Well, you know what they say: money is always a good motive. That’s certainly true in the Tuesday, March 22 episode of “NCIS,” 13×19, “Reasonable Doubts,” as it’s up to the team to figure out who shot the victim: his wife or his mistress. Plus, just as Senior’s looking for a new project, a homeless woman approaches him, claiming to be his daughter.
NCIS is called in when a Navy publications civilian writer is found dead in his home, shot once in the chest and once in the head, and his wife and mistress are accusing each other of the crime. Unfortunately, just like it took the team too long to figure out what they had missed in the investigation in “After Hours,” it’s pretty easy to put together at least some of the pieces early on, between the two gunshots, the bullet hole in the ceiling and the life insurance policy that would give the wife two million dollars. (Or maybe it’s just a case of watching too many procedural dramas.)
The victim’s time of death is consistent with the calls made to 911 and the security company, and both claim that he called them earlier in the morning to stop by. The wife, Angelina, says he wanted her back after she found out he was cheating; the mistress, Joann, a lawyer who has been suspended for a pervasive pattern of professional misconduct, claims that the wife was making violent threats. Each claims to have seen the other shoot the victim, then they struggled over the gun before retreating to the front lawn and the bathroom. The headshot was fired at close range, while the one to his chest was not, and fibers were found around it. The gun was registered to the victim. See where this is going?
It turns out the victim won the lottery, and he met Joann when he sought legal advice. Both women spent his money, and both didn’t react well when he cut them off. But Angelina was the sole beneficiary of his insurance policy. Both have motive. So what do they do next? Gibbs suggests a polygraph. Unfortunately, neither is lying when they say they didn’t kill Jennings. With so much reasonable doubt, there’s no way a jury would convict. The fiber in the chest wound turns out to be from an electric blanket, and if one had been placed on the victim’s chest, it could alter his time of death to coincide with their stories. (Again, see where this is going?)
All it takes is Gibbs understanding how the cloud works for him to put the pieces together. See, Jennings killed himself, and he left a suicide note, accusing both women of being greedy and draining his life of meaning. He shot himself in the head. They found him, and one of them shot him in the chest and the other shot the ceiling so they’d both have gunshot residue on their hands. The life insurance policy had a suicide clause. Joann came up with the plan in exchange for half of the payout. So what are they charged with? Insurance fraud.
Meanwhile, Senior shows up early for his weekly lunch with Tony, as he’s hoping to help out around the office because he needs a project. Gibbs offers to give him one – helping him with his boat in the basement – but Senior ends up finding his own after a homeless woman approaches him and calls him “Dad.” To Tony’s surprise, Senior tracks the woman, Susan, down, and brings him to his apartment, wanting his help as a federal agent to find out who she is. Tony sends them to a shelter, and there, a worker tells Senior that it would be easier if they knew her name and could access her medical records. Fingerprinting will take weeks, but Senior decides to use his connections and turns to Abby for help. Susan is Susan Lowe, an Army corporal who was honorably discharged in 1986, making her eligible for VA benefits. But when he returns to the shelter, Susan’s gone and the worker tells him the physician’s assistant suspects she has a brain tumor.
This “project” has given Senior a purpose, Tony recognizes, thanking Gibbs for suggesting he track her down, and so when Senior returns to his apartment, admitting that he’s trying to make amends since he wasn’t there for his own child, Tony tells him the research he did on Susan. She has no family; her parents are both dead and she’s an only child. He did find a last known address, and when they check it out, the resident manager tells them that she moved out after losing her job and being unable to pay the rent. She had said she was going to try to reconnect with her father. They had never gotten along after her mother died because he never accepted that she’s gay. In her mind, she’s still searching for her father, and that’s why she sees Senior as her. She worked a block from the restaurant where she found the DiNozzos and fed the pigeons nearby, and that’s where they find her, but by then, she’s burning up.
The bad news keeps on coming for Susan, as the doctor tells Senior that her best-case scenario is she has a month left. Her tumor is inoperable. And so Senior goes to talk to her, pretending to be her father and taking the blame for the estrangement, accepting who he is and telling her he loves her. But it’s him talking about his wife dying and having to raise a child on his own that is reminiscent of his own family, of his wife dying and him having Tony and the childhood that Tony has mentioned here and there. As much as his words are ones that Susan needs to hear, in a way, they’re also part of what Tony needs as well.
“NCIS” season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 19 “Reasonable Doubts”?