Have you ever burglarized a house only to have a body drop out of nowhere all hung and blue faced and very dead but you still shoot it anyway? I hate when that happens. Credits.
In the bullpen, Tony accidentally opens McGee’s LES (Leave and Earning Statement) and finds out that McGee makes about $253 more than him a week. McGee is offended at the mail opening/federal offense committed here but Tony is more offended that McGee makes more than him. McGee non-answers that its all about withholding. Gibbs enters and weighs in on the payroll-gate saying that he’s fine with McGee making more since McGee gives so much to charity (how does he know, does he read their tax returns? Does McGee gloat about his charitable giving because if he does? Tacky!). Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to your C plot (there is no B plot, this is just that pointless). Gibbs gathers them and goes to investigate the dead hanging Navy guy.
Crime Scene. The robbers are upset about
their score being busted up by an already dead guy being arrested and they rest their legal theory on, “he was already dead when we shot him.” Ducky gives us the history off efficient suicide via use of the “Marwood Formula” (which is totally a real thing, named after Mr. William Marwood, Public Executioner of Horncastle, Lincolnshire from 1872-1883) which is super creepy but also kind of fascinating. Dr. Robert Banks, the victim, was a psychologist and Navy reservist on active duty with a high security clearance. He used the Marwood Formula and a double knot to ensure a snapped neck (and almost instantaneous death). Dr. Banks’ doctor comes in and its Kate’s sister, Dr. Rachel Cranston. Oh Hi, Dr. Rachel! Dr. Rachel says that she was Robert’s doctor and friend. She’s also instantly convinced that he wouldn’t do this to himself of his own accord so Gibbs needs to look deeper than basic suicide.
Outside, Gibbs asks Dr. Rachel what she and the Banks spoke about the night before. Dr. Rachel tells Gibbs that Banks had been having a hard time lately and was also consulting on the kind of project at the Pentagon that gets you killed, apparently. She continues that he was working with Military Information Support (formerly known as Psychological Operations or PsyOps). Dr. Rachel is already pulling the conspiracy train out of the station with PsyOps in the picture. Gibbs and Dr. Rachel shift to talk of Banks’ daughter, who Banks apparently lived for her; she was his continued hope for living, ergo, he didn’t kill himself (file that nugget away in case it becomes important later).
Banks Family Meet. Ex-wife Beth says she and Robert grew apart, that he wasn’t the man she had married; eventually, he started to take his anger out on both his wife and daughter. Ex-Wife Beth doesn’t seem to be aware of the $4mm life insurance policy he left behind but obviously, Gibbs isn’t convinced. Daughter Amber is generally angry and sullen.
Bullpen. Jamie Lee Curtis enters, fresh from the same barber and colorist that Mark Harmon uses, and wastes no time before playing mind games with Tony, by briefly impersonating the person from accounting he was expecting (to argue about McGee’s pay-scale). Dr. Samantha Ryan is the “Head Brain Gamer” at PsyOps and who also has a long history with Vance (which stank of a particularly sexual nature, which, GROSS). Tony takes Dr. Ryan to the conference room to meet with Dr. Rachel (so many Doctors this episode and almost none of them, medical). In Vance’s office, Vance fills Gibbs in on SecNav’s call asking about why NCIS is investigating a PsyOps death. Gibbs, quite rightly I’ll add, says that he’s Navy and so he’s ours. On the topic of Dr. Ryan, Vance tells Gibbs that they know each other from some time at War College, back in the day. Time that he calls, Classified Time but which I call “SexyTime.” He warns Gibbs to be careful as Dr. Ryan is most inquisitive and not like Gibbs inquisitive. In the conference room, we learn that Dr. Ryan and Dr. Rachel went to school with each other but that when Dr. Rachel went clinical, Dr. Ryan went military. Apparently, they have also both slept with Banks. Dr. Ryan goes into her mind games and Dr. Rachel calls her on it immediately; then breaks it to Dr. Ryan that they (being Dr. Rachel and Gibbs) think Banks was a victim of a PsyOps scheme. Dr. Ryan bristles at the “we” and Dr. Rachel explains that Banks was her patient (can you have a patient that you are boning? That seems unethical). For her part, Dr. Ryan thinks that the PsyOps angle is ridiculous. They all stake their claim on this case as Dr. Ryan makes to leave and she openly admits that she doesn’t want to talk in front of Dr. Rachel … for national security reasons, or course. As she leaves, Dr. Ryan suggests that Gibbs speak with “Mitchell,” a PsyOps person that Banks was working with at the time of his death. As Gibbs goes to see Ducky, Dr. Rachel warns him to not trust anyone at PsyOps, especially Dr. Ryan. So much warning going on in this episode. I guess that’s what doctors do?
Tony and Ziva track (Former Navy Commander Brian) Mitchell down (who is cleaning out his desk) and he doesn’t believe that Banks is dead. Tony and Ziva finally convinces him and he looks shaken up. He admits that he can’t handle the work anymore and is being transferred. When Tony asks about Banks’ work, Mitchell starts throwing up roadblocks and Tony whips out his clearance court order (not a euphemism). Mitchell hands over some files about a Former Marine, 2nd Lieutenant Kyle Baxter who was bounced for a negative emotional state evaluation … written by Banks.
Morgue. Ducky has somehow determined that Banks was shot milliseconds after the rope broke his neck clean. As it turned out, the hanging was just racing the inevitable as Banks’ kidney and liver functions were shutting down and he only had about 6 months to live. Ducky tells Gibbs that Abby is working on the “why” with respect to the mysterious organ failure.
Abby’s Lab. Banks was on three different meds, 2 of which were made to look like his one regular med but were harmful psychotropic drugs; these are what caused the rapid organ damage and probable mental instability. He also would have had no idea since they were disguised. A typical PsyOps game Gibbs and Abby agree. I think everyone might be playing fast and loose with “game” in this episode. “Scattergories” is a game, changing someone’s meds so they go crazy and kill themselves is something … different.
Dr. Ryan’s Office at the Pentagon. There is lots of psycho babble from Dr. Ryan and her assistant, Ross Kilmer, delivers Gibbs the personnel list for the op that Banks was working on. We learn that Gibbs has no use for stick drives; no, he likes paper, lots of paper.
Back in the Bullpen. Electromagnetic field emitters were found in Banks’ house (in the couch and mattress) and such devices would cause headaches and nightmares (by way of screwing with your REM sleep). Gibbs gives his troops the print out of the personnel list and wants it run down even though he’s sure its full of lies. Gibbs finds something in the file from Banks’ office that he rips out and heads out. While he is going to do whatever he is going to do, he wants the electromagnetic “gizmos” tracked back to PsyOps. Also, Gibbs is having trust issues and wants paper from the source going forward on all their evidence for this case. McGeek shits himself over the computer ban that just came down.
At a fancy party, Dr. Ryan has a visceral reaction to Gibbs’ gruffy appearance. She’s also hesitant to talk privately but recovers well enough and takes Gibbs into the ladies room. He reads from the ripped out sheet of paper, which contains lessons on driving a sane person to suicide using pills and sleep deprivation. She is all, “be careful what you accuse me of in this ladies room” but Gibbs can’t get passed her own playbook’s use in Banks’ suicide. Again, she denies knowing anything about Banks’ murder and he reminds her that this is her chance to come clean. She has the stones to say she told him the truth, with a straight face and everything.
Gibbs’ Basement. The chair is coming along nicely though I admit, I miss the boat making. Dr. Rachel is standing there and says she left some stuff out earlier. Seem that Banks mentioned a sensitive national security issue, Operation Alborz. He didn’t tell her much but she got the sense that someone wanted to make sure Banks couldn’t talk about it at all. McGee calls Gibbs to say that the personnel folder yielded nothing and so they are back to trying to find Kyle Baxter. Unusual static interference interrupts their conversation and Gibbs, using a transistor radio, MacGyver’s the source of the interference as an electronic bug placed among his work bench tools. He whispers into the bug, “Goodnight Ryan and sleep tight” and then hammers it to pieces.
The next day, we learn that Baxter has a superior IQ and had worked with Banks; he eventually developed anger and personality issues and was drummed out of the Corps. Gibbs wants McGee to track the bug from his basement sans computers and McGee whines, as he does from time to time. When McGee’s cell phone chirps, Gibbs gives him the stink eye but McGee says it was on just to track Baxter’s cell which is live right now and only a few blocks away. Tony and Ziva go to the sidewalk cafe and find … Dr. Ryan’s assistant Kilmer. He says that Baxter left him the phone to see if he was being tracked. He continues that he doesn’t know where Baxter is now but leaves a matchbook for a Cancun resort, the Mayan Cove, on the table with the name “James Drenden” written inside.
At the Oak Harbor Academy School, Gibbs works his own PsyOps on Dr. Ryan and she kind of freaks out that he found out where her son goes to school since those records are all supposed to be classified. Its kind of awesome to watch her melt down as he says nothing. “This is my personal life!!!” Gibbs explains to her (and us) that PsyOps 101 is to approach people at their most vulnerable. She warns him (again with the warnings) that he doesn’t want to play with her and she takes off and runs to Vance.
Vance’s Office. She reiterates that her son is off limits and Gibbs says his home is too, and throws the bug on the table. Vance gets the “national security” excuse when he asks about the “Alborz” mission. He activates the SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) mode protocol in his office which was awesome and they should do that all the time! “Alborz,” Gibbs prompts. She continues to play cute for a bit but then gets to it. After the US invaded Iraq in 2003, the Alborz mission was established to use PsyOps techniques to de-stabilize the Iranian scientists that were working on ramping up their nuclear program. The working theory is that the Iranians got wind of Operation Alborz and began using the same techniques on Banks. Ryan agrees to do whatever she can to find his killer.
Abby’s Lab. By examining Banks’ laptop, Abby has discovered that Banks’ entire reality was being twisted, for example, he was being fed false news stories, bogus Google searches, his bank account was being drained. Basically, a total mind fuck. She traced the original hack to Kyle Baxter in Cancun. This is where McGee comes in with Tony and we find out that “James Drenden” was a Baxter alias. Also, Baxter got back in the states two months ago and is working as bartender in Georgetown. Lets pick him up.
The Baxter Interrogation. Gibbs tells him to spare the PsyOps charm and that he knows Baxter was in Mexico. Baxter looks at the file Gibbs has and is all, “bitch please, you are looking at a PsyOps package, you can’t trust anything in there.” Baxter then details how he makes the perfect fall guy given the bad eval that Banks gave him. Gibbs tells him to prove he’s telling the truth. Baxter gives Gibbs a number for a guy named Simon, he says that he’ll straighten this all out. Also, I never left a phone or matchbook with anyone.
MTAC. Gibbs has a conversation with DEA Agent Simon Lewis, who confirms that Baxter has been under DEA control for the last year and that they’ve had eyes on him the entire time. Simon tells Gibbs that someone’s playing him. Vance duhs to Gibbs that Dr. Ryan has been pushing the “not killer.”
Dr. Ryan shows up at Gibbs’ place and she non-apologizes about the false Baxter lead since she was just protecting her mission; per her rulebook. Gibbs gives her rule #42, “don’t accept an apology from someone who just suckered punched you.” Dr. Ryan reiterates my earlier point that she didn’t apologize. She asks about Gibbs’ daughter, Kelly, as a segue to talking about her son who lives his life without looking over his shoulder. She believes, conveniently I think given her “rulebook”, that everyone is entitled to one secret and she wants her son’s location and safety to be hers. Gibbs says “done.” He cashes in the good will this generates instantly by asking for the name of who had the knowledge and ability to pull of the Banks PsyOp. She ambiguously answers that such a person has lost site of “what we do.” After she leaves, Gibbs notices a cell phone left behind.
Bullpen. The next day, he gives McGee the Dr. Ryan cell phone and permission to use a computer to do some quick computing. A quick analysis shows them that they are looking for Mitchell. Gibbs and Ziva head out to find him as McGee is tasked with real time tracking Mitchell’s movements. Somewhere on a road, we see Mitchell meeting with Amber, Banks’ daughter (and reason for living), and we find out that he drove Banks to suicide on her request … as to collect on the $4mm insurance policy. She tells Mitchell that she’s not going down for his sloppiness which is when Gibbs pops out of hiding to disagree with her.
Wrap Ups. Gibbs walks Dr. Rachel out of HQ saying she looks for the good in people and unfortunately, there wasn’t much there in Amber. In the C Plot, it turns out that accounting had been overpaying McGee but not taking enough FICA from tony and he owes $2,000 DOH!. That night (or some night thereafter), Dr. Ryan wakes Gibbs up at 4 am and basically asks him out; they agree to go to his diner which I think is a big step for a first date (since it took us 9 years to actually see the diner). A last little bit of mind games closes out the episode when Gibbs asks if she is asking him out and she non-answers that its middle of night so you tell her, Gibbs. Look for the return of Dr. Ryan in late March.