NCIS: Los Angeles S13E03 Review [Indentured]


There is always something more engaging about an episode which opens in the middle of a case, particularly if the team are involved. "Indentured" sees a group of ATF agents embroiled in a heavy gunfight they are losing, their lead agent calling over the airwaves for help from any law enforcement officers who may be nearby. Sam and Callen hear and their response is all the more serious as they clearly know each other. Unfortunately, the bad guys overwhelm the ATF, and without mercy, the lead agent is shot dead. Sam and Callen arrive at the warehouse too late. Their involvement in the case was to support ATF in taking down a white supremacist arms dealer, but the inside man was made before this could occur, and so the case is taken over by NCIS. The killer, Lukas Meyer is known and the investigation is to find Meyer and stop the weapons sale.  This opening is reminiscent of S09E23, “A Line in the Sand” where the NCIS team were under heavy fire and coincidentally, both episodes are written by Frank Military.


As is mostly the case with episodes penned by Military, there is intense drama, a focus on character and a darkness which creeps around the edges.  Military was also responsible creating and playing last season’s villain Kessler (S12E05, “Raising the Dead” and so this episode is the perfect place for the threat of Kessler to resurface.  Kessler’s girlfriend’s decomposed body has been identified after washing up on the Florida shoreline back in July, The exchange between Kensi and Deeks in the bullpen clearly shows the latter moving into attack mode. He will not allow Kessler to get near to Kensi and that is by any method necessary. Kensi realises this and her facial expression is full of concern. She knows Deeks killed his former partner at LAPD for abusing a teenage prostitute, Tiffany. Deeks also tortured a cleric in S05E19 “Spoils of War” after Kensi disappears and is held captive in Afghanistan (also written by Military). Deeks has a dark side when it comes to women being threatened and abused by men...


There is much going on in this episode which takes the team in several directions simultaneously, maintaining interest and creating layers within the narrative. Kilbride takes Sam as a partner, dropping Callen out of the picture as he’s not former military, as Kilbride wants the trust of Ret. US Army General Collins, who was due to buy hundreds of AK47s from Meyer and has connections with a right wing militia group. He also wants to ensure that if Collins is innocent, that he can continue to run for senator without a blemish to his character, thus protecting the integrity of the election process. Callen teams up with Rountree whilst Kensi and Fatima go undercover at a rehab centre, to gain the trust of Meyer’s girlfriend Mia. Deeks tails Collins although how he can remain inconspicuous when driving a bright red truck is a mystery.  Maybe the bad guys are colour blind? There is also the revelation that Kilbride has a personal connection with Collins, leading to the team mistrusting Kilbride, and causing confrontations between Sam and Kilbride.  The theme of trust is part of the overarching framework of the show (usually with Callen), and it makes a pleasant change that Sam is at the forefront this time, and for someone other than Callen to butt heads with someone in a position of higher authority.  


The issue of trust runs both ways and in a twist it turns out that Kilbride is another one who does not trust easily. When the team arrive to storm the warehouse, ATF are already in position, and Kilbride walks out with Collins in handcuffs.  Trust has to be earned and it is in short supply between Kilbride and the agents. In a scene more familiar between Callen, Sam and Hetty, Kilbride engages with the partners by offering them a single malt to discuss that very topic. In answer to Callen’s questions, he hasn’t heard from Hetty and doesn’t know if she’s safe. He also reveals that he is now running the Office of Special Projects. It is unknown if this is temporary or permanent, or what role Hetty will have if she ever returns.


It has been a very long time since the Office of Special Projects, a team which (used) to specialise in undercover operations, actually went undercover. It’s an element which has been sorely missed and makes an impressive comeback. Deeks has fun with Kensi, creating a shared back story although there is a missing (cut) scene as Fatima’s involvement comes out of the blue. Fatima’s role undercover is to set up Kensi to gain Mia’s trust and the two women enjoy a fight scene, after Kensi finds Fatima bullying Mia.  It is also a reminder of how the team can fake such scenes, with the blood pouring from Fatima’s head coming from a red sponge squeezed against her forehead. It can also be implied that she surreptitiously spat back the liquor she swigged from the bottle swiped from Mia. The visual manipulation of Mia is matched by the psychological. Mia opens up to Kensi about how abusive and controlling Lukas Meyer is and Kensi offers to solve her problems by killing Meyer. A little later Kensi’s alias tears up, explaining how she killed the boyfriend who raped her. Unfortunately, Mia develops a strong liking for Kensi’s alias and feeds her a false address for Meyer, who later turns up dead from an oxycodone overdose, Mia’s drug of choice.

The story then moves on to one of moral ambiguity, covered by Deeks and Kensi at work and later at home in bed. Deeks is the voice of conscience, asking Kensi if she thinks she gave Mia the idea and the courage to kill Meyer. At this point he sounds a little accusatory which is ironic given his past actions. Mia later sends a video message to Kensi’s undercover cell phone which the couple watch in bed. Again Deeks offers Kensi the chance to pursue Mia, however she decides to wait until morning before calling in the lead.  Kensi is at peace with her decision which means Deeks is too, and the episode closes with saying ‘sweet dreams, my little velociraptor’. The screen turns black and there is a gentle baby dinosaur growl.


Daniela Ruah (Kensi) absolutely owns this episode with her undercover performance.  She was extremely convincing and manipulating - for the greater good. Undercover operations have been in short supply for the last three or four seasons, with characters maybe assuming a role for a minute or so. Hopefully this is the start of a return to how the team used to work missions. The use of slow motion captures the horror of the gunfight, and is utilised towards the end when Kilbride walks with Collins in cuffs, emphasising which side Kilbride is on. It has sometimes been used ineffectively, for too long a gun battle sequence, but the direction here is spot on. Overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable episode and season 13 is definitely off to a solid start.

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