At the end of the previous episode Hetty explained that Hunter was gone on special assignment. That's what all the backstopping was for.
I don't blame Callen for his treatment of and reaction to Hunter. Respect should be earned, not demanded. Yes, Hunter replaced Hetty as the agent in charge BUT she came in demanding respect and began messing with the entire team. I haven't seen her show one iota of respect for the people she's in charge of. In fact, in this episode when Callen confronts her about bringing in the NSA agent, she very clearly insults Deeks by saying "he's just a cop" as if that makes him or his profession beneath her.
There is common courtesy and decency and she hasn't shown any of it. I think you would be hard pressed to find any employee who would respect a boss like that. There is a huge difference between authority based on respect and authority maintained by intimidation or fear.
If she didn't know anything about Callen's past or there was nothing on the Comescu laptop about him she could have alleviated alot of his frustration if she had just explained that from the beginning. According to the show timeline, it looks like he's been waiting a couple months to get any kind of information that may pertain to him and why the Comescus wanted him dead.
Nell basically made that NSA agent feel like a jerk and it was well deserved. I loved the ending look Nell gave her.
Deeks having gone to law school is not new. He was credited with that last season - most recently in the Imposters episode right after the Prince O Whales bar blew up. I believe Deeks is an extremely intelligent, excellent cop. His humor is showcased ALOT in order to play off Kensi's seriousness which has been very good for their "thing." Unfortunately some viewers intensely dislike him and refer to him as a joke or too childish. I don't think there is anything wrong with him being lighthearted or funny. Every serious profession does have its inside jokes, lighter moments and co workers who use humor to cope with the job.
I don't think he's a horn dog, he is just a guy and they are very visual by nature. I also think he plays that up alot of the time to get a reaction out of Kensi. I am betting that he'd be a very different Deeks in a serious relationship.
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.
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