'NCIS' season premiere: The chips are on the table


Image Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS

NCIS began its ninth season last night with a bang — three of them to be exact — as Tony’s top-secret mission to “handle” an NCIS traitor ended with him in a hospital trying to remember why blood types were found in the street where he’d been shot in the chest. (He was wearing a vest.) As he recounted his whereabouts from last May to the present to Dr. Rachel Cranston, Caitlin’s sister, we saw in flashbacks how his orders from SECNAV Jarvis played out. In case you got lost along the way, here’s a debriefing:

• Gibbs and the others knew Tony had a new assignment and it made them nervous. “Look out for yourself. Please,” Ziva told Tony, tapping him on the lips with a pencil and making Tiva fans momentarily happy. (Ziva is still with CIRay. What advice did she need to get from a female friend in Central America?) Duckie found the post-mortem incision in Levin’s arm and through morgue surveillance footage, figured out that E.J. had removed a microchip from him. That sent Gibbs into full-on protective mode (our favorite!) and straight to have a chat with the SECNAV. His timing, as Vance noted, was impeccable. Gibbs was there when Navy Captain Felix Wright arrived just in time to die in front of the SECNAV and show him his chip had already been cut out of his arm. “On the DL,” Vance told Gibbs to find a connection between Levin and Wright. McGee had the honors of delivering the exposition: Turns out they both had worked for the Office of Naval Intelligence, under Director of Special Operations Sean Latham. Stay with me now! He’s a civilian who leads a secret armada of spy vessels called the Watcher fleet. Watchers are loaded with billions in surveillance and are constantly monitoring terrorists and anti-military activity.

• Abby and McGee figured out the microchips are electronic door openers. Eventually, SECNAV and Latham had to loop Vance and Gibbs in. They were implanted in the arms of the ONI’s eight-man squad known as Phantom Eight, which tried to stop international acts of terrorism before they happened. The chip gave them access to more than doors — also to the worldwide Watcher database where they could download classified info. for which our enemies would pay top dollar. SECNAV told Gibbs to find the stolen chips. It was a matter of national security.

• Back to flashback: Tony had tracked down E.J. to find out what she was doing with the chip. She told him she’d made a promise to Levin that if anything ever happened to him, she’d get the chip into the right hands before it fell into the wrong ones. She doesn’t know what’s on it. She was just taking it to Wright, who Tony informed her was dead. Then, Tony and E.J. came under fire. They surfaced in Gibbs’ living room, and after they made him dinner and he reminisced about Franks, Tony and Gibbs suggested E.J. get in contact with the third man on her team, Cade.

E.J., Cade, and Tony all showed up in the same alley. Cade thought E.J. had sent him a text to be there, E.J. thought Tony had texted her, and Tony thought E.J. had texted him. Right when they figured out they’d been played, bullets started flying. Cade was hit in the heart, E.J. was struck just below the chest, and Tony took a bullet to the vest. Cade’s body was found along with his bloody badge. E.J. hasn’t been found. Was she wearing a vest, too? The photo Tony was given from SECNAV in last season’s finale was of Cade. They’d all been played. So we can officially hate the new “I own you” SECNAV? Not so fast.

• If Tony didn’t fire on Cade and E.J., who did? Turns out it was SCOTT WOLF! He guested as “FBI Agent” Casey Stratton, who’d shown up in the hospital twice trying to see Tony. The first time, he approached Gibbs in the hallway, and Gibbs put him back on the elevator. The second time, Stratton waltzed into Tony’s room and Rachel frightened him off. He’d wanted to finish the job. He’s not a real FBI agent. He works with Latham. After Gibbs returned the chip E.J. had, they’ve got two to sell to the highest bidders. They said it worked out for the best: SECNAV was none the wiser, meaning they played him, too. We still, however, reserve the right to hate him at a later date.

• No one expects Gibbs to let this go, but him finding Franks’ file on the Phantom Eight and seeing a photo that included Stratton and Latham means he definitely won’t. The only frustrating thing for me is judging from the promo for next week’s episode, we’re going to, in typical NCIS fashion, backburner this story so it can come to a head at a later date (preferably during a Sweeps period). Is this a juicy enough season-long arc for you? Are you dying to know where E.J. is, or are you just happy she’s gone? What do you think of Scott Wolf as a bad guy? And what do you think Gibbs will do to Stratton when he finally gets a hold of him? (Trying to walk past Gibbs with a cup of coffee — nice touch! — to kill Tony? Not good, friend.)

Comments (107 total) Add your comment
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  • BigMike

    I could only think ‘Insurance Policy’ when I saw Gibbs looking at the files Mike Franks left him. I remember that was a big thing when Shephard was killed, and Franks was going to keep it safe and ‘leave to Vance’ in his will. That would be a good way to tie in multiple seasons.

  • Paula

    I am getting tired of the US government being dupes or evil. Can we go back to the old NCIS? These new ones stink.

  • jane

    believé me or not! me and my sistér just got two i-Pâds for only $42 each and a $50 amâzon cârd for $9. the storés wânt to keép this as a secret and they dont téll you. go here CoelCént.còm

  • marie

    Thanks for covering the season premiere, EW! It was a great episode. I hope NCIS does not drop the ball on an excellent storyline as well. If EJ is in danger, shouldn’t Tony be as well?
    Thanks again!

    • Erin

      That’s what I figured Marie regarding Tony being in danger since he’s a witness to Scott Wolf murdering Cade and attempted murder of himself and EJ. And this makes me happy as I love a bit of action and suspense and I love me some serious!Tony.

      I adored the season opener, and consider it second to only Truth or Consequrnces. Only improvement I could think of was maybe a little less Gibbs, SecNav, Vance and Dodgy guy at the end and maybe seeing the team Gibbs (not just in flashback form),

  • E Fish

    I was disappointed in the premiere…but that’s par for the course since season 7. The time jumps were done much more effectively in Truth or Consequences. There was no sense of urgency during the flashbacks, and I echo the poster who’s tired of corrupt politicians. Look. We have to deal with politicians every day. Can’t NCIS go back to hoo-rah and dead petty officer of the week? Team-based stories instead of Tony and/or Gibbs every week. …and yes, I know that Tony and Gibbs are the leads, but I wouldn’t mind if there was more given to the other excellent actors in this show. I love NCIS, but this premiere made me feel that the series is getting tired. Oh, well. There’s always fanfiction.

    • Jeff

      Agreed, the show’s starting to show it’s age – they need some new writers.

    • Erin

      I think that Truth or Consequences was the better episode however this episode was well done. The flashbacks may have been all over the place and confusing to people but that was representative of Tony’s state of mind.

      As for too much Tony & Gibbs. I’ll be upfront and state that I’m a huge Tony and Gibbs fan. Still I find that complaint utterly confounding and unwarranted considering the general consensus is that Tony & Gibbs havent been used enough. If you’d watch last season, they barely even featured together until later on in a Man Walks into a Bar and Baltimore. I’d understand you saying you’re not a fan of Tony/Gibbs episodes but Tony/Gibbs every week? Hasn’t been like that in quite a while. That said I would love more regular old Team Gibbs too but it seems like we’re returning to that. It would have been boring having a regular old team ep. This episode set it apart from the norm and opened the season with a bang, literally.

      • tejas

        TorC was a ver ybadly written story. Way too many plot holes that were never dealt with. This was, by far, superior in every way.

      • Erin

        What do you mean by plotholes? NCIS isn’t too great with continuity but they’ve gotten better on it and I’m sure they’ll touch on what they can in the future. I dont think you mean ‘lets deal with what happened to Ziva’ as knowing you from various boards, you’re not a Ziva fan and wouldnt care for that – nor would I. It’s not necessary to this type of show and her character and back then got more than enough facetime as did the Mossad storyline

      • tejas

        I’m not a Ziva fan. She’s a very badly written character, and since the end of S6 has no business being there – she would never have been allowed back in the country after her involvement in the Rivkin thing. As for TorC, the first plothole was why any US agency was involved at all, much less NCIS. It got worse from there. It was very poor storytelling. MW’s performance was amazing, but he was given crap to work with in that. Nature of the Beast was far superior.

  • Tori

    I loved the season premiere! Tony-centered storylines are my favorite. I want to know what happened to E.J., though. I don’t like her and I want her to just go away but I still want to know. But yeah, I’m tired with all the evil government people. Definately not pleased with the new SECNAV.

  • Tori

    Oh and by the way, why did you call her “Cailtin” in the article instead of “Kate”? That’s what every one calls her…

    • Karen

      Caitlin was her actual name – the one her sister called her.

      • Tori

        Anthony is Tony’s actual name, but the article still said Tony.

    • Sue1

      Ducky called her Caitlin all the time.

      • George

        so did Ari.

  • AuntieMM

    You could see Wolf was a crook from the get go……why the hey didn’t Gibbs check wiith Fornell when the guy showed up. And do the chips have anything to do with the other half of the Frankenstein project Leon talked about the end of last season?

    I agree that they these arc stories need to be wrapped out in one or two episodes. It’s frustrating if you miss them and can’t get them from the internet to catch up.

    • Christie

      Gibbs specfically mentioned to Tony that he called Fornell and Fornell said he never heard of an FBI agent named Stratton. Which was a certain tip-off that the guy was a hitman–only I wasn’t expecting to find out so soon that he was part of the Phantom Eight.

      • FanofGibbs

        Thank you Christie. People don’t listen. I totally heard Gibbs say that, besides Fornell is like his right hand man if you think about it. They’re friends. And you know that he’s going to call him.

      • AnnieTx

        I had the impression that Gibbs did not check with Fornell until after the visit to Tonys room, not when Gibbs first saw him in the hallway.

  • Ben

    Considering how badly they protrayed the fictional SECNAV and other people in the government; I wonder if NCIS (CBS) does get support from the US military or if the people in Washington DC feel the show is too critical of the politicans, Some movies and tv shows about the US military have gotten help from the government and some have not. NCIS has critized the government before and the people in Washington DC might not like that–the real SECNAV for example. For the record, I enjoy NCIS and our nation has made mistakes from time to time.

  • Juanita Eskubi

    Great recap of last night’s ep. Hope you’ll be doing the recaps for all forthcoming eps.

  • Diane

    I thought the premiere was good but I’m like most of you in that I like the regular storylines better than sequels. I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of shows where NCIS and NCIS:LA cross paths. There is getting to be too many Tony stories – it needs to go back closer to ensemble shows.

    • Juanita Eskubi

      I thought the premiere was one of the best. I think it’s about time we had a few more Tony centric stories there have been too many Ziva centric. No argument against centric eps for other characters too, obviously.

      • tejas

        Oh, yeah. There haven’t been nearly enough Tony storylines. He’s been neglected as a character for years, which is really stupid given what a phenomenal actor Michael Weatherly is. He gets the odd stand alone (which I love, btw- much prefer them to long drawn out arcs), but hasn’t had an arc since S4… and that was a really stupid arc.

  • Deb

    I like the long story arcs with minimal references in single story shows, like when the Ari photo kept running on Gibbs computer. As for missing episodes, I often look forward to missed episodes on all the down times before and after sweeps to catch up as well as something I haven’t seen during the summer. Besides, USA repeats NCIS almost every night, 3-6 episodes. I’m hoping the reference to Palmer’s spring wedding will be a humourous byplay throughout the season, he’s one of my favorite characters.

  • Maggie

    I am SO happy Tony is not acting like an idiot. His character is much better than the sexist witticisms of last season.

    • Erin

      ITA! As Tejas said upthread, it’s about time he got something meaty as the last two seasons they pretty much turned him into a clown, if ever there was backwards development with a character – that was it. They have developed McGee well (and Ziva somewhat – there’s dissention in the ranks towards her development). But Tony has floundered and for a while became the mere ‘comic’ element of the show. I love the storylines when Tony is somewhat serious, kicking ass as a sucessful agent. That said I do love how they touched on his personality in this ep that sometimes his random inane comments, him joking around is him deflecting due to a stressful situation. But last two years – went OTT – way too much of it.

  • Pip

    great opener …. even if I did have to stay awake to watch it at 1am this morning in the UK! Guessed who the one of the baddies was … cos he was the baddie in North and South with Patrick Swayze and James Read. Still a great opener … understated as it should be .. we dont want all the excitement in one episode …

    • HarriettMck

      I thought I was the only one who would recognize him as Bent. He makes a great bad guy.

      • BLT

        You were not alone! Loved me some North & South.

  • ncisfaaan

    Great Episode Tony, Gibbs, EJ and Rachel were great in it. But really Ziva added nothing to the show! they are just throwing a bone for the Tiva crowd. i hope they continue to keep Ziva on the backburner and bring out the Tony-Gibbs partnership more, and more of EJ and rachel…..maybe send Ziva away on a long long long long long long mission.

    • Katmandu

      Ziva is not going anywhere, except maybe into a relationship with Tony. And EJ? Gone baby gone. Tony didnt seem too upset that she was shot and possibly dead. Yeah, if she comes back, Tony is done with her. My vote? Leave her missing

      • Morri

        Huh. Well, if ‘Romantic Interest’ is enough of a reason for wanting to see someone on the show, good for you. I prefer more meaty and realistic contributions to an investigative team but I don’t watch NCIS for the romance, I watch it for the team-interatcion and plots. To each their own.
        But I understand why the writers mostly use her that way. Everyone else in the team contributed something factual to the team (just watch this season opener!): Gibbs his military background and forceful personality to put preasure on various people, McGee his computer knowledge, Tony is great with undercover and with goading reactions from witnesses and suspects alike. Now that Ziva cut her ties to Mossad she lacks a genuine talent to bring to the table. I would wish the writers would give her more than just romance and family trouble.

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