THE PERFORMER | Mark Harmon
THE SHOW | NCIS
THE EPISODE | “Watchdog” (March 16, 2021)
THE PERFORMANCE | “I pray to God someone pays for this.”
“Ohh, I have a feeling someone will.”
That exchange between a Falls Church veterinarian and Special Agent Torres foretold what was to come this week on NCIS, the instant that Gibbs learned that someone was out in the woods shooting dogs. And upon laying eyes on the presumed abuser (as well as more of his deplorable handiwork), Gibbs indeed went hog wild, in a sequence that launched a startling, but compelling, arc for series vet Harmon, who knows Jethro better than any of us.
Gibbs was quietly resigned to the repercussions for assaulting the abuser, letting IG Coyle cuff him away at HQ. But learning that his team lied about the incident, on his behalf? Boss wasn’t having that. “Why’d you say it? Why’d you even say it, Tim?” he barked at McGee, in the latest of Harmon’s excellent scenes opposite longtime co-star Sean Murray. “It’s my problem. Your job is not to protect me.”
Indeed, Harmon’s best work in the episode came when Gibbs would double down on how he beat a man who’d been drowning pit bulls that underperformed in an illegal dogfighting ring. “I wouldn’t change a thing!” he asserted to McGee. “That sonuvabitch was torturing those dogs, for fun. He did what he did. I did what I did. We should both pay.”
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Later, we saw Papa Bear Gibbs (and the traditionally more stoic Harmon) on display when he offered Coyle “the truth” in trade for the IG not touching his team. And in Harmon’s final scene, opposite Rocky Carroll’s Director Vance, we got the pragmatic Gibbs, who was ready for whatever punishment was to come — because frankly he deserved it. “[If] you let me walk after what I’ve done…? Something’s broken,” he opined.
And maybe, Harmon’s performance indicated, a bit of Gibbs himself is broken as well, triggered by the horrific behavior he’d seen. Nudged to apologize to the arrested abuser, Gibbs made clear to a shocked Vance that he didn’t regret the assault — “I regret that I didn’t kill him” — cementing the indefinite suspension to come.
HONORABLE MENTION | Alan Tudyk (who snagged last week’s POTW honor) reigns as Resident Alien‘s resident funnyman, but Alice Wetterlund more than holds her own as ex-pro skier-turned-townie D’Arcy Bloom. In Wednesday’s episode, her typically sunny disposition temporarily faded when she, Asta and Harry found themselves in a life-or-death situation after falling through a snow bridge. Wetterlund rose to the task of showing us D’Arcy’s softer side, from revisiting the ski accident that crushed her dreams, to recording a heartbreaking goodbye message in the event of her death. (“I’m sorry I didn’t save Asta,” she said through tears. “I really didn’t want to live without her anyway.”) Thanks to Wetterlund’s prowess, the actress handed us an all-access pass to her character’s subtle intricacies that are often hidden behind her charming whiskey-soaked wit. Despite her personal struggles, D’Arcy mustered up the resolve she needed to overcome her insecurities and fears, and save her pals.
HONORABLE MENTION | Martha Plimpton‘s Generation character is at best oblivious, and at worst appalling. In Episode 4, Megan continued living in ignorant bliss over her son’s bisexuality, with a stone-faced demeanor that borders being heartless. When she took out her frustrations on some fellow moms, awkwardly overusing the word “identify” (“There was a time when people were just normal!”), it was clear just how twisted her ideologies were. Each time Megan almost allowed herself to emote, Plimpton expertly suppressed her feelings, showcasing her character’s inner conflict with every muscle in her face. Plimpton nailed Megan’s tense existence, as she refused to admit her faults and adapt to her kids’ ever-changing world. Will she exhibit any redeeming qualities ahead? We’ll see. But even if she continues her icy path as the series’ clueless villainess, we’re glad Plimpton’s the one strutting in those heels.
HONORABLE MENTION | De’Aundre Bonds has played his fair share of thug types with his turn in Tales From the Hood being the most memorable. But as Skully on Snowfall, the veteran character actor is able to bring layers of depth to a complexly villainous role he hasn’t previously been afforded. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in Episode 5, which aired Wednesday and allowed Bonds to tap directly into our sympathetic tear ducts. Bonds’ Skully stormed into the county morgue full of manic grief, stricken by the senseless shooting death of his innocent 5-year-old daughter. Ripping away sheets in search of his baby, we knew Skully found her because his portrayer’s previously angry visage convincingly crumpled into a ball of sorrow. After that, he collapsed in his shell-shocked girlfriend’s lap and sobbed, enabling Bonds to convey, without uttering a word, that Skully is irreparably broken.
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