NCIS Los Angeles Review: “The Queen’s Gambit”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season eight episode “The Queen’s Gambit.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.

Last week’s premiere ended with Kensi seriously injured and Hetty admitting to treason (she’s lying of course, but it was a slightly surprising move anyway). “The Queen’s Gambit” picks up where we left off with an episode that is both usual and unusual. The team is shaken but still trying to function like normal. These circumstances make for a fascinating episode, moving several characters’ storylines forward in the process.

There are two questions we hear the team repeat several times throughout the episode: “how’s Kensi?” and “have you heard from Hetty?” It feels repetitive but the continual questions add a certain feeling of anxiety to the episode, even if the audience knows what Hetty’s doing in DC. The team is in unfamiliar waters after the events of the previous episode, and the questions just show how unsure everyone feels now. No one has any answers. It’s good to see a breakaway from the usual episodic procedural comfort zone. For both, it’s become a waiting game to see how things will turn out.

While these things are hanging over the team’s heads, they still work a case business as usual. Or almost usual. The lack of office banter really shows the severity of the situation. It’s not the same without Kensi and Deeks chiming in. The case itself is still pretty much in the usual wheelhouse of NCISLA, but the lack of connection between the suspect and the victim kept my interest for longer than the typical case. But more importantly, the case gives Nell a chance to fill in the field. She is hesitant at first, given recent events, but as she works, she gets more and more confident in the field. In fact, she might be straying to overconfident territory if her last fight is any indication. Either way, her character was more dynamic in this episode than she was basically for all of season seven, so this in an improvement. While she’s filling in for Kensi, she’s the one with the least amount of experience, and if she continues to compare herself to Kensi, the consequences will be interesting to see.

During all this, the “queen” is putting her gambit into play over on the other side of the country. This isn’t exactly anything we haven’t seen before. Hetty spent time in Washington for the congressional hearing a few seasons back. And even then, she played the politicians with her usual grace and ease. So we’re not seeing anything new really when Hetty “dozes off” during her interrogation and then gets Duggan’s assistant drunk. But Linda Hunt can still manage to make it entertaining to watch. Subterfuge is Hetty’s best skill and it’s just nice to see her back in her element after being uncharacteristically regretful and subdued in the previous episode. The weakness of this plotline is still Duggan, who acts more and more like a cartoon villain. We need a reason for him to hate Hetty so much. He needs motivation to act like this. Until it’s explained, his outrage is going to be a detriment to the story. Although by the end of the episode, it seems like Hetty’s gambit has worked as a temporary fix. She’s going back to find the mole and if that doesn’t work, she’ll resign. At this point, I’m tired of the mole storyline but if we finally get to see them actively investigating it, maybe that plot will be interesting again.

“The Queen’s Gambit” was not as action packed as last week’s episodes, but that’s because we’re just dealing with the aftermath. It’s more subtle instead of being the overall focus of the episode. Eric practice shooting, Deeks waits with a ring by Kensi’s side, and Callen and Sam wonder if it was all worth it. As the season continues, we’ll probably continue to ponder that question.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • Last week, I said we needed to see some friendly non-terrorist Muslims for a change, and this week we got two! The victim and his brother were portrayed just as normal people with no hidden agendas.
  • It’s nice to see Eric wanted to improve his marksmanship. But, um, if he and Nell are both in the field, who will be doing the techno stuff in Ops? Be reasonable Eric! You can have storylines without having to go out and shoot people!
  • Deeks waiting for Kensi to wake up in the hospital was heartbreaking. The proposal, even more so 😦
  • I’m with cheapskate Callen. Selling rugs for that much money should be a crime!
  • I bet Duggan is a terrible Deadpool cosplayer. He’s not fun enough for it.

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


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