Great Expectations

ncisAs much as I enjoyed last night’s episode of NCIS, I was a little disappointed.

First, let me say that at my house, we watch a lot of NCIS. After spending a rainy weekend parked in front of the television watching two days of NCIS several years ago, we were hooked. Yes, the show can be a little formulaic, but it’s the quirky characters and their relationships that keep me coming back.

Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs leads a team of field agents who investigate suspicious deaths for the Navy and Marine Corps. Last night’s episode was no different, except that it was this year’s Halloween episode. Halloween pranks had led to a murder staged to look like a suicide.

According to the press release from EIF and iParticipate this show would have volunteerism incorporated into the script and story line rather than just a bump during a commercial break. The show had opened with teenage boys engaging in pranks on Mischief Night, the night before Halloween – draping trees with toilet paper and filling mailboxes with shaving cream. I thought possibly these boys would have a change of heart and volunteer to take neighborhood children Trick or Treating. To their surprise, the boys were instead witnesses to a murder.

As the show continued, we were treated to some classic NCIS humor. A suspect is named Mr. Rogers — who has a penchant for wearing sweaters — and Donozzo makes several “neighborhood” jokes. And, as it is the Halloween episode, fans of the show chuckled as Donozzo refers to McGee as McGoblin. (A long running joke on the show.) We also learn that the victim was murdered by being forced to drink liquid nitrogen – very spooky.

Still waiting for civic engagement to make an appearance in the script, the second commercial break had a bump from CBS about volunteering featuring an actor from the show The Mentalist.

As the second and third acts unfolded, I waited and waited for volunteering to appear in the story line. But it never did.

However, as the show went on, a side story was developed. Donozzo enters into a larceny pool with one of his former colleagues on the Baltimore Police force —  how many arrests will the Police Department make during Halloween? Finally, it is this story line that weaves it way around to community engagement – sort of. Donozzo ends up winning the pool and collects the money. Rather than keeping the money he donates it to charity. It’s a throw away line at the very end of the episode. Pretty disappointing.

In a show about people doing the wrong thing and getting caught by people doing the right thing, I expected more. In the past, NCIS has more effectively incorporated community involvement into the plot. Early in Season 1, a naval officer is murdered, and is suspected of being involved with gangs and drugs. The midnight basketball program that he runs at the local inner city community center is shut down. Gibbs and his team work to clear his name and reopen the basketball courts. Gibbs even visits the community center to play basketball and reach out to the teens at the center.

I’m still a giant NCIS fan, but as an even bigger fan of volunteering and community involvement I was hoping to see the two combined. Sadly, while I know that Agent Gibbs and his team are the kind of people who do the right thing and make a difference in their community, the writers seem to have missed an opportunity to reinforce this idea with the viewers.

Maybe I’ll have to start writing a little fan fiction.

You can watch the full episode of NCIS on the show’s Web site.

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