NCIS S14: “Shell Game” Play-by-Play Recap!















Edited to add:  CBS opted to run a repeat last night, November 1st, due to the World Series play off.  There is no new episode next week due to the election.  So look for the recap of Episode 7,  “Home of the Brave”, airing on November 15th, to go live over at USA Today on Wednesday, November 16th.  The winner of the giveaway will be announced then! (And a new Giveaway will be announced!)      ncis-shell-game-8

Emily Alabi and Mark Harmon on NCIS/CBS Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito

Hello fellow NCIS fans! Thanks for stopping by my personal digs here this week while my USA Today editor is taking a hard earned vacay at the beach. (Wear sunscreen, Joyce!)  If you haven’t had the chance to catch up on my previous recaps, you can check last week’s play-by-play  here.

Sorry, the recap couch is a bit smaller and kinda lumpy here, but the popcorn has extra butter and we can enjoy a few adult beverages!  Make yourself comfy and let’s see what our merry band of agents are up to. It’s Halloween Week!

We open with a man in a butcher’s apron descending steps into a rat infested basement carrying a plate of food scraps.  He puts them on the floor next to a woman who has been beaten and chained to a support beam under the stairs. (Hope you weren’t snacking on anything.  Gah.)  He crouches down, fondles her hair as she keeps her face averted.  Then we see her slide a dumbbell out from under her pants left and as he leans in closer, she hauls off and whacks him upside the head.  He goes down.  Then she gets up and keeps clobbering him.  I’m a big fan of that.  She gets the keys to her handcuffs from his pocket, frees herself, grabs a pair of boots, and takes off.  You go, girl!

Cue awesome opening theme song!  (And welcome Duane Henry to the credits!)


Jennifer Esposito on NCIS/CBS.  Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito

We are in the Bull Pen of Orangey Goodness as McGee is having a “technology tantrum” because his computer is repeatedly failing to open an email. (You’d think he’d be concerned about the reason behind it, especially in this Wikileaks era…) Enter Quinn who is ready for fall in her new Abby-made “Welcome to NCIS” sweater.  We learn that Abby also made McGee socks, and Bishop got a friendship bracelet when they each joined the team.  What did Abs make for Torres?  And why isn’t he sporting it?  Turns out he’s not much of a vest guy. Heh.  Abby comes up to see Quinn’s sweater in action—turns out she knitted a “secret agent pocket” into the sleeve.  Because she’s adorable like that.  Abs was kind of hoping Torres would be sporting his new cobalt blue piece of handmade finery, but no.  Oh, Torres.  Don’t go disappointing Abby like that, man.  Bad karma.  Enter Gibbs who calls on Quinn and McGee to grab their gear.  Looks like our captive escapee also happens to be a Navy petty officer who has been missing for a few days.  All they have at the moment is fingerprints and a dead body.  It’s not hers, so I’m still good with that.

At the scene, there’s a news van outside a suburban home that’s been taped off.  We’ve got a local police force detective all dressed up in his meet-the-press suit while McGee is processing the scene.  Enter Gibbs who is having none of the whole media blitz, but the detective says it’s his crime scene, so it’s his media field day if he wants it to be, and, after all, he invited NCIS as a courtesy.  We all smile…and wait for it.  Gibbs does not disappoint.  “How about as a courtesy, I don’t kick your ass.”  Suddenly a press release sounds more like a good idea!

Enter Quinn and oh, hey, hello there Agent Francis, former NFL football hottie and Quinn romantic interest of yore.  Nice to see ya!  Quinn finally makes it clear that she’s never going to return his calls, but no hard feelings.  He’s sweet about it, all “you’d be hard to stay mad at” and they get right back to the job at hand.  Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if all significant other wannabes (regardless of gender) took rejection so nicely?  No surprise, we find we’ve got our former captive’s fingerprints everywhere, including the dumbbell murder weapon. Then a call comes in that the petty officer herself is being held at Dulles International Airport due to the BOLO that had been put out on her when she went missing.  So, she’s not just fleeing her now-dead captor, she’s trying to flee the whole country. Our plot thickens up already.  I like.

Gibbs leaves for Dulles while, still at the scene, McGee finds the captor’s burner phone.  Mr. Media Happy Detective says there is nothing on it, but won’t let McGee keep it.  Quinn steps in and backs up the detective with a nod and a wink at McGee who plays along, apologizing to the detective while Quinn turns and slips the SIM card out of the phone and tucks it into Abby’s secret agent pocket in her sweater sleeve.  HA!

At the airport, we get an overzealous newb TSA agent and an increasingly annoyed Gibbs.  He finally lets Gibbs into the room where they are holding Escapee Petty Officer, explaining that she keeps asking for her husband.  She clobbers TSA dude with a seat back as he opens the door, then barrels past him, but Gibbs catches her, holds on as her fight turns to sobs.  Fade to black and white.


Sean Murray in NCIS/CBS. Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito

Back in the bull pen, McGee is still annoyed by the email stall, so Torres makes him feel better by showing him his phone, and his 98,000+ unread emails.  He couldn’t check them while he was undercover, you see, and he never could catch up, so he just gave up trying.  “How do you sleep at night?” McGee wants to know.  Heh.  Naked and on his back, as it happens, according to Torres.  HA. Also?  That’s a much nicer visual to start off the evening, thanks! Enter Gibbs for an update.  Escapee Petty Officer is at the hospital being treated for malnutrition and other minor injuries. She’ll be physically okay, but mentally is a different story.  No luck finding the husband, who is “squirrelly” according to Agent Francis, who is no longer on the case now that Escapee Petty Officer has been found.  We learn from the Screen of All Knowing that our couple has been married five years, hubby is a night watchman for a law firm, no kids, no previous record.  No word yet on why she ran for the airport, no tickets were purchased.  Hubby doesn’t seem to be part of the captive plot, and Psycho Kidnapper is dead.  Speaking of PK, turns out he’s Ukrainian with a rap sheet too long to detail.  Death by dumbbell was the least he deserved.

In the conference room, Quinn and Bishop are talking to EPO about her escape.  They show her a photo, ask her to confirm her captor.  She breaks down, nods.  She also admits to killing him, but is reassured she’s not under arrest.  Bishop is all concern and empathy, but Quinn’s expression is unreadable, which we’re learning means she knows something isn’t adding up right.  At Quinn’s request, EPO describes the kidnapping. It took place around midnight after she’d gotten home from her shift and was putting away groceries when suddenly there was a hand over her mouth. She explains she ran, then borrowed a cell phone and called her husband.  He told her to meet him at the airport, that he’d explain later, but he wasn’t there.  Bishop says they’ll need to keep her in protective custody, and EPO wants to know why since the kidnapper acted alone.  Quinn, expression still passive, asks if she’s sure about that, then asks if there were any marital problems and where was her husband when EPO was kidnapped.  EPO is understandably upset by the questioning and explains her husband worked the graveyard shift that night and she believes her husband is in danger. Bishop now concurs with Quinn, saying they believe EPO is the one in danger.  The Navy was the one to report her missing when she failed to show up for duty.  Not her husband.  And she was gone for five days.  Ruh roh.

McGee and Torres are at the law firm where Squirrelly Hubby nightwatches.  McGee is on the phone with the cell phone manufacturer, arguing about the email problem. Torres is checking out the art and tells McGee that for a pretentious law firm, one of the sculptures is actually a knockoff. Turns out he studied sculpture while undercover in Holland and was told he was a “keen observer for the human form.” Heh.  Enter two of the lawyers, one of whom claims the sculpture is an original he brought back personally from Florence.  The agents merely nod.  Lawyers give SH glowing reports and had only met EPO briefly at the office Christmas party.  They also reveal he quit five days prior.  They are shocked to hear SH is now missing and are willing to do whatever they can to help. (So we know right there they should be under suspicion.  It’s always the ones who are the most “helpful.”) Torres wants to talk about the sculpture and gives McGee the subtle nod as he gets one of the lawyers to follow him out of the room.  McGee takes the cue, asks the remaining lawyer if he knew SH.  Turns out this lawyer was a night owl, so he often had long talks with SH, and that EPO was a frequent topic.  According to Night Owl, EPO cheated on SH a few years earlier, but SH didn’t use the number of the divorce attorney ol’ Night Owl had passed along to him.  Night Owl figured they’d patched things up.


Jennifer Esposito and Emily Wickersham in NCIS/CBS. Photo credit: Bill Inoshito

We shift to Bishop and Quinn who are at EPO and SH’s home.  Quinn finds the hide-a-key when no one answers.  They enter to find the house thoroughly tossed, but otherwise empty.  The groceries have been put away, so hubby was there at some point after EPO was kidnapped. They find photos of the family dog, Frank, but no dog.  Laptop and a nice watch were left behind, so whoever tossed the place wanted something specific.

At Abby Lab, she’s examining the SIM card that Quinn took from the kidnapper’s phone and resurrects a deleted text conversation showing the kidnapper talking to someone and asking what to do with his captive. (Answer: anything you want.  So, if it turns out Mr. Mastermind is SH, I’m hoping he gets a lot more than Death by Dumbbell.) Kidnapper is instructed to hold EPO until Mr. Mastermind “makes a deal.”  Fade to black and white.

At the safe house, EPO is trying to call her husband but no answer.  Quinn and Bishop tell her about the house, show her the busted photos of Frank.  They ask her why SH wanted to leave the country, and if she’d had an affair.  She says she doesn’t know why he wanted to leave, and yes, she cheated with an old boyfriend right after they married, but it was in the past and the old BF wouldn’t have done this.  EPO says SH forgave her, but Quinn isn’t so sure.

In the bull pen, McGee is wearing his striped Abby socks. He tells Torres he’s had them for thirteen years and wears them whenever he’ll be working with her in the lab, knowing she’s touched by it even if she doesn’t say so.  Enter Gibbs for an update. SH might be the scorned hubby, he’s also in major debt and behind on the mortgage.  Turns out EPO has a half-million-dollar insurance policy with SH as sole beneficiary.  Possible motive, but we all know it won’t be that easy.  SH’s phone shows the call from EPO after she escaped, and that he called EPO’s sister right afterward. Gibbs puts Bishop and Quinn on Sis.

Sis turns out to be a lovely woman (yes, sarcasm) who says she’s the family embarrassment, apparently because she lives in a trailer park, and it’s the agent’s job to find her brother-in-law, not hers.  Simply delightful, really.  Quinn asks about the marriage. Sis says it was solid despite the early affair.  Bishop climbs the stairs and calls out for Frank. Whaddya know, out the doggie runs.  Quinn and Bishop corner Dear Ol Sis and want to know what’s up and where is SH.


Pauley Perrette on NCIS/CBS. Photo credit: Bill Inoshito 

Back in Abby Lab, Abby is all, “he finds out his wife is alive and the first thing he does is make sure his dog is okay?”  Yep.  She also hands McGee his phone back, email issue still unresolved.  She offers the same advice as Torres, to turn it off and back on.  This is met with the same Eye Roll of Technology Geek Derision.  Oh, McGee.  Enter Gibbs and Abby tells him that it turns out SH is the CEO of an international corporation named Q Fire.  It has locations in three countries (including the always shady Cayman Islands) but no employees and no online presence.  It does, however, have three million in assets.  “Not bad for a night watchman.”  That from Gibbs.  The lawyers who helped him set up the business are none other than the ones he worked for as a night watchman.  He puts Abby and McGee on figuring out who actually owns the corporation.

Call comes in from Bishop who tells Gibbs that SH made Sis buy tickets to Mexico, then he left for the airport, with a pit stop by the bank to get their passports from a safety deposit box.  So, I guess we know where this is heading.  Bishop and Quinn are heading to the bank.  They find SH’s car and the passports.  Bishop finds blood dripping out from under the trunk.  In the trunk?  Yeah, it’s SH.  Fade to black and white.

We come back to Bishop having to tell EPO that her husband is dead, then we move to Ducky’s Digs.  Enter Gibbs who learns SH was shot three times and had been in the trunk at least two days.  Kneecap shot came before the head shot, so apparently he was tortured.  Gibbs surmises it was about that three million dollars.


Jennifer Esposito and Wilmer Valderrama on NCIS/CBS. Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito 

Cut to Torres and Quinn crashing a kid’s backyard Halloween party.  She wants to know what he plans to be that Halloween, but he says he’s had enough of pretending to be something he’s not. Quinn cheekily says, “not a hotdog or a ghost!” To which Torres says maybe, maybe not.  Heh.  Turns out they’re at the lawyer’s home and not the one who had the long talks with SH.  Lawyer smarmily explains that they create shell companies for some of their overseas clients and when they do, they use the names of their employees on the paperwork for privacy and security’s sake.  So SH was a “CEO” in name only, never had access to funds.  They try and get the name of the real owner but Smarmy says it’s legal asset protection strategy and no way is divulging anything.  Torres mutters that he’s covering his assets alright.

We’re back in Abby Lab with Dale From Accounting who is sweating bullets about his impending meeting with Gibbs.  Enter Gibbs who remembers “Pale Dale” and then proceeds to give him the Serious Blue Eyed Stare while Pale Dale stutters his way into the report before falling silent as Blue Steel overwhelms him. Gibbs urges him to sit down, saying he’s become even Paler Dale. HA.  Abby tries to explain the shell corporation concept to Gibbs using nesting dolls and essentially digests it down to the fact that they get bought and sold so many times that it’s impossible to ever track down who is the actual owner. Unless you’re Pale Dale, who has narrowed down the most likely owner to be a guy who runs one of the biggest government contractors in the country. Which Abby has to explain because every time Gibbs looks at Pale Dale, he grows more squeamish and dumbstruck.  (I love Pale Dale.  He looks kind of like the human equivalent of the Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland.)  Turns out the three mill is missing from Q Fire’s account.  Pale D is trying to figure out if it ended up in SH’s account.  It also turns out that Government Contractor Dude and real Q Fire Owner just happens to be in DC rightthatverysecond for a senator’s fundraiser.  Gibbs instructs McGee to bring the guy in.

Hey, look, we’re in Vance’s office.  With Vance!  Haven’t seen much of this guy so far this season.  Welcome back, Director.  Vance isn’t happy with them bringing in Big Time Contractor Dude on poor Pale Dale’s mostly-but-not-entirely-certain conclusions.  Election time is near and accusing someone so powerful could potentially blow up in all of their faces and have huge political fallout. Gibbs says McGee will be discreet and Quinn reminds Vance that they have a kidnapping and a murder on their hands. Vance, aka Mr. Screamy, who is kind of going off the rails here for a first time meeting on the matter, demands to know if they have direct evidence tying Mr. Big Time to either crime.  Quinn does not.  Vance says no evidence, no picking up Mr. Big.  Quinn gets a short nod from Gibbs and exits.  Enter a joking Torres who quickly realizes that Vance is Not In The Mood.  Torres informs them that a partner at the law firm wants to meet in secret.

Cue the after hours, empty car garage where Torres says exactly what I’m thinking.  That meeting in car garages late at night is like a movie cliché.  Gibbs asks him how he’s holding up with his new gig.  Torres answers truthfully that leaving undercover work is hard.  Gibbs says it makes you stronger.  Torres smiles and says Gibbs likes his “words of wisdom” and that it sounds like something he heard in church.  Gibbs says no, not church, life.  Torres is all, “Well, life’s a bitch.”  Gibbs lets out a short laugh, agrees. Torres says it’s been a little awkward with him and Abby, what with him not wearing the cobalt vest she made for him. Gibbs says he’s part of a family now, so he needs to act like it.  Torres smiles, says, “Your family is crazy,” which makes me and Gibbs laugh.  Gibbs says that’s true, but they are still family.


Mark Harmon and Pauley Perrette in NCIS/CBS. Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito

Enter the big black SUV. Out comes the lawyer who used to talk to SH in the wee hours.  He hands Gibbs a file with everything he’ll need to put that “son of a bitch away for a really long time.”  He confirms that the SOB is indeed Mr. Big.  He explains that SH siphoned out the three million from the shell corporation assuming no one would notice, except, ruh roh, Mr. Big noticed.  The whole paper trail is in the file, proving everything.  He says he came forward because he’d originally gotten in to law to help people, and instead he’s gotten really good at doing really bad things.  He said SH was his friend, and he wants to make things right.  I feel like he’s the red shirt on Star Trek.  We’ll find him dead shortly.

Gibbs calls McGee and finds out that Mr. Big just took off, but instead of going back to NYC, where they could hold him, he filed a new flight plan.  To Serbia. Fade to black and white.

We’re in the fourth quarter and in the bull pen with the entire team. McGee has solved his email problem.  Turns out there was a glitch in the software, which he found by “white hat” hacking into the program.  Not only did he fix his own issue, but he fixed the known and previously unfixable glitch for the entire software program, much to the delight of the software company who owns it.  Bishop, Torres, and Quinn are suitably impressed.  Turns out the phantom email was a Nigerian prince who wanted to give McGee a cool five mill.  Heh.

Enter Gibbs and we learn that the files that our evil-turned-do-gooder lawyer turned over shows that SH discovered he was the pawn CEO of Q Fire, so he decided to help himself to the company assets.  Seems fair to me.  Mr. Big finds out and hires the kidnapper to leverage SH into giving his money back, only EPO escapes, so Mr. Big hires a hit man to take care of SH.  (A convoluted logic chain there—why not just kidnap SH and make him talk?  But…mkay.)  Pale Dale is still looking for the three mill and Mr. Big is safely in Serbia which conveniently has no extradition. Gibbs wonders if EPO isn’t in on this somehow and asks them to bring her back in.  Turns out they have Mr. Big on screen up in MTAC.  Quinn wonders how Gibbs plans to get the guy to incriminate himself and Torres says, “Words of wisdom.”  HA.  Up they go to MTAC.

If lawyer guy was smarmy, he’s got nothing on the King of Smarm, aka Mr. Big, who is quite smug in his little hideaway in Serbia, assuming he’s untouchable, all “I’ve got nothing to hide.” Right. Gibbs takes it right to him, explaining they’ve got a kidnapping and a murder, and oh, by the way, was Mr. Big responsible for that?  The King of Smarm stops smiling.  He thinks it’s about taxes, but as for the three million, if it’s true and SH did steal it from him, he’d be annoyed, but given his overall wealth, certainly not homicidal.  He has a point.  Gibbs turns to Vance and says they’ve been played.  Vance agrees, but wonders who is the one holding the marionette strings.

Meanwhile, EPO is in the conference room vehemently denying SH stole any money, saying they couldn’t even afford a night at the movies.  She wants to know where the money is, if her husband stole it. Quinn says maybe she knows.  Maybe SH stole it and gave it to her to hide. We move to Bishop and Quinn leaving the conference room with Bishop upset that Quinn blamed the victim, but Quinn stands behind her instincts, saying sometimes you have to give things a kick to shake things loose.  Quinn does agree that it’s not EPO.

Down in Abby Lab, Abby kind of steals Pale Dale’s thunder and tells Gibbs that it turns out that SH wasn’t a thief, he was a whistle blower!  SH discovered that the law firm was doing all kinds of shady deals including a hefty amount of tax fraud and they, in turn, framed him to make it look like he was the criminal, including the doctored files our so called evil-turned-do-gooder lawyer gave them in the car garage. Finally, some story logic that I actually believe. Pale Dale pounds his fist, tells Gibbs to get out there and arrest the bastard! Then rubs his knuckles.  Oh, Pale Dormouse Dale.


Emily Alabi and Mark Harmon (and Frank!) on NCIS/CBS Photo Credit: Bill Inoshito

Evil-turned-more-evil lawyer is in the interrogation room alone while Bishop, Abby, and Quinn look on through the one-way glass.  Gibbs is making him wait while he tells EPO and Frank the news about her husband, the actual hero of the story.  She says she wished he’d told her, she would have helped him.  Gibbs says maybe she still can.  She would like to, but she has no idea where the flash drive would be that held all the evidence.  Gibbs takes off Frank’s collar, saying that there is one place that no one has searched yet.  And, voila!  Oh, Frank!  Now we know why SH was so worried about keeping the dog safe.

Back at HQ, Torres joins Quinn, Bishop, and Abby, who are still looking into the interrogation room.  Torres looks quite dashing in cobalt blue, as it turns out.  (Not really, but AW!) Big Abby hugs for a clearly uncomfortable Torres. Double aw.  And fade to an adorable black and white. Happy Halloween, everyone!  (I’m still sad every time I see the Executive Producer Gary Glasberg credit. We miss you, Gary!)

Another episode in the can, everyone had something to do, and an okay whodunit.  The party doesn’t have to end quite yet, though!

pelican point[1]     sugarrush_300

Last week I put a signed copy of Pelican Point, the first in my Blueberry Cove series up for grabs, along with a sweet little pelican bookmark charm from The Cotton Thistle.  Thanks for the entries and all of your comments.  Our winner is Mary Brockhoff!  Mary, email me at with an address and your goodies will go out in the mail to ya!

What’s up on the Giveaway Shelf this week? How about a signed copy of the first in my Cupcake Club series, Sugar RushIt’s funny, heartwarming, sexy, AND there are yummy recipes at the end.  I know! (Also, the holidays are fast approaching, so another stocking stuffer doesn’t hurt.)  Want in?  It’s easy, drop me a line to with “Mmm, Cupcakes!” in the subject line and you’re good to go.  I’ll announce the winner in next week’s recap. (I’ll post a link here to the USA Today recap.)
Yep, I’ll be back over at USA Today next week, and I know you’ll want to join me because Guess Who is back?


Robert Wagner on NCIS/CBS.  Photo Credit: Monty Brinton

Senior!  I know!  A Don’t Miss episode for sure.

In the meantime, while you’re here feel free to browse (there are all kinds of helpful links if you want to give one of my titles a try, because, you know, I’m so helpful like that.)  Then keep the party going and drop by my FB Page,  join in the fun there and an extra chance to win free stuff!

Until then…


6 Responses to “NCIS S14: “Shell Game” Play-by-Play Recap!”

  1. “Mmm, Cupcakes!”… Love cupcakes. Thanks for the recap. Happy Halloween to you and your family.

  2. “Mmm, Cupcakes!” Thanks for the pithy recap-tell USA Today your recaps are the ONLY reason I read their …paper. Happy Halloween to you and yours!

  3. While NCIS is still my favorite show, is it just me or are there just too many people around now??? I mean, I think I get what the show is doing — adding new people, giving Mark Harmon a chance to step back a bit — but it seems to have lost that close focus (for lack of a better term). Maybe it is just me… Ah well. It’s not that I miss DiNozzo but Tim seems to be a shadow of a character now, rather than a “senior agent”. And of COURSE we love your recap being here, too! We’ll follow…wherever you go! :>)

  4. Things seem off. McGee isn’t himself, Quinn is more of a mini-Gibbs, Bishop is replacing McGee in ways, and Torres still hasn’t won my vote yet. It’s not that I miss DiNozzo, but the glue isn’t holding as well.

  5. Robert Wagner

  6. Sr. Robert Wagner

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