corporal’s infusion is and the orderly (the one originally injured when the Worth made his initial getaway). Ziva issues him an NCIS-female ass whipping admired by DiNozzo and McGee. The interview reveals that the orderly has been supplying steroids but he does not administer them. The team Jethro (Bodine)-ciphers that the steroids have been self administered all along by Worth to cover is anemic infirmity. In his hospital room, Worth is confronted by Gibbs and Ziva. He indirectly confesses that he has to be a Marine no matter what.
Meanwhile, Ray Vincent is calling off the medal ceremony in light of this new evidence. Gibbs goes back to headquarters and rifles DiNozzo’s desk for his own Silver Star, taking the decoration back to Worth’s room and leaving it by his bedside. Gibbs is beyond such vanity and Worth deserves the medal.
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)
Marine Corporal Damon Worth (Paul Telfer)
Navy Capt. Dr. Adrian De La Casa (Jose Zuniga)
Karen Sutherland (Amy Carlson)
Ray Vincent (Patrick Fabian)
Chris Jenkins (Marcius W. Harris)
Marine PFC Nathan Stone (John Siciliano)
Writer: Jessie Stern
Director: Alvin Brown
This review was first published in Blogcritics.org
© Copyright, C. Michael Bailey, 2007