Review: NCISLA “This Is What We Do” (S9E08)
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?
Thank you for your great review Karen. I have really enjoyed these last two episodes and I hope it is a sign that also the rest of the season will be as great. Congratulations to the cast and crew for these 200 episodes and thank you Wikideeks staff and everyone here, the comments and discussion here has made watching the show even more enjoyable.
I loved Linda Hunt in this episode and her scenes reminded me how talented she is, I hope Hetty comes back soon and I really hope that she does come back, (now that Hetty has officially retired I am interested in how that is solved when she comes back). Chegwidden’s scene was a bit short, but I hope he will return later. I agree with Karen about Sydney, the casting was great and that she really looked like Nell’s sister, I think that when I watch this episode again their backstory will make more sense to me personally (I think I missed some things now that I watched it for the first time), but I enjoyed this episode so much that it didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the booms, especially when none of the team members got hurt.
I think this was my favorite Mosley episode so far,too, but I am still hoping for something more when it comes to her character, I have to admit that the son reveal reminded me of Granger (and his daughter reveal). This episode reminded me how much I miss Michelle (and I totally agree with Karen about that “previously on” Michelle footage), I think I will always be in denial when it comes to her death and wishing for some kind of “tv show miracle”.
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Thanks AnneS! What a great observation about Mosley’s child being similar to Granger’s missing daughter. I hadn’t thought about it. I really liked her. Maybe she’ll make a return to the show at some point in the future, another way for everyone to remember Miguel Ferrer.
I have only watched this episode once, so it was nice to read your review, Karen. You helped me remember some of the bits that got lost while I tried to make sense of the plot. It was sort of a mishmash, but I did like all the hints dropped along the way. I do agree the scene at breakfast with Mama Deeks seemed rushed, but I think that’s because Deeks can’t take her craziness for very long. That he was born before Roberta was married was a very interesting reveal, and made me wonder if Gordon was actually his father. However, your thought, that her pregnancy forced them to marry is a good one, but I wouldn’t put it past Deeks’ mama to be pregnant when she got married, but didn’t tell Gordon. That kind of surprise could cause all sorts of problems, especially for a little boy that isn’t really his. I wonder how long we will have to wait to find out the answer?
Loved Sam and Otis. At least he wasn’t drinking alone. Sam carried his sadness all through the episode and it was hard to watch, but incredibly real. It’s nice to see the character be something other than strong and almost perfect.
I am really into the whole Hetty in Vietnam arc. I agree it was hard to watch her treated so badly, but her threat to put a bullet in the bad guy’s head made me look forward to how that might happen. I’m hoping they don’t carry this arc all the way to the end of the season. I’m hoping the whole team gets to go to Vietnam to rescue her sometime before that, because I’m also hoping we get a season ending wedding. We could all you a few rainbows right about now.
Ooh, Lindy, I love the way your mind works. Those are some excellent ideas about Roberta’s pregnancy. I’m worried it might be too much to hope that we ever get the answers!
Thanks, Karen, for your great review of episode number 200. What an achievement for a show!
Congratulations to NCIS:LA showrunners, cast, crew, writers, for this important milestone. 100 episodes don’t happen by chance, but I think they are the result of a great combination of passion, dedication, hard work, enthusiasm, sacrifice, right choices at the right time, great people and, I guess, a pinch of luck too. Can I also add amazing and very loyal fans?
Here’s to many more seasons of my favorite show!
This week the episode had a lot of ingredients, something for everyone (too much?). What I especially liked was that all the characters had some moments to shine and none of them was left behind.
I enjoyed the Jones sisters’ interactions and would like to know more about them in the future.
I realized how much I still miss Michelle and I can’t forget what the authors did to her.
I can totally understand what Sam is going through and I was glad that Callen was there to help.
I can also understand how Kensi may feel seeing Asakeem again: we are always told that time heals everything, and it is basically true, but maybe some wounds are not that easy to heal.
Kensi is lucky to have Deeks by her side, his presence was so important in the scene on the beach, just touching her shoulder we could see she was reassured and comforted.
I enjoyed the breakfast date with Mama Deeks and Guy, but I would have liked it to last a little longer. Deeks is adorable when his mother makes him uncomfortable! How I wish we could just have a scene in another episode, though, only with Roberta and Kensi, maybe that is the only way we could get to know more about Marty.
Even Mosley this week seemed a little more human. I do hope the authors have seen what they were doing to her and have decided she could be given a better chance, but I’m still undecided if her character can really work.
I can’t wait to see how the Hetty-in-Vietnam plot will unfold, hopefully with a mission that involves all the team.
And more Otis, please, he was the real star!
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Sorry for my typo: I meant 200 episodes, obviously!
One thing that bugged me that I forgot to mention…I thought Deeks should have been a lot angrier with Azakeem than he was. It just didn’t seem right considering how pissed he was the last time he saw him. The man was responsible for Kensi being paralyzed. Surely Deeks hasn’t forgiven him for that.
First of all, a great review, Karen. I always look forward to your recap and opinions. I loved all the Deeks’ scenes, and Sam and his new best friend Otis, well, it’s almost better than a dog. My heart went out to Sam. Important dates after the death of a loved one are hard, almost unbearable.
I’m really sorry, though, that Mosely and her son didn’t tug on my heartstrings. The writers were too ambiguous. If the son had died, then I can truly feel her pain. If, on the other hand, her son is with his father because she deemed her career to be too important to raise her child, then I have no sympathy whatsoever with her. She isn’t the director of NCIS, nor is she Sec/Nav., not that those would be a good reason to abandon her child. She is merely an Assistant Director which doesn’t mean second in command. It’s like being a Deputy Chief of Police. My department has six of them and we’re not quite 3000 sworn officers. I would presume there are at least that many NCIS officers, probably more, and there would more than likely be at the very least six Assistant Directors. Female Chiefs of Police have not given up their children along the way to the top, female CEO’s haven’t either. Maybe I’m reading more into this than was meant but I do not like the character at all, and although she showed some compassion for Sam, I didn’t buy into the inference that she was a mother. I certainly hope they don’t come up with the old canard that because of her job her child was safer with the father. I can and do suspend belief on many police and investigation procedurals but I don’t think I could if that ends up being the narrative.
With a few words from Roberta, we have new insight into Brandel’s abuse of both Deeks and his mother. Nothing excuses the violence though. Eagerly awaiting a “Deeks, M.” episode to explain this and other things that have shaped the character of our favorite character.
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Thanks Mistri! My immediate thought about Mosley’s son was that his father had abducted him and disappeared, but I’ve since seen others point out that they could also be in Witness Protection. I’m sure we’ll get to find out all about it in the “Mosley, S.” episode that is sure to run before we get to “Deeks, M.” Wow, I seem to be feeling a little bitter tonight!
Hi Karen, great review as usual. For me the beginning of season 9 was a little rocky, but I’m glad to say I have really enjoyed the last 3 episodes and I think the show is getting back on track. This week was perfect for me because it had the balance that made me fall in love with NCISLA in the first place: great team scenes and interactions (including some within the partners, with all main 4, and finally one of the wonder twins), strong action (and explosions), some comedy, a little drama, lots of emotion, and every character had his/her time to shine. I also enjoyed all the mentions to past events, the continual progression of Sam’s grieving process and the return of various characters from the past.
One thing that helped a lot for me, and I’m even surprising myself by saying this, is that I really liked Mosley in this ep, making it two weeks in a row. I appreciated getting that first insight into her backstory and would like to know more. As for my favorite character, I really enjoyed Deeks and all his funny lines; I loved the opening scene with Roberta and Guy, the reference to the engagement, and all the little Densi moments that we got throughout the ep. I was a bit worried after the first couple of eps but I can now say I’m really enjoying this season and see potential for the future. I’m excited for Hetty’s storyline as I think they’re setting it up nicely for the day it finally crosses with the team back in LA.
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Nothing special in this episode … Looks like the showrunners pull up every SUPER GUEST START to atleast save the ratings.