“NCIS: Los Angeles” tackles the tough topic of soldiers returning home with PTSD in the Monday, April 27 episode, 622, “Field of Fire,” as the team searches for a highly skilled sniper who escaped from the VA. The episode itself touches on several points but doesn’t quite follow through on them.
That’s because most of the time is spent on the case itself, with several topics arising for the team because of it, from Sam’s mention of getting help to concern about Kensi’s past as sniper. Instead, the real focus is on the team finding Connor Rutnam and figuring out just what has happened to him and who wants him – and why. There’s also the matter of Deeks becoming a mentor, which raises the question of kids, just a few more conversations about children to add to the list. (Are the “NCIS: LA” writers hinting – a bit too obviously – at something?)
In some ways, “NCIS” is the show more synonymous with tackling tough topics like “NCIS: LA” does with “Field of Fire,” and like “NCIS,” “LA” handles this subject matter in the right way. As Sam puts it, they send guys to war, expect them to step up, and then when they come back all broken, they step away. It all begins when Marine Gunnery Sergeant Connor Rutnam escapes the VA, and the team’s investigation centers on the VA in the beginning, with Kensi going in as a patient and Deeks as an oversight compliance officer to gain access to the files and staff. The nurse in the room, Mike, is looking mighty guilty of something, but after Deeks tracks him down (and cuffs him with “NCIS,” which immediately serves as a reminder of those papers Hetty has for him, which may be useful considering the LAPD’s investigation into him), he admits to selling pills on the street and thinks that “I like to keep in shape” is a good excuse for running from him and thinks that because he’s being honest about dealing drugs from the VA on the street that that should count for something. The only thing this guy is helpful for is to give them the name of a guy who visited Connor around the time he started to lose it: Mark Simmons.
Simmons crossed paths with Connor in Afghanistan, and after he was discharged from the army six months ago, he joined PFA, Protectors of Free Americans, a right-wing extremist organization founded by Fred Kington. Sam and Callen found drugs in Connor’s room at the VA, and those drugs end up being the “zombie drug.” Give a person enough, and you can basically own them. When Sam and Callen find Fred and his PFA group at an anti-Muslim rally, they’re just in time to witness a man getting shot, but by the time they figure out which roof the shot came from, the men responsible get away. However, Kensi can spot the signs of a sniper being there and can tell the shooter was left-handed; Connor’s right-handed. So who took the shot and why do they need Connor?
As annoying as Mike is in the boatshed, Fred is so much worse, going on about his beliefs and no Muslim being innocent. The only thing of value he actually says is that he hasn’t seen Mark in days, and when they track him down and he basically commits suicide by cop, they figure out why. Callen finds his phone in a dumpster, and the call history connects him to Karim Mubar, an Al Qaeda sympathizer in L.A. He was the man who was shot at the rally, and Mark was the one to shoot him, as a way to make it look like the PFA was killing Muslims. Mark was working with Al Qaeda, and the PFA was just a ruse. So what’s Al Qaeda saving Connor for? There’s a religious unity conference happening near a café where Mark and Mubar used to meet, and assassinating the speaker would light a huge fire in the Islamic community.
Once Kensi finds where Connor is set up, Granger wants her to take the shot if he lines up his, but Sam and Callen are on their way and just want enough time to reach him because it’s not his fault. When Kensi has no choice but to shoot, she chooses to shoot the weapon instead of the man, a very impressive shot and the right move. And so Sam brings Connor back to the VA and watches him reunite with his family. (Hopefully his daughter gets an attitude adjustment because there’s no excuse for her behavior when Kensi and Deeks stopped by to talk to Connor’s wife.)
While Kensi’s background as a sniper does make for a believable patient, “that’s what concerns” Granger, he tells Hetty when she brings it up. She argues that they’re a long way from Afghanistan, but he’s not so confident in that as she is, and when Kensi is set up and the team is trying to find Connor at the conference, he asks how she is behind the scope. Both she and Deeks say she’s good, and she is when it comes down to it, but it’s a valid concern and a topic that hasn’t really been addressed fully yet on the show. When she’s undercover at the VA, she says she doesn’t want to talk about why she’s there, and while that could just be part of her cover, it doesn’t seem to be 100 percent. Maybe that’s something that will be explored next season (if there is another season, as CBS has yet to renew “NCIS: Los Angeles), maybe not. At least more time is dedicated to that than Sam’s comment – and Callen’s reaction – to the homeless vet about the help he got when he got back.
The rest of the episode is about kids, a topic that arises when the others find out Deeks has signed up to mentor a kid. (His original choice is basically a mini-Deeks, the kid he gets assigned due to a scheduling conflict is not.) Deeks sees it as a “precursor to being a father,” and Kensi kind of gets this look, the same look she adopts as kids are brought up for the rest of the episode. They did just get together at Christmas, so it’s understandable, but with all this kid talk…
Meanwhile, Callen surprises everyone when he disagrees when Sam says he’ll never know how hard it is to raise a child. He’s young enough, and he and Joelle are back on track. “Little lowercase Gs running around?” Sam asks, making everyone laugh with what is easily one of the best lines of the series.
Sam spends the rest of the episode imparting wisdom on his teammates as the only one of them with kids, first telling Callen to start with a plant then move to a pet without a central nervous system like a jellyfish and later saying that most people are in love with the idea of having kids but don’t know what they’re getting into and finally, citing exhaustion as why parents aren’t stopping their kids from hitting each other and suggesting they revisit the subject in a few years when they all have a couple kids each. Hetty closes the topic in the episode after Deeks gets his reassignment in the mentoring program by telling him that it’s practice for his children because you can never predict who you’re going to end up with. So, again, kids.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” season 6 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 22 “Field of Fire”?