Most of the NCIS team hasn’t seen the 1997 animated classic Anastasia, and it shows.
If they had, they might have been faster to uncover the twist in the final minutes of the show’s 20th season finale. But no matter; it was a pleasure watching them piece together the puzzle over an hour.
Yuri (Themo Melikidze), in lock-up for all those murders last week, is unhappy to have a new neighbor on his cellblock. It’s Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), sporting a scowl and freshly buzzed hair, undercover as armed robber Manny Delgado to ferret out the details of the mysterious Russian attack.
We then get a quick info-dump from the other agents: this undercover mission is risky and rushed, but at least Kasie (Diona Reasonover) has access to the prison security cameras and can activate the alarm if necessary.
Meanwhile, the team’s still hoping to turn spy Evelyn (Juliette Goglia). She was the target of an attempted hit last night, presumably arranged by Yuri’s father, Kostya Valkov (Ilia Volok), the former KGB agent-turned-oligarch and mastermind of the upcoming attack.
Knight (Katrina Law) dangles witness protection in front of Evelyn, who doesn’t have any info worth trading… until she slips and mentions that one of the prison guards is on Kostya’s payroll, and they know there’s a fed undercover. Not great for Torres’ long-term health!
Sure enough, Yuri rolls up to accuse Torres of being the rat. Torres responds by denying it, kneeing Yuri’s henchman Boris in the groin, and strolling out to meet with his lawyer.
His lawyer, of course, is Parker (Gary Cole), there to pull Torres out. Instead, Torres hands him the serial code to Yuri’s burner phone and insists on staying put. He says goodbye with the ol’ Spock hand-on-window move, telling Parker he’s a good attorney. Ha!
On his way back to his cell, Torres is concerned to see baby-faced prisoner Reymundo De Leon (Michael Garza) — who swears he was framed for a fraud he didn’t do — chatting with an older white man.
Later, Torres is kicking back with The Art of War (double ha!) when Yuri’s henchman Lev (Chris Petrovski) asks him to write down his name, DOB, SSN, and school history. Pretty sure that’s more thorough than my last employment background check.
Torres’ cover dissolves like Kleenex in a rainstorm when St. Barnaby’s in Miami has no record of Manny Delgado, so he bluffs that he meant the other St. Barnaby’s in Miami. You know, the reform school. Then he hastily calls Parker to get Kasie working on a website by 4 p.m. when the prison turns the WiFi back on.
Kasie does the job and is about to go live when Palmer (Brian Dietzen) notices a headline that reads, “Reform School for Terrible Kids.” She explains that it was placeholder text, leading to an incredible Palmer line delivery: “Troubled. The word is troubled.”
As Yuri browses the tablet handed to him by a guard, Palmer wonders how many FERPA violations this fictional school’s website is committing, then freaks when Yuri dials the listed number. But Kasie’s on it, answering the call and identifying herself as Sister Kasie in an Irish-adjacent accent.
Can we give these two a quick round of applause? They’ve been such a marvelous team this season: supportive, funny, and a major reason to tune in every week.
Meanwhile, Yuri’s texts reveal the Russians’ evil plan, which seems to be called Anastasia, given Yuri’s frequent use of the word: they’re going to knock out the U.S.’s electrical grid in what Ducky (David McCallum) describes as a black sky event.
Weeks and weeks with no phones or internet. Interrupted food supply chains. No access to the Succession finale. Basically, society as we know it would crumble, and none of the nation’s three-letter agencies is confident they can stop it.
So it’s up to Torres. In the yard, Reymundo tells Torres that the guy from yesterday is his mom’s boyfriend who’s promised to help with his legal case, but Reymundo doesn’t trust him. Torres’s expression says that he doesn’t either.
But let’s put a pin in that because this is when Yuri arrives to joke with Torres about his toilet-explosion prank on Father McGee at good ol’ St. Barnaby’s, confiding that he had his own childhood trauma with his sister, who was daddy’s princess.
On the cams, Kasie sees Boris approach with a shiv. She pulls the prison alarm, and in the ensuing confusion, Torres pounds on Boris while Lev picks up the blade to shank… Yuri. Didn’t see that coming!
This earns Torres and Lev a one-way trip to NCIS HQ. Everybody hugs Torres, who calls his sister as soon as he’s alone, telling her, “I found him, sis. You know who I’m talking about. The bastard’s still alive. And he’s still doing it.” That’s another pin! We’ll get back to this.
Torres realizes Kostya had Lev kill Yuri to keep his son from ruining the plan, and when Lev asks for his attorney, they send in Parker. He doesn’t specifically identify himself as the attorney, just strongly gives the impression, which McGee (Sean Murray) describes as legal-ish.
Uh guys, can I introduce you to my friend Miranda? Her last name Rights, and there’s no ish about it; you don’t get to keep interrogating a suspect after they ask for an attorney.
When Parker asks if Lev has any questions for him, he writes down “Dodge Challenger” and a license plate number, saying it’s for Anastasia.
The team links the info to a plane that took off from Moscow 10 hours ago and is now 90 miles east of D.C., presumably with Kostya on board.
At that moment, the power goes in the big orange room, and they watch through the window as the whole city goes dark, with Philidelphia, Baltimore, and New York quickly following. What a bold way to reinvent the show in season 21! Let’s do Jericho 2.0!
McGee and Parker diagnose this blackout as the result of a polymorphic computer virus, which means they need to find the host computer to shut it down. (Torres immediately pictures a supervillain petting a hairless cat in front of their screen, which is highly relatable.)
Using walkie-talkies to communicate, the team sets out to find the plane until Parker educates the team about Anastasia being a popular name in Russian because of the lost princess. Seriously, did none of them catch Meg Ryan and John Cucack’s stellar voice work in Fox’s challenge to Disney’s cartoon throne 26 years ago?
This prompts Torres to recall Yuri complaining about his previously unknown sister. And what Russian woman do we know who can handle complex computer viruses?
Yep, Evelyn is Yuri’s sister, and Kostya’s with her, having gotten off his plane and killed her U.S. marshal protection. Kostya dies trying to protect his daughter and their plan, and Evelyn responds by rolling her eyes and calling him an idiot. Dang, that’s as cold as a Russian winter.
The hit on Evelyn — born Viktoria Valkov — was staged to get her in a position to unleash the virus. Too bad for Princess Viki, McGee and a team of white-hat hackers get the power back on post-haste.
As the team heads out to celebrate, Knight shoots Torres a text checking in. But he’s not decompressing at home; he’s lying in wait for Reymundo’s mom’s boyfriend (Al Sapienza).
The man calls him Nicky and says he thinks about Torres and his family often. He claims to be a changed man, but Torres stands, picks up his gun, and says all he wants is to watch this man die.
And that’s how you do a season-ending cliffhanger.
- Not gonna lie, I’m a tiny bit bummed that we won’t be dealing with the aftermath of a prolonged national grid failure next season. But yeah, sure, another season of solving crimes, trading quips, and sampling international parties works too.
- If you enjoyed the “mysterious man from my past who might move me to commit a crime” storyline, I recommend you check out Will Trent on ABC. It covers some similar ground, but more importantly, it’s an outstanding crime show. You won’t be disappointed.
- Be honest: would you be more or less interested in witness protection if there’s pickleball involved?
- Man, Wilmer Valderrama had a ball in this episode: pumping iron, getting into fights, calling Lev’s rat impression ferret-y, asking “Like in the whole world?” when Parker tells him to find out what happened on Feb. 7. He was coloring with all the crayons in the box this week!
- That’s it for season 20, folks. See you in the fall (maybe!) as NCIS charges into its 21st season. Until then, stay cool and hold tight to Gibbs’ rule #8.