As the series’ first episode begins, Hayes is in a mandated therapy session rubbing his upper leg nervously while being asked about a past mission. Hayes tells the therapist she most likely doesn’t have clearance to hear about his mission, but she informs him she knows what they were after and what happened to one of his men, Nate Massey (Daniel Gillies).
In a flashback, we learn that after completing the mission Nate convinced Hayes to go and check on a safe and see if there was any good intelligence on other terrorists and contacts. Staying to investigate the safe leads to the team taking fire by other hostiles nearby and Nate is killed. Nate’s blood is first seen by Hayes after it splashed on his upper leg. As the therapist tries to get Hayes to talk about his family and about how he’s still in touch with Nate’s widow and son, Hayes tells her their time is up and he has fulfilled his obligation. He expects her to sign off on his mandatory therapy visit.
Hayes attends Nate’s son’s communion, hugs his daughter, Emma (Kerri Medders), and briefly talks to his wife, Alana (Michaela McManus), who he’s separated from. As he’s letting Alana know he’s going to try and make it to Emma’s singing recital, he – and the rest of the team – receive the news they have another mission.
Back at headquarters, Hayes’ team is briefed by CIA analyst Mandy Ellis (Jessica Pare) about a high-level terrorist leader named Abu Samir Al Masri (Ahmed Lucan) who’s in Liberia making a deal. The CIA wants him taken alive to be interrogated. It’s not long after the briefing Hayes learns a new rookie SEAL named Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot) has been assigned to the mission. This is a sore point for Hayes since Spenser’s father is a veteran SEAL and wrote a book on some of his missions, a book most SEALs look down on.
Once in Liberia, Hayes and his team set up a ground recon and posing as locals wearing the local wardrobe, they can confirm the intel on Samir is correct. Things become much more complicated when during the recon the group discover Samir has an American female hostage and his business seems to be to sell her. Ellis knows the hostage and informs her team that she’s Stacy Marshall (Julie Michaels) and that she’s a non-profit worker who was abducted a year ago in the Sudan.
The higher brass ask if they can accomplish both rescuing Marshall and taking Samir prisoner. Hayes assures them he and his team can handle it. Seeing Ellis is a bit more concerned than usual, Hayes pulls up a chair to talk to her and she confides in him that she almost caught Samir two years ago but had to stand down on the operation to protect an asset. Days later Samir blew up a school bus and has since killed many people, all of whom she feels partially responsible for. Hayes tells Ellis she didn’t have a choice and reassures her his team can get both jobs done.
On the chopper ride in, one of the helicopters has technical problems and must return to base which changes the orders. Now it’s only a rescue mission to save Marshall since they’re down part of their manpower. Hayes and his team are able to find and save Marshall fairly quickly, so Hayes decides to go looking for Samir with SEAL Team Member Ray (Neil Brown Jr.) and the rookie Spenser while the rest of the team gets Marshall back to the chopper. The team locates a tunnel that their trained canine Severus leads them into. Thinking it’s secure, Hayes tells Spenser to stand guard and not to enter while they move in to find Samir.
While standing post, Spenser sees a hostile in the tunnel and takes him out. He then attempts to warn Hayes and Ray but can’t reach them on their radios. Spenser disobeys his orders and enters the tunnel to help Hayes and Ray who, it turns out, have found Samir wearing a bomb vest standing in the heart of the tunnel. Samir is holding a detonating switch and Ray doesn’t have a clear shot but Hayes believes he can talk Samir down because Ellis is convinced Samir will chose capture over becoming a martyr. Just as Hayes is beginning to get through to Samir, Spenser shoots Samir in the head killing him instantly.
Headed back to base, Hayes grabs Spenser and tells him Samir’s thumb was not on the detonating switch. Ray gets between the two men and Hayes demands Spenser walk him through what he went down. Spenser tells Hayes about killing the hostile just inside the tunnel and that he was afraid they would run into more. When he couldn’t get through to them on their coms, he went in to help. When he saw Samir with the bomb vest, he figured they didn’t have a shot so he took him out. Later, Ray tells Hayes he didn’t have a shot and that it was a good kill. The two friends argue, but in the end Hayes signs off on taking out Samir.
The last scene shows Hayes arriving late to his daughter’s recital while she and her group are singing. Emma sees her father and her face lights up as she smiles at him. Hayes sits down, also smiling, to watch his daughter but not in the seat saved for him by his wife who looks over at him and sees him rubbing his leg with a look of concern on his face.
SEAL Team Episode Premiere Recap:
Suspenseful and well-written, CBS’s SEAL Team is a solid action drama focusing on America’s elite military unit and the dangerous and complicated missions they take on. David Boreanaz carries the show as Hayes, the team leader who’s already clearly suffering from PTSD but still manages to get the job done and look out for his men. His performance is noteworthy for how he underplays how the death of his comrade in arms ways heavily on him and how the break-up of his marriage is also taking a toll.
The rest of the cast remain fairly underdeveloped, with the focus being on Hayes for most of the episode. Jessica Pare is a good fit in the role of CIA analyst Ellis who trusts Hayes and his team with her life and with the success of the highly classified missions. The scene where she opens up to Hayes and tells him how capturing Samir has become personal to her demonstrates both the trust and the growing friendship between the two professionals.
With an unwanted rookie joining the team and Hayes not ready to deal with his growing PTSD, it should be interesting to see the direction SEAL Team takes over its first season.