NCIS Episodes

2003, TV Show

NCIS Episode: "Enemies Domestic"

Season 8, Episode 9
Episode Synopsis: Conclusion. After they are attacked, the team searches for answers, and one agent has a flashback of the first NCIS mission.
Original Air Date: Nov 23, 2010
Guest Cast Catherine Dent: Whitney Sharp Michael Nouri: Eli David Stan Ivar: Ben Robinson Michael O'Neill: Riley McCallister Arnold Vosloo: Amit Hadar
Full Episode
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Season 8, Episode 9
Paid | iTunes
Length: 12:09:03
Aired: 11/23/2010
Also available on Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
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NCIS Episode Recap: "Enemies Domestic" Season 8, Episode 9

If they gave separate Nielsen ratings just for hardcore fans rewatching a show in the days after an initial airing, "Enemies Domestic" would probably be the top-rated NCIS episode of the season. This is why DVRs were invented, even for homebodies.

Writer Jesse Stern packed about three hours of plotting into 44 minutes. And while you might have found yourself wishing that this second half of a two-parter had been allowed to play out as at least a two-parter itself, you also had to marvel — and maybe even laugh — at just how many tasks were being accomplished in how short a time. In some ways, the real enemy was neither foreign nor domestic, but the clock itself. How could they wrap up last week's mystery plotline, wrap up Vance threads dating back three seasons, wrap up Ziva's relationship with her father from a season and a half ago, introduce the novelty of an "origins" episode, AND still give every series regular at least one satisfying chuckle?

In a hurry, that's how. But we come to praise NCIS' rapid-fire pace, not to bury it. As much as you might want significant moments to linger longer, you wouldn't want to trade in the adrenaline rush that was "Enemies Domestic" for the sake of a little breathing room. What more could you ask for than a roller coaster with nuance?

While we're asking rhetorical questions: How happy must the makeup artists be that less attentive fans have been tweeting statements like "Where'd they find the guy who played the young Rocky Carroll?" As most diehard fans know, that was the Rock himself, with a 19-year rolling back of the calendar accomplished mostly through the old facelift trick of pulling the skin back, plus a wig. Plus Carroll's considerable skill in erasing the constant wariness that has been Director Vance's main character tick on the show to date. His friendlier guardedness, as he's pulled right out of college to do some international espionage in Amsterdam, helped accomplish a complete and thorough magic trick.

All that attention wasn't just lavished on Carroll. Same with guest star Catherine Dent, as the vaguely flirty special agent who recruited Vance on campus in '91 and was the episode's red-herring non-villain in '10. We were first introduced to her last week, in her older-middle-aged guise, and if you didn't know her from The Shield or her other series, you'd be completely clueless whether the older her or younger her was the real her here. (I speak from experience.)

Actual villain Michael O'Neill went through less of an obvious transformation in his '91/'99/now guises, hairline aside. But as the semi-surprise fourth shape-shifter, we had, in the closing minutes, Mark Harmon, flashing back 11 years (and not played by his son this time). As some have pointed out, Gibbs' hair was less gray when NCIS started than it was in this flashback, and we don't imagine Harmon spending a day having his skin unnaturally stretched back just for one scene, so there probably wasn't much makeup involved in this particular transformation. He did look younger, though, so we'd love to know if digital retouching was involved. Once again, though, Harmon did a masterful — and comic — shift just in his bearing. He's so openly pugnacious, and boyish, upon meeting Vance for the first time in the coffee break room that I had to rewind just to make sure he didn't play the scene in short sleeves. He didn't, but the lack of a jacket and a youthfully quicker-to-simmer manner made for an amusing world of difference.

If longtime fans walk away with a favorite moment from this episode, it might be the inconsequential-to-novices smashing of the danish in that final flashback. It was in seasons 5 (in "Internal Affairs") where Vance paid Gibbs back for the ruined food (which, of course, our favorite chowhound-in-chief consumed anyway). More significantly, we also found out, this many seasons later, what it was that Vance mysteriously fed into the shredder: a false document that the Michael O'Neill character, his then-superior, had placed in his file in '99. You've got to love that NCIS trusts its audience not to hit them over the head with a "See? See? That's what that that was all about in 2007" poke in the rib.

Or, maybe they just ran out of time for it.

Thankfully, they did have time for a few humorous asides, although the biggest tonal difference between this and last week's "Enemies Foreign" prequel was that Part 2 didn't have nearly as much of the trademark Jesse Stern screwball dialogue. And by "not nearly as much," we of course mean still a lot. Michael Weatherly's reading of "What's the news, Hebrews?" will surely go down in the NCIS casual one-liner hall of fame. Cote de Pablo's reminder to Ziva II that "we're not looking for the afikomen" also surely went down well with the Hebrews in the viewing audience. Abby scored with "McGyver" as a McGee nickname, which she'd been "keeping in my back pocket." Asked by McGee if he had any similar gags kept away for a rainy day, DiNozzo said. That's not how my mind works. It's like scat in there." McGee: "Ah yes, animal dung — I always figured." Ka-ching! McGee also got a more deliberate dig in at Tony, saying, "You don't have to 'Gibbs up' the clicker there."

(By the way, sometimes it pays to watch with the subtitles on. It was obscured by music on the broadcast, but in the alleyway scene with Tony and Ziva and the Israelis, Tony was read — but not heard — saying on the phone, "I'm sure McGee has his hands full. He has little tiny hands." This reminded us of the Robert Wagner episode two weeks ago, in which, in the subtitles, Tony was written as describing McGee's chewing on a stakeout as "orgasmic," though that word had been snipped out of the audio.)

Although not exactly a joke, young Vance's affirmation that "I got to be me" provided that character's attitude/mission statement in five simple words. And in even fewer words, guest O'Neill got a knowing laugh just by saying "Shut up!" to a mouthy team member. He also scored with his memorable instructions to young Vance in Amsterdam: "Visit the Heinekin brewery. Go see Anne Franks' house. Not in that order." And Harmon, bless him, got a big laugh out of the not-that-hilarious-on-the-page "Hey, that's my Danish! What is your problem, man?"

Yet, though it may not seem like it from the recounting, these moments of levity had minority status, as the Spy Vs. Spy plotting sucked up most of the air in the room — and in a satisfying, welcome way. A second viewing of the episode turns up lots of memorably serious moments. One was the bit in the opening scene where Vance flashes back to a man laughing triumphantly over the success of a homemade bomb — a man who turns out to be young Eli (Michael Nouri), later seen (in 1991) saying "I need a target" to take his aggression out on after being abandoned by his wife and kids. The contrast between that momentarily reinvigorated Eli and the one we saw in the final scene was poignant, with de Pablo doing a particularly wonderful piece of wordless acting, looking at her victorious-in-career, defeated-in-life father with a heartbreaking look that suggested she was studying her estranged dad for clues and pitying him at the same time.

But the hour was filled with marvelous bits of acting — often 20-second bits of acting, given the pace — brought to life by executive producer Mark Horowitz, acting as director on an episode for only the second time. "Enemies Domestic" is worth a second viewing just to catch the moment of satisfaction that crosses Harmon's face when he tricks the Palestinian in interrogation into revealing with his face that he had nothing to do with bombing Eli and Vance... which turns to worry outside the room, when he remembers that this means they're in deeper doo-doo than before. And Michael O'Neill's entire performance was a marvel of misdirection: He seemed so in the tradition of lovable cranks like Mike Franks that you hoped against hope he'd be a recurring character, not the careerist archvillain who is hissing "For once, can't you just die right?" as he attempts to murder Vance with Sister Morphine.

Yeah, we liked this one.

You could almost lose count of the loose ends tied up with this episode — even ends we didn't know were loose, like Gibbs' practically forgotten shooting of a Russian agent while on assignment with Jenny Shepherd in Paris in '99, a Russkie whose death allowed Gibbs to rule out a primary bombing suspect this time.

Meanwhile, thanks to Stern for adding one new loose end amid the ones being gathered. Ducky (David McCallum), we gather, had a fling with former Special Agent Whitney Sharp, the intimation of which was obvious enough that Tony suggested they should have "left a sock on the (knobless autopsy lab) door." "I think I know exactly the kind of man you are," Ms. Sharp told Ducky, alluding to an ancient romantic triangle, and leaving hopes open that she might recur, even if — unlike all the other actors whose time-travel ended with this episode — Catherine Dent is the one who'll have to resubmit to the heavy makeup chair. We're ready to see Ducky doing some heavy necking, even if it is with a woman wearing nearly as many prosthetics as one of his corpses.

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If they gave separate Nielsen ratings just for hardcore fans rewatching a show in the days after an initial airing, "Enemies Domestic" would probably be the top-rated NCIS episode of the season. This is why DVRs were invented, even for homebodies.

Writer Jesse Stern packed about three hours of plotting into 44 minutes. And while you might have found yourself wishing that this second half of a two-parter had been allowed to play out as at least a two-parter itself, you also had to marvel — and maybe even laugh — at just how many tasks were being accomplished in how short a time. In some ways, the real enemy was neither foreign nor domestic, but the clock itself. How could they wrap up last week's mystery plotline, wrap up Vance threads dating back three seasons, wrap up Ziva's relationship with her father from a season and a half ago, introduce the novelty of an "origins" episode, AND still give every series regular at least one satisfying chuckle? read more

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Premiered: September 23, 2003, on CBS
Rating: TV-14
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Premise: A successful "JAG" spin-off about criminal cases involving Navy and Marine personnel, handled by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. For the second season, the series title was shortened from "Navy NCIS" to "NCIS."

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