NCIS, Season 10, Episode 16: “Detour”
Written by Steven D. Binder
Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS
Nine months have passed since the devastating attack on NCIS that coincided with Jimmy Palmer’s wedding date. So far, the season has illuminated the residual effects of the incident on every character to varying degrees except Palmer. “Detour” welcomes back Brian Dietzen as the Autopsy Gremlin after an extended absence with a story that, predictable though it may be, is a respectable addition to this year’s trend of stand-alone episodes that advance character development.
Not long after Dietzen was promoted to series regular, he dropped off the radar when the show neglected to incorporate subplots that justified his recent inclusion in the opening credits. However, acting as a sidekick to David McCallum’s ‘Ducky’, the return of Dietzen’s character is both necessary and endearing. Jimmy has never been the strongest character, lacking the outright brilliance and tenacity that epitomizes the best of the agency; instead, Jimmy’s comical traits have been utilized in portraying him as the gawky assistant who always knows the wrong thing to say. But when thrust into a life or death situation, Jimmy manages to pull himself together just long enough to help save the day. His morbid sense of humor and reactions to danger are written best when he’s not simply popping into a scene and then being shooed away like a fly; Dietzen is a fine performer who, when given ample screen time, can handle the emotional shifts in tone from one scene to the next, proving Jimmy to be a genuine hero, capable of taking a stand while maintaining his unassuming charm.
It’s nice to see the camaraderie between the older medical examiner and his trusty protégé play out over the course of the episode as the two concoct a plan to escape their captors, especially since it’s the performances that hold the episode together, rather than the plot. The cold open showing the death of the victim by chemical ingestion is chilling and memorable, followed by cookie-cutter proceedings that pan out exactly as they should. The route from beginning to end is anything but daring, playing it safe: the hostages escaping through the woods and eventually rescued just in time before the bad guy catches them. There are only so many ways to work out a case like this; unfortunately, the storytelling choices made here are mostly unoriginal with forgettable foes and a anticlimactic resolution.
The subplot involving McGee and his continuing distrust of DiNozzo is a shoe-horned attempt at creating conflict where it isn’t needed. A focus on Jimmy’s married life would have been more appropriate, raising the stakes of his abduction and deserving a resolution with his rescue. Though Breena has only been present for a handful of episodes, she is an established character whose concern would have made for a more emotionally-involving search.
With a serviceable script and lively performances from the two main leads, “Detour” is a step in the right direction for Palmer, who walks away as the week’s MVP. Even though we may not see him again in this capacity for a while, it’s nice to see his character evolve while we can.