NCIS, Ep. 10.21, “Berlin”: Tensions mount when a new boss complicates the search for a killer

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NCIS, Season 10, Episode 21: “Berlin”
Written by Scott Williams and Gina Lucita Monreal
Directed by Terrence O’Hara
Airs Tuesdays at 8pm (ET) on CBS

The hunt for Bodnar continues as Ziva and Tony fly under the radar to follow a lead to Germany while Gibbs gets acquainted with Mossad’s new director, who has some secrets of her own.

This episode picks up steam in more ways than one since it deviates from the show structure to continue the search for Ilan Bodnar overseas, bringing momentum to a tiring chase by giving Tony and Ziva a chance at intimacy as they get closer to Bodnar and increasing the pressure on the team as the newly-appointed Director of Mossad (Marina Sirtis) arrives for a joint investigation. The return of Director Morrow of Homeland Security (special guest Alan Dale) adds even more drama as the three agencies try to solve the murder of a Mossad agent. The dual focus on Gibbs and McGee in DC and Tony and Ziva in Berlin evenly breaks up the episode, with both sides of the story supporting the overall plot of searching for Bodnar. While each side sticks to the procedural format in its own course, the separation gives each case less time to work with more material, causing the pace to pick up on both ends and make the transition from each scene quick and engaging.

The few times the writing does slow things down allows for insightful moments that continue to develop Ziva and bring life to Orli Elbaz, the new Mossad Director. Sirtis is a fine addition to the cast. Her strength and intelligence mirrors Ziva as they share a familiarity with the agency with questionable operations, more than NCIS, anyway. The relationship between the two feels organic and worn, wrought with history. Cote de Pablo and Sirtis share the screen with subtle hostility from Ziva, who doesn’t seem inclined to accept admiration from Orli, whose intentions for visiting lead to power-plays between the three directors. Orli’s attempts to appeal to NCIS and Homeland Security as an ally which are thwarted by her own untruthful actions resemble the struggle Ziva has faced for years as a result of her loyalty to both her NCIS family and her family at Mossad. While Ziva has worked to earn trust from Gibbs, it’s clear that she hasn’t completely invested her own trust in NCIS, something both she and Orli have in common. The few flashback scenes draw even more parallels between Ziva and Orli, illuminating their mutual motivation for catching the man they both loved, Ziva as his daughter and Orli as his former mistress. The glimpse of Ziva’s troubled childhood is a nice touch, contributing to the episode’s purpose of building upon Ziva’s past to give Tony a few details that strengthen their bond and bring them closer than ever to a stable relationship founded on understanding. The crash sequence is spectacularly done and surprising enough to bring a much-needed sense of urgency for the next episode.

While the case of the week boils down to being no more than a wild goose chase, the circumstances surrounding the investigation make for a unique episode whose tone and energy keep it fresh and intriguing. It improves upon the last few episodes, making it a story with thrills and an unexpectedly shocking cliffhanger that continues to lead into the anticipated finale.

-Amanda Williams

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