The Monday, Nov. 17 episode of “NCIS: Los Angeles,” 6×08, “The Grey Man,” is one of those episodes that highlights just how secretive these agents can get – and how that can get to them. Is Callen a Grey Man? Is it better to keep a secret to hide part of the past? Is it a bad idea for Sam to give his daughter a cell phone? (Well, that last question is an easy “probably.”)
After the last few episodes were a bit more fun than serious in many ways, “NCIS: LA” returns to the very dramatic side with this episode, in which the team investigates the murder of a homeless man who was a Grey Man, a covert agent with the ability to blend in anywhere. He worked dozens of covert operations and he was tortured before he was killed, prompting the team to wonder if this is about finding out one of the secrets from his past. He supposedly had a breakdown due to his PTSD, but as they find out during their investigation, that was just a cover. There is traffic camera footage of him dressed as a homeless man and a businessman in the same park, and they soon realize that he was working an op.
It seems to all be tied to keeping a cartel leader from being extradited to the U.S., but they soon realize that it’s really about assassinating him to keep him from giving up the names of the Mexican officials helping with the drug war. They got the federal prosecutor on the case, Kevin Turner, to agree to do it by kidnapping his girlfriend and her daughter (not at all a new tactic), and while Kensi and Deeks try to free them in time, Sam and Callen try to talk down Turner, with Callen going so far as to shoot the cartel leader in the leg. Fortunately, Deeks comes up with quite a brilliant plan to take out the men guarding the girlfriend and her daughter, and it works pretty well, even though Deeks does end up facing a meat cleaver at one point. But why was the Grey Man involved? He turned out to be Kevin’s father, and he was trying to protect his son even though he never told him who he was.
The case itself is intriguing enough to make it worth watching, but what’s more important is what it means to these agents, with Kensi admitting something from her past and a great conversation between Callen and Hetty at the end. Early on in the episode, there is a conversation between Sam and Callen about how they’re not Grey Men – Sam has a family, Callen now has a home and a girlfriend – but Sam’s comment that he has put a lot of work into Callen is very telling. Callen can’t help but wonder why the Grey Man never told Kevin who he was, and Hetty suggests that he was respecting his mother’s wishes or didn’t know how. That’s the thing about Grey Men. “He never reveals his secrets,” Hetty explains. It’s pretty much impossible not to feel bad for Callen in that scene.
The case also gets Kensi to open up a bit about a part of her past that Deeks knows about because of a talk with Hetty, but he does try (and fails) to pretend he doesn’t. After her father died, she lived on the streets. “You can fool everyone else, Deeks,” she tells him. “Can’t fool me.” It takes time for Kensi to open up to someone, and because of that, having her talk to him about it slowly over the course of the episode is one of the best parts of it. “It’s like I wasn’t even me anymore, just a different person,” she admits, and when he says he wishes he’d have known her, she tells him he doesn’t. It’s later, as they’re getting ready to save Kevin’s girlfriend and her daughter that she explains that she didn’t tell him she was homeless because it was the worst part of her life and she only w ants him to see the best of her. Deeks being Deeks (and Kensi and Deeks being Kensi and Deeks), he teases her about her sexy ankles being the best part of her.
Finally, the humor in this episode comes from Sam getting his daughter a cell phone – and her calling him (and Hetty and “Uncle Callen”) about dinner, her math quiz and if he’ll be home on time. It’s completely adorable, and it’s always great to see the agents’ home lives, but it seems that Sam “super-daddy” Hanna and Michelle need to set a few ground rules about that phone and what is and is not an emergency. Also, why can Callen decipher text-talk and Sam cannot? (Maybe there was an op?) It’s a cute sub-plot, but it’s one that only works in the context of the rest of the episode, and even then, it seems a bit too much at times, especially since the call to Callen’s phone comes in the middle of work and that’s just glossed over to make sure “Uncle Callen” answers the call.
“NCIS: Los Angeles” season 6 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS. What did you think of episode 8 “The Grey Man”?