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TV Review: NCIS – “Leap of Faith”

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“Leap of Faith” first aired Tuesday, October 23, 2007.

An adulterous couple meeting for a noon tryst in a hotel room note a man preparing to commit suicide by jumping from the roof of building near said hotel. The NCIS Team is dispatched to deal with the situation because the man is determined to be a sailor. Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), accompanied by Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), and Special Agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray) go to the roof of the building. Gibbs finds the potential suicide wholly unaccommodating.

Gibbs obtains a photograph of the man using McGee’s iPhone (McGee is afraid of heights) to send NCIS Forensics Specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) for identification against the Naval Academy database. Abby determines the desperate man’s identity to be one Navy Seal Lt. Michael Arnett (Adam Huss). She also notes that he has a gun in the waistband of his pants, of which she notifies the team. Gibbs, meanwhile, scoots his way out on the ledge with Lt. Arnett to talk to him, with Abby and the team feeding Gibbs intel via an earpiece.

Gibbs begins to try and talk Lt. Arnett down using the information fed him. Arnett pulls his gun. Gibbs calmly continues to talk, asking Arnett if he wants to speak with his wife (he doesn’t), finally falling to the question of whether Arnett wants to speak with his 17-year-old sister, Rachel. Gibbs tries to reason with Arnett, asking if he wants Rachel to remember his suicide as part of her senior year in high school. Making headway, Gibbs convinces Arnett to drop his pistol and to come down. Just as Gibbs takes hold of Arnett, the sailor is shot and falls to his death.

Scene post-mortem. McGee determines the shot came from the building directly across from where the sailor was standing and that no evidence was left. Gibbs is visibly moved by the scene of Arnett being zipped into a body bag. NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) arrives at the scene and comforts his old friend in the only way he can, by being all business.

The comic relief subtext to this episode is the team’s discussion that Abby has been seen dining with a headhunter and is considering another job. DiNozzo has received this as third-hand information and has ignited a gossip wildfire among the staff.

Meanwhile, the team delves into Lt. Arnett’s work and family life. Arnett revealed to Gibbs on the rooftop that his marriage was failing. The team reveals him to be a second-generation Syrian who is working for the Pentagon in an anti-terrorist capacity. NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (Lauren Holly), Gibbs, and McGee go to the director’s office for a sit-down with Navy Capt. Roger Walsh (Titus Welliver). Walsh informs Gibbs that unless Gibbs can tell him that Arnett’s death was unrelated to his service in the navy that his anti-terrorist unit will have to go on total lockdown. Gibbs informs the Captain that the investigation is just beginning and not to hold his breath.

The captain further revealed that Arnett was an Arab-speaking linguist who had been instrumental in capturing several Al-Qaeda operatives and was currently working on one who happened to be located locally in the DC area. The captain takes a parting shot as Gibbs and McGee make their way to the Pentagon to meet with Capt. Walsh and to search Arnett’s desk, where they find a picture of his estranged wife and a prescription bottle of phenelzine which McGee remarks is a strong antidepressant.

[Technical interlude. Phenelzine is an antidepressant drug belonging to the class of monoamine oxidase inhibitors, a largely outdated class of such drugs since the introduction of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as the prototype fluoxetine (Prozac®, Lilly). It is highly unlikely that this drug would have been prescribed for Lt. Arnett because of the availability of better and safer alternatives. However, considering dramatic license, it is a good choice as it has a high capacity for drug-drug interactions when combined with other medications, as will be revealed later in the episode.]

All of which leads Gibbs and McGee to uncover that fact that Arnett was seeing a non-military shrink, Dr. Neil Fleming (Robin Thomas), on his own dime when he could be riding the government’s benefits bandwagon. Gibbs dispatches McGee and DiNozzo to Fleming’s office. Meanwhile, Ziva has Arnett’s wife, Dana Arnett (Alaina Huffman), in a room awaiting interrogation. She is attractive with short, blonde hair and she is questioned by Gibbs and Ziva about her relationship with her husband. She reveals that he had problems opening up (in the extreme) to her and she separated from him hoping that he would seek help. Gibbs notes that Mrs. Arnett did not seem surprised that her estranged husband was suicidal but she was surprised that he was murdered.

McGee and DiNozzo pay a visit to Dr. Fleming. In a second spasm of levity, Tony taunts McGee about having his eyes shut “like a little girl” when on the rooftop. Tony threatens to post his cellular phone video on the Internet and McGee struggles with Tony for the phone. McGee is lying on top of Tony on the waiting room sofa just as the doctor opens his inner office door. Fleming assumes that McGee and Dinozzo are a gay couple in need of counseling. McGee is embarrassed and Tony proceeds to live up to his fraternity boy image, hamming up the mistake and pretending to be McGee's gay lover. McGee introduces him and Dinozzo as NCIS special agents with Tony adding suggestively, "Very special agents." It is good to have DiNozzo back in full form.

The interrogation goes poorly. The shrink provides little information and demands a court order for any more revelations. Back at headquarters, Gibbs catches Abby mocking him and asks her if she is feeling secure about her job. Gibbs demands a report to which Abby provides that the ballistics was a wash but she did have Arnett’s cell phone, sporting a last call from inside the NCIS headquarters. The roux thickens.

The next scene opens in the Director’s office with the director welcoming NCIS intel analyst Nikki Jardine (Susan Kelechi Watson) who questions the Director about Gibbs’ abrupt and demanding manner, to which the Director responds, “Special Agent Gibbs is not known for his people skills."

Agent Jardine starts as Gibbs makes his presence known in the Director’s office, having heard all of the conversation. The Director has agent Jardine work for Gibbs. Jardine reveals that she had been liaising with Arnett because he believed there was a leak in his unit’s intelligence community and they were trying to identify the source. Beautifully, Jardine also reveals a germ phobia to the delight of the team as they witness her disinfection of her phone. Summoning the basest of humor, DiNozzo pretends to sneeze on her, sending her into OC orbit.

Theories regarding the case begin to mount. After discovering that the sailor’s family is wealthy, DiNozzo suspects a Black Widow scenario (1987 film starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell, one of DiNozzo’s many allusions to movies). The wife stands to gain much from her husband’s death. Ziva disagrees. Seeing an advantage of pitting team members against one another with respect to theories, Gibbs allows the team to work more independently when he notes that he hears a lot of talk and theories with no evidence. The director chides Gibbs for breaking his own rule 15 "Always work as a team" but a rather despondent Gibbs says he isn’t enforcing that rule this time. Gibbs holds himself responsible for the sailor’s death. The Director attempts to comfort the recalcitrant Gibbs, telling him that sailor was dead when he walked on that ledge. Gibbs asks if that is what he should tell the sailor's 17-year-old sister.

The team all compete for Abby's input to examine the evidence and therefore support their respective theories. Abby vents her frustration with the team, yelling, “Back off, all of you, okay? I am one person!” Then Abby proceeds to chastise the team for their wanton selfishness. Gibbs enters, and says "Whoa… easy Abs," and she flies off the handle. "No! It's late, I am tired, I am overworked, and I am taken for granted." Gibbs squints at her and launches the torpedo "Maybe you should accept that job offer?" Abby stops typing, approaches Gibbs and bitch slaps Tony con brio, replying "I can't believe you would say that to me Gibbs. How could you think that I would be leaving? Because I got a little mad? So what? We're family: that's allowed. I get three or four job offers every year: I have never considered any of them."

The occasionally gullible DiNozzo, perplexed asked, "Then why did you have dinner with that headhunter?" Abby casually replied, "Have you ever had the Beluga caviar at the Ritz Carlton?" Allowing the rhetorical interrogative to simmer, Abby continues, "Besides, it was nice to feel wanted." Back to normal, Abby requests that they all leave. "I've got work to do". Allowing Abby to do her work has its payoffs.

Abby breaks the case by finding the alleged Dana Arnett in the Interpol database marked as a terrorist. The photograph depicts an attractive woman with long brunette hair dressed in fatigues in a terrorist training camp. It appears that Lt. Arnett’s wife set him up as an intel patsy and murdered him before he could talk. Mixed into this mess of a plot is the fact that Ducky and Abby discover that Lt. Arnett’s contact lenses have been saturated with timolol (Timoptic® Merck & Co., Inc.). The writers are assuming a drug-drug interaction between Arnett's phenelzine, which is at best tenuous. The side effects would have manifested themselves more cardiovascularly than mentally. So this is a bit of a weak point.

The team sets out after the wife who is about to escape from a parking deck, what good luck. Ziva and Gibbs apprehend her but not before she makes Tony dive out of the way of her car, leaving him hanging from the balustrade of the parking deck (talk about poetic justice). DiNozzo yells for McGee, who arrives and hauls him back to safety and Tony says "I love you McGee. I promise never to give you a hard time again… [today]."

Earlier, during the rocky neeting between Gibbs and Jardine, Gibbs asked the special agent to find a telephone number for him. By this time she has done so. Gibbs says to her, "Good work". Gibbs settles at the phone, dials and says, "Hello, Rachel? We haven’t met, but I knew your brother."

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About C. Michael Bailey

I am sanctified and Southern fried, My mama tried and daddy cried; I tell the truth 'cept when I've lied And I like my huevos on the side...