NCIS Episode 6.21: ‘Toxic’ Review

Posted on April 8, 2009



TVSummary: Fun, Abby-centric episode with no bearing on the season.
Rating: 8/10

Review Trailer
The quick skinny on the episode.
Abby is taken into custody by the FBI to work on a top secret biomedical project when the original scientist goes missing. Meanwhile, the rest of the team tries to solve the murder of a Marine private who appears to have been involved in something well above his rank and paygrade. The episode is a fun little romp with no significant bearing on any season-long arcs.

Feature-Length Review after the jump.

NCIS and Me
Background on my relationship with the show for this first review only.

I’m not a huge procedural buff. I certainly enjoy the process behind them and the way pieces fit together in the end. As series, though, I tend to find them boring and repetitive. That’s not to say I haven’t watched my fair share over the years. In fact, I was huge on the CSI tip when the show first premiered and no one was talking about it. CSI didn’t invent the genre but it really innovated it and launched what could probably be considered the definitive show archetype of the Aughts. Well, aside from so-called “reality” TV, of course.

The problem with any kind of hit is that you’ll find many many copycats. CBS, CSI‘s network, has built the majority of their primetime lineup on them now. I’ve seen episodes of CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Without a Trace, Cold Case, The Mentalist, Janitor, P.I., etc., but pretty much abandoned consistent viewing of any of the type. That included NCIS.

I grew up a Navy brat, so I have a particular soft spot for things associated with the military, especially the Navy. That’s something that eventually appealed to me on this show, though the military stuff is more an affectation than anything, really. I came to the show by catching reruns on USA, a lot of reruns. I’ve actually caught the entire run of the series by now. Not that I need to have seen an episode previously to follow what’s going on, the primary appeal of procedurals from what I hear. But I know find myself very familiar and invested in Gibbs and his team. Their relationships and interactions are actually what attract me most to the show. That and the fact that the show doesn’t take itself too seriously most of the time. The mysteries are mere afterthoughts.

NCIS is like paperback novels from prolific writers. Brain candy.

And for the record, though I like Ziva, I’m a Kate fan.

Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.
Feature-Length Review
The in-depth review.

Through the course of the series, I”ve come to find that I have two favorite characters on the show. That’s saying much because one of the things I like about NCIS is that all of the characters are likeable, interesting and enjoyable to watch onscreen. You don’t find that too often with a series. Heck, even Director Leon Vance, who puts up the persona of a stick in the mud, is a joy. (Not to mention that I tend to like Rocky Carroll’s work more often than not.) The two characters that jump out to me as my faves, though, are Abby and Jimmy Palmer.

We’re supposed to like Abby. She’s the quirky one who injects the heart and humor into most situations involving the other cast members. Beyond that, though, Pauly Perrette invests so much in her character without ever breaking that you can’t help but be affected by Abby. She is Abby; Abby is alive. This makes Abby-centric episodes all the more fun and entertaining.

Abby gets a fun, if slight, little case to work on here. She’s pulled into custody by the FBI at the request of the director of a biomedical program. I love moments when we’re reminded just how much of a forensic geek Abby is, like hearing about the paper she wrote related to the work of Dr. Heller, the missing scientist whose work Abby will be continuing. I also always get a kick out of this knowing that Pauly Perrete actually went to school for forensic criminology. She may not know absolute all that she’s given to do on the show but she has pretty good knowledge of what her character does.

One of the distinct joys of Ms. Sciuto is that pitbull part of her nature that pushes through the paradoxically sunny personality she usually has. (A paradox in that she has the Goth tendencies.) It’s oddly fun to see her snap at someone, as she does the biomed program director for putting her through the paces when she arrived to see if she was capable of the work. Now, of course, he could easily have been trying to keep her busy while he was working at trying to cover his embezzlement scheme. In any case, I enjoyed her barking at him, as well as the return engagement when he was in Interrogation with Gibbs.

It amazes me how easily Perrette works with anyone on the show. Her work with the fake general was so natural, graceful and believable, it was easy to see why Abby bought into his “illness” and subsequent “death”. Part of me wishes there were more to the mystery – both mysteries, that were conveniently linked together – so we could’ve seen Abby really launch into some detective work and have even more of a punch with her confrontation of the guy at the end of the episode.

I got a big kick out of McGee and Tony trying to accomplish anything in the lab while Abby was gone. Though, it did seem a bit out of character for McGee to make as big a mess as he did and then just leave it there. The Lab for Dummies manual was hilarious and putting McGee on the cover was a nice touch. I could just hear Abby needling him about his assertations of getting the bio degree from Johns Hopkins just as she gave him the business about his Harvard degree. And it was that perfect little Tony touch to have him call it about mixing the chemicals.

Overall, the episode was fluffy but fun. Punching holes in the “Afghanistan War Syndrome” was a nice wink but also allowed a dig about those who question whether Gulf War Syndrome exists or not. It really had no bearing at all on the season, as often happens with procedurals, but I got a good kick out of it. Plus, it featured a great FacePalmer moment when he jumped in on Ducky’s ramble at the crime scene and recalled the discovery of his foot and/or shoe fetish. This was good candy.

Posted in: NCIS, Television