Another Season 6 episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, another adventure for Sam and Callen. I have to admit that this episode, written by Gil Grant and directed by Diana C. Valentine, left me feeling a little grumpy. I will explain…
…But First, The Plot
While Granger plans to meet an informant believed to know all about the first ISIS cell in the U.S., the rest of the team try to track down Sam and Callen, who’ve been kidnapped before the opening credits. Deeks and Kensi spend a good part of the day driving back and forth (twice!) between the Marina del Rey boathouse and Hooterville (otherwise known as Santa Clarita), but still find time to accompany Granger to his meet. Meanwhile, Sam and Callen seemingly escape from the bad guys’ hideout only to realize it’s a set-up designed to trick them into revealing the time and place of the all important meet. Luckily they are onto the ruse and turn the tables on said bad guys, leading to the deaths of nearly the entire ISIS cell.
But Seriously, the Plot?
Warning, grumpiness ahead: I really do my best to consistently overlook the multitude of plot holes I find in nearly every episode. This is a procedural, but its sense of hyper-reality, where cases get solved in a single day by nearly bulletproof agents, really can’t be held to the same standards as something like Law & Order. Unfortunately my enjoyment of this week’s episode was thrown off because of the way the story was told. The opening scene where Sam and Callen were kidnapped was a fantastic start. The turn from their casual banter to the realization that they’d been set up, ending with them lying unconscious in the road, was intense. Unfortunately, once they got working on their escape, that intensity dissipated. First, their banter got kicked into such a high gear so quickly that they didn’t really seem all that worried, so it made me feel like I didn’t have be all that worried either. And then, the way their “escape” was arranged for them seemed so clearly staged that I felt like I already knew how the rest of the hour would play out. I mean, a trap door, really? And a bag of tools, how convenient! So before Sam and Callen even met the fake NSA analyst, all the suspense had disappeared.
Let’s “Give Deeks Enough Credit”
But we’re not here to talk about plot, we’re here to talk about Deeks and Densi! I did enjoy Intense Deeks, worrying about his friends. The contrast between a somber Deeks (at least for a few scenes before he started bantering with Kensi again), and the seemingly indestructible Sam and Callen, just focused my attention on how special Deeks is to the show. He’s really the only one of the four leads who seems consistently human- fallible and vulnerable. He makes mistakes, as we’ll apparently be seeing in a few weeks, and he can be hurt, as we’ve seen several times in the past. I had to assume that during this episode, he was thinking about the last time Sam was kidnapped, remembering his own trauma and not wanting his friend (big brother?) to go through anything similar again. This vulnerability is one of the many reasons why Deeks is such a compelling character, and why he always stands out for me amongst this amazing cast. And that’s a tribute to Eric Christian Olsen’s acting, maybe even more than it is to the sometimes inconsistent writers.
Just for the record, you licked that Mama Guido plate clean.
Deeks may have shown his serious side, but he and Kensi definitely found plenty of time amidst their worry to banter and flirt. I liked their capture and interrogation of business management consultant/arms dealer Oscar Willits (well played by Stephen Monroe Taylor). He was another in a long line of colorful but somewhat clueless small-time criminals who find themselves in NCIS custody (“the very definition of limited,” indeed). Confused criminals make for frequently amusing scenes, and ECO and Daniela Ruah always handle them quite deftly.
There was one shocking development in this episode: contrary to a million fan fics, we learned last night that Deeks is not the good cook in our dynamic duo. These two really must survive on nothing but take-out! Still, it was sweet of Deeks to try to impress Kensi with his “cooking.” That’s surely the best way to Kensi’s heart after all. Unfortunately I bet she’ll be making him pay for deceiving her for some time to come- it’s never smart to lie to Kensi. And how amusing was it that Team Danger shares the same, apparently poor, taste in food? Between last week’s hug and this week’s Swedish nachos, are Deeks and Granger actually bonding? (“What’s up, Granger?”)
I’m going to share one additional bit more grumpiness, but let’s call it hopefulness instead… I am definitely enjoying the brief glimpses of Deeks and Kensi as a couple. The little glances and smiles they give each other, the wonderful softer version of their banter. But would it kill the showrunners to give us just a bit of physical contact? I’m not even asking for sexytimes (OK, yeah, I’m still asking for that). I just think it would be super sweet to see them give one another a reassuring squeeze of the hand, or an arm around a shoulder, when things are stressful. Maybe not at OPS, but when they’re out in the middle of nowhere all alone, it would be a nice touch.
- Poor Deeks, he just can’t seem to catch a break with his various schemes to improve his health and the well-being of everyone around him. I did like the Kensi Blye Guarantee, and thought Kensi broke the news to him relatively gently that his health food wasn’t so healthy.
- Poor Sam, first he’s stuck in the confined spaces of a submarine, now he’s trapped in a little tunnel. I do like the writers’ consistency in showing us his claustrophobia, and that there’s such a compelling reason behind it.
- Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan? Good to know, Eric, good to know. And by the way, it really is played with a goat carcass.
- There are other agents at OSP! Who knew from watching nearly every other episode since Renko died? The team sure could have used their help in particular in “Ascension,” “Traitor, ” “The 3rd Choir”…
- Where are you going? What is your plan here, that I’m going to slip and knock myself unconscious? Kensi, shoot him.
- Kensi: Oh Chef.
- Deeks: Oh Waitress.
- Kensi: Good thing there’s only three other customers in here… apparently with very low standards.
- Deeks: You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna make you some homemade alphabet soup so you can eat your words when you taste my real cooking.
Stayed tuned later this week for Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. And phillidi will be back in two weeks to review the much-anticipated “Expiration Date,” where hopefully we’ll finally get a bit more Deeks- and Densi-centric story (although the headline so far is “Sam gets shot”). Check out Tess DiCorsi’s preview the day before for more hints about what will happen. In the meantime, I hope you had a better experience with this episode than I did, and that all your comments will be less grumpy than mine!
Title: “Forest for the Trees”
Writer: Gil Grant
Director: Diana C. Valentine
Original Air Date: February 9, 2015