‘NCIS’ Puts the Pieces of the Lemere Case Together — and Leaves Us Worried About Gibbs (RECAP)

Mark Harmon as Gibbs, Jason Wiles as Lemere in NCIS
Spoiler Alert
Michael Yarish/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 19, Episode 3 “Road to Nowhere.”]

If you ever need someone to shoot a person just 1mm off from killing them, turn to Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon). Because he knows what he’s doing, NCIS doesn’t lose their best lead in figuring out who hired Paul Lemere (Jason Wiles), their thought-to-be serial killer who’s actually a hitman.

Yes, Lemere survives Gibbs’ shot (to save Diona Reasonover’s Kasie) at the end of “Nearly Departed,” as the suspended agent knew he would. That leads to the beginning of a fun dynamic between Gibbs and FBI Special Agent Parker (Gary Cole), who’s in the middle of reaming him out for being “reckless and dangerous” when the doctor informs them Lemere will live. (Seriously, more with these two immediately!)

So while the rest of the team works on following the money — back to the Pentagon?! — Gibbs and Parker end up on a road trip with Lemere to, he claims, his first victim. “It’ll explain everything. Who hired me. Why. All of it,” Lemere says, insisting as well that he wasn’t the one to call Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) when they were in his apartment. Rather, that was someone ratting him out. Director Vance (Rocky Carroll, who directed the episode) is hesitant to agree, especially since Lemere insists Gibbs take him, but Kasie finds another payment of $50,000 seemingly confirming the timing of there being another victim he was hired to kill.

So how’s that going to go? Well, Lemere’s looking forward to spending time with Gibbs, Parker suggests smoking a peace pipe, Gibbs is armed just in case, and Parker gets introduced to his not-partner’s driving, all before they even hit the road.

Sean Murray, Jason Wiles, Gary Cole, Mark Harmon in NCIS

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Road Trip!

When Torres and Knight (Katrina Law) head to the Pentagon and talk to Army First Lieutenant DFAS Andrea Falco (Anna Campbell) about that payment to Lemere, she points them in the direction of Sonova Industries, a contractor account whose payment her office processed. There isn’t an authorizing name listed, which suggests someone’s trying to hide something. (The DOD is also being audited for $35 trillion worth in discrepancies. WOW.)

Sonova is a huge conglomerate with 14 divisions worldwide. They started out in mining and now make everything from jet fuel to petroleum jelly. Sonia Eberhart (Valarie Pettiford), the very guarded, tough CEO, runs the main headquarters in Virginia, and Knight goes undercover in one of the company’s focus groups to sneak away and gain access to Sonova’s server room and files.

Meanwhile, Parker just wants to try to talk about the case with Lemere, who wants to keep everything a surprise. He does say that while the others were just names on the list, “this one was significant.” If Parker wants to know more about him, “ask Leroy here,” the killer recommends.

Wilmer Valderrama as Torres, Sean Murray as McGee in NCIS

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As the FBI agent continues to push, Lemere seems to yield. He was raised in a small town, his dad was in the service, and he enlisted right out of school, he says. He was discharged because he lost someone close to him — his wife, he seemingly agrees to Parker’s interjection — and had trouble dealing with the pain. Sound familiar? Oh, yes it does. Gibbs tells Parker that Lemere’s not telling his own stories. “They’re mine,” he explains. But Lemere insists that’s because they’re the same.

Parker reluctantly agrees to stop to get Lemere food when the man claims not to know if they’re going in the right direction. Lemere watches as the other men talk outside. Gibbs knows he did his research, and Parker asks if everything is true. He doesn’t like the “thing” between Gibbs and Lemere, he admits, especially since things didn’t turn out so well for the last guy he knew who liked to pretend things he didn’t like weren’t there. He’s up to something, Parker knows, wanting to call it off. Gibbs tells him it’s his call, and when Parker steps away to report back that they’re turning around, Gibbs does exactly what you expect him to: he drives off with Lemere.

Like Looking in a Mirror?

As the road trip continues, down one man, Gibbs knows that Lemere is trying to rattle him and throw him off his game. Lemere admits he did research him and “I was relieved to learn there’s another person just like me, someone who could relate. People like us, we live lonely lives.” He knows what Gibbs is: “a killer, plain and simple, just like me.” But “I am nothing like you,” Gibbs insists.

Mark Harmon as Gibbs, Jason Wiles as Paul Lemere in NCIS

Michael Yarish/CBS

Lemere knows Gibbs killed the man who murdered his wife and daughter, and with all the bodies he left in his years as an agent, “how many of those actually needed to die?” He’s clearly getting to Gibbs, who keeps speeding up and has flashes from over the years, including of the guy he beat up that led to his suspension. Maybe Gibbs couldn’t help himself, Lemere suggested, or maybe he didn’t want to.

“You crossed that line years ago and you never looked back. Hell, when you got tired of skilling suspects, you even went after one of your own,” Lemere says. OUCH! Gibbs rightfully points out he was trying to save McGee (Sean Murray). But as the killer points out, the two of them are the only people who could’ve taken that shot. It’s then that Gibbs has enough, stops the car, drags Lemere out, and punches the car window behind his head where he has him pinned.

“You isolated yourself. You cut yourself off from the one thing that’s kept you sane and grounded. You could’ve gone back to NCIS at any time, you chose not to. You abandoned them, your family. Once you do that, once you do that, what happens to you next? You’re looking at it!” Lemere taunts him and gets exactly what he wants: Gibbs to pull his gun on him. But he doesn’t pull the trigger. (Is that exactly what Gibbs needed to hear to figure out what’s next? Maybe. He still hasn’t tried to get his badge back.)

Katrina Law as Knight, Wilmer Valderrama as Torres in NCIS

Michael Yarish/CBS

How Is Sonova Connected?

Meanwhile, Kasie finds information on a surveillance program, Skylark, in Sonova’s files. Four of the hundred people the company was watching were grouped together, and three are Lemere’s victims. Did Sonova hire him to kill them? What about the fourth? That would be Libby Alonak, whom they think is alive until they find her body in her home … and she’s been dead about two years, making her the first victim.

Even though they don’t have any direct evidence, Parker insists they bring in Sonova’s CEO. Sonia claims not to recognize Lemere and barely has a reaction to the fact that he’s killed eight people, with payments that trace back to her company. The most she’ll admit to is that Skylark is one of the company’s programs, but she claims it’s for opposition research. They have no choice but to let her go since they’re not charging her.

So where’s Lemere taking Gibbs if the others found his first victim? To a house belonging to the Tanners in Syracuse. There, Gibbs stops him as he’s nearing a stashed gun, then Lemere leads him over to a tree, where his wife is buried. “Maybe I was wrong about you,” he admits, since Gibbs didn’t shoot him on the side of the road (especially considering he knew all the buttons to push), whereas he wouldn’t have flinched. “Maybe there’s still hope.” And before he kills himself (via a landmine), he offers a major clue: a bay in Alaska.

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It’s a small fishing community in southwestern Alaska where Sonova is building a copper mine. (They’re getting into the cell phone business and need copper to make the phones.) The four victims grouped together all would have stood in the company’s way for various reasons. The others were killed as a smokescreen: enough random kills to make everyone think serial killer. And Sonia just hopped a flight to Alaska.

That’s also where Gibbs and McGee will be going. But first, Gibbs has something to do: visit Shannon and Kelly’s grave, where there’s a place for him alongside his wife and daughter. Uh-oh, should we be worried?

NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS