“How much do you know about the family business?”
Well, for over 20 years, the family business over at CBS has been the NCIS franchise, and another decade longer if you consider it was a spin-off of JAG, which lasted 10 years on its own. It’s been a busy 20 years, I can tell you that. About seven years into the original show’s run, we got our first NCIS spin-off with NCIS: Los Angeles. That show focused more on action and a lot of explosions. The show just finished its final year after 14 seasons. Then there was NCIS: New Orleans that brought the focus to the unique culture and tastes of The Big Easy. It lasted seven years, and there’s an upcoming NCIS: Sydney which is about to take us down under to grab that shrimp on the barbie. Things continue to expand, and now we have NCIS: Hawai’i, which expands the franchise and solves a situation at CBS. For decades they have kept a Hawaiian studio on the islands. First it was a remake of Hawaii Five-O, and then a remake of Magnum P.I. recreated history just as it happened in the 1970’s. Now Magnum is gone once again, and so CBS slid a new NCIS show right into those production facilities. What we have is another unique location and another NCIS crew out there solving Navy crimes.
This is a brand new team led by Jane Tennant, played by Vanessa Lachey. She’s a single mother of a son and daughter, and that family life plays into the her story arc on the show. This year her son, Alex (Talan) is on his final year of high school and starting to plan for his future. He was once a big baseball prospect, but an injury in Season 1 changed his trajectory. Jane has to contend with his growing independence when he brings home a girlfriend who is 21 and considers herself a “free spirit”. She is trying to convince him to postpone school and take a gap year traveling around Europe.
We also learn a bit about Jane this year. She is former CIA, and the last two episodes of the season take us on a trip into her past. We discover she was on an op that went bad. She made a mistake that now she’s trying to fix. It takes her to South America where a ghost from her past is haunting and hunting her. We get to see that past in several flashbacks, and it goes a long way to round out the history of the character.
Jesse Boone is played by Noah Mills. He’s the second in command here. He’s also a family man, but we really don’t see anywhere near as deeply into his family. He’s a former police officer and isn’t the most patient guy on the team. He’s often the go-get-it-done guy and the most serious in the group. He and Jane have a past working together, and there’s a history and a trust there that we haven’t explored too deeply yet.
Kai Holman is played by Alex Tarrant. Pay no attention to the coincidence in the actor’s name and the boss’s son’s name. He’s the cast’s “native” islander, which is ironic when you hear the actual actor talk and not the character. He’s from New Zealand and hides the accent for the character. He’s a former Marine, if anyone can ever be described as a “former” Marine. He carries a lot of baggage from his years of service. He feels guilt for leaving his father and sister and their restaurant business behind while he served, and he’s dealing with those memories of war that are all too common with combat veterans. He’s the muscle in the group and the toughest guy. This season that guilt gets exposed during a several-episode story arc when he deals with a drug gang that includes his old best friend from the streets and discovers that his father got help from the bad guys when he wasn’t there to step up. He’s easily the more fleshed-out character on the show, and it makes him the most interesting to me.
Lucy Tara is played by Yasmine Al-Bustami. She’s the youngest and greenest member of the team. She’s not quite confident on a lot of levels but is the team’s big cheerleader. She’s living in Hawaii and working for the Navy, but she doesn’t like water or boats. Has a kind of fear of them. She faces those fears by stepping out in a few episodes while the character serves aboard an aircraft carrier as the agent afloat. Lucy’s girlfriend is FBI agent and agency liaison Kate Whistler, played by Tori Anderson. Kate’s also got a bit of a self-confidence issue, and as the season progresses she becomes closer to the team and Jane when she is the only one Jane takes with her when she goes a little rogue at season’s end.
Ernie Malik is the requisite tech guy, and played by Jason Antoon. Ernie is the expected geek with a bit of an ego problem and also a bit of an arrogance issue. They tolerate him because he does have his naïve, charming aspects. He’s kind of still searching for things in his life but isn’t comfortable outside of his lab very often. This season he gets a huge chance to do just that when he’s the only one the Space Force will allow inside a Mars mission simulation when one of the participants ends up dead. It appears going to Mars is a lifelong dream of his. He’s closest to Lucy and the team’s medical examiner Carla Chase, who is in fact Jason Antoon’s real life wife, Seana Kofoed. Chase is a bit New Age with healing crystals, yoga, and aura kind of vibes going on. She gets a strong episode this season when a man kidnaps her to perform an autopsy on a woman he’s about to be accused of killing. Her empathy shows, and it’s kind of an important episode, because before that I sort of just labeled her the team kook. Smart. But a kook.
There are a couple of strong recurring characters we get this season. Two are returnees from Season 1. Coast Guard Investigative Services (CGIS) special agent Neil Pike is my favorite. He’s played by Mark Gessner and is often the comedic foil. He’s over-the-top, to be sure, and so not well respected by the team. He’s the guy this season who thinks he’s a profiler because he attended a profiling seminar in a hotel lobby once, but when they encounter a serial killer, he turns out to be right. He’s also undercover for three days, but acts like he’s spent a life doing it. He’s amusing and always a treat. The other is disgraced agent Maggie Shaw, who is now in prison, played by Julie White. We discover she was once Jane’s partner in the CIA. She’s involved in that big season finale story and the kind who always has a plan B in her back pocket. She’s elusive and can’t be trusted, but at least a part of her heart might be in the right place.
Finally there is an end-of-season cameo by LL Cool J’s Agent Sam Hanna in the finale. If you watch the finale of NCIS: Los Angeles, there’s a stinger that plays out here. He’s signed on to be a recurring character next season, so we’ll be seeing much more of him. This is a really quick introduction, you could say. All of those episodes are included here.
There are a couple of big crossovers. The first starts the season and is a pretty casual crossover with the mother show. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Robert Picardo kicks off the second crossover event that works in all three of the NCIS shows from this previous year. Once again it all starts on the mothership, where Picardo plays a long-time NCIS training professor who is about to retire. He gets a strange phone call which leads him to shoot himself just as agents from all over the world are reuniting here for his retirement send-off. Most have fond memories of the guy and can’t reconcile his actions with the man they each thought they knew. Of course, with all of these agents in town to pay tribute, that includes Agent Tennant (Lachey) from NCIS: Hawaii and Agents Hanna (Cool J) and Callen (O’Donnell) from NCIS: Los Angeles. The mystery eventually takes them to L.A. and a wrap-up once again in Hawaii. It’s the first time these three shows have contributed one story and will be the last, as NCIS: Los Angeles has now ended. It’s a nice combination of story elements and talents and a pretty cool event. Reminds me a little of those Arrowverse crossovers the CW used to have for their DC characters.
So far this is still my least favorite of the NCIS shows. I am warming up to it, but I’m taking longer buying into these characters for some reason. The writers have found ways to improve the characters’ stories and provide better chemistry at times. The show’s not going away soon. Longevity is part of that family business I was talking about, so things will have the room to improve, and I look forward to seeing that happen. “There’s always time to stave off infection.”