NCIS May Have Set Parker Up With A New Love Interest, But I’m Annoyed By How The New Episode Wasted A Star Trek Actor

Gary Cole’s Alden Parker was introduced early in NCIS Season 19 as an FBI agent on who briefly worked with and then was ordered to apprehend Leroy Jethro Gibbs, but then he took Gibbs’ spot as team leader following Mark Harmon’s departure. Although viewers have met both Parker’s ex-wife Vivian Kolchak and former flame Joy Sullivan Aaronson, the show hasn’t really explored any current romances with him, but the latest NCIS episode to premiere on the 2024 TV schedule, titled “Heartless,” may have finally given a love interest. But before we get into that, I want to talk about how annoyed I am at how this episode wasted a Star Trek actor.

At the beginning of this episode, actor Tim Russ appears as Commander Eric Harper, a heart surgeon stationed at Navy Medical Center Portsmouth. Russ is arguably best known for playing Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager, and he reprised the role last year for a couple Star Trek: Picard episodes. So when I saw Russ early on, I assumed that he’d have a prominent role in “Heartless,” but after the scene where he’s testing medical students on a simulation with his partner, Dr. Clara Logan, Harper is kidnapped by unknown assailants, and minutes later, Parker and the team are tasked with investigating his murder.
Now, considering this episode’s storyline, I understand why Eric Harper was killed. We go on to learn that he was kidnapped to perform a complicated surgery on Carlos Sevina, a.k.a. El Viento, head of the Cali Cartel who Leon Vance had been determined to apprehend following a failed raid with the DEA that ended with two NCIS agents being killed. Unfortunately, it’s also revealed that Harper had a tremor in his hands, forcing him to give up surgery and dedicate himself to teaching full time. But Savina had his men didn’t know this, and when Harper screwed up during the procedure, they killed him
My problem is that if NCIS wanted to use Tim Russ, because there wasn’t another role he could have performed during the entire episode, the show simply should have saved him for another episode where he could have had a meaningful presence for the entire story, rather than only receive a few minutes of screen time. Meanwhile, Eric Harper could have easily been played by a lesser-known actor. And yes, I am aware that Russ previously appeared in the NCIS episode “Jeopardy” from 2006, but even so, he should have been given more to do this time around. Even pushing aside his time in the Star Trek franchise, just last year, I saw him play an important supporting role in Poker Face, and his other notable credits include Samantha Who? and iCarly. He deserved to a meaty guest role, not just the murder victim.
So with gripe of mine that out of the way, the love interest now potentially on the table for Alden Parker is none other than Dr. Clara Logan. To make a long story short, the same men who kidnapped Eric Harper and then killed him later kidnap Clara, as they need her to do the surgery that Harper messed up on. Parker was already visiting Clara, so he pretended to be a fellow doctor and convinced Savina’s men that they need him to complete the surgery. Needless to say this is a recipe for disaster, because in addition to not being a trained medical professional, Parker has a fear of needles and was suffering from a stiff neck this episode. Fortunately, Torres, Knight and McGee manage to find Parker and Clara before the ruse is discovered, and after the latter removed Savina’s tumor, he was moved to a medical center and placed under arrest.
Clara was at the same medical center being treated for a distal radius fracture she suffered during her ordeal, so Parker went to check on her. Calling him “one hell of an agent” and thankful for the role he played in helping keep her alive, she insisted that Parker called her Clara rather than Dr. Logan, and when he said she was also welcome to call him by his first name, she said she liked saying “Alden.” The way she said “Thank you” before Parker left was also tinged with emotion.

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