Kensi’s in the ICU, Hetty’s in DC and the team is trying to figure out why a Marine kidnapped a man outside a mosque in broad daylight in this episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, “The Queen’s Gambit.” It’s just another day at the (slightly emptier) office.

With the team down a field agent in the third episode of season 8, Granger needs Nell back in the field — just as she admits that while she sees their guys as indestructible, something happens to make her realize how quickly it can all come to an end. Wouldn’t that make you want to stay in Ops? Still, Nell is clearly the winner all around with this case, from taking down Jasmine after she runs from them to going undercover to take down a suspect.

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Yes, these agents can seem indestructible at times, especially given how many explosions there have been on NCIS: Los Angeles over these eight seasons. But they aren’t, so this is a valid concern, one that is rightfully raised by the team member who spends some time, but not nearly as much as the others, in the field and someone else (Eric) who’s looking to step outside his comfort zone (in this case, with Granger finding him practicing on the shooting range). As Sam puts it, they all know the risks and that’s the path they’ve chosen, but that doesn’t make any of this easier.

Be Careful of Casting Calls

Soon after leaving a mosque in west LA in the morning, a man is just getting to his car when someone drives by and clips his side. He falls down, and the other driver, a woman, gets out of her car, helps him sit halfway in the trunk of her car and then tases and pushes him into the trunk. Eyewitnesses just watch as she drives off.

The woman is Jasmine Garcia, a reserve Marine Sergeant, who returned from Afghanistan three months ago, while the man is Gabriel Mir, an owner of a high-end rug store. She worked as a translator, and he’s originally from Afghanistan. Does that have to do with why she took him?

They come up with nothing at Jasmine’s house from the woman who cleans for her, other than a new admirer for Sam, and all they find out from Gabriel’s brother is that Gabriel hasn’t been back to Afghanistan (which is confirmed) and that they sell rugs for $230,000 each. Callen is appalled because they don’t fly for that money. Sam is embarrassed by his partner.

But they do find something when they check out Jasmine’s storage locker (other than a worker whom Callen swears is what Sam must’ve been like at that age): Gabriel. He swears he has no idea why Jasmine took him and had never seen her before. When they inform him that it doesn’t appear to be for money, he latches onto the idea that she’s a serial killer and he could’ve been her first victim. Please, send him off to the hospital. I can tell that he’s going to be no help.

There are no red flags in Jasmine’s file, nothing to indicate that she could be suffering from PTSD and nothing connecting her and Gabriel. His story also checks out, and the only crime they can find between the two of them is the prices for those rugs. What are they missing?

They get that answer once “Give ’em hell, Nell” takes down Jasmine (and chips her tooth) after she and Deeks stake out her storage unit and find files on women inside the unit. Since Jasmine served as a translator and is a woman, she was the one who spoke to the women in the villages. The women in her files were victims of human trafficking who ended up in Afghanistan, women she helped get back home.

The women were treated worse than dogs, Jasmine explains to the agents, and since they were fighting a war, they didn’t have the time or resources to help. It took a while, but now there’s a network in place. One of the women she helped in August was from Nebraska, and she came to Hollywood to be a star. David Allen hired her to be in a movie in Greece, but she ended up being sold in Afghanistan. David Allen is really Bryson Khan, Gabriel’s cousin.

While they find nothing to connect Gabriel and his cousin, they do find the casting calls Bryson is using to find these women, and Nell goes in undercover to get him. As he’s dismissing her, she shows him her badge, but he thinks it’s just her attempt to audition for a part. When he sees Sam and Callen on the other side of the door, he tries to run, but Nell gets up on his desk, kicks him, punches him, turns him over and cuffs him. “Never ignore the Nellverine,” Callen advises him. Seriously, Nell is awesome in this episode.

All it takes is the threat of Guantanamo Bay or revoking his citizenship to get Bryson to talk. He finds the girls and sends them to auditions. After finding out where the last “audition” took place, Nell dresses as a postal worker, gets eyes inside the warehouse and slips an envelope through the mail slot. “Knock, Knock,” one of the armed men inside reads before the car crashes inside. The men are down, and the women inside the shipping container are safe (physically at least).

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When Plans Backfire (aka Duggan is an Idiot)

“Clearly, his ambition is greater than his common sense,” Hetty says at one point about Duggan, and that’s pretty much the best way to sum up everything that man has done in these first three episodes. “He’s even dumber than he looks,” Callen comments about the man who somehow bought Hetty’s “confession.” These are things I knew even before the events of “The Queen’s Gambit,” and Duggan’s actions in this episode only prove those points.

“I must’ve nodded off,” Hetty offers as an excuse when Duggan’s first attempt to get her talking completely fails. “You should be ashamed,” he tells her, adding that he wants to make an example out of her of how they deal with treachery and boasting that he wants her trial to look like something out of Salem, with the only difference being that those women were innocent. How did this man become the Under Secretary of Defense?

Duggan wants Hetty talking, so he decides to let her have her tea and scotch, but he neglects to tell Chen to not sit in there and drink the scotch with her. Hetty talks a bit about her fantastical past, but it’s Chen who does the majority of the talking, opening up about Duggan’s cosplay as Deadpool. (Deadpool would be ashamed to have Duggan dressing up like him.) By the time Duggan finds them, Chen’s a Hetty groupie, and all he can do is send her home and take away Hetty’s scotch before leaving like the failure he is.

But something does have to be done about this mole issue, as the Secretary of Defense points out to Hetty after revealing that he wasn’t the one to send Duggan; the other man operates with a degree of discretionary freedom. He’s young and ambitious, but the main concern is that Hetty’s unit does have its problems. So what are they going to do? Hetty has signed and dated her resignation — for 90 days from now. If they haven’t resolved the issue to the Secretary of Defense’s satisfaction by then, he won’t have to ask her to leave. Duggan pouts as she walks away, accusing the Secretary of Defense of letting her play him. No, Duggan, “you played yourself.”  

No News is Good News … Until There Might Be Bad News

Kensi’s still in a coma, and Deeks isn’t the only one visiting her in the hospital. Julia is there, to reminisce about Kensi as a kid; she was like having three boys and was in and out of the hospital all the time. She wasn’t afraid of anything, her mother comments, and Deeks tells her that that’s still true.

As for her injuries, she’s in a coma due to the blood loss and the lack of oxygen to her brain, but there are no signs of a skull fracture or intracranial bleeding. She did end up needing neurosurgery, but all the indications say that it went well. The worst case scenario is paralysis of her left hand and wrist and complete paralysis of her left leg, but all they can really do is wait and see. (I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised and worried by how nice these doctors are every time they tell Deeks to let them know if he has any questions; it seems a bit too much and possibly a sign that there’s something worse to come.)

But Kensi being unconscious doesn’t keep a moment that’s been a long time coming from happening. Deeks was waiting for the right moment, he admits — the sunset, the beach, the champagne — but sometimes they have to adapt. “Kensi Marie Blye, will you please wake up and marry me?” he asks before slipping the ring on her finger with a “I’m just going to put it on to see if it fits.” It does. When her hand moves, however, he thinks it might be the good news he’s been waiting for, but the doctor has some bad news after checking on Kensi. It wasn’t a purposeful movement, but rather a positive Babinski sign, which could indicate an upper motor neuron injury. They have to wait and see if her brain can recover from this. After Deeks takes her hand and that hand jerks away, he backs up against the door. I knew these scenes in the hospital were going to be heartbreaking.

What did you think of the proposal? Are you worried about Kensi? What do you think of Nell being back in the field? Do you want to see Eric join her or do you prefer seeing them in Ops?

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

(Image courtesy of CBS)