'NCIS' recap: 'Rock and a Hard Place'

By Elizabeth Learned,

The episode begins with two men, one of them in a soldier’s uniform, preparing for a concert charity event for soldiers. They enter one of the backstage rooms, where the older man picks up a guitar and hands it to the younger soldier. He encourages him to play a tune, but when he strikes the chord, an explosion engulfs the men without warning.

We go to the squad room where Tony is on the phone with his dad, who has managed to con his son into planning his wedding. DiNozzo Sr. managed to make it so this would be Tony’s gift to him. Ellie, Tony, and Tim begin talking about elaborate napkin folding when Gibbs walks up to them with a case.

As the team examines the body, they are able to find out the name of one of the victims is Earl Grieves, who was a janitor for the auditorium where the Hero Comfort Foundation was doing a concert for the military. The soldier is identified as Petty Officer Damien Hunter. The director of the local HCF chapter shows up, along with concert coordinator, Luke Pischedda. They discuss the deceased soldier and Gibbs tells them the concert will need to be moved. McGee shows up with the cause of the explosion, which is a World War II warhead torpedo.

Back in the squad room, the team is going over what they know about Petty Officer Hunter. It appears as though the victims were collateral damage and the bomb had gone off earlier than expected. They surmise the room, which was also being used as a dressing room for the opening act of the concert, was targeted. The person who was using that room was Manheim Gold, a country rocker who was known for throwing televisions out of windows.

Tim and Ellie go to Gold’s dry cleaning store to find him, but they are unable to locate the singer and have a ‘Be on the lookout’ alert put on him.

Back in the morgue, Jimmy is practicing for parenthood by putting a diaper on a fake baby. However, he isn’t doing so well, and has to remember not to give the baby a hematoma while changing its diaper. Gibbs wants him and Ducky to get back on the case. Ducky’s autopsy found the men were completely healthy before their deaths. Gibbs gets a call that Manheim Gold has been located.

In the interview room, Gibbs talks to a hung over Manheim about the murders, but he doesn’t know anything about it. Soon, his manager, Bobby comes in to the interrogation room, having heard Manheim was picked up. Bobby feels the publicity surrounding the event will give Manheim fame, and wants him to do the concert, hut Gibbs informs him Manheim is their custody now to protect him.

Tony and Tim take Manheim to his dry cleaner’s/home so he can pack up what he needs before going back to the hotel they use as a safe house. They go back downstairs and Manheim gives them a scrapbook full of photos of people who may want him dead, including Ronnie Mustard, who is apparently deceased. When asked if anyone recently wanted to hurt him, Manheim mentions a squirrely looking guy who has been coming in to the dry cleaner’s with a suit that has never been worn.

In the garage at NCIS, Jimmy is working on installing a car seat while Ellie and Ducky help him, although Ducky is clearly frustrated. Tim offers to help, but they don’t take it, so he helps Abby instead. He gives her a box holding the suit from the dry cleaner’s, hoping Abby will get some DNA off of it. Abby was able to lift a partial print from the warhead torpedo and the two discuss Manheim’s car brakes being messed with.

In the squad room, Tony is giving a run down to Gibbs of the people from Manheim’s scrapbook. It turns out a majority of the people he knew were deceased. Ellie comes in from interviewing someone, who turns out not to be a viable suspect. Tim was going to take Manheim to the safe house, but all of their approved hotels are booked. Ellie can’t take him because her husband’s sick and Tim’s sister is in town. Upon responding to this comment with, “Your sister’s hot,” Tony finds himself the only person who can take Manheim in.

At his residence, Tony shows Manheim inside and asks him to sign a form showing he has read and understood the rules pertaining to the house arrest. Manheim asks Tony to play his guitar and just when he is about to, Bobby shows up, even though Manheim was not supposed to tell anyone where he was. Bobby has gotten Manheim a gig for that night and convinces Tony to protect him at the gig.

Tony tells Gibbs what is going on as they arrive at the building where the concert will be held. They head over to the stage, but before he can go on, Manheim appears to have stage fright and attempts to leave. However, Tony tries to stop him just as Abby calls him about the results of the DNA test. She got a match and the man who has been coming in to the dry cleaner’s is at the bar. When Manheim looks at him, the young man tries to run, but Tony catches him, and it is revealed the young man is Manheim’s son.

In the interview room, Manheim looks on in disbelief at the young man claiming to be his son. The young man wasn’t stalking him, and didn’t know anything about the bomb. He just was building up the courage to talk to his father. At first Manheim is in disbelief, but then Tony reveals they ran a DNA test and it’s true. Manheim leaves the observation room to talk to his son, who reveals he found out about Manheim from Ronnie Mustard, his former agent who is supposed to be dead.

As it turns out, Manheim forgot that in the 80’s, he helped Mustard lay low to avoid a loan shark and had spread a rumor that Mustard was dead. They wonder why he has resurfaced, so Gibbs sends Tim and Ellie to find out, just as Jimmy runs through the squad room. The birth mother is going into labor.

Tony gets a call from his building manager with a noise complaint. Apparently, there is a wild party going on inside his apartment, and Tony realizes something is going on. When he arrives, he finds Manheim and his friends having a party, which was apparently authorized by the agent in charge of Manheim, while Tony was gone. Manheim just wanted to hang out with his son and get to know him, but Tony tells him he should just sit down and talk with him. Tony is then horrified to realize the son has vomited all over his Egyptian cotton towels. Then, he is struck when Manheim mentions the first room he had previously been put in at the HCF concert, a fact that surprises Tony and changes the investigation.

Tim and Ellie find Ronnie Mustard auditioning a singer, who sings terribly. When he sees Tim and Ellie, he tells them he had his “fill of Sonny and Cher impersonators.” After identifying themselves as NCIS, Ronnie tries to run, but Ellie immediately shoves him into the door, holding her gun on him as she says, “I got you, babe”, to which Tim responds with, “Nice!”

In the interrogation room, Tim interrogates Ronnie over Manheim’s brakes, which had failed and caused the accident Manheim had been in earlier before the concert was supposed to start. It turns out, Manheim was getting royalties for his songs, which were popular in Equatorial Guinea, which Ronnie didn’t seem to want Manheim to know about. However, upon finding out about the bomb, he immediately goes on the defense, denying anything about bombing the storage room.

Tim and Gibbs discuss the case, and how it looks like two people want to kill Manheim. But then Tony surprises them with the information that Manheim had switched rooms two days before the bombing and since the bomb had been placed a week earlier, the perpetrator wouldn’t have known about the room switch, so Manheim wasn’t the target after all.

In the squad room, Tim has found out Mustard’s alibi checked out, meaning he didn’t plant the bomb. Ellie also found out no one had originally supposed to be in the dressing room, and it was used for storing props, a fact the concert coordinator hadn’t mentioned to them. They begin to wonder if someone wanted to shut down the concert. Abby calls Ellie to tell her some good news, and both Ellie and Gibbs go to the lab. Abby has found that the print on the bomb belongs to Like Pischedda, the concert coordinator. They are worried he will plan another attack on the base where the concert has been moved. Just as Ellie and Gibbs leave, Jimmy comes down to see Abby. He is near tears, as he reveals to Abby the birth mother changed her mind and is keeping the baby. Abby immediately hugs Jimmy to comfort him.

At the concert, Tony is trying to get Manheim ready for the concert and is encouraging him, in his own special way, by reminding Manheim the soldiers are there for the free concert and not him. Tony gets a phone call from the team, explaining Pischedda planted the bomb and they can’t stop the concert without alerting him in case there are more bombs.

McGee discovers Pischedda had been a military contractor and was charged with transporting 2 billion dollars to Iraq, only hundreds of millions of dollars had gone missing. The money had been flown from the same facility where the concert is being held. Meanwhile, Manheim has stage fright and when the team arrives, Tony informs them Pischedda has not been seen and there are three stagehands who are missing. The team informs Tony that Pischedda is planning a heist and the concert is a cover for the heist.

As Manheim’s name is announced, Tony goes out to introduce Manheim and make sure the man can do his opening act without being afraid. Meanwhile, Tim goes to make sure the agents are in place to cover the building while Ellie and Gibbs do a search of the building. Ellie wonders if the money isn’t at the complex, but Gibbs begins to explain to her why he’s sure the money is in the facility. As he is explaining Pischedda’s connection to the base and there’s something about the concert that he is using, Gibbs gets an idea and goes over to flip a switch to turn off the power. When he does this, they hear the sounds of a jackhammer. Ellie and Gibbs go to find Pischedda and arrest him.

In the garage, Abby is showing Jimmy a video of Manheim’s performance, and telling him about how they solved the case in order to cheer him up. She hugs him just as Gibbs arrives and then leaves so the two can talk. Gibbs listens as Jimmy talks about how the mother changed her mind, and how sad he felt. As Jimmy shows the baby items he was getting out of the house, he wonders if he is really ready to be a father, but Gibbs challenges him. Jimmy wouldn’t be so devastated if he wasn’t ready and he tells Jimmy to keep fighting for his family. Gibbs’ words motivate him and Jimmy begins putting the baby items back in his car.

Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS

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