'NCIS' recap: 'Tis the season (to be afraid of spores)

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Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Nothing says the holidays like a terrible public health outbreak!

But as terrifying as the circumstances were for that gang of NCIS on this week’s holiday-themed episode, the episode was from from all doom, gloom and a bunch of sick children who’d been infected with an African spore that cause strep pneumonia. There was also a lot of heart.

Palmer’s story was particularly touching and, in fact, somewhat stemmed from the case of the week, which involved a mysterious respiratory illness afflicting children in military families. As a result of seeing all the sick children, Palmer found himself doubting his once-eager desires to adopt a child with his wife. And these doubts came at quite in inconvenient time as he and Breena had just reached a new and exciting phase in their quest to adopt — they were days away from meeting a pregnant woman who was interested in giving them her child.

Palmer would come around, but in the thick of his crisis, it was nice to see him get support from the group. Gibbs even lent his support, and, considering everything Gibbs has been through in his own life — with the death of his wife and daughter– I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up a little when Gibbs told Palmer that for as many horrible things that can (and sometimes, will) happen, “sometimes things go right.

Speaking of things going right, I found this case to be pleasantly linear and straightforward. A man who’d been playing Santa at military Christmas parties was in part responsible for the outbreak because the aforementioned spores (which had been stolen by a disgruntled employee) ended up on his Santa suit. I love a good straightforward case because I find it makes room for more plump personal arcs.

The other personal arc that was a true highlight of the episode was that involving Vance and his late wife’s estranged father (Ben Vereen). Vance spent much of the episode avoiding interacting with the man, who’d showed up out of the blue to try to connect with his grandchildren. Knowing the pain that Jackie carried since he’d walked out on her family years ago, Vance reacted coldly to the man at first and denied his request to see the kids time and time again. That is, until he overheard Abby’s conversation with Palmer about the importance of faith, forgiveness and other good qualities during the holidays caused him to have a change of heart. (To be honest, most of the time I was on Vance’s side, but when it was revealed that Jackie had sent her father a Christmas card, I figured if she cared enough to make that gesture, Vance could take it one step further in her memory.)

By episode’s end, Abby, Palmer and Abby’s lab nerd friend Carol — who I haven’t mentioned, but was fantastic — had cracked the case and saved all the children. (Yes, no children actually died, and I appreciated that writing decision greatly.) Palmer and Breena ended up going to the interview and things seemed to go well. (It could soon be baby time!)  And Tony and McGee went out for a holiday drink while Bishop headed off to Oklahoma to spend time with her family and husband. And Gibbs? He stayed in the office, of course — but he wasn’t entirely alone. He had some coffee cake, a gift from Bishop, who after learning earlier in the episode that Gibbs like cinnamon, decided it would be an appropriate gesture. And I think Gibbs agreed.

Best quote: 
Gibbs: I don’t like ginger.
Tony: Not in your cookies, anyway.
(There wasn’t a lot of Tony in this episode, but this had me howling.)

GREAT MOMENTS:
+ Tony’s face when Abby told him McGee “gave her the finger” when she walked in. (She meant the “one minute” finger not the bad one.) I can’t decide if Tony’s reaction was more shock or more “I’m going to kick his a– for doing that.”
+ Bishop’s reaction to Abby’s “lab-baked cookies”
+ When Bishop comforted the family of the sick girl by explaining that many terrible diseases were at one time untreatable…until one day they were. I loved how she gave them hope in her own unique way.

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