‘NCIS’: Gary Cole’s Debut Is Filled With Twists as the Serial Killer Case Continues (RECAP)

Sean Murray, Rocky Carroll, Mark Harmon, Wilmer Valderrama in NCIS
Spoiler Alert
Cliff Lipson/CBS


Nearly Departed

Season 19 • Episode 2

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 19 Episode 2 “Nearly Departed.”]

The serial killer case takes quite a few turns — at least one we saw coming and others that were downright shocking — as NCIS Season 19 continues. As a result, Gary Cole’s introduction as FBI Special Agent Alden Parker takes a backseat (and not just because it reminds us so much of Michael Weatherly’s DiNozzo meeting Mark Harmon’s Gibbs in the “Baltimore” flashbacks that it isn’t quite original).

As we learn soon enough, the team may know that Gibbs is alive, following his boat blowing up, but they’re letting the world think he could be dead so the serial killer thinks he succeeded. Still, at least two people aren’t fooled by Director Vance’s (Rocky Carroll) press conference. But exactly how is Gibbs working with the team on the case? With a badge and his NCIS weapon? Or under the radar?

Meanwhile, Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) is a little too eager to give Knight (Katrina Law) Bishop’s (Emily Wickersham) old desk. “For a guy who obviously cared a lot about her, he sure is going out of his way to pretend he didn’t,” she notes to Palmer (Brian Dietzen). He thinks Bishop left at the moment Torres realizes just how much he cared about her — and it seems like he’s right. After vehemently denying Bishop was his girlfriend, he later admits to Knight, “if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve told her how I felt.”

And now, for the twists of the serial killer with a side of the fun of Gibbs and Fornell (Joe Spano) scenes …

If It Looks Like a Serial Killer…

A man (Jason Wiles) buys bleach, hammers, paper towels, and red duct tape in a store. In the back of his van is a woman he’s kidnapped. We have a face for our serial killer!

Sean Murray, Rocky Carroll, Mark Harmon in NCIS

Cliff Lipson/CBS

Meanwhile, Vance walks by the team’s desks and waves out of habit only to realizes no one’s there. That’s because they’re in the squad room replica that Palmer has set up in the barn where Gibbs recuperated. Gibbs even walks in asking for an “update” with a cup of coffee in his hand and later tells everyone to “grab your gear” when another victim is found, matching the killer’s signature except for one fact: It hasn’t been 100 days since the last one. (Vance brings Gibbs’ badge and gun with him when he tracks down the team but will hold onto them until the other man is ready.)

The latest victim wore a fitness tracker, which Kasie (Diona Reasonover) uses to track her route to a building. There, they find the killer’s basement of horrors — and the man himself. But while Torres and Knight take off after him, he gets away. His landlady gives them a name (Tom Samuels, obviously as fake as his ID) just as he calls Torres with a threat: “Now, I found you, so remember I can get rid of any one of you just like I got rid of your buddy Gibbs.” (Honestly, the “Gotta go!” at the end is almost amusing.)

Why Gibbs Needs Fornell in His Life

Fornell stops by NCIS to find out where his old friend is because he knows Gibbs didn’t die in that boat explosion, despite what they’re saying to the public. “Guys like Gibbs don’t die getting blown up in their boats. They die rescuing babies and puppies from burning buildings in the middle of a hurricane,” he explains.

Pam Dawber as Marcie Warren in NCIS

Cliff Lipson/CBS

But where is Gibbs at the moment? Helping reporter Marcie (Pam Dawber) fix up her office and getting a crash course in zooming in on a photo on a tablet. She doesn’t recognize photos of Tom but there’s also someone else in the background of all those images: a man wearing a mask, hat, and sunglasses. There’s someone else to track.

In fact, Fornell joins Gibbs in his truck as the latter’s waiting for the man to exit a building. After some classic banter from the two of them — “Who sneaks up on somebody like that?” “Who plays dead and doesn’t call me?” — Fornell recommends that Gibbs try the grief support therapy group Palmer brought him to. (Fornell lost his daughter, Palmer his wife.) It’s “a revelation,” he says. “You gotta come to the next meeting. Counseling has done wonders for me, and it could be good for you, too.”

The fact that their conversation moves from that to Fornell ribbing Gibbs for not introducing him to Marcie yet to questioning the suspended agent’s future shows just why pretty much every scene with the two of them is gold. “You always find some way to justify staying in the hunt,” Fornell notes. “It’s all you do, and for how long, Mr. ‘Who am I without the job?’ How many wrongs made right will it take you to fill the void inside you?” They’ve both lost — jobs, wives (more than one), and kids. Fornell’s now good (not great), and Gibbs could be, too, he continues, if he realizes that “chasing bad guys may not be the answer anymore. Hell, it may even be the problem.”

Sean Murray, Gary Cole, Katrina Law, Wilmer Valderrama in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Fun for Parker, Not for the Team

The guy in the hat steps onto the street but runs as soon as the team identifies themselves and approaches. Torres and the mystery guy engage in a little hand-to-hand fight before McGee and Knight pull their guns on him. (Fornell notes to Gibbs as they watch in the car that the team did it all without him.) Hello, Alden Parker.

However, Parker doesn’t tell McGee (Sean Murray) who he is in interrogation until after he runs his mouth quite a bit and makes fun of NCIS (“Never heard of it, for all I knew some nudist colony in Seattle was after my ass again”) and McGee threatens to put his face on the news. Once the camera’s off, Parker IDs himself because he refuses to let his cover be blown. As he tells Vance, the FBI, with him spearheading the op. has been covertly building a case against this killer for months. He’s willing to work with NCIS and share intel — but Gibbs (yes, he knows he’s alive) can’t be part of it. Vance refuses to comply with that condition.

Fornell offers a bit more about Parker to Gibbs as they take a look at Tom’s basement. He knew him “millions of years ago,” he says. “He’s a good agent, not a bad guy, divorced, Cubs fan, played drums in the bureau band for a while.” (Gibbs doesn’t care.) The fun of Fornell playing to Gibbs’ jealousy about Marcie (“She can write my story anytime”) is quickly overshadowed by how angry Gibbs gets, smashing one of Tom’s metal sculptures, because the killer’s still out there.

Gary Cole as Parker, Sean Murray as McGee in NCIS


The team and Parker are comparing notes — he offers a seventh victim to add to the list from December 2019 — when Kasie informs them that Tom was spotted buying flowers outside a cemetery five minutes ago. By the time they arrive at the cemetery, Gibbs has already fought him and has his gun on him. It takes Parker, McGee, and Torres to get Gibbs to stand down. Tom was there collecting a bag filled with $326,000, his real passport (Paul Lemere is his name), more fake IDs, and a thumb drive Kasie works to decrypt.

Paul seems a bit too calm sitting in interrogation, waiting for his lawyer, Knight notes. Uh-oh.

Who Is Paul Lemere?

Then Torres finds out from the legal department that Paul’s lawyer has been dead for 11 years. Is he stalling or playing some kind of game? Kasie has uncovered more about him: He was a highly-decorated Navy SEAL before he received a bad conduct discharge. The thumb drive explains the cash: his off-shore account has been growing by $50,000 every 100 days, with every kill. He’s a contract killer. A shell company, Navis Ventures, has been paying him.

In interrogation, Paul’s not worried. When Knight asks about Navis Ventures, however, he reacts violently, sliding the table forward and slamming her into the one-way mirror. When Torres bursts in, Paul leaps through the mirror into the observation room and runs down the hall. He makes it as far as the squad room, where he takes Kasie hostage and threatens to slit her throat. He’s not afraid to die, he tells the team. But it’s Gibbs who shoots him from behind.

So to sum up: We were expecting Parker’s introduction after the photos, but we were surprised that Paul turned out to be a contract killer and how it ended for him in the squad room. But what did you think? Vote in the poll below about Parker, then head to the comments with your thoughts on this multi-episode case.

NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS