Now that “Newborn King” has aired, I’ll admit that when I saw the previews for this episode I thought I smelled a shark. Generally speaking, when writers pull out the storyline where the main character delivers a baby, it’s a desperate attempt to tug at the audience’s heart strings. We usually are spoon fed some pablum (does anyone remember what pablum is?), patted on the heads, and sent to bed after a mushy bedtime story. Not the case here. I thought I smelled shark. What I really smelled was Christmas cookies and testosterone.
For an episode dealing with the birth of baby, it had a very manly feel. In some ways, it reminds me of “Three Godfathers,” the 1936 John Wayne film where three bank robbers end up caring for a newborn and must return to the scene of the crime for the sake of the child. The men grow up during that story. They face who they are and do the right thing. Like in the movie, there is a lot of growth in “Newborn King.”
The obvious growth is in Palmer. Standing up to his future father-in-law to defend his job and his coworkers took courage; and he gave the audience, not to mention Ducky, confidence that he’s not going anywhere. Dare we hope that he’s going to finally be a series regular?
As a McGeek, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I love it when the writers give us confident McGee. I know many people aren’t fond of season 6 McGee, but he’s my favorite. By season 6 he was confident. He was comfortable with his identity and was self-assured enough to stand up to Tony and be his equal. McGee’s been awkward again of late, however in “Newborn King”, McGee once again seemed comfortable in his own skin. This is how I enjoy seeing McGee. Oh, and McGee and Tony tag teaming in interrogation? Yes, please. May we have some more? I’ll bring cookies.
The actual birth of the child has to have been one of the least sentimental scenes of its kind ever filmed. Against a bed of “Silent Night,” Tony and McGee race to the scene in treacherous weather, Ziva takes the perimeter against the remaining bad guys, while Gibbs plays midwife in the back of the car. To sell the idea of a woman on point and a man delivering the baby, they had to let Ziva’s Mossad assassin skills out to play. Honestly, before I saw her with both barrels blazing, I knew I’d rather have her on perimeter, but talk about manning up. My heart raced during this montage.
Finally, the scene in Gibbs’ basement at the end of the episode is nearly as powerful as the scene in “Semper Fidelis” between SecNav and Gibbs. It doesn’t have the same Shakespearean quality of Jesse Stern’s episode, but this scene is more personal, more revealing of Tony and Gibbs’ characters and where they are heading. Gibbs continues to deal with the aftermath of the choices of his life and Tony faces the realization that maybe he doesn’t want to grow up to be just like Gibbs. In fact, Gibbs tells him not to repeat his mistakes but instead to learn from them. This, if Tony takes his advice, is a major change of heading–one that the audience needs to remember when Tony starts acting as he hasn’t acted in the past. He’s going to take Gibbs’ advice and man up. This promises to be an interesting direction for the rest of the season.
Chris Waild wrote “Newborn King.” I think this is his strongest episode to date, and I’m starting to get a feel for how he draws the characters. When I think back at “Safe Harbor” and compare the two, I see some common threads. If you have a chance to watch both episodes again, please share your thoughts.