The mole storyline has been ongoing for three seasons now but just as it starts to reach a crescendo, US TV scheduling meant the third and final part of the arc to flesh out the mole did not air – for three weeks. There was also a two week delay between parts one and two which has caused some of the intensity to be lost. There would have been a good argument for NCISLA to have had a mid season break (a la Arrow and Blindspot), which at least would have allowed the momentum to build and viewers to know where they stood each week. Regardless, the disjointed build up was soon forgotten as Payback picked up exactly where Under Siege left off, with Kensi about to lose her leg.
Of course Ferris was never going to saw off her leg; the thrill was in how Kensi managed to escape that fate and keep fighting for her legs, her life and her freedom. And that predictability also extended to the team who would of course eventually find her after several false leads, and how Deeks would use violence as a way to force information of Kensi’s whereabouts. This was comparable to Deeks’ actions in season five’s Spoils of War where he water boarded the cleric. It is clear that Deeks has a violent side which surfaces when women he cares about are in mortal danger (his mother, Tiffany – IA investigation, and Kensi twice now). His actions are not too different from how Callen reacts when his family (real or NCIS) are in danger. Sam too has reacted in a similar way when his family are threatened. Deeks though, does seem to be much more of a loose cannon.
A new character in the shape of former Jag lawyer, retired Admiral A.J. Chegwidden was introduced. Hetty had requested his assistance and his purpose seemed to be little more than to repeatedly state that the NCIS team really were in trouble. And he is quite right. For an elite team there have been questionable decisions over recent seasons, for example the trend for an increasing number of people to visit their highly classified hub, the Mission, even when they are on lock down. Experienced agents have made mistakes, Callen clearly didn’t vet Joelle before entering in to a relationship with her. He also made the curious decision to call Ferris which alerted him they were on their way, thus allowing him time to put his plan B in to action. When breaching the house to rescue Kensi, Callen was lucky the female shooter who entered after him could not shoot straight, or he’d have a number of new bullet holes in his back. All the team seem to have mislaid their cognitive skills as Joelle (a hooded prisoner) was wearing a different top to Kensi. Deeks failed to recognise the difference in their body shapes. Eric excitedly showed Chegwidden around Ops, apparently forgetting the team were frantically trying to rescue Kensi. And Nell processed the crime scene on her own, reminiscent of S4 Kill House. Luckily this time the bad guys did not return and kidnap her! There were also a number of unanswered questions. Did Whiting survive her shooting and if so, what will she do with Deeks’ confession to killing his former partner? Why was Sharoff after the NCIS team after they rescued him from a Russian prison? Sabatino may have escaped his cuffs and disappeared but whose side he is on?
And then there is Joelle Taylor, Callen’s ex-girlfriend. There is an argument that NCIS Los Angeles has jumped the shark as she is no longer a genuine, sweet and slightly naive elementary school teacher. Instead she’s a CIA Agent whose primary role is to keep an eye on the children of foreign dignitaries. (Why is the CIA doing this on US soil?) She was supposed to keep an eye on Callen and gather intelligence (Callen wouldn’t let much slip during pillow talk). When she was dragged in further she broke off their relationship to avoid more deceit – but it was Callen who called time on their relationship. Joelle pulled a gun on Hetty and did not look convincing at all. Is she really that good an operative that she deceived Callen for almost two years or did the writers feel that yet another twist was required to illustrate the depths the CIA would go to entrap NCIS? Or did they just want to cause Callen more pain?
The real hero of the hour is Kensi. During parts one and two of this arc, the men’s character traits were shown through police/federal interrogation, however Kensi demonstrates just how strong and determined she is, both mentally and physically. She outwits Ferris by understanding his desires and reading his intent (or lack of), and plays him by choking on her own blood and fighting him. She would have escaped had Ferris not had two cohorts arrive in time. Kensi kept her wits whilst Deeks was losing his temper. He punches Sabatino, throws a chair in anger and confronts Hetty. One of Deeks challenges is that Kensi is not ready for the field. On the contrary, this arc has shown just how ready Kensi is. The only frustration is that Kensi was unable to escape herself – Deeks had to rescue her. In fairness it was a pretty awesome rescue. After checking Callen was OK, Deeks bursts in to the room but before Ferris can almost utter a word Deeks double taps him. Unlike The Frozen Lake, there is no hesitation and the scene was almost funny, in a black humour kind of a way.
Callen succeeded in containing his emotions although he looked as though he wanted to punch a wall. His earlier tenderness towards Joelle clearly shows he still cares about her; their relationship ended amicably although he did conduct a background check on her new beau and kept the dining table she gave him. It was the dining table he turned to in anger with an electric saw, removing the last trace of her from his life (a reminder of why he doesn’t like material objects). It was telling that Callen called her out on her lies which she turned back on him. The hurt though came from the betrayal which he can’t forgive. Joelle counters, saying if he can’t forgive her [betrayal] then how can forgive himself. The show rarely touches on this side of undercover work but when it has, the reward has been the Sam and Jada arc, Callen and Kristen Donnelly (S1 Past Lives) and Deeks (S2 Plan B). So Joelle now keeps his father Garrison company on the growing list of people Callen can’t forgive.
Granger’s swan song was typical of the hard-ass Assistant Director, pulling a gun from beneath his bedsheets to shoot his would be assassin. The declining health in Miguel Ferrer was painful to see, his speech almost unintelligible when in the closing scene he told Hetty that he dreamed a buzzard was circling. The earlier scene with Chegwidden at Hetty’s desk, mentioned “agent orange”, pretty much sealing Granger’s fate. As a character he is irreplaceable but Hetty may be lining Chegwidden up as an alternative. Those agents need the older generation to try and keep them in line!
Ignoring the plot holes, the episode was action packed, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable. For those in full conspiracy mode, it would appear that neither Sam or Michelle background checked their daughter’s teacher Joelle, so is there more than meets the eye as Michelle is also ex -CIA? She (with Sam) set Callen up on the blind date and Michelle also worked with Sabatino. Has Joelle’s story now been told or will she return to receive punishment for her betrayal of Callen? The door is also open for Sabatino’s return. Remember the warning from Chad Brunsen in S7, that one of their own will burn them down from the inside. The mole storyline may not be over…
What did you think of this episode and the mole arc as a whole? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.