(This review includes spoilers)
I really wasn't planning on making a blog entry on NCIS at this point. But two excellent episodes changed that with a spray of bullets. Still, I've gone back and forth for the past 1-2 weeks trying to write a review for them, without much success. I'll just say this, the two episodes in question - "Shabbat Shalom" and "Shiva" - were among the best I've seen from the show.
The first episode featured the return of recurring character, Eli David (Michael Nouri), who secretly comes to the US allegedly to visit his daughter Ziva (Cote de Pablo). However, there are ulterior motives to his visit, namely a meeting with Arash Kazmi, an Iranian ambassador and childhood friend. To make matters worse, Eli, who is trying to make amends with his daughter, has also been involved in the murder of an undercover reporter.
Through its first acts, the episode was solid. I've always thought that Eli is one of the most interesting characters to watch, mostly because you never know his motivations. His character has, for lack of a better word, a complex background and a complex psyche. His penchant for mind games and backdoor talk never allows us to really trust him, which is why his meeting with Kazmi seemed suspicious, to say the least. Eli's personality also adds layers to his relationship with Ziva, which is, again, complicated to say the least. Let's put it in perspective, this is the man who raised his children to be professional killers, and even ordered Ziva to kill his half-brother, in order to gain the trust of a federal agent.
But the climatic events that set this episode apart occurred in the final act. When that shower of bullets hit the Vance's home, I literally jumped off my chair. A very intense moment, plus the director decided not to take us inside the house yet, but instead to follow Ziva on her pursuit of the hitman. This only added to the suspense and expectation of what had actually happened inside. When Ziva and Gibbs returned to the scene of the crime, they found Eli dead and Jackie mortally wounded. I had a feeling somebody would end up dead, but I never thought they would off two key characters in one episode. That was a bold move.
Now, I've never been a huge fan of Cote de Pablo's performance (which I consider sometimes uneven and spotty) or her character, but you probably are cold-blooded, if you at least didn't have a lump in your throat at the scene where she finds her father dead. Just thinking about it gives me the chills. Her performance at that moment was flawless, and the emotion in that scene was heartbreaking. Probably one of the best moments the show has had in its ten years
The follow-up episode wasn't as intense as this one, for obvious reasons. But still, it was a worthy follow-up as the team investigated the possible suspects, which included Kazmi, a Swedish entrepreneur, and finally, Eli's own protege, Ilan Bodnar (Oded Fehr). I think that the best thing this episode did was successfully setting up a worthy antagonist that will probably be the focus of the rest of the season. But the scenes of grief of Ziva and Leon were great moments as well.
I've been a huge fan of NCIS for several years now, which is evidenced here by my previous endless babbling on the show as a whole. But still, I can be the first to point the flaws of the show, like I did once the tenth season started. However, this two episodes were steps in the right direction. Up until now, the first half of this season had been average, for the most part, although still entertaining. This two episodes were proof that the show can still deliver.
(All pictures belong to CBS and its affiliates)