Tony complains to Gibbs that no one mentions Ziva anymore

NCIS picked up shortly after Gibbs returned from Afghanistan with a handful of women from a women’s shelter, including Catherine Tavier, who plays the woman who'd been running it. In the show’s third episode without Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), Tony (Michael Weatherly) is still struggling without his partner and “the one that got away,” and revisits his days working for the Baltimore Police Department.

In the “Once a Crook” cold open, a man sprints through a wooded area and onto a road. He then starts running towards a parked car, but is shot from behind before he gets there.

At the office, McGee (Sean Murray) discovers Tony hard at work at 7 a.m. and tells him that a dead sailor was found near Baltimore. McGee soon becomes concerned for Tony, when the agent drops a bunch of folders and subsequently slams his head on his desk – and he should be, as Tony hasn’t slept in days. At the crime scene, Tony guzzles an energy drink while Ducky fills them in about the victim – Frist Class Petty Officer Wells. After learning that Wells had worked as a crypto tech and had recently returned from a stint in Afghanistan, McGee heads to the hotel for which Wells had a key card.

Still working the crime scene, Tony catches the eye of a guy in the crowd who’s wearing a green hoodie, and tells Gibbs that he might be suspicious. When Tony sees the hoodie-wearing spectator make for the woods, he calls out “I know you,” and futilely attempts to track him down. Stumbling upon a pack of Choward’s gum, Tony then has a flashback to a case he worked in Baltimore where he tried to help out a teenage petty criminal named Anton Martin.

Back at NCIS, Tony is piqued to find Delilah making herself at home in Ziva’s vacated desk. Delilah explains to him that the Department of Defense sent her to work on Wells’ computer, as his high-security level meant he had access to sensitive encryption codes. Problem is, Abby (Pauley Perrette) got to the computer first, and decided to take the computer apart. Inside, she finds spyware, which she tells Gibbs (Mark Harmon) means there was espionage going on.

It’s revealed that Wells had been communicating frequently with a private defense contractor named Amy Linden who’d been footing the bill for his hotel and travel expenses. After confessing his fear of hallucinations to Ducky and getting a wake up call from Gibbs, Tony hears from Abby that the DNA on the gun matches that of a Russian mobster that’s wanted for a Baltimore stabbing. This leads Tony to head to his old place, where he finds Anton squatting. Anton denies being the one to kill the sailor and runs off after his gun jams when he tried to put a bullet in Tony.

While Tony tries to track down Anton’s sister Marie, Amy Linden tells Gibbs that she was only recruiting Wells to work for a tech company. McGee relays to Tony that Marie works at Rankoff’s Bakery, causing another memory to get recalled before he heads there and finds out Marie’s address from a coworker. When Tony gets to the apartment, he finds that Gibbs, who’d overheard his conversation with McGee, was already there. As it turns out, Wells and Marie’s husband had served together in Afghanistan before the husband died a few weeks ago. Gibbs lofts the theory that Wells had simply come to pay his respects, while Tony reveals that Anton had been his informant, but had later killed a Russian mobster.

In the basement of Marie and her late husband’s house, Gibbs discovers a hidden room chock full of computers, which turn out to be the products of a smuggling ring that was run by Marie’s husband and Jake Spoke. Tony, Gibbs and McGee then track down Anton, who is holding Spoke at gunpoint. While Tony gets Anton to drop his weapon, Spoke won’t reveal who heads the smuggling ring.

Tony then tells Anton that Marie’s abduction, as well as Wells’ murder, were both a result of his long ago murder of Ivan Khartov’s son Viktor. Unfortunately for Wells, his murder was a case of mistaken identity. Anton hadn’t come back to start any more trouble, but had just wanted to attend his brother-in-law’s funeral. He’d never wanted to kill Viktor either, but he had no way of calling for help once he’d been made and taken. Tony realizes it was the bakery owner who’d informed on Anton and gives him an earful before granting Anton the opportunity to see his sister before he goes off to jail.

While Tony does his best to comfort Anton before his imprisonment, he’s still seeking closure in losing Ziva. He complains to Gibbs that no one will even say her name, disturbing him because it’s like his best friend and would-be love is not just away but dead.

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.

– Chelsea Regan

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