Tuesday, January 05, 2016




Kim Stempel
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
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Well, NCIS fans, you are in for a crossover treat! When we last left the team, Bishop kicked Jake to the curb, not only because of his affair but because they were not working as a couple. Ducky was reunited with his much younger brother, who suffers from dementia, at a long-term care facility. Ducky had been told that his brother died many years earlier.

In the NCIS winter premiere, "Sister City: Part One," passengers on a private plane flying from New Orleans to Washington, DC, are poisoned, and Abby's brother Luca (Tyler Ritter) is a suspect. The story concludes on NCIS: New Orleans. I am also going to ignore the breaking news that Michael Weatherly and his very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo are exiting NCIS at the end of this season.

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Plane Down
The episode kicks off with a private plane heading to Washington, DC, with no radio communication. Some fighter jets are sent to scope out the situation. Meanwhile, McGee is out to get all the dirt on Tony and Zoe's break-up over New Year's. In MTAC, Gibbs and the team are briefed on how there are no signs of life on the plane. The plane was chartered by Blye Industries, a military tech company. Right now, the plane is over Virginia countryside, but when it runs out of fuel, it will be over Boston, New York and Philadelphia. There is only 10 minutes left to take it down over an unpopulated area. Yikes!

Abby and McGee try to hack into the plane's computer system to crash it but aren't having any luck. They eventually decide to hack a satellite to change the GPS of the plane so that it will change its flight path.

The mood in MTAC is tense as Special Agent Dwayne Pride joins the video chat. Just before the order to shoot down the plane is given, the plane changes altitude and crashes itself. Another amazing feat of computer wizardry by McGee and Abby. The celebration is short-lived when Pride calls Gibbs on his cell. They have located the flight manifest, and Abby's brother was on the plane. A horrified Gibbs tries to absorb the news as the plane crashes.

A Missing Brother

Gibbs tries to calm Abby down as she frantically tries to call her brother. Luca is an in-demand chef who was recently hired by Jenner Blye. Luca is afraid to fly and never leaves New Orleans, so Abby is doing mental cartwheels trying to wrap her head around the fact that she may have just taken down a plane that her brother was on. That is a horrible thought and gives me the chills just thinking about it. Abby remains convinced that she would know if her brother was dead. Gibbs, with his sharp new haircut, tries to convince Abby to visit the site of the plane crash.

Bishop, Tony and McGee go to the crash site. NTSB says that the plane stayed pretty straight on impact, so if anyone had been alive on the plane, they could have survived the crash. The manifest lists five names: the pilot, co-pilot, a Blye Industries Senior Vice President, Commander Lively and Luca Sciuto. When Gibbs arrives, the team begins the grim task of examining the plane. The team notices that none of the oxygen masks deployed. Could the victims have been incapacitated before that could happen? The bodies don't show the typical signs of hypoxia. The fifth body is too badly damaged to identify, but it's wearing a chef's coat that is embroidered "Chef Luca." Things don't look good for Abby's brother.

A Terrible Task

Ducky and Palmer are waiting in autopsy for Abby to identify her brother. Abby arrives wearing a black floral dress and carrying a folder with her brother's dental records, birth marks and measurements. It is simply heartbreaking to see Abby so devastated. She takes a quick peek at the body before declaring that it isn't her brother. Both Abby and her brother have unattached earlobes, and the body's earlobes are attached.

In New Orleans, Special Agents Christopher LaSalle and Sonja Percy are examining Luca's home. It is filled with cooking gear, cookbooks and pictures with Abby. Tony weighs in by phone. Sonja, who transferred from ATF, knows that Tony's name is familiar, and he asks if she worked with Zoe Keates. Of course, Sonja was at training with Zoe, and she is surprised to learn that the duo has called it quits.

Possible Motives

LaSalle finds a bag hidden behind a fake wall in the closet. Luca was concealing two guns, a high-tech bug and about $10,000. I am sure that there is a perfectly rational explanation, right?

Back at headquarters, McGee learns that Commander Lively was flying in to meet with the Secretary of Defense, but the reason is a mystery. The meeting wasn't set up until late last night, and this makes the team suspicious. Vance only knows that the matter was one of national security. The Secretary of Defense has been trying to speak to the head of Blye Industries about why Commander Lively was on the plane, but Mr. Blye is not returning his calls.

Abby arrives and tells Gibbs that Luca texted her saying that he is in trouble. Abby is unable to trace it, but his one word code, "conniption," leads Abby to believe that he is in Redbird Bolt, North Carolina, at the Colossal Fun Amusement Park. Gibbs sends Tony and Abby to find Luca.

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Cause of Death

This leaves McGee trying to cope in Abby's lab. While McGee is convinced that the computer only obeys Abby, Gibbs points out that the plug is loose. Hilarious!

The NOLA team examined the items from Luca's apartment. They found a second bug in Luca's knife case. The biggest finding is that the passengers were all poisoned, but how and the type of poison is still unclear. I am guessing that will not be rave reviews for a chef.

McGee finally narrows down the poison to be batrachotoxin, which is secreted by a South American poison dart frog, and it is very dangerous stuff indeed. It was on the utensils but not in the food. The NOLA teams sends over security footage from the night before the flight, which shows the last person seen with the utensils: Luca.

Vacation from Hell

Rather than fond memories, the park is the scene of terrifying memories of vomit and fright so unspeakable that the siblings swore to never mention it. Tony is less than thrilled that he and Abby actually have to ride the Conniption roller coaster as it overlooks the whole park. After having no luck finding him, Abby spots a headless hippo stuffed animal and knows that Luca is hiding in the haunted house. So Tony and Abby hit the haunted house at night. Abby locates him, and he is freaked-out. He said that he woke up in a motel with no memory of how he got there and saw on the news that the plane he was supposed to be on had crashed. No sooner are the introductions completed than Tony has to arrest Abby's brother. That is going to be one awkward ride home to DC.

A Missing Billionaire

Bishop and Gibbs pay a visit to Blye Industries and meet with Dalton Greenbrick, the CFO of Blye Industries, and Blake Huxley, who is the head of security. When Greenbrick tries to give Gibbs the runaround about Blye being on an overseas call, Huxley blurts out that Blye is missing. Blye was meeting with Commander Gil Lively in New Orleans, but no one knows why. Am I sensing a theme here? Blye's car is eventually located in a river.

Tell the Truth

A furious Abby begs Gibbs not to hurt her brother. She explains that her brother is sensitive and fragile, while Gibbs is tough and strong. Luca lawyers up in five seconds. Gibbs has just one thing to say to Abby: she needs to break her brother, or Gibbs will have to. Abby takes her seat across from her brother and informs him that he is suspected of poisoning the people on the plane. Luca is stunned to learn that she doesn't mean food poisoning. Luca took the job on the flight so that he could surprise his sister. He claims that he was drugged and woke up alone in a motel. Abby knows he is hiding something, and they communicate with sign language. Gibbs also knows how to sign, much to Luca's surprise.

It seems that Luca is protecting a lady friend, Eva, who he met in a prayer group at church. Eva is leaving an abusive husband, and Luca worries that she is in danger. He also states that they know nothing about the guns, money or listening device found in his apartment. It seems that Eva changes her cell phone frequently and is camera shy, so Luca has no photos of her. Red flag alert, Luca! Of course, if you are involved in in corporate espionage, bugging the chef's equipment is a creative idea.

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One Tough Cookie

In New Orleans, Special Agent Merri Brody and Sonja dust Luca's apartment for fingerprints. They find no trace of the mystery woman, except for an artist's sketch of Luca with his new friend. Abby is able to use it to run facial recognition software. It doesn't take long to get a hit, and the mystery woman is in several databases. Her name is Eva Azarova, and she works for Russian diplomatic counselor Anton Pavlenko. Luca doesn't believe that Eva is a sleeper agent, and he is relieved when she calls him. It turns out that she wants to talk to Gibbs. Poor, poor Luca.

Eva asks Gibbs not to contact Pavlenko using official channels. That Pavlenko is certainly a slippery sort, so Gibbs isn't surprised by her request. Abby is able to trace the call to a certain block, and Luca recalls a Russian restaurant located in the vicinity.

Gibbs and Tony hit the restaurant with guns drawn and see Pavlenko lurking at a table. Pavlenko tells Gibbs that he is endangering his own life to help NCIS. One of Pavlenko's agents took Luca's place on the plane and was going to take Pavlenko's place during the meeting with the Secretary of Defense. Pavlenko denies that he had anything to do with the murders, and he takes credit for arranging the meeting in New Orleans. He states that Russia had plans to steal technology developed by Blye Industries for the United States military. Pavlenko spent two days in New Orleans to confirm his suspicions.

Pavlenko asks Gibbs if he knows anything about Project Manta Ray and claims that he is trying to stop a war. He needs Gibbs' help, of course. A moment later, after taking a drink, Pavlenko is dead.

Decoy Time

Abby and Luca grab a bite at the diner. Luca tells his older sister that he is heading home to New Orleans in the morning. Palmer and Ducky drive an NCIS van to New Orleans with Pavlenko's body. They are forced to pull over by a group of men with guns who let them go when they discover that they were just decoys. Bishop actually transported the body in a car.
Dr. Loretta Wade in New Orleans is a bit concerned about how the body arrives.

The Russians also want Pavlenko's body back, but Pride and Gibbs hope that his body might have the answers they are looking for. Manta Ray was a Department of Defense project that created warships that are undetectable by radar. The project was put aside as too costly, but it appears that the Russian government is keen on the idea. One operative in particular, Eva Azarova, may have killed the passengers on the plane when they learned what she was doing for the Russian government.

Pride goes to see Luca at a bar. Eva is in the ladies room as Luca tries to cover for her. Eva isn't in the mood for questions and pulls a gun on Pride as Merri and Sonja circle the edge of the restaurant. Luca creates a distraction and Eva flees into the crowded New Orleans streets. Pride tries to talk some sense into Luca. Luca is in denial about Eva being a spy, and he won't help Pride bring her in. Pride decides to keep Luca at the office to keep him safe and out of trouble.

The Tooth of the Matter

In autopsy, Dr. Wade conducts the autopsy on Pavlenko while Ducky participates via video conference. Pavlenko was killed by the same neurotoxin as the people on the plane. The Russian counselor also has mosquito bites on his legs, and she sends the tissue to forensic scientist Sebastian Lund in the hopes that they can trace where Pavlenko was in New Orleans. They also uncover a listening device and transmitter inside Pavlenko's tooth. The signal is traced to an upscale social club. Paulina Kurteva, who now works for the embassy, is there. She worked a case with Pride, and they have some sizzling chemistry. Kurteva denies being in New Orleans to retrieve Pavlenko's body. The NOLA team put something on Pride's phone that allowed him to gain access to one of the Russian's phones.

The mosquitoes can be traced to a protected turtle habitat about a hundred miles outside of New Orleans. Bishop gets satellite images of a building set up by Blye Industries to monitor the ecosystem. Jenner Blye is in the house, and he is planning to stay put. He knows his life is in danger, so he takes a sip from his water bottle. That's right -- it is poisoned. He survives but may have some permanent paralysis. Blye agrees to answer their questions.

The Department of Defense gave Manta Ray the green light to build a non-weaponized version, which was used for oil exploration. Backstrum Drull, which is a shell corporation in Moscow created solely to buy foreign technology, may have possession of the ship. The one common link to all the victims is Eva Azarova. Luca was cooking the night that Pavlenko, Commander Lively and Blye met at Blye's house. Luca is the last remaining loose end. That is not good for Luca.

Finding Eva

Bishop and Brody tail Kurteva, who is in hot pursuit of Eva. They enter Eva's apartment when they hear gunshots and find Kurteva's men dead and Kurteva hiding in a closet. Kurteva tells Pride that Eva has refused to come in, and Pride suggests they work together. Luca escapes while Pride is interrogating Kurteva. Abby is seriously angry and concerned for her brother's safety. Pride tells Kurteva that she can give them the frequency of Eva's tooth implant and that Kurteva can leave unscathed.

Luca reunites with Eva at a museum, and Pride crashes the party. Eva admits to being a murderer just before Huxley begins shooting. Eva runs up to the balcony after him. Eva and Huxley struggle, and Pride shoots Huxley. Eva admits that Huxley was trying to kill Luca because he was the last person connected to the secret dinner in New Orleans. Pavlenko knew that the Russian government had stolen the Manta Ray designs, and Eva was working to confirm it. She even admits that she used Luca as bait to lure Huxley there so she could kill the security officer. Eva is given a moment to say goodbye to Luca and they kiss tenderly as Eva urges Luca to call Abby.

Jenner Blye is boarding a plane to Venezuela, and LaSalle accuses him of selling the Russian government's Manta Ray and ordering Huxley to commit the murders. He is arrested for treason. Kurteva tries to take custody of Eva, but Pride sends Eva to meet with Gibbs.

I liked this episode of NCIS, but it was really long and complicated. I might have liked it a bit more if they didn't strain to show every character from NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans.



NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.


(Image courtesy of CBS)



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