'NCIS' Recap: How Does Jack Confront Her Past?
'NCIS' Recap: How Does Jack Confront Her Past?
Kim Stempel
Kim Stempel
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
Last time on NCIS, McGee was forced to share his apartment with serial killer Paul Triff so that Gibbs and Jack could finally arrest cold-blooded psychopath Gabriel Hicks. McGee is now Triff's bestie (at least in Triff's mind!)

In this episode, titled "Handle with Care," someone is sending care packages tainted with cyanide to active duty Marines. The NCIS team tries to prove the innocence of the retired Marine suspected of sending the boxes.

A Special Surprise

The episode kicks off at a Naval Station in Rota, Spain, where three soldiers are at target practice. Sweeny is fixing to collect on some cash from his buddies for his shooting skill. But after his next shot, he collapses.  

At headquarters, Torres is having a very bad morning. It seems that the IRS is requesting his earning and leave statements from when he was undercover five years ago, and Torres doesn't apparently think that keeping such documentation is important.

Gibbs arrives and is headed to see Palmer in autopsy as the body from Spain has been examined. He gets a welcome surprise when he sees Ducky. While the university is on a break, Ducky is in town to deal with his taxes. Palmer invited him over to suit up for a good old-fashioned autopsy.

Sweeny died from cardiac arrest, but he passed his recent physical and was healthy. Before leaving, Gibbs invites Duck to enjoy some bourbon, but Ducky replies, "I'll bring some scotch." I truly miss Ducky. 

Abby solves the riddle of Sweeny's death; he died from cyanide poisoning, and his stomach contents show that the poison was delivered in a cookie. Frosted almond cookies were the culprit, but how did Sweeny get them? Abby talked to the base in Spain, and there is nothing similar there. In the victim's personal effects, they find a care package that was mailed from Franconia, Virginia, with some of the deadly treats. There is a picture of the man who sent the package: retired Marine Sergeant John Ross (guest star Drew Carey).

A Giving Mission

Ross sends hundreds of care packages to active duty military members.  I love how NCIS is treating us to so many well-known guest stars in season 15. Anyway, each of the boxes contains a photo from the person packing it. Some boxes are going to complete strangers. Ross seems like a friendly, jolly fellow. 

Ross is adding some cookies to the box that he is packing but is stopped by McGee and Torres. They have some questions that they need answered, and they need to be discussed in a more private setting.

The team reviews what they know about Petty Officer Second Class James Sweeny, who died from eating the cyanide-laced treat. His record is clean, and he is married with no children. Sweeny's care package contained pictures of Ross, so it appears that Ross must have boxed it up. Gibbs mentions that Ross has a Prisoner of War medal and that Ross was a prisoner in Iran for five years. Ross sends out packages every day from his local Legion Hall. 

Gibbs sits down with Ross in interrogation, while Jack watches. Ross gets a weekly list from the Navy of enlisted soldiers, and he doesn't recognize Sweeny's photo. Ross identifies a photo of the poisoned cookie as his mother's special recipe. I am hoping that his mother's secret ingredient isn't cyanide. Ross is dumbfounded and very upset. He states that no one at his Legion Hall would do something like this. Ross starts screaming that he needs to get out of the room.

A Painful Secret

Jack tells Vance that Ross has some history of violent outbursts after his rescue in Iran. When Vance remarks that Ross' situation sounds familiar, Jack responds that they didn't have treatment for PTSD when Ross came back. Vance is obviously talking about Jack. She suggests that she should talk with Ross somewhere he feels comfortable. Vance urges her to hurry since all care packages are on hold until this mess is resolved.

Bishop and Reeves sit down with Sweeny's widow at her house as people are paying their respects. She explains that they were high school sweethearts and that no one would want her husband dead. There is a commotion in the next room, and Bob has knocked over a large photo of Sweeney. Bob, who is the victim's uncle, explains that Sweeny's parents, who died in a car accident, were wealthy. According to drunken Bob, the murderer is in that room -- Sweeny's widow. Sweeny's brother, Clyde, rushes to the poor widow's defense. He tells Bishop and Reeves that Bob is just angry that he never received any part of the estate when his brother and sister-in-law died. 

McGee and Torres go to the post office. The young and attractive postal clerk, Molly, shares that she knows Ross and that Ross may have a bit of a crush on her. The NCIS agents need the tracking information for the package that went to the victim. The scan code shows that the package was picked up at a blue drop box by a post man, and that is extremely odd. The plot thickens.

Gibbs and Vance talk to Dale, who is stationed in Spain. He knows Ross because of all the packages that he sends. Sweeny never mentioned knowing Ross, and Dale makes it clear that morale is low and that the sailors need the packages to lift their spirits. McGee does some digging, and Ross was out of town when the package was dropped off at the blue box. 

A Shock Jock's Story

The team finds out that three months ago, Whit Dexter, who is a podcast host, invited Ross on his show. Ross assumed that it was to discuss care packages, but Dexter attacked Ross by saying that the government is paying for the boxes to boost support for the postal service. Really? Ross got angry when Dexter accused him of never actually being a POW. Ross left, and Dexter tried to further discredit him by exposing Ross' outbursts. The shifty Dexter also told his listeners that "something big" would come to light to prove that Ross is being paid by the government. 

Meanwhile, Dexter is in his studio ranting about the IRS while Reeves and Torres wait. Finally, someone can feel Torres' pain as he tries to speak with an actual human at the IRS. They go in to talk to Dexter, who is as charming off-air as he is while broadcasting. He denies knowing Sweeny and isn't exactly brought to tears knowing that a man was murdered. Reeves and Torres tell Dexter to show some respect, and he tells them to talk to his attorney. Dexter deserves a good old-fashioned Gibbs head slap.

Jack goes to see Ross at his home. She sees his framed medal on his desk. Ross suspects that Dexter is the culprit. An emotional Jack tells Ross that nothing Dexter could ever say could rival "living in a cage for five years."

Ross shows her the genealogy photos that he has gathered to scan, and he enjoys discussing his family history. He asks Jack where she served, and she tells him that she was in Afghanistan. 

At headquarters, the widow sits down with Bishop and Gibbs. Gibbs mentions the large house that she shared with her husband, and Bishop asks what she does for work. It doesn't take long before Mrs. Sweeny realizes that she is at the top of the suspect list. Bishop has uncovered some interesting numbers. The Sweenys' paid over half a million dollars for the house, yet Sweeny only received $150,000 from his father's estate. Uncle Bob's outburst shows that he thought that the inheritance was much more substantial. 

Palmer runs in and tells McGee to put on the news. There is Dexter, claiming that NCIS harassed and threatened him about Sweeny's murder. Dexter claims that Sweeny was about to reveal that Ross is a fraud but died before he could expose Ross. Since the agents never mentioned anything about poison, it appears that Dexter just broadcast that he had something to do with the murder.

Fighting the Past

Dexter is dining at a restaurant when Ross approaches him, and they scuffle. Gibbs and McGee are there and pull the two men apart. Dexter shoots footage on his camera of the NCIS agents with Ross. Seriously, Gibbs, how about that head slap? Better yet, Gibbs grabs his phone and hustles him out of the restaurant, telling Ross to join them.

McGee is grilling Dexter, while Gibbs watches. McGee leaves, and Gibbs get ready to get to work. Gibbs brings up Dexter's daughter, Layla, and how miserable her life must be because of her father. Dexter explains that he is an entertainer, but Gibbs counters that Dexter knew that his followers were going to come after Ross. Dexter really doesn't care about his listeners or what they do. He even claims that the information was online before he revealed it. 

Torres and Vance are watching the proceedings from the observation room. Vance has some history with Dexter. In fact, Dexter accused Vance of running a money laundering scheme out of the Navy yard. 

Jack is in her office and has called Ducky in to help with a profile. She gives information that sounds like Ross but mentions that the subject never sought counseling or help and has no family. It sounds as if she is also talking about her past struggles. She wonders what happens if the person just keeps their experiences inside, and Ducky confirms what Jack already knows: it is certainly not going to end well. Ducky spies the dish of lollipops on Jack's desk and asks if he may have one of each color.

Talking It Out

McGee hasn't found anything important or incriminating on Dexter's cell. There are so many articles about the poisoned cookies online that they are going in circles trying to find the original source. Gibbs is angry that Ross is being framed, and he wants answers.

Jack and Ross sit down at his home. He doesn't want to discuss the past, and when Jack encourages him, he responds that she doesn't know what he has gone through. But she does, and she admits it to Ross. She was a prisoner for nine months but never gave her captors any information. Ross is immediately sorry and emotional. Ross explains that he came to terms with what happened in Iran but not what happened when he came home. 

He lost the love of his life, Clara. Just before he was captured, he received a letter in Iran saying that she was pregnant with their baby. When Ross was finally freed, Clara had married, and his daughter had a father. Ross asked Clara to never tell their daughter the truth about her real father. Clara and her husband are both deceased, so Jack asks about his daughter. She doesn't know about Ross, and Jack brings up the possibility of telling her the truth. Ross never wavers; it is too late to tell his daughter the truth and unfair to her.

The team is raking through all the Internet posts about the murder in Abby's lab. Torres bursts in with exciting news, but it isn't about the case. He has been working on his taxes the whole time and found his earning statements. Never fear, Abby finds the original post in a web forum. The poster's user name is "TheJuggalutio." 

The poster was at Ross' Legion Hall. Jack was with Ross when the post was made, so he is in the clear. There is surveillance footage on all the computers, so Reeves and Torres head to the hall.

Confronting the Darkness

Meanwhile, Jack is in a reflective and somber mood when Vance stops by her office. She admits to Vance that she told Ross what happened to her. Jack thinks that she is like Ross because she has buried her painful emotions and anger. Jack has been tortured and mentions being hooked up to a car battery. She struggled with rage issues in the past and was sent to anger management in San Diego. She even states that she has perfected seeming normal on the outside. She fights back tears, telling Vance that she should have saved her fellow soldiers, and she asks if she let them die. It is truly heartbreaking to watch Jack as she sobs in Vance's arms. 

At the Legion Hall, Clyde, the victim's brother, was using the computer at the time that the post was made. Clyde took some boxes with him to pack later. And who comes in while Clyde is posting? It is the merry widow, and she plants a big kiss on Clyde's lips. Yikes!

Bishop and Gibbs knock at the door, and Mrs. Sweeny tells them it is not a great time. They are looking for Clyde and know that the two are sexually involved. Clyde comes out of the kitchen with a gun and then drops it and runs. Luckily, Reeves is there to tackle him. The motive is that Mrs. Sweeny wanted out of the marriage, and Clyde wanted to show Dexter how much he idolizes him by framing Ross. 

Torres breaks into a furious Latin dance in the squad room because the IRS owes him money. His joy is doubled when he learns that Dexter has lost a lot of sponsors.

Gibbs sees Jack, and he knows that something is wrong. She tries to cover and says that Ross doesn't know where to find his daughter. That gives McGee an idea. Jack takes Ross to the post office to see his favorite clerk, Molly, and tell her that he is her biological father. Ross and Jack bond over their shared hellish experience. Jack watches from the car as Ross talks to Molly. Jack removes a box from her glove compartment that contains several military patches that say "Wingos." 

I loved this episode of NCIS. I really enjoyed the plot twists, and I think that Jack's storyline was handled in an honest and respectful way.

Are you glad that Ducky is back? Do you think that Jack will open up to Gibbs? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

NCIS season 15 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS. Want more news? Like our NCIS Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)