Review: NCISLA “Liabilities” (S9E15)
Hey NCIS:LA fans and welcome to this week’s review of Episode 15 of Season 9, “Liabilities”. This particular offering was directed by Lily Mariye, an actress turned director, and was written by Kyle Harimoto, who has penned gems like “Omni”, Granger, O.”, Chernoff, K.” and “Humbug” among others.
I’m excited about this, so let’s jump right in, shall we?
Okay. I lied. After I was so disappointed in last week’s “Goodbye Vietnam,” I was not too excited about what may lay ahead as I flipped on my DVR. But it is not for us to question why, but to do and… well, maybe not die, but you get the point. So I pressed PLAY and the show was underway. All I had to do was hang on.
I’m glad I did.
The basics of what the preview gave us is that the team has to find an underground agent who has compiled a large supply of bomb-making materials. In a follow up to previous episodes, we have the return of the Keith and Lynn Stiger (“Assets”) and Jennifer Kim (“Granger, O.”), and that means we may finally discover what has become of our wayward Deputy Director. With the clock ticking and the agent nowhere to be found, the team has their work cut out for them.
In the opening scene, we follow along as Callen and Sam approach a cabin on a small pond that explodes almost as soon as they enter. We later discover that Lynn Stiger was found inside the rubble, already dead from two gunshot wounds to the chest. This puts the focus firmly on her husband, who appears to be missing. Now it’s time for a tactical observation: if the place was rigged to blow in order to take out the investigating team, why was the camera placed in the middle of the planter sitting in the middle of the table that was right in front of the entry door? And why not just drop the cellphone trigger between the cushions of the chair as to muffle the vibration so it would remain unnoticed? Or turning off the vibrate option at the very least? The point of setting a trap that is designed to kill a target, is that the target is already dead before they even realize they have stepped into a trap in the first place. I know, I know… why muddle this make believe TV show with a small dose of how things actually go down in the real world?
When we shift back to the Mission, we enjoy a tender moment between Hidoko and Hetty that opened up her apparent tragic past before her transfer to the West Coast. The loss of her husband has affected her deeply and given her an emotional side that has been lacking up to this point. Up in Operations, we are briefed on the reappearance of the Stigers and the mystery continues to deepen. Then we find out that an entire truck full of bomb-making materials is running around LA and the team doesn’t have a clue as to the possible target. Before the team enters the warehouse where the materials have been traced, Sam gives us an impressive toss through the missing window pane. Nice!
After they get no help from Rocky, the security guard who is apparently on the twenty-year diet plan, and nothing much from Stiger’s business partners, the hunt is on for the truck before something goes ‘BOOM!’
Now, for all of us who hoped Hetty’s return would be as seamless as many others have been… well, I guess we will have to wait to see how that all plays out in the end. For her part, I don’t believe that Mosley’s clomping around her office in heels was meant to disturb Hetty downstairs; I think it’s just in the younger woman’s nature to do what she wants (until someone steps up and calls her on her crap – even though she is… technically… the boss). The point should be made that, despite Hetty’s vast experience, her position is that of Operations Manager, not Executive Assistant Director Pacific (whatever that means), which puts her lower on the totem pole than we sometimes imagine. However, as some others have learned, Hetty has connections that make her lower position a moot point when she needs to give someone of greater authority an attitude adjustment. Mosley may find that out the hard way.
After a briefing with Eric and Nell, Sam and Callen are off to visit Jennifer Kim in her off the books rural cabin. I guess she’s a city girl based on her vocal disdain for her current living conditions. She leads them to a North Korean safe house where it is confirmed that Stiger has gone rogue, acting on no orders from higher-ups, which means no one knows what he is up to. Not good. Not good at all.
Kensi and Deeks are sent to the area where the truck was last seen, which is a large area to cover. In this scene, we get an example of why this show can still be great. We get a great conversation about Granger and why he did what he did for his daughter. It also was of note how Deeks was the one to explain the fact that he trusts Kim because Granger trusts her. For all of their animosity over their working relationship, Deeks displayed an immense amount of maturity in explaining why Kim would dishonor her father if she betrayed them.
Kensi: Think Jennifer Kim’s going to help us?
Deeks: Yeah … yeah, I do.
Kensi: She was raised from a young age to harm the U.S., so what makes you think she’s going to help our team now?
Deeks: Cause it’s not really about her. I mean… Granger trusted her, I trust Granger… therefore, through proxy or transitive property… I’m on team ‘Jennifer Kim’ or team ‘JenKim’… you know, that just sounds better, might put it on a t-shirt.
Kensi: Granger really stuck his neck out for her, didn’t he?
Deeks: It seems to me, brokering that deal with the Justice Department and the State Department was pretty much his primary focus right up until… uh… you know… anyway.
Deeks: She doublecrosses us, she disrespects him.
Kensi: She does that… I’ll take her out myself.
Deeks: Fair enough.
We then discover a North Korean special operations operative that has gone rogue with Stiger. The mess just keeps getting deeper and deeper! Kudos for Mosley pointing out the construction site and the access to the LA underground tunnels. Talk about multiple targets and freedom from observation.
It was impressive how seamlessly the four team members split up, especially with Kensi pairing off with Callen while Sam split off with Deeks. Not their normal M.O. but it worked! It did confuse me as to why were the first set of guards looking away from the entrance. I guess there has to be some slack given in the interest of drama.
I have to point out that we had none of the distracting banter we had in last week’s episode. Sam made no comments about Deeks being able to see with his hair in his eyes and Callen didn’t ask Kensi if she and Deeks had picked out China patterns. They remained professional and intense throughout the entire mission which translated into a dramatic showdown. With some seriously fancy hand-to-hand from Deeks and impressive bomb skills from Sam, the bad guys were taken down and the LAPD headquarters saved.
And was that a Dr. Seuss reference by Deeks?
Deeks: I don’t like knives, I do not like them at all.
Pulled a What?
The final shootout gave us some impressive moves, especially by our favorite detective. Did you guys catch his combat transition from his primary weapon, the M4, when it ran dry to his sidearm with no hesitation whatsoever? It was smooth as silk and revealed a high skill level in firearms manipulation. Then, when the danger was over, we got a slice of perfect team banter.
Callen: Well, those are the first bombs you have correctly disarmed in quite a while. Congratulations.
Deeks: What’d you do?
Callen: What did you do?
Deeks: You know… got in a… got in a knife fight…
Kensi: Pulled a hammy.
Deeks: Pulled a hammy.
Now that I’ve given you the rundown, let me give my opinion on “Liabilities”.
This episode is one of the reasons that I adore this show! Now, it has had it misfires (“Goodbye Vietnam” being one of them), but there is still life to be found and we had a wonderful taste of it this week. The intensity built from the opening scene with an exploding cabin, through the hunt for the bad guys and the explosives, all the way to the finale with gun play and another last minute save by this great team. The banter was kept mild and the comic relief perfectly timed and subtle, not heavy handed and constant. I salute the director and writers who masterfully wove a tense story that grew and grew until the conclusion, aided by great acting from the leads and emotional support from the supporting castmates.
There were no ill-timed jokes or silly banter and, thank the heavens, no loud whistling or pee breaks in the jungle while trying to remain undetected. Sorry. I will stop slamming last week’s horrible let-down of a great story arc that seemed to be headed in a good direction only to fall apart when a totally out of place Rio walked up and… sorry… sorry… leaving it alone. I’m done. Really. Letting it go… going to my happy place.
This is why I watch. The story builds, each scene adding to the one before until you are on the edge of your seat, and when the conclusion occurs, you let out the breath you didn’t realize you were holding. I know I may be overdramatizing my reaction, but this was the first episode that I have really enjoyed in a long time. It sounds funny to say that the case becomes secondary to the character development that is occurring while the mystery is solved. Explosions, gunfights, and bad guys are great and all, but if the characters are flat, stale or downright empty… why watch? If you aren’t emotionally invested in the people presented on the screen, you won’t care if they win or lose, get shot, or ride off into the sunset.
For my part, “Liabilities” gave us all of that while tying up some storylines that had been left hanging from earlier episodes. Way to go guys and gals!
One of the things that keeps drawing me back into the storylines is the way they feel like a family, and that component is now a target. It is becoming apparent that one of Mosley’s objectives is to possibly break up the dynamic between the teammates. While this has been attempted before (even Granger gave it a shot), I fear that the powers-that-be may be on the hunt for a dramatic change to give sagging ratings a boast as we head toward the end of the season. To me, it seemed like Mosley specifically mentioned ‘relationships’ between the team members and that may be a portent for Densi and maybe even Neric.
There were some moments worthy of mention:
· One of them was between Eric (Barrett Foa) and Sam (LL Cool J). At the beginning of their briefing up in OPS when Sam finished listing out the bomb ingredients, cutting Eric off in the process, Eric mumbles under his breath and Sam asks what he just said. While Nell takes over before the boys can really start to argue, watch Barrett’s interaction with a slightly out-of-frame LL. There was a little ‘extra’ humor added to the tail-end of the shot and I think Barrett was tickled by the expression on LL’s face because it looked like he broke character for an instant before catching himself. Go back and see if you catch it.
· We saw an emotional response from Hidoko when her husband’s death was brought up and the show ended with a graciously beautiful farewell for Owen Granger. Jennifer’s tearful confession about Granger’s regret at not being the father he should have been to the burial site under the oak tree, looking out over the valley along with the song at the end tugged at my heart. “If I give you all I got… would you give me all that you have to give?” Wow. Well done. Fair winds and following seas, Owen Granger.
· It was telling that Hetty did not knock before she entered her boss’s office and did not wait to be dismissed before she left. And who was giving the instructions and who was saying “Yes ma’am.”? Yeah, Mosley, you’re in charge. Keep telling yourself that and let us know how all of that works out as you continue to mess with Hetty’s familia.
· Cool tech-toy with the throwable camera. Neat.
· Is it me or is Deeks friendly with all the ‘background’ agents? He stops to shake hands with the agent holding Stiger’s business partners at the boatshed and I seem to remember other episodes where he interacts in the same way.
· I wasn’t really happy with Jennifer Kim’s attitude toward the ‘rural’ lifestyle (one that I wouldn’t trade for all of the restaurants, malls and theaters in the world) or the implication that only ‘smarter’ people live in cities or urban areas. No thanks. Got everything I need right here. Thanks Jennifer, but you can have your smog, high crime rates, traffic, and anything else that makes city life so much fun.
Well, that’s it for me and we hope you drop a review of the review to let us know about your thoughts on “Liabilities”. Tune in next week for another episode that looks to be heavy on Callen and his newly discovered family. Also, check back on wikiDeeks for updates to Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, the Drabble of the Week, and all the other really cool stuff that the crew adds during the week.
And just like always … Semper Fidelis.
No one can write a better review than you Jericho. Well done sir and if there are some out there who haven’t read your fan fictions I highly recommend they have a read. No one does it better.
Thanks and so glad you liked it and for the plug for my fanfics! I’m pretty sure that there are others who do it better than I do. In fact, there are some that have posted reviews right here that make me look like a sea slug trying to work a keyboard. I still appreciate the compliment!
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Thanks for your review, I always like reading what you think of NCIS:LA episodes (not to mention your awesome fanfictions!).
In my opinion the episode was a good one and it had two quite unexpected surprises: the core team working together again amazingly well (yes!) and the final tribute to Granger/Miguel.
These were the highlights of the episode for me:
– Deeks whistling instead of yelling “Federal agents” (perfect way not to be shot at right after!)
– Deeks asking Sam “Are you good?” in the tunnel with concern in his voice (it’s clear how his protective nature surfaces every time someone he cares about is in possible danger)
– Sam disarming a bomb in – quoting Callen – “quite a while” (congratulations are in order)
– Deeks’ very realistic and well-shot knife fight (“I don’t like knives, I do not like them at all!”)
– Both scenes between Hetty and Mosley (only a way to understand even more how much Linda adds to the show): Hetty was perfect with EAD Mosley, I really couldn’t wait to see their interactions and she didn’t disappoint. Mosley, on the other hand, is still a mystery to me, one episode she is more stiff and strict and quite presumptuous, the other she seems to be softening, until we get to know her intentions are (and maybe have always been) to split the team up! I think her character hasn’t worked well with the rest of the team since the very beginning of the season only because it has never been clear what her part was supposed to be.
– How well the team (THE team, not other last-minute additions) worked together: this is the team we have loved for almost a decade now, supportive, well-trained, balanced, professional, focused, backing one another up and asking one another if they are ok.
– The idea that Granger spent some time with his daughter before he passed away really warmed my heart. I think it was time the show provided some closure to Granger’s final days’ storyline and I think they dealt with it very well. That beautiful oak tree at the end will always remain a symbol of Granger’s strength, wisdom, loyalty and freedom and a way to be thankful to Miguel for the character he created for NCIS:LA.
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You pointed out all the things that make this show so good when they get it right and what is missing when they get it wrong! My favorite part of this episode had to be the Jennifer Kim/Owen Granger conversations and reveals. Miguel brought us a wonderful complex character that even with his rough and sometimes cold demeanor, had ingrained himself into Hetty’s little family. He will be missed.
Great review, Marine. I did enjoy the episode, but it took me awhile, because like you, I couldn’t let go of the Goodbye, Vietnam episode. Thankfully, Kyle Harimoto wrote this weeks script. It was cohesive and had an objective that was followed to the end. I love that Hetty is back, and to see her making connections in her own subtle way. I call it gathering ammunition. I thought of how deferential Mosley was to Hetty, and it makes me believe that she knows just how many friends Hetty has in the intelligence community, not to mention people who owe her favors. Although I loved watching Deeks take care of business in that knife fight, the most interesting scene was toward the end where Mosley stops by Hetty’s desk on her way out. Her comments about the team were not a surprise, since it’s been apparent for awhile she is planning on disbanding the team. Mosley’s description of the relationships between team members being a problem, but then having that countered by Hetty with her own assessment that those relationships made them a family was the best piece of dialog all night. The battle is on, and Hetty protects her own. They are really all she has.
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Thanks Lindy! We’ve seen Hetty take on anyone who messes with the team, her family. It will be interesting to see what happens when these two finally square off! I’m thinking end-of-the-world type scenarios (Godzilla might even show up for that showdown).
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Great review Jericho! I really enjoyed this episode. It was well scripted, had a good pace and the core team delivered their characters perfectly. I absolutely adored the field action, it felt like the show I fell in love with . Sam and Callen, Kensi and Deeks, some of the four of them as a team, and a little change up in the teams with Sam and Deeks and Kensi and Callen. Just superb! Deeks was wonderful, he was competent, had a good sense of humor when appropriate , and I loved the knife fight. I was glad to see Jennifer Kim, I loved the dialog between Deeks and Kensi regarding her character and Granger. Again, it felt like the show I love. The closure to the Granger story was very poignant.
I was also really glad to see both new characters relegated to minor roles so they took less screen time. Hidoko in this episode was superfluous. I think the actress is okay , but her character served no purpose. In this episode , since we actually got Nell and Eric working as a team ( thank you show), Hidoko either just repeated what they said, or ended up going to see Mosley and giving her an update. Unfortunately that results in a bigger dislike of Mosley since she sits in her glass office , paces in stilettos (really?) and will only talk to Hidoko. Although I thought the scene with Hidoko and Hetty was done well, I would have much preferred to see Nell with Hetty, and reaffirm that bond.
This will sound harsh, so I apologize in advance, I have absolutely no interest in the backstory for either Mosley or Hidoko. When TPTB deliver the Deeks, M we have been promised in season 5 and 8, then we can start to talk about a backstory for a brand new character that arrived in season 9.
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I agree with you sassy, I wonder why TPTB bring in new characters that only seem to upset the dynamic of the established team. It’s like they think that adding new people , that it somehow will magically create some new energy in the show, instead of trying to fix the root problem which is usually poor writing or boring story-lines. If the new additions do not bring anything ‘new’ to the show, they tend to end up appearing superfluous and only drag the rest of the characters down with them. In the future, maybe Hidoko will turn out to be an asset and reveal her true colors. Fingers crossed.
It was better than last week. Three things I appreciated: Deeks getting to be in the knife fight, Hetty pointing out she trusts the team because she handpicked them, and resolution for Granger was done beautifully.
Mostly is just not working, she doesn’t even work as a foil. I didn’t mind Granger questioning the team because he always had a twinkle in his eye and that deadpan humor. She doesn’t have either.
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I’m not sure what Mosley’s game is, Diane. It feels like since this no established ‘bad guy’ left at the end of the season, the writers have fallen back on the old “break up the team only to put them back together” story-line that they have done many times in the past. Granger, for all of his rough edges, was pushing the team to be even better than they were and it never came across as mean spirited or just because he could because of his position. Only time will tell if this works out for the Mosley plotline or will it just give us lots to talk about.
Just realized that autocorrect changed Mosely to Mostly. Well she is mostly annoying so I think that nickname is a keeper.
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Thank you for your great review Jericho.
The things I liked in this episode: I liked how the episode flowed, that the episode focused enough on the case (not too many distracting storylines) and that we got a conclusion to the Keith Stiger-storyline and I really liked the action scenes, especially that Deeks fight scene, I loved that they showed a competent Deeks who didn’t need to be rescued.
I had mixed feeling about some of the scenes, the reveal about Hidoko’s past was interesting, but at the same time I hope that the writers don’t focus too much on the drama in personal lives that (I guess we will find out more about Hidoko’s past and Mosley’s son in the future), I just hope that the writers don’t forget great case storylines. The last scene was beautiful, but I really liked the way they had left it open what happened to Granger and I wish more members of the team had been in that final scene. I still am a bit confused about Mosley’s character (writing and character development), I hope that Hetty’s return (finally!) will in a way help me connect with Mosley’s character too.
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Thanks AnneS and you pointed out exactly why this episode was so good – it flowed. There were no moments of comic relief that were either unnecessary or ill timed. There were no nauseating switch backs to Operations just so Eric and Nell would have some screen time. It moved at the correct pace and stayed on track. This was a great example of how this show ROCKS!
Loved your review and I loved this episode. It touched my heart that we got closure for Granger/Miguel. I definitely teared up a bit. The action scenes were awesome though I did think it was improbable that they would have been able to sneak up on the bad guys so well. I really enjoyed seeing Deeks in an actual hand to hand/knife fight. One of these days I’d really like him to completely kick someone’s ass though instead of having it be such a close call.
I think it will be interesting as Hidoko’s character unfolds. I have scene glimpses of Hidoko I like such as when she didn’t want to get in the middle of the partner disagreements at Christmas and when she helped Nell and Eric solve the three word thing to figure out where Hetty was.
My guess is that Mosley will break up the team at the end of the season and that will be our cliffhanger. Of course, something in the first episode of next season will bring the team back together and then Mosley will have to admit that they work best together. Just my hunch!
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Glad you liked it Kaytie! They usually do a good job with the action sequences and I do allow them some leeway for the sake of drama, but come on! The bad guys weren’t even looking in the right direction! It makes it easy for the good guys to win when they write it into the script. I was impressed with Deeks’ hand-to-hand skills, but going against North Korean Special Forces, he probably still would have been cut, even if not seriously. But hey, at least it looked good on screen!
I think you’re probably right about the cliff hanger. With no established bad guys to tangle with, I’m afraid we are stuck with the split up the team scenario that we’ve seen in the past. Maybe this time it will take more than one episode for them to get back together so we get a bit more drama out of it.
Very good review. Thank you. I actually read your review before watching the episode because I was gun shy from the last week, as several have mentioned. Reading your review, I knew it was safe to watch.
I agree with everyone’s assessment. This was almost back to form. The closure with Granger was so lovely and perfect though I wish it had been the whole team experiencing it rather than just Sam and Callen.
There was some humor but it wasn’t center stage and mind-numbingly stupid. The team was tactical which is their strength. Mosley. Sigh. Mosley. I wonder how the other actors feel being in a scene with her? And up against Linda Hunt? Uff da. She’s just not up to their standard. Well, at least now we know she’s a bad guy (not her specifically but what her job has her doing) and what her motive is. Kaytie may be correct in her comment about the season end cliff hanger.
1. Come on, a Deeks, M. episode dealing with Deeks’ father, choosing not to be an attorney anymore, etc.
2. Ok, we got Densi together and they’re happy. At last. But.This could provide so much story telling material for how a couple in so much love work in such a dangerous job together. They touched on it with The Silo episode this season. Thank you. More please. And not just about starting a family and having babies because that takes away from the procedural nature of the show but I’d like something organic in the action to deal with it as a continuing thread.
3. STOP with the stupid recurring characters. Yes, I saw that Anna is coming up again in one of the episodes. Arkady I will take any time, he’s a plus. I don’t mind Sidney but she was used inappropriately in the Vietnam episode. Jennifer Kim turned out ok in this one. But it feels like they’re bringing these characters back because they can’t think of fresh stories. Or refuse to. Argh! There’s GOT to be more threats to LA that requires our tactical team.
4. I don’t want Sam to bounce back like nothing happened but I would like to see him happy again. I miss happy Sam.
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Thanks for the vote of confidence peakae! I’m glad you liked the review and the show. Like you, I was dreading this episode because of the disaster of last week and wasn’t planning on watching it and only did because I was scheduled to write the review. But like you, I was very happy when I did.
I like your wish list and, if I had any power over any aspect of the show, you would get it all! But alas, I can only hope along with you that maybe the writers will see what works and what doesn’t and run with that knowledge.
Great, and entertaining, review Jericho!
It’s easy when the writers, directors, and actors/actresses give us a great show in the first place, but I’m glad you liked my little contribution.