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Why Expiration Date Might Just Be The Saddest NCIS Episode

"NCIS: Los Angeles" hasn't yet reached the nineteen-season mark that parent series "NCIS" recently did, but at twelve seasons and 280 episodes, the show's long-running status indicates what a huge success the crime procedural has been for CBS. Last year's Season 12 premiere was even the highest-rated scripted program for that Sunday night (via Deadline).

The series has grown and kept a steady fanbase through beloved characters like breakout favorite Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) and Sam Hanna (LL Cool J). "NCIS: Los Angeles" also attracted viewers with its strong storytelling twists, and even its shatteringly sad moments for the team in the Office of Special Projects. Whether it was beloved characters dying or longtime couples ending their relationships, the show knew how audiences could stay glued to their seats for key episodes.

But this episode, made midway through the show's run, particularly struck fans as downright heartbreaking. This is arguably the saddest case of "NCIS: Los Angeles."

"Expiration Date" ends on a sad but beautiful note

Jemedar Thapa (Ernie Reyes Jr.) had already gotten fans on his side when he'd appeared in "The Frozen Lake". The Nepalese Gurkha soldier had helped Callen and Sam find a top secret thumb drive in that Season 5 episode, proving himself to be a wise, capable warrior with a strong code of honor.

In "Expiration Date," the Gurkha returned to aid the OSP team on a mission after Sam was shot by a sniper and subsequently hospitalized. Deeks got to know Thapa a bit more when he helped him with his relationship with Kensi, while discussing his own home and family. And in a bit of foreshadowing, the soldier confessed to Deeks that all warriors carried something in their heart: an expiration date, the day they know they'll die. But as Thapa tells his friend, "all we really need to be... is ready."

That's really what makes Jemedar taking a bullet and saving Sam from rogue Gurkhas so wrenching. After the dying man tells Deeks to look for him in other people's smiles, the agent finally understands what he means later when he looks at Kensi's happy face. Thapa always knew he had an expiration date but still taught Deeks to value life and the people he loved.