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'NCIS: Los Angeles' 'Between the Lines' review: Searching for answers

'NCIS: Los Angeles' season 5 episode 17 "Between the Lines"
'NCIS: Los Angeles' season 5 episode 17 "Between the Lines"
Monty Brinton/CBS

The Tuesday, March 18 episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles," 517, "Between the Lines," sees the L.A. team investigate when an undercover ATF agent is brutally murdered on video and other agents' lives are threatened and Kensi go looking for the White Ghost in Afghanistan.

This "NCIS: LA" case isn't anything really new to a procedural drama. There have been many episodes in this genre about dirty cops and agents, and this one plays out pretty much exactly as expected. That said, the ride to the end is an entertaining one, and it begins in a way that immediately grabs your attention: with the agent being shown already beaten up and forced to identify himself and relay threats to the other "rats" before he's shot on camera.

ATF Agent Clark had been working undercover in a case involving sailors moving guns over the border, and when Deeks visits ATF to find out what he can, another agent, Bower, gets on his radar, and it turns out he and Clark had a history. Clark ruined a bust for him, so it's possible he'd want revenge and maybe ratted him out. However, the case gets more complicated, as Clark's informant tells them the Yakuza are involved and then after he tries to help them since Clark helped him, he ends up dead. It's too bad; he was a nice kid. The other guy Clark had contact with is Tommy Walker, who set up sailors on shore leave with whatever they wanted, thanks to a handy card. All they had to do was scan the card and select from a pull-down menu, and Sam uses that to go undercover after a video is taken of the Yakuza boss snatching ATF Agent Stone, the only guy who knew anything about Clark's case.

When Stone's taken, it puts many undercover operations in jeopardy, putting the team on the clock. However, once Deeks finds Clark's informant's body, they try to get Sam out only for the comms to be down. They need a way inside, but they find Bower already staking the place out on the roof across the street. He and Clark may have had their issues, but he's still ATF. Their only problem is that while they're looking for a way in, Sam's busted and thrown in a room with Stone. Sam keeps his cover, claiming to just be a navy guy with a dice addiction, but Stone tells him he already gave names and doesn't think he can last.

While Callen, Deeks and Bower put together a pretty impressive rescue, with Callen sliding down a live wire between buildings using his belt and Deeks and Bower setting up a crash and Deeks playing the injured party, Sam takes out a guard and grabs his gun. When he gives it to Stone, however, Stone turns it on him. He could tell he's an agent just by his moves. Yes, Stone's the bad guy, and his motive is money. His job pays terribly, but turning on the people who put their lives in his hands and trust him to keep them safe is easy when a lot of money's involved. What he doesn't count on is that Sam already took the bullets from the gun before giving it to him and Callen has a second gun in his back pocket. Really, Stone does a terrible job of checking them since Callen's second gun isn't exactly hidden.

Meanwhile, Sam and Callen continue to have fun teasing Deeks, first about how it's clear "he misses her" during a conversation about reading what someone is not saying and then about his feelings about their work when they get back-to-back cases without a massage in between. Hetty picks up the teasing at the end when she asks how Deeks feels about his employment, and while this teasing of Deeks is nothing at all new, it still has its amusing moments, and as much as we miss seeing Kensi and Deeks working together, we've loved Deeks working with Sam and Callen while she's in Afghanistan.

Speaking of Kensi, not much happens with her, as she rides off on a horse to look for the White Ghost after recognizing him in "Fish Out of Water," gets captured and asks to see him. But is she putting too much trust in his feelings for her when she risks ending up like the last sniper? And what happened to Sabatino? Yes, this is obviously setting up what's to come in the next couple of episodes, and while we've enjoyed the White Ghost storyline and seeing it in every episode, it would've been better if there had been a bit more, even something else with Granger and Booker back at the base.

"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 17 "Between the Lines"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2014

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