2015 Oct 6 – Critique of NCIS episode “Incognito”

Tonight’s episode was a fun romp through an undercover assignment. David was amused by the fact that Tim and Ellie were forced to pose as husband and wife. This happened because both Gibbs and Tony had already met and questioned the suspect, Lt. Dean Hudson (played by Bart Johnson who appeared on JAG) who may have killed a marine at Quantico. The dead marine had just called Gibbs asking to meet. Unfortunately, Tim and Ellie are involved in a real-life conflict before taking up their undercover roles. Tim causes Ellie angst as he picks up a phone call from her husband Jake. During their conversation, Tim manages to spoil her surprise trip to the Virgin Islands for their anniversary. So Tim and Ellie are posing as a couple sharing a home and bringing with them a “marital” dispute.

The undercover assignment proves challenging for Agents McGee and Bishop in some ways. Tim eventually elicits from her what’s really going on with Jake. Apparently things are not the “same” with him. Will this have an impact on future episodes? Why do we even mention these personal issues? Real special agents working undercover face similar issues. It’s not always easy to put these aside during tense times away from home. The writers reveal this struggle of agents when Jake phones Ellie in the undercover home and she takes his call.

Some viewers might wonder if it’s legal for NCIS to place listening devices in the suspects home and then photograph the suspects from the undercover home used by Tim and Ellie, across the street. In reality, when sufficient evidence is developed, one of the agents goes before a judge (no doubt with the assistance of a JAG lawyer) to issue a warrant authorizing the ‘bugging’.

As viewers know by now, the NCIS show truncates the process, which normally would take days and sometimes weeks to have enough evidence to obtain warrants. That being said, Tim and Ellie are watching and listening. A strange conversation happens between “Mr. and Mrs. Hudson.”

One flaw in the scene is when neither McGee nor Bishop follow-up on what they learn, such as notifying Gibbs. They split up different tasks, which leads to a dramatic solving of a second murder. Abbey, Ducky, Gibbs, and Tony all work together as a team used to winning as they sort through the evidence and uncover a few surprising twists.

What did you all think of Tony’s admission to Gibbs that he has few family members that he cares about other than Anthony DiNozzo Sr.? So he is going to England to search for his ancestors. It was a deeper moment between them, and it comes back full circle when Tony discovers his DNA testing is not all it’s cracked up to be. His family member is not only famous, but a notorious criminal. Ouch! Too bad for Tony.

Ellie should not have gone to the suspect’s home alone with no backup and no cell phone. This unbelievable turn of events is nearly fatal for her. She is able to fight her way out of trouble (so much like Ziva did many times). Do you think she is edging closer to the agent she should be?

Next week, Mark Harmon and Rocky Carroll will team up in “Double Trouble.” Should be fun to see these two great actors handle the bad guys. There are still way too many out there!

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Sept 29 NCIS Critique of “Personal Day”

When David read the preview “Personal Day” and saw that it involved the team working with a DEA agent, he thought it would be exciting and reminiscent, since he was recruited away by DEA after being an NCIS agent. Long ago, David quit objecting to careless and technical mistakes made by the producers of the show despite the fact they claim to use a former NCIS agent as technical adviser. In this episode, it took David awhile to look past the fact DEA Agent Luis Mitchell was working alone without a partner and without any DEA backup.

So it was explained by “Mitch” that no one else in DEA cared about his never-ending quest to bring down his “Moby Dick,” a big-time drug smuggler named Long. Once we began following the intrigue, it appeared tonight’s episode was just as suspenseful for Gibbs’ team as it was for us loyal viewers. The writers cleverly revealed the plot as if pealing an onion, one layer at a time.

First, Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ new look, modern haircut and shirt collar, fits his new attitude, which is proving to be even more intense than before. Agent DiNozzo is on the outs with his boss after his negligence led to Gibbs being shot in Iraq at the end of Season 12. Yet we wonder if that’s the real reason Gibbs pushes DiNozzo to “get his head in the case” and “look out for the team.”

Meanwhile, Tony is concerned about Gibbs’ true motives in helping Mitch make his drug case. This leads to Tony questioning Gibbs, and their confrontation in the elevator makes for intriguing television. Another layer unravels when Agent McGee doubts the DEA agent is all he appears to be while Agent Bishop thinks he’s pretty cool. Conflict erupts between Tim and Mitch when Tim is forced to shoot the only person who can lead the team to Long.

Several questions persist including why does Gibbs care so much about Mitch stopping Long? We find out the answers as the others on the team perform great investigative work. Tony hunting down the informant and getting him to work for them accurately shows the behind the scenes work that agents do. Tony’s incisive decision to go after Gibbs when he may be in trouble leads to a great conclusion. Because many of you record the show to watch after this blog is published, we will not include all of the superb moments of this episode. For long time viewers, much is learned about Gibbs’ wife, daughter, and the drug cartel that killed them. The last scene is particularly tender and sweet.

We will let you all make comments about where Gibbs and Tony are headed. Is Tony going to leave to pursue other commitments in producing other shows/movies, and so will be transferred to another jurisdiction to head up his own team (off the show)? Is Gibbs going to leave after this season and Tony will take over leading this team?

Lots of surprises await. Meanwhile, we are glad the team worked so well tonight in pursuing the bad guys. Abby and Ducky had several great scenes when they poured over the imported rugs from Afghanistan.

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Sept 22 NCIS Critique of “Stop The Bleeding”

Have you been waiting for the beginning of Season Thirteen of the NCIS show as we have? One of the key questions was if and how would Leroy Jethro Gibbs would survive the shooting at the end of Season Twelve. Since he and others of the cast had already signed their contracts for the new year, it was a safe bet Gibbs would survive to fight another day.

We can’t ignore the irony of the title of this episode, and wonder if this episode and the next few will be an effort to ‘stop the bleeding’ of the show’s ratings, which have been dropping of late. The producers have already hinted coming episodes may include at least an appearance by Cote de Pablo who played the beloved Ziva.

What do you think of tonight’s episode? Here is our take. The star character, the hero by far and away is Dr. Cyril Taft, a Navy Reserve Captain, Gulf War veteran, and famous surgeon from Walter Reed Hospital who performs a dramatic surgery to save Gibbs’ life aboard the U.S.S. Daniel Webster. This military surgeon leaves his assignment at Walter Reed to return to where the action is. He is as unorthodox as Gibbs with his “Mo-Mo” (a mix of Mozart and Motown) music in the operating room. It turns out Dr. Taft needs to be saving lives of others because he couldn’t save the life of his son who died from leukemia. His therapy turns out to be a blessing for Gibbs.

Using brilliant editing, we the viewer are allowed into Gibbs’ unconscious dreams of his past “ghosts”, including Mike Franks his deceased partner and his daughter Kelly. This may be an attempt by the writers to capitalize on the several books and movies of people who claim to have glimpsed Heaven. Not only are those touching scenes, they should also help the show’s ratings. We also enjoyed the scene where the rest of the team is staring at their phones waiting for an update on their leader. You can imagine what it was like for them to discover he’s fallible. Can they continue to do their jobs without him?

Once healed, Gibbs returns to the office where Director Vance ordered him to maintain a low profile. True to form, Gibbs refuses to be bridled. Soon he visits in prison Mathew Rousseau, a member of “The Calling”. Rousseau was arrested in last season’s episode. Was anyone else shocked that when Rousseau refused to cooperate Gibbs stabbed his pen into Rousseau’s hand? Vance accuses Gibbs of visiting Rousseau and stabbing a pen into his hand. Gibbs makes another of his classic comments, “Oh is that where I left my pen?”

Okay, we hear you asking, what about the plot zooming over to Shanghai with Tony leading the effort to bust Daniel Budd, the evil mastermind behind Gibb’s shooting. He joins the CIA to stop Budd, who has somehow taken over a laptop from a former agent killed last May to make it look like North Korea is about to launch a nuclear strike. It seems farfetched, but in reality, it’s too close to what could happen with the computer hacking actually going on by China and Russia. No doubt NCIS is monitoring many hotspots and tonight gives us a glimpse of their difficult mission to keep us safe.

Welcome back Leroy. We need you to be truly back and not behind a desk. Do us a favor and get on a plane and bring Ziva back from wherever she has been working with Mossad. Please don’t let us down!

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Sept 08 Ready for NCIS Season Thirteen?

Big changes are coming for the NCIS team, with the upcoming season starting out where season 12 ended. Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs has a long road of recovery from being shot by Luke. He faces a time of rehab, where he deals with not only a physical but an emotional recovery as well. How does this impact the rest of the team? We expect while Mark Harmon is sidelined that Michael Weatherly jumps into a lead role. Watch for sparks to fly between Tony and Gibbs, which results in Tony finally evaluating what he wants as an agent and as a man. Does Tony want to become Gibbs? Does he have what it takes to be the leader?

Gary Glasberg, the ‘showrunner’ for NCIS, is teasing out several of these story lines through media outlets. From other sources come leaks that Cote de Pablo may reappear this year. We wonder if it’s simply more hype promoting the show. There could be substance to the rumors. Perhaps the executives realize NCIS is not the same without her and they need to boost their flagging ratings at the end of last season. Our vote is for Cote come back in full force. After all, NCIS and Mossad do work closely together. It wouldn’t be a stretch for her to help her former teammates in their terrorism cases.

Here’s a few fun facts you may not know about some of the NCIS actors. Mark Harmon is now executive producing a new show about Navy SEALS. This series is based on “The Red Circle: My Life in the Navy SEAL Sniper Corps and How I Trained America’s Deadliest Marksmen” by Brandon Webb and John David Mann. Are any of you familiar with this bestseller? This new show will reveal what it is like for a recently promoted SEAL who joins a challenged platoon and faces dangerous tasks while striving to keep his integrity.

Also, Rocky Carroll, Lauren Holly, and Mark Harmon all starred on “Chicago Hope,” in the late nineties. Are any of you fans of that show? We never watched it. We think it’s fun to uncover more of the backstory of these talented actors.

NCIS season 13 premieres on September 22nd. Are you ready?

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 July 20 – President Obama avoids Waldorf Astoria

This blog comments on news of interest, plus critiques new episodes of CBS’ TV shows, NCIS. Since the NCIS show is on summer sabbatical, we thought we’d comment on an interesting item of news and update NCIS fans on upcoming events.

This week’s article in the USA Today about President Obama avoiding the Waldorf Astoria hotel caught our attention. The article reports that a Chinese businessman has purchased New York City’s renowned luxury hotel, Waldorf Astoria, where U.S. Presidents since Herbert Hoover have stayed in the Presidential Suite when in New York. Even though the seller, Hilton Hotels, will continue to operate the hotel for the new owner for some years, the contract also permits the Chinese to make renovations. It has long been the practice of both Russia and China to put listening devices in hotel rooms in Russia and China so that unsuspecting American guests, including government officials, can be spied upon. The U.S. State Department has admitted that their employees will no longer be staying at the Waldorf Astoria while conducting business at United Nations headquarters. If unsafe for low-level State Department officials, it’s certainly unsafe for the President of the United States.

We find this an intriguing development because in the 2010 release of our international spy thriller, Hero’s Ransom, General Wu, Director of the Chinese Spy Agency, and his delegation stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. They were testifying at the United Nations and FBI Agent Griff Topping and CIA agent Bo Rider were spying on the Chinese delegation from a room across the hall from their suite! Readers of our novel will remember the excitement as the U.S. team enticed a member of the Chinese delegation to defect and the reprisal Griff Topping risked in doing so. While we’ve written things that have later come true and we’ve been accused of having inside information, we would never have dreamed that one day the Chinese would own the Waldorf Astoria and potentially be spying on the American president in his suite.

Moffett coversMeanwhile on the topic of NCIS, we have great news to share. Not only has Mark Harmon signed a new contract for this coming year (Season 13), filming started this week. As we travel around, we continue meeting many, many fans of the original show. What do you think? Which is your favorite NCIS show? Will you be glad to see Leroy Jethro Gibbs back in action? We need him more than ever, to protect our heroes!


Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 May 12 NCIS Critique of “Neverland”

Leroy Jethro Gibbs, will you be back next season? The ending of tonight’s show leaves us wondering in shock. Will you be with the “Lost Boys” in “Neverland”, a place in the minds of children? NCIS writers of the three-episode arc used metaphors from Peter Pan, written by the Scottish writer, J.M. Barrie in the early nineteenth century. But there is nothing child-like in the schemes of the terrorists on display in NCIS, evildoers who are entrapping young minds to commit crimes against humanity.

It’s like we’ve stumbled into some strange land, where the bad guys speak in coded phrases, and we have to figure out the truth with our hands tied behind our backs. Unfortunately, this is the “Brave New World” we live in. We found it tricky recalling facts and characters from the previous two shows. So when Joanna Teague, Agent Dorneget’s mother and CIA officer, joins the team to find her son’s killer, we listened closely to all the clues and connections. We find Officer Teague (played by Mimi Rogers) to be Ziva-like, ready to do whatever is necessary to stop the bad guys. Still, some twists and turns were hard to follow. In the real world where NCIS agents sometimes take circuitous routes to their homes, after being in trials or other events where criminals have seen them in their cars, they would never take a witness or victim to their home. Yet Gibbs took Luke to his home. Was that awkward move designed to further the plot? This is not the first time Gibbs has done so. With the knowledge Luke has of the terrorists, it would have been smarter to have him ensconced in a safe house that couldn’t be traced.

That being said, this is our take on the show: Agent Gibbs, DiNozzo, Director Vance, are the old men sitting on a bench (per Sadiq Samar) and have no clue how to prevent the growing unrest of restless young people who are alienated from society. For example, Officer Teague asks Luke what kind of ice cream he likes. She mentions chocolate chip and Gibbs votes for rum raisin. Luke sits there clueless, listening to music on his earbuds. This illustrates the wide gulf between the generations. We think that’s why the Grand Canyon was targeted as well, to show this huge gap between those trying to stop terrorism and those who are intent on violence.

Turns out the terrorists are using the creepy music to direct the young kids who are their pawns. So we learn why Luke has his ears glued to these buds. The new generation agent Timothy McGee is the hero, because not only does he play the video game, he wins. As a result, he discovers a flood of clues as to the next targets. In the end, Agent Gibbs gets hurt by the kid he’s trying to help, despite Mike Franks shouting to his subconscious mind that Luke is trouble. “Who will save you,” Mike demands of Gibbs. Who indeed? The final act of desperation in Iraq continues the show until next season.

It was such a wild night, it’s time for us to enjoy a bowl of ice cream. What flavor do you like? What do you think of tonight’s show and how it ended? See you next season, if not before!

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 May 5 NCIS Critique of “The Lost Boys”

We started watching this continuation of “The Troll,” hoping to discover what would cause a nice young computer geek to blow himself up on a bus. We also wondered which of the NCIS favorites might get killed, as suggested by the show’s publicists. If you have been reading the comments to this blog, you will know by now that Jie Sheng guessed it right today. He was the only one to figure out who would be killed and leaving the show.

We don’t want to ruin this second of three episodes that conclude season Twelve, so we won’t say too much. Suffice it to say that we believe this episode is reminiscent of all that is best of NCIS. The writing by Gina Lucita Monreal is stellar, and kept us at the edge of our seats until the very last second. The directing by James Whitmore Jr. is flawless. Last week’s episode was heart rending as we saw a boy radicalized by Internet chat rooms. Tonight’s episode was more of the same as Gibbs and crew deal with more children who grow up too fast. In our past careers, we both worked in the justice system to stop gangs from ensnaring children into drugs and violence. For the most part, gangs “trolled” the neighborhoods to find youth who were disenfranchised from their families. Now, and we say this to parents, the terrorist gangs are now the world, and as NCIS has portrayed so succinctly, they use every social media trick, “trolling” the Internet, for hearts and minds willing to commit terror acts in the name of twisted ideology. It is scary. The show depicts the darkness with realism and sadness.

Because of Gibbs’ loss of his wife and daughter, these kinds of episodes are really emotional, not so much for Mark Harmon the actor, but for those of us who are sucked into the drama of the episodes. We are impressed with the way this trilogy is coming together. We suggest that those of you who are recording these episodes, begin with The Troll and then, The Lost Boys, so that you get the benefit as the story develops. Next week, Neverland, completes the arc and is the final show of this season. What surprises will be in store for us?

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Apr 28 Critique of NCIS Episode “Troll”

We hate it when they do this, again. Another TBC… To Be Continued. It was an exciting ending, where we wondered if Gibbs would make it until next week. Now that we have your attention, we will tell you that the previews for next week shows him alive and well. Whew! We’ll tell you below why we really wondered about the results of the bus exploding.

This episode started out with the murder of Navy Ensign Jeanine Wilt, a computer specialist who had cracked into the computer of a Turkish importer who lived in nearby Fairfax, VA. It’s been our theory in the past that when the writers create a script that takes more than the allotted one hour (including commercials), the writers sometimes they turn it into a two hour show, by adding a lot of fluff. The fluff added to “Troll” was an awkward friendship between Bishop’s husband Jake and Gibbs. The dialogue suggests these two “friends” talk each day on the phone and even play racquetball together. Those who watch the show and know Gibbs know he doesn’t accept friends quickly or easily.

So why was this fluffy friendship even necessary? That becomes apparent when it’s discovered the Navy Ensign had hacked into the company computer of the Turkish importer. When McGee and Bishop can’t convince the importer to consent to a search of his computer, the agents are forced to get a search warrant from a judge. But, as it turns out the NSA objects to the search warrant, as the NSA is monitoring all the importers computer activity. Bishop and her husband Jake have what is meant to be a touching conversation where she confides that she had killed her first person while in Afghanistan. At the same time, he admits he is the impediment to NCIS getting the warrant for the importer’s computer. Between that and Jake’s fast friendship with Gibbs, Jake provides a copy of the content of the importers computer, from the NSA office. So there is no reason for the importer to know that the NSA had any interest in him.

We say this because of what Gibbs does next, which is the dumbest thing we’ve ever seen him do. With the importer in their interrogation room and he’s claiming innocence, Gibbs tells him the NSA has been monitoring his computer. Why would an ace like Gibbs, compromise the NSA after Jake had just helped him? It was inexplicable.

Just when we think the show will conclude with a teenage geek being the killer of the ensign, the team discovers there’s a different suspect and the show ends, only to be continued next week. This past week, we read an article that suggested the final two shows of this season will bring trouble and anguish. The team will deal with a tragedy. According to one report, Emily Wickersham who plays Ellie Bishop told TVGuide.com, “It was a shock to me, and I think it will be a shock to the fans.” Who knows what the writers have in mind.

We do know “The Lost Boys” airs May 5th, and “Neverland” on May 12th. Gary Glasberg, the show’s producer, is the writer for the final show.

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

News on the Iran/Russia front

It’s always our intent for this blog to comment on the news and to critique NCIS shows. Since tonight’s episode “Check” is a rerun that first ran on January 6th of this year and the critique is available in the archives of our blog, we want comment on some recent disturbing news.

The April 22, 2015 issue of the Jerusalem Post reported that, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that the sale of S-300 missile systems to Iran would only strengthen its aggressive behavior and undermine the Middle East.
The two leaders spoke by telephone on Tuesday, just one day after Russia ended its voluntary five-year ban on the delivery of the system, which would help strengthen Iran against a military attack.
Russia said that in light of the framework agreement between Iran and the six world powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program, the ban was no longer necessary. Iran could receive the S-300 by the end of the year.”

Many experts believe the S-300 defensive missile system will complicate Israel’s efforts to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon development.

Those of you who have read our fifth novel “Redeeming Liberty”, which released in 2011, will remember that CIA Agent Bo Rider had turned Russian Colonel Yuri Egorov to provide Bo with information about Russia’s sale of missiles. In that thriller, Bo discovered Russia was about to arm Iran with the S-300 missile system.

So, if you want an exciting read about what’s happening in today’s current events, get a copy of “Redeeming Liberty” from Amazon by clicking here.


2015 April 14 NCIS Critique of “Lost in Translation”

It’s been a couple of weeks since news reports revealed that in 2009 NCIS investigated Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s disappearance while in Afghanistan and also how their investigation heavily influenced the military command to charge Bergdahl. According to news reports, the NCIS investigation included talking to Afghans outside Bergdahl’s base and an NCIS analysis of his computer. We mention this because many people ask if NCIS special agents really go into combat zones and whether analysts similar to McGee and Abby really do search computers. Because tonight’s episode results in Bishop and Gibbs going into Afghanistan, we wanted to give a shout out to the NCIS agents who worked on the Bergdahl case.

Once again, the “Lost in Translation” episode gave the writers opportunity to feature the skills of the agents and to use all the tricks and tools of the trade, both in Abby’s lab and in Ducky’s lab. It also featured two Afghan brothers in conflict with each other during a time when Muslims are so much in the news as terrorists, and where one brother is portrayed as a kind and caring man to U.S. military personnel.

We got a kick out of Tim McGee’s and Jimmy Palmer’s April Fool’s trick on Tony DiNozzo, when McGee claimed to have been selected as the recruiting ‘poster boy’ for NCIS. We loved McGee’s “Secret Agent” look.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the writers deepen Bishop’s character beyond anything that’s been revealed about her to date. Jethro is pure “Gibbs” when he forces Bishop into an undercover role in Afghanistan. Of course, none of us were surprised to see the Afghan who accompanied the “doctor” into the hostage hideout, wearing a traditional headdress, but peering out with piercing cobalt blue eyes. We all knew Gibbs wouldn’t be far away. After all, he told Bishop, “I have your back.”

He did and he always will. Thank you, Mark Harmon, for giving us, and millions like us, something edifying to watch on TV. We do so hope this wonderful NCIS team will return next season.

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson