NCIS, Ep. 10.20, “Chasing Ghosts”: Resumes the hunt for the season’s main antagonist with a flawed approach to storytelling

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NCIS, Season 10, Episode 20: “Chasing Ghosts”
Written by Nicole Mirante-Matthews
Directed by Arvin Brown
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

Opening with a recap, “Chasing Ghosts” gets back on track by focusing on Ziva’s discreet pursuit of Ilan Bodnar, the man responsible for the deaths of Eli David and Jackie Vance.

The episode deals less with the progress of Ziva’s manhunt and more with Tony’s suspicions of her, flipping the perspective from her grief, to his concern for her. His sleuth mode initiates enjoyable banter between him and McGee, whose deception in the end sets up possible conflict between the two in the future, hopefully further explored as the season reaches its climax. While he’s usually invading his co-worker’s work space with the intent of exposing their secrets, Tony’s loyalty to Ziva on a more personal level suggests that he’s more likely to aid her in her dangerous search, undoubtedly confirmed in the closing scene where he tracks her down to her make-shift base.

Starting midway through its tenth season, NCIS has made it clear that its main objective this year is to kindle the flame between Tony and Ziva, to the point of nearly disregarding other storylines that only serve as fillers to meet the season episode order, such as McGee’s reunion with his father or Abby’s journey of self-discovery. One such storyline highlighted here is Jimmy’s insistence on stepping up in his position and taking on more responsibility. Whether or not Ducky is truly pleased with having Jimmy around during the more psychological aspects of his evaluations, it’s apparent that Jimmy will need to be prepared in the event of the departure of the senior medical examiner. Realized in “Detour”, Brian Dietzen is welcome in a larger supporting role, especially when Jimmy’s poor taste in commentary requires more time for him to rebound and contribute valuable knowledge. Where others may not be as familiar with certain oddities, Palmer shines the brightest, pointing out clues only a man with his diverse background would be able to spot. Here Palmer gets to shine in small ways, lending a voice to the problem-solving, but mostly contributing his positive attitude.

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The return of former NCIS Director Tom Morrow (Alan Dale), now head of Homeland Security, is an interesting way to kickstart NCIS involvement in Bodnar’s case. His appearance alone is appreciated by longtime viewers, a call-back to the past situations the directors of the agency have found themselves trying to tactfully dismiss. With Vance in his former post, Morrow’s goodwill towards NCIS is seen in his personal notice to the incumbent to steer clear of Bodnar, despite having received information on Bodnar’s whereabouts. It will be interesting to see if Morrow becomes a more prominent figure on the show with Vance unwilling to distance himself from the case, his desperation to find Bodnar powering the closing scene that gives his unspoken permission for Ziva to search for Bodnar abroad.

With all of the intriguing aspects of the team’s affairs paving the way for the season’s end, the story’s biggest hitch is the unfortunately cliched case that overshadows many of the episode’s finer moments. The elusive Bodnar is equated here by the episode’s title to the subject of the team’s “official” investigation, a missing husband of a Navy reserves officer. The case exemplifies the most troublesome of the show’s qualities, repetitive use of similar set-ups that barely stray from the expected route and sub-par acting that does little to give the stand-alone mystery enough memorable performances to make up for the lackluster side-story.

Despite its generic procedural structure, “Chasing Ghosts” is a necessary, however hollow, installment. The final ten minutes set the wheels in motion for the final stretch into the finale.

-Amanda Williams

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