Preparations continue for life after Kensi.
The spirit of their comatose comrade hangs over the NCIS agents, but it doesn't spoil a convoluted smuggling case on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 8 Episode 4.
The team is tasked with figuring out why two Homeland Security agents have been killed in the past month. It turns out they had been looking into the contraband being smuggled by Zhang Kiu, a Chinese crime lord thought dead who had actually been forcibly relocated to LA by the Chinese government.
In the security video of the pool party where one of the agents was killed, Granger identifies Ming Wah, the beautiful assassin who had set up the agent.
If looks could kill. Oh, wait! They do!Callen
Eric tracks Ming to a warehouse owned by Zhang, and the squad moves in. Ming promptly escapes from Deeks and Nell in a dazzling display of parkour, but Sam and Callen capture Zhang, whose knife skills show why he needs Ming. They squeeze Zhang until he inadvertently gives up who is leaking information to him from inside Homeland Security.
That's when things get a little wonky and everyone discovers that the villain of this episode is actually a greedy Harvard MBA (is that redundant?) named Donna Merritt. When Callen and Sam arrive at her house, they discover a dead Ming. So the assassin who escaped two trained NCIS agents was taken down by a paper-pusher? Not likely.
Zhang's people determine that Merritt had been ripping them off, and are taking her away from her office when the NCIS team arrives. It's not even a close fight. Nell even manages to take out one thug with a textbook choke hold, which she learned, naturally, from a textbook.
Now let's get back to what really counts: team dynamics.
First, Deeks and Nell works. They've got the banter down in a few short outings that took Densi seven seasons to develop.
Nell: Usually I drive a Mini, so this is a whole lot of car for me right now.
Deeks: You realize you're playing right into a stereotype, right?
Nell: Oh, definitely. And you realize I'm sitting on a first-aid kit to see over the steering wheel, right?
Eric is having a hard time concentrating without his crush there. In one scene, he's talking to himself, writing things down he wants to talk about with Nell. Granger comes in, reads the list, and rips it up. Afterward, Eric realizes why, as he sees what he has written: Spanking, whipped cream, domination.
Hetty is barely present because she's got 90 days to identify the mole in the unit.
Nell: She said 'Honey Badger don't mess around.'
Sam: What the hell does that mean?
Nell: I was afraid to ask.
Then there are scenes with Kensi in the hospital bed, just to remind us of her status.
First there's Deeks freaking out because her engagement ring is missing (a nurse had removed it to keep it safe and suggested to Deeks that leaving an expensive piece of jewelry on a comatose patient is a bad idea. So much for that romantic gesture).
Then Granger comes to check on her, only to hit it off with Kensi's mom, Julia. The two leave to have coffee and discuss how to repair relationships with long-absent daughters.
Finally Hetty drops by, to get a hopeful hand squeeze from Kensi.
There's six more episodes of this before Kensi returns full time. How much is coma, how much is rehab? It's hard to say.
So what happens to Nell when Kensi returns? She's already conflicted about being in the field.
I want to step up, I do. I want to be there for Deeks. The truth is I can't stop thinking about why I'm getting my chance now.Nell
To catch up on what's been happening, watch NCIS: Los Angeles online.
Do Eric need Nell to stay coherent? Who's the mole? While visiting the hospital, can Granger get a sense-of-humor transplant? Comment below.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.