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“NCIS” recap: Cold feet are better than a cold heart

The NCIS team uncovers paternity secrets and a new cure for gnomophobia.

Bottle of champagne: $200

Extreme adventure package: $500.

Engagement ring: $20,000.

Getting to tell the story about how you were real-kidnapped in the middle of the pretend-kidnapping that interrupted your elaborate proposal scenario, which kept you from marrying a very bad woman? Priceless.

When Petty Officer Derek Bailey (Jake Thomas) disappears in the middle of setting up an elaborate Shenandoah National Park proposal for his girlfriend Tanya (Carson Fagerbakke), she’s not worried. She’s annoyed.

See, this is Derek’s third proposal attempt and the second one that the commitment-phobe straight-up walked away from, so Tanya already knows the drill: the cops won’t look into an adult’s disappearance until 72 hours have passed.

Once Derek’s been gone for three days, she calls it in, which sends the Naval Research Laboratory into a tailspin because her honey had access to blueprints for their top-secret stealth submersible. McGee (Sean Murray) and Parker (Gary Cole) adorably geek out over the rumored graphene battery technology that allows the sub to stay underwater longer. I’m so glad Tim has a fellow nerd to McGeek out with!

The NCIS team finds a gorgeous engagement ring at Derek’s abandoned forest proposal site, which Knight (Katrina Law) appraises like a dang gemologist: an almost two-carat, flawless-clarity, princess-cut stone worth $20,000.

<p>Sonja Flemming/CBS</p> Wilmer Valderrama, Gary Cole

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Wilmer Valderrama, Gary Cole

How on earth did Derek afford that much ice? Good question!

The team’s forced to ponder it without Parker’s usual breakfast pastry contribution. In fact, he’s on a grapefruit- and green juice-diet thanks to temporary roommate Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), who’s crashing on the boss’ couch while his apartment's being fumigated for mold. Parker grabs the chance to embrace the healthy habits of his highly disciplined roommate.

But his highly disciplined roommate can’t stop eyeing Knight and McGee’s french fries. Turns out, even Nick enjoys cheat days — not that he’s willing to admit that to Parker.

He tries to scrounge for snacks in Kasie’s (Diona Reasonover) lab, but she informs him that it’s not a cafeteria, then shares a video that was uploaded near the proposal site showing Derek being snatched by two masked men and tossed into a van.

Weirdly, the van’s got tracking enabled, and the team tracks it to a warehouse where Torres and Parker find a chained, hooded, gagged man who is not Derek duct-taped to a wall. The man angrily tells the slacks-wearing law-enforcement dudes that they aren’t the femme package he paid for. (I bet slacks-wearing law-enforcement dudes are intended for a room with a different duct-taped person waiting for them.)

So yeah, Derek got snatched courtesy of a company called Bold Ventures, which owner Vicky Meyer (Carly Hughes) explains offers a safe space for people to explore their extreme fears or fantasies. Our missing petty officer bought the three-day kidnapping experience. The “kidnapping” was intended to take place without Derek’s knowledge, which explains how he got carted off mid-proposal set-up.

Vicky lets the agents into the cell where Derek was being held and is shocked to find the bloody body of her employee Kyle, who was assigned to monitor Derek.

When the team questions witnesses in the warehouse, including a man dressed as a clown and the woman who hired him to cure her coulrophobia, they report hearing a man screaming “Sriracha” over and over all night, which is not at all the weirdest thing to happen at Bold Ventures.

Tanya, who lets it slip that she's 12 weeks pregnant, insists that there’s no way Derek murdered employee Kyle to escape his cell, and Palmer (Brian Dietzen) confirms that the fatal knife wound was made by someone almost half a foot taller than Derek.

A syringe left in Derek’s isolation cell has Derek's blood on it and traces of a sedative in it, which means a six-foot-tall person drugged and kidnapped Derek for real, killing employee Kyle in the process.

Bold Venture’s pre-snatching surveillance photos of Derek show him meeting with billionaire investor Ron Davenport (Alastair Duncan), after which Derek deposited $20,000. Between this and Davenport touting graphene battery technology as his next big investment, Derek suddenly looks a lot more suspicious.

When Parker and Knight roll up to Davenport’s heavily guarded estate, the man shocks them by announcing that he recently learned he’s Derek’s father. Derek’s parents died the year before, and in going through his mother’s things, Derek read her diary, learned of her brief affair with the billionaire, and confirmed his paternity with a DNA test.

Davenport was elated to learn that he had a son, but kept it extremely quiet so the media wouldn’t be all over them as they got to know each other. Yet someone clearly knew, because he received a ransom demand for Derek three days ago.

It’s the usual drill — offshore account, no cops — and Knight and Parker beg him to give them more time to locate Derek before he pays the $3 million and loses his leverage.

Davenport agrees to give them four hours and shares a photo the kidnapper sent of a bound, gagged Derek. He’s also shocked to learn that Tanya’s pregnant with his future grandchild, and nobody asks him any questions about the battery tech that just happens to match what’s going on with the top-secret submersible, which feels like an oversight.

The team heads back to Bold Ventures when they learn that Derek’s safe word was switched from Sriracha to cherry in the computer system. The culprit is tall drink of water Mickey Steele (Devon Crittenden), recognizable to us as the clown from earlier. That Bold Ventures client was right! Never trust a clown!

While they’re questioning Vicky about Mickey, they notice a model in her office for the newest Bold Ventures venture: the buried alive experience. ABSOLUTELY NOT. THANK YOU, BUT NO.

A stained-glass window in the mini-mausoleum matches the one in the background of Derek’s ransom photo, which is some sloppy, sloppy work on Mickey's part. The sarcophagus at the actual mausoleum holds only cut zip ties, and then a panicky call from Tanya sends them to her place, where they find bloody handprints and signs of a struggle, but no Tanya.

Her kidnapping’s too much for Davenport, who gives in and pays the ransom. Before the team can really light into him about going against their advice, Mickey’s phone powers on long enough for Kasie to get a location.

They arrive at the isolated house to find Tanya struggling with Mickey on the floor, killing him with his own gun in self-defense as they race through the front door. At least Derek’s safe, tied to a chair in the next room. Tanya throws herself into his arms.

He’s whisked away to the hospital, and Tanya stays behind to give her statement to Parker and Knight. She explains that she and Mickey dated a few years ago, but she broke it off when he got too controlling. Imagine her surprise when he broke into her house and tossed her into the trunk of his car, which forced her to play along with his fantasies about them as a couple again until she could swipe his phone to try to call for help.

Parker’s satisfied with what is clearly the fabricated story of a guilty woman and sends her to the hospital as well. Then Knight summons him to look into Mickey’s trunk, where they’re both shocked by what they see.

Now we cut to Derek’s Shenandoah proposal site, where he gets down on one knee to ask Tanya the question that every woman’s dying to hear: “What did you do with my father’s money?”

When he tells her that he overheard her and Mickey talking at the house, she admits that she did it for him, her, and their baby, with her ex as an easy patsy. Here we get shots of Tanya staging her kidnapping, cozying up to Mickey, swiping his phone and eventually his gun to kill him as NCIS pulled up.

Ah, but NCIS is waiting in the forest to arrest her after that confession, having gotten suspicious when they found Mickey’s trunk too full of luggage to fit a human woman and following up to confirm that she was never actually pregnant. Derek didn’t actually overhear her and Mickey talking, but played along and coaxed a confession out of his duplicitous, wide-eyed girlfriend.

So the duct-taped guy paid big bucks for the femme experience, but Derek got the femme fatale experience for the low, low price of lifelong trauma. Geez, this poor guy had commitment issues before? You will never see this man in a ring shop again.

Now that he’s safe, Derek’s worried about how his newfound father’s going to react to the news that his girlfriend stole millions from him. But when Davenport arrives in the big orange room, he immediately folds Derek into a huge, relieved hug. Bad girlfriend lost, caring father found. Sounds like a happy ending for Derek!

It’s less of a happy ending for Torres when Kasie breaks the news that his apartment’s infested with black mold that’ll take longer than expected to clean up, which means he and Parker will be roomies for a few more weeks.

Torres looks sick at the thought of modeling healthy eating and exercise habits ‘round the clock for that long, but it’s Parker who breaks first, admitting that he can’t keep up the no-pastry, no-cheat days lifestyle. Torres hides his relief and refuses to let on that he’s just as relieved as Parker.

Love it. Let’s see some more roommate hijinks this season before all that mold is swept away!

Stray shots

  • Gnomobphoia is real, and I for one applaud Bold Ventures for tackling the problem head-on.

  • It’s smart of the show to give us this small reminder of Parker’s tendency to throw himself into hobbies and activities to keep his mind busy.

  • Parker’s surprised that Palmer, the most stable member of their team, picked up a Bold Ventures brochure while he was on the scene. The good doctor says he's considering the couple’s bounty-hunting experience for him and Jess. Questions! So many questions! Would they be a team of bounty hunters? A pair of scofflaws on the run? Is one the bounty and one the hunter? Either way, Palmer tells Parker, “Stable doesn't mean boring," which is the perfect description for the interior life of Jimmy.

  • Seriously, is nobody curious how Derek's dad just happens to be working on graphene batteries?

  • Knight is 100 percent correct that the grapefruit is the underachiever of the citrus family. The citrus pecking order goes cuties, then lemons for lemon bars, then blood oranges, then G&T limes, then kumquats, and at the very bottom of the list, grapefruit.

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