This week's episode of NCIS: Los Angeles found the team scrambling, on edge and searching far and wide for Sam's car. And a link between a Mexican drug cartel and Al Qaeda, of course.
While not as compelling as the search for Gibbs' ideal woman on NCIS, Sam's missing prize possession offered a fun, lighter element throughout the night as the agents did their thing.
Their thing, as "Sacrifice" proved over and over again, is extraordinarily dangerous. These men and women aren't just investigators, they're increasingly front-line anti-terrorism soldiers.
If you counted the number of times Sam, Callen, Kensi and Deeks are shot at compared to their D.C. counterparts, it would be astounding. No wonder Sam takes solace in car restoration.
After a shootout at a pawn shop uncovers an unlikely alliance between Al-Qaeda and Mexico's Molina drug cartel, the team had to discover the connection and assess its risk to national security.
Not an easy task, and one complicated tenfold by a female Mexican police chief, working undercover, who was appointed after every other police chief in Laredo had been murdered by the cartel.
Watching her fight Kensi in full martial arts mode was a lot of fun, along with her interactions with Deeks, who clearly sympathized with her as a fellow cop. Deeks, at his core, is pure LAPD.
The Kensi-Deeks interplay is always one of the show's highlights, so anytime you see one of them start to get defensive or protective, a new and complex layer is added to their relationship.
Kensi clearly had a hard time being upstaged by someone so similar to her in many ways, and Deeks' connection exacerbated her insecurity. Very well played by Daniela Ruah, as expected.
Another interesting wrinkle came in the form of the two FBI agents investigating the case, who always seemed to be one step ahead of NCIS. It turns out they were CIA ... and knew the link.
The agents were trying to cover their mistake in allowing Al-Qaeda to steal a highly sophisticated predator drone which they intended to sell to the drug cartel to fund their More...terrorist activities.
When the Mexican police chief called out one of the agents as a dirty cop working for the cartel, tempers flared and all hell broke loose. Shots were fired and both of the CIA agents ended up dead.
It was neat how you still had no idea who to trust even after that. Despite being much more of an action-based series than NCIS, the spinoff weaves complicated enough plots to keep you guessing.
Fortunately, as they always do, the team discovered who was lying and reclaimed the drone from enemy hands before it sold. More significantly, Kensi can now reclaim her swagger, as well.
The highlight of the episode, however, was Callen's constant needling of Sam and describing the many stages of grief over his lost love. Callen's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge is hilarious.
LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell have such a great rapport, but rarely do we see it turned on its head like this, with the former trying to maintain his tough exterior and the latter "comforting" him.
Eric and Nell's role in the car caper was wonderful, too. As the resident nerd, Eric's remark that he fears Hetty intellectually and Sam viscerally was priceless ... and Nell is an amazing sidekick.
It's great to have Hetty back, even just on the periphery. Her role in this episode was relatively small, but just knowing she's lurking is enough to please fans (and spook Eric just a little).
The characters are all consistently good at being dramatic and comedic when the scene calls for it. I also enjoyed the passing reference to Nate, too, with longtime viewers may have picked up.
Another solid episode from a show that may not match its parent series most weeks, but never disappoints. The characters' continued evolution will only help in time, and it's on the right track.
What did you think of this week's NCIS: Los Angeles? Discuss below!