TV Recap: NCIS (Episode 1701) – There’s No Time For Breathing …

“Out of the Darkness” (Episode 1701)
September 24, 2019

Welcome to Season 17 of NCIS.  Us long time fans could not have been more excited with the Season 16 cliffhanger … #ZivaLives.  The entirety of tonight’s season premiere was a love letter to Ziva fans, complete with flashbacks, Ziva-isms and bad-assery galore!

So, let’s buy the next round, hop on a city bus, try to avoid getting bedbugs, and dig into this meaty episode of NCIS … BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!!

Photo: Erik Voake/CBS

Two guys are making a deal for a (stolen) phone out of a car’s trunk in an alley. Things go sideways when the seller gets a gun in his back. At the end of the gun is Gibbs! A sweaty, bloody, bruised Gibbs! He boosts the phone salesman’s car keys and chases off the phone guys. He calls to someone to get in and we see Ziva taking a long look back up the alley before shaking her head “no” one, curt time jumping in the car. Gibbs asks if she got what she needed? By way of answer, Ziva slaps 2 disembodied fingers down on the dashboard.


Opening Credits!

Damn, that’s how you do a season premiere cold open!

Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

18 Hours Earlier.  We pick up right at the end of the season finale where Ziva pops into Gibbs’ basement to tell him he’s in danger. Gibbs response? “Zeever.” Ziva doesn’t have time for chit chat, they need to get to a safehouse. As Gibbs is about to ask what happened, a barrage of machine gunfire opens into the basement and the old friends take cover. Neither has much in the way of ammunition and they empty their guns into an unseen foe. We hear people breaking into the front door upstairs. Not a lot of options available, we see Gibbs and Ziva head to his tools and go full MacGyver. Looks like they’re making some kind of explosive.

Meanwhile, our favorite team of agents are at the diner, having beers and trying to “decompress.” Torres attempts a Gibbsian rule – whomever talks about work, must buy the next round. Tim immediately talks about work but before he can buy a round, he gets a call about gunshots at Gibbs’ house. One fatality reported. The team is off.

Photo: Erik Voake/CBS

Gibbs’ House. The team finds a dead guy in the basement, courtesy of the improvised explosive device, as well as lots of gun-shells and empty guns. There is a nice bit about how they all know how many hidden guns Gibbs has stashed around his house … all of which are still where they’re supposed to be.  McGee finds a hidden coal shoot, scuff marks, blood, and a piece of clothing that got snagged on the side. Bishop has an inkling.

Down in the chute, Gibbs and Ziva are walking through a tunnel and Gibbs is trying to get info out of Ziva about what is happening. Ziva only knows their pursuer as “Sahar.” She has no idea who she is or why she’s trying to kill Ziva (Sahar blew up the farmhouse, “killing” Ziva way back when), but she does know that she can’t get back to Tony and Tali until Sahar is dead. Gibbs is curious why he’s been dragged into this.

“Well what did I do to piss her off?!?”

Gibbs proposes they get to a safehouse, call for back-up and make a plan but Ziva isn’t having it. The safehouse is for Gibbs to wait out the storm, she says. This is Ziva’s fight and she’s going after Sahar and will kill her. She leaves Gibbs in the tunnel and walks off.


NCIS HQ.  McGee and Torres arrive at the office and Sloane is waiting for them. [Side Note: The first elevator ding of the season!]. She seems more worried than the rest of the team which makes me think her concern is coming from a different place.

**Last season, there were shades of something developing between them, but I hope they don’t pursue this angle. Thoughts on this?**

McGee and Torres think Bishop is up to something, but isn’t telling them what’s going on.

Ziva’s Secret Lair. Cut to Bishop – she’s back at Ziva’s secret lair and pulls a gun on Odette (the landlady) (Elayn J. Taylor). Bishop and her investigative chops noticed that Ziva’s coat, which was the same material as the piece of fabric in the coal chute, is missing from Ziva’s secret lair. Odette tells Bishop that the farmhouse explosion was not to destroy Eli David’s Mossad records, but was really to take out Ziva. Girlfriend’s spent the last several years trying to figure out who set up the attack. Bishop is clearly confused about everything that is happening and who this landlady is and why she knows so much, asking “who are you really?” No answer.

Tunnel Of Self-Reflection. We cut back to Ziva who is still negotiating her way out of the municipal tunnel below Gibbs’ house. She grows faint and begins to hear Tali’s singing. She has a flashback to her and Adam Eshel (Damon Dayoub) talking about people believing the story that she was dead. She doesn’t feel like herself and calls herself weak. Adam tells her weakness is not accepting help when it’s needed and offered. He gives her a napkin of yellow pills. Back in the tunnel, Ziva opens this napkin and hears the faint singing of Tali once again. She’s calmed down a bit. Gibbs finds her and asks if she’s okay.


He offers her a gun he found which has one live round in it. She tells him to keep it. Ziva is a bit more talkative now and says that her plan was simple, move into the open and kills Sahar before being killed. Except, Sahar went after Gibbs first. Ziva surmises that Sahara, not knowing about Tali and discounting Tony, would go after Gibbs as the person closest to Ziva. Gibbs tells Ziva that he’s not letting her do this alone and she accepts the Gibbs-ness of it all. She tells him she’s got a contact that can help them but they need to find a certain bus.

Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

Ziva’s Secret Lair. McGee tracks Bishop to Ziva’s old office and tells her to come clean. And start with why she’s at Ziva’s old office? Bishop tells McGee that Gibbs is with Ziva …

“She’s alive.”

McGee’s look of confusion is classic McGee.


NCIS HQ.  Back at HQ, McGee is pissed. At Ziva. At Bishop. At the world. Ziva was like his sister and he had a right to know. I’m not a fan of whiny McGee, but he does know Ziva well. More on that later.  Anyway, These two make a plan to work together to help Gibbs and Ziva but Bishop stresses that they have to keep the Ziva Lives info between them.

On the Street. Gibbs and Ziva are out of the coal chute, into the light, and on to a city bus (where people move away from them because they’re bloody and sweaty). Ziva’s contact left an SD card taped under the seat of a bus, but a big dude, dubbed Grizzly Adams (Tom Proctor) is sitting in that seat. Gibbs is super amused at the old school spy tactics, a dead drop on a bus is very 1980.  When Gibbs asks if they can trust her contact, Ziva has her second Ziva/Adam flashback of the episode (Adam warns her about Sahar going after Gibbs). She tells Gibbs she doesn’t want to discuss her contact.

NCIS HQ.  Back at the office, Vance is pissed for not being read in that Gibbs has been missing. Bishop and McGee lie to him about the forensics found at the crime scene and what they mean. As they head down to autopsy, Torres calls out his teammates for lying to the director (he notices Bishop’s telltale neck sweat (gross)). They come clean and Torres can’t believe what he’s heard. They also accidentally read in Jimmy Palmer about Ziva being alive.

Oops. This is no longer a covert operation.

Jimmy almost has a heart attack. Kasie joins the gang and picks up on the “weird air” in the room. She helps Jimmy get through the autopsy and forensic findings, including that the dead guy from Gibbs’ basement is a John Doe, has bedbug bites, and lungs full of ash. Kasie bounces ASAP, she doesn’t mess with weird air and people talking in unison.

Back on the Bus. Ziva and Gibbs have their second heart-to-heart conversation of the episode.  Gibbs notes that, based on his work boots, Grizzly Adams will be getting off before downtown and we get our first Ziva-ism in a long time.

“Don’t count your crocodiles before they hatch.”


Gibbs has lots of questions and tells Ziva he’s trying not to ask the hard ones. We learn about Ziva’s necklace (Tali picked it out for her and insisted that she wear it – just the memory makes Ziva smile).  Ziva explains her motivation by asking (telling) Gibbs wouldn’t he do anything for one more minute with his daughter? We also learn that Ziva suffers from anxiety since the farmhouse explosion, but she also needs her senses intact (ninja-sharp), so she isn’t taking her meds.

Grizzly Adams finally gets up and when they check under the seat, the SD card is gone. They chase Grizzly Adams. Grizzly enters an alley and is talking to someone on the phone, he mentions sending the file but that the person on the other end will need to decrypt it. Ziva attacks him and when Grizzly pulls a gun on her, Gibbs shoots him dead. Ziva is pissed that they can’t bleed him for intel now.  They take the SD card and Grizzly’s phone and steal his truck before the cops show up.


We come back from break and Ziva has searched Grizzly Adams’ truck; it’s clean for any signs pointing to Sahar. Gibbs wants to call McGee and put him on the decryption of the SD Card. Ziva is adamant against anyone else being dragged into this and getting hurt. Gibbs breaks down the reality that they are in a race and you need to put your best foot forward to win. Also, Gibbs is keeping his temper but he tells Ziva he isn’t asking her permission on this one.

NCIS HQ. Bishop corners McGee in the bathroom (again) and tells him that Sahar is “Mira Sahar Asam,” a former POW from Syria. He gets a call from Gibbs and asks after Ziva.  There is a funny bit where Gibbs asks Ziva if she wants to say “hi” to McGee but she just glares at him. Back to business, Bishop lets #TeamGibbsZiva about Sahar’s full name (doesn’t mean anything to Ziva) and Gibbs tells McGee to decrypt ASAP the file he’s going to send. But otherwise, keep this all quiet and do not get involved. He also tells McGee about dead Grizzly Adams and intimates he should do something about that too.

NCIS HQ, Autopsy.  Jimmy is walking the crew through Grizzly Adams’ autopsy and mentions that this John Doe #2 also had bedbug bites and lungs full of ash. Coincidence?

McGee comes in with news that he decrypted the file. It contains an address of a penthouse in DC belonging to a “Mr. Rogers.” McGee has already given the address to Gibbs and adds that Gibbs’ explicit orders were to stay put. But, obviously they end up going to the Mr. Rogers address too, despite Jimmy being uncomfortable being left as the only one at HQ who knows about “Operation Z” (a strong contender for the episode recap title).


Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Things get a little weird in the penthouse. Mr. Rogers (Hossein Mardani) is a short guy in a velour suit who likes weapons (yes, his office is decorated with guns and knives). He does tell them that that “Mira Sahar Asam” is an alias, but for whom, he doesn’t say.  Ziva announces herself, maybe earning a little respect from Mr. Rogers and asks why Sahar wants her dead? Mr. Rogers gets very deep about Ziva’s necklace and rips it off of her neck. He goes into a prolonged metaphor about Sahar hunting Ziva because of the “albatross” Ziva wears around her. Mr. Rogers reveals that Sahar is hunting Ziva because of Ari Aswari, Ziva’s half-brother (and if you don’t know about Ari, go watch some old NCIS episodes ASAP, specifically Seasons 2 and 3).

Photo: Erik Voake/CBS 

Gibbs sees the red laser trained on Mr. Rogers and he and Ziva take cover. Someone takes Mr. Rogers out before he can finish talking. Ziva frantically tries to unwrap her necklace from Mr. Rogers’ fingers. Gibbs sliders the knife back to her and Ziva cuts off his fingers to get the necklace back. Outside, we’re caught up to the beginning of the episode.


McGee, Torres and Bishop watch the sketchy alley deal from the cold open as a “gray haired guy” draws a gun. Oh wait, it’s our silver fox, Gibbs. McGee is about to send his team in when Ziva gives the curt head shake from the opener. Now we know, she was looking at McGee and she was telling him not to follow. That was a nice bit of storytelling.

McGee tells them to get in but Bishop tells him to stand down – Ziva knows what she needs better than them and her head shake just now was a clear sign. McGee looks conflicted but convinced.


Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS

NCIS HQ.  Back at the office, Kasie tells Jimmy that she traced the bedbugs, and the ash, and has determined that the bad guys are sleeping in an old abandoned diner. She told Gibbs about this when he called, which she announces just as Vance walks in. He doesn’t look pleased. A classic comedy of errors when Jimmy is involved. You had one job Palmer, One Job!

The Abandoned Diner. Gibbs and Ziva are in a clearing, talking about what to do. Ziva tries to explain that her only way back to Tali is to kill Sahar. Gibbs is done doing this the hang way and says that if they can arrest Sahar, they will do so.  Nope Nope Nope, says Ziva. Also, Ziva reveals that back on the bus, she was talking about Gibbs spending another minute with her (not Kelly). Seems that Ziva is heartbroken Gibbs believed she was killed in the explosion, that he didn’t go looking for her. Ziva tells Gibbs that he abandoned her.

Wait, what? She lost me here. Everyone thought Ziva was dead. Why would Gibbs think otherwise?

Gibbs doesn’t get to respond to being emotionally bitch slapped because Ziva’s “associate” arrives. Its Odette! The landlady, who, based on the arsenal in her trunk, is clearly more than a landlady. Seriously. Who is this woman and where did she come up with all these weapons?!?


NCIS HQ. Vance is yelling at the team about lying and Sloane is being all concerned about Gibbs and tells them they need to go after them. ASAP. McGee won’t go because Ziva told him not to. Vance acknowledges that McGee is right and hopes that this doesn’t go sideways. Sloane thinks this is bonkers.

The Abandoned Diner.  Sahar (Mouzam Makkar) is trying to check in with her men but no one is responding. Ziva pops up and they draw on each other. Gibbs enters and tells her that her men are all down. Sahar does the math and surrenders. Gibbs begins to place Sahar under arrest as Ziva has a series of flashbacks, her anxiety is flaring. Ziva relives Adam telling her that they’ll pay the price if she’s found with Gibbs; Mr. Rogers mentioning her albatross; Gibbs warning her not to go outside the la lest she lose who she is; younger Ziva killing Ari dead in Gibbs’ basement; Odette reminding her that she’s doing this to get back to Tali; young Tali.

Ziva lunges to shoot Sahar and Gibbs steps in front of Ziva’s drawn gun. Sahar says that if Ziva kills her, a US Senator will be dead by morning.

“That is tomorrow’s concern. This is today.”

Gibbs knocks her gun hand away and Ziva draws another gun on Gibbs.


Fade to Black. To Be Continued.

Thoughts.  Not how I expected that premiere to go, that’s for sure. I am pretty sure that the scenes from the next episode are intentionally red herrings, designed to make it look like Ziva is aiding a terrorist. I cannot wait to see what develops. Man, it is good to have Ziva back on this show! Same time next week people. #ZivaLives.

NCIS airs Tuesday nights on CBS at 8pm (ET/PT).   


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