"Nature of the Beast"
This episode was so chock-full of information and action, mystery and intrigue that this post will contain input from both TV Watcher and Standing Blogger. We may as well apologize for the length of the post up front. Check the recap, after the jump. As Season 9 begins, we learn two important things, (i) Tony has seemingly shot another NCIS agent in pursuit of his secret mission which he was given at the end of the season 8 finale by the always awesome Matt Craven (the new SECNAV), (ii) he himself was shot but a vest saved him, and (iii) he doesn't remember anything that happened since he was in the May finale (not who was in the mysterious picture, not who he shot, not EJ's role and the whole microchip affair). Dr. Rachel Cranston (a/k/a Kate's sister) shows up at Gibb's request to help Tony remember the last three months. The rest of the episode is spent mostly in the past, with interspersed "real-time" moments of Tony and his visitors in his hospital room.
In flashbacks, we learn that people with the microchips represent a secret team of Navy Intelligence Officers, known as the Phantom 8. The microchip is a pass-key that gives them worldwide access to secret information. Also, there is a thing in the Navy called the Watcher Fleet, which just floats around the world spying on things, countries and people. The head of this Watcher fleet is a bad dude named Latham who has a bad sidekick named Bailey Salinger (Party of Five? Anyone? Anyone *crickets*). Anyway, Bailey is a death ninja, who has been stalking DiNozzo's hospital bed, impersonating the FBI but is really there to kill Tony. When they are not trying to kill beloved cast members, Bailey and Latham are stealing microchips from dead people and sitting in front of spooky monitor screens in Watcher Fleet HQ selling the top secret microchips on eBay to the highest terrorist bidder. Latham and Bailey have also set DiNozzo up to take the fall for the murder of Cade (who is looking very ... homelessly) and the almost (dammit get the job done people) murder of EJ. Turns out the entire mission was a big con, on DiNozzo and on SECNAV, because the picture that SECNAV gave DiNozzo was of Cade, who was innocent (and is now dead). The final scene has Gibbs going into Mike Franks' big box of an insurance policy which we first saw like 2 seasons ago but is finally getting used (continuity FTW!). In the big box of deus ex machina, we learn franks has a file on the Phantom 8 including their class photo, with bailey sitting on the floor dead center. Oh man, Gibbs is on to you boss, you best run and hide. And, now we have our season mystery! Side note: Ziva is made a full fledged NCIS agent .. probie no more! Check back soon for the full run down.