NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 12 Review: MurmurationDale McGarrigle at .
An episode being thought-provoking is good.
Leaving the viewers scratching their heads isn't.
NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 12 fell more into the latter category, as the team was tossing around phrases such as "drone swarm" and "rogue AI."
That's not how to connect with those struggling with their remote controls.
Unlike, say, Deeks hoarding the toys of his youth. Now that was something to which the show's viewership could relate.
Artificial intelligence would be (and has been) the perfect topic for Black Mirror to tackle. NCIS: Los Angeles, not so much. Stay in your lane, people.
This was a Fatima spotlight episode, with Roundtree trying gamely to keep up with her.
And when she had looks of awe and horror on her face, the rest of the older members of the OSP and those watching were also expected to feel that way.
Apparently, the phrase "UFO" has become gauche. Who knew?
The new expression is unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP. Why? Because that's what the military does: come up with new phrases to keep the citizenry confused.
So, long story short, something unidentified failed to show up on radar until the last second. The pilot sent to investigate was surrounded by the object, and he bailed out.
And because of all the UFO, excuse me, UAP nuts out there, social media got flooded with images of the object, although nothing identifiable. Of course not. That would have defeated the purpose.
Even though the team was assigned to investigate the incident, no one showed every interest in helping them.
Excepting that poor young pilot Landry, played by Graham Patrick Martin (Major Crimes). Although Landry was still shaken by the event, he knew damn well that a flock of birds didn't take down his jet.
Sure, he was motivated by self-interest, seeking to repair his reputation. But that was also the first sign that a coverup was afoot.
Evidence of that continued to multiply as Sam and Callen went aboard Landry's ship, the Allegiance. The X-O blamed the crash on the inexperienced Landry over-reacting and dumping his multimillion jet prematurely.
The X-O's failure to back his pilot rankled Sam and Callen. Then Sam saw a couple of soldiers from the Army Futures Command and it was odd for them to be aboard a Navy vessel.
Based on Fatima's light ton of data from the UAP department (which is a real thing), she hypothesized that the object was a drone swarm. And even worse, the swarm was gathering intelligence on military targets.
Multiple sources soon confirmed that theory. First, Fatima sent Deeks and Kensi to the AUP's approximate crash site, naturally out in the middle of nowhere.
They found no remains but instead uncovered a UAP podcaster. There's no escaping from podcasts even out in the woods.
And Gabe, the annoying podcaster, volunteered that he had been seeing the drone swarm taking off daily from nearby. So one nerd with too much time on his hands knew more than the military about the swarm's movements. Frightening.
Based on her observations, the intercept controller from the Allegiance arrived at much the same conclusions.
Under pressure from Kilbride, Fatima came up with a convoluted plan to hijack the swarm signal, which required Roundtree, Deeks, and Kensi to race through the forest to place antennae in precisely the correct locations.
That didn't work because (dum, dum, dum) there was no signal because the swarm was linked toward by a rogue AI.
No criminals. No foreign adversaries. Just the geniuses at the DOD turning loose something they didn't understand properly.
Callen's private-industry expert coaxed to the Boatshed essentially told him the same thing in way too many words. Her attitude was, "Why are you interrogating me about this instead of your own people who bought them?"
It was like she was saying, "Tough crap. The warranty has run out."
Then Kilbride and the Men in Black called off the whole investigation, which was an exercise in futility. Yup, that was time we'll never get back.
At least Kilbride took the time to explain to the viewers and their surrogate, Fatima, was it was important that the U.S. found a way to win the AI race. The message seemed to be that we need to get the maximum bang for our buck even if we're unsure how to control it. That's reassuring.
Minimal lip service also got paid to a pair of ongoing storylines.
First, Callen was now mounting an investigation into the deep fakes of him being generated from Russia. Like his investigation into Katya, that too was going nowhere fast, even though the season's halfway point had passed.
Then, from the Kensi-and-Deeks-want-to-be-parents front, their upcoming inspection to become foster parents was mentioned.
Somehow, Deeks got it in his head to raid eBay and buy all his favorite toys from his childhood. Yup, just what every modern child wants, to play the antique videogame Oregon Trail, which too many of us remember. But then, that was the point.
Watch NCIS: Los Angeles online to check out other misses on ripped-from-the-headlines topics.
Who had "drone swarm" on their game card?
So the whole investigation was to make the AI stretch?
Name your favorite '90s toy.
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.