NCIS Commentary: The Impact Of “Reasonable Doubts”

NCIS photo s13e18 RECAP Reasonable Doubts copy

Sometimes, when writing a “sneak peek,” there truly is not enough information in the 2-line press release or short preview clips to predict ahead of time how powerful an episode will be.

Such was the case on last night’s NCIS episode, “Reasonable Doubts.”

Built around a case in which a wife and mistress (played by Jama Williamson and Alicia Lagano, respectively) each accused the other of shooting Angelina’s husband, the “reasonable doubt” referenced in the episode title was key in the investigation.

To prevent a spoiler, I will stop there as far as the investigation as I urge you to watch this powerful episode on demand if you missed it.

While murder is on the menu, it is the incredible acting, writing and production that make this episode one that you surely should not miss.

Robert Wagner as Anthony DiNozzo, Sr., proves that things other than wine improve with age.

Confronted by of a homeless woman (guest star Melora Walters), Senior finds something so touching in her that, even after Tony Jr. (the incredible Michael Weatherly) gives her money, the elder DiNozzo turns for one last look as they leave the waif on the sidewalk.

Suffering from dementia and malnutrition, the homeless veteran, Susan, believes that Senior is her father, and the paternal instinct in Mr. D wants to do something to help the suffering woman who pleads, “Dad, don’t leave me.”

Gibbs (Mark Harmon), aware of Senior’s frequent failure to have been there for his son, urges Tony Sr. to find Susan and extend assistance to the woman.

One thing of which Gibbs is painfully aware…you cannot fix the losses of the past, but you can do your best to lessen the hole in your heart if you fill it with help and hope for others in the present.

Harmon shared his soul and his failure through his eyes, policing his performance to pull the audience through his past disappointments as a husband and father and to reaffirm his steely resolve to always “do better” for others, today and in the future. 

Harmon’s ability to use the camera to convey so much with minimal fanfare is extremely difficult, yet he makes it look effortless.  Why this man does not have a mantle full of Emmys astounds me.

Also Emmy-worthy were a beautifully crafted script by George Schenck and Frank Cardea, and the touching direction by Thomas J. Wright and the contributions of the many talented folks on the crew.

Gold statues also should be awarded to Wagner and Weatherly for gleaning every ounce out of the phenomenal script.

The excruciating pain of a parent who feels as though he or she failed a child showed on Wagner’s face as Senior bared his guilt to his son.  The self-reproach and shame over his failures as a father were met with quiet acceptance, love and forgiveness in a beautifully understated performance by Weatherly.

As father and son continue to repair their fractured relationship, their concern and their love are extended to this homeless vet who has wandered into their lives.  Finding her medical help through the Veterans Administration, the pair extended itself to someone who had given so much for her country, yet had no one to turn to in her time of need.

Dying and delusional, Walters makes her character cry out in quiet desperation while Wagner musters every ounce of experience from his 6-decade career to show the audience that it is never too late to soften past errors by extending a hand to someone.

Writers Schenck and Cardea highlighted a problem that occurs daily throughout the country, yet remains nowhere near a resolution.  The plight of the mentally ill, the disenfranchised and the forgotten veterans should be in the forefront of our efforts rather than the issue that can be dismissed as the powerless have no recourse.  

Sometimes, something as simple as the scene where Wagner’s character buys a pair of shoes for a man in a shelter could be an act that would change one person’s life for the better.  

If you missed last night’s episode of NCIS, “Reasonable Doubts,” I urge you to watch it on demand.  There may not be another episode on any series this year that will touch you so deeply. 

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