NCIS: Los Angeles Review: "Backstopped"

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Having my email address plastered all over this website means receiving reader comments on all things TV. Fans of NCIS: Los Angeles likely won't be surprised to know that in the past few weeks, a disproportionate number of those emails have been related to Linda Hunt and Hetty's lingering absence from the series.

Well, after last night, I think it's safe to say she's back at the helm. All together now: Phew!

"Backstopped" marked the third straight episode with Claire Forlani's Agent Lauren Hunter at the helm, and the tension was more palpable than ever. Especially after she did the unthinkable.

The NCIS: LA Fab Four

Not only did she pull the wool over her own team's eyes, she decided to partner Kensi with Callen and Sam with Deeks. Deeks. If Sam weren't a man of very few words, he surely would have plenty to say about this.

Kensi drawing a complete blank when asked by Callen to open up about herself, Deeks trying to stare down Sam and Callen offering him advice were just a few of the many priceless exchanges Tuesday night.

As with NCIS, the chemistry between characters is what makes the show work, so seeing these odd juxtapositions was a lot of fun, if only for a week. It also felt natural that Hunter would mess with them at this point.

Despite my inherent dislike for Hunter (and I don't think I'm alone in that department), I loved the comedic moments provided by the partner swaps, while the case itself proved more complex than initially thought.

Because they're professionals in the end, the agents were able to work through the awkwardness of issues such as knowing who the Alpha Male is (it's not you Deeks, sorry man) and solve this intense mystery.

A Marine being blown up in his car led to NCIS' discovery of a plot by a nightclub kingpin to blow up a rival club. The stakes seemed a bit low for such an elaborate attack, but we gained more insight on that later.

Sam went undercover to help "check" (in reality disarm) the bombs, and was his typical uber-cool self under pressure. Watching the agents do undercover work and remain unflappable is always fun on this show.

Of course, his cover was blown, along with everyone else's, when Kensi and Callen tried to evacuate the surrounding buildings. The club owner only ended up killing himself when he detonated the bombs, though.

Sam and Deeks

Not the brightest move, remote detonating C4 when you don't even have an escape route ... or planting C4 explosives in a club in general. Next time just set the place ablaze, as Sam said. Arson. Much simpler.

The unexpected twist came during the investigation when Hunter wanted the team to find the suspect's missing girlfriend, Ashley. Callen was suspicious immediately when that search was a complete dead end.

By the time they finally located Ashley, the case was over ... and Hunter was long gone. She manufactured this girlfriend as her cover for the next phase of her mission, as was explained by Hetty after the fact.

It looks like Hunter is in the wind for now, although she'll likely return at some point, given the obvious friction she provides in the OSP. She's a great adversary for Callen and there's much more to explore there.

I was not fan of Hunter at times, but at least this plot development provided some explanation for her deception. And most importantly, the diminutive woman in charge is officially back in her familiar position.

Upon her return, Hetty promised Callen she'd tell him everything. Will she really? And will viewers hear those conversations? We can only hope. "What's my mother's name?" he asked in the waning moments.

"Clara. Her name was Clara."

Hetty's voice closing out each episode as the score plays and credits roll is a great signature for a show that's coming into its own this fall. I can't wait to see her back sipping tea and calling the shots next Tuesday.

Welcome back, Linda Hunt. The show just wasn't the same without you.

What did you think of last night's NCIS: Los Angeles? Tell us below!


Editor Rating: 4.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.9 / 5.0 (235 Votes)

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


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I think hunter is callens long lost sister hetty trusts her & believes in her like she does callen


Hunter's manipulation to create backstopping for herself really was no reason to change up the teams. It was just annoying and a total power play. She did it because she could. The outcome of the Ashley Thomas angle would have been the same even if she'd left Sam and Callen partners as normal. The switch did have its humorous moments, but I don't think they outweighed my irritation over it. I agree with AK about the waste of time and resources for an "office of special projects" team to run around and do Hunter's backstopping. If Nell and Eric can do it for the team whenever it's needed then there was not a believable/justifiable reason for this plot. Nell and Eric weren't even in on the backstopping identity creation. Nell got alerted to the immediate upload of Ashley Thomas info so that means someone else, somewhere else, had already created what Hunter needed. Good to see Hetty back finally.


It wasn't my favorite ep, but I still enjoyed it. Good villian, and some good giggles with the team shake-ups. Very glad Hetty is back where she belongs, and I'm looking forward to her finally sharing her secrets with Callen about his past (and I hope we viewers get to hear some of it, too!) I wasn't a huge fan of Hunter, but this ep gave me a lot more insight into her and her deep undercover work. Loved how she disappeared at the end before Callen had a chance to confront her about "Ashley"... I'm loving this season so far, and looking forward to more of it!


I'm so relieved Hetty is back. I admit at the beginning of NCIS LA, I had mixed feelings about Hetty, but she grew on me and eventually became the glue that holds the show together. I have no idea what the purpose was in adding Hunter, but she was annoying and unnecessary. She didn't truly shake things up, besides annoy all the fans. I'm sure we'll see her again, but as long as Hetty is back - I don't care. And perhaps, it just may be the episode where I decide to actually do "something" than watch TV. :D

Sue ann

I agree with AK. I was wondering whether Linda Hunt was suffering some undisclosed illness which required her to rest up and not work. Had she not returned, I would have stopped watching the program. Without Hetty, there is no show. And with Hunter, there is still no show. I didn't like this episode. There was no rational reason to split up partnerships the way she did, and such a thing could have potentially lethal consequences. The writers were screwing with us, and I don't like it. All in all, I believe I shall be reconsidering whether to watch this show at all.


Hunter was more like a Macy 2.0 than a Hetty 2.0. Which is a shame, because there never was a need for us to lose Macy 1.0, and Macy had a command presence neither Hetty nor Hunter have. Linda Hunt is a great actress (although her "German" is abysmal) but Louise Lombard put it a much more convincing performance as the commander of a Navy/civilian intelligence operation. NCIS:LA is starting to become my Hawaii 5-0. It's filling the niche of "stupid, mindless entertainment" with a male lead who possesses the acting ability of a fish. I guess some people like that, but I stopped watching Hawaii 5-0 as well.


Thank goodness Hetty is back to work! I get the concept the Hunter's character - she's supposed to be the War on Terror's version of Cold War Hetty - but in execution...well, Hunter is no Hetty. The reason why she was there so long seemed a little circular too - she was basically so present in the last 5 episodes (this season and last) to set up her return, which only matters if you care about seeing Hunter again in the first place. The showrunners never gave us a reason why we should care about this Hetty 2.0, just assuming we would. That combined with the fact that she wasted the team's time and resources searching for a person she knew didn't exist (especially when so many civilians were at risk) even though I don't see why them believing "Ashley Thomas" existed was important to her cover drove home how the character overstayed her welcome. Every time she was on screen I found myself wondering, "What, did Linda Hunt need some time off?"


This episode was really good. I found it funny with the partner change. I have a feeling that with Hunter telling Callen about Ashley that we will see her again. I wonder how its going to come back and bite Hettie that she didn't tell Callen about his past when she knew the whole time. I guess only time will tell as the season goes on.


i liked the episode.there were some parts that were pretty funny.i liked when callen told kenzi to open up first then he would but didn't want to after a minute of thinking so they just went back to the case.i saw the part were ashley didn't exist and then she did and it was actually hunter coming but i thought it was still that hetty is back and i hope they show us the parts were she tells callen everything she knows.i think that we will probably see hunter again but later in the season.can't wait for the next episode.

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