This NCIS: Los Angeles episode could have been titled “We’re Going to Make You Miss Granger Even More Than You Already Do.” While “Battle Scars” may begin with the kidnapping of a Veterans Affairs administrator, that guy is such a jerk that it’s worth it for the perkiest FBI agent to show up a second time in the episode, and it’s easy to forget him once Hetty’s former Vietnam War colleagues (including Chegwidden) show up.

That’s when we get a brief update on Granger — no one’s heard from him — and the team finds out about his and Hetty’s past from when the Vietnam War was officially over.

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What Does It Say About a Man If His Co-Workers Don’t Care If He’s Found?

According to a report, VA administrator Robert Bryant was kidnapped in his car by a homeless man, and NCIS isn’t the only agency on the case. The FBI is as well, and Sam and Callen encounter an agent who says things like “amazeballs” and “for reals” at Bryant’s house. She doesn’t want to let them inside until her people are finished, even though they try to argue that the “FBI collectively owes” them for shooting Duggan. They can all agree that Bryant is living the good life with $7,000 suits, and they can imagine how vets would feel if they found that out about the guy telling them “no.”

Speaking of thousands of dollars, the man who kidnapped Bryant drops $50,000 off at the VA hospital — he wants all the vets waiting in line to be seen by doctors — just before Kensi and Deeks get there. The woman they speak to admits that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if they didn’t find Bryant; he was cooking the books and making a bonus. Furthermore, when they do eventually find him (after tracking his car’s GPS) in the veterans’ cemetery — a place to honor and respect veterans whereas Bryant does the opposite — he’s surprised to learn that his kidnapper was actually a veteran because he assumed the homeless lied on their cardboard signs and he can’t keep track of all the vets with “psychological problems.” In other words, it’s really gratifying to watch the FBI arrest him.   

So … About That Money

But there is still the matter of the man who kidnapped Bryant. Charles Langston did three tours in Vietnam, and when Sam and Callen check out his house, they find AJ Chegwidden and another retired admiral, Sterling Bridges, there. Hetty called them, as the agents learn once they get past the poor excuse that AJ and Bridges were “out for a stroll” 3,000 miles from home and a disagreement about answering questions/outranking/outrunning/out-hair-ing. (Bridges wins over Sam.)

It’s when everyone sits down in the boat shed that the team gets answers. When the Vietnam War was officially over, some stayed unofficially to rescue the operatives over there with non-official covers. They had to come up with the necessary money on their own, and they and Langston were part of it. They went their separate ways when they got home, but a few weeks ago, Langston started acting strange and they found out he’s sick. (Yes, Agent Orange, like Granger. Hetty’s sure the rest of them will follow.) Granger was one of the operatives they recovered.

A man matching Langston’s description then shoots up a pawn shop, and Chegwidden and Bridges manage to beat Sam and Callen to the scene. The shop’s owner, Yaniv, confirms it was Langston and claims he’s never seen him before, but Eric finds proof that Charles was there twice before when he goes through traffic cam footage. Yaniv’s lawyer tells them to get warrants, and thanks to people liking AJ, they do it quite quickly.

But despite leaving Chegwidden and Bridges behind, they again leave the boat shed, and Sam and Callen follow them until they find AJ’s car seemingly just parked on a street. Callen reminds Sam of the first time they met Granger, but Sam doesn’t think these guys have his skill, cunning or dry sense of humor … until they pull up to them in another car because Bridges easily made them with his eyes and then drive off. Maybe Granger taught them a few things, Sam has to admit. (And that’s just one of several conversations that led to that alternative title for this episode.)

Meanwhile, Hetty checks out Langston’s house, takes a photo off the wall and finds something on (or in?) the wall that has her going, “Oh, dear.” Kensi and Deeks get the security footage from the pawn shop, and on it they see Langston going in the day before and showing Yaniv something in his bag, which had to be worth the $50,000 he brought to the VA.

When Kensi and Deeks go to Yaniv’s house with a search warrant, a man first claims he’s not there and then says he’ll be right back. When they walk through the house that’s a bit too big for a pawn shop owner, they find themselves facing multiple men with guns. Sam and Callen, and then Chegwidden and Bridges, show up to help, and after taking out most of the shooters, they find Langston being held hostage in the wine cellar.

After saving him, Sam and Callen follow Yaniv through a secret passageway out of the house. But by the time they get to the road, he’s gone. But there’s more, as Langston reveals that he got his key. What key? To a storage container where they keep motorcycles, weapons and a safe full of … gold! (Bridges keeps his key in his shoe heel, while Chegwidden keeps his on a keychain because it’s a key.)

They had been able to rescue Granger and the other operatives without spending any of the ransom money, but then they had to figure out what to do with that money. They wanted to use it for good, but they couldn’t just donate it because it was gold. It had been worth $1 million in 1978, but today the bars are worth $40 million (minus the one Langston sold in the pawn shop for the money he brought to the VA) — and Yaniv has it all.

How did he know where the container was and the code to the safe where they kept the gold? Langston wrote it down in a journal he kept in a cubby in the wall of his house. He had to write it down because he’s been forgetting things, and he sold the gold because he wanted to do some good with the time he had left. And now they have to get the rest of that gold. To Be Continued.

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Eric Has a Decision to Make

Before they get to work on the case, Sam finds Eric in the shooting range, not practicing but staring — for close to three hours. He hasn’t fired a gun since he was undercover, he admits. There was a person inside the SUV he blew up, and while he knows it was necessary, he wishes he could forget it ever happened.

But Sam tells him he needs to do “the opposite. You have to acknowledge what you did, process it for what it is: a job that had to be done.” It’s not for everyone, the agent goes on to explain. That’s why those who can handle it protect those who can’t. Sam struggled with it at first, but the path became clear. Only Eric can decide which side he’s one, but it can’t be both.

This seems like something Eric should talk to Nate about, and it could be a nice follow-up to Eric and Nell’s conversation to the difficult year they’ve all had. They can’t just be okay, and Eric can’t just be okay after his experience undercover and having to be responsible for a person’s death.

Tough Memories and a Heartbreaking Reality

The case brings up memories of Kensi’s injury for her and Deeks; an administrator at the VA hospital even remembers seeing Kensi there when she was injured. That leads to the partners checking that the other is okay. As long as she doesn’t go back there as a patient, she’s good, but she knows he has more memories than she does of that place because she was in a coma for weeks while he was awake for all of it. He tries to brush it off with jokes of eating Jell-O and proposing to a girl in a coma, but she knows that he was there for her the entire time and she wasn’t there for him because she couldn’t be.

Sadly, their conversation is cut short when they find Bryant, but it’s reminiscent of Deeks’ conversation with Granger in “Home is Where the Heart Is.” And that’s fitting for this episode.

But the real heart-wrenching moment comes when Deeks spots a veil in the pawn shop and shows it to Kensi, and she admits that she had been hoping to ask Granger to walk her down the aisle.

What did you think of Chegwidden and Bridges? Are you hoping to get a follow-up to Kensi and Deeks’ conversation in a later episode? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

NCIS: Los Angeles season 8 airs Sundays at 8/7c on CBS. Want more news? Like our NCIS Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)