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October 23, 2014

'NCIS' Season 8, Episode 23 Recap

by Allison Waldman, posted May 11th 2011 12:15AM
NCIS_2011_CBS_Mcgee_Ziva_Tony['NCIS' - 'Swan Song']

There were two major revelations in this penultimate episode of the 'NCIS' season. We'd been forewarned that somebody close to Gibbs would be killed, a loss so major that it would rock Jethro to the core. Well, it was a major player and it was a jolt ... although astute 'NCIS' viewers had probably suspected who the victim would be and there was little surprise.

The other major development had to do with the ongoing port-to-port serial killer hunt. It all became clear with this episode, as we now know who the killer is and how he came to this grisly pursuit. And yet knowing the name and seeing his face is hardly a reason to celebrate, because he's still on the loose and still out to kill.

I was struck by the emotional tenor of the entire story. The mood was set in the opening scene where there was a downpour so heavy that it eliminated the blood trail and drenched the team. As the victim's body was carried into the ambulance, Gibbs stood in the rain and watched.

His mentor and best friend, Mike Franks, appeared out of nowhere, talking over Jethro's shoulder. That was the first indication that the body in the bag was, in fact, Mike.

For a show that generally doesn't employ tricks in the storytelling, the presence of Mike to talk Probie through the case, piece-by-piece, scene by scene, was refreshing. Like the secret of 'The Sixth Sense,' for a time it seemed like Mike was really there.

The scene that tipped it off was Ducky noticing Jethro's distracted reactions in autopsy. Gibbs was reacting to Mike; only Mike was in his mind, not visible to Ducky.

The return of Cort, the CIA slime, was a good touch, and a way to explain how the Frankenstein creature, Jonas Cobb -- a.k.a. P-to-P -- came to be. He wasn't just a run-of-the-mill serial killer like you'd find on 'Criminal Minds' or 'CSI.'

No, Jonas was built by the CIA to be a military assassin. Unfortunately, the CIA blew it. Cobb cracked after his first official agency kill and went off the reservation. As a thank you, Cobb ripped out Cort's eye.

As Gibbs retraced the steps that led to Mike's murder, there were hints that Franks may have challenged Cobb in that final confrontation because he wanted to die. The way Mike was coughing, and his pallor, suggested that he might have had emphysema or lung cancer.

It won't be a shock to learn that Ducky's autopsy shows that Mike was dying. He may have never gone to see Probie if not for Gibbs' call. He may have simply died alone in Mexico, although his allusions to the ghosts of naked women made it clear that Mike had still been pretty randy.

The more immediate concern in next week's episode, however, won't be Mike's autopsy results or his military funeral. It'll be whether or not Barrett and her team survived the trap set by Cobb. Gibbs and Vance were listening in as the situation turned grim for the 'new guys,' as Abby referred to them.

Mike's murder wasn't easy to take ... a fact underscored by Ziva's reaction. The normally cool agent showed her softer side, and it was understandable. When the elevator opened and McGee was comforting Abby in a similar fashion as Tony was Ziva, you knew that Mike had become as much a father figure to Gibbs' team as he was to Jethro. Tony's suggestion of a group hug for the four of them was completely appropriate under the circumstances.

Gibbs confronted Vance about the cold war in which they've been engaged. It wasn't just about airing out grievances; it gave Gibbs an insight into why Cobb had been studying him. That connection between the two will be the key to finding Frankenstein, but the death of Mike will be the weapon Jethro uses to assassinate the assassin. Next week should be a helluva season finale.

'NCIS' airs Tuesdays at 8PM ET on CBS.

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