The latest NCIS: Los Angeles episode, “Se Murio el Payaso,” was actually filmed at the end of last season. Slated to run as Season 9’s third episode, it was unexpectedly moved up a week, presumably because some part of next week’s “Assets” has content disturbingly close to the awful recent events in Las Vegas. The good news for the showrunners and for those of us who obsess over continuity is that it appears to have been a smooth switch, largely because the episode, written by Kyle Harimoto and directed by James Tunnell, presented a solid, classic case of the week with little in the way of continuing stories.
Where’s the Densi?
As you all know, this website is focused on all things Detective Marty Deeks, and unfortunately this episode was quite short on such content. As a result, this review is
less rambling shorter than usual. Densi spent the entire episode at the boatshed, interrogating the Peruvian counterfeiter’s apparent daughter. Their scenes were fine, if somewhat lacking in energy. I never felt much spark coming from either of them towards the other, or even in their questioning of Lucila Marca/Claudia Diaz, played by Fernanda Andrade. Diaz’s intentions confused me a bit- she alternated so quickly from enticing Kensi to a life of crime to trying to convince them she wanted out of her life of crime to threatening to lawyer up to smug criminal that it was difficult for the scenes to gain any traction. And since – for a change! – no one was threatening to blow up Los Angeles, the intensity of Densi’s assignment dropped from its usual high level.
Familiar Faces Return
As much as I had hoped we’d never see Anna again, sure enough she popped back up. Her opening scene with Callen did work well, not because Bar Paly played her with any more nuance, but because of the adoring way Callen looked at her. Chris O’Donnell did a lovely job here communicating just how smitten Callen is with her. Throughout the episode Smirky Anna did seem slightly more comfortable in her scenes, but I still don’t see Paly having the range to play more dramatic scenes.
We also had the return of Secret Service Agent Nicole DeChamps, played by Marsha Thomason. She’s competent and likable, if slightly lacking in humor. On the other hand, the new and immediately appealing guest actor who played her overwatch detail, Steven Allerick as Tom Rhee, had more than enough charisma for them both. Can he please come back?
We always need guest stars to play the bad guys, and when they recur it’s usually a big plus. But the trouble with inviting so many guest stars to play the good guys is that the good guys we specifically tune in to watch each week don’t get a lot of screen time. Imagine how different this episode would have felt if Kensi had partnered with Callen, taking on the bad guys at the abandoned hotel, and Deeks had gone one-on-one with the interrogation (or vice versa). It’s a tricky balance, and I’m sure I’ve complained about the lack of good recurring characters. But perhaps we could ration them to one per episode?
Sam Goes UC
Sam’s undercover alias was one of the more interesting we’ve seen in a while. Episodes where the undercover role lasts for more than a single scene always seem just a bit more entertaining or suspenseful. Sam’s take on his undercover persona Brighton, a financier with an autism-spectrum disorder, was an approach we’ve never seen from him. Brighton’s talks with bad guy Michael Silva, played by Kip Pardue, were a refreshing twist on Sam’s more frequent arms dealer/drug dealer aliases. I found myself hanging on every word, waiting to see if Silva would buy his cover.
I also enjoyed Sam’s conversation with DeChamps at the condo, where he provided his advice on her “UC” career and she offered condolences on Michelle. It was a well done scene that, despite lacking any of the show’s trademark banter, gave the two temporary partners some nice bonding time. That paid off in Sam’s final scene where he insisted on accompanying her to the hospital- very sweet. Less sweet was that moment after the final shoot-out when Sam took a few seconds to catch his breath. I could only imagine he was thinking about how close he had come to leaving his children as orphans. I’m sure he’s chosen to keep putting his life in danger to make the world a safer place for his kids, but it can’t have been a decision he took lightly. I’d love to hear more about it someday.
- Any theories on the meaning of the title, which translates as “The Clown Died”? I’ve no idea. The only reference to a clown came from Agent Rhee, who apparently has an excellent story about Callen with a clown, the KGB and a cheetah. My best guess (and it’s a big stretch) is that it’s a reference to Claudia Diaz, who wasn’t a clown but rather a decoy whose cover was blown, but I’m sure you clever people have some much better ideas. Wouldn’t it have been fun if it had somehow involved Sam’s coulrophobia?
- It struck me as unusual to hear Kensi refer to Deeks as “Marty,” even if to another person. I know I’m in the minority, but I would absolutely love to see her call him that when they’re off the clock.
- I did like the exciting shoot-out on the boat, but I wasn’t a fan of the fight scene at the hotel. With so many quick cuts I had a hard time figuring out which man was Callen. (And couldn’t he and Anna have called in a little back-up before taking on the final group of counterfeiters?)
- It’s interesting that Mosley is apparently OK with Callen and Anna working together but not Deeks and Kensi. Does that mean her concern is limited to Deeks’ non-federal agent status rather than their relationship? Or was it more that Nia Long wasn’t yet on-board when this episode was filmed?
Be sure to check back later this week for new installments of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal plus the Drabble of the Week. And stay tuned for another new episode next week- the delayed “Assets.” In the meantime, what did you think of “Se Murio el Payaso”? When did the clown die and who killed him?