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NCIS: Los Angeles - In the Line of Duty - Review: "The Good & the Bad"

“In the Line of Duty” dealt with the attempt to kill the U. S. ambassador serving in Tunisia. Because two men were killed in the attack, including a Navy leader, NCIS begins investigating. That investigation takes Sam and Callen on a covert assignment to Tunisia where they barely escape with their lives. But they bring back valuable information to re-create the crime scene. Meanwhile, the terrorists make their way to Los Angeles as we find out the ambassador was not the real target. The Navy leader who died had led a Black Ops mission out of the Tunisian embassy that involved dozens of covert operatives. The terrorists were trying to gain information on these operations.

I hate to say this wasn't one of my favorite episodes this season. Granted, it did get better as it progressed, with several fun and interesting scenes that offered some good highlights. But the case itself kind of bored me. And I thought the show really missed an opportunity to showcase Sam and Callen in Tunisia. It’s always fun when the characters travel to another city or country as part of an operation. But the lighting in these scenes was so dark that you could barely see what was happening. Everything looked black and I was straining to see what was going on. Because they were in stealth mode, the scenes were quiet and lacked action so they didn’t hold a lot of tension and suspense like they should have. (Even Hetty’s instructions to stand down lacked a sense of urgency.) All you could hear were their voices from time to time, which was much less effective than seeing what was happening. I understand the scenes had to be dark to show the type of mission they were leading, but it was too extreme – not being able to see what they were doing detracted from the story and made me lose interest.

On the positive side, we saw a couple fun character scenes. And I was glad to see more of Eric in this episode. He had some funny lines. Plus, viewers were treated to some cool high-tech equipment that helped solve the case. I absolutely loved seeing the huge 3D printer the FBI brought in to re-create the crime scene, along with the LIDAR laser Sam and Callen used in Tunisia to get the information for the mapping. These lasers apparently use pulsed laser light to sense distances and ranges that can then generate precise, 3D information about an area. And that 3D printer was just incredible. I was amazed at the detail it could produce and the scale of the re-creation. Then there were the huge ladder-like stairways the teams used to enter the buildings where the terrorists were hiding at the end of the episode. The ladders just came right out the trucks – instant bleachers – and led the team onto top floors and over large walls in the blink of an eye. What a skillful, well-thought-out operation!

Sam and Callen

Callen wasn’t about to abandon his mission when he and Sam were in danger in Tunisia, even as Hetty told him to. He knew the guards were coming for them, but he still wanted a few more seconds to finish his job. I don’t know if this was insanity or confidence, but it worked. He wasn’t afraid of the danger. I liked how when the guards came into the room, the laser blinded them and they started shooting at the air, giving Sam and Callen a chance to escape. Of course, Sam wasn’t too happy about Callen putting them in so much danger. But they got what they needed and got out.

Later as Callen tracks down an old CIA buddy who knows something about the case, many nicknames are exchanged between him, Sam and the CIA agent. This scene was amusing. Callen first calls Sam “Huggy.” But the CIA agent in turn calls him “Butch,” which Sam finds entertaining. Later “Huggy” becomes “Hugs.” I think Callen enjoyed the opportunity to pick a name that de-emphasized Sam’s toughness. But that’s a hard thing to understate with Sam. Soon he demonstrates his intimidating demeanor with the agent, threatening that he lost a friend and wants information. The agent gives them just enough to let them know what’s going on.

I also enjoyed the scene where Sam and Callen check in with Eric and, for once, Eric’s tech skills don’t work. Something goes wrong and he can’t get his video to play. Sam and Callen look amused but quickly get impatient. These two are used to getting things done immediately and they apparently had no time to wait an extra 15 seconds. That shows you how efficiently things are run at NCIS.

Kensi and Deeks

My favorite scene of the episode was with Kensi and Deeks as they talked about cartoons while each wearing big bifocal eyeglasses. They looked hilarious with those glasses, and their conversation was great. Deeks’ references to Mr. Magoo fell on deaf ears with Kensi, leading them into a funny talk about “vintage animation” – or old cartoons. The two actors were perfect in the scene, gazing through those goofy-looking glasses and playing off one another. I love how Kensi called Deeks “Shaggy,” and it was perfect how in the middle of their conversation, the FBI agent asked, “What is this?” Deeks’ response was even better: “Oh, this? Don’t worry about this. This is just adorable partner banter. You’re gonna come to love this!” The FBI agent wasn’t even talking about them, but that’s okay – Deeks doesn’t mind being in his own world. I thought that part of the conversation perfectly echoed fan sentiment and paralleled what people love about the way these two interact.

I also thought it was clever of Deeks to trip the man with the briefcase going up the stairs at the federal building earlier so he could see what was inside and know if the man was indeed dangerous (which he was). I liked how the scene emphasized that Kensi always has Deeks’ back.


Eric amused me in this episode. His fun quirky side was on display, from mentioning that the 3D printer was the “world’s greatest Lego set,” to using his shopping host voice to give information. (“But wait, there’s more. Act now and we’ll throw in this, compliments of the FBI… But that’s not all. This limited time offer also gets you this guy.”) I also loved how confident he was as he thought he was showing Sam and Callen something great but his video wasn’t showing up. He is used to being a know-it-all so having an “off” moment was amusing. I also loved when Sam told him, “Use your wizardry to make it work, Gandalf.” I really enjoy Eric’s character. He is such an eager beaver, ready to please and demonstrate what he knows. He loves his job and he has fun doing it.

The Team

I thought the terrorist capture scene at the end was very nicely done. The action, the large moving ladder stairs and the repelling down the wall were all fun elements to the scene. I enjoyed how Sam and Callen were in charge of the entire operation and I liked how Sam and Kensi each shot a man in the house, working as a team to ensure each other’s safety. (Did you notice how that man came right behind Kensi and was aiming to shoot downstairs? Wouldn’t he just have shot Kensi instead? Of course, I’m glad he didn’t. But that didn’t make sense to me.) Deeks knocking the jihadist on the back of the head was the final icing on the cake of a well-planned action sequence.

But the best team scene was definitely the ending scene as they all tease Deeks, who really wanted to use the 3D printer to re-create a Sketch Armstrong doll or a Hetty Bobblehead doll. I didn’t understand the Sketch Armstrong reference and had to look it up. It turns out it’s a large gel-filled action figure from the 70s. So I guess Deeks likes “vintage” toys along with his “vintage animation.” The team then appropriately calls him a Bobblehead and a Chia Pet as Sam asks what is wrong with him. Though it felt a little manipulative, the FBI agent then comments that the team’s dynamic works. Again, though, I thought this was another good example of a character’s comments perfectly reflecting viewer sentiment. They do indeed work very well together. Callen sums it up nicely as he says they are all “one big happy, slightly dysfunctional family.” That’s a perfect way to describe them. Deeks then says good night to all of them, calling Nell “Nay-Nay” and Sam “John-boy.” I can only imagine Sam’s responses to that one.

Other Thoughts

- Hetty and Granger had a nice little banter over her tea drinking. I especially liked her question, asking if Granger needed something or was just looking to kick a kitten.

- I really thought the Navy man who lost his life was going to turn out to be bad after he nodded at the ambassador during the shootout – and possibly the ambassador, too. My hunches were wrong.

- I thought it was interesting that it wasn’t Hetty’s call to decide who went to Tunisia, but Sam and Callen’s decision. They really have a lot of authority to make decisions on their own.

- Only Deeks would ask, “What’s up, boys? How’s the honeymoon going?” after Sam and Callen almost just died.

- I found the ambassador to be a very serious character. While someone in that position would have to be serious, unfortunately I didn’t think Julie Chen brought a lot of charisma to the role. She played it very straight and, for me, ended up being kind of dull.

What did you think of "In the Line of Duty?" Tell us your likes and dislikes 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.