“NCIS” kicks off the final three episodes of season 12 on Tuesday, April 28 with episode 22, “Troll” – and with a bang, or rather, a boom. While most of it is about setting up the arc for the end of the season, it does so in a clear, deliberate (and explosive) way.
“NCIS” may not do it often, but don’t let it ever be said that it doesn’t know how to do a “To Be Continued…” because it does, as “Troll” proves. The same can be said for multi-episode arcs. As stated above, most of this episode is about setting up what’s still to come, and because of that, it does drag a bit at times, maybe because going into the episode, we know that there’s a terrorist group recruiting children on the Internet, so it becomes about reaching the point the team is at at the end of the episode more than the steps along the way. Still, it’s always worse when there are children involved, and the way that kids are involved, the way that this episode ends, makes it that much worse. They’re dealing with a threat that is very real and one that is very hard for them to fight, as Gibbs learns firsthand.
That said, this episode does feature two very welcome returns: Matt Jones as Special Agent Ned Dorneget and Jamie Bamber as NSA Attorney (and Bishop’s husband) Jake Malloy, with both proving to be valuable for the case. Dorneget has gone from being probie to being the agent cyber operations sends when the team needs their best, and his presence with the team allows for a couple of nods to McGee being “Elf Lord,” as well as two more hands to work on computers with Abby and McGee. As for Jake’s return, not only does the team find out that he and Gibbs are friends – they talk on the phone and everything – but it allows for the beginning of a long conversation that he and Bishop clearly need to have about what the change in her job means for their relationship. That stems from the fact that the NSA blocks NCIS’ investigation at one point, and while Jake does ultimately cave to help the “gang” with their investigation, it’s nice to see him unwilling to back down at first. There’s something gratifying about the fact that while he can easily help with the case, he doesn’t immediately.
It all begins when a car crashing through the window of a pie shop interrupts the most awkward and odd 11th date – the guy proposed on the 11th date – but the crash didn’t kill the driver, Ensign Janina Wilt. As Ducky discovers, her throat was cut, and it seems she was trying to get to the hospital. Her gym bag in the backseat leads them to a high school, where she coached basketball, a fact that is obviously going to come into play later because how could it not?
At first, it looks like her job as a cyber warfare engineer led to her death, especially since she just helped take down a drug ring, the Sword of Satan, and they even track down the man who created the ring’s system she hacked, Alfredo Montez, but after a mix-up where he thinks they were paid off to kill him, they discover that he had no idea who hacked him other than “the man.”
Dorneget is brought up from Cyber to access Wilt’s computer, and after a while, he discovers that she was looking at the hard drive of Adem Faruk Korkmaz, a businessman, so they try to see if he’ll let them look at his computer. He refuses to without a warrant, and when McGee puts in the request for one, it’s denied. That’s where the NSA – and Jake – come in. The agency has been monitoring his dealings with Turkey. When they do finally get access to Adem’s hard drive, however, he admits that he was selling knockoff bags, but that’s all he’s guilty of. However, there are folders protected by the same firewall as Wilt’s laptop on the hard drive, and those lead to a deleted email account and a link to a chat room; all they have is a list of screen names for the chat room.
Those folders aren’t Adem’s. They’re his daughter’s, Layna, and she’s on the basketball team Wilt helped coach. Layna explains that at first, it was just about talking to kids around the country and world, but then things got creepy when she joined another chat room. Haters complained about life and asked if she knew her calling, so she quit, but then weird messages came in, trying to get her to come back, telling her she needed them and her life was nothing without a purpose. She turned to Wilt for help. She points to the screen name “Hellbent427” as the one who got her to join and got mad when she quit. Thanks to mold spores inside Wilt’s wound and Dorneget’s computer skills, they ID Bradley Simek as “Hellbent427,” but when they go to pick him up, he drives off in his mother’s minivan.
With that, Abby and Dorneget get to work on the probable weapons and Brad’s computer. Welcome to the dark web. Everyone‘s exploring it these days. Ducky and Palmer go through Brad’s emails and chats to profile him, and Ducky says he’s the textbook teenage misfit. He found a kinship with others facing similar demons, linked by a common cause, just like a terrorist group. The trouble he had coping with his father’s death made him an easy mark. Since Wilt go in the way of them recruiting Layna and could trace them back to their true identities, she had to be killed. To make matters worse, Abby finds traces of gunpowder on Brad’s computer tower and Dorneget finds a blueprint encoded for his 3D printer – yes, this kid has a 3D printer – for a plastic detonator. He has a bomb.
They manage to track him down and get everyone else off the bus he’s on, as Gibbs tries his damnedest to talk him down. Brad says that while his knife killed Wilt, he didn’t do it. Gibbs tries to get him to give up by mentioning his parents. His father wouldn’t want him to do this, Gibbs tells him, and his mother is outside, waiting. All he has to do is follow him out. It’s working too, and Brad seems thisclose to listening to Gibbs when the local police show up, and once he hears the sirens, Brad is determined once more. Gibbs tells him he’s a good kid, but Brad says he’s not and runs towards the back of the bus before blowing himself up. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the TO BE CONTINUED…
Meanwhile, the details of the case put a strain on Bishop and Jake’s relationship, as the two go from happily carpooling to having enough tension between them that Tony and McGee can’t do much more than exchange a glance at how obvious it is. Because Adem is on the NSA’s radar, the team is denied access to his computer, and so Bishop tries to get Jake to let go of it. That leads to a conversation that they’ve clearly needed to have for a while, as it reveals that Bishop didn’t tell her husband about the man she had to kill in “Lost in Translation” (something that needs to be discussed further at some point in the future), and when she does, she comments that they don’t tell each other anything anymore. It’s nothing new that because of Bishop’s job change there are some things that he can’t tell her, but it seems that that isn’t something they’ve discussed to the extent that they should have, and instead, it comes out at the worst time, as is to be expected.
It gets to the point that Jake has to check with Bishop that they can work through the changes that her job change has meant for their relationship, and for now, because of the case, all they can do, once Jake does get them the hard drive, is agree to talk later, but at least it seems like they’re going to be okay. Having Bishop be married is one of the best things “NCIS” did with her character, and not only is Jake a great character to bring back every so often as they have done since introducing him earlier this season, but seeing them work through problems like this is a good thing. That said, Jake saying that he’ll take the hit for any repercussions for giving them access to Adem’s hard drive is more than just a bit ominous, which could mean a further strain on their marriage.
“NCIS” season 12 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 22 “Troll”?