'NCIS' Season 17 Episode 5 focuses on mental illnesses to highlight how the military should reconsider its handling of such recruits
This article contains spoilers for season 17, episode 5.
Tonight, on 'NCIS' season 11, mind games ruled the stage as our team of experts tried solving a case which was a hypnotic mess.
The fifth episode, titled 'Wide Awake' saw Corporal Laney Almonte caught in the middle of murder charges for a crime she doesn't remember committing. Laney woke up one morning to find a gun in her fridge that she has no recollection of owning or even placing in there. The gun has some blood that doesn't match Laney's but the fingerprints do. When Laney calls the police, they try ruling the case as one of failed memory due to all the prescription drugs for mental illness Laney was taking, but when they are able to find the registered owner of the gun, they go over to his home only to find his dead body.
With no alibi and all evidence pointing towards Laney - to a point where even she feels she might have committed the murder and forgotten about it - the only twist is the tale is that Laney claims to have been fast asleep through the night, after a very successful one on one hypnosis session with her therapist. One would think this therapist would have something to do with the murder but even though he does have a past of petty pranks where he hypnotized his college roommate to steal some beer, he claims he can't hypnotize a person to commit murder.
This goes on to point the flaws that most law officials make when it comes to dealing with a suspect with a history of mental illness and prescription drugs. Laney's memory blanking was the perfect opportunity for the team to pin the blame on her and move on, especially since she herself was so convinced that she had committed the murder. She had no memory of it, but the drugs made her forgetful often. Yet there was that one loophole where she claimed she hadn't taken her usual dosage for the night. Luckily, Jethro Gibbs and his team aren't quick to jump to conclusions, running repeated checks of the crime scene, they were able to spot that the evidence was kind of staged.
Not only were Laney's fingerprints on the gun skewed - as if someone had brushed it past her fingers to acquire the prints, but the crime scene was also littered with peanuts - something that Laney was acutely allergic to. It was only when they took Cortez's personal life and prospective enemies into consideration that they found him being involved with a married woman, who had claimed that her husband would have killed Cortez should he find out about their affair. And just like the hypnotherapy had started it all, it offers closure to the mystery as the married woman's husband turns out to be a patient of Laney's therapist. He had a session scheduled right after Laney, thus overhearing her problems and staging the murder scene to blame her.
The best part of the episode is still how the team gets to crack this new suspect: Roger Pozniak. Pozniak suffers from major OCD and once the team finds out he absolutely can't stand the literal mess, they threaten him with the same to get him to confess, which he does. It's quite heartwarming how something as serious (yet treated so trivially) as mental illness was almost going to be the bane of Laney's career, risking her getting fired as well. In the end, it is somebody else's mental illness that helps crack the case, and without glorifying the suffering people afflicted with them have to undergo, 'NCIS' also highlights the much-needed reconsideration that the military should have when it comes to handling recruits suffering from mental illnesses.
'NCIS' season 17 air on Tuesdays at 8 pm only on CBS.