Review: NCISLA “Black Budget” (S6E5)
An NCIS: Los Angeles script by Frank Military has come to carry with it certain expectations, among them a darker tone than your average NCIS:LA episode. Picture “Spoils of War,” “Descent/Ascension,” or even his very first script for the series, “Little Angels.” “Black Budget” was decidedly lighter fare, as we followed Sam and Callen on an expedition to Tijuana to track down a possible witness. Unfortunately for Deeks and Densi fans, the couple was largely left by the wayside back in L.A. First though, the plot…
The Story This Week
We open on what turns out to be the (curiously insecure) DOD West Coast Office of Accounting and Contracting, which handles funding information on covert operations for the Pacific Rim. Masked gunmen burst in and kill all but one of the workers on the weekend skeleton crew. They steal two servers, putting the lives of dozens of covert operatives at risk. The lone survivor, Milton Mulrooney, disappears into Mexico, and Sam and Callen are off to track him down. They trail him first to a brothel and then to the home of his fiancée and her family. Only it turns out he’s not an innocent witness, but the inside man working with a group of arms dealers. They’ve framed a Delta unit for stealing $41 million dollars in black ops money from under the noses of governmental oversight committees. With some help from Mulrooney’s future in-laws, Sam and Callen hold off the bad guys long enough for Granger and the real Delta unit to ride to their rescue. Oh, and Deeks and Kensi track down a couple of minor clues.
A Flourishing Bromance
The episode was really centered on Sam and Callen, whose bromance has been on full, glorious display since the season opener. The banter has never flowed more easily between them, and they both seem to be having lots of fun. Seeing Sam get into the “clown car” and then be startled by the automatic seatbelt was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on NCIS:LA. Perhaps it was karmic payback for all the times he made Deeks squeeze into the backseat of his Challenger. I think the only time I’ve laughed harder was in “The Livelong Day” when Kensi threw the frozen apple at Deeks’ head. One-liners flew in every scene with Sam and Callen, from the brothel (“’That’s not the only thing that’s healthy?’” “It’s a character!”), to the house with the bickering sisters (“That’s usually what fiancée means”), all while they defended everyone from the bad guys (“That means you like me, huh?” “That means I’m a better shot”).
Densi, Where Are You?
This is wikiDeeks, which means we’re supposed to train our attention on all things Deeks and Densi. Unfortunately Monday’s episode was pretty darn light on these two characters. I suppose every episode can’t be focused on these two, as much as I might prefer it that way. After all, LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnell do have top billing. But splitting the team up seemed to allow the couple to almost disappear into the background as all the action took place down in Mexico. I like to think that this is the writers evening out the screen time because they have some serious Deeks-heavy episodes coming down the line.
The duo did have a cute moment at the crime scene where Deeks shared his chips with Kensi, who didn’t hesitate to chow down once she was sure she wasn’t eating evidence. In one of the local CBS interviews done by Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah on Monday, they explained that the script called for Deeks to actually eat the evidence, but the NCIS advisor on-set wouldn’t allow such unprofessional behavior. I’m glad someone there is trying to support Competent Deeks!
I also liked the discussion of the $41 million theft. Kensi showed her Marine influences and defended the Delta unit’s honor, while Deeks was more open to accepting that anyone can have a dark side. And their scene in the bathroom totally reminded me of that delightful bathroom scene in “The Livelong Day,” as well as Kensi’s posing Deeks for forensic purposes with duct tape in “Disorder.”
- I’m not the biggest Callen fan in the world, but those sunglasses were a good look for him. On the other hand, what was up with Sam’s shirt? That’s a crazy undercover look!
- At least the clown car was good for something. Nice move from Callen to block the gate so they could escape the bad guys at the brothel.
- I gotta say, if we can have scantily clad “dancers” and show the effects of getting clubbed in the head with a machete, then I think a little affection between two loving adults shouldn’t scandalize anyone watching. Let’s go, Densi!
- I fear that Granger may be growing on me. Throughout the episode, he actually seemed to know whose team he was on.
- Did anyone else find the way Deeks practically whispered into Ouellet’s ear in the boatshed not so much threatening as it was sexy? I kinda wanted to trade places with the suspect.
- I do think Sam and Callen could have been smarter with their last 11 bullets. When the fake Delta team attacked the house, I couldn’t help but think about @thewingsofnight’s tumblr Bingo square of “Firefight, bad guys die, good guys escape unscathed.”
Kensi: Are you eating the crime scene?
Deeks: OK, first off, Mom, I’m wearing gloves.
Kensi: Deeks, people died here.
Deeks: Not from this food.
Kensi: Are you kidding me?
Deeks: If you have to know, they’re mine, and I got ‘em in a vending machine… And they’re delicious.
Kensi: [hesitating] Well give me some.
Deeks: Maybe they didn’t need the information, maybe they just needed it to be gone.
Kensi: So destroy information about a covert government operation …
Deeks: What, and then kill everybody that knows about it.
Kensi: Hmmm. You’re tickling my conspiracy bone.
Deeks: Oh, I didn’t even know you had a conspiracy bone, but I’m glad I tickled it.
Don’t worry, Diane will be back soon with her usual standout reviews. Next week’s “SEAL Hunter,” another Military script, could be another Densi-lite episode, although it does appear to have more potential to be in Military’s darker style. Tune in to find out, and then come back to wikiDeeks for our review. In the meantime, what did you think of “Black Budget”?
Title: “Black Budget”
Writers: Frank Military
Director: Dennis Smith
Original Air Date: October 27, 2014
Thank you as always for your reviews – I truly love them!
Is it my imagination though (or maybe just my impatient nature!) or has Densi been featuring a lot less in recent episodes?
Don’t get me wrong – I love NCIS LA and all the characters involved (Yes – even Granger!!). But since the start of Season 6, I have really felt “cheated” in terms of the Densi partnership and their involvement in the episodes.
In the past seasons, an episode may have focused more on a particular character or partnership but all actors were featured more or less in the same contributing time line in solving the issue at hand.
Now I feel as if though the writers are following a more exclusive character/partnership storyline. I felt as if even Eric and Nell got more air time than Densi and that Deeks and Kensi were purely brought into the episode to provide some extra comic relief without exhibiting some real value to the actual crime investigation?
I love the Densi moments; the bantering, the comic snippets, teasing and the flirting (absolutely, most certainly!!) but they are two valuable, highly skilled operatives and they must be employed in each episode as such, as well.
Am I the only one feeling like this?
Thanks Maxine! I agree that, aside from that one “Praesidium” scene, we haven’t gotten a lot of quality Densi. I think there have been other episodes where Sam and Callen took center stage, like the whole Mo arc in Season 2, for example. So I’m hoping that this is the calm before the Deeks storm that we all are so anxious to see. I do think you’re right, though, that they should have given Deeks and Kensi something a little important to do in their short scenes; they really didn’t add a whole lot to the investigation.
Thanks Karen, great review!!
I agree re: expectations with Frank Military but I didn’t feel this ep delivered – may be too high expectations?
There were too many implausibilities. It’s nice to know (from ECO & DR interviews this week) that their technical advisor took out the part about Deeks eating crime scene for implausibility. But there were too many others. I don’t buy the other agencies disarming American agents and giving them 6-shooters. I’ve seen my share of turf wars between people with egos but pushing it to the point of endangering another government agent’s life – don’t buy it. It doesn’t help that immediately preceding that interaction was the first time I’ve ever seen blatant evidence of the use of body doubles for Callen/Sam. I know they do it, I just don’t want to see it. CBS even used the shot online – the two guys in the open truck in Mexico – obviously not LL Cool J and COD. I wasn’t impressed with that. It should be invisible/seamless in my opinion. I also thought it was rather implausible that you’re getting sprayed with automatic weapon fire and manage to fend them off with 6-shooters. I’ll buy Hetty jumping out of a window into garbage bags (obvious body double on the fall there too) but there’s a difference between mythical and implausible and this just felt implausible. Plus (I will stop beefing after this) – I don’t need to see the guy with the knife to the head post-trauma. I can see that at work. And if you’re going to show it – needs to be realistic and that wasn’t. Check Bones for realistic graphic forensic content.
More Densi scenes might have helped, but I don’t know. I agree with Maxine that it felt like Deeks & Kensi were not well-used. That scene was just an add-on and it was the Sam/Callen show. Not great if you have an ensemble cast.
I did like Granger – I agree. Kind of growing on me. Glad they’re taking that slow – him suddenly being warm and fuzzy would be worse than full-on Densi several seasons ago.
My bottom line for this episode is just deep concern. I’m a pretty die-hard fan, but I found NCIS:NOLA was a much better episode this week. And there are about 7+million people who agreed with that according to the ratings. I love NCIS:LA and do not want this show to get cancelled. I am very concerned about the drop in ratings and I don’t think we can afford “filler” episodes where the full cast complement isn’t optimally utilized. I hope that CBS will either consider the ratings drop due to the time slot in their renewal-decision-making or move the show to a better slot so it can pick up the ratings again. Maybe my worry is premature, but I do love the show and was hoping for more than the stereotypical 7 season series. Hard to imagine that with the decreased ratings. Anyone have any reassuring thoughts?
Come on Brenda, tell us what you really think. 😉
Actually I thought about adding a new feature to the review called Biggest Plot Holes but decided against it. Every single week, I purposely choose to go along with the crazy implausibilities that I see. I try to think of the show as presenting a stylized reality; the solving the case in a single day element is a key feature. But I know that sometimes we reach a breaking point with the plot; last week when Mattias broke into Ops was one for me.
You are creeping me out with a vision of warm and fuzzy Granger- stop that!
Unless the numbers keep going down every week, I’m still confident that the show’s not going anywhere. I think as long as it does better than that time slot last season, CBS will be happy. The syndication deal they signed for the first 12 years (!) of the show should count for quite a lot, not to mention its overseas value.
Hmmmm…. so I guess it showed that I was prepping for a debate in my philosophy class and took a break to write this 😉
That machete scene was gruesome, even if it wasn’t realistic. God bless you for the work you do and for having the fortitude to do it, bpnp! That scene gave me a nightmare. I wasn’t expecting that kind of violence. The best part of the nightmare was when I explained to a person in the dream that I was only having the nightmare because of this scene from NCIS LA. It probably didn’t help that I had an unexpected blow to the face earlier in the year.
ECO nailed the choking cough while trying to talk with a mouthful of chips but I agree that scene was disappointing for Densi. Sure we want sexy, charming, and adorable but we also want meaningful and relevant.
It’s great that ECO and DR had all these press interviews so we could hear more about what had been planned for that scene and what to expect in future episodes.
Karen, I loved your titles of “A Flourishing Bromance” and “Densi, Where Are You?” Thanks for your review!
@Ju5tBecau5e, I agree with all your points, especially Brenda’s impressive fortitude. But hey, if you’re going to dream about NCIS:LA, you really need to work on the contents- there are so many lovelier subjects! 😉 And thanks, glad you enjoyed the subheadings- there wasn’t a whole lot to work with in this episode.
“I gotta say, if we can have scantily clad “dancers” and show the affects of getting clubbed in the head with a machete, then I think a little affection between two loving adults shouldn’t scandalize anyone watching. Let’s go, Densi!’
— amem to that !!!
‘Did anyone else find the way Deeks practically whispered into Ouellet’s ear in the boatshed not so much threatening as it was sexy? I kinda wanted to trade places with the suspect.’
— DITTO ! I thought the same thing !!! and probably, Kensi did it too!
Adriana, I’m not sure anyone has ever quoted me before. That is awesome, thanks!
Great review, Karen! I always enjoy your observations. YES, with the scantily clad dancers, they more than validate some onscreen PDA’s from Densi. The whisper in Ouellets ears…I will have to re-watch that but the image (yup, I want to trade places) is making my face feel a bit flushed… And yes, Granger is growing more and more on me. I was quite happy when he agreed about leaving the women any hypothetical money that would have been destroyed anyways. I liked how decisive he was about getting a Helo up in the air to go find G and Sam.
I did enjoy the strong women depicted. When the daughter spoke of predators and prey, I loved that G ( nka Gomer) was quick to respond, “let me teach you how to hunt”. The mom was awesome.
I loved that Kensi was quick to defend the most honorable men that she knows although the $41M did make me stop and think “maybe they did”. When the real “duster unit” showed up, I cheered! Loved the ending.
And although this episode was light on Densi, I know the future episodes will be heavier, so I was content watching G and Sam. The banter and partnership…it truly is a beautiful thing to watch when we do not have Densi. Love them together. All of the Densi that did appear was delightful to watch.
Again, I thoroughly enjoyed your review!
Hah, I’m loving that Gomer is spreading! But seriously, I started watching the show because I liked LL Cool J and COD, so it’s not terrible to watch their banter amidst the carnage. It’s just a little frustrating, but hopefully my patience will pay off in the form of a super Deeks-heavy episode or two to balance things out.
Thank you for this great review! I liked this episode even if I would prefer to see much Densi scene!Thank you for each contributor of Wikideeks! What an amazing work!
Excellent review as usual. I know there wasn’t much screen time for Kensi and Deeks, but I must say, Deeks looked incredible in this episode. So I just watched him when he was there…can eating potato chips be sexy??? Apparently yes when ECO is doing it. Okay…maybe just charming.
I thought this episode would have been slightly darker and more serious. It was almost a good old buddy movie, not that I didn’t enjoy that aspect. I agree that automatic weapons against a couple of six-shooters was pushing the realm of believability. These men are heroes, but this almost made them super heroes and not a scratch on them. I did like the ending…real Delta unit…the expected gift of the money…but don’t make me start liking Granger…not going to happen.
I’m not sure about sexy, but I’ll give you adorable with the chips. I agree about the super hero aspect. I’m afraid that’s just what this show is, with only occasional detours into a more realistic storyline. As much as some of us might want more grit (count me in!), I don’t know that we’ll ever see it. I just don’t think it’s part of the show’s DNA.
Wow, I thought Frank Military was the one writer who could be counted on to write Competent Deeks, so I am seriously discouraged to hear that he wrote a scene where Deeks eats the crime scene. Thank goodness for the NCIS advisor on set. Yet another example of where the writers try to be funny by making Deeks look foolish. Do they not understand that humor and competence are not mutually exclusive? Ugh.
I watch the show mainly for Deeks, a little bit for Sam and Granger. I used to be a hard-core fan, even through the worst of season 5. But I have to confess that there has not been a single episode this season that has not left me disappointed or worse. Mostly when the closing credits start to role, I find myself thinking ‘I lost an hour of sleep for *that*?’ I need a good reason to keep watching this show, and I need it soon rather than too late.
Jan I agree, it sometimes feels like Deeks is just an easy target for writers who can’t come up with something different. Hopefully November sweeps month will bring with it something worth sticking around for.