“NCIS: New Orleans” season 4 episode “The Asset” starts off with a bang. Quite literally. When a car carrying a US Navy sailor and a Russian defector is run off the road, the New Orleans NCIS outfit gets called in. The defector arrives with a list of Russian sleeper agents in the United States. After an attempt on his life, NCIS sets out to find him and bring him to safety.
During their investigation, Dwayne Pride (Scott Bakula) and Tammy Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) come across FBI agent Raymond Isler (Derek Webster). Previously, Gregorio worked for Isler in the FBI, and in earlier encounters Pride and Isler clashed over professional differences. Notably, Isler remained a stickler for the rules while Dwayne preferred a more relaxed interpretation of the playbook.
Russian sleeper agent Eva Azarova (Cassidy Freeman) reappears in “NCIS New Orleans” episode “The Asset.” Initially, Eva is consulted because of the Russian defector. But it turns out there’s a personal connection between Eva and him. That’s not the only intimate relationship explored in “The Asset.” Instead, there’s a heavy subplot which rekindles the flame between Eva and Gregorio.
Throughout the episode, the dichotomy between old and new Pride is highlighted. At the onset, it’s clear that Pride is getting back to his old self. “Learn things,” he instructs early on. However, he’s much more cautious about bending the rules. Despite breaking protocol in the past, his intentions always remained noble. Mostly, Dwayne sought to solve cases and protect his city of New Orleans. This time, it’s Isler who nudges Pride to take a lax approach.
Although “NCIS: New Orleans” episode “The Asset” is standalone, it feels interconnected because of recurring characters. Eva Azarova returns, and her fling with Gregorio is probed quite a bit. It’s delightful to have Isler back. Like always, he and Pride don’t necessarily see eye to eye. Yet it’s this dynamic which makes their collaborations so enjoyable. Since it’s Isler inciting Pride to ignore protocol this round, their chemistry is delightful.
The entire episode features an undertone of relationships. There’s the Tammy-Eva arc, Pride-Isler plot, and then the Sonja Percy (Shalita Grant)-Chris LaSalle (Lucas Black) romance. Their sexual tension comes to a head in “The Asset,” and in a tense moment both Percy and LaSalle acknowledge double speak in their conversation. It’s clear that “NCIS: New Orleans” season 4 plans to deal with this finally.
“The Asset” persists in presenting the NCIS New Orleans team as a mature, honed unit. LaSalle is no more the comedic relief, and Sebastian (Rob Kerkovich) moved from awkward, goofy lab assistant to competent field agent. Nevertheless, Sebastian continues to offer some of the show’s best lines. In “The Asset,” he drops a few pop culture references to James Bond, specifically to a certain scene in “A View to Kill” where Bond (Roger Moore) uses air from a car tire to breathe underwater.
“NCIS: New Orleans” season 4 is mostly excellent. However, three episodes in and the greatest mistake which plagues the season is far too little CCH Pounder. The veteran Pounder plays the wonderful morgue doctor Loretta Wade. Until this point, she’s featured a largely diminished role on the series. In part, moving Sebastian to the field and out of the lab negates the need to visit the morgue as frequently. This is a huge loss for the series, and I hope Pounder resumes her prominent presence on the show soon.
While Eva is once again whisked off at the end of the episode (no surprise there), I predict we’ll see her again, either this season or next. There’s a sweet moment between Eva and Gregorio, but it feels pretty unrealistic. Similarly, I bet Isler and Pride team up again in the near future.