Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2011-01-16 Entry: "NCIS - "Yankee White""

Continuing with the spin-off of the previous show, we get some "action detective" rather than "action lawyer", with a CBS procedural that began airing in 2003. Oh, and I've used the later-season abbreviated title above, as at this point in its run, it was still going by the mouthful of "NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service".

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Audio: Dobly Stereo

Leroy Jethro Gibbs - Mark Harmon
Anthony DiNozzo - Michael Weatherley
Caitlin Todd - Sasha Alexander
Dr Donald "Ducky" Mallard - David McCallum
Abby Sciuto - Pauley Perrette

Air Force One, and a not-very-good Dubya impersonator meets the Naval officer who's carrying his nuclear launch codes... at least until he drops dead just after eating with the President. Agent Gibbs (who's building a boat in his basement) and Agent DiNozzo, have to fly coach to get to the murder as NCIS doesn't have its own private jet. At the airport, they meet their medical examiner, Ducky. Unfortunately, there's a conflict of authority over who's handling the crime scene - Secret Service Agent Todd (the lovely Sasha Alexander), Agent Fornell of the FBI, or Ducky as the M.E. of record.

Fortunately, the subversiveness of Gibbs and Ducky manage to get them the case, but Agent Todd insists on being on Gibbs' team while he steals the aircraft so the FBI can't have the crime-scene! NCIS are clearly an underfunded, understaffed agency.

Ducky has a discrepancy with the president's physician over the actual time-of-death... except it's easily explained by the physician spending an hour checking on the President before coming back to announce on the body. Gibbs has lots of rules on how to conduct an investigation, and he's happy to fill Todd in on how to run one, but Todd's getting sick... fortunately, that's easily explained by her sleeping with the Naval officer who was supposed to have the football, but didn't because he had the flu.

More behind-the-scenes politicking gets the Secret Service to agree to hand jurisdiction over to the FBI when they get to Andrews AFB. DiNozzo's goofing around taking photos of himself behind the President's desk. Todd doesn't want to hand over the body, but fortunately NCIS have hidden it... or rather, they've swapped the body with DiNozzo and given him, in a body-bag, to the FBI!

Gibbs won't go home while Ducky conducts the autopsy, rather taking a nap on one of the slabs in the morgue. While he's sleeping we meet our last cast-member, goth-chick Abby, who does all their forensic analysis. Something caused the dead guy's blood to clot, but it appears to be natural.

Gibbs joins Todd on Air Force One, although he has to leave his gun behind. Todd breaks up with the sick boyfriend, as it's splitting her focus from protecting the President. Unfortunately, said boyfriend drops dead just after she leaves him! Gibbs continues to quote Air Force One (the Harrison Ford movie) and the Tom Clancy book about the plane hijackings to Agent Todd. DiNozzo picks up the body of Todd's boyfriend and Abby discovers the poison. Gibbs is obsessing over the differences between the Air Force One they're on this time compared to the slightly newer version they were on the flight before.

They track the terrorists to the dry cleaners used by the two Naval officers, but it's a dead end. Meanwhile, one of the journalists collapses and another journalist uses the diversion to raid the armoury (which doesn't have digital locks unlike the other plane) and make an attempt on the President. Fortunately, Gibbs puts it together and kills the terrorist.

Todd resigns from the Secret Service and Gibbs offers her a job before disappearing in a swanky sports car with a mystery woman. The FBI don't give any credit to NCIS for breaking up the terrorist attempt, and Gibbs goes back to building his boat. It's a slightly abbreviated close to the show - there's background music which suddenly cuts off in a cut to the credits, which feels wrong somehow.

Unlike JAG, this show keeps things very light-hearted all the way through. There are lots of jokes delivered by Ducky and DiNozzo, and Gibbs is nicely dry. It's also a change of pace to see a police procedural where they haven't got all the fancy high-tech equipment and get treated as the red-headed step-child by the other agencies.

Of the cast, Gibbs gets well fleshed out, Todd gets some background but it's not really relevant to long-term character development, DiNozzo's the goofball, but beyond that we don't get a feel for him, and Ducky and Abby are just there to deliver exposition at the moment.

And can I just add, I love the theme music to this show. It's bouncy, upbeat, and immediately recognisable. In an age of TV shows that don't have title sequences, one with a great theme stands out from the crowd (and potentially saves the writers 30 seconds of writing per episode, but heh, who's counting?!).

And finally, as I've just spotted it, what's with both this and JAG having a Caitlin in the first episode? Is there some Donald P. Bellisario rule that pilots have to have a Caitlin in them somewhere?

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