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'NCIS' 'Rock and a Hard Place' recap: The perils of fatherhood

Keith Carradine and Michael Weatherly in 'NCIS' 11x17 "Rock and a Hard Place"
Keith Carradine and Michael Weatherly in 'NCIS' 11x17 "Rock and a Hard Place"
Sonja Flemming/CBS

The Tuesday, March 18 episode of "NCIS," 11x17, "Rock and a Hard Place," sees the team investigate an explosion at a military charity concert and Palmer prepare for fatherhood.

Unnecessary babysitting The NCIS team – and specifically Tony – finds itself on babysitting duty when a bomb goes off before a charity concert in the space that's serving as a former rock star's dressing room, killing a petty officer and a janitor. The rock star, Manheim Gold, missed rehearsal, and when they check his place (above the dry cleaning place he now runs), it's trashed, but as he explains once Tony gets him from the drunk tank, it always looks like that. Manheim's agent is the stereotypical "oh, the publicity, the publicity, it's great!" guy when he finds out what happened, but he loses out when they explain that Manheim's going into protective custody and can't perform at any shows after the bomb and after someone also sabotaged his brakes.

However, Tony's really the one who loses because all of the approved hotels are booked thanks to a convention, and he draws the short straw and has to put up Manheim at his apartment. Tony has a set of rules for him to sign (the fourth is to not insult the host), but Manheim instead asks him to play his guitar for him. Then Bobby shows up because he got Manheim a gig and doesn't understand the words "protective custody," "threat on his life" or "no." Apparently even Tony can't say no to Bobby or Manheim because he brings him to the gig at a bar, but Manheim gets stage fright before Tony picks out a guy at the bar who had been dropping the same suit off at Manheim's business for weeks without wearing it. Tony tackles him, but it turns out this guy is just Manheim's son.

Denny's so different from Manheim, the rocker has a hard time believing he's his son, but it's true, and the only thing Denny's guilty of is needing to build up the courage to talk to his father. But how'd he find him? Ronnie Mustard, whom Manheim helped fake his own death to avoid a loan shark. Manheim then forgot he helped him with the cover story, so when he came out of his alcohol-induced haze, he thought he was dead.

But first, Tony has to deal with Manheim when he throws a party in his apartment after his building manager calls him about breaking the noise policy he wrote for him. All it takes is a quick threat to shoot anyone who doesn't leave for the apartment to clear, and Manheim explains it was his way of trying to bond with his son, who's a complete lightweight and ruining Tony's bathroom. To make matters worse, Manheim then reveals that he had changed dressing rooms for the concert two days ago, and since the bomb was placed a week ago, it doesn't look like he's their target. So Tony's been babysitting him for nothing?

Mustard is the one who cut his brake lines because he was worried that Manheim would want the money he made internationally since he's making a comeback, but he didn't plant the bomb. That would be Luke, the event coordinator, whose print Abby's able to match on the bomb thanks to some magical NSA fix-it, and this has nothing to do with killing anyone. It's about getting money back that he hid while working as a contractor for a private military company. He had hidden the money in the same complex the show was moved to after the bombing, and as coordinator, he knew the contingency plan.

Tony has to give Manheim a pep talk and stall before he conquers his stage fright and takes the stage, all to make sure Luke doesn't get spooked and detonate a possible second bomb, and the rest of the team finds Luke and his men drilling the money out of concrete. There's nothing he can do but give up. He's caught.

Is Palmer ready to be a father? Since the birth mother's due date was yesterday, Palmer's making sure he's ready, and that includes having Ducky time him putting a diaper on a doll (too much manhandling, Palmer!) and having Ducky read out the directions as he and Bishop try to get a car seat installed (Ducky even curses – maybe – so you know it's bad).

While it's not a new plot line to have the birth mother decide to keep the baby, that doesn't mean it's still not heartbreaking to see Palmer tell Abby. As much as Palmer needs that hug from Abby, he needs that conversation with Gibbs more, as he's not sure he's strong enough to try again. "Fight for it. You fight for your family, and sometimes you fight like hell just to have one," Gibbs tells him. "You wouldn't feel the way you feel if you weren't ready." That has to be one of the best scenes yet between Gibbs and Palmer.

Other notes Tony's father enlists him to plan the wedding, with the cliché "it'll be your wedding gift" excuse, leading to McGee showing off a site he's bookmarked about folding napkins.

Also, don't mention food around Bishop because she will really go off on a tangent. That goes for having her interview old stage managers.

Oh, and where's Vance? Anyone else miss him?

"NCIS" season 11 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 17 "Rock and a Hard Place"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2014

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