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'NCIS: Los Angeles' 'Merry Evasion' review: The perfect Christmas gifts

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"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 continued Tuesday, Dec. 17, with episode 12, "Merry Evasion," and while the team in LA protected a senator's daughter, Kensi learned a bit more about her mission and White Ghost – and received a very welcome gift for the holidays.

This was another fantastic episode of "NCIS: LA" to close out a strong first half of the fifth season. While the character of Lily started off as just a bit annoying, she grew on us as the episode progressed. This episode also saw Nell return to the field, this time as the Velma to Deeks' Shaggy with Kensi on her mission, but for how long? Callen knew Hetty had an endgame when it came to Nell, and Hetty's wink of acknowledgement was the perfect cut off for that conversation for the time being as they rejoined the festivities, and while it was nice to see them toast to Kensi, it was also bittersweet, especially knowing the danger she was in thanks to a tidbit from Sabatino.

As for the case, it wasn't too surprising that their initial assessment – the Senator was leading an investigation into a Chinese cyber warfare unit, and someone was targeting him (and his daughter) because of it – was why Lily was attacked, but fortunately, the Senator hadn't been working with the head of RODA and had second thoughts. Instead, that ended up being a false lead, as Susic had opened up an account in his name to make it look like the Senator was a traitor, and it was all to get revenge for the Senator and his unit killing his father in 1994. In the end, the Lockharts received the perfect holiday gift as they were reunited after not speaking for two years. All it took was a little home invasion, a few shoot-outs, and running around.

What the case allowed for, however, was for some classic bickering from Sam and Callen, something that has been a part of the show since the beginning, throughout the episode – and Lily's reaction to it – and it all started with their disagreement about holiday cards (glitter, it's the "Devil's dust, didn't you know?). We also got an outsider's point of view regarding eating habits. (Callen's burger was named "Mac," and it was "big") and their jobs, as she did not appreciate their light-hearted reactions to only having two bullets (fortunately, the agency set up caches in electrical boxes) and "barely surviving."

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Kensi learned a bit more about the elusive White Ghost from Sabatino, who revealed that the guy she was replacing had been caught – and decapitated. First Granger claimed that wasn't relevant to her mission and then just said she knew it was a war zone. Now, while the news of a previous shooter may bring into question the theory that Kensi was chosen specifically for this job, it could be because the previous guy was decapitated they called in Kensi. What if they hope her personal connection (could it be Jack?) could be used to their advantage to make the White Ghost hesitant about killing her too?

While Sabatino was impressed with his cooking – a vulture, tasted just like turkey, if he was to believed – Kensi had a package from home to open: a phone. (Also, nice touch on recalling Hetty's regifting.) With that phone, she was able to reach out to Hetty, who revealed that there was a bit more to her mission than she thought: there could be a traitor on base, and it was Kensi's job to try to find them. But it wasn't all business, as Hetty also revealed that she had another present for Kensi: another secure number in the phone.

With that, we knew that second number was going to be to Deeks, and they could have easily ended it there or ended it with Deeks opening the box or even after he realized that it was Kensi on the other line. Instead, "NCIS: Los Angeles" did something else right, just like the show has been doing all season when it came to moving "Densi" along, and even separated by miles and oceans and after what happened between them before she was reassigned, some of that good ol' Densi banter was back.

"NCIS: Los Angeles" season 5 airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS. The next new episode, "Allegiance," airs Jan. 14. What did you think of episode 12 "Merry Evasion"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2013

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