With all the attention drawn by promo for “Humbug,” it might have been easy to overlook this week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. Yet writer Joseph C. Wilson and director Christine Moore came through with a solid hour filled with musings about fathers and sons. But seriously, about that promo! OK, sorry, I’ll focus on the job at hand. Let’s start with the plot…
The Story This Week
We open with a man skulking around a house in the dark. In true Joey Wilson fashion, he goes BOOM to kick off the credits. The team learns he was a paparazzo known for tangling with an NBA player, prompting Deeks and Kensi to pay the athlete a visit to check his alibi. It turns out that the victim wasn’t snooping for a scoop, but just checking on his Marine friend’s house while he was away on duty. The team rounds up said Marine Mike Johnson, his CIA fiancée Nicole (Nicole, really?) Borders, and his military school student son Devin, while they search for the killer. Nell ties a clue at the scene to a number of other crimes and, dun, dun, dun, we have a serial killer. The team uses Mike as bait to flush out killer number one, named Richard Mills. While Kensi and Deeks interrogate him, Sam and Callen pressure his mother about the whereabouts of his brother David, who’s squatting at an abandoned high school. They track him down and trick him into confessing the identity of his next victim. The team saves David’s target as well as his son from yet another BOOM before they call it a day and head out for a team dinner.
Fathers and Sons (and Daughters)
The night’s plot is propelled by the actions of two brothers whose murder spree seems to have been prompted by an abusive stepfather. The subject of the line between discipline and abuse carries throughout, as Sam questions the effect the military academy’s strict environment and Mike’s rather stern approach might have on Devin, at the same time no doubt wondering how his own son is faring at a similar institution.
That’s right, we get confirmation that Sam has a second child! A son who attends a military academy like the boys we meet in this episode, and just like Sam himself did. Not only that, but we get more delightful stories about Sam doing anything to make his daughter happy. She sure has him wrapped around her little finger. It was fun watching Callen try to guess which Disney character Sam had dressed up as for her birthday party, and an interesting contrast with the way he’s raising his son, who’s been sent away to a school where there will be no such coddling. We also find out that Sam’s father was also a military man, a colonel in the Marines. And again here, there’s quite the contrast between “Daddy Sam” and “Colonel Hardass.” The episode ends on a sweet note as Sam, affected by the day’s events, calls to check in with his dad. All this backstory was exactly what I would have imagined for Sam, given his strong character, disciplined nature, and of course, military background. It’s nice when the backstory actually doesn’t surprise, but just seems to make perfect sense for a character.
Another revealing aspect of this talk of fathers was Callen’s reaction. When Sam complained about the tough approach his father used on him, Callen countered that it showed that his dad cared. He didn’t even need to say that of course, he would have given anything to have a father who was present at all in his life. The two, with their polar opposite upbringings, seem so different, and yet somehow those differences just complement each other, making them perfect partners.
My only wish would have been similar reactions from or about Deeks or Kensi, given their own relationships with their fathers, both of which overlapped with some aspect of the case. I guess that’s where our 60-minute time limit causes problems. Still, with Sam’s dad the final piece of the puzzle, we can now see how hugely all four major characters have been impacted by the fathers in (or out of) their lives. Fathers, and identity, are the two themes that run most strongly through the entire series, with Callen’s quest for both at the show’s heart. This episode was a nice microcosm of all that. It actually got me wondering about Hetty’s father. I can’t begin to imagine what that relationship would have been like! It also got me thinking about these characters’ mothers, who in their own ways had equally powerful effects on their children. One of them- Deeks’- is still a little mysterious though. Maybe that particular hole will be filled later this season?
A Little Densi, Plus a Friend for Deeks!
This episode really only has one true Densi scene, when they go to Deeks’ best friend (?) Kip’s house to question him about his alibi. Although this scene confused me a bit (Would Densi really have watched him play an entire basketball game without Deeks mentioning his friendship? Wouldn’t Kip have been angrier that Deeks thought he might have murdered someone?), I decided to take my own advice and just go with it, and it was very enjoyable. I loved Kensi mouthing Deeks’ nickname after Kip called him “Marty Mar”- there’s no way that doesn’t come up again in the future. Kip’s white Bronco joke was excellent, as was the winking at Deeks in plain view of Kensi. And clearly Deeks has been talking to him quite a bit about his partner. The whole thing was pretty adorable. And while the scene is almost completely unnecessary to the plot, I appreciated that it was provided primarily to give us Densi fans a few fun moments with the duo. Very thoughtful, Joey Wilson!
One small but interesting scene comes when Deeks and Kensi are interrogating the unstable brother, Richard. Deeks grows frustrated with him rather quickly, when he’d probably be better served to show a little patience and understanding. Then, by the time Sam and Callen return with the mother, Deeks has worked his way up to threatening violence (Tell me where we’re going to find him, or I’m going to beat it out of you!). Now, the team threatens violence all the time with their suspects- Sam very calmly threatens to blow up the guy’s brother in the next scene. But something just felt off about Deeks here. My first take on it was that we’re seeing step two in a Season 6 plan to show Deeks losing his cool when interrogating suspects, a bit of foreshadowing for whatever “mistake” Deeks is going to make to get him sent back to LAPD. But today Joey Wilson tweeted that the tactics were “a show to prompt the mom to give up the other brother.” That actually makes sense, although the editing could probably have been better. But it then makes me wonder how Deeks felt to have to treat the clearly disturbed man so harshly. Can I get a post-ep fan fic please?
Kensi: Do you remember when I said he was pointing at us during the game?
Deeks: And you thought he wanted to hook up?
Kensi: Yeah, with you.
Deeks: Oh… nice.
Classic Deeks Marty Mar
Kip: Now, I’m getting back to the pool… Wanna join?
Deeks: No. No, no. ‘Cause I got better things to do than hang out with, like, half-naked oiled-up supernova-hot models all day long.
Kip: [Looks to Kensi] Mmm hmm. [Whispers] I bet you do. [Winks]
Deeks: Did you just-? She just saw that!
Kip: [Whispers] She’s bad!
Deeks: We gotta go.
- So now it’s not just Nell but Callen referring to Eric by his last name? I guess this is really a thing now.
- Wouldn’t it be hilarious to see Sam in some lederhosen?
- Again, I gotta gripe a little about Super Nell. Couldn’t she have just found out about the serial killer angle by conferring with the FBI? It seemed a mite too coincidental that she’d have been a consultant on one of the prior murders.
- I also found her impromptu kiss of “Beale” a little unwarranted. But maybe that’s just because I’m bitter that we never see that much affection between Densi. (At least until next week???)
- Nicole’s “They want to use you as bait to smoke this guy out,” and Callen’s “We’ll be with you every step of the way,” totally brought to mind key Deeks quotes from “Plan B” and “The Job.” Ah, Season 2, I miss you.
- Nice, creepy, serial killer touch with the repeated variations of the “Hush, Little Baby” lullabuy. I also liked the spray painted art at the abandoned school, including one telling piece where a large dark figure is about to stomp his giant foot onto a small figure with a halo, a sword, and his heart in his hand.
- It was a nice touch to have fatherless Callen telling bad guy David that he hadn’t saved the other boys by killing their fathers, he had ruined their lives by leaving them without a dad.
- When Sam dove into the pool, was I the only one to have a flashback to “Descent”?
- I hope neither Kensi nor Deeks paid for Hetty’s dinner. Who invited her, anyway? Yep, I’m still bitter about Season 5 Hetty.
Stay tuned this week for Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. I look forward to seeing what they take from their interaction with Kip. And come back next week for Di’s review of “Humbug.” I can’t wait to discuss what we may- or may not- get to see!
Title: “Reign Fall”
Writer: Joseph C. Wilson
Director: Christine Moore
Original Air Date: December 8, 2014