"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 continued Tuesday, Oct. 1, with episode 2, "Impact," and while Sam and Deeks dealt with the aftermath of their traumatic experiences, the team worked on a case that set up a bigger storyline.
The "NCIS: LA" team investigated when a plane from D.C. crashed after the pilot didn't respond when air control reached out, but as they soon learned, it had been a case of sabotage. On board the plane were William Gardner, a former vice admiral who had been a key player in the War on Terror but forced into early retirement for his uncensored criticism, and a journalist, Jason Carter, who had been ghostwriting his memoir. Someone didn't want that book published. When they went to check out his apartment, they found out someone had torched it, and there wasn't anything left. His girlfriend said he had seemed stressed when they spoke four days prior. But the bad news didn't end there. Someone had virtually erased Jason as well, and security footage of the airport showed that whoever took the flight recorder had entered earlier in the day in a vehicle they reskinned as an emergency one. This was proof of sabotage.
They were able to find a digital recorder at the crash site, but unfortunately, it was hard to hear what was being said. There was something about cover-ups and war crimes, but all they could do was piece it together. If they had proof of Americans working overseas while employed by the government committing crimes, it was motive enough for their murders. They were able to lure out two men by having the news report that Jason's girlfriend had excerpts of his work, and when they broke into her home, the team was waiting. Once in custody, they lawyered up, but these were just small fish. Someone higher up ordered this. The job was done for the day, but it was far from over. Anyone else thinking this could set up a potential "NCIS"/"NCIS: Los Angeles" crossover? Their plane originated in D.C., after all, and they do still have to catch the major players.
Before getting into the heavy stuff of the episode, let's address the only real light-hearted moments. After a group date—three girls, three guys—with Kensi and Rose, Nell was getting message after message, and while at first she told Eric it was her mother, she did eventually tell him about the group date, leading to another one of those awkward conversations between the two, this time about him going on a date, no wait, not with her. Yep, they were still dancing around that. Meanwhile, poor Eric also was stuck wearing pants in "Impact," pants Hetty got him, and he hated them. "Sad face," he said when Kensi and Nell noticed. Nell even found him in his boxers, ready to incinerate them at one point, and in the end, Hetty decided to let him go back to wearing shorts. "I have sensitive thighs," he tried to explain to the others. But he had a problem: Nell had cut the pants into shorts for him, and Hetty wanted those pants back.
Now onto what we had been hoping would be in this episode. Hetty brought in Nate to talk to Sam and Deeks about their traumas, and the honest conversations continued. Though Sam insisted he knew how to bounce back fast and that he was fine, the beating he was giving the punching bag in the gym suggested otherwise and the last thing he had to say to Nate during their session revealed the truth. Sam was tired of everyone being too nice to him—Michelle didn't want him to do the dishes, Callen got amazing tickets to a Lakers game—and Nate could see where he could eventually crack. "The only way to survive is to let go. I keep a little something behind in case there's a chance to escape or attack, but the rest of me is gone. I see him whaling on that guy in the chair, I can't help him. When it's over, I reconnect and the only thing left is some scars. I'm afraid one day I may drift off and never reconnect," Sam admitted. "Then what happens to the guy in the chair?" After, Nate expressed his concern to Hetty: "The trauma and damage he experienced, it's cumulative, physically and psychologically, as you well know. If it happens too many more times, he could reach a breaking point where he can't take it anymore. You also know what could happen then." Sure, we know Sam as this tough guy, we know that he's been through traumatic experiences before, but eventually something does have to give, and what "NCIS: LA" did right was show that it could happen—and even Sam admitted it.
Speaking of Deeks, while Sam returned to work, Deeks did not—and he wasn’t answering his calls or a cronut on his doorstep. Hetty surprised Deeks with a visit, and she found him unable to sleep, trying to use storm sounds and relaxation tapes. "I'll leave you to your storm," she told him after letting him know she needed to know if she needed to find his replacement. "Hopefully it'll pass without too much damage." Nate ended up finding him on the beach, and Deeks admitted that he couldn't sleep because his mind just kept running when he closed his eyes. As Nate explained, while it wasn't his first traumatic experience, something about it had more of an impact on him and his brain was trying to make sense of what happened by finding something to compare it to from his past. Because nothing came close, it was harder to resolve. What Deeks needed to do was talk about it—and sleep.
Unsurprisingly, the matter of Deeks and Kensi's partnership was a hot topic. "You're partners, it's a special relationship," Nate told him. What made their partnership unique from others—and when Deeks could truthfully answer that—everything else would become much clearer. "It's a complicated relationship," Nate said to describe Deeks and Kensi's relationship to Hetty. "He's very close to his partner." As the episode ended, Deeks once again ignored a call on his phone, but Kensi wasn't going to take no for an answer. She, like Callen, was worried about her partner, and even if he didn't talk about what happened, she was going to be there for him. She was at his door with food and that cronut he never took off his doorstep. "It's like America and France made sweet slow love and they had a pastry baby," he said. It was an adorable and purely Kensi and Deeks scene as they settled on his couch to eat and she forced him to watch a movie with her. As she began explaining the film to him, he leaned back and began falling asleep. "What happens next?" She asked as she leaned back next to him. "It's a love story," he told her. That's what makes their partnership unique. And we have a feeling it's just getting started. But how long will it take them to acknowledge this while both of them are awake?
The paths that the show is taking Sam and Deeks down could help this be its best season yet. Instead of using a time jump as an excuse not to deal with the aftermath, as could have easily been done, they're facing it head on, and this is just the beginning.
"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 2, "Impact"?