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Why Uncaged Might Just Be The Saddest NCIS Episode

The "NCIS" universe is no stranger to some genuinely tragic events over the years. From the original series itself to "NCIS: New Orleans" and "NCIS: Los Angeles," the intrepid investigators of the NCIS have dealt with heartache and pain aplenty in their struggles to find justice. Over the years, the LA branch of the NCIS has always had Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) as their rock. Sam's life as a husband and father with his wife Michelle (Aunjanue Ellis) is a recurring theme throughout the series. However, there is tension between the dedicated NCIS agent and Michelle when she desires to return to the CIA.

There have been some seriously sad episodes throughout each series, but easily one of the worst has to be "Uncaged" from the "Los Angeles" franchise. In the Season 8 episode, the team scrambles to save Sam's wife Michelle after she's kidnapped and held hostage in exchange for the release of a dangerous criminal. Michelle is trapped in an airtight room, and the kidnappers inform Sam that she has eight hours of air left. If the team doesn't accede to their demands, she'll suffocate. It's a scary situation, but its outcome cements why it's one of the saddest "NCIS" episodes ever.

Uncaged puts Michelle in the spotlight

Coordinating with the FBI and the police, the NCIS team scour the city searching for Michelle. At the same time, Hetty (Linda Hunt) works to comply with the kidnapper's request — to see to the release of Tahir Khaled (Anslem Richardson), a terrorist and former dictator who is an old enemy of Sam. Michelle stays in contact with the NCIS, where she provides what little information she can regarding her whereabouts. The team eventually determines she's in a freezer or storage unit, but the search area is within 20,000 square kilometers. With four hours left, releasing Khaled is Michelle's only hope at survival. He's eventually freed, with the team forced to monitor him covertly while still searching for Michelle.

Sam pieces together that the kidnappers' van stayed within a mile of their home. As the authorities comb the area, Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) return to a location they'd previously searched for security camera footage, only to realize it's where Michelle is being held. The pair storm the building as Sam and Callen (Chris O'Donnell) race across town to join them, only to discover that Michelle is dead.

An utterly devastating loss

The episode's final scene has Sam cradling Michelle's body in his arms, completely bereft and shattered by his loss. While the next episode, "Unleashed," would see Sam on a roaring rampage of revenge that would result in Khaled's death, the wound it left on Sam and the rest of the NCIS Los Angeles was deep. Sam and Michelle were the sole stable relationship within "NCIS: Los Angeles," even if their appearances together were sparse. Their family life was a haven amidst the criminal investigations that often took the team into darkness time and again.

"Uncaged" proves to be the saddest episode of all because the team was panicked and so desperate to get Michelle back, the fact that the kidnapper's van hadn't gone more than a mile from her home wasn't discovered until it was too late to save her. It's a grim reminder that, sometimes, the good guys lose.