“Designated Target” first aired Tuesday, November 13, 2007.
Following the splendid “Requiem”, an equally fine “Designated Target” shows a promise of the show gaining purchase with the dramatic traction of the new writing blood infused into the series.
Navy Rear Adm. Kenneth Kirkland’s (Matt Riedy) official government car has broken down, forcing the admiral to take a cab to a high level armed services meeting to which he is bringing eyes only intelligence. The cab driver, Atif Nukudna (Demetrius Grosse), turns through a park as a short-cut when a motorcycle with two riders pulls alongside the cab, the rider shooting the driver and then the admiral. The cab crashes and the motorcycle circles around to return to the cab. Curiously, the assassins step over the dead admiral and his classified documents to pick up the driver’s wallet, extracting a card and promptly leaving the scene. At NCIS headquarters, the team is summoned into action by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon).
Initially, the NCIS team works on the assumption that the admiral was the intended target of the assassination until NCIS Medical Examiner Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum) determines that the cab driver’s fingerprints and photo identification were taken and one of his teeth pulled. The team concludes that it was actually the driver who was the target and that his tooth was pulled for a DNA sample and his fingerprints and photo ID taken for accurate identification.
Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Mossad Agent-on-Loan-to-NCIS Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) are dispatched to the cab company to investigate. The dispatcher, Chuck Bayliss (Stephen Lee), reveals that the driver Nukudna was working off of the books for cash only, a common practice for foreign drivers. Further investigation by the two agents reveals a series of murders of cab drivers, all having in common the modus operandi of a tooth pulled, with fingerprints and a photo ID taken. An additional commonality is that all of the drivers are Burundian.
Through a Holmesian set of circumstances, DiNozzo and Ziva are led to a restaurant where many of the Burundian cab drivers congregate. This trip leads the two ultimately to the “Professor” Delphin Abaka (Basil Wallace), who ostensibly is interested in helping them in their investigation. Suspicious, when DiNozzo and Ziva observe Abaka making a cell phone call, they have Special Agent Tim McGee (Sean Murray) trace it, triangulating the call to a phone number leading to a Burundian woman newly arrived in the United States. Just as the remaining team prepares to leave headquarters to locate the woman, she, Sayda Zuri (Xolile Tshavalala), arrives at NCIS headquarters to claim the body of her husband. If this were not dramatic enough shock, when Sayda is taken by Ducky to identify the body, she claims that the dead man is not her husband.