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Review NCISLA: “Groundwork” (S11E12)

Deeks Kensi Groundwork

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s review of “Groundwork,” the 12th NCIS: Los Angeles episode this season. In the latest installment, we have Dina Meyer returning as CIA Officer Veronica Stephens who has lost an agricultural scientist who just arrived from Nigeria with a load of equipment and innovative farming techniques that are so advanced, there are some governments willing to kill for them. It was written by Erin Broadhurst and directed by Benny Boom (does that mean we will see a lot of explosions in this episode?).

I will have to admit that I am a Dina Meyer fan (from Dragonheart and Starship Troopers to her run in the SAW series), and having her join the team again did bring some freshness to the crew and I like her a lot better than Anna. I’m just not a big fan of the seemingly all out push to find a romantic interest for Callen that we are enduring this season. It’s not that I don’t want G to find happiness, but it is the way it’s being hashed out. I feel like they are trying to show that he isn’t the lone-wolf agent he used to be while he was in the CIA and that he’s actually growing as a character (even buying some furniture) but now it seems like whenever a female character is introduced, she’s either flirting with Sam or Callen and vice versa or is some old flame from his days with the Central Intelligence Agency. To me, it has not felt organic, building naturally over the course of several episodes but instead is simply dropped in our lap and we have to accept it for a fact. It’s always better to watch the relationship grow and flourish so that we can route for the characters as the relationship progresses.

And where is Linda Hunt? I’m not talking about the character Hetty Lange, I’m seriously asking where has Linda been? Her presence on screen in one of the reasons I love this show and whenever she’s absent (especially when she is integral to the plot or is mentioned as being integral to the plot), it really stands out and, to me, brings down the entire episode. In this week’s show, they reveal that she has used one of her old aliases to transport Ahkos back to Greece, which is understandable, but still feels like some slightofhand. I know the scuttlebutt is that she’s contemplating retiring and enjoying a welldeserved rest but it’s like the powers that be are constantly teasing us with mere glimpses of her to keep us interested when we would simply prefer a clean break and introduce a true director of operations that is actually present. I mean, she is still the Director of Operations for the Special Branch of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, is she not? From what we’ve seen this season, she hasn’t been doing much operations managing. It’s like going to see the movie Executive Decision because Steven Segal is one of the stars only to watch him die 20 minutes in. No, I’m not a huge Segal fan but you get my point. Give us Linda or give us a good-bye worthy of the great actress that she is.

This episode didn’t have many big booms or shootouts, but it did give us some great moments of banter between the teammates. Callen and Sam started off discussing the next cookout with former SEALS, Delta, or whomever shows up, then it morphed into distrust for the CIA in general, especially by Sam who then points out Callen’s proclivity for falling for women with something to hide. Callen actually said he’s never been duped but apparently, he hasn’t been watching the same show I have. He was practically living with Joelle and didn’t know she was an agent. That’s DUPED, partner. Big time.

It also reinforced the story arc that there is a mole working against us at the CIA, which carry us to one of my biggest complaints: the lack of story arcs that last longer than two episodes. Long reaching arcs give the season some cohesiveness and usually a bad guy/gal/team for us to focus our attention/hate/love.

While I enjoyed the case, it didn’t make sense to me why Veronica would keep so much information from the team that she was asking for help, especially when there were lives at stake. In situations such as this, minutes, even seconds, matter and could be the difference between success or failure. Keeping them in the dark only prolonged the danger for the missing scientist and pretty much everyone else involved. I only point this out because this has been a reoccurring issue (like Hetty and her penchant for secret codes and hidden clues) over several seasons and yet, we still see the team chasing their tails when they do not have enough information because someone thought that they didn’t need to know. In military operations, vital intel is key to a successful operation and running in blind is usually the recipe for disaster. Yet here we see the team having to flesh out the case over hours, days, or even weeks because the intelligence community doesn’t play well together. I was also a little taken aback by the lack of an emotional response from Stephens when she found her teammate had been dismembered. It may have been intentional (they may not have worked that closely together) but it came across as cold and unfeeling.

Sam and Callen have to be the biggest dummies in the greater L.A. area if they, for one second, thought that Veronica was going to stay in the boatshed just because they told her too. And didn’t Callen tell her that if she wanted their help, she would need to wait there for them to get back? They should have backed off then and waited for her to figure out if she really wanted their help or was just jerking them around. After all the times they have worked with or against the CIA, they should have known she would ghost as soon as she could. It also seems that every time that the CIA wants something from the team, they lie, cheat, and steal and the team always goes along with it for some strange reason until the smelly stuff hits the fan. Wouldn’t it finally sink in that almost everyone who works with the CIA is patting you on the back with one hand while picking your pocket with the other? I know that there have been great characters on the show who haven’t been all that bad, but the team should have learned a long time ago to only trust them as far as they could throw them (well, maybe not Sam… he could hurl a few of them into the next county). Have they ever heard the adage “Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me”? Getting burned by the same people over and over again doesn’t bode well for any future encounters.

Poor Kensi. She gets the cold shoulder from the skateboarding teens, then she watches a guy run over by a tractor trailer, and for the cherry on top, she gets to play find-the-head-in-the-bag. As a former EMT, I can testify that finding a head is exactly as traumatic as you think it is… there are no words. I still can’t believe that the college kid managed to slip out of his apartment while there were four agents waiting outside to nab him. Was he a descendant of Houdini? He just shouldn’t have tried to jump from the trailer to the truck. Bad life choice dude, bad choice.

And in the end, Deeks comes through again! From encouraging Beale (his favorite brainiac) to keep digging away at the flattened phone to the fake fire to get the bad guys out in the open to the lifesaving shot to save Callen! The Dude strikes like a jungle cat… you don’t see him… you don’t hear him… but he’s always there. Festooned? That is the word du jour. I just can’t believe we did not get any taco truck jokes (I bet there were but they were all on set and we won’t hear them unless ECO or Dani recorded them). And he had every right to brag… a handgun shot from an elevated position with limited visibility that turned that dude’s lights out was pretty impressive. With all the times he’s pulled their cans out of the flames and they haven’t given him a “Thank you”, Deeks haranguing them about it seems like fair play to me. I am thinking that the “I’m going need four dollars for that beer” was an add lib because of Dani’s laugh at the end.

There wasn’t a lot of Densi other than their simple interactions which fit since they did not have much to discuss or deal with this time around and that’s okay. While I love their relationship and the way we’ve gotten to see it grow, it’s not why I watch. I like a good case, witty banter, cool action, and great characters. If I want to watch a romance, I check out something on the Lifetime channel. This is a serial drama and that’s what I want to see week after week, not theeverywakingmomentrecordofeverycouple on the show. Give us glimpses and peaks, not the entire story.

I’ve decided to start using a scale from 1 to 5 to grade an episode, and I’m going to give “Groundwork” a… let’s see… divide by the common denominator… carry the one… add in the minute fluctuation in the Fleber Index… multiply by the square root of pi…

Let’s just say a 3.

It wasn’t super great, but had all the basics (except for Hetty) and gave us a reoccurring character that didn’t grate on my nerves like fingernails down a chalkboard. We’ll have to wait and see if the CIA mole story comes back to haunt us again in any meaningful way or if it will disappear like so many storylines have before. I am hoping that Linda Hunt graces us once again with her presence and her talent before too much longer. Let us know what you think in the comments and tell me what I missed or got wrong or whatever. I don’t try to cover every aspect of a show, that would take way too long and probably bore you to tears. So I pass the torch onto you, tell us your thoughts and feelings about “Groundwork” and please, do not forget to check out all the other articles, stories, and updates by all the other (much more talented than I) contributors here at wikiDeeks.

And as always,



About Jericho Steele (32 Articles)
I'm just me. I served proudly in the United States Marine Corps for four years after graduating from high school. For the past twenty-six years, I've been married to the most wonderful woman in the world. Our daughter is still at home but our son just moved to Russia to study at Moscow State University. We also live with four cats and one dog in south Georgia where I spend my time loving my family, writing stories, working, and shooting my bow.

13 Comments on Review NCISLA: “Groundwork” (S11E12)

  1. Hey, Marine. Good stuff. You actually made me like this one a little more, especially the ending. Deeks having to brag about what he did always kind of grates on me, so you saying he earned it helped me get past that, and I loved the comment about wanting four bucks for the beer. Thanks. Not my favorite, except for the Deeks scenes. I really expected more Interesting episodes after the long Christmas break. Once I finally remembered who the CIA lady was, I realized I never liked her in the first place. Can’t they find someone decent and good for Callen to fall for? For a brief moment in time, I thought it might be Joelle, a woman with a normal job. But no. They had to blow that up by making her a CIA spy for some clandestine rogue group in the CIA. Explain to me again how she got out of what she did? Oh, never mind…she is somewhere in Cuba noodling with Anna. Those two would make a good team. They could hire themselves out to the highest bidder for black ops. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both didn’t end up in a future episode, probably calling Callen to get them out of another sticky situation. You can see how bored I was with this week’s episode just by going so far off track with this comment. All in all, I liked your review better than the episode.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wasn’t interested in this episode. I tried, but didn’t even finish it. Hoping next week is fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Where’s Hetty? Why isn’t Hetty here? I am worried about Hetty! Should we go look for Hetty? It’s getting so tiresome! I read that we won’t be seeing Ms. Hunt until the end of February. I love Hetty as much as the next guy, but her presence is no longer essential to me to enjoy the show (she HAS been missing for most of two seasons now). I think it is time to let her ride off into the sunset. Rant over.

    As for Groundwork, it was just “meh.” It was just not a very interesting episode. I totally agree with the reviewer about the foolishness of Sam and G trusting Ms. Stevens, especially after their last go round with her. Have they learned nothing about dealing with the CIA, who always seems to have them chasing their own tails? It also seems to me that the writers have installed a revolving door of women for Callen, trying to find someone with chemistry with COD. I wouldn’t mind seeing Dina Meyer again to see if anything develops. Anyone but Anna (die Anna, die). Contrary to the reviewer, Kensi and Deeks are the main reason that I tune in week after week. I just love them. They didn’t have much to do in this episode however. I was grateful that there was no angst between them this week, but I did find it curious that our cool, calm sniper was sitting and moping on the curb. Is the fact that she is surrounded by violence, murder, death and mayhem starting to get to her? I wonder. And yes, Deeks saved the day again, with almost no thanks from his team, even his wife. While on the subject of Densi, does anyone else miss their flirty conversations and interactions? It seems now they are just all business; they don’t even seem to look at each other when talking to each other anymore.

    I seem to have gotten off track rating this episode, but in my humble opinion, there was no there there, nothing memorable at all. I keep hoping for the writing to improve. It has been such a hit and miss season so far, with flashes of its former greatness.

    I am happy that the second part of season 11 has begun at last. I wish all of my fellow fans, and the staff of Wikideeks a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Happy new year everyone and thank you so much for your great review Jericho.
    I really don’t like how finding Callen romance has become the focus point of the show, like Jericho wrote it hasn’t felt organic. And about that being duped discussion, wasn’t Sam the one who introduced Callen and Joelle in the first place…
    I really liked the team working together (missed Hetty though), but overall this episode and case wasn’t very exciting or memorable in my opinion .

    Liked by 3 people

  5. michelle mcnally // January 9, 2020 at 7:06 AM // Reply

    i watch it to see deeks. the marine is right, he doesn’t get enough credit. he is awesome.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Happy new year, WikiDeeks, welcome back after Christmas break.
    Thanks for your great review, Jericho, I enjoyed it very much.
    I think this week’s episode was not very exciting and I was underwhelmed (except for the scenes with Deeks and Kensi, even if they didn’t have much to do). I get that not every single episode can be like “Mother”, but could we please have more scripts by Eric and Babar Peerzada? That was an amazing hour of TV. I hope next week’s episode will be more interesting before the long winter hiatus.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t anything special but it was entertainment. It missed the big explosions that we normally expect. I do think the writers need to settle on a romance character for callen. The writers maybe trying to figure out who the audience will accept. Please keep looking writers. I think the writers are also trying to figure out how to write Densi. I don’t need Densi scenes in every episode but I do need to see Deeks. Hetty needs to retire. It is obvious that the actor does not want to be on the show so let her retire. I do love her on the show.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thank you Jericho for a very entertaining review. I agree with with everything you wrote, and I think you nailed the overall rating, “3”.

    I did enjoy the Deeks and Kensi moments, and I really enjoyed Sam and Callen. I also liked Dina Meyer, definitely better than Anna. It seems like the focus of too many episodes though, is more on Callen or Sam’s potential girlfriends than the storyline. I think they need to let ECO write more episodes. I hold out foolish hope for a “Deeks, M “ or at least an interesting arc that does not involve potential girlfriends .

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thanks for a great review of an okay episode, JS. I have to say I don’t mind that Hetty’s not around as much as long as they keep her “spirit” alive, so to speak. She is a very mysterious woman who has her fingers in more than one pie at at time, so I totally buy it when she disappears and no one on her team knows what she’s doing or where she is. For all we know, she’s out there hand-picking that team Sam is looking to train in preperation for when she really does retire and Callen takes over. (Either that or she’s like those polygamists who have a secret family somewhere else, and she’s off managing her secret team’s business. :-))

    While I agree on calling bullsh!t on Callen’s claim that he’s never been duped by a woman, he should have mentioned (and since he didn’t, AnneS and I will) that he might not have been taken in by Joelle had she not come with the seal (get it?) of approval from his NCIS partner and HIS former CIA wife. Just sayin. Sam’s got no stones to throw since he was duped first by Joelle.

    I wasn’t terribly surprised by Veronica’s unprofessional behavior. She lost all credibility with me right off the bat when she failed to do anythng with the guy who tried to abduct/drug/kill her after she disabled him. The guy was stunned or knocked out and she couldn’t have somehow secured him so he could at least be found by LAPD/NCIS/CIA (whoever it would have made sense for her to contact)? Or at the very least grab the syringe that she left laying on the ground? Shoddy tradework, indeed. Guess the CIA’s been getting all the people who are rejected by the rest of the alphabet agencies.

    Honestly, I’m not thrilled with the prospect of yet another mole storyline, and I really hope the CIA keeps this one to itself. Though I am glad that this time a CIA agents appears to be a mole within his/her own agency, as opposed to another agency (I’m not even sure that can be defined as a true mole…). Unless HETTY is the mole and that’s where she’s been lately! Oooh, I can get behind that–Hetty’s looking to end her career with a bang so she attempts to take down the entire CIA! (Kidding, mostly.)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Debra Gillespie // January 10, 2020 at 2:58 AM // Reply

    Excellent review, Jericho, and you hit the major highlights spot on. I had to re-watch “The Heist” from last season to remember the Veronica Stephens CIA agent character, as I thought that was a “meh” episode that I quickly forgot about. Here she was more interesting, and made this go – round less “meh” but man, how is she alive with that shoddy tradecraft that Sam pointed out? I actually thought she clicked with Callen more than the Moussad lady early in the season, and I wouldn’t mind seeing her as a recurring character, but perhaps more in the spirit of a Talia; not really romantically inclined toward Callen but spicing up things a bit.
    Is it my imagination, but when Eric and Nell were looking in Hetty’s office, did it seem that her office space looked more closed and restricted more than in the past? The time frame suggests that it’s been a while since “Mother” (remember Deeks and Kensi in “Answers” indicated that three months have passed since “Mother”) but how her office looks suggests to me that she has gotten even more distant with the team and is more content “dialing in” duties.
    I loved the scene with Eric and Deeks, with the latter using reverse psychology and ego boosting to keep Eric motivated with that broken cell phone. No doubt to me a lot of that was improvised, and it was my favorite part of the episode. The callbacks to earlier episodes keep coming – the flash drive on Hetty’s brooch, the hotel matchbook clue (from Crimeleon I’m sure) and Callen’s long ongoing history with certain “Fatal Attraction” types of women, certainly brought back memories. (I loved Sam’s advice to Callen about not getting a bunny). But did they have to bring back the possible “Monster” reference with the dismembered bodies? That’s one callback I wish the writers had passed on. Please writers, resolve that Criminal Minds type of episode so I don’t have to keep remembering it.
    Hoping the episodes get better with the remainder of the season….from the cast listing it looks like Mama Deeks is making an appearance with the next episode….hooray! Glad to hear from you Jericho, and I hope you’ll be doing another review or two during the rest of the season.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thanks for another review Jericho! Based on what I read about the episode I didn’t expect much but I enjoyed it very much in the end. Somehow I prepared myself for not much of Deeks (or Densi), but in the end we got very good generic episode, full of teamwork and smart, competent and funny Deeks (oh yeah “Bulletproof Beal” is the best scene – you get to see smart and funny and cunning Deeks).
    I also do not expect to see romance between our happily married couple (the Dude and the Man) in every episode. I am afraid that Tolstoy was right when he sad something like All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. So as long as we see them together and relaxed I consider them happy family.
    I don’t miss Hetty and I don’t find her not being around as downside, as she is more than present in the communication of the team. We got plausible explanation where she was supposed to be (i.e. why she was absent) and Kensi in the “Answers” did say that she was less and less in the office.
    Veronica is a cool gal. I suppose trained CIA operatives do not go around talking about everything they know (if I remember well, Kensi called them “spooky bunch” once) and I think she was also at least little embarrassed that she lost the good engineer and tried to salvage whatever was possible from the soon to be “failed” mission. But she came around in the end and admitted by herself that “rocky start” was “her bad”. I like her definitely more and find her more appropriate match for Callen than Anna. He and Anna really don’t go well, but judging from the sneak peek from the next episode (thank you very much “ishiptoomanypeopelontv” for making them watchable worldwide) Anna is still the strong contender to get Callen in the end.
    And apropos “willingness to share the stuff” our own happy NCIS bunch is also not exactly forthcoming.
    My first thought when Veronica left the parking lot after she had disabled the attacker was “WTF”, but then I though what if there were others with him that she couldn’t see? What would I do? She didn’t have idea who attacked her, how many of them were there and what he/they wanted from her. I am not sure that I would stay there and wait for somebody to attack me again. So in this equation with so many unknowns I think she made the best choice.
    All in all for me, the episode is strong 4.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A belated happy new year everyone! And thanks Jericho for a great review. I really liked your description of the writers’ search for Callen’s love interest as non-organic. I hate to start the new year off on a non-charitable note, but I gotta wonder, when ECO has chemistry with literally every single actor on the show, why is it that COD has chemistry with no one except for LL Cool J?

    Anyway, I only had a couple other thoughts about the episode. One had to do with Kensi’s queasiness at the gruesome death and severed head. My first thought was that she was pregnant, but if she is, she doesn’t know it yet because she was enjoying a beer at the end of the episode.

    I also have to quibble with Erin Broadhurst’s canon inconsistency. She’s a lovely person, but I’ll never get over her revision of Kensi’s history in “Come Back.” Here I was only moderately annoyed at the idea that Deeks restored an old Indian motorcycle. Was that before he worked at NCIS when he was allowed to have a motorcycle? And before he expressed confusion as to why anyone would want to fix up old cars in “Sacrifice”? Or was it after Hetty took away his new motorcycle in Season 5? I didn’t find it at all in character.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I liked this episode a lot and think I must have watched a different episode. Callen and Sam didn’t walk away from the case when Veronica left the boat shed because Veronica wasn’t the one who asked for their help; Hetty was the one who wanted them involved. If she didn’t want them involved, she wouldn’t have sent them to the boat shed to meet with Veronica to begin with. And this is the same reason Veronica kept so much information from the team – she didn’t ask for their help until much later in the episode. As for Callen and Sam being the biggest dummies, I disagree, They had no reason to justify detaining Veronica in the beginning. That changed later and they did detain her. And then they gave her the chance to walk away when they’d brought her up to speed, so if she wanted their help, she had to ask for it–and she did. As for being “duped,” Callen wasn’t talking about his personal relationships but the “relationships” he gets into when he’s undercover and working (this was related to Veronica not a personal relationship like Joelle). I like hearing about Callen’s past work and find it totally believable that he got into some tricky situations with dangerous women, and I like his character making an effort to find Anna. I think it does show his character developing the same as Deeks developed from “Party Marty” to a man devoted to one woman.
    I didn’t like the Beale/Deeks scene because at this point of the show and especially after “Kill Beale: Vol. 1” Beale should know how intelligent and capable he is. Nothing against Deeks, but Beale was less insecure about his capabilities in the earlier seasons than he is now, and that’s weird.
    What I didn’t get was why Kensi was carrying the case of liquor while Deeks was leaning against the bar? Obviously she’s not preggers.


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