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NCIS's Christmas episode delivers

December 14, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
Television at Christmas time usually adds up to "cheesy" and NCIS's Christmas episode "Newborn King" on Tuesday was almost that, but not quite. A pregnant Marine (Erin Cottrell) is on the run from her dead Afghan baby daddy's family. They want her kid because if it's a boy he will be the sole heir to a large chunk of Afghanistan and they can control the trade routes if they have control of him. Naturally, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) ends up delivering the baby in a stalled car on Christmas Eve. It's pretty contrived, but saved from being trite because Ziva (Cote de Pablo) single handedly takes on two Russian mercenaries outside while "Silent Night" plays during the whole sequence of violent birth and death.

Emma the pregnant Marine tries her best to be tough and keep to the Marine code of honor, but is understandably scared to be going into labor. "Are you asking for special treatment, Marine?" asks Gibbs. "Yes, sir, just this once!" Emma pants as Gibbs helps deliver her baby. Luckily, the baby is a girl, so the chauvinistic Afghan family won't want her and won't bother Emma any longer. Gibbs gives a rare grin when he hands the baby over to her mother.

Hey, it's Christmas. Gibbs is allowed. Everyone knows he'll be back to growling and slapping heads come Dec. 26.

Somehow it's always the grouchiest Scrooge in the cast who has to have the heartwarming moment at Christmas. Gibbs, haunted by the murders of his wife and only child 20 years ago and with three failed marriages under his belt, gets two of them in this episode. He's also seen putting the finishing touches on a pink tricycle he's giving his goddaughter for Christmas. Maybe Emma will also make him the godfather of her baby so he can have another little girl in his life to spoil. He seems to be pretty good at it.

The episode also allows for some character development that might carry over into other episodes this season. Gibbs invites Tony (Michael Weatherly), whom he regards as a surrogate son, along to Christmas dinner with his goddaughter and her mother, but first warns Tony not to make his mistakes with relationships. Tony blew off Christmas brunch with his ex-fiancee but is feeling bitter about his lack of relationships outside of work.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) the autopsy gremlin, gives his unpleasant future father-in-law (Larry Miller) a tour of the lab and squad room and Dad-In-Law is not impressed by any of it. He thinks Palmer should quit his poor-paying government job and join him in the funeral parlor business. Abby the Goth Lab Rat (Pauley Perrette) locks Jimmy and his Grinch-in-Law in her office for a time out after Dad-in-Law is rude to the entire team. Eventually Jimmy stands up to his future in-law and says he likes working for NCIS. Dad-in-Law changes his tune and tells Jimmy not to work too hard because he wants some grandbabies like Emma's daughter, whose baby picture is shown on the screen in the squad room.

The Christmas episode is also successful because it celebrates the show's nine year history. No character really seems to be forgotten on this show and all the members of the ensemble cast eventually get their chance for an episode focusing on their characters.

Jimmy's fiancee has been a recurring character for a couple of seasons now; Gibbs' goddaughter Amira is the granddaughter of his old mentor, whose funeral was held last season and who was a long running character on the show. I just watched a touching episode from last season that paid tribute to Kate Todd, a character who died in the second season of the show, by having Todd's psychiatrist sister conduct the mandatory psychological evaluations of the team and get to know the people who were closest to her sister when she died. The sister returned in the first episode of this season, the ninth, to help Tony recover his memories after a traumatic event.

It all adds up to make one of the most consistently entertaining shows on television. NCIS airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays on CBS.


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