This NCIS Case of the Week introduced yet another fascinating facet of Tony's character, as he and Bishop paid a visit to his old academy.
Although NCIS Season 12 Episode 14 began with the tried-and-true "oops, is that a dead body over there?" trope, it by no means stuck to the same dull formula. Not by a long shot.
The cased boiled down to a young cadet woman named Christine Sanders, who was driven to suicide after a month-long series of punishments administered by a "Star Chamber" military cadet group, the "Honor Corps". This, after her cadet stalker had been thrown into police jail for stalking her right into her bedroom.
Along came her boyfriend Private John Wallace – himself a former cadet at the same academy – wanting justice. Though the Honor Corps had nothing to do with his death, yet another keeper of the academy's traditions took it upon himself to kill Wallace. He then used Proctor Gerald Tanner's car to dump the body.
There was a lot to process in this episode, most of it involving Tony.
The main thread that ran from the start right to the finish was the question of why did Tony look at his visit to the academy as a kind of purgatory? The man was frowning from the get-go and was impervious to the high praise he received from Tanner and Cadet Golan.
He even deflected the initial praise Bishop threw his way, becoming, if anything, more grumpier as their visit waned on.
It became clear that Tony hated that place with a passion. It represented the tail end of his teenage rebellion years – but it also signified the beginning of his single-mindedness and assertiveness in standing up for what's right.
His defense of Cadet Travis Phelps (a.k.a "Piggy") was an unequivocal stand against the cruel brutality of the elites of the place. It didn't matter if he gained demerits in doing so – that was, in his mind, beside the point.
So, in the midst of his high standing with his studies and especially with his basketball excellence, he was keenly aware of the undercurrent of evil and injustice in the place – and probably couldn't wait to get away from it. Small wonder he didn't return the joy his old mentor displayed toward him when he and Bishop arrived.
I wondered why he was so concerned about McGee learning about his excellence at the academy; so concerned that he swore Bishop to secrecy about it. Then it occurred to me: he knew if McGee got wind of it, there'd be no end to questions and comments about it – whereas Tony just wanted to, as he put it: bury it or fixate on it.
We also learned that Tony had been through six boarding schools in four years prior to landing at the Remington Military Academy at age 17. So he was a troublemaker – and I think this means we've yet to get even more of a history on him sometime down the road.
Bishop's take on his academy career was brilliant and sincere. If there ever was any doubt about her position in the team, her comments to Tony put that all to rest. She has honest admiration for him. I admired her so much when she said near the end: whatever happened in your past helped make you the awesome guy you are today.
She is not like any of the other people who've occupied the chair in which she now sits. She's her own person, she's never sarcastic in a mean way, and she understands all too well the value of the people on her team. I like her more than I can say.
I mean, she even wanted the bullpen to go out for dinner with her and Jake. You can see that this is a foreign thought to them all, too;Tony and McGee didn't think Gibbs would even agree to it. Which tells you how often they all get together.
Hint: rarely, if ever.
The other bright spot in this episode was Gibbs and his valiant but failed attempt at using techno-speak with Abby:
Gibbs: Then can we hack into, uh, his GPS REM thingy and backtrace his memory deal?
Abby: Um, none of those things are things Gibbs. One of them's a band and when someone turns their phone off there's nothing you can do. I mean it's off.
That scene was just perfect.
While not quite equal to the other stellar episodes of NCIS Season 12 so far - no series can bat a thousand – this one still packed quite an interesting punch.
- I really want to know what "ridiculous" song Bishop likes to sing in the shower. You can't just talk about it and not give us the name!
- Palmer is on paternity leave. I'm curious to know how long in the season that will last.
- Tony seems to have picked up on the idea of movie quotes from his mentor at the academy, Gerald Tanner: leave the gun, take the cannoli.
- Gibbs has a plan. A big plan that no doubt has to do with his hunt for Mishnev. And it looks as though he's bringing Jake into the mix to help.
What did you think of this episode? Were you more impressed with Tony's back story, or the case of the week?
Don't forget: if you haven't seen it yet you can always watch NCIS online.
Douglas Wolfe was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. He retired in 2016. Follow him on Twitter.