On Tuesday's NCIS, Director Leon Vance makes plans to resume his post following a leave of absence brought on by the death of his wife Jackie.
But is Vance (Rocky Carroll) truly ready?
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"He's been really working through some things," Carroll tells TVGuide.com. "But we don't know really if Vance is ready to assume his position. I think what this episode will show is that even if he does come back to his position, he may never really be the same. "
Indeed, the traumatic murder of his wife has turned Vance's world upside down. "He's the epitome of the guy in charge and the epitome of control, but he's really spinning out of control," Carroll says of his character. "What we're going to see is a man who's really trying to gain his footing. [He's] the father of two children and has to somehow put all these things into perspective and still keep things somewhat regular for the sake of his children. It's not pretty."
But any progress that Vance has made will be threatened in Tuesday's episode (8/7c, CBS), when Vance learns some damaging secrets about his wife. "These two people shared a life and shared everything," Carroll says. "He thought he knew everything about his wife and then finds out that she was basically keeping an aspect of herself from her husband and from everybody else. A lot of times you learn more about people in death than you do in life."
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Although Vance eventually realizes Jackie's secrets were for the good of the family, the piecemeal way in which Vance receives the information is troubling for him. "It's kind of waiting game because she's hidden things," Carroll says. "He has to go through attorneys and banks and all these other industries to get this information that his wife has very carefully embedded. So the thing that he has to fight is his own impatience and frustration to get to the answer."
There is one silver lining to the challenges Vance is facing, Carroll says: Vance will finally get a better understanding of the way Gibbs (Mark Harmon) sees the world. "Gibbs will never be the kind of guy to sit and go, 'This is how I felt ever since I've lost my wife. These are the things I thought about. This is why I am the man that I am,'" Carroll says. "But I think not only will Vance have to come to some resolutions about his own life and his own scenario, but I think it's also going to give him a much deeper understanding about Gibbs and what Gibbs has experienced and how he has lived his life since losing his family."
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And ultimately, Carroll thinks these trying times will strengthen the entire NCIS family — including the team on the screen as well as the entire fan community that supports TV's No. 1 show. "What we've done with this episode is really kind of put that solid 10-year relationship between this show and its audience to the test," Carroll says. "If you've got a good friend and there's something going on in their personal life, you don't check out until they start feeling good about themselves again. You make yourself even closer. That's what we're doing with this relationship. The thing that kills even a successful show is routine and boredom, and you've got to shake things up."
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.