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When it comes to exploring the family dynamic, there is no better television series than NCIS. To the casual viewer or diehard fan, there are phrases that need no explanation, even after so many years. “Kate’s death.” “Tony and Senior.” “Gibbs in Stillwater.” “McGee’s letter.” “Abby’s Ex.” “Jackie and Eli.” “Ducky’s mom.” “Palmer on the ledge.” “Ziva and Ari.” “Bishop’s bully.”
Despite the passage of time, those phrases and so many more are defining moments in the lives of the NCIS family. Those few words evoke a flood of feelings that require no further explanation and set NCIS apart from the standard police procedural. While the NCIS “family” is not connected by blood, the bond between characters always has been as enduring and close as any group of people.
That point is profoundly obvious in a scene between Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Director Vance (Rocky Carroll). When Leon’s daughter is arrested for shoplifting, the two widowers share a poignant moment…one man who lost his only daughter and another who fears that he is losing one of his.
Carroll, who directed tonight’s episode, “Family Ties,” hangs on a long shot of the two men in front of a window just long enough to let the impact of loneliness inside each man travel the distance across the room to the camera lens and bullseye into the viewer’s heart. In a media landscape cluttered with wind-up wannabes and big-budget extravaganzas, the moment reminds us that there just is no substitute for talent.
Not that big budgets are a bad thing, as Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) explains to Bishop (Emily Wickersham). Almost drooling as he approaches a Maserati (and who wouldn’t), Nick can picture himself cruising the boulevard and checking his look in the mirror.
If Torres yearns for the good life, he can check with tonight’s guest star, Gabrielle Carteris. With almost 150 episodes as Andrea Zuckerman on BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 under her belt, no doubt she has a map of Rodeo Drive permanently etched in her memory.
Carteris plays Julie Bell, who along with husband, Christopher (guest star Jamie Kaler (DADS IN PARKS, MY BOYS) flee NCIS jurisdiction with their daughter who witnessed a hit-and-run.
Carteris and Kaler, both with lengthy resumes including outstanding voiceover work, have the chops to bring the appropriate amount of gravitas to an episode exploring families (blood and otherwise) in transition.
And check out Carroll’s defining shot of two men, together in loneliness, facing the world outside the window and its challenges.
Tonight’s NCIS episode, “Family Ties,” was written by Brendan Fehily and guest stars April Brinson, Naomi Grace, Yvette Monreal, Anjali Bhimani, Geoffrey Rivas, Diandra Lyle, Travis Johns, Timothy Davis-Reed, Lizzie Broadway, James Austin Kerr, Valeria Maldonado and Ken Luckey.
NCIS airs tonight (January 23) at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on CBS in the U.S. and on Global TV in Canada.