2014 Apr 15 NCIS Critique of “Alleged”

Tonight’s episode deals with a difficult subject. The writers toss in some fun and intriguing aspects to lighten the mood. “Alleged” tackles an issue that is a problem in the Navy right now—sexual assault. David has said many times since we’ve started writing our critiques that many of his cases while with NIS (the original name of the agency when he and Gibbs were there) were sex cases. He also has said how the problem has only gotten worse with recent changes in the military.

The show’s producers and writers meet with the Navy and U.S. Marines each season to find out the important matters they are facing. They asked NCIS to do this episode to raise awareness of sexual assaults. When David was a Special Agent, he and his colleagues dreaded these cases because of the many difficulties. Diane also prosecuted these cases, and we feel the show presents the complexities in an accurate fashion. Mark Harmon brings the right balance of compassion and drive to catch the bad actors. Kelli Williams plays NCIS Special Agent Maureen Cabot from the special unit. Diane recognized her from movies on the Hallmark Channel. It’s interesting when Tim mentions they don’t have probable cause to obtain a warrant to search the ship. The captain then searches the ship under the “Health and Welfare” provision. “This has to be throughout the entire ship,” David says. “It can’t be done selectively.”

The lighter moments come with Tony and Tim’s “cleansing” to achieve better health. Bishop doesn’t share their determination. She continues eating bacon and egg sandwiches and chili cheese fries. Tony looks tormented just staring at her giant plate of gooey fries. This is hilarious. But even funnier is when he takes a swig of his water concoction in a jug the size of something a family might bring to a ball game. Thanks Michael Weatherly for making us laugh.

The last few days brought another terror attack in Overland Park, Kansas, and today marks the one-year since the bombing occurred in Boston. To leave troubles behind for sixty minutes when we watch NCIS is a good thing.

More to come!

Be Blessed, Diane and David

NCIS is Back

Teresa, Caroline, Deb, and Martha have all commented on our critique of last night’s episode of NCIS, “Page Not Found”. It seems everyone agrees that following the departure of Ziva (Cote de Pablo) the episodes have been lacking. Might the reason be the producers were caught by surprise, then rushed to put the square peg Bishop, a hyper-analyst who eats junk food and sits on the floor, into the round hole of an A-type Agent? In the last three weeks, ratings have been down in the seventeen million range, from the once twent-three million viewers. That might be due to spring breaks, or to the New Orleans spin off. Or, perhaps viewers aren’t warming to Bishop. It is interesting to note that in the last three episodes commenters to this blog have liked them. We’ve observed that in all three episodes, Bishop has been mostly a spectator. So now what is to be done with Bishop?

Blessings, Diane and David Munson

 

2014 Apr 08 NCIS Critique of “Page Not Found”

“Very” Special Agent Timothy McGee and Special Agent Tony DiNozzo pushed the action forward in this superb episode, with the rest of the team playing backup. Even Gibbs has a minor role as NCIS battles the CIA for jurisdiction in tracking down who murdered Navy Lieutenant Kit Jones in Budapest. McGee’s pretty and talented girlfriend, Delilah, uncovers an email within her encrypted files, which begins the chase to find Jones’ killer.

This show has as many twists and turns as our legal thrillers. We both enjoyed the interagency sparring, and the brilliant resolve. We like happy endings.

The web intricacies are based on real events in the news, such as the Silk Road being used to sell drugs around the world and Bitcoin, the internet currency. The show asks some penetrating questions. Did Kit Jones really leave his Melanie in the lurch and miss his own wedding? What kind of creep would stick her with the catering bill? CIA officer Briscoe would have Gibbs believe it is all for national security. Is Briscoe all he pretends to be or has he gone to the dark side?

Leon is right when he challenges the CIA director for conducting an undercover operation within the U.S. The “Agency” is not permitted to run operations within our borders. That is the job of the FBI. Director Vance also is right to tell Gibbs to keep investigating, albeit “quietly”.  Some of the funnier moments are:

Tony runs into the equipment closet to take Delilah’s call because she doesn’t want Tim to hear. She asks Tony if he is alone and he replies, “In my own way.” Only he isn’t alone because his cardboard cutout of himself (from many seasons ago) is in there with him. What a hoot.

  1. Tim posing as Charles and Tony, using the name Gary and claiming to be animal control officers. We didn’t know that bleach could dissolve Chinchilla hair.
  2. Ducky and Jimmy work undercover in the hospital to find out who is operating this deep, dark website. Dr. Mallard swoops in with “Nurse Jimmy.” Turns out the patient knows less than Gibbs about technical gadgets.
  3. The teacher at a federal prison who uses smiley faces and frowning faces when Tim and Tony interrogate her. We laughed thinking of the times we have wanted to use something as silly.

We award this show 5 out 5 stars for entertainment. NCIS is baaaack!!

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2014 Apr 01 NCIS Critique of “Crescent City II”

After last week’s episode of “Crescent City I”, reviews were positive and should have encouraged the NCIS’ producers as they seek to launch the New Orleans show on CBS. Those of you who responded to our last blog seem to agree. The bottom line for us is that this cast and setting are more like the original show with Gibbs, et al, than the Los Angeles show, and in our opinion better than LA. We enjoy the chemistry of the crew, although the new forensic specialist with a taste for jazz, is probably meant to replicate Abby, but that’s impossible to do.

To give y’all an idea of the back story to these episodes, we’ll share what Gary Glasberg had to say about the new team. He sees Agent Lasalle, played by Lucas Black as “Alabama’s Steve McQueen” who handles himself with “a fantastic degree of calm and ease.” We couldn’t agree more. We love Black’s persona and acting ability. Glasberg says of Merri Brodi, played by Zoe McLellan, that she’s “confident and cool and direct and strong.” We saw an old JAG show the other night and there was Zoe looking way younger and much less confident. Finally, the Executive Producer couldn’t have asked more than to have Scott Bakula play Pride, “with his appeal and warmth and fun.” Bakula is open and direct, while Gibbs says everything with his eyes and his dramatic silence. Both guys make realistic special agents, according to David. (He should know!)

In our suspense novels, we usually create multiple plots running parallel, with numerous characters. We try hard to use a deft hand, and most of our readers like the way we bring the subplots together. Once in a while, we receive an occasional complaint from a reader who can’t follow everything. After watching tonight’s episode, we sympathize with those readers. Wasn’t it a lot to absorb?

These two weeks have Gibbs’ team, along with the new team, investigating a case related to an old Fed 5 team, the original NIS team made up of Pride, Franks, Gibbs, McLane, and Felix Betts. In Episode II, it was more difficult to track all the possible suspects and their relationships. Yet it was a good show. We like the chemistry of the New Orleans team more than the various elements of the plot.

If you are interested in the real NCIS New Orleans office, we’re attaching a link to a four minute video by a Louisiana TV station. It is interesting to see in contrast what two Special Agent do in real life.

http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/10pm-NCIS-New-Orleans-122070949.html

Be Blessed, Diane and David Munson

2014 Mar 25 NCIS Critique of “Crescent City”

While watching tonight’s episode of NCIS, the first of a two-part episode (in hopes of a spin-off New Orleans show), we recalled our experiences with the Food Network Star. Their first show, and maybe even the second were new and interesting and we watched them often. As time passed, the network discovered they had an advertising bonanza so they created even more quirky shows, like mall cook-offs. Soon, we found their offerings boring and over the top. We’re hoping the popularity of NCIS doesn’t generate so many new venues they all lose their edge.

David liked tonight’s show for two reasons. The New Orleans office of NCIS is subordinate to the Central Field Office of NCIS, located at Great Lakes Naval base north of Chicago, where he was assigned. He notes with a grin they had no female special agents like Merri Brody, who reported to New Orleans to assist. In fact, David had no fellow female agents. We both agree that SA Brody (played by Zoe McLellan) should have been hired to replace Ziva. Did any of you recognize her as Petty Officer Jennifer Coates from JAG? Diane did right away. Merri connected instantly with her teammate, Special Agent LaSalle played by Lucas Black (from the movie 7 Days in Utopia).

What do you think of the intrepid team being called upon to help Special Agent Dwayne Cassius Pride, aka “King” to solve a murder of a Congressman? Pride was once was a colleague of Gibbs with NIS? King is played by Scott Bakula. He once starred on Quantum Leap. His character is based upon the real former chief of New Orleans and technical adviser to the show. So that gives the episode great plausibility. All except for Bishop, but that’s another matter entirely. Her snack food cravings and floor sittings are beyond old.

That being said, the murder mystery is interesting. Was Dan McLane killed for political reasons or because of his previous serial-killer case that he supposedly solved? His enemy in D.C. reminds us of some aggressive folks we once encountered there. The FBI makes a hash of the investigation as usual. But is their “spiriting” the body to Jackson, MS related to McLane’s murder? Ducky finally receives the body, but it’s too late to determine much. Diane objects to the FBI agent being killed onscreen in such a brutal fashion. We would both rather delve into the evidence and solve the case.

On a final note, both Sean Murray as McGee, and Michael Weatherly as DiNozzo, were at the top of their game tonight. They are a joy to watch. Mark Harmon, who plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs, had a key role in producing this show about New Orleans. He wanted to film real sections of the city and did showcase some real musicians.

What are your thoughts? Next week will show more of Gibbs and King in New Orleans. At least they are not battling snow!

Be Blessed, Diane and David

2014 Mar 18 NCIS Critique of “Rock and a Hard Place”

2014 Mar 18 NCIS Critique of “Rock and a Hard Place”

If one likes subtlety, tonight’s show lobbed all sorts of trivia below the radar. This episode offered a veritable buffet for those who enjoy rock music. An aging rock star named Manheim, as in Steam Roller, becomes the center of attention when he is to perform at a Navy benefit concert. That is until an explosion occurs in his dressing room. Did anyone catch any song titles woven into the dialogue? When Bishop arrests Mr. Mustard, the man who was Manheim’s first manager, she blurts, “I got you babe.” Did we miss any others?

Perhaps the writers should have saved this episode for the week of Father’s day. Of course, we say that tongue in cheek as that special day happens in June. So much of the plot showcases fatherhood. Early in the episode, Tony’s dad calls, asking Tony Jr. to plan his Dad’s wedding (and as McGee suggests, maybe pay for it too.) What a hoot. Then, Manheim is stalked by a young man trying to meet his father. Isn’t that a surprise? Great writing! Throughout the show, the junior medical examiner Jimmy acts like a nervous wreck about the impending birth of the child he and his wife plan to adopt. Some of the lightheartedness came to a screeching halt when the adoption falls through. Gibbs really knows what it means to lose a child, and in a tender moment, he encourages Jimmy with a fatherly pep talk.

You may notice we’re more engaged in the human interest side of this show. That’s because in our opinion, the teams’ investigation into the bomb blast turns out to be secondary to the characters’ lives. Ellie fits in nicely with the others. Our favorite scene occurs after Tim announces all hotels are booked: Leroy Jethro Gibbs beams at Tony, his smile saying in effect, “Yes, Manheim will be bunking with you at your elegant apartment. Like it or lump it.” Tony goes on high alert because of the washed-up rocker, and the results are funny. On a final note, we really expected that Tony would be forced to substitute for Manheim when he got cold feet. In real life, Michael Weatherly does play guitar, has a great voice, and even writes music­­­. We think the producers missed a chance to showcase Weatherly.

On a final note for suspense fans, today Joel Rosenberg releases his WWII novel, “The Auschwitz Escape,” which combines true events from the war as we did in our WWII novel, “Stolen Legacy”. We had the awesome privilege of listening to and meeting Joel twice over this past weekend. He is a tremendous author and Christ follower. We also met a subscriber to this blog, who has read all 12 of Rosenberg’s books as well as all 8 of our books. It’s pretty amazing.

Be Blessed, Diane and David

Book Bargain – Joshua Covenant for just $1.59

We are excited to tell our friends that for the next two days, the eBook version of Joshua Covenant is on sale for just $1.59 at both Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.The Kindle (Amazon) version and the Nook (ePub version) is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble respectively for just $1.59. That same book is normally $6.99 for eBook and 14.99 for the print versions. Here are the links:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Joshua-Covenant-Diane-Munson-ebook/dp/B006P89DK4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394924970&sr=8-1&keywords=Joshua+Covenant+eBook

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/joshua-covenant-diane-and-david-munson/1102187107?ean=2940013873698

2014 Mar 04 NCIS Critique of “Dressed to Kill”

It’s often said that hosts save their best beverages for special occasions. Tonight, the producer of NCIS brought out the best performance of this season (16th episode of the 11th season) for this, their 250th episode. Since Cote de Pablo left the show, we’ve all complained about the lack of cohesiveness within the team, the clumsy entry of Bishop, and some of Tony DiNozzo’s juvenile behavior. In “Dressed to Kill”, the writers put together a stellar show, void of technical flaws and a really tender plot. Gibbs pushes DiNozzo into adulthood, explaining his need to show approval for his father (played by Robert Wagner) and for his father’s choice of a new wife. It was an emotional moment when Tony tells his dad, that Tony’s late mother would also approve of the marriage. “That’s what I needed to hear,” DiNozzo Senior tells Tony. Wow. No dry eyes here.

Here in an interesting insider’s tip: The precursor for this script is a real case involving a Navy Commander charged in San Diego with taking bribes to schedule visits of U.S. Navy ships to ports controlled by a co-conspirator. Tony was super-observant when he noticed the man leaving his father’s hotel was dressed in a Navy Lt. Commander’s uniform, but wearing a full Commander’s hat… a very clever way to begin a gun fight. From his NCIS years, David recognized at the same moment as Tony, that the man’s uniform was problematic.

We both enjoyed tonight’s humor and “film noir” feel. So did Tony, who plunged right into his Bogie impersonation as Sam Spade, complete with fedora, and blonde victim. The writers seemed to take a page from “Double Indemnity” where Barbara Stanwyck played a conniving femme fetale. Here, Senator O’ Hara’s aide Jennifer altered a Pentagon report to help her undeserving boyfriend. Because David served as an investigator to the U.S. Senate, it grabbed his attention when Senator O’Hara’s committee work led to the ultimate crime. Diane related to the NCIS team seeking a warrant on a Sunday as she often had weekend and night duty when she was a Federal Prosecutor.

All in all, Leroy Jethro Gibbs was the central focus for the plot twists. It was fun to see him grilling Tony over how he knew the killer had traveled to Macaw, and to see DiNozzo, Sr. visit Gibbs’ basement wood shop. With the drama happening around the world, it’s great to laugh with our talented NCIS team. We had another thought. When Abby rushed into the NCIS office wearing a black dress, having just come from church, we were reminded of the pastor’s challenge to our congregation on Sunday. He urged that this is the time for us to wake up and pray; God cares and He listens.

Let us know what y’all think of the 250th episode.

Be Blessed,  Diane and David Munson

2014 Feb 25 NCIS Critique of “B¬ulletproof”

Tonight, NCIS writers give us a ‘white collar’ crime involving a procurement problem, instead of the usual murder. Several significant issues are dealt with, such as the rehab of injured warriors as well as of McGee’s girlfriend, Delilah, a DOD analyst. This episode portrays the convergence of bullets, the selling of arms, and civilians sending help to our troops overseas, when the government is cutting its support for our military.

The show begins with Bishop fighting in a basic agent training class, giving us concern the whole show would focus on her again. Hoorah, it didn’t. Tony gleans from Bishop that during her practical shooting exercise, she mistakenly shot the cardboard cutout of a mother with her baby. She urges him not to tell Gibbs. David laughed about her error, because as hard as trainees try, they seldom shoot a perfect course. He remembers that as a trainee he once shot the image of a plain clothes police officer. We’ll see if in the future, Tony ever uses Bishop’s “secret”, to manipulate her.

It’s enjoyable to see other team members have a chance to shine. Tony’s “interrogation” of the spray-painting juveniles is funny. Abbey played an agent’s role when she confronted the federal contractor. Tim’s coming to terms with Delilah’s use of the wheelchair is touching. As the case against faulty bulletproof vests develops, we see how technical adherence to contracts permits the turning of a blind eye to corporate greed, which permits the shipping of defective bulletproof vests into combat zones.

Some might think Bishop exaggerated her injury when she was shot in her vest. Those who have ever been shot while wearing a bulletproof vest will attest that the bullet knocks you off your feet and bruises, or even breaks ribs. Mark Harmon had a smaller role tonight. We expect him to have more airtime when NCIS presents a special tribute to Ralph Waite, who played Jackson Gibbs. Our understanding this is coming in the season finale. Mark may have a presence also in the New Orleans spin-off, so perhaps he was not always available for the taping of Bulletproof.

The ending scene is heartwarming. To all of our troops who fight to protect us, to those who have received injuries in the line of duty, and to our veteran’s, we thank you. You are in our prayers.

Be Blessed, David and Diane Munson

Left Disappointed

Like many of you, we turned to CBS tonight expecting to see the next new episode of NCIS, “Bulletproof”. Although it was advertised for tonight, for some unknown reason it was replaced with a previously seen episode, “Under the Radar.” We have no explanation. Could it be CBS didn’t want to risk having few viewers because they would be competing with the Olympics? Or, are they behind due to filming of the new show in New Orleans? We don’t know. But for those who saw “Under the Radar” tonight, you can see the critique we wrote on October 8, 2013. It’s in our archives, which are listed in the column to the right. Have a blessed night!

Diane and David Munson