Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Another blog is on the way.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The NSA according to NCIS: Just a Few Bad Apples

I've been a fan of NCIS since Season 4. Before that I tuned in once in a while and tuned right out again. Tony told the same jokes over and over until Gibbs--and I certainly supported him in this--slapped the back of Tony's head. Ducky sailed down a babbling creek of historical trivia. Abby pretended to be wasting Gibbs' time until Gibbs pretended to get mad, at which time she produced some brilliant piece of forensic deduction. Kiss. Caf-Pow. Gibbs, exercising his facial muscles not at all, hurried off to save the world.

As my older son says, NCIS proves that the stupidest stuff on TV lasts the longest. 

I normally fall for TV shows that are summarily cancelled--The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Firefly, Veronica Mars, Rubicon, The Dresden Files--not hits.

When I finally got hooked on the NCIS cast, my younger son said, See? They grow on you. They grew on me all right. Like kudzu. I caught up via USA reruns and have been watching ever since. When Cote De Pablo announced that Ziva would wander off into the sunset, I might have been upset, waiting as I was for the real coupling of Ziva and Tony, not the fake one of Season 3, but I couldn't give up the show. No way. I was addicted to these charming if wooden characters. Maybe wooden people are relaxing at the end of a day.

Now? Now I might be able to walk away.

Tuesday's show unveiled Ziva's replacement, Ellie Bishop, a cute but not-too-cute youngster played by Emily Wickersham. She'll compete in nerdiness with McGee, be too young (God willing) to take Ziva's place with Tony, and give Gibbs a chance to do what he does best--develop talent in his condescending stick and carrot way. So far so good.

But Ellie is an NSA agent and will remain one, dividing her time between the-agency-that's-in-all-your-business and Ziva's desk (although Ellie mostly sits on the floor, endearing her to those of us charmed by the common touch).

Ellie is an unashamed apologist for the NSA. Her exchange with Abby in Tuesday's show made that pretty clear:

Ellie stands in the doorway of Abby's lab. When Abby notices Ellie, Ellie asks who Abby is talking to.

Abby: I was talking to myself and a . . . pen [spyware she is trying to trace]. Now I'm not talking anymore because who knows who's listening?

Ellie: Who do you think is listening?

Abby picks up a clipboard and writes, NSA.

Ellie laughs, charmingly. Oh no, don't believe everything you hear. We don't randomly listen to conversations and phone calls. 

Abby writes BS on the clipboard.

Ellie: I'm serious. We need a court order just like you. We've had a few bad apples but we're good people out to uphold the law and make a difference. Look. I can prove we're here to help.

Abby: So you haven't bugged my phone?

Ellie laughs.

Notice something here. This conversation is almost balanced. Abby is suspicious and remains suspicious, and Ellie doesn't deny that Abby's phone is bugged. Maybe she can't be sure, given the bad apples.

Where are we now? Because of this near-balance, I'm tempted to give the NSA the benefit of the doubt, as part of me has given NCIS, the Navy, the Defense Dept. and the US government the benefit of the doubt all along, because they are fictionally represented by NCIS's agents de charm, which now include Ellie.

Whoever in the NSA has drinks with Donald Bellasario is counting on Ellie.