NCIS: “After last year’s Jonas Brothers debacle, Vance banned costumes”

As I’m sure you can comprehend from the title, this week’s installment of “NCIS” was the requisite Halloween episode, laden with practical jokes and candy. And, boy was it a sweet episode (please ignore the lackluster and uninspired pun).

This episode opened with a classic night-before-Halloween scenario: three teenage boys TP-ing one of the houses in the neighborhood. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a cliché scene, but someone had to find our dead guy, right? And find the dead guy they do: he’s a Marine who appears to have committed suicide in his car. However, things are never what they seem on “NCIS.” Turns out that the dead guy, James Korby, didn’t kill himself — someone poisoned him with liquid nitrogen, which essentially froze all of his internal organs, causing his rather strange demise.

Our NCIS agents show up looking like their fabulous selves. Can I just say that I love that Ziva’s now Agent Ziva? Anyways, they do the routine talk-to-the-neighbor bit, in which Tony gets to say this priceless line to the victim’s cardigan-clad next-door neighbor: “Looks like you’ve got a problem in your neighborhood there, Mr. Rogers.” Nice one, Tony — the first of many great one-liners for him tonight (but I’ll get to that later). Back to the victim: Ducky and Palmer try to move Private Korby when, all of a sudden, his body starts to crack. Seriously. It’s something we’d only see in a Halloween episode. Turns out it’s just his frozen internal organs breaking apart, but I must admit that when I saw Ducky just pry open the victim’s mouth to search for what was making this mysterious sound, I really did wonder why the hell he wasn’t wearing a surgical mask. But I think that’s just my swine flu phobia speaking.

The case pretty much follows the general formula for “NCIS.” Question Korby’s wife and stepdaughter (just FYI, Tony’s convinced the wife did it from the very beginning, and he’s almost right), release them, question the victim’s boss, release them, question the victim’s platoon mate, and release him before really delving into who may have committed the crime. This episode’s case was rather intricate but also somewhat predictable (at least for someone like me, who watches this show and shows like it — hello, “Bones” and “Criminal Minds” — almost religiously). In the end, it turns out that Korby’s squadron leader lied a lot (he was trying to cover his bad leadership skills with lies in order to get a promotion, not to mention that he actually poisoned Korby with paint thinner two months prior to his death) and fellow Marine private David Singer (Korby’s platoon mate) was having an affair with his wife, Sarah.

Right now it pretty much seems like the case has been wrapped up; Korby’s wife was a serial wife (and widow) of Marines, and she benefited greatly from their deaths (come on, life insurance policies are worth way more than a happy, healthy relationship, right? Not.). Everything seems to fall perfectly into the standard crime-show-procedural place. Well, every now and then, “NCIS” has to mix things up a little bit – after all, this is Halloween, right? Nothing is as it seems. It turns out that it was Stepdaughter (I’m calling her that because I don’t remember her name) who killed Korby and framed her stepmother for the crime. She wanted her inheritance from her father — Sarah’s second hubby — earlier than Daddy Dearest was willing to provide (Stepdaughter’s 20, but her father’s will says her stepmother is in control of the money until Stepdaughter reaches 25).

There were so many fantastic one-liners tonight that I really just have to take a moment to list a few:

* Tony, to the victim’s Mr. Rogers-lookalike neighbor: “I bet there’s a temper hidden under that cardigan.”
* Abby, to Gibbs when he asks why she’s not wearing a Halloween costume: “After last year’s Jonas Brothers debacle, Vance banned costumes. McGee, skinny jeans…just didn’t work.”
* Tony (who thinks the wife killed her husband): “We’re talking a black ops widow.”

Other things I loved about this week’s episode:

* Tony and Gibbs both calling Ziva “probie.” I know, I can’t help but think of McGee when that words uttered, but the use of the nickname on Ziva (and, at one time, both of them simultaneously, “What’d my probie sandwich find out?”) was just hilarious. Something I didn’t like? How calling Ziva “probie” caused the team to argue over social stratification in the office. It made me think of how I should really be studying the social stratification of the Roman Empire for my history midterm tomorrow morning… not exactly a Tribe choice.
* I loved the hint of Tony/Ziva at the very end of the episode. When she gave him his “coffee” and said she was “completely at his mercy?” Yeah, she meant way more than the surface level that was scratched with that comment. Something’s going to happen between them this season, I know it. Or I’m going to be really disappointed.


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