NCIS: Los Angeles 4×12 Paper Soldiers Recap and Review
NCIS: Los Angeles 4×12 ‘Paper Soldiers’ Synopsis: A distraught widow is suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her Marine husband’s last battle and Sam and Callen help to determine if there has been a cover-up. Meanwhile, Hetty summons Operational Psychologist Nate Getz to be her “pawn.”
I always have a hard time being critical of the shows I love, but there have been a few NCIS: Los Angeles episodes in season 4 that were too unbelievable. The job of the writer is to suspend our disbelief. This particular episode was the right mixture of light hearted banter and mystery. The subject matter is quite creepy, though. I enjoyed the episode because of the return of Nate Getz more than anything else. I don’t know why they ever let him go.
NCIS: Los Angeles starts as so many shows do these days, dark dampened streets. A man is leaving the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office by the back door, leading into an alley where his vehicle is parked. As he gets in his van to leave, a man in a truck across the street takes pictures. When the alley is clear, the photographer goes to the door and breaks in. He steals a file and then goes back to his truck to look at it. As he is reading, someone slits his throat from the back seat.
In the NCIS: Los Angeles office, Deeks warns the guys to be cool; that Kensi is in a bad mood. Sam Hanna says he is cool (obviously, it’s LL Cool J); Callen is Aloof, the anti-social version of cool. Sam asks what that makes Deeks; Sam and Callen toss adjectives back and forth, ignoring Deeks’ suggestions, until Sam hits on otiose, which means pointless. Kensi enters, obviously not herself today, and is greeted with silence. “What?” she asks. Callen says Deeks she’s in a bad mood. Kensi admits she killed another house plant; she has been trying to keep a plant alive since she was told that if she can’t do that all of her relationships will fail. Anyway, that’s 14 plants since July and now the guy at the store cut her off. She says he hung her picture on the wall so no one else will either. The latest death was a cactus; Callen is quick to remind her she has killed something that thrives in Death Valley. The more the guys rib her, the worse she feels. Sam tells her it’s not her fault; it’s the job’s fault.
Eric has taken up Mime. He appears on the landing, pulling as if he has a rope around Sam, but the team just looks. Deeks thinking it’s charades, guesses he’s milking a sideways cow; Eric admits to his studies and has to explain that was a lasso. Poor Eric, he is such a geek. He keeps telling them what he’s doing as he “mimes” all the way up to Ops, until Sam tells him Mimes don’t talk. I do love the banter, especially since the show usually begins with a death.
In Ops the case gets started with Nell and Eric showing them the crime scene; Private investigator Stuart Westridge was looking into the death of Marine Lieutenant Edwin Prietto for his wife. There are no cameras on the street, and the morgue hasn’t released their camera footage yet.
Ironically, in light of Kensi’s plight with plants, Mrs. Prietto is carrying sprouted plants into her thriving garden when Sam and Callen question her. She is convinced something is being covered up in her husband’s death so she requested an autopsy from the coroner’s office. She hasn’t seen the body yet, or gotten the report. A “Casualty Assistance Calls Officer” told her that Edwin died near the Pakistan border, but her husband had called her the day before from Kandahar. Sam says they can help her with the coroner’s department.
In the meantime, Kensi and Deeks investigate the Westridge’s truck. The PI died quickly; the killer severed both carotid arteries and the jugular along with his windpipe. The job had to have been done by a professional; the car is too clean, no fibers, no prints, nothing. Kensi wonders if the Marines did try to cover something up.
Rose takes special care at the coroner’s office, warning Antonia Prietto that this won’t be easy for her. Antonia cries when she sees Edwin’s face; now she knows he is dead. She wants to talk to whoever did the autopsy, and picks up her husband’s hand. She comments that it feels so light. Rose tells her that bones and tissue make up most of our body weight; once that’s removed we are really very light. Mrs. Prietto doesn’t understand; so Rose explains he was a tissue donor. Antonia says he would never have done that. She’s sure the Marines had the morgue strip her husband’s body so they could hide what happened to him in Afghanistan.
Rose explains that tissue doesn’t have the same time frame as organs; that’s why it’s removed in the morgue. Ian Bruckhurst describes what he did to Sam, and goes for the paperwork, but it isn’t there. Once the guys head back to Ops, they are able to see Westridge breaking into the coroner’s office and leaving moments later with a file. Since it wasn’t in the victim’s truck, the killer must have it. Nate Getz makes an appearance and the team scatters before he can do a psych evaluation on any of them.
Kensi and Deeks head to Westridge’s home and find his Prietto file folder empty, and his computer is gone. Since the floors are hardwood, Deeks does his Riverdance, because last time he found the hiding place of a nuclear bomb. Kensi shrugs it off, but he locates an external hard drive among some books.
In the NCIS: Los Angeles office Hetty tells Nate that he is her pawn; and that pawns are soldiers. They should never be underestimated. He wants to be a rook, but she says he’s a pawn, a very tall pawn. Meanwhile, in the boathouse, Sam and Callen talk to the Captain who told Mrs. Prietto of her husband’s death. He has a copy of the Lieutenant’s file and the paperwork says he was a tissue donor. Something doesn’t add up; if it’s all legit, why was Westridge murdered? Just then, Nell calls them from Ops to show them the news. Antonia went public with her suspicions.
Hetty is on the phone “being nice” to Grainger when Callen and Hanna enter the office. She says she is always nice; but Grainger is having a conniption. Nell and Nate have located a soldier who was injured in the same action that killed Lt. Prietto; he’s recuperating at the VA hospital. Kensi and Deeks head out to talk to him while Hetty tells Callen and Hanna it’s time to put some pressure on Ian.
The injured Sargent doesn’t remember anything about the mission; he didn’t even know Prietto was dead. He gets upset and cuts the interview short when they ask about Pakistan; if the Marine Corp says they were there then they were there. Meanwhile, Sam and Callen are busy intimidating Ian who says the cause of death was a single bullet that severed his spine. Sam insists that Mrs. Prietto receive a full report, and Ian promises to apologize for any mistake that was made.
Kensi and Deeks head to the Funeral Home and talk to David Lerner, but he hasn’t even received the body yet, so he isn’t any help. He wasn’t even aware that Prietto was a tissue donor.
Back at NCIS: Los Angeles Headquarters, Eric accesses the last file Westridge accessed. There are photos of Rose in the file, so she just became a person of interest. For those of you who don’t know; Nate is in love with Rose. It took him three years to ask her out. She’s in love with him too, she asks about him every time she sees a member of the team.
Hetty looks over the photos as Nate, Sam and Callen discuss the case with her. Hetty assigns Nate to take the lead. He’s not comfortable interrogating her; Callen says it’s the only way to clear her name. Nate realizes this is how he’s playing the pawn.
In the boathouse, Nate tells Rose that she won’t meet Hetty. She’s off playing chess. Rose is joking with him the whole time, having no idea what’s coming. When they are in the interrogation room it all becomes clear, and he shows her the photos. She wants to know why she’s in the pictures. Meanwhile, Deeks and Kensi are at Rose’s place. Unfortunately for Rose, they find Prietto’s file sitting on her kitchen table.
Back at the boathouse Rose can’t decide whether to be more indignant about them questioning her, and them going through her house. Nate explains it’s his job. When Nate compares her signature in the file to the one on her driver’s license and a receipt from their date (she paid for dessert) he declares that they’re close, but it’s not her signature.
Eric finally turns up the clue that cracks the case. The morgue had a spike in tissue donors over the last 18 months. The donors were all young and healthy, and while they were not all Marines, they were all processed by Ian. They were also sent to the same funeral home, Fairfield Manor. When Eric pings Ian’s phone, it shows him at the funeral home.
Hetty and Nate go undercover as Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her son Chester to keep David Lerner busy. Lerner comments that Chester’s father must have been really tall. “Don’t pretend you knew daddy.” Nate replies indignantly. My favorite line of the night!
Meanwhile, Kensi and Deeks look for Ian, they argue over who gets to check the crematorium because the fires are burning, but it isn’t Ian. Deeks starts checking caskets. In case Ian is hiding, but Kensi just calls Eric and has him ring Ian’s cell phone. One of the coffins starts ringing and they find Ian, with a bullet through his forehead.
While Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Chester describe their funeral ideal, Palominos and Doves; Sam and Callen rush in telling Lerner he owes them money. This is the funniest part of the episode as Hetty tells them he isn’t responsible for someone else’s debt. Sam Hanna tells her she needs to shut her trap before he chokes her out with the dead dog she has around her neck. The final straw is when Sam calls her shorty; she tells Chester it’s time to go.
Sam and Callen pressure Lerner for money, telling him they know about the deal selling bone and tissue. Finally he says he has Ian’s cut in his office, but as soon as he gets past Sam, he makes a run for it. He doesn’t get far; Kensi and Deeks block one exit, and Sam and Callen, the other.
Sam Hanna is in his dress uniform at Lt. Prietto’s funeral; Antonia appreciates the fact that the case was solved and apologizes for any trouble she caused. Nate apologizes to Rose too; he was just doing his job.
At the NCIS: Los Angeles offices, Callen and Sam debrief Hetty. A civilian was checking the tissue donor box on dead Marines returning to Los Angeles, and then contacting the funeral home to pick up the coffin. At the morgue, Ian would forge Rose’s signature and harvest the tissue. The booming business can bring in $200K a pop, Callen tells her.
Hetty says that Grainger pulled some strings and learned that Lt. Prietto was killed during an ongoing classified mission. She asks how Mr. Getz is doing and tells Callen to take him a gift, and tell him he earned it. It’s a beautiful antique chess set. As he leaves, Hetty asks Mr. Hanna to take a seat. She wants to commend him on his performance yesterday; his words sounded quite genuine. Sam thanks her and says he hopes she’s not upset. “I’m sensing some hostility here.” Sam says. “Oh, Mr. Hanna, I’m just getting started” Hetty smiles. “What do you mean by ‘shorty’?”
While the subject matter was, as I said, quite creepy, there have been a lot of shady dealings with funeral homes in Florida over the past few years. I never expected that people who deal with our dead could possibly be so callous as to try and earn an extra profit. They certainly charge enough to bury people these days. Who would ever think of selling bones and tissue as a lucrative business?
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