NCIS, Ep. 10.10, “You Better Watch Out”: Holiday happenings bring grief and new beginnings

NCIS, Season 10, Episode 10: “You Better Watch Out”
Written by George Schenck & Frank Cardea
Directed by Tony Wharmby
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

No one wants to feel left out, especially during the holiday season. A simple sense of belonging is part of what comprise the Christmas spirit. So it’s only natural that NCIS partakes in the tradition of devoting an episode to the time of year when the desire for unity, grace, and compassion are in the forefront of our minds and the fulfillment of those wishes warm our hearts. Robert Wagner guest stars and kicks off the festivities in a merry fashion, dropping by to make amends and start the new year off right.

It’s hard to tell who is having more fun: Robert Wagner, playing the father to Michael Weatherly’s character, Tony; or the the character Wagner plays, who delights in every visit with the team. One major difference between this episode and the other three times Wagner has guest-starred is that his character is usually implicated in criminal activity. Thankfully, Wagner gets to play innocent here when he crashes Tony’s apartment for the holiday. Michael Weatherly is clearly overjoyed with each appearance of his onscreen father. The same can’t be said for Tony, however, when his father’s visit stirs up old feelings of neglect and resentment. Tony Sr. is a difficult man. Much like his son, he is a womanizer; but unlike his son, he doesn’t have a developed sense of respect and boundaries. While Tony can be juvenile and intrusive, in many ways he has surpassed his father’s maturity, turning the tables on the parent/child relationship when Tony Sr. goes too far.

Tony gives in to his father’s insistence on staying close when Tony Sr. uses the spotlight of being in the company of the team to pressure Tony into letting him stay with him. The team confesses to Tony Sr. that they have never seen Tony’s apartment before, prompting viewers to wrack their brain for any possible previous visits to DiNozzo’s domicile.

The apartment where Tony lives provides a jarring contrast between Tony’s personal and work spaces. His home is immaculate and reflects a more adult person than the one seen every day fooling around at NCIS. The personal touches  say a lot about him. His bookshelves are full of movies that support his cinephile devotion; his goldfish that he affectionately named Kate is an endearing reference to his relationship with Agent Todd; and his kitchen is stripped bare of any food, the sign of a busybody who prefers spending the night with a lady friend or simply sharing a meal with his work family at the office. Tony’s divided time allows for little consistency. While he can be messy and loud at work, he has obviously worked hard to make a sanctuary for himself, proving to be a much less tolerant person to the chaos that comes with the job than he lets on.

Tony Sr. makes himself at home and gets to work undoing all of Tony’s perfection. He makes a mess cooking in the kitchen, setting up a Christmas tree, and eventually hooking up with Tony’s neighbor across the hall. Tony manages to control his anxiety during the first two incidents, but when he walks in on the surprise in the bedroom, it pushes him past his breaking point and he kicks his father out on Christmas Eve.

The father/son relationship is at the heart of this episode, but there is also a lot more to the hour. It showcases all the characters in their element, allowing them to have their scripted moment and play around with it, though Tony is notably the center of attention. Tony and McGee have their scenes on the job, sharing and joking and talking about family. McGee mentions his own distant father and offers what little advice he can to Tony. The two are great as investigating partners and as a brain trust, working through issues briefly, but earnestly.

Tony confides in McGee about life after his father took over the parenting. Tony Sr. is obviously trying to make up for lost times, but his refusal to change his lady’s man ways to focus on fixing family ties leaves Tony unmoved by his father’s insincere apology. But this is a Christmas episode, after all, and Tony and his father end up together when Tony discovers a family ring that had been missing for years under his tree. His father had left it there in one last effort to make amends and resume the family tradition of passing it down through the generations. The reunion takes place in MTAC, which is attributed to the team’s tradition of screening movies on the giant monitor on Christmas Eve, but the scene never crosses the threshold into corny territory, as the joy of the moment is evident in Weatherly and Wagner’s embrace, both genuinely emotional.

The case of the week is not as compelling as full-blown NCIS event, but it does offer some interesting details. A murder victim is found with a single uncirculated hundred-dollar bill in his possession. An unemployed Navy husband, he was killed for his knowledge of an inside job at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where he used to work. His co-workers stole flawed printings of new bills, an easy enough operation when ran through the agency’s garbage system. In the end, it all ends up back at the bar where the victim and his fellow cohort planned their heist with the bartender, who murdered the two of them for a larger pay-off. Throughout the investigation, Gibbs and his team are faced with a new challenge: Secret Service Agent Ashley Winter (Danielle Bisutti). She’s not quite as charismatic as Kate came to be over the years, but she may very well turn out to be a decent friend (or foe) for Gibbs if ever their paths cross again.

George Schenck and Frank Cardea are a great writing team who deliver a lighter episode, easing off any romantic angles for once this season, dotting the page with decent case clues, but ultimately letting the spirit of the holidays take center stage.

Amanda Williams

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