NCIS Season 18 Episode 1 Review: Sturgeon Season

That was a strange, but still largely satisfying, season opener.

NCIS Season 18 Episode 1 managed to fill in a narrative hole from NCIS Season 17 while also serving as a follow-up, all set in the past. That's probably why it had a sort of patchwork feel to it.

The most enjoyable part, as often happens when Joe Spano visits, was the emotional interplay between Gibbs and Fornell.

Fornell and Gibbs Team Up -- Tall - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

Their impromptu reunion hearkened back to a pair of episodes, NCIS Season 16 Episode 24, when Emily Fornell was hospitalized after overdosing on synthetic opioids, and NCIS Season 17 Episode 8, when Gibbs made a mysterious exit for a couple of weeks.

Gibbs, who tried to sell that he was going sturgeon fishing, was actually helping out Fornell, who was still pursuing the leader of the ring responsible for the drugs that nearly killed Emily.

Fornell's Strategy - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

Other than Jack, who just asked what he was up to, the rest of the team annoyingly guessed about what Gibbs was doing.

Like a good friend does, to keep Fornell out of trouble, Gibbs joined him on a stakeout of a pill mill frequented by a drug rep thought to be connect to that drug ring.

It's always a hoot when those two get together, and this was no exception. Most comical was that weak ponytail Tobias was sporting.

Gibbs spent the whole stakeout attempting to keep Fornell from rushing in and interrogating the drug rep, which would blow their plan out of the water.

Tobias arbitrarily decided to infiltrate the dispensary, poising as an old man with a bad hip, not much of a stretch.

Wishing He Was Fishing - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

That bit of improvisation fell apart quickly, as Tobias tried to assist a teen girl who reminded him of Emily. That made the dispensary worker suspicious, which meant that Gibbs had to pull out Fornell.

Following Gibbs' lead, Tobias pretended to be a demented senior, assaulting Gibbs in the process.

That filled in one of last season's narrative holes, when Gibbs arrived at a Navy Band concert with a black eye. Not even Jack could get the source of that out of him.

Now, how about answering where Gibbs went after leaving the hospital where Torres was recovering from a hit-and-run accident on NCIS Season 17 Episode 14?

The periodic check-ins from Fornell on stakeout really added little, other than setting up the final scene foreshadowing another Tobias visit later this season. Let's hope that will wrap up this drug-ring storyline. It's not strong enough to carry on all season.

Peering Inside - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

Still, any excuse to have Gibbs and Fornell spar is a good one.

After two weeks stuck in a vehicle with Tobias, poor Gibbs had to come back to ... a missing body from Autopsy.

In all those years, did Ducky ever lose a body?

Fortunately, the missing body wasn't played for laughs, particularly after Palmer's clunker got blown up.

What to make of Agent Ronnie Perry? Well, she's conscientious and will do anything to protect her young daughter.

Missing Body - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

New blood is always good on a long-running series. But nothing Ronnie did made me say, "I can't wait to have her back again."

Vance provided an extensive back story for Ronnie, which wouldn't be expected for a one-off character. Also, Gibbs invited Vance to put her with the day squad. So maybe there are plans for her.

Based on the small window of time available for the body snatching, it had to be an inside job. Since Ronnie was the only new person on the scene, well, duh!

She gave herself away and she had a good reason for stealing the body -- so that she could get her daughter returned.

Night Agent - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

Maybe, if she had revealed her dilemma earlier, the team might have been able to come up with a better plan than having Torres chase down the person who picked up the hand.

Isn't it time to retire the trope of fleeing suspect hit by a truck? At least change it up and make the vehicle a food truck or something.

Of course, the culprit turned out to be one of the, what, two people the team interviewed about the dead sailor?

That seems to be a rule for these whodunits. The killer is usually one of the people questioned and dismissed early on. Elementary was notorious for doing that.

And once they knew where to look, finding the daughter became that much easier. After they pushed the RV out of the way, that is.

Dead End - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

All in all, it was a rather lightweight mystery. It wasn't something that proclaimed, "We're glad to be back." But it's fresh, network-scripted programming, so count your blessings.

Other than the camaraderie between GIbbs and Fornell, the most enjoyable part of the episode was the opening scene. Why was sniper Gibbs shooting McGee, who was trying to stop a plane from taking off?

NCIS Season 18 Episode 2, the preview of which featured the first meeting between Gibbs and Ducky, promises to have more meat to it than this. David McCallum has been missed, so it will be great to have him on screen again.

To go back to the referenced episodes, watch NCIS online.

Aftermath of Explosion - NCIS Season 18 Episode 1

Aren't Gibbs and Fornell great together?

What did you think of Ronnie?

Did you like having Palmer more out front?

Comment below.

Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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