NCIS could very well have been one of those shows that could have incessantly teased an underlying daddy story for six years, only to deliver an unsatisfactory end product. Donald P. Bellisario is much too good for that route, preferring to introduce the Gibbs family story when he was damn good and ready. Trust me when I say it was well worth the wait.
Spoilers are like small-town politics… just enjoy from afar.
Three military punks get thrown out the back of a bar. One goes back in for his misplaced ID, but the other two get beaten senseless by a couple of thugs. The next morning Ziva, McGee and DiNozzo are on the case when Ducky arrives in full penguin getup from the opera. Blunt force trauma is the name of the game for the dead soldier while the other, a Corporal Ethan LaCombe, is rushed to the hospital. Gibbs interviews the last man standing, a Marine who confesses to not really know anything about the Corporal because he’s hiding something.
Abby’s cleaning her station when DiNozzo and McGee arrive with evidence. Most of it is mundane, except for when a class ring is presented; DiNozzo notices the Stillwater inscription… the very same Pennsylvania hometown of Gibbs! McGee and Abby’s curiosity meters are now on overload.
Ducky tells Gibbs that LaCombe the Corporal is alive, but in a coma. As for the dead guy, it was blunt force trauma that indeed killed him, but only because the strike zone was a previously injured rib, which then hit a ventricle and led to his bleeding to death. Ducky hypothesizes that LaCombe was the actual target of the attack since he got the worst beating of all.
DiNozzo is absolutely losing his mind that Gibbs has an actual, factual past when he shows up for a status report. The only directly surviving relative of LaCombe lives in the very same Stillwater, and when Gibbs makes a move for the door, the little children eagerly follow… except Gibbs has DiNozzo stay behind to do more legwork, much to the delight of Ziva and McGee. In the elevator, Gibbs reveals that he hasn’t been back since the good ol’ bicentennial of 1976, which leads to a brief, but somewhat violent flashback.
As the gang arrives in town, the sheriff pulls up, hassling Gibbs for being quite the wayward youth. If I had to deal with that guy, I’d probably join the service as well. McGee and Ziva are just beside themselves, not knowing what’s next. They arrive at the aunt’s house, only to find that she believed the good Corporal died four years earlier. She rushes to the hospital, but tells them that Ethan had a wild mother and an unknown father.
Ziva’s trying to call DiNozzo but isn’t getting any cell service, and won’t if the older gentlemen walking up behind her is to be believed. Quite the charmer, he has Ziva bend down to pick up a dropped $20 bill, only to have her back story told to her. Gibbs and McGee walk up to discover this isn’t any ordinary senior citizen… it’s Jackson Gibbs!
In his store, Jackson spins tales of yore to the gang. The younger Gibbs arrives to find Jackson actually shared a beer with the Corporal. Seems Ethan had a fling with Emily, the mine owner’s daughter, before he ran off for the service. Leroy runs off… and into a flashback where’s he’s storming out of the same store over 30 years earlier. Young Leroy stomps down the street, slowing in front of a store with a girl taking care of a window display. Back in the here and now, Jackson offers to help Leroy approach mine owner Chuck Winslow the right way with a little bourbon. McGee and Ziva stay behind to watch the store, leaving Leroy in his own personal hell.
Abby’s analyzing blood from LaCombe when McGee and Ziva videoconference in to share the wonderful daddy news. They also find an online video featuring Ethan in footage from his Iraq tour.
The family Gibbs shows up at the Winslow house. Chuck is actually happy to see Leroy. They sit, and Leroy shares the news that Ethan isn’t quite dead yet, which startles Emily. Chuck gets all “My Emily fell into the wrong crowd, but she came to her senses” on Leroy, which makes everyone uncomfortable. When pressed for info about the class ring, the mood becomes even more chilling. Leroy takes the silence as all the evidence he needs and beats a hasty retreat. McGee introduces the Iraq video to Leroy, also telling him that someone from inside the Winslow home viewed said video.
The next day at the store, the father/son duo share a quiet moment. Ziva and McGee arrive to tell them that LaCombe has no memory of the attack. Jackson busts Leroy for making it personal instead of finding more evidence, which leads to dumpster diving for the rest of the gang and a chance encounter with Nick, Emily’s man after Ethan.
Back at the store, Jackson wonders why Leroy hasn’t been in touch since the funeral of his wife and kid. As it turns out, Leroy is still sore that Jackson brought his lady friend to the funeral and getting on with his life. Chuck and Ed the Sheriff arrive, miffed that the gang’s been sniffing around the mine for evidence. Chuck proposes a death match to settle the score, but Leroy knows what happens with that scenario… a flashback sees Leroy getting his ass handed to him by both Chuck and Ed, with only Jackson’s intervention (and his Winchester) stopping the carnage.
McGee and Ziva are now going through the Winslow trash when she senses Emily is watching them. Seems it was Emily who watched the video, not wanting to believe Ethan was dead. McGee goes back to the store and Leroy with all this info, only to find him in a sweeping frenzy. He dishes all he knows, but is interrupted by their car exploding outside the store. After all are accounted for, Jackson’s ready to throw down and get dirty.
DiNozzo and Abby arrive later that day. He walks in to give the court order to Leroy but can’t take his eyes off Daddy Gibbs. Jackson joins the fight by taking the Winchester down off the wall. I like Jackson’s style and it’s not hard to see where Leroy gets his charming personality. They go to find a restored Dodge Charger waiting for the duo to take off. This produces quite the goofy grin from Leroy.
At the mine, Nick emerges to find the gang demanding his blood and that of the others. Chuck is at home when Leroy arrives with the court order. Jackson stands guard outside when Ed the sheriff pulls up. It’s like the Duke boys going after Boss Hogg, except I don’t like their Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.
Later, everyone convenes at the store. Time cards from the mine show two of Nick’s friends were working on the day in question, but both cards were signed by Nick. Abby narrows down the blood results with Jackson keeping a keen eye on her. The blood is a match to a relative of LaCombe.
Leroy and the gang go to deliver the results to the family Winslow. The two boys from the mine are your suspects in the beatings. Nick is indeed the baby daddy of Emily’s kid, but Ethan, to this writer’s surprise, is actually Chuck’s kid! Chuck didn’t like the thought of Emily and Ethan together (who would?!), but he didn’t have it in for Ethan… Nick did. Seems he never truly believed the kid was his, and it was his trust issues that ultimately did him in.
Our favorite investigators are getting ready to leave. Abby hugs Jackson, much to his delight. DiNozzo has so many questions for him, but leaves with a sweet sweater as a consolation prize. Leroy gets the Charger. He leaves town with a better appreciation from where he came… as he flashes back once more when he was preparing to leave town at the train station. That just happens to be where he met his wife Shannon and the basis for his rules for life.
Maybe we’ll see a somewhat more relaxed Gibbs from here on out?
Next time on NCIS, it’s one murder and two agencies on the case… who will survive the FBI/NCIS showdown?
How cool do you think it is that John Walton Sr. of all people is Gibbs’ father? Will DiNozzo ever get the opportunity to ask Jackson more about Leroy’s youth? Can we expect more guest appearances from both Jackson and Leroy’s new Dodge Charger?