Titled “Institutionalized,” the episode followed Kasie Hines as she tried to prove her best friend innocent of killing his former cellmate, Trey, while also adhering to the duties of her job at NCIS. When Dante Brown’s cellmate turns up with fatal shiv wounds after being paroled, Dante comes up as suspect number one. Kasie takes it upon herself to prove his innocence. Kasie shows up with Dante’s big German Shepherd when NCIS questions Dante; Gibbs makes sure Kasie knows that her relationship with the accused is significant to him, as is her belief that he’s innocent.
Dante claims that he was just trying to help Trey transition to civilian life again, but NCIS holds him for violating his parole. This causes him to lose an interview spot as a dog trainer. Kasie is livid on behalf of her friend. When Torres questions her on this, believing Dante to be guilty, Kasie reveals that his convictions were from minor incidents; popping a wheelie and possessing fireworks, as well as trying to protect Kasie’s younger brother from a rival gang.
Dante was a model prisoner; the guards don’t remember him and Trey ever fighting, so NCIS has to go through the surveillance footage. Meanwhile, Kasie and Bishop head to Dante’s house, and Kasie finds the bloody shiv in the doghouse. Here, Kasie struggles with her duty to her job, and loyalty to her friend. She initially hides the weapon, but comes clean after running tests. Which, shouldn’t even be allowed, and in real life she’d be fired for that. But, oh well.
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The blood on the shiv matches Trey, and Dante is arrested. Gibbs allows Kasie to say goodbye to her friend, but she still believes he’s innocent. Dante provides Kasie with a list of people who would want Trey dead.
But, Kasie returns to NCIS to the team watching footage of Bishop’s high school nemesis, a meteorologist in Oklahoma, instead of trying to clear Kasie’s friend. Here, Vance asks to speak with her, though it’s not to yell at her for withholding evidence; he tells her to continue to fight for her friend, but not to be blinded by loyalty.
Since the whole thing started she’s been so sure of Dante’s innocence, that maybe she was a bit blinded by loyalty. Especially when they find footage of Dante and Trey’s fight, plus clear the list of names. They’re out of leads, now.
Suddenly, Bishop calls with a lead; apparently, Trey was the inside guy in a prison drug ring, and when he was released, the people he was working with needed to keep him quiet. NCIS finds two corrupt guards running the ring through the laundry service, and are able to put them away and clear Dante.
Overall, this episode is generally well-liked, but still rates on the low end for an “NCIS” episode with a 7.4. For reference, the season 14 finale, “The Arizona,” was rated a 9.2, with most episodes in the high 8 ratings. A bit of a dip, and a bit of a stereotypical episode, but still good.