Review: NCISLA “All Is Bright” (S9E11)
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?
Very good review. Thanks!
The humor worked because for the most part it was organic to each scene. Not forced/silly. You can really tell the difference when it works.
Loved Deeks on the bike. I’m shallow, I admit it: taking the helmet off and his glorious golden locks was just lovely.
The over-abundance of decorations at the end were amazing but unrealistic. Two people putting up that much in that short of time while trying to solve a case? And for just the team (because there was freaking no one else there)?!?
Hidoko is hilarious. Keep her.
Mosely’s acting still not up to par. Hetty come back. Or get Chigwedden and keep him.
Overall Christmas episode? Meh. Dang I miss the days of being on the carrier, or a rooftop with an EMP bomb, or Kensi in Aghanistan and they’re missing each other… I want the magic back and I don’t know if I’m just overlooking it (my problem) or if it’s not there (writer problem).
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great review, thanks!
I agree that the humor and banter this time felt less forced than in previous episodes this season and all in all it was a pleasant hour of TV. Everybody had a role and no one was left out. In my opinion it was much better than last year’s Christmas episode, at least this year there was no Anna-Kensi dream-sequence fight which I found ridiculous and absurd.
The case was not one of the most memorable, but we watch the Christmas episode more for the atmosphere, the lights, the decorations and the feelings, right? Right.
Speaking of feelings, I think the final toast in the bullpen without Hetty and Granger was really bittersweet, the family has really been through a lot this year, everybody’s different in a way or another and Mosley can’t even compare with the other directors, too big shoes to fill. I really can’t wait to have Hetty back and see what kind of relationship the two will have. Really looking forward to it.
In the meantime, I would really like to wish Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and Happy 2018 everyone!
And from the bottom of my heart, many thanks WikiDeeks staff for this amazing site. May you stay strong and awesome as you have always been!
LikeLiked by 1 person
I really did enjoy this episode, Densi scenes were funny and I loved Deeks & the bike, I liked that Callen and Finn moment at the end and overall a very nice Christmas episode and I enjoyed it a lot more than the Christmas episode last year (I have to admit that I was very happy that Anna wasn’t there this year).
I did hope for more scenes where the whole team works together and I kind of missed Hetty, especially now that we have had couple episodes where we haven’t seen her and that storyline hasn’t moved forward. One scene I have been hoping for since this season started is a scene with Sam and his children and I wish there had been one in this episode or if that wasn’t possible maybe at least a message between them or something like that. I am still not a fan of Mosley but at least she wasn’t as bad as I thought she might be based on sneak peeks.
Thank you Karen and the whole WikiDeeks staff for everything you have done for us this year and I , too, would like to wish everyone here happy holidays and happy new year!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Karen thanks for writing a great review and thank you for writing reviews all season long. I know that this must take a lot of your time , it is really appreciated by us fans.
I loved this episode. It was an NCIS LA Christmas episode in the tradition of the good episodes they have delivered previously. I loved Sam and Callen and Eric and Nell and I adored Deeks and Kensi. Deeks and Kensi were ,of course ,the highlight for me , it felt like the Densi I really have grown to love. The scene with the motorcycle chase to “Run Rudolph Run” was classic Densi.
The only thing that did not work in this episode for me was Mosley. I have assumed all along that the problem with the Mosley character was in TPTB conception of the character, some writing flaws and poor execution by the actress. Unfortunately it became clear to me while I was watching this episode that the actress is just not up to the part, she has no sense of timing or how she looks or comes across on screen. Everyone else in this episode including the new actress who plays Harley were wonderful and the actress who plays Mosley was not at their level or the level of this show. I really hope they bring Hetty back, and Mosley is sent away. I think It would help their ratings.
As others have said, I am really happy wikiDeeks exist and I am extremely happy WikiDeeks keeps supporting my favorite actor.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks for another stellar review, Karen! Good, solid Christmas episode this year, definitely better than Season 8’s. I thought the Densi scenes were cute–complimenting the little things (Deeks acknowledging Kensi’s pun and she approving of his catch of the baby and his shooting) while they were trying to work through their gifting disagreement (oh, and I think I know what Deks wants for Christmas this year) and get their job done.
I finally found something I like about Mosely: the way they played her in this ep (until the end) reminded me of the way Dolores Umbridge was potrayed in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:” skulking around looking for people doing something wrong. That said, I guessed quite early that she was going to decorate the mission. Also, I thought it was very telling that Hidoko said doing so was important not just for the team, but for them. I think she really meant it was important for Mosely, and I that she was subtly saying that we need to work with this team, not against them. Or maybe I was reading too mcuh into it.
Finally, unpopular opinion alert: I didn’t like the way Sam treated/insulted Eric when he was just trying to be helpful, kind and supportive about the kids. If he really didn’t want/need the advice, I know Sam has it in him to say that in a nice way. And if he didn’t mind the advice, just thank him and be done with it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
sassyzazzi, thanks for your comments. Nice observation about Dolores Umbridge, the character I hated more than any other in the entire Harry Potter series. The difference (for me anyway) is that Imelda Staunton really brought that character to life in a way that made me believe she was a real, three-dimensional character- as cartoonish as she was. I just don’t feel like Mosley is at all real.
Oh, and I totally took Hidoko’s comment the same way you did.
As usual, a terrific review. I agree with you about Moseley; I can’t get into the character at all. All she does is put a hand on her hip, glare, and flounce out of the office or whatever room she is in. If that is her idea of portraying a leader or at least one in charge she is sadly lacking in knowledge of leadership. I have to believe this is Nia Long’s interpretation because I seriously cannot believe a director would advise her to act that way. Her decorating the mission at the end did not make up for the horrible actions of burning Christmas decorations that meant something to the team because of her ridiculous dislike of holiday decorating. I’m pretty flexible with characters that I don’t like; I recall not caring for Granger when he came, but it didn’t take long to see through his gruffness and his dry wit won me over. It’s already been nearly half a season and I have found nothing to make me care about her character and the mawkishness regarding her family (if they are alive, tell us; if they are dead, it’s about time we should know).
I’m getting used to Hidoko, but I still don’t understand why they felt it necessary to bring in another agent. I certainly don’t feel any animosity toward her, but she seems to be totally cowed by Moseley, and I’m not buying that a strong woman and agent would be that terrified of upsetting her.
The Kensi-Deeks scenes were good. I especially liked the diving catch of the baby Jesus, and the motorcycle scenes. Sam’s scenes were emotional and any of us who have lost loved ones and had to cope with the first holidays after their deaths can relate. It was touching that he took Eric up on his staycation with his kids. Not really thrilled with the Callen-Finn scenes but it was in character and pushed a lot of emotional buttons.
All in all, an enjoyable holiday show, but not up to par with Free Ride, my favorite of the Christmas episodes.
Again, thanks for a great review. I really look forward to Tess’ previews and your recaps.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Super review again Karen. Thank you very much! I liked this episode very much, although I was annoyed after 10 minutes into the episode and no sign of Densi. I just started to be seriously pissed with the fact that Hidoko and Mosely took again quite a large amount of screen time from our favourite couple, when the said couple entered the Mission. And funny roller-coaster started.
Deeks was so much funny, but smartly funny that I watched this episode already 3 times enjoying Deeks again and again. I really do not think that Kensi has any chance when he is in a such mood. I found ECO really great in this episode. I honestly cannot imagine anybody else playing Deeks with so much wit, love, passion and compassion. His Deeks was somehow fearless and cool in his interaction with everybody in this episode – Marilyn, Edgar, Callen, security guy, Alicia. I also love the fact that no matter what Deeks and Kensi are always able to work things out in the end.
It was also hard to watch Sam trying to figure out how to live thru the holidays without Michelle. I agree with you Karen that LL Cool J has made excellent job so far.
As I am not native English speaker and I live in Europe it was hard for me to follow all Deek’s and Kensi’s jokes and please could you explain to me what does the quote of the week exactly mean – I kinda understand every word but the meaning is little bit elusive to me.
This site is bringing so much enjoyment and fun to me on everyday basis and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all your work and efforts in making this site truly excellent one. I wish to all of you and my fellow followers (of this site) happy holidays!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Maria! To answer your question, “goosing” is having your backside pinched, so Deeks was joking that one of the figures in the manger scene had touched him inappropriately, and that he had enjoyed it.
Thanks a lot Karen! I thought so but really wasn’t sure. It is totally cool to have friends to help you with such things. I cannot express how much of “everyday” English language I have learned following this show and relative sites.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I forgot to mention that the chase scene when the guy drove out of the garage and Run Run Rudolph played? Yeah, for some reason that startled me and made me jump halfway to the ceiling. Literally, actually, hand to my heart the truth. I’m usually paying more attention to something like that but holy schmoley. 🙂
LikeLiked by 1 person