NCIS season 11 has already delivered a number of strong storylines, and the October 29 episode featuring guest star Diane Neal was no exception. Neal reprised her role as Agent Abigail Borin in ‘Oil & Water’, in which Coast Guard Investigative Services teamed up with NCIS to resolve a potential terror attack.
While trying to determine the cause and motive for an oil rig’s explosion that took the life of one of the workers, the CGIS/NCIS combo team were led down a couple of dead ends – co-workers, evil computer geniuses, and potential terrorism included. The real reason for the catastrophe was much more mundane, and perhaps the worse for it: plain old greed.
Neal, who is perhaps best known as Casey Novak from Law & Order: SVU, gave an especially strong performance in this episode. The case at hand touched a nerve and was personal for her character, filling in some of Borin’s backstory.
One of Neal’s best moments was an emotional outdoor scene with Mark Harmon (Supervisory Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs) where Borin recounts what motivated her to leave the service and join the Coast Guard. As a Marine, Borin lost her significant other – a fellow Marine – to an explosion.
Neal also contributed to two strong interrogation scenes – one alone with the suspect (see video above) and one conducted in tandem with Michael Weatherly (Special Agent Tony DiNozzo).
Neal has definite chemistry with the lead actors (Harmon, Weatherly and Pauley Perrette) and there were some great comedic moments and funny lines. During one scene, the joint team conducts a search and comes across more than buckets of black powder:
Gibbs: “What do you got?”
Borin: “We have a problem.”
Gibbs: “Worse than DiNozzo’s crabs?”
The ending scene in Gibbs’ basement left the door open for Borin to join NCIS – either in DC or perhaps the upcoming spinoff in New Orleans. It would be a real coup to cast Neal in any NCIS incarnation – she’s a fine actress with more than enough appeal to bring over her existing fans and win over new ones. CBS, think about this one!
Meanwhile, this was the Halloween episode and the team spent the duration of the investigation trying to also figure out who was playing pranks on them. Of course, DiNozzo was the obvious suspect and although the identity of the true culprit was left to viewers, it was strongly suggested that Gibbs had done the dirty work himself.
The only false moment in the episode, for me, was the lack of reaction when DiNozzo took a hard tumble over his weighed-down backpack and landed on his…family jewels. The prankster surely didn’t intend for him to get hurt, but his co-workers were quite unsympathetic to his injuries. Payback for past misdeeds? Maybe, but the moment seemed unfairly mean spirited.
After the less-than-satisfying ‘Past, Present & Future’, where Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David inexplicably stayed behind in Israel (in order to write de Pablo out of the show but not kill off the character), NCIS has forged forward with four strong episodes: ‘Under the Radar’, ‘Anonymous was a Woman’, ‘Once a Crook’, and now ‘Oil & Water’. Let’s hope the trend continues.