In "Child's Play" it's two days before Thanksgiving and Ducky has handed out invitations for his traditional feast at Mallard Manor. Unfortunately everyone has plans.
Special Agent Gibbs' immediate plan is to solve the murder of a Marine found in a cornfield. The Marine is missing his right hand and has PC carved in his arm.
Lance Corporal Trevor Lazada after serving multiple tours had a new assignment. He was responsible for guarding a government think-tank filled with Mensa echelon minors. The kids have an incredible knack for surveying and solving military scenarios by playing video games. (Hmm...I may have to rethink my son's game playing.)
Lazada was asked to help a withdrawn girl. The institute's director, Krista Dalton (Lisa Sheridan) leads Gibbs to twelve-year-old Angela. Gibbs finds her working with Mr. Norvell (Gabriel Olds) a member of the staff.
When not reevaluating defensive plans for the military, she enjoys creating intricate collages. Gibbs talks to Angela in her room and tells her he is impressed by her artwork and cupcakes.
The late Marine's cell phone has several calls from Eddie Castillo (Francis Capra) a known gang member with the PC's. Eddie is brought in for questioning by Agent Tony DiNozzo. Like any good NCIS suspect Eddie swears he didn't kill Lazada. This doesn't expedite the end of the case. Never mess with Tony's holiday plans. He gets cranky.
Abby is in her lab working on a very important project. She is trying to duplicate a lost recipe for cranberry sauce. Ducky has a twenty-pound turkey, which he is keeping, in an autopsy refrigerator. Yum! Who wants a drumstick?
Its too bad Tony, Ziva and McGee all have other plans for the holiday. It appears Ducky's only guest will be Abby. In this episode we learn Alzheimer's has claimed the mind of Ducky's mother. She no longer recognizes him.
A break-in at the institute is caught on surveillance cameras. Someone has used Lazada's hand to gain access to Angel's floor. They are inside her room for only a minute and then appear to leave empty handed, if you'll forgive the pun.
Gibbs asks Angela if anything was taken. She tells him, no, an obvious lie. Concerned for Angela's safety Gibbs moves her to NCIS headquarters. Before leaving, he picks up her cell phone. A video made in Angela's room shows two of her colorful collages are now missing.
Gibbs calls on Abby to find the significance of the collages. That trumps unlocking the mysteries of her cousin's lime jello, sweet potato, marshmallow and pecan special. Yuck!
Ducky tries to analyze Angela. He ascertains she is a frightened child hiding something inside.
Abby discovers a code in the collages. Angela has used twenty-six different colors to represent each letter of the alphabet. The first collage holds a dark disturbing poem 'The Lady In the Fountain'. The second is an out dated frequency-jamming signal. Does Abby rock or what?
Another body turns up. She is the sister if the institute's director. Its determined she was drowned in the fountain in front of the building, just outside Angela's window.
The sisters were selling the video games to the Chinese. They made a lot of money but sent large amounts to the children's families. Cool, a plot within a plot.
Tony reinterrogates Eddie who tells him Lazada was trying to protect Angela. Since no safe houses or hotel rooms are available Gibbs has Ziva watch the girl at Ducky's. While they are both busy giving the bird a brine bath, poof Angela disappears without a trace. Isn't that one of Gibbs' rules. Never take your eyes off a child you're protecting.
She took one of Ducky's credit cards and buys a map of her hometown. I have to wonder who would accept a credit card from a young girl with the name Donald Mallard embossed on it? Maybe I've over thought the details in an otherwise decent script.
Mr. Norvell turns out to be a psycho. He murdered both Lazada and Ms Dalton's sister. Angela witnessed the woman's drowning and told her secret to Lazada. She placed the poem in her collage as a clue.
The team forgoes their plans and gathers around the Mallard dining table. Gibbs makes an appearance. He brought rolls or rather individual bags of munchies usually found in vending machines. The team toasts their friendship and the holiday. Did you expect anything less?
This episode reminded me of Thanksgiving at Nana's. I'd eat the things I liked and ignore the rest, ending up fully satisfied.