The Queen’s Gambit picks up a day or so from the previous episode. Hetty has sacrificed herself as the mole to safeguard the rest of the team’s jobs and Kensi is still in a coma, having arrived in the States and been successfully operated on. Even with two of the team out of action, it is business as usual and the others are tasked with investigating the kidnapping of a Muslim by a female Marine. The first thing of note is that this is a proper Marine related case – yes there turns out to be a loose terrorist connection – but the Muslims are not the bad guys, and NCIS is asked by the Marine Corps to investigate.
The strength of women is paramount throughout this episode. Reserve Marine Sergeant Jasmine Garcia manages to abduct Gabriel Mir in broad daylight and all by herself (reminiscent of Anna Kolchek kidnapping Anatoli Kirkin last season). Although she has most definitely committed the crime, as the team unravel her reasons she is not the real villain but just trying to do the right thing, using wrong methods. Back in Ops, Nell admits to Eric that she has reservations about returning to the field, only for Granger to arrive and order her out to partner Deeks seconds later. Nell more than adequately holds her own, chasing down Garcia and tackling the bad guy Bryson Khan (aka David Allen), with Deeks commenting that Kensi would be proud. Nell clearly has more confidence than during some of her other recent ventures. Only her last action scene was a touch over the top, jumping on the table to disarm Khan and then whilst on the floor, punching him several times, which seemed rather excessive given that he was no longer a threat and Sam and Callen had entered the room.
Hetty of course ran rings around Duggan in Washington. Firstly by undermining him brilliantly by (appearing?) to doze off during his speech and secondly by drinking Duggan’s minion Chen under the table.
During their drunken ‘girlie chat’ Hetty recounts tales about filming with Richard Harris, whilst secretly concocting a plan to rescue Gary Powers (pilot of U2 spy plane shot down in Russia during the Cold War). Unfortunately Chen lets the female side down by showing her naivety and poor education by referring to U2, the band. Later, even the Secretary of Defence (an old acquaintance of Hetty’s) agrees that Duggan is stupid and allows Hetty to walk free, with her bargaining chip of a future dated resignation letter – if she can’t smoke out the mole in ninety days, she will leave of her own volition.
This means the mole storyline will continue in to the New Year causing more frustration to the viewer and now there is a deadline. But once again Hetty has threatened to resign. How many times can one character pull the same trick? The only way for this repetitive scenario to be original is if Hetty really does resign, whether she discovers the mole is one of the team and she squares it with them to continue and she takes the fall, or if she really is unsuccessful and stays true to her word? But the latter will mean the mole is still out there and unresolved.
Deeks demonstrates depth of character as he continues with his job, albeit with touching moments of reflection with Nell in the storage locker. Even his goofy comments are toned down. He talks with Kensi’s mum Julia whilst in the hospital room and later, he pleas for her to awaken as he asks the unconscious Kensi to marry him, slipping the ring on her finger. Kensi is still fighting despite her comatose state, giving Deeks false hope when her hands twitch, although the doctor warns Deeks it doesn’t mean anything. Worse case prognosis is complete paralysis of her left side.
Kensi’s accident causes self doubt with Callen who wonders if Syria was worth it, and is not helped by Deeks putting him and Sam off visiting until Kensi regains consciousness. As a result there is a much more sombre atmosphere surrounding this episode. Deeks’ witty one liners with Nell seem rather forced although Eric supplies some comic relief in the shooting range, where his target is a zombie. Sam and Callen take more of a back seat this week but their banter is still on form. Sam chews Callen out for being embarrassing in the rug store, not wanting to believe anyone pays quarter of a million dollars for a used rug that’s over one hundred years old. Sam acquires a admirer in the form of an older woman and Callen accusing Sam of being like the young storage locker worker (a jobsworth) when he was that age. Overall this was a solid follow up to the first two episodes. After the previous build up of excitement and tension, The Queen’s Gambit slows the pace down. The case of the week is secondary to the intricate events Hetty is manipulation in Washington (unknown to Duggan) which really take centre stage. It also allows Nell to partner Deeks, who can then talk about Kensi outside of the hospital. Moving forward there will be more of the same in upcoming episodes, with Nell in the field, Kensi’s slow road to recovery and Hetty rooting out the mole.