This week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles marked the show’s 200th hour, an impressive feat equaled by only 38 other dramas in TV history. So congratulations to the best cast and crew on TV, led by showrunner and this week’s writer, R. Scott Gemmill, and Executive Producer and this week’s director, John P. Kousakis. The episode was classic NCIS:LA in the way it showcased the entire team (maybe a little too well) even as it found time for two cool explosions.
Ghosts Still Haunt
The episode began with the highly unusual news that Sam had called in sick. Even more concerning, he had overindulged the previous evening. This is decidedly not what Sam does. It was tough to see him in so much pain as he struggled to cope with his first anniversary since Michelle’s death. (“It hurts every day. It doesn’t get any better.”) He looked so down throughout the episode, but his struggles felt real. Even Sam can’t always be the pillar of strength that he’s appeared to be so far this season, and I’m glad Gemmill gave us a glimpse into how he’s really doing. (I could, however, live without the awful footage of Michelle trapped in that freezer in the “Previously On” scenes at the beginning.)
Thankfully for Sam, Callen is watching out for him. It is, after all, what he does. From punching him in the stomach to expel its contents (seriously, is this something people do?), to wisely telling him, “It will [get better]. Not today or tomorrow, but one day,” he’s been exactly the friend Sam has needed. Oh, and it turns out Sam has another friend/drinking buddy, a sea lion named Otis who lives near his boat. He seems quite charming. But his appearance did make me think briefly of Monty- wouldn’t it have been nice to give him a cameo in the 200th episode?
Another ghost of sorts reappeared in the form of Ahmed Han Asakeem, the terrorist whose capture in Syria nearly cost Kensi her life. Last season in “Queen Pin” Kensi reassured Deeks that she was OK with what had happened, but here we see that she’s still harboring some anger. It was difficult to tell whether Asakeem was being sincere or manipulative when he encouraged Kensi to forgive him. I wished they hadn’t cut away so quickly from the interrogation. It felt like that scene had just gotten started and I’d have loved to see a longer conversation between them.
Deeks and Kensi did have a lovely follow-up scene on the beach, with Kensi struggling again with her anger and Deeks, in a line that recalled “Praesidium‘s” “You have to make peace with it,” telling her here, “Baby, you gotta let it go.” Daniela Ruah’s face told us everything we needed to know about the conflicted emotions running through Kensi here. Again, it would have been great to see a follow-up scene later that evening with the two of them- fan fic writers please? I’m also curious how Deeks, who in that same “Queen Pin” scene told Kensi he had “a thousand ways to crush Asakeem,” managed to do his own letting go. (Or might Mr. Gemmill have forgotten that earlier conversation?)
We also learned of a third ghost of sorts. In a revealing scene between Mosley and Sam, she shared that she has a son whose whereabouts are unknown. This was the first scene all year where I felt some emotion and depth from Nia Long. She was excellent here, finally revealing vulnerability and pain, not to mention showing understanding and support for Sam. It made me interested in her character and her backstory for the very first time.
A Lot of Plot
While the episode featured nice scenes for every member of the cast, that may also have been its main flaw. There were almost too many threads to keep track of. For in addition to the three storylines already mentioned, there was Hetty in Vietnam, the return of Chegwidden, Roberta and Guy’s brief appearance, the fate of poor little Enrique, plus Eric and
Penelope Nell and her sister bantering in Ops. It was too much for me and left me completely unable to follow the actual plot. Why did the bad guys shoot the Border Patrol officers? Why did they offer up Asakeem to men who might have wanted to kill him? Why did Aimon Shah agree to be a double agent so readily, and why did Callen believe he could be trusted to be let loose? Maybe if I watch it a second time it will all make sense.
Speaking of plot, we did learn a bit more about Hetty’s latest plight. Dare I say that making poor decisions and going rogue is sometimes what Hetty does? It hurt to watch Linda Hunt’s stunt double treated so roughly. I know Hetty is a force to be reckoned with, but Linda herself seems somewhat frail. I’m glad Chegwidden and Callen are on the case. It’s only a matter of time before they track her down in what I’m sure we’re all hoping is an exciting international team-centered mission.
Bringing the Funny
Supporting Kensi one hundred percent and using humor to relieve tension are what Deeks does. Both qualities were on full display this week. Watching the expressions of concern on his face as Asakeem’s info went up on the Ops screen told us exactly what Deeks was thinking. No one is as good as Eric Christian Olsen at letting his face do the talking. It’s a wonder he’s so good at undercover work when I often feel like I can read Deeks’ every thought. Then out in the hallway, we got a beautiful example of using humor to relieve tension when he joked about Nell and her sister being part of a government experiment. (“Is it just me or do they seem like some sort of product from a government cloning experiment? They’re like minions. How many are there? Are there more?”) He knew Kensi didn’t want Sam and Callen to delve deeper into her emotions and smoothly led them all to a change in topic. Even Sam laughed at his joke, no small accomplishment given the day he was having.
And humor for humor’s sake is also something Deeks’ character has provided since he joined the team. His ability to banter was front and center in Densi’s opening scene at the restaurant with his mom and her “trainer” Guy.
Roberta: And you’ve met my gunslinger son Martin.
Guy: How’s it going?
Deeks: Things are spectacular, Guy, thank you for asking about my well-being.
Roberta: Mmmkay, what looks good kids? I’m famished. Guy worked me out like a dog this morning.
Deeks: Oh my god, I’m never gonna get that out of my brain… Son of a Pop-tart, we gotta go, Babe, we got a case.
Kensi: Interesting, I didn’t get anything.
Deeks: No, it’s for my eyes only, it’s an XK Red 20.
Guy: Is something wrong?
Roberta: No, I told you, they’re secret agents, they do this stuff all the time. Kensi almost got herself killed last year getting Osama bin Laden.
Kensi: Oh, no.
Deeks: No, that was, we did not get, Osama bin Laden.
Kensi: That was like two thousand and-
Roberta: Well it’s one of the bin Ladens.
Deeks: Yeah, we got Shecky bin Laden, Mom, that’s who we got. Good old Shecky when he was ordering a lox plate at Nate ‘n Al’s, we took him down! We gotta go.
Roberta: Kensi, Honey, you don’t need to wait to get married to have children. I didn’t, and look!
Deeks: Yeah, look how well that turned out.
First of all, Guy seemed kinda sweet. Too bad Deeks is so freaked out that he can’t give him a chance. Kensi needs to talk him down from his rash reaction. Second, what I love about Deeks and Roberta together is the nature of their interaction. With Kensi, Deeks usually brings the jokes and she reacts to them. Sometimes she struggles to come up with an equally witty rejoinder and just rolls her eyes. It’s a charming dynamic with Deeks more times than not – at least until relatively recently – generating most of the conversation’s momentum. With Roberta, we have a character who is every bit Deeks’ equal in the wordplay department. She gives as good as she gets, maybe even better because she knows how to push Deeks’ buttons and seems to take great pleasure in pushing them. Seeing Deeks be the one who’s back on his heels, reacting rather than acting, is really fun to watch. I only wish the scene could have been longer. Both this scene and Gemmill’s “Party Crashers” scene at her house felt a little frenetic, as if all the banter was crammed into a short period of time with no opportunity left for them to actually communicate. What do their conversations look like when they spend more than 5 minutes together?
And wow, learning that Roberta became pregnant with Deeks before she was married is a small but very interesting bit of Deeks’ backstory. I would assume that the pregnancy was the reason Roberta and Gordon even got married, and I can see how an abusive man like him might have blamed the pregnancy, and by extension little Marty himself, for forcing him to tie the knot. It might even have totally derailed big plans that he had for his life and could easily have resulted in a lot of bitterness. Or maybe I’ve just read too many fanfics?
Don’t Forget about the Booms
What the show does better than any in television history is blow things up. We all love that gigantic explosion from “Sans Voir” that will forever be my favorite, but this show regularly creates impressive explosions thanks to the stellar stunt and effects crews. Of course for the 200th episode we needed at least one boom, and we actually got two. The first was nice but the second was seriously impressive. I feared for ECO’s stuntman (was it David Paul Olsen?) as he ran to the side. I had to rewind it to see how close the flames got to him. My one pet peeve is that they’ve really got to stop using the exact same parking lot for all their beach explosions. This is at least the third time they’ve blown something up there.
- Nope, there’s no way Kensi turns down Oreo cookie crusted French toast with whipped cream and berries.
- Isn’t Deeks the one most likely to need to pee by the side of the road? No way.
- Ashley Spillers, who played Nell’s sister Sydney, sure did bear a striking likeness to Renee Felice Smith. She even sounded like her. Stellar casting.
- Wow, the team really has worn down Mosley. She let them destroy the U.S. Marshal’s car and then gave them a Rolls Royce and a million dollars. This would not have happened a few episodes ago.
Tune in later this week for a new edition of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, plus the Drabble of the Week. And tell us what you thought of “This Is What We Do” in the Comments below. Did you enjoy the way Gemmill managed to feature every single character? What do you think about Roberta’s reveal about her pregnancy timing? Did you enjoy the booms as much as I did? And can you believe the season is one-third complete?