Can the 'NCIS: Los Angeles' Team Trust Sabatino?
Can the 'NCIS: Los Angeles' Team Trust Sabatino?
Meredith Jacobs
Meredith Jacobs
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
If there's one thing about CIA Officer Vostanik Sabatino that remains consistent whenever he shows up on NCIS: Los Angeles, it's that the team may or may not be able to trust him, his actions and his words when he does. But amidst the shadiness, he can be useful.

And that was true of the Sabatino we saw as the mole hunt ended (though he was working with those who were targeting the team and may or may not have been telling the truth when he said he didn't know they were the targets), and the Sabatino that helped Sam in the last two episodes of season 8, "Uncaged" and "Unleashed."

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His Introduction Set the Stage for What Was to Come

Really, the photo above says it all about the team's relationship with Sabatino. It would be only moments later in "Wanted" that Sam would learn that Sabatino was actually CIA. After all, their first interactions with Sabatino set the stage for every one that followed: they have to figure out what the truth is every time he opens his mouth because he could very well be lying.  

Then Sabatino popped up in Afghanistan when Kensi was sent there on assignment, and with Hetty warning her to be wary of those around her, it was impossible not to wonder what he was up to (and it didn't help that he was sneaking off.) 

It wasn't until the mole hunt hit its climax that the team would learn just how those days in Afghanistan would lead to them being targeted and Kensi kidnapped -- and the role Sabatino played in that. He embedded spyware in one of his emails to Kensi, and that's how the CIA got access to NCIS employee information and then targeted Carl. And when that was revealed, the reaction was more along the lines of, "well, of course" than "how could it have been him?" because that was the kind of character Sabatino had been established as by that point.

How Involved Was Sabatino in Going After the Team?

It took quite a while for NCIS: LA to wrap up its mole hunt, but by the time it did, the CIA was revealed to be behind it, and the faces of those officers involved were very familiar to the team. However, while Sabatino worked alongside Sharov after Hetty took Carl out of prison and into her custody, he later claimed that he didn't know Sharov and Ferris' endgame and was trying to bring them down. He also insisted that he didn't know the team was their targets until it was too late and he had no idea where Ferris was holding Kensi.

According to Sabatino, he was used, though he was quick to blame Hetty for sending Kensi to Afghanistan and kicking off the whole thing. Furthermore, he swore he wouldn't do anything to hurt Sam's family or anyone on the team, and he did seem to want to help them find Kensi (though his lead of a CIA safe house was a dead end.) Still, once they did find Kensi, he was quick to slip the cuffs they left him in and was gone by the time they returned to the car.

So, mustache aside at the time, maybe Sabatino can be trusted to make the right decisions when it comes down to it. Maybe he was telling the truth and he didn't know what the CIA had planned when he embedded that spyware in the email. Maybe he didn't know the team was targeted until it was too late. Or maybe he did, but he was telling the truth about wanting to take down Sharov and Ferris and in that situation, the team would be acceptable collateral damage to him.

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And the fact that he escaped when he had the chance wasn't surprising, even though it did put a mark in the "how truthful was Sabatino?" column. Did he leave because the CIA needed him to remain in play? Or was it simply that he knew the team wouldn't believe him so he figured he'd get out of there when he had the chance?

Maybe One Thing He Said Can Be Trusted...

Sabatino had claimed that he'd never do anything to hurt Sam's family (or anyone on the team), and his actions in "Uncaged" and "Unleashed" strongly suggested that might be true. After all, as he told Sam, he loved Michelle too, and he helped him, even though he thought Sam was just using him because, unlike the team, he's "expendable." (According to Sam, however, at the time, only Sam himself was expendable.)

Sabatino didn't have to transfer Zirov from prison to an empty warehouse for his version of "questioning." (A gunshot to the leg is very effective to get someone to talk.) He didn't have to go along with Sam when he went out to find Tahir in the season finale. He didn't have to call Callen to tell him where Sam was going after Sam left him cuffed to a recycling bin. But he did those things.

So yes, Sabatino is shady and will probably always be shady, but I can believe that he does care about Sam, his family and the team as much as he can in his position -- and I can believe that even if he was lying at all about whether or not he knew the team was targeted by his agency, he didn't want to see any of them get hurt.

What Should Come Next for Sabatino

It's more likely that Sabatino will pop up again than that he won't. And maybe when he does, it will be in the same capacity he has been, with the team wondering if they can trust him or not, possibly even with his role in the CIA going after the team still in question. (It would be surprising if that wasn't brought up, to be honest.)

But that can only continue on for so long. Sooner rather than later, Sabatino needs to be definitively put in either the "yes, the team can trust him and everything he said was true" or the "no, he was a complete liar in season 8 and it doesn't matter that he helped Sam and the team shouldn't trust him" group. This back-and-forth can only last for so long, and a choice has to be made so they can move forward without having to question him and his motives every time he appears.  

What do you think of Sabatino? Do you think he was telling the truth about not knowing the team was being targeted? Let us know in the comments!

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(Image courtesy of CBS)