S08E15 Payback

The mole storyline has been ongoing for three seasons now but just as it starts to reach a crescendo, US TV scheduling meant the third and final part of the arc to flesh out the mole did not air – for three weeks.  There was also a two week delay between parts one and two which has caused some of the intensity to be lost.  There would have been a good argument for NCISLA to have had a mid season break (a la Arrow and Blindspot), which at least would have allowed the  momentum to build and viewers to know where they stood each week.  Regardless, the disjointed build up was soon forgotten as Payback picked up exactly where Under Siege left off, with Kensi about to lose her leg.

Of course Ferris was never going to saw off her leg; the thrill was in how Kensi managed to escape that fate and keep fighting for her legs, her life and her freedom.  vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h48m35s647And that predictability also extended to the team who would of course eventually find her after several false leads, and how Deeks would use violence as a way to force information of Kensi’s whereabouts.  This was comparable to Deeks’ actions in season five’s Spoils of War where he water boarded the cleric.  It is clear that Deeks has a violent side which surfaces when women he cares about are in mortal danger (his mother, Tiffany – IA investigation, and Kensi twice now).  His actions are not too different from how Callen reacts when his family (real or NCIS) are in danger.  Sam too has reacted in a similar way when his family are threatened.  Deeks though, does seem to be much more of a loose cannon.

A new character in the shape of former Jag lawyer, retired Admiral A.J. Chegwidden was introduced.  Hetty had requested his assistance and his purpose seemed to be little more than to repeatedly state that the NCIS team really were in trouble.  And he is quite right.  For an elite team there have been questionable decisions over recent seasons, for example the trend for an increasing number of people to visit their highly classified hub, the Mission, even when they are on lock down.  Experienced agents have made mistakes, Callen clearly didn’t vet Joelle before entering in to a relationship with her.  He also made the curious decision to call Ferris which alerted him they were on their way, thus allowing him time to put his plan B in to action.  vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h50m44s689When breaching the house to rescue Kensi, Callen was lucky the female shooter who entered after him could not shoot straight, or he’d have a number of new bullet holes in his back.  All the team seem to have mislaid their cognitive skills as Joelle (a hooded prisoner) was wearing a different top to Kensi.  Deeks failed to recognise the difference in their body shapes.  Eric excitedly showed Chegwidden around Ops, apparently forgetting the team were frantically trying to rescue Kensi.  And Nell processed the crime scene on her own, reminiscent of S4 Kill House. Luckily this time the bad guys did not return and kidnap her!  There were also a number of unanswered questions. Did Whiting survive her shooting and if so, what will she do with Deeks’ confession to killing his former partner?  Why was Sharoff after the NCIS team after they rescued him from a Russian prison?  Sabatino may have escaped his cuffs and disappeared but whose side he is on?

And then there is Joelle Taylor, Callen’s ex-girlfriend.  There is an argument that NCIS Los Angeles has jumped the shark as she is no longer a genuine, sweet and slightly naive elementary school teacher.  Instead she’s a CIA Agent whose primary role is to keep an eye on the children of foreign dignitaries. vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h41m26s468 (Why is the CIA doing this on US soil?)  She was supposed to keep an eye on Callen and gather intelligence (Callen wouldn’t let much slip during pillow talk). When she was dragged in further she broke off their relationship to avoid more deceit – but it was Callen who called time on their relationship. Joelle pulled a gun on Hetty and did not look convincing at all.  Is she really that good an operative that she deceived Callen for almost two years or did the writers feel that yet another twist was required to illustrate the depths the CIA would go to entrap NCIS? Or did they just want to cause Callen more pain?

The real hero of the hour is Kensi.  During parts one and two of this arc, the men’s character traits were shown through police/federal interrogation, however Kensi demonstrates just how strong and determined she is, both mentally and physically.  She outwits Ferris by understanding his desires and reading his intent (or lack of), and plays him by choking on her own blood and fighting him.  She would have escaped had Ferris not had two cohorts arrive in time.  Kensi kept her wits whilst Deeks was losing his temper.  vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h49m23s847He punches Sabatino, throws a chair in anger and confronts Hetty. One of Deeks challenges is that Kensi is not ready for the field.  On the contrary, this arc has shown just how ready Kensi is.  The only frustration is that Kensi was unable to escape herself – Deeks had to rescue her.  In fairness it was a pretty awesome rescue.  After checking Callen was OK, Deeks bursts in to the room but before Ferris can almost utter a word Deeks double taps him.  Unlike The Frozen Lake, there is no hesitation and the scene was almost funny, in a black humour kind of a way.

Callen succeeded in containing his emotions although he looked as though he wanted to punch a wall.  His earlier tenderness towards Joelle clearly shows he still cares about her; their relationship ended amicably although he did conduct a background check on her new beau and kept the dining table she gave him.  vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h51m47s383It was the dining table he turned to in anger with an electric saw, removing the last trace of her from his life (a reminder of why he doesn’t like material objects).  It was telling that Callen called her out on her lies which she turned back on him.  The hurt though came from the betrayal which he can’t forgive.  Joelle counters, saying if he can’t forgive her [betrayal] then how can forgive himself.  The show rarely touches on this side of undercover work but when it has, the reward has been the Sam and Jada arc, Callen and Kristen Donnelly (S1 Past Lives) and Deeks (S2 Plan B).  So Joelle now keeps his father Garrison company on the growing list of people Callen can’t forgive.

Granger’s swan song was typical of the hard-ass Assistant Director, pulling a gun from beneath his bedsheets to shoot his would be assassin. vlcsnap-2017-02-20-16h52m19s122The declining health in Miguel Ferrer was painful to see, his speech almost unintelligible when in the closing scene he told Hetty that he dreamed a buzzard was circling.  The earlier scene with Chegwidden at Hetty’s desk, mentioned “agent orange”, pretty much sealing Granger’s fate.  As a character he is irreplaceable but Hetty may be lining Chegwidden up as an alternative. Those agents need the older generation to try and keep them in line!

Ignoring the plot holes, the episode was action packed, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable.  For those in full conspiracy mode, it would appear that neither Sam or Michelle background checked their daughter’s teacher Joelle, so is there more than meets the eye as Michelle is also ex -CIA?  She (with Sam) set Callen up on the blind date and Michelle also worked with Sabatino.  Has Joelle’s story now been told or will she return to receive punishment for her betrayal of Callen?  The door is also open for Sabatino’s return. Remember the warning from Chad Brunsen in S7, that one of their own will burn them down from the inside. The mole storyline may not be over…

What did you think of this episode and the mole arc as a whole?  Please leave a comment with your thoughts

 

 

 

 

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19 thoughts on “S08E15 Payback

  1. Bliss Pepper

    I enjoyed your review and am glad you called out some of the many, many holes in the plot. For me, all these holes made the episode almost unwatchable and definitely unbelievable. Deeks obviously has a short fuse and needs some Nate time. The fact that the writer didn’t seem to know ANYTHING about the CIA was surprising–and made Joelle’s role just ridiculous–because usually the writers are very good at getting these details down. This entire arc seemed as though they started off with one denouement in mind and then suddenly switched gears; it seemed very disjointed and the conclusion, if you can call it that, was unsatisfying and confusing (it didn’t help that Hetty told AJ our mole is dead because I thought they said he was Sabatino, and he’s not dead–as far as we know). There were scenes that were strong: Kensi and Ferris, Sam and Deeks, Callen and the table, and Hetty and Granger at the end was bittersweet and must have been so difficult to do. To be honest, I’m just glad it’s over–at least for now. lol

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  2. robin1028

    This was by far the best of the season, it moved it had endings, but most important Deeks finally had no fear of confronting Hetty with all her spiteful little digs she seems to relish in
    always trying to cause a rift between Kensi and Deeks, as far as Deeks slugging Sabatino that was a long time coming and well deserved, I think Deeks is a terrific actor very realistic not A phony like Sam, another well deserved shot was Callen telling Sam that it was he and Michelle that intrduced Joelle and Callen, shutting Sams big mouth… lots of us have been waiting for that for ever, He always thinks he is so much better then Callen, my question is where?How?
    Callen is so much smarther, so much of a better actor, so much more beleivable and likable and Callen has perfect vocabulary even though he speaks several languages ,Sam is always trying to put Callen down, Jealousy I assume , when Callen speaks everyone can hear him and understand him, when Sam speaks it always comes out like he has a mouthful of mashed potatoes .It was great seeing Chagwwicken he is a superb actor, if the writer gives him the lines he will deliver ,he sure did in Jag, he was great
    Kensi what a terrific actor, that girl can make you feel like your right there and it is real
    Her and Deeks together, Callen, Eric and sometimes Hetty make that show and there the onces that keep people coming back…..Thanks for a great episode this week
    Looking forward to the next week

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    1. Beth

      Wow! I never got that vibe between Callen and Sam, and I’m sorry, but I think you’re way off about Sam’s feelings for Callen. They rib each other but either one would die for the other.

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  3. F4llon

    I too wonder about Michelle in all of this. Surely she knew who Joelle is? And yes, they did hint that Sam was the most hurt by the mole story. I believe there is more to come. Especially now with Sabitino on the run. What were Callen’s words? Michelle trusts him, so will we? Perhaps that is the shortfall here. Hetty’s wish for Callen was that he trusted people. Look what happens when he trusts?
    A great episode, even with a few holes. Although Callen broke it off with Joelle, she gave him the ultimatum, her or the job. She obviously sincerely cares for him and wanted to protect him.
    Thanks for your write up. Daniela Rush, Eric C Olsen, Chris O’Donnell and Barrett Foa performed brilliantly in this one. Once again my heart bleeds for Callen.

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  4. jsm

    Thank you for the review. I have enjoyed reading the comments. I did enjoy the episode and saw some of the plot holes. I don’t believe the mole story is over as many have said it would come from someone within the team. If it doesn’t I will feel let down. I agree that Deeks hitting Sabatini was over the top. I would think a review is in order. I thought Nell and Eric’s behavior odd. After so many years, Eric needed someone to tell him what to do. I thought Nell took forever to process the scene. When did Hetty know Joelle was CIA? It was painful to see Miguel and so glad he could do what he loved to the end. I hope I can do the same. I thought there were a lot of parallels to spoils of war. Overall, the arc kept me engaged and anticipating that I haven’t done in awhile. Thank you for the review.

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  5. Angela Moore

    After reading your review, I agree, there were holes in the story, why was the CIA operating on domestic soil? What did Joelle mean by Callens betrayal? Will Callen ever trust another woman? Did Michelle low about Joelle? Did Sam? If not, why wasn’t a security check done on Joelle when Callen started dating her? When did Hetty know Joelle was CIA? And the list of unanswered questions goes on and on. Good show, but too many unanswered questions remain.

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    1. snoopgirlz

      “Ignoring the plot holes, the episode was action packed, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable.” -> My thoughts exactly! Awesome acting and directing despite the abundance of questions it generated. Awesome review for an awesome episode.
      As much as I love G. Callen’s character I did not feel sorry for him – Joelle’s comment to him was freaking brilliant! It’s as though he feels it’s okay for HIM to betray people but not for someone to betray him. And I thought he was being selfish – Sam was also betrayed. Looking forward to future episodes to see if this whole mole thing is finalized and answers the many questions it generated for viewers.

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      1. writeisnice

        I don’t know how anyone could NOT feel sorry for Callen or think he was being selfish. Callen had an intimate relationship with Joelle; Sam knew her only as his daughter’s teacher–they’re not even close to being the same. Callen might also be feeling betrayed by Sam (his closest friend and partner) and Michelle for having introduced him to her. As for Callen’s betraying people, if Joelle’s talking about what he does because of undercover work, they’re ALL guilty (Sam and Deeks even more so than Callen).

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      2. snoopgirlz

        I love Callen’s character but Joelle saying those words to him is what he NEEDED to hear! The truth hurts sometimes. He has spent his life lying to and deceiving people but now that it has happened to him, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him? What goes around, comes around and for G. Callen, this was his time to get betrayed.

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      3. Bliss

        I think there’s no logic in your comment. If that’s what you think, then the ENTIRE team deserves the same rebuke because they’ve done the same thing to others. Besides, you don’t know what Callen did before he worked for NCIS. He worked for the DEA, CIA, and I think the FBI, but according to you, anyone who works for law enforcement and goes undercover is guilty of betraying people. I think that’s just silly. There’s no indication that Callen ever betrayed or lied to anyone when he wasn’t on an assignment, and if anything, that makes me have MORE sympathy for everyone who does that work.

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      4. css101

        Oh, I agree! I think it’d be hard to not feel sympathy for Callen. This latest episode just emphasized how alone he is in his personal life. His dad is a stranger who abandoned him and his sister, he has a half-sister he doesn’t know, and now he discovers his ex is not who she said she was. All the agents have someone; only Hetty and Callen are alone. Now, I hope Callen finds a companion in Anna.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth

    Your review was excellent. I think sometimes people forget that being critical of a show–or anything–doesn’t mean you don’t like it. I really enjoy NCIS: LA and have thought the episodes this season have been excellent, but I feel as if the mole story arc just got away from the writers. Maybe it would have had better continuity if only one writer had tackled it, Of course, the actors overall were top notch as usual (Joelle was weak for me, but then her role was really a stretch IMO), but the story just didn’t gel for me. As you pointed out, there were quite a few holes (someone mention Swiss cheese?), and so many unanswered–and downright confusing–questions at the end. And I couldn’t believe Kensi didn’t ask right away if Hetty and Granger were alright since she’d just been shown their death photos! Anyway, I hope the writing returns to form for the rest of the season–and that this mole is dead and buried (you listening,Sabatino?).

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  7. writeisnice

    Thought your review was spot on, but I just couldn’t ignore the plot holes. I mean one or two or things that are unimportant–not a problem. But for me the earlier two episodes also had plot holes, and they just kept getting bigger in this episode. It was a disappointing story because I was expecting something really startling, something that would really shake up the team–like Dom’s death did in Season 1. The rescue of Kensi wasn’t even exciting because you knew nothing was going to happen to her. And I was really hoping the mole story would involve someone closely related to the team. If this had happened when Callen and Joelle were still a couple, that would have been much more of a shock, but too much time has passed and too many other things have happened. They should have wrapped up this story long ago or just let it die a quiet death.

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  8. monty

    Your review is very intelligent.
    The screenplay water on all sides, but never mind!
    I think:
    Eric rather silly;
    Chegwidden, wow!
    Granger great sadness;
    Martin freaked out: half Max Gentry, half Daisuke Jigen;
    Kensi Vampirella ahahahahahah (clean your mouth!);
    C.I.A. : what balls!
    G: so much pain and bewilderment. I love you.

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  9. writeisnice

    BTW, someone mentioned this on another site: the press release was very misleading when it stated an agent is tortured by the mole. I watched the entire episode and all I saw was Kensi being knocked out with drugs and confined to a wheelchair. Unless the definition of torture has changed dramatcally, that doesn’t come close. It was strange because usually the press releases are accurate; it was almost as if the press release was for a different script.

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    1. I Am Me Post author

      I find press releases to be rather misleading. This was part of the press release for S6 Rage:
      “Kensi transforms herself into a tattooed biker to play the part of Callen’s girlfriend.”

      Yes, Kensi went undercover as Callen’s girlfriend, but was not tattooed at all.

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      1. writeisnice

        How funny! I rarely read the press releases, but I did this time because there was so much time between episodes. I’ll keep in mind that they’re not always the most accurate. lol

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  10. snoopgirlz

    Posted this in error as a reply to a post.
    “Ignoring the plot holes, the episode was action packed, suspenseful and thoroughly enjoyable.” -> My thoughts exactly! Awesome acting and directing despite the abundance of questions it generated. Awesome review for an awesome episode.
    As much as I love G. Callen’s character I did not feel sorry for him – Joelle’s comment to him was freaking brilliant! It’s as though he feels it’s okay for HIM to betray people but not for someone to betray him. And I thought he was being selfish – Sam was also betrayed. Looking forward to future episodes to see if this whole mole thing is finalized and answers the many questions it generated for viewers.

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  11. Linda Wigington

    Thanks for the review. Excellent as always. I don’t have much to say as I agree with all you said. I feel the episode was confusing and incomplete. I expected a definite conclusion but what I got were more questions. You covered them in your review. I feel that we are still waiting for answers. Yes! I know they hinted at a season long solution to this story. The wait between episodes really didn’t help either. Is Michelle involved? That is the next big question. Sam would be devastated. We did get to see character development and traits here. Kensi was great and looks ready to be back at work. Deeks showed his frustration. Who wouldn’t under the circumstances? Nell was competent as ever but Eric was silly. The Granger scenes were poignant and Hetty was manipulative. The heartbreaking scenes for me were with Callen and Joelle and Callen and the table. Betrayal and trust issues again make an appearance. Nice to see AJChegwidden. He was great in JAG and would be an asset here. I am looking forward to the next episode.

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