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The Beat Check: Guilty Thoughts on NCIS, NCIS: LA and Criminal Minds 

The Beat Check is a new feature that focuses on TV’s many (many) procedural shows. This week, we got strong episodes from three of TV’s highest-rated procedurals: NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and Criminal Minds. There were many reasons why they were not to be missed. Guilt was a common theme in all three episodes:

NCIS “Engaged Part 2”

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Gibbs and Ziva traveled to Afghanistan to find the missing marine who was simply trying to protect a couple of kids and protect their right to go to school. It was an emotional hour that thankfully resulted in the marine being found and sent home to her father. However, there was a price to pay: her commanding officer died. I was affected by this more than I thought I was going to be. First Lieutenant Flores was feelings all kinds of guilt over this death; Ziva also seemed affected. His death scene was simply heartbreaking as he told Ziva to tell his family he was sorry and he loved them. I totally teared up. And I almost never do that during an episode of NCIS.Plus, there was more action than usual with Gibbs and Ziva clad in their fatigues and battling the bad guys. Couple the Afghanistan portion of the show with the flashback scenes of a young Gibbs and we got an hour of TV (two if you’re counting last week’s “Engaged Part 1”) that really honored veterans in a powerfully emotional way. Good turn from Mark Harmon’s son, Sean, who, once again, played a young Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Back in D.C., I really liked the scenes between Tony and the Chaplain. For some reason, the show is letting Tony work on himself, maybe finally showing us that it’s time for him to grow up. He’s broken, as the Chaplain pointed out, and I liked how she wanted to help him. Would have loved to have seen more of his time with the kids; or I wish that he had been able to face this fear in a different way. But I appreciate him trying to finally better himself. My most favorite moment was when he had the conversation with God. It was sad but it gave us a little peek into Tony’s psyche.

And finally, I really enjoyed the banter between Gibbs and Vance after the Director told Leroy to take a few days off. Of course Gibbs would never do that — his work is his life.

NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.

NCIS: Los Angeles “Betrayal”

Photo Credit: Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

I’m not a regular NCIS: Los Angeles watcher but I do tune into a few episodes a season. You can bet if it has a Sam Hanna-focus, I’m going to be on board. “Betrayal” was a perfect title for what transpired. It showed some of the tough decisions and monumentally difficult things an agent like Sam Hanna has to face on a daily basis. He was undercover in the Sudan and it was crazy seeing him show affection for the sister of the episode’s big bad. I knew Sam was married but I thought maybe I missed something and his marital status had changed. It hadn’t.

He had to use any means necessary to bring the Sudanese villain down and so Sam basically used this woman to ensure that this happened. In the end, she allied herself with Sam, helping him escape her brother’s clutches. Sam brought her back to the U.S. and then proceeded to tell her that now she was on American soil, she could testify against her brother for his many brutal crimes against the Sudanese people. We’re talking mass murders here. Of course she balked at this after she realized she had been taken for a ride. But Sam didn’t give. He said if she didn’t testify, she’d be sent back to Sudan, where she knew her brother would kill her for her betrayal. Or she could stay in the U.S., testify and eventually become an American citizen. She had no other choice. I felt so bad for her. She was in love with Sam. And to realize none if it was real was just heartbreaking. She paid a high price for falling in love.

I’m still processing this betrayal. It was Sam’s job but, man, it was still cold. And then we see him go home to his wife and get in bed with her. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her, I guess? She thinks Sam was in Miami or something like that. I don’t know how Sam’s going to be able to live with this or how anyone would be able to live with the things they have to do for the greater good. Wow. This episode was deep and suspenseful. And had such high stakes. I wonder if there are going to be any repercussions to this case in the future? I would love it if Sam felt this one for a while. He has to be feeling massive amounts of guilt.

Something else I liked about this episode is that usually when I tune in, it’s often Sam that’s worried about what’s going on with Callen. And at the beginning of “Betrayal,” the whole LA team had no idea where Sam was. He had disappeared and for a while they thought he may have been killed. But I love the concern Callen showed for Sam and the way he went to Sudan to find his partner and protect him. It was a beautiful thing. Towards the end of the episode they even shared some fun banter:

Callen: “Hey you got some people worried. Ever think about picking up a phone, maybe an email?”
Sam: “Hi Mom. I’m okay!”
Callen: “Something like that.”
Sam: “Things got a little hot. I couldn’t take any chances. You know I still love you, right?”

So cute.

NCIS: Los Angeles airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBS.

Criminal Minds “Hope”

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Penelope Garcia was a big part of this week’s Criminal Minds case. First, we learned more about how her parents died. We knew they had died in a car accident when she was young but there was more to it. As Garcia led her survivors group, she revealed that her parents had been out looking for her after she missed her curfew for the second time that week. While they were out searching for her, they were hit by a drunk driver. Poor Garcia. I’m sure she’s been blaming herself ever since. That’s a tough thing to live with and getting past that guilt isn’t easy.

A couple of the reasons this episode was strong, at least for me, were the two guest stars. Brigid Brannagh, from Lifetime’s Army Wives, played Monica, a friend of Penelope’s who was also in the group. Seven years ago, her eight-year-old daughter was abducted. The day before this episode began was the anniversary of the abduction. She looked like a woman who was worn out and distraught and feeling every bit of the loss of her daughter. Not knowing what happened to her looked like it had been eating her alive. But after the group was over, she went to her car and ended up getting kidnapped by the guy that had taken her daughter.

Jack Coleman, from Heroes, Dynasty and most recently, The Vampire Diaries, played the creepy unsub (Bill). It turns out Hope, the girl he had kidnapped, had killed herself while in captivity. She was a fifteen-year-old girl that found herself pregnant with her kidnapper’s baby. And this death triggered something in Bill. He wanted to create a new “Hope” so he kidnapped her mother and then raped her. He was this sick, twisted individual that lived in this delusional world. He really thought he was in love with Hope. He had targeted her when she was young; kidnapped her; then made her his life.

The scenes in his house between Bill and Monica were so intense but the most horrifying was when Monica found the body of her daughter in the bed in the attic. Her body had been decaying in that bed and Bill had covered her up as if she was simply sleeping. So sick. Garcia felt all sorts of guilt since Bill had been in her survivors group and had told the story of his wife and unborn child he had lost. The whole time he was talking about Hope! Since this was such a personal case for Garcia, she went out to the field and tried to talk Bill from killing Monica. At the end, it worked but Monica got her revenge and shot and killed Bill. See? So intense.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Coleman and Brannagh did an amazing job in “Hope” (Coleman was so frickin’ creepy!) but there was still another reason why I enjoyed it so much. I just love the friendship between Garcia and Morgan. The show gave us plenty of quality time featuring the two as Derek tried to help Penelope through this crisis.

Criminal Minds airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on CBS.

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