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

2015 Apr 07 NCIS Critique of “No Good Deed”

This NCIS episode is filled with references to the idiom, “No good deed goes unpunished”. Our guess is that many viewers tuned in tonight because the previews indicated Robert Wagner would be back tonight as Tony’s Dad. He did return and added much to the show. We were not disappointed.

We liked that ‘No Good Deed’ involved an uncomplicated single-plot criminal case, peppered with multiple cases of personal relationships. It’s true the show featured the murder of a marine by an unknown person armed with a weapon. The weapon received more attention than the killer at first. That’s because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) intentionally released this gun into the criminal world by informants who were assisting that federal agency. The show seemed pretty realistic as it dealt with the infamous ATF case of ‘Fast and Furious’, but that wasn’t the most interesting part.

Tonight, we saw the all too common effects of parents, i.e., Tony Sr., trying to move closer to their adult children. We saw the prospective problems of Tony DiNozzo, aka “Junior” navigating his life with his well-meaning dad who always seems to mess up. Also, Tony makes a big mistake when he partners on the investigation with his love interest, ATF agent Zoe Keats.

Some might consider it inappropriate for Tony Sr. to show up at the office uninvited, or to show up at Gibbs’ house, but when a team works as closely as this group, (or any NCIS team), the co-workers are tolerant and understanding of a parent as eccentric as Tony Sr. Gibbs worked his magic in helping Senior and Junior to reconcile their differences. In fact, Gibbs’ scene in his house fixing a sandwich for Tony Sr. was very touching indeed. So was the scene with Jimmy Palmer and Ducky during the autopsy of the young woman. For those who have younger children, the cameras often flashed photos of the dead young woman. Diane cringed, and felt this was overdone. Dave commented that perhaps the writers were attempting to communicate to viewers the terrible dangers of drug abuse. If that was the case, these scenes were effective.

It was true to life when Gibbs and his team finally arranged an undercover meeting with the former ATF informant who killed the marine, and mounted U.S. Park Police stumble upon McGee’s attempt to buy a gun from him. In real life, occasionally and unexpectedly, uniformed police officers who are just doing their jobs, do interrupt an undercover operation. That is one reason undercover agents always carried undercover driver’s licenses that match their undercover identities, and match the registration of their official undercover vehicles.

We are curious to know what you thought of the show, especially the previews for next week’s show when Special Agent Bishop shouts at Gibbs not to put her into danger in the field in Afghanistan. She says she is not equipped for it, and he says, “I’ve told you, I have your back.”

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Mar 31 NCIS Critique of “Patience”

We know that as we type this critique, most NCIS fans are glued to the TV watching Cote de Pablo in the ‘Dove Keepers.’ You will remember that last week we offered to send a copy of our most recent novel, “Embers of Courage,” to one of you who responded to our post. The drawing winner is Sandra L. If she will respond to us with her mailing address, we will mail her the copy. Meanwhile each of the others who responded, will receive an eBook copy of “Hero’s Ransom.” Watch your email for your coupon redeemable at iTunes.com.

Tonight’s NCIS episode of “Patience,” turned out to be better than some recent shows. The banter between Di Nozzo and McGee was good, as McGee discovers that Di Nozzo and Gibbs had been involved in a decades old case involving an airport bombing, to McGee’s exclusion. As the investigation of a new lead in that bombing continues, McGee and Abby are flown to an aircraft carrier off the coast of Colombia in search of a computer link to a Colombian drug lord. At the same time, Tony and Bishop attend what turns out to be a class to promote intimacy while posing as husband and wife to learn more about the Colombian doctor who offered the training. It provided interesting insights for the “couple”, and an opportunity for Bishop to have a deeper role. We enjoyed seeing Ducky with a key role in solving the case. Mark Harmon, playing Leroy Jethro Gibbs, interrogates a possible suspect, which leads to a second interrogation with surprising twists toward the end. All in all, the viewer feels satisfied with the outcome.

The preview for next week’s ‘heart to heart’ episode, “No Good Deed” includes the return of Robert Wagner as Di Nozzo Senior. The producers seem to know when they’ve discovered a good thing. At least we hope so!

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Mar 24 NCIS Critique of “Status Update”

We’re Back!!! For several weeks or months (we’re not sure) we’d been writing critiques on our blog, but unbeknown to us, those critiques were not getting mailed to you. Those of you who went to the blog, found our messages there, but it took us quite some time to correct the problem. If you go to the blog you can find those you’ve missed in the archives. We are happy to be back with you.

As we stated a couple of weeks ago, sometimes we write a critique of the NCIS NOLA show if we don’t enjoy a particular episode of Gibbs’ original NCIS show. Tonight, we were going to watch the NOLA show for comparison, but that show started out with a girl in a strip joint. We didn’t even bother to watch it. Now back to “Status Update”. We have said the producers have Leon Carroll Jr., a retired NCIS Special Agent on their set to help them keep the show technically correct. In our opinion, they must have produced tonight’s show when he was on vacation, or they ignored what he advised in order to be more edgy. For the most part, the show was unrealistic. Also, the beginning “work flirt” banter between Tony and Bishop was worse than juvenile. This show airs at 8:00 pm with younger viewers tuning in and it’s inappropriate for a married woman to make light of monogamy.

It is clear the writers wanted to bring back Delilah from Dubai, so she and Tim McGee could renew their romantic involvement. Using Delilah in an undercover sting operated from a computer in a secure office was plausible, but to involve her (a computer specialist in the cyber division of DOD) to accompany armed DOD agents entering an apartment, which turned out to occupied by NCIS agent who arrived first, was just plain stupid. In the real world, it would be extremely dangerous to everyone involved because she is not trained agent. Even DOD having Delilah living in a ‘safe house’ apartment was a stretch of realism.

It was interesting to note the show highlighted the dangers resulting from military family members using social media. This week it was all over the news how terrorists are stalking military families in social media. These are great lessons to be learned from tonight’s show.

Tim McGee was correct when he advised Delilah to pull the trigger and shoot at Tim, when Omer Malik gave her a gun. Agent McGee assumed Malik wouldn’t have given her a weapon with a bullet in the chamber, for fear she would turn it on her captor. Because she was not a trained agent, she had no idea what McGee was talking about. This is proof she was in way over her head. Apparently her boss was in too deep as well, because at the end of the show he was suspended for “gross negligence.” (No doubt the technical adviser returned from vacation in time to catch the ending, and insisted the guy be disciplined).

Please leave us a comment in the comment section, so we’ll know this posting actually made it to our subscribers. We won’t post your comment, unless your comment is specific to the content of the show. But we will select the name of one of you who comments to us and we will mail you a copy of our most recent novel, “Embers of Courage,” which features Raj Pentu, an NCIS agent working undercover with the CIA on a terror group in Egypt.

What did you all think of tonight’s episode? From the previews, next week looks a bit lame, so here’s hoping it’s a great show to usher in “The Dovekeepers,” starring Cote de Pablo, who once played Ziva on NCIS. That miniseries airs next Tuesday on CBS at 9:00 pm and concludes the following night.

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2015 Mar 10 NCIS Critique of “Artful Dodger”

Mark Harmon and his associates have discovered a magic formula for creating popular episodes. The main ingredient is Robert Wagner. Wasn’t it fun watching Wagner acting again as Tony’s father? In the “Artful Dodger”, based on his vast experience, he tutors the squad of Special Agents about the underbelly of stolen and counterfeit art treasures. But it gets better when Robert Wagner goes undercover to meet with real art counterfeiters accompanied by Tim McGee, who is posing as Tony Dinozzo Jr. and a male model. What a hoot!

Pure slapstick comedy is on display when Tim strikes a powerful pose for the fake artist, and when Tony Jr. acts incredulous as his father leads the team from his position at the head of the conference table. Jimmy Palmer asks Ducky to play “GrandDucky” to his daughter, which provides some precious moments for a beloved character.

The squad is busy tracking down who killed a Navy Lieutenant when he interrupted a thief who stole a painting from an Admiral’s office. The Vice-Admiral blames herself as she asked the Lt. to find something in her office. In the end, Leroy Jethro Gibbs and the team discover the painting of “The Chesapeake”, a real Navy frigate launched in 1799, really contained a hidden recording device. It had previously been hanging in the Pentagon where national secrets were discussed.

The entire show is laced with references about how Tony Sr. (Wagner) has taught Junior the ways of life and hints to things he’s failed to teach him. Tony understands and loves his father no matter what. Gibbs plays a big role in reconciling father and son.

Tonight’s episode is a believable story of how terrorists used the device to learn about Defense operations. Our federal agents and soldiers must be extra vigilant during these perilous times.

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson