The long-standing military relationship between the United States and Australia is bound to have its share of secrets.
That was certainly the message of NCIS: Sydney Season 1 Episode 4.
One of those secrets — that a decorated U.S. sailor who went AWOL and melted into Sydney 50 years ago — even became the primary suspect in the gruesome murder of a petty officer.
It could have been so easy. They captured a suspect with a motive who was willing, even eager, to confess to the crime.
Mackey truly wanted Frank Doherty to be the murderer as she had a disgust for deserters, one that she eventually explained to Doherty himself.
J.D., who is all cop, rightfully saw too many holes to take Doherty’s confession at face value. Things weren’t adding up for him.
Fairly early on, Mackey and especially J.D. felt that Doherty was covering for someone. Since he was hellbent on self-sacrifice, they instead had to look into the victim, Eddie Baker, to determine who else might want him dead and why.
Baker had a fascination with old military medals. Based on remarks by the museum curator Sinclair, he was thought to be a trader of such medals, putting him in a less-than-positive light.
Then, since Doherty’s longtime girlfriend was withdrawing large sums of money from her bank account, it appeared that Doherty may have killed the man who was blackmailing him to keep his secret.
But things began to turn when J.D. pushed Evie and D to find out what Baker had been doing in the hours leading up to his death.
Thanks to Rosie pinpointing where Baker ate his last meal, their view of the relationship between Doherty and Baker changed. Who goes out to a pub for dinner with their blackmailer?
No, their relationship was much more cordial than that. And a witness, shockingly the same man who was running a tour of The Rocks when Baker’s body fell, explained that Doherty had entered the building with another man, not Baker.
Armed with that information, Mackey and J.D. were able to get Doherty to confess that he had gone to meet his extortionist with the intent of killing him with his old service weapon.
But that reveal only came after J.D. determined how to get Doherty to open up. Mackey had shot down J.D. earlier by proclaiming that he wouldn’t understand how she felt because he had never served in the military.
He made a scene and stormed out of the room, exclaiming that Doherty couldn’t trust him because he had never served. Fortunately, Mackey picked up on what J.D. had planned and attempted to connect with Doherty, Marine to sailor.
Now, precious little has been revealed about Mackey. She’s from Iowa, a chopper pilot, and somehow got on the wrong side of her superiors.
At first, Doherty thought her being a chopper pilot Mackey left her flying above combat, never having to kill anyone.
Then she told him about the three sailors who went AWOL and found themselves on the wrong side of the border in Afghanistan. Her commanders wanted to write them off. But, she recruited a couple of her team members to participate in an unsanctioned mission.
While safely rescuing the trio, they came under fire on the way back. Mackey set her bird down hard, and while her passengers survived to face charges, her two teammates were killed.
Apparently, D had heard that story before. But she shut off the microphone in the interrogation room so that J.D. and Evie couldn’t listen to it.
What she said touched Doherty, who explained that he’d gotten the Navy Cross essentially for searching for his best friend’s body parts while under fire.
Doherty didn’t like the man he was becoming in the Navy. He did like who he was when he was with May. So he deserted to start a new life with her in Sydney.
It was terrific that NCIS found this man who had been missing for five decades. But evidently, after he intimidated the first two investigators who came after him, finding someone labeled a Navy hero became less of a priority.
Doherty admitted that Baker was an unlucky victim when he came to Frank’s aid. Still, he wouldn’t give up the blackmailer’s name for fear he would hurt May.
Here’s the thing, though. There was only one other character introduced, the museum director. Couldn’t the team have used process of elimination to identify him as Baker’s killer?
Instead, D and Evie had to force the true story out of May, that Baker had met them when he tried to return Doherty’s Navy Cross to him. Baker became their surrogate son, even mowing their land, giving him the green feet everyone saw during his autopsy.
Mackey got Doherty to fess up by walking him out through the morgue so he could see Baker’s body. That’s when he finally told about Sinclair extorting him.
May took things into her own hands, bringing Doherty’s gun to her final meeting with Sinclair, with D having to talk her down with a plan to save Doherty. That led to the sweet wedding scene at the end, with the team in attendance and officiated by the witness/tour operator.
Also, we finally learned a lot more about DeShawn. Apparently, he’s Sidney’s answer to Deeks, a law student turned cop. That certainly gives another dimension to an underdeveloped character.
To revisit the squad’s development, watch NCIS: Sydney online.
How soon did you figure out Doherty was innocent?
Did you understand his motivation?
Were you surprised D was a law student?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on X.