“NCIS ”recap: Knight's dad gives Jimmy a rough day

Jess's life plan creates some ripples in her relationship with Palmer.

If you were dating the daughter of the special agent in charge of NCIS’ Far East office, you might be a dad — er, tad bit nervous to meet him, too.

As it turns out, Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) was right to worry about Knight’s (Katrina Law) father. But first, we’ve got a murder to solve.

Undercover agent James Chen was presumed dead when a Chinese smuggling boat exploded off the coast of Nigeria three days ago. But that's Chen's touch DNA all over a dead John Doe who just turned up in Virginia, and Chen's NCIS handler, Feng Zhao, is missing.

This sends Knight diving for her phone because Feng's her dad, and she's extremely nervous that she can't reach him.

When Chen's escape lifeboat is found in Lagos, they're able to link him to the dead John Doe, a pilot and smuggler who flew Chen and a Jane Doe to Virginia before being shot to death.

<p>CBS</p> Russell Wong, Katrina Law


Russell Wong, Katrina Law

At Chen’s ex-wife's cabin in the Alleghany Mountains, the team finds a newly dead Chen on the floor and a mysterious figure fleeing the scene. Knight tackles the runner, who smiles wryly up at her and says, “Hey, kiddo. I was just about to call you back.”

It is, of course, Knight's dad (Russell Wong), who tells the team that Chen found a woman on the smuggling boat and was killed trying to help her. Feng doesn't know her identity, which makes the Swashbuckler’s Smokehouse takeout bags in the cabin their best lead.

The team makes plans to canvas the two closest Smokehouse locations when Palmer strolls into the big orange room with coffees for him, his girlfriend, and his girlfriend’s dad.

Is he bummed that he didn’t get to strut his stuff on a grisly crime scene? Yes. Is he making the best of it now by requesting soy milk in deference to Feng’s lactose intolerance? Also yes. Was Feng unaware of the existence of his daughter’s boyfriend until this very moment? Biggest yes of the day!

And then there’s Knight, silent and uncomfortable in the middle of the crowded elevator as it closes. That’s right, lady. Sit with your choices.

At Swashbuckler's Smokehouse, Feng and Knight multitask by supervising Kenny the manager (Massi Pregoni), who's reviewing security footage looking for Chen, and arguing about how widowed, single-father Palmer might derail "the plan” for Knight.

Kenny and his pirate uniform come through with a shot of Chen and the Jane Doe, and outside the restaurant, Knight and Feng clock a man tailing them. Feng quietly suggests they take a page out of the newest John Wick flick. Ooohh, they’re going to hit him over and over with cars and then repeatedly throw him down the longest flight of stairs in the universe?

Disappointingly, they instead lure him behind the restaurant, where there’s a fierce hand-to-hand fight until Knight finally drops him. But he snatches a button off his coat and bites into it, dying instantly.

Back at NCIS, Palmer crisply delivers the news that the man ingested cyanide and commercial bleach, a Chinese Ministry of State Security trick for agents who need to make quick exits. He adds that the man's knife was also used to kill Chen, then he beats a hasty retreat, clearly still smarting from Jess not telling her dad about him.

All eyes turn to Knight, who does a silent, hilarious flail before slipping onto the Elevator of Schemes and Secrets with Palmer and hitting the stop button.

His carefully polite mask drops as he whispers, “How could you not mention me to your father?” Knight tries to joke her way out of it, but he presses for the truth.

So Knight fills him in on The Plan: team leader, field office SAC, assistant director, and finally NCIS director. She's been chasing that her whole career, although losing her REACT team threw her off course. And while her dad might worry that Palmer’s a distraction, she says her life’s better right now with him and Victoria in it.

Palmer picks up on the “right now” part of that little speech, but Knight insists that he’s part of her plan. He takes her hand as she restarts the elevator, his smile less sunny than usual.

Let’s put a little more pressure on that relationship, shall we? At the vending machines — where Knight buys a bag of chips, douses them in hot sauce, and snarfs them with chopsticks — Feng tells her that he’s ready to retire and has recommended her to be the SAC of the Far East office. Jimmy who, amirite?

The Knalmer drama isn’t the only personal hiccup this week; a genealogy DNA test McGee (Sean Murray) took at Delilah’s request reveals a half-sibling he never knew about. Naturally, it's thrown McGee into a tailspin over his dad, and he begs Kasie (Diona Reasonover) to run a confirmatory test.

Kasie confirms the results but adds an important fact: Laren Redding was conceived using John McGee’s donated sperm. Still, Tim’s not sure he’s ready to meet his bonus sister.

Good thing he’s got a case to keep him busy! Facial recognition from the video Kenny the manager pulled reveals the Jane Doe to be Dr. Mei Li (Jona Xiao), a food scientist for China’s Bureau of Agriculture.

A BOLO places her in a nearby motel, and during interrogation, Mei recognizes Feng. He defers to his daughter as the agent agent in charge. Knight questions her in Mandarin, and Mei says she fled China when the government forced her to weaponize her genetic virus research. Chen met her aboard the smuggling boat and tried to help her stop the horrors she was forced to create, but they were attacked in the cabin before she could deliver the sample virus cultures to Feng.

You know, the virus cultures that were definitely not in her motel room when the team picked her up. On a list of things that make me uncomfy, “horrific genetically engineered virus that is now missing” is pretty close to the top.

The team heads back to the motel and realizes that the person in the room with the adjoining door is the likely culprit to have swiped the samples. One chat with the motel manager later, and they've got Kenny from Swashbucklers Smokehouse manager in their sights.

Cut to that night as Kenny hands over the virus cultures to two suit-wearing men in a dark alley. They’re about to fill him full of lead when NCIS swoops in.

The men dramatically toss the glass vials to the ground, clearly planning to kill them all, but NCIS got there first and swapped the virus with Swashbuckler Smokehouse chicken soup.

“Pro-tip: next time, don’t outsource their dirty work to a fast-food pirate,” Knight tells them. And off they all go, including Kenny, who seems like a cautionary tale in the importance of a living wage for our fast food workers to keep them from turning to international bioterrorism as a way to put food on the table.

Anyway, Chen’s getting a posthumous Medal of Valor, Mei’s getting into witness protection, the U.S. is getting an antidote to the bioweapon antidote, and McGee’s getting to know his new sister, who teaches yoga and has a lot of the family mannerisms.

All that’s left to wrap this week is Knight and her plan. She tells Palmer about the offer to run an NCIS office 7,600 miles away.

“I mean… we had a good run?” Palmer offers, not wanting to break up with her but not wanting to get in her way and very much still suck on the “happy right now” thing.

Knight insists she loves him and invites him to join her and her dad at the diner. Palmer sends her on ahead, claiming he’s got some clean-up to do in his spotless lab. I don’t think he’s as okay with all of this as he says he is, friends.

At the diner, Feng compliments Knight’s agent skills and says that knowing she’s happy in D.C. is all a father could hope for. Knight, meanwhile, hopes to see more of him after he retires.

Then Palmer shows up to be properly introduced to his girlfriend’s father this time. "I want you to know that I will always support Jessica. Always,” he says firmly. “I really love her.”

Aww, good guy Palmer! But, ummm... are we talking about the kind of support that has someone breaking up with someone they love to avoid standing in the way of their lifelong aspirations, orrr....?

Stray shots

  • At long last, we learned why McGee took up tap: despite his (mostly) Irish heritage, he can’t not move his arms when he dances, so he switched to a new form of expression. (And now we know he’s part Danish, so that might explain the swinging arms.)

  • If anyone's ever idly wondered, Knight uses her mom’s maiden name professionally to avoid preferential treatment at NCIS. After all, her dad is known as the Gibbs of the Far East.

  • Great work from Law and Dietzen this week, particularly in the non-verbals. Knight’s goofy discomfort and Dietzen’s controlled anguish are such interesting contrasts in how two people in love can navigate family pressure and conflicting career goals. I both anticipate and dread the angst this could be setting up in the future.

  • I swear Palmer (Gary Cole) and Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) were in this episode too! I’ll leave it up to you to guess which brought in Danish pastries and which wore a tight white shirt.

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