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NCIS: Los Angeles - Leipei - Review: "It's All Greek to Me"

This week’s “NCIS: Los Angeles” focused on a Greek terrorist who was killed by a remote-controlled drone at a hotel in Los Angeles. That’s after the man snitched on his organization and was placed into witness protection in the U.S. So the NCIS team works to find out who killed the man and why. In the process, they uncover and try to stop a drone operation targeted at a U.S. oil refinery.

I must say, being Greek-American, I enjoyed all the Greek elements to the episode: the Greek restaurant with Greek music playing inside, Callen referring to moussaka (a Greek casserole made with eggplant, spiced meat and bechamel sauce), and one of the Greek suspects asking Sam where he could get a picture with Yanni. (That made me laugh out loud.) The Greek accents, unfortunately, were not very authentic, but they had moments of believability. Even the title of the episode was Greek. “Leipei” means missing, which could have applied to the dead terrorist, who had been lost in witness protection, or the large drone the team tries to track down. I figured executive producer John Peter Kousakis was likely the consultant on anything Greek. So the writing team had a good expert at their fingertips.

Overall, though it wasn’t extremely meaty, I thought this episode had some fun interactions between the different sets of partners and ended with a great unexpected scene between Nell and Hetty. (That was the one scene that held some real dramatic weight.)

Eric, Nell and Hetty

I loved the scene where Eric encouraged Nell to come forward and talk about her expertise in Ops. These two were on the same wavelength without using hardly any words, except a few “ums” and “hashtags.” Even if no one else could understand their nerd talk (or “Ewok routine”as Granger amusingly called it), they understood what the other was saying.

I was happy to see a little more of Eric and Nell in this episode. Eric still hasn’t had enough screen time but I enjoyed the scene between him and Deeks when they were left alone in the gun range. Deeks starts telling Eric his problems but can’t seem to muster enough patience to return the favor when Eric talks. Poor Eric! No one listens to him. Deeks tried, but he sure didn’t last long before he bailed, leaving Eric to tell his story to himself.

Nell, on the other hand, had a larger role this week. Because of her drone knowledge, she accompanied Sam and Callen to the crime scene to check out the initial small drone that killed the victim. Since she understands so much about drones, she is able to track this one to where it took off – a warehouse in Long Beach where Deeks and Kensi find a dead body and later realize a larger, more dangerous drone was created. Then Nell’s expertise really comes in really handy when she has to guide Callen through controlling the drone from a tablet. She tells him how to take it off autopilot, drop the drone and turn it. And when the device can’t be controlled any longer and is heading straight toward Callen, she knows its blast radius. All this information saves Callen (and the public who could have been injured). And her efforts don’t go unnoticed with Hetty.

My favorite scene of the episode was the final scene between Nell and Hetty. The scene was poignant and dramatic and emotional. As Hetty praises Nell for her contributions, she offers her a special whiskey made by Pappy Van Winkle created from wheat instead of rye. At first it seems like just a friendly drink as a token of appreciation for Nell’s work. But Hetty has a more specific purpose for the whiskey. (I believe she planned it that way all along.) Hetty makes the observation that Nell has never tried to emulate the agents who have gone before her or copied the way they do things. When she questions if Nell still wants to do covert work, Nell is adamant: She wants to be a covert agent more than anything. But she is not willing to do it the way someone else does. She has to follow her own path.

Part of the reason the scene was so good is because Nell reveals her vulnerabilities. She is clearly comparing herself to the other agents and sees that she can’t do things the way they can. She knows she’s never going to be like them and you can hear the emotion and fear in her wavering voice as she acknowledges this. She is battling herself and her own fears, which is easily relatable. But at the same time, in another sense she is also very sure of herself and knows exactly who she is. This is obvious when she says she has to do things her way, even if that means never making it. Only someone who has a strong sense of self and is confident in who they are can say something like this. So I found her dueling emotions of confidence and fear very captivating.

Hetty, of course, believes in Nell like she always has, and she wants to encourage her. Hetty appreciates Nell for who she is and believes that Nell can make a great field agent. But she wants Nell to see that for herself. That’s when Hetty jumps in with her whiskey analogy. She tells Nell it was amazing what happened when the Van Winkles made whiskey their own way. The words were purposeful and Nell gets choked up as she takes in Hetty’s meaning. Nell may not be the same type of field agent as the others, but she can forge her own path and add her own unique traits to the job. Hetty knew exactly what she needed to hear. That support and encouragement from her mentor makes all the difference to Nell.

Honestly, this conversation was also good for me to hear as a viewer. There have been many times I’ve felt like there is no way Nell can be out in the field. She just doesn’t hold up to the others in their skills and confidence and knowledge. Even earlier in this episode I noticed Nell didn’t seem to be eager to get out in the field with her drone knowledge. Eric had to talk her into it. But this conversation opened my eyes a little. Nell’s fears were getting in her way. And I believe it’s true that Nell could bring different strengths to the job that could be invaluable. She may not look like the same type of field agent as the others, but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be a good agent. Of course, just because the words are spoken doesn't make it true, either. The verdict is still out on this one for me. In the past I have not liked Nell as a field agent - she's weaker than the rest of the covert team. But the conversation made me more open to giving it a chance.

Sam and Callen

I really loved Sam and Callen’s mini theme woven throughout the episode of Sam having to become an expert in everything. Apparently Sam doesn’t like to lose or be average at anything, which was amusing. He doesn’t even like it when instructors outscore him in practice shooting. So he practiced his “weak-hand shooting” exercises three times a week and later casually squeezed an object in his hand to strengthen his dexterity.

Callen was funny as he teased Sam about this need to become proficient in everything – from strange breathing techniques to magic classes to bird things. Left-hand shooting was “just the latest stop on the Sam Hanna world tour of skill acquisition,” according to Callen. But Sam said all of the skills he learned benefited him or pertained to his job. And he had a pretty good explanation for everything. The breathing techniques benefited him in a gunfight, being handcuffed in a box under water was part of tactical training for stressful situations, and the falconry obsession was because “raptors are just cool.” I love learning more about characters like Sam through conversations like these.

By the end of the episode, Sam turns the tables on his partner and facetiously taunts Callen at his own game. When asking Callen how cool it was to fly the drone, Sam acts like he has looked into it and believes the two of them should buy one. But as Callen begins to think he’s serious, the entertaining smirk and mischievous glint in Sam’s eyes point to the fact that he’s throwing the joke right back at his partner.

These two bring out the humor in each other but they also push each other’s buttons. When Sam goes after a potential suspect and ends up duking it out in a car wash, Callen heckles him by asking what took so long to get just one guy. But Sam is not amused. He tells Callen he is “not in the mood” and walks away upset at Callen’s brazenness and questioning of his skills. At that, Callen has to laugh. These two are like brothers who get on each other’s nerves. They look out for each other and joke around, but sometimes they also want to punch each other.

Deeks and Kensi

These partners also continue to joke around, make fun of each other, harass each other and enjoy their friendship. They begin in the gun range as Deeks compares himself to a gunslinger, born in the Wild West. Then Kensi makes fun of him for having a dog with anxiety issues. I have to say, I felt the transition leading into that conversation was weird – and the talk itself was awkward. But at least the characters acknowledged that. The fact that everyone wanted to get out of there made it kind of amusing, along with Deeks rambling about what, to him, was a very serious accusation. I loved how Sam asked Deeks if he was finished hijacking their conversation. And I enjoyed Deeks’ comment to himself about Kensi driving him crazy.

Later the two partners compare notes on the best parts of Long Beach. For Kensi, Snoop Dogg is on the list. (Who knew she was a fan?) And for Deeks, it’s all about the skate park. Kensi doesn’t really understand that passion but Deeks wants her to try it and enjoy it. I love that he wanted to share the things he enjoys with her. The fact that he wanted to include her in his favorite activities and do them together was really cute. When Kensi actually agrees to trust him and try it out, Deeks can’t help but feel like she is messing with him.

Other Thoughts

- I loved how the episode began – the viewpoint of going through different laser boxes with scenes of Los Angeles moving in the background, almost like a video game. I didn’t know exactly what the boxes were at first. But later you see them again and realize it’s the view from the drone as it heads to its destination. It was visually appealing.

- I also like how the episode ended with the rest of the team being treated to “libations,” but everyone else doesn’t get the Van Winkle whiskey like Nell. They get the Makers brand, emphasizing that the special whiskey was just for Nell.

- It amuses me that Deeks has to be a part of the conversation. When they were all talking about the Greek terrorist organization in Ops, he added the obvious – that all of the members were Greek – just so he wouldn’t be left out.

- Sam shot the guy at the apartment a little too quickly for my liking. The man hadn’t pulled a gun on Sam yet. In the real world, this action would have been questioned. (Even though I’m sure the guy would have shot Sam if he had the chance.)

- I like seeing that Hetty and Granger had a short conversation addressing the mole in their operation. Granger acknowledged that no one on the team seems to be leaking information but they still haven’t found the mole. I was happy to see this topic is still on the back burner and I expect to see this addressed more in future episodes.

- I was impressed with Kensi’s car knowledge when her car stopped working and she immediately knew it was likely because the axle was busted. Go Kensi!

What did you think of "Leipei?" Which scene was your favorite? Do you think Nell will make a good field agent? Join our discussion in the comments below.

About the Author - Tonya Papanikolas
Tonya Papanikolas is a entertainment journalist who loves covering her favorite TV shows, including "NCIS: Los Angeles." (She's a big fan of Kensi and Deeks!) She spent more than 10 years as a broadcast news anchor/reporter and now does everything from hosting to writing. She writes reviews and feature articles for SpoilerTV on a ton of great shows.