‘NCIS’ Winter Premiere Recap: Who is Wounded During Operation Willoughby?


NCIS fans will finally get to know a bit more about Clayton Reeves in the winter premiere, titled “Willoughby.” This operation focuses on locating a man who, through acts of terror, can affect the stock market.

In a previous episode this season, Quinn saw a file called Willoughby on Reeves’ desk. Quinn knew that the operation was basically a suicide mission, and they were looking at candidates who would willingly take the risk. To Quinn’s surprise, Reeves is aware of that, and he has his own reasons for accepting the dangerous mission. Who doesn’t love a man with an air of mystery?
Ready for the Set-Up
NCIS kicks off with Mr. Jintao arriving to check on arrangements for his boss Mr. Kai Chen’s private plane. The pilot, Miller, mentions that the co-pilot has food poisoning. To the pilot’s relief, Mr. Chen has already approved of the man who will be filling in: Jenkins, played by a dashing Mr. Reeves.
Meanwhile, at home, Gibbs is in the middle of shaving when he receives a call from Vance with the cryptic statement that “Operation Willoughby is a go.” Gibbs seems surprised by the news as he heads to headquarters.
Bishop and Qasim, her boyfriend, get flirty in the bullpen, as Qasim is working a joint mission with NCIS and NSA. They chat about the best place to get good ideas. Bishop favors the library, Qasim enjoys nature, Quinn gets her best ideas when sleeping and Torres claims the bathroom is his preferred spot. McGee doesn’t join in on the scintillating conversation because he is preoccupied with a file. Gibbs tells McGee to fill in the rest of the team on Willoughby.
Operation Willoughby has been in the prep stages for months, and now it is show time. Chen is a wealthy businessman who is sponsoring acts of terror so that he can manipulate the stock market. Since Chen is unbelievably careful, there hasn’t been any proof to connect him to the acts. Reeves found out that Chen was planning to fly into DC, and it turns out that the NCIS team had a hand in “helping” the co-pilot develop an unfortunate case of food poisoning. With the co-pilot out of the way, Reeves found his way in.
In M-TAC, Vance and Gibbs video chat with Officer Louise Moreau of Belgium and the rest of the task force. Reeves has entered the plane with the other pilot and Jintao, and Reeves plants an S14 proximity device that will activate when Chen uses his laptop on the plane. The device will make a copy of Chen’s computer and send all the information to NCIS. The mission is considered dangerous because once the download of Chen’s computer begins, he will be notified. I don’t envy Reeves being stuck on a plane with three men who want to kill him. Yikes!
As Vance and Gibbs watch from M-TAC, Jintao leaves the plane and drives off in his car. Gibbs knows that the operation has been compromised, and he tells them to make sure that the tower will give Reeves the abort code. Vance and Gibbs watch in horror as the plane explodes.
An Explosive Situation
Reeves survives the inferno, and Gibbs is with him at the hospital. The pilot is in surgery, and McGee is passing on false information to the media stating that the plane caught fire due to mechanical failure and there are no survivors. The surveillance of Chen is thwarted when he drives into an underground garage and switches vehicles. Bishop and McGee are shocked to see a news report stating that the two pilots are in fact alive. That is not good news for Reeves.
Gibbs tells Reeves that he needs to lay low. Reeves proves he is an unruly patient by checking himself out and insisting on getting back on the case. Reeves finally explains that when he saw Jintao leaving, he went out the exit window that is located on the other side of the plane, followed by Miller.
The MI6 agent tells Gibbs that he heard Jintao speaking on the phone in Chinese. Chen is planning another attack, and Reeves desperately wants to catch him. Gibbs tells Reeves that he is to stay at the hospital until he is released by a doctor (like that is going to happen), and then he is to report to headquarters.
Vance informs Gibbs that he is scheduling a meeting for the task force to create a new operation since Willoughby failed. Gibbs tells Vance that they still have leads that can be followed right away. Besides, who tipped off Chen about Willoughby?  Vance cautions Gibbs that they need the support of the task force on this case because Chen is an international threat.
Bishop goes to see Qasim in his office to ask for a rain check on dinner because she must work late. She is uncomfortable asking Qasim if he saw Reeves’ personal information form. Qasim shares that he wrote Bishop as his emergency contact, and Bishop is pleased. Gibbs gives Torres and Quinn the address of an auto parts store that may be Jintao’s local hideout. Abby gets more information on Chen when she translates a coded message to Chen from the pilot, Miller. The communication was right before Chen turned his car away from the air field.
McGee goes to the hospital to tell Reeves that Miller is the one who tipped Chen off about Willoughby. They go to see Miller at the hospital and ask him how he knew to warn Chen of the set-up. Miller flatlines before he can respond. How inconvenient!
Ducky autopsies Miller, and he died of a morphine overdose. The fingerprints on the IV drip are Miller’s, so Ducky surmises that he killed himself. Apparently, Chen has a history of hurting the families of any employees who talk, so Miller was so terrified of Chen that he took his own life.
Worried About a Friend
Reeves returns to headquarters and desk duty, while Quinn and Torres stake out the auto parts store. Quinn thinks they are too conspicuous and wants to park the car and get to a window across the street. Torres suggests that they make out if anyone notices them. Quinn gets her way but changes her mind when they discover that the window is over a toilet in the restroom. She reluctantly ventures inside so she can avoid making out with Torres.
At the task force meeting, members ask Vance if Reeves could have torpedoed Willoughby, but Vance is sure that Reeves did not. Reeves spent months bonding with Miller, and the other task force members believe that Reeves may have warned Miller to make sure that Miller wouldn’t be hurt.
Bishop, meanwhile, is worried about Reeves and finally explains to Gibbs that he has no emergency contact listed. She is his only friend, and she knows that something is wrong. Bishop and Gibbs talk to Miller’s wife and daughter. Miller’s wife tells Gibbs that her husband didn’t talk about his job very much. He did bring home a charm for his daughter’s bracelet from everywhere he went.
Bishop and Gibbs go to see Qasim when Bishop realizes that he mentioned people talking about the very cities that Chen went to. Bishop tells her boyfriend that the conversations that Qasim has been listening to are about a terrorist. Qasim’s translations are key to stopping Chen. All the translations are from conversations between two foreigners speaking Pashto in some sort of code.
A Personal History
Gibbs and Reeves bond over a Gibbs-prepared meal of steak, while Reeves reads through the translations. Reeves tells Gibbs that he didn’t tip off Miller. Reeves then tells Gibbs how his parents died when he was 3 and that he was passed around in the foster care system.
Reeves and Bishop met up when she was visiting Scotland. She told him about how NCIS is a family, and Reeves came back and signed up for Willoughby because Bishop’s co-workers have family and friends. Reeves doesn’t, and that is why he took on Willoughby. Reeves recognizes a series of numbers in the translations. The two men were saying that someone referenced by the digits from Reeves’ pilot license was not to be trusted, but the call was made weeks earlier.
Abby notices that each conversation occurred one hour after the task force meetings, so the Willoughby operation has a mole. Abby can identify the voice as being Officer Moreau. Vance and Gibbs call Moreau in for a task force meeting, but she is the only attendee. They play a recording of her speaking Pashto.
Bishop finds Qasim and tells him what a great job he is doing. He even tries out the library. Their sweet moment is interrupted when a bullet pierces through a window and into Qasim. Bishop frantically tries to revive her love.
A Love Lost
Gibbs orders Moreau to talk, and she tells Gibbs and Reeves that she started giving Chen intelligence many years ago. Reeves only wants to know one thing: why did Chen let Willoughby continue? Moreau spills that Chen thought that Miller might have turned, so the explosion was meant to kill both Reeves and Miller. Moreau also confirms that Jintao is the one who shot Qasim. Gibbs demands to know the next location on Chen’s hit list. Moreau will only confirm what the task force already knows — it is in the financial district of New York City.
Gibbs lets Moreau know that she is going to contact Jintao and set up a meeting at the auto parts store. Torres and Quinn confirm that Jintao has arrived. Abby is even able to confirm that Jintao’s vehicle was at the library when Qasim was shot. Finally, the team has their proof.
When Torres and Quinn try to take down Jintao, they trade gunfire, and Jintao is wounded. He shoots himself rather than betray Chen.
At the hospital, Ducky tells Gibbs and Reeves that Qasim has no brain function left. Bishop asks to see Reeves, and he goes to see her at Qasim’s bedside. She gives him the tapes that Qasim hadn’t translated yet. When Bishop states that she doesn’t know how to say goodbye to Qasim, Reeves passes along a nugget of wisdom that he learned from Gibbs: “Close your eyes and remember everything good.”
I really enjoyed this episode of NCIS, but I am heartbroken for Bishop and Qasim.
Were you surprised that Qasim was so grievously injured? Do you think that Bishop will be okay after losing Qasim? Will the team finally get Chen? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
NCIS season 14 airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)