CBS’s NCIS marked its 400 episode milestone with a look at the case in which Gibbs was first introduced to Ducky – and which then reappeared unexpectedly four decades later.
Starting in 1980, we saw a vehicle accident kill a Navy accountant who appeared to have made an unauthorized withdrawal for a sack of money (which also contained a gun). And yet the victim was not killed in the accident, but by an earlier stab. Oh, and a body grows restless in his trunk – that of Sgt. Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Meanwhile, in the “Present” / December 2019 a conspiracy is interrupted to entice Gibbs – who is a little prickly about his and Shannon’s wedding anniversary – to attend an evening when McGee celebrates his 20th birthday as an NCIS agent A body is discovered in the basement of the headquarters. The late Special Agent Ronald Calloway from the Carolina office does not exist. The night before, he snuck in with fake credentials and walked around before dying of suffocation next to a server connecting all of the NCIS databases.
McGee notes that “Calloway” had a severe asthma attack caused by mold spores. When he then reveals that the man’s name was really Maurice Zucado, the doorbell rings at Gibbs, who remembers him as a “really bad guy” from “a whole family of bad guys” after bumping into Maurice’s cousin many years ago .
That cousin, as we see in 1980, was Ringo Zucado aka the Navy’s accountant who threw Gibbs in his trunk. The NIS agents handling the case ask why Gibbs, who was admitted to sniper school, was in town, and he explains that he has come to a friend’s wedding that he plans to attend with his girlfriend, Shannon . He was looking for a suit when Ringo sneaked up on him and stabbed him in the side with a gun. At that moment, the driver of the car that Ringo hit appears in the squad room … and it’s young Dr. Donald Mallard.
When Gibbs and the Doc become quick friends and spend several days visiting pubs, the Doc finds that Gibbs has ended the business with Shannon. (Worse, he did it on the phone!) At that moment, the younger Jonny Zucado and his cousin Maurice confront the gentlemen and take them to a hideout to beat them. Jonny asks if they told NIS agents something Ringo revealed, and Ducky explains that Ringo died long before the police arrived. Jonny now thinks the men are worthless and puts a gun to Gibbs’ head only to be warned that the Marines will never stop looking for the killer of one of their own. Later, at Ducky with the beautiful disguise, he and Gibbs suspect that there must be a mole at NIS – and Ducky has an idea who it is.
Back in the present, Gibbs informs Ducky that the zucados are back. But what was Maurice up to in the intestines of the building? Gibbs says Maurice’s cousin Jonny would know, but McGee reports that the head of the family is hiding. Fortunately, the pacemaker-wearing Jonny reports to his doctor so the team can find him and bring him in. Jack and Vance watch Gibbs reunite with the “married man” in the interrogation room. Jonny tells Gibbs that he has no idea what Maurice was up to and that the government cannot hold him because he was accused of bribing a government official who was suddenly dropped. (“You couldn’t get me 40 years ago, and you won’t get me now,” Jonny says happily.) In fact, the star witness soon turns up dead in the case of bribery against Jonny.
Gibbs is eager to pursue the case, and a cautious Vance will allow it, provided his agent cools off a bit. Similarly concerned about Gibbs, Ducky suggests to his longtime friend that he let an old grudge get under his skin – and maybe that grudge is with Ducky himself for nudging Gibbs to get things right with Shannon, and so pretend to be on the double tragedy. But Shannon and daughter Kelly “were the best thing that ever happened to me,” Gibbs tells Ducky. “I don’t blame you, I owe you something.”
While he and Jimmy investigate the murdered bribe, Ducky mentions how he would have given up treating living patients if it hadn’t been for the zucados. Cue the next flashback to 1980, where Ducky asks the NIS ME to show him Ringo’s body – and he notices the distinct freckles that indicate LEOPARD syndrome. Ducky had noticed the same freckles on one of the construction workers in the soon-to-be orange NIS squad room. And if the guy is related to the zucados, he must be the mole.
Back in the present, Kasie reports that Maurice’s charred notebook contained a card from NCIS written by an Emilio Zucado – aka the construction worker from 40 years ago. Pulled in for questioning, Emilio sings like a canary and explains how Jonny embedded him with the painting team to gain access to an evidence locker that kept the key that was found on Ringo back then. But when Emilio pressed the key, he realized that the government was directed at him and hid it in the wall. And that’s exactly what Maurice was looking for in 2019. McGee saws a hole in the wall and finds the card key that opens a Swiss locker in which Ringo had hidden the millions he had embezzled from the Navy. He ran away when he attacked Gibbs and stuffed him in the trunk.
Back in 1980, Ducky was preparing a dinner for sniper Gibbs, despite Jethro complaining about his friend’s plan to cook the steaks in an oven. Gibbs grills them in Ducky’s fireplace instead and invites the doctor to join NIS and maybe one day get a second chance at the zucados. Ducky, in turn, has advice for Gibbs, suggesting that he is afraid of not finding love but of losing it. “Love is scary, but it can’t be optional,” says Ducky. Gibbs records that Ducky loved and lost himself and asks, “What was your name?” Maggie, says Ducky, “but there are some stories I won’t tell myself.” Instead, he directs Gibbs to episode 12 × 03 and tells him not to “make the same mistakes I made” before the men agree that hopefully their paths will cross again one day.
Back to the present, Gibbs and Torres arrest Jonny – not for bribery but for Ringo’s 1980 murder. (They exhumed the body and found Jonny’s DNA under his fingernails.) “Reunions are fun, aren’t they?” Gibbs is happy and repeats Jonny’s mockery from before.
The 400th episode ends with Gibbs in his basement over an old photo of him and Shannon. Then he recalls 40 years ago when he jumped on a pay phone to call Shannon and said, “I’ve been thinking a lot. And I want to ask you a question before I leave – the kind of question a gentleman doesn’t ask on the phone. “And when young Gibbs takes a five hour bus ride to see Shannon, his older self calls McGee to see if the gang has anything to drink – and if he can join them.
What do you think of the episode “Everything Starts Somewhere”?