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NCIS: LA - Mountebank - Review: “Dexter Hughes”




We open on businessman in a fancy white sports car on a mountainside highway, driving like an absolute terror. There’s no way he lives past the opening credits with driving like that. He’s talking to a Russian man on the phone, who is telling him that he wants to visit Mountebank, he hears it’s a lovely little town.

The driver says no and then swerves to avoid hitting a car - shocker - and pulls to the side of the road to calm down. He finally agrees that yes, Mountebank is a lovely town, but before he can give recommendations on what to do there, a Jeep comes out of nowhere and slams into his car.

And then - plot twist! - instead of going into the opening credits like we all expect, it cuts to a woman listening in on the audio of the phone call. When she hears the crash, she calls over her supervisor to listen in.

Interesting...

At the office, Callen is waiting right inside the front door, ready to intercept Nell the moment she walks in. Man, if someone did that to me at work, I’d be very ticked. Let her at least get some coffee or something, G.

Callen needs Nell’s help because he thinks someone’s stealing his identity - well, not his, but one of his aliases, Dexter Hughes. Nell agrees to see what she can find, but makes it clear that she hates Dexter.

Eric appears, cleaning an oboe. He calls them up to the computer room because they have a case, agreeing with Nell’s assessment by calling Callen’s alias, “Would never want him to meet my sister if I had a sister Dexter Hughes.” The oboe is literally never discussed, never referenced… Nothing.

Hidoko says a joint terrorist task force intercepted the call between Russian businessman Abram Sokolov (guy on the phone who wanted to go to Mountebank) and prominent investment banker Phillip Nelson (terrible driver who died.) The group deduce that Mountebank is code for something, which really wasn’t hard to figure out.


The case was turned over to NCIS because Nelson was in the Naval Reserves and Sam and Callen head off to the scene of the wreck.

Kensi and Deeks talk to the agent on the task force who flagged the call and they listen to the audio together. “Yes, they’re talking in code; no, I don’t know what any of it means,” she says. I like her - straight to the point. They were listening in because Abram has been orbiting a number of major investigations for ages.

Abram is a regular “chatty Kathy,” she explains, since he talks to a lot of people all day long - mostly about the ponies. At the phrase “chatty Kathy,” Deeks nudges Kensi and smiles, but drops it when she stares him down.

At the scene of the wreck, there are no eyewitnesses. Well, certainly there had to be eyewitness to his AWFUL DRIVING. Sam doesn’t notice any tire marks, implying that the car that hit Nelson did this intentionally before driving off. Sam comments that Dexter Hughes - man, that alias is getting a lot of attention this episode - travels in the same finance circles as Nelson, and suggests that the identity theft is to distract Callen from the case. Valid theory.

Also, I have a question: Have we ever seen Callen use the alias Dexter Hughes on the show before? Because I don't recognize it, but I haven't seen every episode. Any help? Let me know in the comments.

Eric calls Callen and Mosley is super rude and just commandeers the call, ordering Sam to go undercover to Nelson’s bank. Callen isn’t super cool with that as they usually make those sort of decisions as a team.

“‘Usually’ being the operative word,” Mosley says. “There’s a new sheriff, remember?”
“You make it hard not to,” Callen responds, speaking for the audience.

I’m still waiting for a reason to actually like Mosley.

While that little drama is going on, Nell has some news - the property traders at Nelson’s bank just started shorting the markets, which means the stock market is expected to crash. At least, that’s what they say. I honestly can explain the ending of LOST better than I can explain the stock market, so they could be speaking another language and I wouldn’t notice. But Sam understands, apparently. The bank is betting big, which means they have inside information about something that’s going to rock the markets… Something like a terrorist attack.

Then we have our obligatory Hetty reference of the episode: Sam says he contacted a friend at Pearl Harbor to see if he can track down Hetty. That box checked off, the episode continues.

Nell gives the team a rundown in preparation for Sam’s undercover role: Within one hour of Nelson’s death, Leigha Winters assumed control of the company. (Her name is pronounced “Leah,” so I guess her parents were going for a higher Scrabble score when they spelled her name.)

Sam will be going in as Trevor Ward, interviewing his way through the ranks before getting to Leigha. Hidoko will be backing him up while Callen’s alias is compromised, which ticks everyone off. Hidoko, as usual, is stuck in the middle of all of this and I feel kind of sorry for her.

Mosley grabs Callen for a quick chat and they go down to the weapons locker where Callen makes a dig about her not having an office yet. “It’ll be worth the wait,” she promises/threatens. I swear, it is so hard to like this woman. I mean, how is your office going to impress and intimidate us? Well, if it’s anything like her guns and dress and car from last week, I’m assuming it’ll be very, very expensive.

I think Hetty needs to come back and investigate Mosley for fraud. She's getting her money from somewhere.

Anyway, Miss Moneybags assures Callen that she’d prefer to have him backing up Sam, but that just can’t happen with his alias compromised.“Are we on the same page?” She asks. “Honestly, I’m not sure we’re even reading the same book,” says Callen, which is both a) a bold response to your boss, and b) very similar to what he said last week about how not only were they not on the same page, they weren’t even in the same library.

Callen goes to visit Nell, upset that she told Mosley about the identity theft. But Nell didn’t tell, she swears! So Mosley has tricks up her sleeve to get info, just like Hetty did. Either way, Nell gives Callen the address of an apartment rented yesterday under Hughes’ name.

Kensi and Deeks visit Mosley in the weapons locker, where she’s cleaning her guns. They have a pitch: they know a very important, charming and frustrating Russian who could definitely compromise the investigation but also may be helpful. Mosley correctly assumes they’re talking about Arkady Kolcheck, aka Anna’s dad.

Everyone agrees this is probably not a great idea, but Mosley lets them go visit him. Which I did not expect but am excited for, since this is guaranteed to be funny.

At Nelson’s banking business, Sam (with Hidoko in his ear) is working his way up the interview ladder with employees who are varying degrees of insane. The entire scenario feels a little like a montage from Suits, and I’d love for Harvey Specter to just walk in there and wipe the floor with Sam’s undercover persona.

Meanwhile, Callen is busy breaking into his identity thief’s apartment. It’s completely empty, save for a sleeping bag and pillow on the floor and a discarded pair of jeans and tennis shoes. Callen pulls a note out of the pocket of the jeans and leaves. It turns out it’s a receipt for a bar in Santa Monica.

That feels like something Michael Westen from Burn Notice would teach you in a voiceover - always check the pockets. All your best clues will come from there.

Sam seems to have done well enough in his interviews to warrant time with Leigha. She doesn’t interview him so much as ask him one question about why she would need a partner. She likes his answer and I guess that’s that… I mean, it was unbelievably easy for him to get a partner-level job that has to pay at least six figures.

On the other side of town, Kensi and Deeks knock on Arkady’s door. He answers in a bathrobe, yelling at them for waking him up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday. But it’s past 11 on a Monday, Kensi informs him. When he stalls and says he needs breakfast or coffee, the pair smirk and present him with a bag of food and not one, but two different types of coffees. He has no excuses now and reluctantly invites them in.

They walk to his back patio where a group of beautiful bikini-clad women are lounging. Arkady sends them all inside, explaining that his nieces have come to visit. The way that Deeks and Kensi just nod along, not buying any of it, is hilarious.

Kensi jumps straight into it by saying the name Abram. This instantly knocks Arkady into reality. He does not like Abram and he is very, very dangerous.

Arkady explains that he pretends to dislike Kensi, but he actually really likes her. “Sometimes when I’m blowing out my birthday candles, I’m imagining that you are my daughter and not Anna,” he says.

Wow. That’s um… Wow. Harsh, man.

Arkady cares less about Deeks, which is just fine with the cop. (I feel like now is a good time to mention that I have a friend who refuses to watch this show solely because of Deeks' haircut. She can’t understand how a law enforcement agent gets away with a haircut like that. I know they explain it by saying he sometimes uses that haircut for undercover work, but I kind of agree.)

Anyway, Arkady advises that the couple stay as far away from Abram as possible, meaning at least one continent. Then Deeks makes a VERY ridiculous face that they freeze on before cutting to commercial. They definitely did that on purpose.

Going back to Sam’s new job, where I guess he just started on the day of his interview? He’s talking to a coworker and as soon as that guy leaves for lunch, Sam, the world’s most inconspicuous man, slips into his office and copies everything from his coworker’s computer onto a thumb drive.

Back at Arkady’s, Kensi and Deeks are wandering around the Russian’s house. It’s opulent, ornate, covered in gold, and absurdly ridiculous. Deeks is enamored by all the gold jewelry on display. Arkady apparently insisted on taking a shower while they waited, and half of their conversation takes place with him wearing a giant red towel with freaking TASSLES on the end. He’ll help them meet Abram’s sister, but that’s as much as he’s willing to cooperate.

Have you ever seen a towel with tassles? Where do you even get those? In the “beyond” section of Bed Bath and Beyond? (Also, I literally just right this second realized that “Bed Bath and Beyond” doesn't have a comma anywhere in its name. That's going to bother me for the rest of my life.)

The trio go to an underground casino, and it reminds me a lot of the place Felicity went early on in Arrow to count cards with Oliver backing her up. They meet Abram’s sister, but it’s clear that the agents have to sit back and relax, have a few drinks, and win a few hands of poker before they’ll earn any answers.

At the office, Leigha brings Sam in on business travel immediately, saying he needs to join her on an upcoming trip to Nicaragua. Hidoko, waiting outside the office, overhears this. Callen walks up to join her and check in on Sam, so she shares the info about Nicaragua, which they then pass on to Kensi and Deeks.


Um.... Wasn’t Callen specifically told not to get involved with this case at all?

Sam has figured out what’s going on with the financial company, based on info he got from his coworker’s computer. The company is doing mirrored trading - I kind of got lost on the specifics, but the basic gist of it is that they’re laundering Abram’s money through the bank’s equity desk. That’s what “Mountebank” must mean.

Back to the casino, where Deeks is apparently riding a winning streak. With Kensi looking on, Deeks wins the gold chains off of his competitors, as well as some answers to their questions. Abram’s sister says that the last time someone asked questions about her brother, her brother bathed them in acid.

When asked about her brother’s connections to Nicaragua, she simply says that he likes to store his fillies down there. He also likes to do whatever he wants there, “like burying bodies in the sand.”

Well, cool.

Then they have this great exchange:

Kensi - “We think our friend is meeting him there.”
Abram’s sister - “Is it about a pony?”
Kensi - “No.”

Sister - “Then it is unfortunate for your friend.”

Meanwhile, Callen heads off to continue his identity theft investigation. He goes to the bar listed on the receipt he found in the pocket, and Nell goes to back him up. He tells bartender he’s looking for Dexter Hughes, and a guy sitting nearby jumps up and runs off. Nell intercepts him and knocks him out with a pool cue. It’s a teenager!

Back to the casino - honestly, this place looks like a blast - Deeks has his sleeve rolled up (thank you, costume department,) and is arm wrestling. It’s clear this is one of those places where they see anything as a chance to make a bet.

Deeks is covered in bling - gold necklaces, bracelets, the whole nine. And it really annoys me that CBS provided promo pictures of everything else in this episode, but not of this.

Since he just keeps earning answers, Abram’s sister keeps talking: He started working with Nelson because he had dirt on him, and Leigha is still working with him because he has dirt on her too.

So Deeks, still wearing his bling, and Kensi bring Leigha to the boatshed, where Callen meets them, dragging along the teenager until he figures out what to do with him.

Callen is the one to conduct Leigha’s interview, and she confesses immediately what’s going on, and says she’s only doing all of this because she’s being blackmailed. Nelson figured out what Abram was doing with the money - he was supplying U.S. arms to Ukrainians in hopes of escalating the conflict with Russia and dragging the U.S. into it.

Also, she doesn’t recognize a picture of the teenager that Callen shows her.

The team sends Leigha off to her scheduled meeting with Abram with them secretly backing her up. They’re in a warehouse full of money… Why wouldn’t he keep all the money online? Actual boxes of currency seem like a waaay risky way to conduct business.

The team starts a firefight, intentionally forcing Leigha and Abram together. Leigha grabs Abram and they run out of the building, where Hidoko runs into him and plants something on him. The pair get into a car and pull away, with Abram successfully being tracked and all of the money now in federal custody.


With the case wrapped up, Callen makes sure to sing Hidoko’s praises to Mosley before heading to meet Sam at the boat shed.

They have a video call with Sam’s friend at Pearl Harbor. He found Hetty’s boat, but it’s been abandoned. Plus, she never stepped foot on shore. But he’s heard rumors that what he calls a “Hawaiian leprechaun” is traveling with a drug smuggler in the area.

After they hang up, Callen goes to talk to the kid, confirming that he’s 18 before asking any questions. The kid doesn’t know who anyone involved in the investigation is, doesn’t recognize the names of anyone in Callen’s family, but he does admit to living in a shelter. Ooooh, okay. So this is regular identity theft, unrelated to the case.

The two compare notes as Callen proves that he lived in the same shelters that the kid did and the boy - Finn is his name - instantly gets starry hero eyes when looking at Callen. Callen says he’s going to let the kid keep the lease and the apartment, but he can’t use the name Dexter Hughes or any credit cards anymore. Then he gives Finn his number if he ever needs to talk, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Finn again.






 
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