Paramount // 2010 // 1033 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jim Thomas // August 23rd, 2011
"The name's Gibbs. Leroy Jethro Gibbs."
NCIS: The Complete Eighth Season cruises in with a sense of confidence and purpose -- and perhaps just a touch of arthritis.
You get all twenty-four episodes; recommended episodes are marked with an asterisk.
* "Spider and the Fly" -- The season opener resolves the Season Seven cliffhanger, with Paloma Reynosa (Jacqueline Obradors, NYPD Blue), a Mexican drug lord, out for revenge against Gibbs. Ralph Waite (The Waltons) returns as Gibb's dad, Jackson.
* "Worst Nightmare" -- A girl is kidnapped from a Navy school. As the girl's grandfather is William Devane (Marathon Man), the kidnapper is in deep shit even before Gibbs gets involved.
* "Short Fuse" -- A female marine bomb disposal expert kills an intruder in her house, then covers up the fact that she wasn't alone when the intruder broke in.
* "Royals and Loyals" -- The murder of a naval petty officer gets complicated when Abby determines that he was killed on a British naval vessel.
* "Dead Air" -- A radio host and his naval officer guest are killed on-air.
* "Cracked" -- The team investigates the death of a Navy researcher who was hit by a bus. Her entire body is covered in mathematical formulae. Abby loses perspective as she struggles to make sense of the clues. Includes a commentary track with co-star Pauley Perrette and director Tony Wharmby.
* "Broken Arrow" -- An ID plate from a nuclear bomb lost during the Cold War leads the team to get help from an unexpected source: Tony's father (Robert Wagner, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me).
* "Enemies Foreign" -- The team is tasked with protecting the Mossad director, also Ziva's father Eli David (Michael Nouri, The Proposal), who is being stalked by a group of Palestinian terrorists.
* "Enemies Domestic" -- As the team searches for Eli David, Leon Vance finds himself in the hospital remembering his first meeting with Eli. Commentary track with co-star Rocky Carroll, writer Jesse Stern, and director Mark Horowitz.
* "False Witness" -- The NCIS team investigates the disappearance of a Navy Petty Officer who is the sole witness in an upcoming murder trial.
* "Ships in the Night" -- The team partners with Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Agent Abigail Borin to investigate the murder of a Marine First Lieutenant on a dinner cruise.
* "Recruited" -- A Naval recruiter is killed at a high school; Ducky's predecessor, Dr. Magnus (Bob Newhart, Newhart), pays a visit.
* "Freedom" -- Magee becomes a victim of identity theft while the team investigates a marine's murder.
* "A Man Walks into a Bar" -- A psychologist evaluates the team, while a naval commander is found murdered in his bunk. Commentary track with Mark Harmon, writer Gary Glasberg, and director James Whitmore Jr.
* "Defiance" -- The team is tasked with protecting an ambassador's daughter, but the daughter does not want to be protected from Magee.
* "Kill Screen" -- A pickpocket is collared after lifting a purse -- which turns out to contain several fingers and teeth.
* "One Last Score" -- The murder of an NCIS agent leads to a woman accused of running a massive Ponzi scheme. Guest starring JoBeth Williams (The Big Chill). Commentary track with co-star Michael Weatherly (who also directed) and executive producer Mark Horowitz.
* "Out of the Frying Pan" -- A teenager is accused of murdering his father, while tensions between Gibbs and Director Vance start to boil over.
* "Tell All" -- The murders of a naval officer and an FBI agent lead to a manuscript revealing secret anti-terrorist operations.
* "Two-faced" -- The body of a seaman is found wrapped in plastic, a hallmark of a serial killer known as the "Port-to-Port" killer.
* "Dead Reflection" -- Security cameras catch a murder in the Pentagon.
* "Baltimore" -- The Port-to-Port killer's latest victim is Tony's old partner from the Baltimore PD.
* "Swan Song" -- The team starts to close in on the Port-to-Port killer; however, he's closing in on them as well, with tragic results.
* "Pyramid" -- With the Port-to-Port killer identified, the team must now determine who his final target is.
The season's best episodes are "Spider and the Fly," "Cracked," "Enemies Foreign," "Enemies Domestic," "Recruited," "Defiance," "Kill Screen," "Two-faced," "Baltimore," and "Swan Song."
Eight seasons in, NCIS hasn't changed much. There's been relatively little cast turnover, and the style and format has been pretty consistent from day one. While Season Eight is a rebound of sorts from the oddly angst-ridden Season Seven, it still has some of the same weaknesses, most obviously an unnatural affection for conspiracies. The strengths remain the same; this is a great cast, and the surrogate family vibe permeating all of their relationships is the real driving force, though we desperately need to see some change in the characters or just get them out of their comfort zone. The weaknesses are that the cases are getting a little contrived (the plan revealed at the end of "Dead Air" may well be the single most idiotic rationale ever presented on television). Too often the case is less engaging that the interplay between the cast members. The season arcs are a mixed bag -- the episodes that provide a little more backstory for NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll, Chicago Hope) are interesting, but as the character remains on the periphery, it's hard to say if it's worth the trouble. That said, "Enemies Foreign"/"Enemies Domestic" is a strong two-parter, in large part for the phenomenal makeup job used to transform Carroll into his younger self. "A Man Walks Into a Bar" is a peculiar beast; on the one hand, it's an excellent clip show that's essentially an homage to a similar episode of M*A*S*H, but on the other, it is simply unbelievable that NCIS would select that particular person to evaluate the team.
The Port-to-Port killer storyline gets too ambitious in that it tries to bring together a large number of narrative threads. It starts out strong, but the conclusion is contrived, and simply lame. Does anyone really thing Ziva would blindly walk into a room when she knows a killer is stalking the team? Of course she does, because the plot demands that she be captured. Worse still is the conclusion, in which the killer, who up until this point has been brilliantly cunning, puts himself in a situation in which he has no escape, and no means of fulfilling his plan after his death. He's cornered, he's gunned down. Fin. A promising villain turns into a bad cliché in an instant -- and that's setting aside the fact that the final showdown takes place in front of a giant plate glass window, making one wonder why Gibbs didn't just take him out with a sniper rifle from a thousand yards away. Plot holes like that are just frequent enough to disrupt the flow of the season, and to prevent the drama from unfolding naturally.
Technically, the disc is solid. Image is a tad soft, colors are a tad over saturated, but they're the same way on broadcast. The 5.1 surround track is good, and shows off the incidental music and the occasional explosion. Extras include several good commentary tracks and a number of relatively superficial featurettes.
The show is still enjoyable -- and far superior to its bastard child NCIS Los Angeles -- but it's getting to the point where the characters need to grow, the plots need to get back to basics, and it may just be time for a character or two to move on.
Review content copyright © 2011 Jim Thomas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 1033 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Official Site