NCIS: Los Angeles S09E13 Review

Hetty’s ‘retirement’ and subsequent disappearance from NCIS has been rather hit and miss this season with her side story featuring in some episodes, taking up small sections of others, sometimes with merely a mention.  Sadly in other episodes there has been no reference to Hetty or the team’s concern.  All this means her story may have been somewhat forgotten by the viewers but all that changes with Cac Tu Nhan.   From the opening with Eric’s obscure dream sequence, a chain of events is set in motion in Los Angeles at the same time that Hetty, held captive in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, finds herself in a desperate predicament.   

There is an intensity to this episode and the search to decipher clues to Hetty’s whereabouts elevates this to the same level as The Silo, shown a few months ago.  This time showrunner Scott Gemmill has put pen to paper and his episodes can vary from the serious (think Found - when Dom dies, Absolution - Hetty and the little black book of Cold War secrets, The Watchers - introducing Granger, early season six episodes when Hetty is in Washington and under threat from Matthias). He can also turn his hand to the funny (Wanted, Blame it on Rio) although there is sometimes a tendency for the ridiculous, usually involving either Deeks or Eric.  Even in Cac Tu Nhan there are plenty of amusing scenes with the LA team, from Callen’s commentary of Sam’s facial expressions, to Deeks asking Kensi if she wants to spoon while moving the arm of a Pierrot clown ornament found on Hetty’s desk.  Callen also wondered if they could take Otis to the dive bar in Mexico he wants Sam to open when they’re fired.  And not forgetting Eric’s random comment of ‘Holy glowing gonads’!  In addition to the humour punctuating the sense of urgency in Los Angeles, there are also several more quiet and reflective moments.  Kensi finds a picture of Granger and Hetty and later her and Nell have an honest chat in the armoury.  

Mosley had a tough job as she tried to balance the team persisting in their off-books antics. She works by the book and to the letter, and struggles to understand why the team operates as they do.  Despite Kensi earlier trying to rationalise with Mosley, she is torn in strips after Callen deliberately ignores the EAD’s calls.  Mosley is trying to support the team but cannot do so if they do not keep her updated.  She still manages to update SECNAV and secures them a flight to Vietnam to rescue Hetty.  Before revealing this information she attempts to get the team to think differently, to consider why Hetty went to Vietnam as understanding her motives will enable them to better trace her movements.  It is a thread that Kensi continues with the men in the armoury as they prepare their weapons and this time it works, and they chase down some final clues.

The strained relationship between Callen and Mosley has been simmering away, sometimes with only subtle looks and now she is fearing a mutiny.  She states to Kensi that Callen is increasingly resentful of her authority and the team are following his lead.  Callen himself is quite nonchalant, acknowledging he may lose his job when ignoring her calls and a later confrontation in Mosley’s office is avoided with a well timed call from SECNAV.  In the follow up scene he interrupts her to argue that she can suspend or fire them all, only to find out she’s sending them to find Hetty.  The final scenes in LA again involve Mosley and Callen.  His attitude is on full display, as is Mosley’s and they sort of reach an impasse.  Callen thanks her and Mosley says he can save his apologies.  He openly states he was not apologising.  It like they're are playing a game, neither willing to give ground and both realising this.  There is a shared look from Mosley up in her glass office, down to Callen as he’s about to exit ops.  Mosley’s look is supercilious and Callen’s expression seems to be suspicious, rather than of a grudging respect or thanks.
There were some interesting touches, for example Eric wakes from his dream in his bed which is surrounded by books piled up on the floor.  Not what you’d expect from a tech geek and a pleasant surprise.  Hetty was lucky Nell and Eric didn’t communicate about the gifts she’d left them any earlier, otherwise they might have gone searching for her before she was even captured! A thread was left dangling after Callen and Sam failed to receive the time bound information promised to them by the Billy from the Vietnamese warehouse, when much was made of their threats to the petty criminal.  This is but a minor quibble in such a high quality episode.  Deeks’ charm is on full display when trying to persuade some girls in a Ho Chi Minh bar to show his live-chat picture to Chegwidden, with Eric begging Deeks to teach him how to be charming.  Eric’s skills are fully appreciated by a sensitive Sam, maybe making up for his slightly harsh words at the end of the Christmas episode.  This is a real team effort and everyone plays their part, with Hidoko the one who deciphered the clue.

The humorous elements and reflective moments in Los Angeles balance the seriousness of Hetty’s situation.  Her captor Dang has upped the ante and found a man named Spencer Allen who’s keen to pay for Hetty secrets.  Linda Hunt is absolutely amazing in all her scenes.  She owns the screen with a mesmerising performance and the depth of her Oscar winning abilities is clear.  She pretends she’s regressed to her childhood, recalling (made-up) memories.  The 'take-away' scene has to be when she’s trying to block the effects of the truth serum by reciting rhymes as her captors talk around her and having failed to break her, they shoot her fellow prisoner. Even Hetty has her breaking point and she may have allowed Harris Keane to be shot, but when a newly captive and hungry tiger was introduced, ready to eat Keane alive, Hetty relents. The concentration and intensity of her acting raises the bar to a new level and shows how much Hetty’s presence has been missed.  Her gift to Eric, The Red Badge of Courage was the title of the little black book the spies were seeking in Absolution and Deliverance (S2), containing Cold War secrets. It seems fitting there are several references to the Cold War with Deeks commenting that Hetty probably started it.  Hetty falls back on old school ways, recounting tales of cyanide capsules and leading her buyer to think she’s cracking her tooth to swallow a capsule. As he leans to prevent her from swallowing Hetty bites half his ear off and spits it out.  The episodes closes to her manic and rather sinister laughter.  If part two (airing on 11th March and also written by Gemmill) is even half as intense as this - the outcome could be anyone’s guess.

Will the team find Hetty in time?  Is there any significance to Harris Keane?  Is Dang insane?  Should there be repercussions later down the line for the team (or certain individuals) for disrespecting Mosley? 

What did you think of this episode?   Let me know your thoughts below.

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