Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam (LL Cool J) found themselves in treacherous territory while in Afghanistan in the most recent — and last for a while — episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, but the greatest threat they faced wasn’t foreign.
It all started when they met two SEALs who came to them with an unthinkable accusation: their leader, Special Warfare Chief Petty Officer Thomas Argento (Juan Riedinger) had been mercilessly killing prisoners and even civilians. This is a war crime, obviously, but after some initial reservations about their claims and even light pushback from Marine Lieutenant Colonel Sarah “Mac” MacKenzie (Catherine Bell) because of Argento’s high rank and relation to a U.S. Senator, the guys headed off to Afghanistan, with FBI agent Roundtree (Caleb Castille) in tow.
Once there, Callen and Sam were horrified to learn that, not only were the accusations true, but they’d also have to do some high-stakes peace-keeping negotiating at the worst possible time. Armed locals intent on getting justice (or revenge, depending on you how look at it) captured them, created a situation where so many lives were now at risk: theirs, innocent people who’d be on the radar of armed forces, and the troops already on the ground. For executive producer Frank Military, the complications of the scenario only helped serve the episode’s point about the true meaning of heroism, valor and American values. “There is no moral dilemma here,” Military told TV Guide in an interview. “Killing prisoners — that’s wrong. How long men stay loyal to other men is the question.”
Chris O’Donnell, LL Cool J, NCIS: Los Angeles
He said the inspiration for the episode came from real life; there have been several cases of soldiers killing civilians, and writers wanted to put Sam in the heart of such a troubling situation, where he’d feel conflicted between his loyalty to fellow SEALs and doing the right thing. (Fun fact: the episode was not filmed in Afghanistan but in Los Angeles. “A lot of cinema trickery made it look like Afghanistan,” he said.)
In the end, Sam and Callen deftly coordinated their own release, and the safe release of Afghan people who’d held them hostage. They also took Argento into custody and brought him back to the U.S. to face charges — but don’t think you’ve seen the end of this case. “It’s going to be a two-part story,” Military said. “We continue the story of the trial in the second part.” That’s when we’ll learn the consequences of Argento’s actions, and whether he’s able to use his rank and deep connections within the highest levels of the government to escape punishment, or even get retribution.
We’ll also learn the fate of Roundtree, who at the end of the episode was offered a chance to stay a while longer with the NCIS: Los Angeles team. When we last saw him, he demurred, failing to give a definitive answer. Military hinted he may have already made up his mind.
“It’s something everybody is excited about. It’s exciting to be injecting new blood into the show. I’m hoping he says yes.”
LL Cool J, Caleb Castille, Chris O’Donnell, NCIS: Los Angeles
NCIS: Los Angeles concluded Season 11 Sunday, April 26. Previous episodes are streaming on CBS All Access.
(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)