For an old but reliable show, NCIS still manages to surprise now and then.
NCIS Season 18 Episode 9 was both timely and profound.
The former was the case of the week set in the midst of food-truck wars.
Food trucks were just a trendy thing before the Covid-19 pandemic.
But just like ride-share drivers had to become food-delivery couriers, out-of-work restaurant chefs started creating mobile dining experiences to make a living.
This episode's victim was a well-meaning petty officer on leave trying to help out his cousin, a displaced chef, attempting to get his Killer Korn food truck off the ground.
Only the petty officer Delfino somehow ended up frozen to death in a food-delivery truck.
It's hard to go too wrong with a closed-door (or, in this case, a closed-truck) mystery.
The delivery guy was too oblivious to make much of a suspect, as he was too wrapped up hitting on a customer to notice the frozen Delfino in his truck immediately.
Delfino didn't make solving his murder easy for Gibbs' squad since his personality generated all kinds of suspects.
He was down on anybody he saw as taking advantage of his cousin, which was a long list. He was possessive of his quasi-girlfriend and aggressive toward anyone he perceived as hitting on her.
How could Torres have Bishop as a partner (and whatever else they are to each other) without being more aware of the food-truck scene? I mean, she had an app for that.
And corn as the basis of a food truck? It's great on the cob with butter and salt, but how much more could you really do with it?
The narrative was as simple as interrogating one person with whom Delfino was beefing to yield another suspect, and so on and so on until they found the murderer, the mooching parking cop.
It would have been a much more efficient process if a general malaise hadn't settled over headquarters.
I blame the departure of Jack, the resident shrink.
Jack's leaving continued to be mishandled. An email goodbye for the team? Not even Zoom?
Sure, it was cute when she gave away items from her office (although the elephant painting really needed to go back to Gibbs).
These crack investigators still appeared to believe that Gibbs and Jack were an item, even though the two of them had denied such a relationship again and again.
As for Gibbs not reacting more to Jack's leaving, well, he's lasted this long because of his ability to compartmentalize. Even if he's missing Jack, the team is never going to hear about it.
Sure, Gibbs was crankier than usual, but that was more because everyone was second-guessing his state of mind rather than focusing on solving a murder. Who can blame him for being peeved?
Maybe Palmer should take over Jack's role. After all, Ducky had always served as an unofficial therapist before her arrival.
He did a marvelous job of bringing Kasie around. After all, it's trouble when the unit's ray of sunshine is in a funk. Even Gibbs noticed and tried to help her.
Jimmy enabled Kasie to see the value of the good and bad of life. That was much better than the stumbling that Vance did when he found her in Jack's office.
Still, you have to wonder if Jimmy doesn't have a crash coming later this season. He still has to be processing Breena's death.
And we should have expected the other shoe to drop after Kasie got all that good news about her mother and her sister.
Poor Tobias. Just when things in his life were looking up. Moving to Costa Rica seems like an ill-conceived idea, especially when Emily was still in recovery.
Give TPTB on NCIS credit for even tackling the subject of opioid addiction, for showing that anyone can get addicted to opioids, even a child that has grown up on the show. Most procedurals are more concerned with the drug peddlers than the victims.
That way is so much more impactful than just introducing a character only to kill him or her off as an example.
Emily appeared to be out from under when she gave Gibbs her six-month coin on NCIS Season 18 Episode 5.
But appearances can be deceiving. That's likely the point, to show how easily a recovering addict can relapse and not survive.
How hollow it must feel to Fornell now to have tracked down the opioid-smuggling ring leader only to have lost his daughter to those drugs in the end.
Tobias has lost first Diane and now Emily. How does a formerly upbeat character survive that?
Maybe the next storyline is that Gibbs, who has also suffered a similar loss, teaches Fornell how to survive and move forward.
It was a touching scene at the end when Vance read the poem that had helped him cope with his wife's death over the activities of various team members. A little of what Jimmy has been going through shone through when he mentioned how that poem had benefitted him.
To follow Emily's descent, watch NCIS online.
Were you surprised by Emily's death?
Will Fornell bounce back?
Does Palmer have more pain to work through?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.