‘NCIS’ Delivers Its Best Episode of the Season & Sets up a New Mystery (RECAP)

Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer, Diona Reasonover as Kasie Hines in NCIS
Spoiler Alert
Michael Yarish/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS Season 19, Episode 13 “The Helpers.”]

NCIS both delivers the best episode of the season yet — one that’s very emotional, very personal for the team, and with very high stakes — and sets up a new, multi-episode arc, one with a nemesis who has proven just how dangerous he is.

“The Helpers” opens up with a heartbreaking conversation between Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen, who co-wrote the episode with Scott Williams) and his late wife, Breena (Michelle Pierce). “This isn’t right,” he knows. “I want to be here, but it isn’t time for this yet, is it? It can’t be.” He’s right, and she tells him, “You need to move now so I know you’re alive. Open your eyes.” That’s when we see Palmer and forensic scientist Kasie Hines (Diona Reasonover) in really bad shape on the floor of her lab.

So how did they get there? Read on for the recap.

Welcome to NCIS, Victoria Palmer!

Palmer brings his daughter, Victoria (Elle Graper), to the office, not as part of Take Your Daughter to Work Day, but because she was suspended for fighting. She greets her uncles Tim (Sean Murray‘s McGee) and Nick (Wilmer Valderrama‘s Torres), meets Jessica Knight (Katrina Law), and has fun messing with Parker (Gary Cole), asking, “When did Gibbs grow a beard?”

Victoria hangs out with her Aunt Kasie while the team heads to the crime scene at Quantico: former Army Private First Class Phillip Hanch’s body is stuck in a truck wheel. He was trying to break onto the base. He was a slacker who dabbled in cryptocurrency, they discover, and had $50,000 in debt. “If I haven’t said it lately, you guys are good,” Parker tells his team. Why exactly? No idea. (This might have come across better if it was after two of their own were exposed to the biotoxin. Instead, it just seems to emphasize the fact that NCIS doesn’t quite know how to handle Parker as team leader.)

Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer, Elle Graper as Victoria Palmer in NCIS

CBS

The victim’s ex-wife tells them he was drawn to fringe groups with conspiracy theories, and in his trailer, they find a manifesto: “With righteous vengeance, may the unkindness cast our own plague upon the prophets of war. And let this display our power toward the glory of nevermore.” It’s signed “Quoth the raven.” The Poe signs are everywhere. Then Knight finds a bottle of poison. The team calls Palmer and Kasie to warn them not to open a flask in Hanch’s belongings, but they’re too late: Both have already smelled the contents, and as soon as mass spec analyzes it, Kasie’s lab goes into lockdown. That’s definitely not the sign Kasie was looking for as she decides whether to sign her contract renewal.

Strike 3?

And so the team begins to do their hardest to keep the truth of how serious this is from Victoria, who is able to talk to her father through the glass doors. The good thing is they have one of the CDC’s top experts in biotoxins on speed dial: Welcome back, Dr. Carol Wilson (Meredith Eaton)! “Between [Victoria] and McGee’s twins, time is just flying by,” she remarks upon seeing that Palmer’s daughter is no longer a baby. Carol also knows who to call: Dr. Yuri Pastov (Jack Jaco Pitchon), who created some biotoxins and defected to the U.S. to make the antidotes.

But while she tells Palmer, Kasie, and Victoria not to worry, Carol confides in the rest of the team she was lying. The effects of this toxin are deadly, and Yuri’s not returning her calls. A video call with Channing Elroy (Patrick Bristow) at the research lab reveals that Yuri’s been missing for two days. But he does have the antidote, so they just need to find him.

Wilmer Valderrama as Nick Torres in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

It falls on Torres to distract Victoria, and it turns out the two are close: He hangs out with her every Saturday, even when he was going through a tough time around the fight. And as Palmer listens in, Victoria opens up about the fight at school: A classmate wouldn’t let go of her while they were playing at recess. He had it coming, Torres decides. Punching isn’t the answer, Knight argues, before advising Victoria to thrust the palm of her hand up into his nose.

Soon, Palmer and Kasie begin freaking out. “This cannot be our third strike,” she insists, recalling being shot at and having a knife to her throat. She’s trying to create a makeshift antidote, and the two start yelling at each other (fortunately, Victoria can’t hear, with headphones on). Carol interrupts on video from her lab, explaining the toxin is causing an adrenaline surge. They can’t do anything that will elevate their blood pressure because the toxin will circulate faster. Fatality can occur within hours of the first physical symptoms … and Palmer’s nose starts bleeding.

Heartbreak. A Whole Lot of Heartbreak.

With the clock ticking, they have to find the Raven, the one guiding his “unkindness,” his followers, and Hanch’s social media leads them to one: Dennis. He tries to escape, but Knight uses a broom handle to stop him (in a fight that reminds us of Law’s time on Arrow as Nyssa al Ghul). He thought there were laxatives in the flask, and he has a map with three places where the biotoxin will be dispersed. Fortunately, the notes reveal that the Raven will have “the cure,” a.k.a. Yuri and his antidote, with him.

Diona Reasonover as Kasie Hines, Brian Dietzen as Jimmy Palmer in NCIS

Sonja Flemming/CBS

That’s what Carol’s trying to keep Palmer and Kasie calm and buy time for: the team to find the antidote. And while Palmer may be trying to maintain a brave face for his daughter, Victoria tells Torres that she knows everyone’s keeping the truth from her. She misses her mom because she always told her the truth, even when it was hard. “I miss my dad even more, or how Dad used to be. He’s with me all the time, but he’s different. A lot quieter. He asked me about my feelings but definitely doesn’t talk to me about his,” Victoria admits. “I just wish Mom was here to talk to him. When my angel fish died, she told me it was OK to let go and still hold on. My dad is really good at the holding on part and not so good at letting go.” But “my dad’s just stuck,” she continues. “He’ll get himself unstuck because he loves me.”

This is when we catch up to the scene that opened the episode. It’s Carol who tells Palmer to open his eyes. Kasie, too, saw a dead loved one (her father), but Palmer doesn’t share about Breena. She knows that can’t be a good sign, and she’s right, with Carol advising they call their loved ones.

Meanwhile, Parker, Knight, and McGee lead the teams covering the Raven’s targets. It’s McGee who spots Yuri, held close by a man he assumes is the Raven. McGee kills the man and gets the antidote from Yuri.

Palmer, meanwhile, talks to Victoria through the glass door. “Yes,” he’s dying, he tells her, before adding, “and so are you. … Everyone dies. And since everyone dies, what’s important is not how we die, it’s how we live.” He recalls Mister Rogers’ quote about looking out for helpers, people who look out for you for the rest of your life, with a significant look at Torres. Just as Palmer and Kasie are getting much worse, Carol comes in with the antidote.

'NCIS': Vance's Daughter Works a Case With the Team (PHOTOS)See Also

'NCIS': Vance's Daughter Works a Case With the Team (PHOTOS)

Why does the team need help from a recent trainee?

Nevermore

As they recover in the hospital, Kasie reveals that she’s signing her NCIS contract. Sure, this may have been Strike 3, but she’s now ready for more to come. “Where else am I going to find helpers like you guys?” she points out. Palmer, meanwhile, after his experience, has taken off his wedding ring. “I decided to take Breena’s advice. I can hold onto what’s important while letting go. It’s time,” he explains.

But, it turns out, the team can’t quite “let go” of this case just yet. McGee, Vance, Torres, Knight, and Parker step out into the hall and leave Palmer and Kasie to rest. “We didn’t get the Raven,” Vance reveals. The guy with Yuri wasn’t the leader. Something came in the mail, addressed to Special Agent Alden Parker and his team: a note reading “Nevermore.”

NCIS, Mondays, 9/8c, CBS