NCIS, Season 10, Episode 13: “Hit and Run”
Written by Gary Glasberg and Gina Lucita Monreal
Directed by Dennis Smith
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Knowing your purpose in life and that you are fulfilling that purpose is not an absolute that can be guaranteed. That uncertainty grabs a hold of Abby as the case of the week mirrors what she considers to have been her “first case”, and her mind begins to assess the role she has played in contributing to the greater good.
When a car wreckage brings back a flood of memories of a similar accident from her childhood, Abby revisits her days as a young investigator in her hometown junkyard. Her flashbacks illustrate how quickly and how passionately Abby has always invested herself in her work, having been devastated when she failed to mend the relationship between estranged relatives. Abby’s humanitarianism and quirky style make her a character who is larger than life, someone whose personal desire to change lives through criminal justice creates an idealistic view of her influence on the world. Her character development has never been aimed at humanizing her with selfish (normal) wants and needs, but in defining her as a near-flawless human being, brilliant and almost angelic, an irony apparent in her goth wardrobe and eccentric lifestyle. As a force for good, Abby’s compassionate nature and selfless intentions have made her the heart of the team, breaking when they are hurting and joyous when they are whole. Intellectually, her genius mind, which specializes in multitasking, has also made her the driving force in investigations. Take her out of the mix, and it’s obvious that something crucial is missing.
When Abby’s self-doubts get the best of her and she plays hooky (or in this case “Bingo”) at an assisted-living home for a day, the team’s poor attempt to work in her absence emphasize her importance. While each of the characters have relationships of importance to each other, the bottom line is that each of them is replaceable in their professional duties, except for Abby- building upon the allusion that she is less portrayal of a real person and more of a storytelling device used to communicate the emotional impact of the case or move the investigation along. Requiring the agents to work hands-on with the evidence gives them a chance to display their forensic skills that are not often put to good use, at least not seen in many episodes. While Tony and Ziva manage to work through the contents of the car that crashed, McGee doesn’t have as much luck in the lab, a scene that deviates slightly from the logical assumption that he has had time to become more experienced in the lab after years of working with Abby. His incompetence is obviously meant to heighten the urgency for Abby’s return, but the benefit isn’t mutual, it detracts from McGee’s value as a player.
Being one-half of a partnership that kept him on the show in the first season, McGee was a suitable match for Abby because of his intelligence and education; but as the years have gone by, their chemistry has suffered from fewer scenes that support their interest in each other. The abrupt and ambiguous turn of their relationship from romantic to platonic kept them from moving too quickly, but that playful dynamic has matured to a fondness that never becomes more than friendship. Each shared scene shows just how distant and out of synch they have become. When McGee seeks out Abby out of concern, the interaction incorporates another flashback rather than exploring the idea of revisiting their past as a couple. It’s apparent that the show is determined to focus on strengthening one couple’s relationship at a time, ( Tony and Ziva for the time being), but that leaves no room for McGee to grow within the team dynamic or individually.
This episode stands alone as an evaluation of actions and their lasting effect. The present-day case is an uneventful trek through personal grudges and broken ties, a modern parallel to the reoccurring tragedies in society that Abby first experienced as a little girl. It lacks the closure expected of the story it tells in flashbacks, but even though the feuding families from both Abby’s memories of the past and the present case fail to resolve their differences, the pettiness inherited by each generation can’t suppress the hope that defines Abby. Her purpose as a light in a world darkened with bitterness is evident in the relationships that she has formed throughout her life. Whether in naivety or wisdom, her acts of caring and infectious kindness make her a character worthy of an episode of her own, a figure whose need to see the good despite overwhelming negativity serves as a model for the potential of humanity in contrast to the reality of life.