“NCIS” season 13 is approaching its finale, and if the Tuesday, April 19 episode, “Return to Sender,” is any indication, this is going to be a wild ride. What begins as a manhunt for two escaped prisoners ends with someone they know dead and a “To Be Continued” that promises more drama, intrigue and spy madness to come.
For an episode filled with plenty of laughs, “NCIS” delivers a final, painful blow in the last scene that sets it up so that multiple agencies are going to be hunting down one man – while he’s on the hunt himself. The laughs come from Fornell’s return for the most part, and as always, Mark Harmon and Joe Spano could spend an hour in an elevator stopped between floors or hanging out in a car waiting for a suspect to show up and it would be entertaining. Gibbs’ reactions to Fornell confiding in him about online dating – and his sex life, complete with a poor choice of words at one point – are priceless, but at the same time, these scenes are heartwarming as well. It’s been a year since he lost Diane, and while Fornell has been texting women on the app, he admits that he hasn’t gotten up the nerve to go out with any of them. He always comes up with an excuse not to meet, and he can’t help but wonder if it’s too soon. And Fornell wondering about Gibbs’ blessing is a nice – if not bittersweet – callback to him and Diane seeking the same from him.
As for the case, as much as Fornell would love to unload it onto NCIS because of all the paperwork, it ends up being a joint investigation, with Fornell wavering between wanting to just ride shotgun and taking point. A British guard is found dead in a casket delivered to a mortuary, with the prison jumpsuits in with her body an indication of a prison escape. The two escaped prisoners are Cassio Chavez and Jacob Scott, and both were serving life sentences, Chavez for killing his mother after she flushed his stash of drugs and Scott, and former MI-6 officer, for being caught by NCIS for selling US nuclear intel to Russia. As the man who was the Director of NCIS at the time of Scott’s arrest, Morrow is brought in as well.
Scott has no family, but a woman who visited him in prison, Miranda, just so happens to now own a laser tag arena – and is found dead, with his prints at the scene and signs that the prisoners are armed and funded. In fact, she was also MI-6 and trained Scott. But if they were friends, why kill her? Morrow insists that there are no loose ends for them to find when it comes to Scott, that he had no family, no country and no buyer – she was killed in a mission. So what’s Scott after?
And what about the prison guard? Well, it turns out that she wasn’t a hostage like they thought and she wasn’t killed. She had an asthma attack, and since she was trapped, she couldn’t manage it like she normally would. Furthermore, it looks like they pre-packed everything and had a magazine with an address matching hers. She was an accomplice.
The prisoners split up upon leaving the laser tag place, but Abby manages to uncover an address for the prison guard, where she was planning to stay following a visit to a fertility clinic in the US. They expect to find Scott there hiding out, but instead, it’s Chavez who shows up and he tells them pretty much everything. The baby and apartment were for him and the guard. He fell in love with her, and after she died in the container, he started using again. He killed Miranda because he wanted more money than she gave him. Scott wasn’t part of the escape plan, he claims, but he just so happened to introduce Chavez to the guard. Scott was playing him, Gibbs and Fornell realize. Furthermore, Chavez gives them the piece of the puzzle they need to figure out what Scott is up to: he’s out for blood because NCIS killed his wife.
Meanwhile, Scott tracks down Vance as he’s trying to get his morning donut and forces him to take him to a data center and access a single record for him, as they find out when they respond to Vance’s duress password. By the time they get to Vance, Scott is gone and their only lead is a stolen case file list of six NCIS operatives involved in a joint MI-6 operation in 2002. They can’t even access the case file without hacking it because they’d need clearance from the British SAS first. Those operatives are the ones who were involved in the operation that took down Scott’s Russian buyer, who just so happens to have also been his wife. It’s a hit list for him, and the name at the top is Morrow’s. When they get to his house, however, it’s too late. He’s already been shot in the head through the window in his den.
Elsewhere in the hour, there’s nothing like a good ol’ triple homicide and bloodstains that won’t come out of the floorboards to explain how Tony can afford his place and has been able to afford it since he was a rookie. However, the most important moment to take away from all that time McGee and Bishop spend trying to figure out what the deal is? McGee commenting that Tony doesn’t have to disclose the murders because enough time has passed. With Michael Weatherly leaving at the end of the season, it’s hard to imagine Tony staying in the area and not being part of the team, so that has to come into play, right? (If McGee and Delilah weren’t looking for a place with space, him giving it to them could be a possibility, but it’s hard to imagine them living there. It really is a bachelor’s apartment. But hey, maybe Ellie can move in since she’s apparently paying a lot for her new place.)
“NCIS” season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 21 “Return to Sender”?