NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is more than just an action drama. With liberal doses of humor, it's a show that focuses on the sometimes complex and always amusing dynamics of a team of special agents forced to work together in high-stress situations. From murder and espionage to terrorism and stolen submarines, these special agents travel the globe to investigate all crimes with Navy or Marine Corps ties.
"A few months ago, I had not even heard of NCIS," a terrorist remarks in the gripping season opener, "Truth or Consequences," a benchmark episode. Where's he been? NCIS was television's top-rated scripted drama, an impressive achievement for a show in its seventh season. NCIS may not have any Emmys to its credit or generate water cooler buzz, but it's got a devoted fan base who will follow Special Agent Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the rest of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service wherever their investigations take them. In the brilliantly constructed and executed "Truth or Consequences," it's North Africa, where movie-referencing hunk Special Agent DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and McGee (Sean Murray) have been captured while investigating Ziva's disappearance. For uninitiated "probies," this episode serves as a series primer as DiNozzo, tied to a chair and shot up with sodium pentothal, gives a rundown to his captor about the rest of the team and their standing in the NCIS universe. There is considerable comfort to be taken in the show's format. Episodes usually begin with discovery of a shocking and grisly murder, then office banter and byplay until Gibbs announces said crime ("We got a dead marine, grab your gear") and then the labyrinthine investigation leading to an act 4 twist. This isn't Law and Order, where sometimes the guilty walk. This is NCIS and justice is always served. But it's not the crimes; it's the characters that are at the heart of this series' enduring popularity. This season provides Ziva (Cote de Pablo) with an especially satisfying arc as she quits the Mossad to become an actual NCIS agent and studies for her United States citizenship exam. Her will they-won't they romantic tension with DiNozzo simmers satisfactorily over the course of the season. Season 7 comes full circle with Gibbs's capture by Mexican drug cartel leader Paloma Reynosa, seeking revenge for Gibbs's murder of her father. She offers him a career change. "You might as well put a bullet in my head," Gibbs predictably replies. But she ups the ante in an unspeakably bad way that is the stuff season-ending cliffhangers are made of. This DVD contains interesting special features that immerse viewers in the production of the series, from the sound design to the design of Gibbs's house, which is seen for the first time this season. --Donald Liebenson