Don’t mess with this team. It’s a lesson that many have learned before and a few more people get that memo in the Monday, Nov. 9 episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 7×07, “An Unlocked Mind,” when Kensi and Deeks go undercover in a cult and an assistant US attorney tries to get in the way of the agency’s investigation.
Admittedly, one of the things that makes this “NCIS: LA” episode as entertaining as it is is watching how the team, especially Granger, handles AUSA Oscar Guevara’s attempts to impede their investigation, to the point that an FBI agent even asks “really?” when told to arrest Granger, Callen, Sam and Nell. Some of the best work seen on this show is when one or more members of the team are undercover and seeing what the others do to help them stay that way or to get them out/aid in the takedown when the time comes, and “An Unlocked Mind” had just that. These agents have each others’ backs, Granger has their backs, and anyone who tries to get in their way? Well, they’re lucky if they come out unscathed.
And after such a tense case – the more that’s revealed about the cult, from the Discipline Arena to drugging women, the more Deeks’ horrified expression at the game of Simon Says is the perfect reaction to the Church of the Unlocked Mind – it’s nice to see it end in a much more light-hearted way, with Kensi and Deeks breaking her rule, being all cute and kissing in the boatshed, only for Hetty to interrupt as only she can. (Alas, it seems that that’s the calm before the storm for those two, and as has been the case with the IA investigation building, the question now is, can love conquer all?)
As for the case itself, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from the CBS drama. Kate Ramsey manages to get away from a cult, but her husband, David, is still in there, and as a former DARPA engineer who left the DoD after his brother’s death and then joined the cult, well, he’s psychologically vulnerable and it’s especially worrisome that one of the Church’s members is meeting with a Chinese national suspected of being a spy. In order to get David out, they have to send people in, and that’s how Kensi and Deeks get their latest undercover assignment. The cult is big on therapy sessions, so Eric and Nell give them a preview of what to expect, during which Deeks talks about his first sexual experience in such a way that they just want him to stop. It’s his character’s, he insists, because he’s good at undercover work. With the DoJ sending over an attorney (Oscar Guevara), they have to be inside the Church before he gets there, and they are, each already attracting the attention of one of the members and each coming up with a backstory intriguing enough to keep them hooked because this cult is all about selling secrets.
Deeks’ The Clash shirt is his way in with David, whose brother was a fan. (That tiny bit of common ground is just what Deeks needs to get him to open up to him later on.) But first, there’s a “ceremony” they have to participate in, and with Deeks unable to remove his earwig beforehand, being held underwater as long as he is – longer than Kensi is and long enough to make her worried – for his “rebirth” cuts off the signal to the team.
Meanwhile, Sam, Callen and Granger meet with Oscar, who really wants to show he’s the one in charge and try to order them off the case and order them to pull their agents out once he learns about them, but NCIS is having none of it. Instead, Callen and Granger are heading to the Church, while Sam and Nell head to the meet between the cult member and Chinese national to take them down. Oscar still tries to protest, and really, he’s probably just fortunate that Granger only verbally warns him that he’s not the guy he should be crossing or threatening with a court order to shut down their operation.
Here’s where both Kensi and Deeks get into trouble. Kensi just manages to get her earwig out of her locker when one of the cult members, Gaia, brings her to meet a group of women, so she has to drop the comm into the pocket of her robe. She tries to turn down the drink offered, citing issues with alcohol as part of her undercover persona, but Gaia tells her that that’s not a problem here. Kensi realizes she was drugged too late, and she wakes up in lingerie on a bed, with Gaia, the leader of the cult, Lee, and a couple other women in the room with her. When Lee leans in, however, Kensi head-butts him and elbows Gaia and gets out of there, but all she can do is get her earwig in and let the others know she’s been drugged.
Elsewhere, Deeks finds David outside working, picking up rocks, a job that’s supposed to help clear his mind, but he’s thinking about his wife. Still, he doesn’t think he can cope without the Church’s teachings, even though he admits that the possibility of Lee putting the rocks out there for him to pick up has crossed his mind. Deeks brings up the good memory he had of his brother while they talked about The Clash earlier and offers to help him get to his wife, only for David to be taken away to the Discipline Arena. Deeks follows and discovers a sick game of Simon Says, complete with an order to slap themselves and two men getting into it when one is eliminated and he tries to pull another down with him. (Cue Deeks’ expression that sums up all feelings about this cult perfectly.)
David is then questioned in what’s basically an underground version of the already messed up therapy sessions Deeks and Kensi went through when they first arrived about his wife’s escape and his role in it. During a break, Deeks tells him he knows where his wife is and can take him to her. This place isn’t healthy, Deeks says, telling him what he already knows. It’s manipulative and destructive, and they’re using him. David warns him that if someone fights back, the rest of the cult is ordered to attack. Every man in the room would turn against him, but that’s not going to stop Deeks. In fact, when David says he wants to leave, Deeks makes his move and manages to fight them off while David takes care of the leader of the twisted game.
Deeks and David manage to find Kensi and Deeks tackles one of the cult members and gets his gun, but then they end up surrounded, by Lee and his cult, all pointing guns at them. Since Sam lies to Oscar and says that he and Nell broke up the meet and have the men in custody, he doesn’t try to stop Callen and Granger from going in to the Church and the situation is taken care of.
Well, that one is at least. There’s still the matter of the missing Church member and the Chinese national he’s selling secrets to, and once Callen, Granger and Oscar join Sam, Nell and the NCIS agents searching the area for them, Oscar orders his FBI agents to arrest Sam. Callen then speaks up, taking responsibility and blaming his anxiety for his agents’ safety, leading to Granger chiming in and calling himself a megalomaniac. Nell too takes responsibility, claiming that she threatened Sam with bodily harm if he didn’t listen to her, and Sam agrees, adding he was scared of her. Oscar tries to have them all arrested, leading to the FBI agent’s “really?” before an NCIS agent joins them, having found the two men, a duffel bag of cash and a thumb drive of secrets. Really. Don’t mess with this team.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” season 7 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 7 “An Unlocked Mind”?