Like most NCIS Los Angeles episodes that feature a name in the title, the eponymous “Granger, O” focused on one character; the Assistant Director. Owen Granger first appeared in the season three episode “The Watchers” and was instantly disliked and not trusted by the team. He used them for his own means and investigated Kensi as a possible murderer, even ordering her to be held under house arrest. And in Kill House, he was responsible for Nell being captured by the bad guys. As a result, viewers generally have a love/hate relationship with Granger. Since season four, he has gradually warmed to the team and vice versa, and has even softened slightly since his poisoning last season in Traitor, occasionally showing a slightly more human side to him.
Granger, O is not an episode that provides much back story on the character himself and instead focuses on the man and his emotions, and how he approaches the young Korean spy Jennifer Kim, who is his long lost daughter. Earlier this season in Cancel Christmas, Jennifer was in Los Angeles to assassinate North Korean sleeper agents whose names appeared on a list NCIS obtained. She was interrogated by Granger who made the connection that he once knew Kim’s mother and date wise, it was clear she was his daughter. Jennifer was referenced again in Matroyshka Part One, Granger’s absence explained as he was escorting Jennifer to Washington. He is now back in Washington to escort her back to Los Angeles for further questioning; there has been a murder in LA and the victim’s name was on Jennifer’s list. The North Korean’s have sent replacement assassins to finish Kim’s job and the NCIS team must locate the assassins and find the one surviving name on the list. Case-wise it is a fairly simple premise with a few minor twists and turns, the main one being that the last name on the list is actually a ‘cleaner’, to tidy up loose ends, meaning the final mission is to kill Jennifer Kim.
Granger, O is not only a study of Granger but also Jennifer Kim. She grew up not knowing her father; she knew his name but refused the opportunity to meet him when she was ten. She has no hang ups about her upbringing or lack of a father. She is a strong, independent woman whose mother gave her all the love she needed. Jennifer made her own decision at a young age to train as a spy, not out of spite towards her mother but of her own free will – although she did run away from home to join ‘spy school’. As a result, she is stubborn, strong-willed and resourceful, with a repertoire of sarcastic comments in her armoury. In contrast, Granger only knows his has a daughter, and of her alias name – Jennifer Kim.
By extension, this episode draws contrasts and comparisons to Callen’s story, without mentioning him as such. Callen of course recently discovered his father’s identity and finally met him, finding out his name just a few episodes ago. The two are mentioned together only in reference to Jennifer kicking Callen’s ass during her arrest (now an ongoing joke), with Granger sticking up for Callen and Jennifer complaining that he (Callen) doesn’t fight fair – and neither does she. The conversations between father and daughter are those that Callen has yet to have with his father.
Trust is warily built between Granger and Jennifer when it’s realised she is the next target and subsequently becomes part of Granger’s lone wolf plan. Trust is then forced on them during the gun fight at the hangar. A poignant conversation takes place at the end of the episode on the pier and the two start to form a bond. Jennifer reveals her real name, offers to defect. Granger agrees to protect her as an asset as best as possible, allowing Jennifer to then ask if Granger will help find her mother, to which he says yes. Even though his exterior remains a hard shell, the cracks are there in his eyes and in his struggle to find the appropriate words. Miguel Ferrer certainly has made Owen Granger his own grizzled and complicated loner, and excelled in this episode, as does Malese Jow (Jennifer), whose performance makes her a character with which to engage and to empathise.
The narrative is at a slower pace than usual, much like the Mastroyska episodes (which Kyle Harimoto also co-wrote). This again was necessary and did not detract from the plot which is only a vehicle for character development. The slower pace of the airplane scenes allows Granger and Jennifer to explore their emotions. A great example is when Jennifer has walked away from Granger to get a fresh tea. In a brief scene a little later with no dialogue, Granger walks down the aisle to Jennifer, pauses and then turns back and walks away from her. Powerful scenes do not always require words and the framing of the scene shows how close and claustrophobic the airplane is, but how vast the distance is between the two characters.
Another important element of this episode is the mention of the mole. References have been at times throughout this season which leads on from season six. There is another traitor in their midst whose identity is as yet unknown. Jennifer finds this amusing, as Granger trusts no one and diverts the plane to a different airport without updating his team. Reflecting the frustration of the audience, Callen even calls Granger out over the mole. Apparently Hetty and Granger have it in hand. Will this be revisited in the season finale or early season eight? It’s been going on for over a season so more (visible) progress or a reveal would be great.
In addition to the obvious continuity nods regarding Jennifer, there are also references to Kensi’s friends, with Deeks reeling off all their names (Tiffany, Tiffany etc.). Eric recalls the last time the entire team played basketball in the gym but unfortunately no one was there to witness his awesome basket. The talk of weddings between Kensi and Deeks follows on from the ‘almost’ proposal in The Seventh Child and may be laying the foundations of a possible Kensi pregnancy (or disappearance or injury or…), particularly in the light of recent news that actress Daniela Ruah is pregnant again. The NCIS REACT team was also mentioned which shows great continuity with the mothership, who aired an episode entitled REACT this season. Other character moments saw a lot of banter between Sam and Callen, from thrash metal concerts with Anna to IKEA furniture, boxing and Sam freezing himself a la Hans Solo. Hetty is barely present and Granger’s interactions with the team only occur towards the close, demonstrating the team still don’t fully respect or trust him. Deeks undermines his authority by openly calling him ‘Granger Danger’, and Callen challenges him about the mole, each holding the others stare a touch too long.
The best NCIS Los Angeles episodes are generally those which are character driven and there have been plenty of those in season seven, featuring all characters (bar Hetty). Granger, O had a different feel to it as do many of the self titled episodes, but the narrative and storytelling were slick, coming from long time series writer Harimoto and director Dennis Smith (the only real frustration visually came from the fake background when Sam and Callen are in the Challenger, and dialogue wise from Eric’s odd theory about Granger and Jennifer). The one liners between the main cast were funny and the guest actors were on form, particularly from the two supporting actresses at the apartment block with Kensi and Deeks. Answers about who Granger is and his past may not have been addressed this time, but his emotional journey with Jennifer was a story certainly worth being told – and it is only the beginning.
Rate the episode out of five and please leave a comment on your thoughts about this episode…