Over the years, the folks at NCIS: Los Angeles have taken their holiday episode seriously. And by “seriously,” I mean they have made a real effort to give us an episode that’s a bit jollier, a little sillier, than usual. This year’s offering, “All Is Bright,” largely fits that mold. Written by Chad Mazero and directed by Ruba Nadda, it provided plenty of holiday fluff. But it also revealed lots of heart, serving up a lovely reminder to cherish the family- however you define it- that surrounds us at this time of year.
Absence Makes the Heart Ache
I was moved by the theme of missing loved ones that played out throughout the episode. First in all our hearts was likely Sam and his kids missing Michelle. Thinking about the Hanna family certainly gave the episode a bittersweet edge. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to be without one’s spouse at Christmas. LL Cool J has played a grieving Sam beautifully throughout Season 9, and this episode was no exception. He’s lost, still adrift like when the season started, struggling to figure out what his life should be now that he’s alone. Goofy but sweet Eric provided unexpected support (is this the first time these two have ever partnered up?), and Callen provided expected support, just as he has all season.
But Sam wasn’t the only character missing a loved one. We also caught Mosley thinking sad thoughts about her missing son, and maybe her missing husband. I’m still not loving this character. Watching her gradually loosen up hasn’t been as satisfying as the showrunners have likely intended. It’s just made me more suspicious that I’m never going to warm up to her. She’s actually made me miss Hetty, and that’s something I wasn’t sure was possible!
Even the bad guy Fuentes was missing a loved one: he just couldn’t bear to be away from his son for another moment, prompting his escape from prison. Did anything about this plot really feel realistic? (A three-minute power outage makes escape possible? The sister goes to all that trouble setting up the escape only to give away her brother’s location?) But holiday episodes aren’t about plot logic, they’re about heart and fun. Watching the team in those smart white waiter’s uniforms take down the bad guys was fun. Seeing Callen give Fuentes a few more minutes with his son was sweet.
We also watched Callen track down Finn. I find the whole Callen-Finn storyline a little forced, as if the two of them are going to start their own spin-off where they steal from the rich and give to the poor. Still, the idea that they wanted to bring some holiday cheer to kids who had no parents fit well with the episode’s theme. It also served as a fitting reminder of what this show’s been about since its inception, a man searching for family. Ironically, Callen seems to be spending more of the holidays with the family he’s made for himself than he is with the biological family he only recently discovered.
Finally we had Nell reminding us that parents and children weren’t the only loved ones missing. Hetty and Granger’s absences were definitely palpable, and the scene where Nell told Hidoko about why the holiday celebration meant so much was the episode’s most emotional, particularly given Miguel Ferrer’s loss. “This family’s been through a lot lately,” indeed. This episode showed Nell at her most likable- not infallible but smart and determined, and sweet and thoughtful. The team’s quiet celebration at episode’s end (amidst some truly outstanding holiday decorations) felt exactly right for a family that’s still together even as they’ve endured so much hardship and heartache in the last year.
Look Who’s the Comedian
The episode wasn’t as serious as its overall theme might imply. The dialog throughout was nicely written. There was humor- merriment even- but it never felt over the top. Right from the start, we had some funny stuff with Drama Camp Beale, who “dabbled in the arts.” I like this Beale- he’s silly but still competent. The Beale who wants to pack a gun to the power company, I can live without. Thankfully the power company was shoot-out free, but the comedy did continue there, with the manager (played by Bruce Beatty) throwing off a batch of funny one-liners well delivered with a totally straight face. “I think I’ll be remembered as the one-time destroyer of Polar Express…” “I’d hate to live in a world where you can’t illuminate a shrub.” I particularly liked his reference to his own pocket protector and his entire team: “We bleed strange.” In a later scene, even the straightfaced security guy reviewing footage with Kensi and Deeks was funny, making dry comments about his ex.
The episode’s biggest revelation was Hidoko- who knew she was so sarcastic? I like! “And now this feels like a TED Talk…” “I don’t spend much time on Pinterest…” “Does couple’s therapy count as one gift or two?…” “OK, if I carried around a Swiss flag, would I stop being caught in the middle of these things?” Even Deeks noticed: “Oh, look who’s the comedian.” Is it possible he felt a little threatened by someone bringing the funny? I say, more please!
Beautiful Bikes and Holiday Compromises
So when exactly did Deeks get that amazing bike back? I assume he and Kensi used the terrible traffic conditions to justify digging it out of whatever storage spot Hetty had secured it in when she so cruelly took it away. I hope he gets to keep it forever! He and Kensi should always drive around the city by motorcycle. Although maybe those helmets could be made a little more, uh, inconspicuous? The chase/shoot-out was nicely shot and the helmets made it downright festive.
Deeks: Ha, ha ha! Woo!
Kensi: I cannot believe I let you convince me to do this.
Deeks: What are you talking about? We got through traffic in like half the time.
Kensi: I’m not talking about the bike, Sweetie. [holds up helmet]
Deeks: It’s Christmas. You look adorable. You’re like a rare but sexy reindeer.
Kensi: You look like an elf that fell off one too many shelves.
Deeks: Oh. You’re not wrong about that.
The couple’s disagreement about Christmas gifts gave them another excuse to banter. Sweetly they each kept coming back to the discussion with fresh ideas for how to resolve their dilemma, in the end each agreeing to go along with the other’s wishes, a true Gift of the Magi moment. (But seriously, thank goodness no one had to cut their hair!)
- Did they send every other employee home from OSP because of the power outage? It seemed oddly empty even before the power went out.
- Oh Marilyn, you old so and so. I am right there with you in losing my wits looking into those blue eyes. (And yes, Deeks, your cheekbones are nice too.)
- Sweet move Deeks, leaping over the hood of that car. Quite graceful. And yes, nice catch of Baby Jesus too.
- How adorable that Nell’s method of making friends includes knowing their SAT scores. I loved the way she held Hidoko’s hand as she dragged her out of Ops. “Now it’s official. We’re buds.”
- Does Hidoko really need to wear her shoulder holster all over OSP? It’s like she’s ready for an attack at any moment. It just looks uncomfortable.
- Speaking of uncomfortable, the way always stiff Mosley slowly moved around the entire building, finding bits of tinsel as she went, was amusing.
- But how adorable was Deeks winking at Kensi when she observed that “Not everyone can make office romance work”? I didn’t think ECO could wink!
- At Christmas, at least Deeks gets to dress up like Santa instead of a homeless man. Now why do I think he might bring that outfit home to do some holiday role-playing with Kensi?
We have a couple of weeks off, so Merry Christmas to those celebrating and Happy New Year to everyone! Thanks for joining us each week to discuss our favorite character, and we’ll see you in 2018. In the meantime, check back later this week for holiday editions of Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week. Plus I think there might be a special holiday fan fic in our figurative stockings courtesy of
Santa Sweet Lu. And tell us what you thought of “All Is Bright.” Did it earn a spot on the Good List or a lump of coal?