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Review: NCISLA “Matryoshka, Part 2” (S7E16)


The team is back in action in part two of “Matryoshka” except this time the venue has changed and Callen, Sam and Anna find themselves in Russia attempting to rescue Arkady and the imprisoned CIA operative. After six and a half years, a little more of Callen’s backstory is also revealed and we find out more as to why this man has been denied a first name for so long. The script by Harimoto and Gemmill (with a difference director, Terrence O’Hara) takes up where the team left off in search of the missing men.

Finding a way into the prison and getting Arkady out is not going to be easy and even Granger is worried and wants to join them in Russia to assist with the operation. Callen tells Anna breaking into Russian prisons is a first for the team, but what he’s really not sure of is why she is going through so much trouble for a ‘business associate’. It seems we have another character with daddy issues. Yet Callen understands and realizes that he has more in common with Anna than he first realizes, although we never do find out what’s behind the Arkady’s tenuous relationship. That was kind of left hanging for speculation.

After realizing they need a Plan B, Callen and Sam get Arkady moved to another prison with the help of a shady Russian official who needs a favor in return. Enter Kensi and Deeks and… Beale? Eric seems on top of his game in this episode and Granger is going to let him play along with the big boys this time. (Granger: You got five minutes. Go put on some pants.) Granger finds the whole thing amusing, Hetty is nervously unsettled and Deeks is getting a big kick out of having to take Eric along as a third wheel. (Deeks: Alright Serpico, yeah this is going to work out…) The three musketeers set off to find and detain the petty criminal that the Russians are seeking in return for Arkady and the missing CIA agent.

After rescuing Arkady and the CIA agent, Callen’s history with the agent is revealed and he leads them to a safe house and their mysterious benefactor, Garrison, and his collection of Matryoshka dolls. The significance of the dolls is not lost on Callen. Like most people, this man has many layers as well. He also recognizes the same coin that connects him to his father. Out of all the safe houses the CIA agent could have led them to it seems very convenient that it happens to be where Callen finds his dad. A little too easy after all these years but something tells me Hetty had a hand in all this. When Deeks argued about going to Russia to help, she immediately cut him off. She knew what would eventually take place. Other than Sam, Callen had to go it alone.

The rescue of Arkady was a pretty uneventful operation and in the end very easy, almost too easy. This whole story was written to get Callen back to Russia and to find a dramatic means to reconnect him with his father and allow the disclosure of his full name. (Not sure we needed a full two episodes for so little, but it is Callen’s story as we keep being told.) We go from one letter to three very romantic given names. Anything else would have been anti-climactic. I enjoyed Daniel J. Travanti’s role as papa Callen. I hope he has a chance to re-connect with his son again. But now that we found out one of the biggest Callen mysteries, is there any more to learn about this man? What do you think?

Memorable Moments

•Densi are trying desperately to get over to Russia to help Callen and Sam but Hetty is having none of it. It was strange to see Deeks refrain from humor as he tries to stand up to Hetty, but he was angry and not happy they weren’t all together on this mission. Nice scene.

Eric: “…and that’s why his job at Hallmark didn’t work out.” Brilliant one-liner from the Beale.

Callen: Maybe being broken is normal. Callen’s little talk with Anna is revealing. Not having a father is all he’s ever known. Maybe he’s finally come to accept that part of his past.

•Eric is pleased with himself in helping Densi bring down their Russian target. It’s obvious he still has a lot more to learn before he feels comfortable out in the field. Like Nell, I’m still not convinced he should be there though. I feel his skills are much too valuable to be out in the field as an agent. But what’s the alternative? He wants a challenge. I guess we can all identify with that but I’m not convinced, although they almost had me buying it until he pulled out the candy bar! But it’s not a joke, and his new career move should be taken seriously. I think keeping him in Ops allows him to maintain that whimsy and silliness we all love. I think it’s a bad move all around to put him out there…period.

•Can’t say I’m a big fan of Bar Paly either. She’s great to look at but a terrible actress. The scene with Sam and the harp was very strange and forced. Not sure what that was all about.

So was it worth the wait? We finally know Callen’s first name and a few more to boot! We want to know your reaction to this long-awaited reveal. Leave your comments below and let us know. Also don’t forget Deeks and Kensi will definitely have something more to say about this case in their Log and Journal and we also have another Edit of Week by @monique0429. We’ll see you back here again next week for a new episode!

Episode: “Matryoshka, Part 2”
Writer: Kyle Karimoto & R. Scott Gemmill
Director: Terrence O’Hara
Original Air Date: February 22, 2016


Diane Volpe is a Contributing Editor at

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About Diane (428 Articles)
Founder, Writer and Contributing Editor of wikiDeeks. Always wanted to put together a talented team of writers and graphic designers who loved NCISLA and Marty Deeks in particular! My dream came true! Hope you enjoy what we have created!

19 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Matryoshka, Part 2” (S7E16)

  1. I’m not a fan of Bar Paly either. Her half smile through every scene irritated me. I get it she’s excited to get a recurring role but act, dammit, act!
    The whole two-parter was structured very strangely as you touched upon. A vehicle to get to one name but unsubstantial. I think my mind wandered at some point and thought it would be a fun episode to watch where the four were incapacitated some how and Nell and Eric had to rescue them all. 🙂


  2. I promised myself to wait for the second part before commenting on either. Shouldn’t have. Part 1, especially the Kirkin and Densi scenes, was entertaining. I don’t see anything in Anna besides a great bod… acting not so much. Can’t see her as a regular. Part 2 left me flat (sorry everyone). Contrived all the way to identify Callen’s name, and then his father called him be what I recall as a diminutive (i.e. Grisha not Gregory) (Ana not Anastasia, etc). Oh, well. I found Ana’s concern about what Callen thought off key – one part of an operation in Moscow, one in LA, and now one again in near-Moscow does not result in “What do you think of me”. The harp was just out of the blue. I think Nell had the best lines in response to Granger’s comment on simulations… she’s right, you can reset a game, not so life. Do the writers not realize how big Russia is? A secret American base with private jets and a runway run by Seals????

    OK, now we know his name… big let down after 6+ years of teasing. the last 30 seconds, really?

    Will comment on Eric in the field in next rant. Supper calls!


    • Replying to myself so I can finish the thought Eric is a fantastic hacker/technical operator. He could not be replaced easily if something were to happen to him in the field… bullet, knife, whatever. No manager with any common sense is going to risk him. I do not understand why Granger was pushing for him… except for having the flash-bang in his cargo pants, he did not add to the field scene. The scene with him posing was just painful. Leave him to be the lovable geek who provides critical info to the team and perhaps use him (and Nell) occasionally when an op requires their expertise (Zero Days, Rocket Man, etc).

      I loved the way Deeks faced off on Hetty, although he was going to lose going in… she who has the gold makes the rules…also the way Nell snapped back at Granger.

      I have been pondering about why Hetty sent Callen and Sam alone and it looks like they are going to Africa next week alone. She sent Densi to pick up the Russian… a relatively safe task from what they knew. I wonder if there is a reason (hint, hint) that Kensi is being protected from high risk operations? Only the next 8 episodes will tell!


  3. I didn’t like this episode much either. I’ve never really cared about Callen and his “who am I?” drama. He has a name now but no details on why his father wasn’t a part of his life. Raincheck. As Norm stated, a bit of a let down. Part 1 with the Densi goodness and humor was much better.

    Ana was a lot softer this time, a little more two dimensional. I think they are setting up a relationship between her and Callen. I am apparently in the minority when I say I found her less irritating than her previous appearances.

    Beale in the field was funny, but too over the top. I don’t mind dorky Beale in Ops with his humor but in the field, it was too farcical. How would Sam ever give him good evals for that cartoonish portrayal of a field agent?

    Just my two cents.


    • He has a name, but I’m not convinced at this point that he has met his father… As I re-watched the escape and especially the last scene, I did not hear anyone specifically say that Garrison was his father. He obviously knew Callen’s father, but… Garrison named him as “Grisha” when he said goodbye “Dos Vidanya, Grisha Aleksandrovich Nikolaev” and said his mother wanted him to know where he came from… strange comment for a mother to make unless she knew she was going to be murdered… did she really die on that beach in Romania… conspiracy theorists, Unite!


  4. I didn’t think this was a very eventful two parter, other than the end, but it wasn’t the worst either. I kind of cringed whenever Ana smiled at Callen. She seems so phony and crass compared to Joelle, who actually sounded and behaved like a believable human being. The writers appear to be trying to soften Ana’s character since the first time she appeared, but using a harp to do it was just odd. Weird. Very weird. Got the feeling Sam doesn’t like her either.

    All that said, I was touched by the final scene between Callen and his long lost father. He stumbled over his words and really had no idea how to talk to the man and I found that very sweet. Not the aloof, tough guy in that moment. I actually got tears in my eyes when he heard his real name for the first time and I found it beautiful. My only regret for the scene was the handshake. Neither man willing to reach out to the other after all those years. It made me sad for them. Surely they should bring them together again…a season finale perhaps?


    • I agree, the end scene was very emotional. I enjoyed Callen finding out his name. I too thought a hug would have been apprpriate. I noticed even with the urgency in finding a safe house, Arkady wanted the hug from Anna and got it. Sam asking if Callen was good, was very touching.


  5. I also have never been that excited about Callen and his backstory. Long since over it. Others must feel same as ratings were down. And why do writers find it so hard to include Kensi and Deeks in Russia missions? Season finale they were barely used (and they left us for the summer after Kensi was snarky to Deeks) and last night they were left behind with couple of token scenes. Part I was much better with entire team involved!


    • Totally agree with you Kim, Norm and amyabn. I have not seen this episode (in Australia Season 7 has just began on TV so we are behind and have been watching online other episodes but not eager to see this one). I am sorry, but I am not a Callen fan. He just seems like the only person he cares about is Sam. He never has to answer for any thing he does but dosent like anyone else going off and doing their own thing. (sorry if I don’t mean to offend any Callen fans) It also annoys me that they leave out Densi when they go off on missions. However, I do hope there is some closure coming for his story. As most of you know I am a big Deeks and Densi fan so I am a bit biased!!


  6. I realize the show was created to be Callen’s journey but I would think by now the producers would get the big picture that the ratings go through the roof when the episode is Densi-centric or at least has a great deal of Deeks in it. I’ve talked to many NCIS LA fans outside of Facebook and Twitter and almost to a person, they are all crazy about Deeks and Kensi. Of course, they like all the stars and LL Cool J has a great following especially with the women but the chatter is still primarily about Densi. While I feel there is, of course, plenty of room for Callen and Sam, it is apparent that the show pulls in the viewers when they advertise Densi scenes. So, please, CBS and Shane Brennan, honor our requests. More Deeks’ episodes, thank you.


    • Well said!!!! Look at Internal Affairs and how that rated!


    • I wanted to add to this. I look at how the show markets itself and I get so frustrated. I’m a huge Densi fan and they are why I watch. I look at the official YouTube channel and most of their content is G and Sam. Matryoshka Part 1 was very funny and had a lot of great moments, but they didn’t post any of the funny stuff. Go back another week to Come Back, and they only post Kensi defending Jack at the apartment. The view counts on the official channel are all pretty low. Contrast that to Densi Lover’s channel (who I truly appreciate for capturing all the good Densi moments!) and the hits are WAY higher. The Twinkle twinkle scene from 7×12 has almost 50,000 views. The kiss at the end of Come Back (7×14) has over 60k views. I’m not advocating all Densi all the time-I enjoy the balanced episodes. I just think the writers and producers (purposely) over look what we are clamoring for. Rant over.


      • Densi need their own show!! I too love the Densi lovers you tube channel. (Sorry for commenting a few times but I love Deeks and Densi)


  7. I enjoyed part 1 a lot more than part 2. Part 1 featured the entire team, had humor, and lots of action. I found part 2 to be very slow, almost plodding. It seemed like the parts that should have been action like the prison break were just thrown away . I do think they softened Ana which is good . However, I found the scene with the harp as well as the scene with teleprompter Hetty to be unnecessary and just put there so Ana could be on screen . It would have been far better to use the time for the rest of the team in LA . I thought the final scene with Callen learning his name was good, but it took too long to get there. In the end this show has an incredible cast and they need to be used and the show fails when they do not utilize the characters/teams they have created . I know I am biased as a Deeks and Densi fan, but it really annoys me when Deeks and Kensi get 4 minutes and 30 seconds of airtime ( someone posted a youtube video with all their scenes) in a 44 minute episode.


  8. Boring episode except for Deeks and Kensi. Not a fan of Ana she was kind of creepy with her interactions with Callen. When I re-watched the episode it didn’t take long because I skipped all the Russian stuff.

    I’m glad this is finally over, but I’m afraid its really not!


  9. Thanks for your review.

    I liked some moments of this episode (which, on the whole, left me quite uninterested) even if I enjoyed much more Matryoshka part I. The reason, in my opinion, is very clear: the first was better balanced in characters’ contribution and the teamwork really made the difference.
    This time the two sub-plots – the one in Russia and the one in LA – seemed like two parallel lines that barely touched nor crossed their paths. One was supposed to be angsty and action-packed, the other one funny and a little bit absurd (Eric in the field didn’t convince me at all and I don’t understand why they can’t let him do what he does best: his job in OPS).

    Of the episode I really appreciated COD’s acting: the last scene was so beautifully performed and I was glad Callen found some closure (even if I fear many knots of his past are still tied).

    As a Deeks and Densi fan, I do my best not to be disappointed by the minuscule screen time my favorites were allowed to have. It’s a rule I’ve got used to: whenever there’s recently been an episode with good Densi scenes, I know for sure they (and fans with them) will be kind of punished the following episode as if they have done something wrong. I have the feeling that the writers – to whom I will always say thanks for having made Densi happen in such a realistic and adult way this season – keep being a little afraid that Densi will steal the scene to the other characters/actors in a show that has been and continues to be very clear about who deserves to be on the DVD covers!


  10. Thanks for the review! my opinion is a bit different, I like Callen’s story and the mistery about it. I think is intriguing to find out piece by piece all the truth. Now we know his real name and that his mother want to reconnect him to the origin. But we have to find out why his father don’t take care of him. I liked more the first episode but I enjoyed the second too, becouse of the great scene with COD. His acting transmit a lot of emotion and I appreciate it. In this season we had a good number of densi episodes respect the former, so I think It’s ok to have others where they aren’t the focus. I’d like to see more NERIC episodes actually!!! But in the end my opinionis that all the team make this show so good 🙂


  11. Gotta to admit, I really can’t review this episode fully, because I couldn’t get through it. I stopped after 10 minutes and then tried again the next day, but it bored me to tears. I like Callen, but he is my least fave of the main four and I don’t really care about his name. I was fine with it being mysterious and thought it would fit his character if he/we never knew. And they have to stop trying to make Ana happen and also Ana and Callen. I don’t buy it.

    Next week is probably Deeks and Kensi light too, but I won’t mind much because I really like the Sam and Jada storyline.

    I am not sure I like Eric in the field. I am afraid something bad is going to happen with him or to someone because he is not ready.


  12. Thank you for the review. While I liked every acts of regular characters in this episode, it was not good for me as a whole story. I’m interested in Callen’s storyline and COD’s acting was great, but felt like more questions were left to be answered for us.

    I understand they want Anna in the show like Arkady, but Bar Paly seemes to have very few facial expressions to me. And of course, the weird “What do you think of me?”, not trying to cover her exposed chest with a blanket despite her words “Freezing out here”, that harp scene where she unnecessarily told Sam “Instructors urged me to become professional”. Those scenes really destracted me. (I have a feeling that playing the harp was the skill Hetty needed for her assignment, but they could let Sam ask about how good she was first.)

    I enjoyed whole Eric scenes, but he’s older than Deeks, like four months, right? Isn’t he too old to start now? (But wait, as a tech, is he getting old, too? I’m not sure about that.) Maybe the mole thing was coming up and that’s why Granger wanted Eric to be ready? I’m glad that Nell said she was proud of him, but disappointed by the interruption. I’d love to hear how he couldn’t act as he’d been training and how Nell answered to that.

    Densi scenses were too short. But Deeks’ argument with Hetty was good as to showing us how much he was concerned about his team mates. And also Kensi’s interaction with Eric was good. It reminded me of “before Deeks” Kensi where she was with Dom and then Nate for his first field assignment.


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