'NCIS: New Orleans' Braces for a COVID Surge in Season 7 Premiere (RECAP)

Scott Bakula NCIS New Orleans Season 7 Premiere Pride
Spoiler Alert
Sam Lothridge/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 7 premiere of NCIS: New Orleans, "Something in the Air, Part 1."]

First of all, it must be said that CCH Pounder absolutely shines in NCIS: New Orleans' Season 7 premiere, as the Jefferson Parish Coroner witnesses firsthand the absolute devastation of COVID-19 on the city. Dr. Loretta Wade may be used to dealing with dead bodies, but everyday life (and the morgue) is nothing like this for her.

"Something in the Air, Part 1" takes place in the earlier days of the pandemic, a few weeks after Mardi Gras, with Pride (Scott Bakula) and his brother Jimmy (Jason Alan Carvell) taking care of the bar; Hannah (Necar Zadegan) trying to get to her daughter; and the team tackling a murder investigation with two of its members on a ship dealing with an outbreak.

Plus, Patton (Daryl "Chill" Mitchell) watches his goddaughter, Donna, while her mother, a nurse, works in New York. And that's easier said than done, considering the two argue about everything, from her going out to eat with friends versus ordering in, to him hacking her phone and social media (it's not hacking if her password is her favorite color, he argues to Pride).

In other words, the only easy day was yesterday.

Something's Not Quite Right...

As the episode opens, Pride steps out of the bar and heads to the car. We learn later, after the rest of the hour takes place prior to this moment, it's to pick up supplies that he and Jimmy are going to box up for local restaurant workers out of work due to the virus. This is on top of them paying their employees through the month, and longer if they can, despite having to close.

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Chelsea Field discusses the change for her character and running lines with her costar spouse Scott Bakula.

After Pride puts on a mask and hurries to the aid of a man who crashes his car into a fire hydrant, he calls 9-1-1, only to see...a coyote in the street? It scampers off.

Hannah's Future

After Hannah successfully took down Van Cleef, who had a problem with female field agents, the woman who took his old position checks in on her. The new deputy director tells Hannah — who's looking forward to her upcoming vacation and spending time with her daughter — that when she's back, she wants to "get together and talk about your future." It seems ominous, but Pride assures her that the new boss is a fan of Hannah's.

Meanwhile, Hannah spends the episode trying to get a flight first to Italy then England to get to her daughter. Her ex-husband, who has brought Naomi to his parents' place, assures her that he's taking care of their daughter. But it's still hard for her to not be with them, and Zadegan plays the heartbroken Hannah so well, putting on a brave face and assuring her daughter they'll see each other again.

CCH Pounder NCIS New Orleans Season 7 Premiere Loretta Wade

(CBS)

'I'm Healthy...I'm Here'

As one of the people seeing just how many bodies are coming in due to the pandemic, Wade is understandably urging everyone to wear masks, including an EMT, Roger, who makes multiple trips to the morgue. They'll survive this just like they made it through Hurricane Katrina in 2005, he says. Uh-oh, it's all too clear how this is going to end, especially as she continues to remind Roger to wear his mask all the time.

Pride is the one to encourage her to rest later on, but in her mind, if the virus isn't resting, why should she? "Every time I close my eyes, I see bodies rolling in. There are people who are still awake, working double and triple shifts. I’m healthy, I’m trained, I’m here," she says. And what if she can find something that could help, she adds. But "it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better," Pride says, having spoken with the Director earlier. "We're going to need all of our reserves to weather the storm."

Sebastian (Rob Kerkovich) is the one keeping a close eye on Wade (thanks to the proximity of the lab) and just as he's seeing about getting her a refrigerated truck for the overflow, she discovers that Roger's body is among the deceased.

A Pressure Cooker Out at Sea

To investigate the suspicious death of a Lt. Paula Cooke on a humanitarian ship run by Eternal Hope (which visits medical hotspots), Pride sends Gregorio (Vanessa Ferlito) and Carter (Charles Michael Davis). Sebastian makes a halfhearted offer to join the latter, but admits afterwards that he's glad Tammy didn't take him up on subbing in. He's out of patches to deal with his seasickness and is too scared to go into a pharmacy. As Pride sees it, Sebastian's not being overly paranoid, given what's on the news. And fortunately for the entire team, Sebastian's put together pandemic kits for them.

NCIS New Orleans Season 7 Premiere Team

(CBS)

On the ship, Gregorio and Carter meet the captain and Nancy, Eternal Hope's medical director. Though the assumption is Cooke jumped, the agents find blood and signs someone tried to clean it up. It wasn't an accident. Soon after, they spot two men running from the engineering storage room and open the door to discover three men, coughing, likely due to the coronavirus. Could Cooke have been killed because she knew about the sick crew hidden away so the ship could dock in New Orleans without having to quarantine?

Via a virtual autopsy with Wade, they confirm that Cooke was murdered; a wound on her head could only have been caused by a foreign object, which Sebastian, after analysis, speculates is a hand tool.

The two men who ran from the storage room report they saw Cooke down on the cargo deck arguing with someone, but it's not much to go on. And then someone calls for Pride and refuses to give a name. "I won't meet you," the person says. "I shouldn't even be on the phone. Whatever's happened on that ship, Lieutenant Cooke's not the first one to die. She won't be the last."

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The call came from a prepaid cell, which Patton eventually traces to Darin, a logistics manager at Eternal Hope who hasn't been to work in a couple days. When Sebastian and Hannah go to his home (with him insisting they properly mask up, with face shields first), they find him trying to go out the window. But he's coughing, a sign he's likely sick.

Back on the ship, Gregorio and Carter question the crew members, but it's when he steps away to get her a coffee that he finds a clue: wrenches hooked to the walls — and the one on the cargo deck has blood on it. But there's bad news: Due to the likelihood of COVID on the ship, they can't dock. Pride assures his agents he'll get them back, even if he has to take a boat himself to do it.

While looking into Eternal Hope's records, they find a discrepancy in the financials. As Jason, who's trying to get into the ICU to see Darin tells Pride, that's the money they've used to pay off corrupt governments, militias, and the like while operating overseas. But it looks like someone with Eternal Hope killed Cooke on the ship, so Gregorio and Carter's investigation continues. Nancy, however, cares more about her work trying to care for those who have fallen sick on board.

NCIS New Orleans Season 7 Premiere Jimmy Pride

(CBS)

With time on their hands, Gregorio and Carter head to the cargo deck to retrace Cooke's steps, only to find it on fire. And with that, we'll have to wait until Part 2 to find out what happens next.

NCIS: New Orleans, Sundays, 9/8c, CBS