Just a week after saving Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) from being framed and arrested by the FBI for espionage, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is once again lured from retirement when a past conviction rears its head. FBI special agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) and his daughter Emily Fornell (Payton Spencer) are accosted by the newly escaped ex-Petty Office Derrick Paulson (Brandon Barash), whom Fornell and Gibbs arrested for bank robbery and murder several years earlier. Through a classic protection/extortion scheme, Paulson forces Gibbs, who still has six days on his NCIS contract (some administrative sleight-of-hand by Director Jenny Shepard, played by Lauren Holly), to lead the NCIS team in re-opening Paulson’s case.
In the course of the investigation, the team is led to former sailor Mickey Stokes (Hal Holbrook), who was the only person to communicate with Paulson while the latter was in prison. Mickey is a happy-go-lucky retiree who claims to believe in Paulson’s innocence. Of the four accomplices involved in the original robbery, only Paulson and a Stanley Springer (Wayne Pere) are left. When Springer ends up on the end of a fifty-foot fall, the NCIS team more strongly suspects Paulson. In the end, it was Mickey Stokes the whole time, double-crossing Paulson.
A uniform undercurrent of beckoning exists for Gibbs to return to NCIS. Since Gibbs' coma at the end of “Hiatus, Part 2,” he has been reliving the murder of his family ten years earlier. While his mental health is in question, his technical abilities are not. The show closes with Gibbs sitting in the resource room, newly groomed with haircut and carefully trimmed moustache, obviously returned for good. This now begs the question, “What to do with Anthony DiNozzo, the new team leader?” Episode previews reveal that DiNozzo will be offered his own team, but there appears to be more to it than that.
With the return of Gibbs, the series is guaranteed continued life. The plots, while growing a bit thin (as is customary at this point in a series' life), are still compelling. Let’s hope there will be the same incandescent television we saw in seasons two and three. This is a fine show that had to beat its way to the surface against the CSI conglomerate as well as forensic knockoffs Numbers and Criminal Minds, which are not bad shows, just not the provocative combination of drama and comedy as is NCIS.