NCIS: Los Angeles Review: It's Not a Game

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"Vengeance" was one of the most difficult hours of NCIS: Los Angeles to watch, given the intense moral dilemmas throughout the episode. The question of what was right was never easy to decide from beginning to end.

The Navy SEALs have a high moral code, but from the start the team members were betraying its honor code. Or were they? Was lying to protect themselves, the unit and the forthcoming mission honorable?

Sam and Callen Photo

The conflict began with Callen's interrogation of the SEAL team to find out who killed Ensign Powell, but the SEALs wouldn't talk to him honestly. While Callen is not a SEAL, he is an agent of NCIS.

Their disrespect of Callen and the investigation was disturbing to watch. And Sam's lack of support for Callen was disheartening. Yes, these men should be honored for their service to the country, but, as Callen said, that didn't mean they shouldn't be questioned.

In the end, the SEAL team was responsible for Powell's death, whether intentional or not. They were not beyond reproach, right? Callen was right in wanting to interrogate them, but that responsibility was left with Sam because they wouldn't talk to anyone else.

Sam had to carry the heavy burden on his own. Were the SEALs right to only talk to Sam? This strict code they live by helps them on missions and to protect the country, but did they take it too far here?

They even had one of their own men take the fall on his own. How could the rest of the team let one member be held responsible, while the rest got off? Did Foster feel he was doing right by his team with his confession? Was that honorable?

Sam wouldn't stand by and let Foster take the blame, so he took it upon himself to find out the truth and talk to the SEAL team - SEAL to SEAL. The trust that Callen had in Sam? Now that was honorable.

Did the SEAL team do that right thing? They captured the traitor, Powell, and were going to turn him in after the mission. They felt that the mission to rescue the two hostages in Afghanistan was more important. Unfortunately, Powell was stabbed in self-defense by Foster, but died when he stopped breathing on his own.

In order to allow the mission to save the hostages, Sam proclaimed there wasn't any evidence to hold the men risking his own career. In the end, the SEALs went on the mission and saved the hostages by putting themselves at risk. They knew the mission could have been compromised, but went anyway.

Ultimately, Hetty agreed with Sam's decision and the case was closed. Was that the right decision? The moral dilemmas throughout the episode were not easy to consider; determining right from wrong and what is honorable is not always a clear cut decision, as evidenced by a couple key NCIS: Los Angeles quotes from the hour:

Sam: It's not a game.
Eric: No, it's not. | permalink

Hetty: That could have been a trap, but those men went anyway.
Sam: That's what we do. | permalink


Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 2.2 / 5.0 (263 Votes)

Carla Day is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

Avatar and white, with a whole lot of grey. That's what the writers were trying to show and they did a good job.


I thought this was a great episode, very well acted. The dilemma that Sam faced would have been real. It was not murder, it was self defense, but the crime was the cover up, no matter what the reason you would not expect that from a Navy Seal. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all our military, but all they had to do was report what they knew and it would have been over. They are not the ones to make the decisions of continuing a mission or not. If they had reported what happened right away, then perhaps another seal team would have had time to assemble and rescue those hostages. You can't tell me that they would not be able to do that at the last minute. I know that they have to do things that would not be tolerated in civilian life, but they still have codes to live by. With that said, this show was very well written and showed how things get compromised. You don't have to agree with them getting away with it, its a TV show. They showed that some things are black and white, but there is always a lot of grey.


Robert, I wasn't speaking in the legal sense. While you make a fair point, the bottom line is that a man died and given the lack of video, audio, or physical evidence, which Sam DELIBERATELY engineered, suddenly finding the asthma medication at the end of the ep is AWFULLY convenient for an organization that engages in "backstopping" (ie, creating a public profile/ background for someone). I hardly think semantics come into play here--the SEALs weren't criminally charged.


I agree with Alisa, Gibbs would not have let it slide. However, in light of the mission, how about a few/couple/several weeks of BUD/S training as punishment?


It was a good episode, however, I was more upset at the SEALS Team Leader and his stonewalling G and Sam, Federal Agents, in not allowing the SEAL team to be interrogated due to an upcoming mission! They were trying to get to the bottom of a Naval Officer's death...a SEAL officer..yet the enlisted men under him could not be interviewed? Even finding out in the end that officer was a traitor and could have compromised the intended mission, was something that needed to be addressed instead of the stonewall! @ martinelli and sad tonight...he WAS a traitor and even the handle of manslaughter would not erase the fact that more than the rescued hostages lives would have been at stake if they hadn't stopped him and he died of his tussel with the SEAL team. SEALS are not above the law...just a little below superheroes for what they accomplish!! As for Sam and G's's strong


@Sad tonight - I agree with you, I felt the same.


Emotional episode, that left a lot of viewers, IMO, on both sides of the fence. I thought LL did a fantastic job in this ep, as well as Chris, etc. This show keeps getting better and better, and in this case, IMO, better than the "mothership". Gives one a lot to think about, whether the ends justifies the means.


I love NCIS:LA, and Callen- and/or Sam-centric episodes are usually my favorites, but this episode was horrible. For a long time, they've painted Sam as a member of the SEALs family, honorable, etc, but tonight they threw that away. LL Cool J acted out the conflict really well, as did Chris O'Donnell and the rest of the cast, but in the last few minutes of the episode the writers basically said, "Oh, wait, we're going to pretend the murdered guy wasn't really murdered so Sam can let the SEALs go. After all, being beaten, stabbed, tortured, gagged and left without real medical attention couldn't possibly have caused or even contributed to a death-by-asthma attack." I'm normally with the series when it has these sorts of gray-area issues, but this one wasn't gray. It was black and white. They set up an alibi, snuck onto the base, fought with, tortured/interrogated and then bound and gagged the guy - and then covered up his murder! They said it was for the mission, but if NCIS hadn't found the ISI agents in time, the mission would have been compromised and all the SEALs would have died, possibly taking the hostages with them. It would be one thing if they had depicted an aberrant, misguided SEAL team that got caught by NCIS, but having Sam cover up their crime? That was disrespectful to real SEALs. Disappointing, CBS.


Anybody know what song was playing at the beginning of this episode??

@ t

God Bless You - Black Veil Brides


I thought this was a brilliantly written episode with a great moral dilemma, and I fully believe that the manslaughter of the traitor was justified, and that in the end, the two people who were saved made it worthwhile to close the case. I have a great deal of respect for the military, especially special forces. A young man I know has just completed boot camp for the Navy and is now on his way to SEAL school to become a Navy SEAL. He's a great kid, and I believe he will do his country and his family proud. But i also realize that the laws are somewhat different for these brave men who put their lives on the line everyday. I think Hanna did what he could, according to his conscience, and that was all that he could do. I miss seeing more of Kenzi and Deeks in this ep, however.

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