That was one lightweight episode.
The message of NCIS Season 18 Episode 3 was that "Family is most important."
OK. That's definitely appropriate during this Covid era, which has separated too many families.
Still, there wasn't a whole lot there.
It was a good thing that Fornell kept popping up about once a segment.
It was purely coincidence that this episode aired only two days after the name of the man who located Forrest Fenn's million-dollar buried treasure was revealed.
But it did highlight how treasure-hunting, long the stuff of children's adventure tales, remains vital in this day of electronic entertainment.
It's the get-rich-quick scheme that has transcended the ages.
Having the victim be a Navy recruiter who was also a devoted treasure hunter was a well-thought-out way to get NCIS into that world, at least tangentially.
And a rather gruesome death it was too, by NCIS standards, a disemboweling on a fire escape.
The inclination was to mock the idea of generally intelligent people wasting their brainpower on chasing buried treasure.
But soon, the NCIS team was also involved, in the interest of solving the crime, of course.
The murderer, of course, was the person who pointed fingers at other potential suspects. The guy who was such a cipher that he was "the dude from the climbing gym."
Still, the murder was a lesser part of the episode, falling after the popularity of treasure hunting and the importance of family.
The episode focused on the Diments, who were still healing after the death of Angus's wife and Margot's mother.
Angus somehow decided that his wife would have approved of hiding a treasure for thousands of perfect strangers to locate.
Odd logic, to be sure. But grieving people don't always think straight.
In doing so, Angus managed to ignore Margot at a time when she needed her remaining parent more than ever. She was there for him even as he locked himself away with his newfound followers.
Somehow, Angus equated the treasure hunt with his late wife's legacy. So the sanctity of the hunt was so important to him that he was willing to impede NCIS's murder investigation.
It couldn't have been much of a hunt if it took a team of trained investigators only a couple of days to find the Demint Treasure.
The construct was useful because it allowed Gibbs to wax philosophically about how it's never too late for a family to reunite, something he would never have an opportunity to do himself.
But Gibbs does have a family: his team.
Perhaps that's why so much has been made about Gibbs decided to participate in McGee's 20th-anniversary celebration.
Rather than Gibbs staying at home in an empty house, he opted to go out and join his "family," pushing them as hard at play as he does at work.
And they couldn't handle it, except Jack, who knew enough to cut out early.
Will this be a trend? Probably no, as Gibbs' reaction to Palmer's gushing proved. Gibbs' role is to be a cryptic font of wisdom.
Still, the "kids" will be looking forward to that next round of parental approval.
Fornell's continuing quest for vengeance has, not surprisingly, gotten him into trouble. You would have thought he would have taken stock while pulling on the garish polyester Beltway Burgers uniform, but no.
How did decades of law-enforcement training go flying out the window?
But Tobias wasn't being an FBI agent, making calculated moves during an investigation. Instead, he's a father on a mission to get back at the people who turned his daughter into a drug addict.
He has become "that guy," supplementing his pension by working at a fast-food joint.
This is going to end badly. Gibbs also knows that.
That's why he's torn between giving Fornell the space he's requested and providing the backup he needs.
Tobias was making great strides. Being a model employee got him the slack he required from his teenage boss.
His hunch about Beltway Burgers being tied into the opioid ring paid off when he uncovered the box filled with pills in the freezer. He even discovered the name of the ring leader, however cryptic that was.
And now Fornell has disappeared, just like NCIS will do for the rest of the calendar year.
So that makes three new episodes since last season. The logic must be, "That's better than nothing."
No, better in this age of streaming and instant gratification is to run a shorter season, as NCIS will have, over many consecutive weeks, even if that means starting fresh in January. That's called continuity.
Not two on, one-off, one on, then off for holiday hiatus.
Driving viewers to encore episodes from the good old days won't be kind to the current season.
This episode, preceded by two blasts from the past (one old, one more recent), haven't been the definition of hitting the ground running, despite the opioid-ring storyline, which could become something worthwhile.
The only sure thing to look forward to the rest of the season is the freeing of the underappreciated Maria Bello from the underdeveloped role of Jack Sloane.
To quickly revisit this season, watch NCIS online.
What did you think of the case of the week?
Is Gibbs loosening up?
What's happened to Fornell?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.
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