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 slight–of–hand. I know the scuttlebutt is that she’s contemplating retiring and enjoying a well–deserved 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 the–every–waking–moment–record–of–every–couple 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,