NCIS Episodes

2003, TV Show

NCIS Episode: "Ships in the Night"

Season 8, Episode 11
Episode Synopsis: When a marine is murdered while on a dinner cruise, the team works with the Coast Guard Investigative Service to solve the crime.
Original Air Date: Jan 11, 2011
Guest Cast Roark Critchlow: Wayne Grossman Tiffany Dupont: Kimberly Nolan Kurt Scholler: Steve Mehlman Diane Neal: Abigail Born Tyler Hynes: Devin Lodge Gino Anthony Pesi: Doug Fisher Wes Brown: Lt. Jeremy Nolan
Full Episode
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Season 8, Episode 11
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Length: 20:29:51
Aired: 1/11/2011
Also available on Amazon Instant Video and VUDU
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NCIS Episode Recap: "Ships in the Night" Season 8, Episode 11

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. NCIS got its biggest overall viewership ever with "Ships in the Night," pulling in 22 million viewers with the first new episode in a month and only the second since Thanksgiving. It reached this record high with the kind of average episode that typically shows up as grist for the mid-season. What would they have done last night if they'd had a truly pivotal plot or major guest star?

Not that Diane Neal (of Law & Order: SVU fame) is chopped liver. Did anyone else think it was curious when Gibbs (Mark Harmon) said "See you next year...?" to Neal's Abigail Born character, who was, indeed, making her second annual appearance on the show? It seemed like a nod and a wink to the audience that, yes, we do love our irregularly recurring guest cast. And that, unlike some of the other women of last season, like the polarizing M. Allison Hart and Holly Snow, CGIS agent Born will be universally welcomed back when she returns in (presumably) the winter of '11-12.

Of course, another way of seeing Born as not being as polarizing as the other recent (guest) Women of NCIS is that she's not as interesting. The first time around, in season 7's "Jurisdiction," the writers made hay out of her butting heads with Gibbs, despite being — or because of being — his doppelganger in a dress. This time, thankfully, there was only a token nod to who's-in-charge-here clichés. But there really wasn't much for Neal to do, then, character-wise, except... be helpful. So she's basically like Joe Spano's similarly recurring Fornell character, except with less sexual tension. You get the sense the show could really have some fun with Neal, but they'd likely need to bring her back more than once a year — and with a broader function than merely investigating alongside McGee, DiNozzo, and Ziva — to develop it.

Fans will inevitably break into warring camps over whether Michael Weatherly's stab at being a breakfast-theater entertainer early in the episode was amusing or over the top. This came shortly after the murder of a marine who'd just been flirting with Abigail Born on a dinner cruise, and the entire population of the boat was held on board overnight just to be subjected to Tony's impression of Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot come the dawn. As far as I'm concerned, any loss of realism over how an NCIS agent might actually act in a given situation is a worthy sacrifice for the eternal joke of Tony the self-entertainer's inability to read a room... unless, of course, that room is the interrogation room, where he's known to savvy up, as he did here.

Anyhow, his riffing on Murder on the Orient Express turned out to be somewhat prophetic, as the solution to this one turned out to be the same as the capper to that 1974 movie. Which was: Everybody did it. No, not everyone on the boat, but later, everyone who we thought might be a suspect — the lawyer, the sister, and the brother — turned out to be in cahoots in the killing. This might actually be one of the least plausible whodunit solutions in NCIS history: Two rich and famous siblings who are constantly under the eye of the press and paparazzi both happen to be heartless and careless enough to off their noble brother? To quote the Weekend Update team: Really?

But even the pickiest among us 22 million had plenty of pleasures to get us through this featherweight hour. Like a Fatty Arbuckle reference leading directly into a phoof, which is something you don't get every day. Tony and Ziva beating up celebrity louts and their bodyguards, which we wish we could get every day. The awkwardly comic exchange between Gibbs and Ducky about duck calls. Gibbs not understanding the contemporary meaning of "viral" — which was either a groaner or hilarious; I'm still not sure which. Abby accepting (but not dwelling on) Gibbs' assertion that she, herself, is the official NCIS mascot — which makes sense, given that Pauley Perrette recently revealed in TV Guide's own pages that she bases many of Abby's mannerisms on her dog.

And, oh yes, the reference to there being two No. 1s on the list of Gibbs' rules, neither of which was likely to be supplanted by Born's own attempt at a list-topper. Some fans took that as an acknowledgement of a mistake or sloppiness in the list canon over the years.

But as a reminder, here is how Shane Brennan explained the seeming discrepancy to TV Guide last spring: "Gibbs lives his life by a set of rules that took root from the first day he met Shannon. Over time, Gibbs added to the rules. When he joined NIS, Mike Franks told him he didn't need dozens of different rules to be an agent — just three 'golden rules.' This is why we have double-ups on rules #1 and #3: Three of them are Gibbs' rules, and three of them are Mike Franks' rules. We are still to reveal the double-up on rule #2. And it's up to the fans to guess which of the rules were Mike Franks' three golden rules and which were Gibbs'." So there you have it, rules fetishists.

Did "Ships in the Night" pass without incident for you, or was it a season highlight?

 

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Absence really does make the heart grow fonder. NCIS got its biggest overall viewership ever with "Ships in the Night," pulling in 22 million viewers with the first new episode in a month and only the second since Thanksgiving. It reached this record high with the kind of average episode that typically shows up as grist for the mid-season. What would they have done last night if they'd had a truly pivotal plot or major guest star?

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Premiered: September 23, 2003, on CBS
Rating: TV-14
User Rating: (13,099 ratings)
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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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