Special Ops Lioness Episode 1 Recap: Sacrificial Soldiers

Image Credit: Lynsey Addario / Paramount+

Paramount+’s ‘Special Ops: Lioness’ features Zoe Saldaña as Joe, the Special Ops squad leader working for the CIA. The series premiere episode follows Joe as she deals with the aftermath of a failed operation. Joe searches for a new recruit for her next mission and comes in contact with Cruz, a young Marine who must form a close friendship with the daughter of a suspected terrorist. As Cruz joins Joe’s squad, she is thrust into a new world where all her skills and life experiences will be tested. The ending of ‘Special Ops: Lioness’ episode 1 sets Cruz on a dangerous mission, one she might not survive. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Special Ops: Lioness Episode 1 Recap

The first episode, titled ‘Sacrificial Soldiers,’ opens with Joe (Zoe Saldaña), the leader of CIA’s Lioness program, leading a mission in Syria. She has set up surveillance on a high-value target who is suspected of having ties with ISIL and terrorists. However, Joe’s mission is compromised after her asset, a young woman she had planted amongst the women with ties to ISIL. The asset’s cover is blown when her cross tattoo is revealed, and she is forced to hide. Joe sets up an extraction operation with her team but quickly realizes that the odds of safely rescuing her asset are slim. As a result, she orders a drone strike that levels the ISIL hideout, killing her asset.

Elsewhere, Cruz Manuelos (Laysla De Oliveira of ‘Locke & Key‘) works at a burger joint while living with her abusive boyfriend. After an altercation with her boyfriend turns violent, Cruz assaults him before fleeing their house. As her boyfriend pursues Cruz, she stumbles into a US Marine Corps recruitment office where the Marine protects her. Soon, Cruz decides to join the Marines and undergoes a rigorous test, which she aces. It is revealed that Cruz’s mother died when she was in high school, and she never knew her father. Consequently, Cruz dropped out and became a stripper. However, she has an extremely promising career as a Marine because of her test results.

Meanwhile, Joe returns home to the United States after her failed mission. She faces a rough debriefing by her seniors, Byron and Kaitlyn. Her seniors question Joe’s decision to order a drone strike. However, Joe defends herself by arguing that the situation was compromised. Her asset’s identity being exposed would have reflected badly on the CIA if she had been tortured and interrogated by ISIL. Later, Joe visits her husband and children, leading to an awkward dinner because of her sudden arrival. Despite the obviously strained relationship between Joe and her son, her husband, Neil, supports Joe and her career choices.

Joe searches for a new recruit to join her special squad that tries to capture or eliminate several high-value targets for the CIA. She is introduced to Cruz, who is seeking an opportunity matching her capability and talent. After a rough introduction, Joe recruits Cruz for her next mission. She explains to Cruz that her squad places assets close to female family members of high-value targets to create openings. Cruz’s mission will be to befriend Aliyah Amrohi, the daughter of Kamal Amrohi, a rich businessman from Iraq with ties to terrorist organizations such as ISIL. Cruz is also introduced to the rest of Joe’s team, including Bobby, Tucker, Randy, Tex, and Two Cups. As a result, Cruz is quickly thrust into the high-octane and dense world of espionage at short notice.

Special Ops: Lioness Episode 1 Ending: Does Cruz Befriend Aliyah?

The episode’s final act sees Cruz being recruited by Joe to befriend Aliyah, the daughter of a man suspected of having ties with terrorists. Joe gives Cruz a profile of Aliyah, who likes to spend her father’s money and lives in Kuwait. Joe explains that by placing Cruz close to Aliyah, she hopes to gain more information about the latter’s father and deduce a way of neutralizing him. Although Cruz claims she is ready to undertake the new assignment, she has no idea how mending her new job can be. The first hint of Cruz’s inexperience in the field is seen when she gets drunk with her new teammates and is forced into action at a moment’s notice while recovering from a hangover.

Joe guides Cruz to a local shopping center where Aliyah is spotted. Joe instructs Cruz to use her Syrian background to befriend Aliyah but does not share the target’s name. Joe sends in Cruz completely blind, believing any knowledge about her target could jeopardize their mission. Initially, Cruz is baffled when thrown into field work without proper guidance. However, Cruz proves she is a capable asset when she smartly deals with Aliyah. Cruz draws in Aliyah with a simple conversation that forces Aliyah to take an interest in her.

In the final moments, Aliyah and Cruz leave the complex together, hinting that Cruz has successfully completed the first task on her new mission. However, Cruz is completely oblivious that she is the proverbial “Sacrificial Soldier” in Joe’s larger plan. Joe does not share any emotional link with her assets, highlighted when she claims that it is Cruz’s job to protect herself if her cover is blown. Moreover, Joe is responsible for the death of her previous asset, seemingly replaced with Cruz. Hence, Cruz will soon be forced to face the harsh realities of her new job, and the dynamics between Cruz and Joe could quickly change when the former learns about the failure of Joe’s previous mission.

Read More: Where is Special Ops: Lioness Filmed?