We Review the Latest Episode of NCIS SN14 EP20 – “A Bowl of Cherries”

PIn this episode of NCIS, we not only get to see a slice of Quinn‘s (Jennifer Esposito) life, which was desperately needed, but we get some information on a very topical issue that many viewers may be only tangentially aware of – ransomware.

We first meet Vice-Admiral C. Clifford Chase, played by Bruce Boxleitner, at his desk working. Suddenly his computer screen flickers and an ominous skull and crossbones appears over a countdown clock. A Russian sounding voice tells him that his computer has been infected with the Elliott Virus and if he wants to save his files, he has to pay to get an encryption key.

The scene shifts to Quinn at Marie‘s (Mercedes Ruehl) house. Marie is directing landscapers in the best way to do their job, and they are just nodding complacently. She and Quinn discuss why Marie had sent Quinn a 911 text, which Marie neither remembers sending nor remembers what it was about. References are made about Quinn’s father, but at this point the exact nature of this relationship is left up in the air. It’s not until many scenes later that we find out Marie is Quinn’s mom. Why on earth this information is delayed so long is never explained.

The admiral, a friend apparently of McGee‘s (Sean Murray) late father, calls on our loveable cybernerd to help with this computer thingy (OK, he doesn’t say that, but you totally know that’s what he said when he called). McGee explains to him that as long as the computer has nothing classified on it, he might as well just pay the $500 because it’s far too difficult to track down the culprit. He explains that the virus can only be stopped from the server where it originates and to find that in a world full of billions of people is impossible. The admiral, unaccustomed to taking no for an answer, emails the virus to McGee after he returns to NCIS, infecting every wi-fi enabled devise the crew has. Why would an admiral do something so stupid? He wanted to save photos of his late wife that obviously couldn’t be replaced.

Mark Harmon

How Gibbs avoids hackers

The crew are eventually led to a government cyberterrorist specialist named Clint Asher (Philip Smithey). Bishop (Emily Wickersham) and Reeves (Duane Henry) ask him about cyberterrorism and mention the Elliott Virus. He immediately begins acting pretty twitchy, all the while denying any knowledge of said virus. Inexplicably, Bishop and Reeves leave, only to decide to bring him in for questioning after reaching the elevator. Surprise, surprise; Asher’s gone when they get back.

After he’s been missing fifteen hours, Abby (Pauley Perrette) uses his satellite radio to track him to a storage unit in Virginia and then to Maryland. McGee and Bishop track down the car, finding it dumped in a lake.

Meanwhile Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) head to the storage unit, rented, they later discover, under an alias. Unfortunately nothing is in the unit, but they do use the security cameras to see Asher’s car entering with two people, but leaving with only one. They all meet in Maryland at the lake as the car is being pulled out. It has some weird steam coming from the trunk; inside they find Asher, frozen solid.

The crew come back to HQ to consult with Ducky (David McCallum), who tells them that it could take days to thaw the body in order to do a proper autopsy. Abby then lets them know that the body was frozen with liquid nitrogen. In a “what won’t people do” moment, we learn about cryospas, where people go to stand in the mist emitted by liquid nitrogen in order to rid the body of toxins. However, the amount of liquid nitrogen the spa was ordering far surpassed their actual need, so now we know where that was coming from. Somehow that leads us back to the storage unit, where the shady manager finally reveals the existence of another unit he was paid to keep mum about. Inside Gibbs and Torres discover a homemade cryo unit with two bodies inside.

The team eventually find out that Asher was kicked out of school for creating a ransomware virus he named after his old college dorm, Elliott Hall. They then discover that he wasn’t the only one expelled for the virus; his buddy Carlo Hackett (Michael Drayer) was also involved.

Meanwhile, Quinn and her mom are about to have dinner. Three settings are on the table, and when Quinn asks why, Marie says that one place setting was for Quinn’s father. Quinn has to remind her mom that her dad died three years ago. Now we begin to see some personality working its way into Quinn. Finally something to make her relatable. With this revelation and the discussion she and her mom have about what may happen with her dementia or Alzheimer’s (it’s never really explained), Quinn becomes all of us with older parents or whose partners are experiencing more frequent moments of forgetfulness. It gives her character a little more of a back story, but I just didn’t feel much emotional depth in her response.

Henry, Harmon, Wickersham, Murray & Valderrama

The crew at the range

I have to say, this is just not one of the stronger episodes. It almost seemed to be an hour-long PSA aimed at the show’s largest demographic, older adults. There’s a lot of information about cyberterrorism, including the number of people affected by ransomware attacks and how lucrative it can be for the attackers. It also lets people know how easy it can be to become a victim. A more computer savvy generation will at least have a basic understanding and know the ease with which one can become a victim. Also the focus on aging and the ramifications of having aging parents plants this firmly in the older demographic. But the price of this extended cyber lesson is an episode chock full of plot holes. The length of time even basic information was shared with the viewers, how seasoned agents just leave an interview where the person was acting hinky, how the bad guy gets back to Washington after dumping the car in Maryland, and, at the end Gibbs takes Hackett out of the interview somewhere – where we don’t know. He doesn’t arrest him; that would involve cuffs and the reading of rights. It’s never explained. It’s rare that an episode of this show is poorly written, but nobody’s perfect, and now we know the NCIS writers aren’t immune.

The Good
  • More info on Quinn
  • Info on hacking
The Bad
  • Too many plot holes and unanswered questions
3 Fair

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