Tony DiNozzo, Jr. and Sr.

I am in the middle of Season 7 of NCIS (through Netflix). From a mystery point of view, the writing is a tad weak. Like with many, many mystery shows (Murder She Wrote is a good example), this season relies a tad too much on the "least likely suspect." It's the bellboy! No, it's the person who waters the plants!

"Flesh and Blood," however, is an excellent episode. Whoever is writing Tony Dinozzo's character understands him very, very well.

"Flesh and Blood" is where Tony's dad shows up, and the episode makes clear that Tony's dad, who is very charming and funny with a DiNozzo off-the-cuff way of distracting people, is what Tony would be if Tony (1) weren't insatiably curious; (2) didn't have Gibbs.

Dinozzo still in cop mode
Money or no money, Tony didn't have to become a cop. There were other more playboy-type careers he could have gone into. But he chose law enforcement and, although it is heavily implied that his superiors (before Gibbs) always found him a handful, he is rather exceptional at it.

And he has Gibbs.

The episode makes clear that while Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. is Tony's biological father, Gibbs is his spiritual or, from the show's point of view, real father.

This is emphasized in several places, including the scene where Gibbs has a talk with Anthony, Sr. In that scene, Gibbs' controlled wrath is evident. He is angry that this man did not come to see Tony when Tony was ill but did come when he had the chance to make some money.

A comparison between the two men's behavior is also revealing. Gibbs is, as Tony calls him, a "functional mute." Yet, watching the two men in action makes it clear how physically demonstrative Gibbs actually is towards Tony. Anthony, Sr. can't ever sit down, can't ever meet people's eyes. He hugs Tony at the end, but all his other physical gestures are superficial, like a handshake at a cocktail party.

Gibbs will whack Tony. He will grip Tony's shoulder in that manly way men have. In the episode where Tony has the plague, Gibbs walks into the sickroom, hunkers down, and whispers sternly, "You will not die" in Tony's ear after which he settles Tony's cellphone into his hand. He is a constant, active presence in Tony's life, something Tony needs. (I mentioned in an earlier post that Gibbs and Tony's relationship is one of the few alpha-alpha work male relationships I believe in without question. It makes complete sense to me that Tony would resist efforts to move up the ladder. He is ambitious but not in that way.)

The pay-off is Gibbs' influence on Tony. Again, a comparison, this time of father to son, proves interesting. Tony, while sometimes as physically manic as his father (Michael Weatherly is quite good at physical comedy), is more controlled and focused. Although he does, as Gibbs says, "wear the face of a clown," he is far more willing than his father to confide his troubles to the family he has created for himself. And at heart, he isn't a conman. One of my favorite lines from NCIS is when Gibbs, speaking of McGee, says to Ziva, "He isn't Ari or your father, Ziva. He doesn't know how to lie." Tony doesn't exactly fall into this category, but he is far closer to that personality type than to that of a con. His antics almost all have the outcome of disclosure as opposed to cover-up.

Which isn't to forget the other side of Gibbs' influence: as the end of the episode suggests, Tony is also learning when it is best to keep one's own counsel.

1 comment:

Eugene said...

When it comes to celebrity casting, Robert Wagner is perfect here. A good example of an actor leveraging his age and past roles (It Takes a Thief) to play against a younger version of himself, while creating a character who is older but not wiser.