"It's bad car-ma." Fortunately, the rest of the Tuesday, May 6 episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles," 5x23, "Exposure," is not as bad as that joke. But we'll forgive it because Callen later quotes Jean de La Fontaine. After a bomb goes off at a charity event, it's up to the team to determine if a reporter's claim as to who's responsible is true, and in the end, it's one hell of a day for one hell of a team.
For a penultimate episode, "Exposure" packs quite the punch, but it's in a way that just seems to set up more hell to come, hopefully not in the same way last season ended. However, Granger and Hetty's final conversation could not have been more ominous, even without the tease of what's coming thanks to episode descriptions and photos. Plus, two team members discuss their feelings – sort of – because of the nature of the case.
All in all, it's another solid episode showcasing the team's skills and featuring an explosive case. Sure, it's a bit too obvious that the reporter's work ethic is what gets her killed, especially with that tagline of hers, and maybe they should've figured out that she didn't send them to her real source that first time after how adamant she was about not giving up her sources (and from the teal house), but episodes can't be perfect. What an episode does need to be is entertaining and something that keeps you interested from start to finish, and this one did just that.
It all begins when a car blows up at a marine sponsored charity event, and ZNN Reporter Dana "anything for the story" Steele claims that JLF is responsible, but Homeland Security has been watching JLF very closely and has seen zero activity for the past year. She refuses to give up her source at first, and then when she does, she sends them on a wild goose chase to a guy who thinks she's an alien. (Anyone else think "Roswell" when Merle pointed up?) To make matters worse, Sam and Callen find out that the men responsible for the bombing rented two more cars, and with that, Granger tells Sam and Callen to "have at it," when it comes to Dana. While Kensi and Deeks learn that the bombers have enough to take out an entire city block, Sam and Callen are too late when they track Dana. A man stabs (and kills) her.
The man is Bakri Deng, from South Sudan, and while he doesn't talk at first, Kensi and Deeks check out his apartment and put the pieces together. He and his roommates wrote letter after letter seeking aid for South Sudan, but that changed when yet another act of violence killed his family. He killed Dana because she refused to change her story and tell the truth. Sam eventually gets his roommates' location out of him – the State Department Los Angeles field office – and while Kensi and Deeks clear a retirement party from the roof, Sam and Callen find the two roommates. They're able to subdue one, but Callen must shoot the other.
Meanwhile, Nell and Eric do a better job of doing something that Kensi and Deeks haven't been able to do despite whatever happened that night: talk about their feelings, sort of. "If you don't tell someone how you feel about them, you may never get the chance," Eric says. "People should just put it out there while they can," Nell agrees, and both do just that with post-its – with the agreement that they won't talk about it. Their reactions say plenty, but Granger interrupts, and sure, we don't know what they wrote down, but it's still something other than metaphors and raccoons and boxes and knives, right? It's at least a step.
Finally, at the end of the day, Hetty and Granger watch the team leave for drinks. "They're quite a team," he remarks. "They're my '27 Yankees," she tells him. "It doesn't get any easier, does it? Sending them out each time, never knowing if they'll come back," he realizes. "They always come back, Owen. Until one day they don't," Hetty says ominously as the episode ends. With next week being the season finale, how can that not have you worried?
"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 23 "Exposure"?