Review: NCISLA “Các Tù Nhận” (S9E13)
Throughout Season 9, many of us have felt that things have been a bit off with NCIS: Los Angeles, as if this world we’ve come to know so well is just somehow out of balance. This week’s episode “Các Tù Nhận,” written by R. Scott Gemmill and directed by James Hanlon, wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice reminder of some of my favorite aspects of the show.
A Tale of Two Bosses
Poor Nia Long. For much of this season she’s been asked to fill not just the gaping hole left by the loss of Miguel Ferrer, but also the void left by Linda Hunt’s prolonged absence. In this episode the two women didn’t share any scenes, but the level of gravitas, or lack thereof, shown by their respective performances left me feeling sorry for Nia. How can anyone measure up to Linda Hunt? Mosley comes off as such a one-note character in comparison to the veritable symphony that Hetty brings. She toyed with her captors, pretending to have regressed back to childhood. She was defiant to Dang, daring him to “Pull the trigger, bitch.” She threatened Allen with her final utterance of “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” after he shot Keane. She was regretful that her grand plans for arranging for back-up might not work out, with Keane the first casualty of her bad judgment. (Don’t get me started on Hetty’s long history of poor judgment!) From her focused repetition of a nursery rhyme to biting off the bad guy’s ear, to the episode’s close over her gleeful? desperate? insane? laughing, Linda Hunt gave us plenty to savor in her performance. Gemmill’s script gave her more to work with than she’s had in quite some time.
Everything worked well on the Hetty side of the story, although the tiger seemed like a slightly crazy touch. At least it wasn’t digitally rendered, like the one from The Walking Dead. Was I the only one who kept thinking about Kensi’s desire for a baby tiger that she could train and work with? Also slightly crazy was Hetty’s tormentor Dang, played by Long Nguyen. I loved his off-kilter performance. He has me completely convinced that he’s a nutty but quite evil old adversary of Hetty’s who’s enjoying seeing her get her comeuppance.
I will say that it’s too bad that the team didn’t get to do anything exciting on their end. I was engaged the whole time, largely because of the humor throughout, but Kensi and Deeks didn’t even get to leave the office. It was as if the entire episode’s budget had been expended on the tiger, and therefore the usual amount of location shooting had to be curtailed. For me that’s a huge loss, not just because of the lack of excitement, but because the team getting out of the mission – and off the Paramount lot – and onto actual Los Angeles locations is a key element to the show and something that makes it unique.
Gemmill Brings the Goofy
R. Scott Gemmill is responsible for so many of the show’s funniest moments. I think he’s the most confident writer in terms of bringing the humor. He’s not afraid of straight up silly lines and he doesn’t worry about going too far. Here he sprinkled humor throughout, beginning right from the start with Eric’s crazy dream sequence involving the avocado suit. Eric was pretty hilarious throughout the episode. I loved Nell’s murmur of “Oh, god” after Eric recounted that he’s still afraid of bubbles due to a previous dream involving Hetty, Charles Nelson Reilly and Grimace. And Sam and Callen were definitely on their A game when it came to joking around. Callen in particular appeared to be having more fun than usual. Their entire scene at the warehouse was filled with funny lines. It felt like the entire cast (well, except for Mosley and Hidoko), was a little tipsy while shooting, and didn’t hesitate to inject humor everywhere they could.
Gemmill also let Deeks (and Eric Christian Olsen) show off his sarcastic wit. Deeks wasn’t the butt of jokes here. He was making jokes at others’ expense, or in his trademark manner, using humor to defuse all the tension that Mosley created. The sweetest example was his getting a laugh and a big smile out of a Kensi who’s still mourning the loss of Granger…
Kensi: I don’t want to go through that again.
Deeks: Well, the good news is you’re not gonna have to because Hetty, Hetty’s coming back.
Kensi: You don’t know that Deeks.
Deeks: I do. I positively do. I know that for sure. You wanna know how I know that?
Deeks: ‘Cause there’s no way that she could live her life without this. [picks up clown head figurine]
Kensi: [laughs] What the hell is that?
Deeks: I’m not sure. But I’m pretty sure that if we boiled it down in hydrochoric acid we’d find like a note inside.
Kensi: Now you’re just mocking.
Deeks: [in weird clown voice] Kensi, do you want to snuggle? Do you want to spoon?
Mosley: What the hell are you doing?
Deeks: Like, right this moment or in my life?
Deeks’ distress at being unable to save Kensi from an irate Mosley was very much in character. I loved his adorable rambling to Callen’s voicemail about the dog kennel at LAPD. And then he got to put the full Deeksness on display with his “Beam me up Scotty, put my goods on the screen” scene with Eric as they tried to get the girls in the bar to help them out. The two men worked well together here, with Eric’s awkwardness and Deeks’ cockiness both providing lots of charm (“Teach me?”).
Again I think the team so clearly enjoying themselves provided an unfortunate contrast to both Mosley and Hidoko, neither of whom have demonstrated much in the way of a sense of humor. This is possibly the main reason it’s been so hard to warm up to them as new characters. How can people without a sense of humor build a strong working relationship- and any chemistry- with this cast of goofballs? I was completely uninterested in Mosley’s temper tantrum, whether it was deserved or not. She just hasn’t done much to prove to the team that she supports them, so I don’t think she should have been surprised that they’d rather ask forgiveness than permission (not that Callen even apologized).
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s off about the show. It’s hard not to keep coming back to the new cast members just not fitting in, and to Hetty’s and Granger’s disappearances. One additional smaller problem for me is a lack of Frank Military scripts. In Seasons 2 through 7, he usually wrote 3 or 4 scripts per season. Last year he only wrote two, and through half of Season 9 he’s only written one. I need more of my Military angst to complement the Gemmill humor!
- It’s almost always a good sign when the opening scene involves one of the cast. It tells us that the episode is not going to be a typical case of the week. I’ll leave it to you all to psychoanalyze that dream, particularly the avocado element. (I loved Callen’s worry that the dream might have become “weird” between Eric and Hetty.) But was I the only one a little disappointed that Nell wasn’t sleeping by Eric’s side when he woke up?
- Does Eric live at Hogwarts? I ask because his pile of books all looked like they came from an antique store, not Amazon. One of two nice callbacks this week was Hetty’s gift to Eric of The Red Badge of Courage. In case you’re thinking Eric now has all of Hetty’s cold war secrets embedded in that book as microdots (see “Deliverance”), it’s actually a different copy. The “Deliverance” edition was brown with an embossed eagle on the cover.
- In case you were wondering, Gamera, whose name Eric exclaimed when he awoke, is a fictional Japanese giant turtle-like monster. He got his start in movies but has also appeared in comic books and video games.
- It seemed like a waste of screen time for Nell’s light to be out of batteries. There was no purpose to them having change scenes to get it working. It felt like a curious writing and/or editing decision.
- It surprised me that only Hidoko was aware of the what3words clue, but it’s not governmental or military in origin. It was created by someone from the music industry who wanted to develop a better addressing system after bands and equipment kept getting lost. He got a couple of friends to develop the algorithm and created the website. It’s kinda fun to play around with the map and see what your “address” is. Mine included the words “mats” and “gymnast.” Skin.failed.action does pull up a Ho Chi Minh city location, although it appears to be a park and not a structure.
- This is maybe the third episode this year where Deeks doesn’t appear until more than 10 minutes into the show. Not a good trend.
- Hidoko sure did stick up for the team here. But again, why does she feel the need to walk around the mission with her weapon at the ready? She should relax a little at the office!
- Kensi definitely provided all the moments of heart in this episode, and her scene in the armory with Nell was one such example. It also provided the second nice callback, this time to “Imposters” where Hetty was preparing to leave the country on a suicide mission and gave Kensi the weaponized make-up brush. (She also offered Deeks a permanent job as an agent.) That episode was also written by Gemmill.
So this was a great episode for Linda Hunt, and a set-up episode to get the rest of the team to Vietnam. Too bad we have to wait so long to see the rescue! In the meantime, come back later this week for new entries into Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, plus the Drabble of the Week. And tell us what you thought of this week’s episode in the comments below. Did you enjoy the funny or was it over the top? Was Mosley right to be so angry or did she deserve to be kept out of the loop? And did you fear for Hetty- or for the tiger?
Way to read my brain on most of the thoughts on this episode! I didn’t notice so much the lack of locations until you mentioned it though! Hopefully, they just were saving up on that section of the budget since most (or all) of next episode takes place in “Vietnam”, which I’m sure took some creativity to turn LA into. haha.
I did like that they kinda redeemed Sam in regards to Eric following his comments in “All is Bright” (the poor guy had just been trying to help/be supportive!), though an apology would’ve been better…
*whine* I don’t wanna wait 2 months to see what happens next!!!!!! /whine
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Thank you. This is a great review! Spot on.
Thinking about the season overall and what’s missing. And the word I come up with is ENGAGEMENT. I haven’t been invested really in any of the episodes. They haven’t engaged my attention. Lacking spark. There are no stakes or emotions really for any character. Densi is happy (thank goodness) but it also means lackluster stories. We know Sam is sad but that’s it. Callen is still skating along the surface of life despite girlfriends past and present and finally finding his family. We know Hetty will be ok; she always is. Eric is still goofy to the point of annoying. Nell is smart. There is no arc here for anyone. They haven’t upped the ante for the audience in story or character. Even the stupid mole storyline had us checking in looking for clues and a final resolution. These are talented people on both sides of the lens and they’re wasting them with nothingness.
They’re on at 9pm slot (my time) where they supposedly can have more mature storylines. They don’t do it. They’re dealing with espionage and US safety which should lend itself to bigger challenges than just solving the crime of the week; they don’t do it. They’re supposed to be able to work undercover; they don’t do it. They do well tactically; they don’t do it. They have amazing technology; they don’t really use anything other than the big screen in ops and even then they’ve used it more in other seasons than now. I want to shake them out of their lethargy.
Ok. End rant.
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Thanks Karen for a great review , I enjoyed this episode . It was well written , really well acted and the pacing was good. It was a good team episode, where everyone played a part, was important to the story, and there was great interaction between the sub teams of Sam and Callen, Kensi and Deeks, and Nell and Eric. It was good to see those teams all back together and the ensemble cast doing what it does best. Linda Hunt was superb, she truly is an academy award winning actress, having her be the center of the episode with the ensemble cast we know and love ,reminded me why I fell in love with this show.
To answer one of the questions you asked, did Mosley have a right to be angry, absolutely not. Managers earn trust and respect. She has not done anything to earn the team’s respect. At least for me, I am beyond offended that her character still treats Deeks like he is invisible as opposed to a valued member of the team.
I agree with your comment about Hidoko and Mosley who do not seem to have a sense of humor and therefore do not fit in. For me it goes beyond that. This show is in its ninth season, I think if you add a new character the actor needs to bring something unique to a character. I do not see the actress bringing anything unique to Hidoko. She is an okay actress, but certainly has not created a character that I have any interest in . I think if I do not get to see my favorite character Deeks, played by ECO, who has created a unique character for this show in the first ten minutes of a show, I really want to see someone of his caliber, which Hidoko is not.
For me, the hope for the show is that Linda Hunt returns to at least a small part, and they try to write team episodes with minimal parts given to these new characters who do not fit in. I started watching this show for Deeks , and I enjoy seeing him partnered with Kensi , I enjoy them working together. If Deeks is going to be partnered with someone else, I want it to be Sam, Callen, Eric or Nell, so we see character growth. It seems from TPTB social media posts they think they have new viewers, I guess I do not see that on social media,or reflected in the ratings. I think they have old viewers who maybe set in their ways ( like me) and want to see the show they have followed for nine seasons, Ok, end of my rant.
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Amazing review Karen, thank you! I couldn’t agree more with your review. Linda Hunt really was amazing in this episode. Hetty’s scenes (both writing and acting) in this episode were very powerfull and I love the way Hetty/Linda is able to fill the screen with her personality, charisma and talent. In my opinion a different kind of character would had been better for Mosley, now she kind of fades in to the background in her scenes and in my opinion making her character so “bureaucratic” isn’t helping and I feel like a different kind of character would had been better for Nia Long.
I really liked the team moments and I hope there are a lot of them in the next episode. I, too, hoped for more Deeks, but I did enjoy his scenes a lot and I liked the way they balanced the darker scenes (I didn’t fell like they were too much or over the top).
These next weeks will feel really long, but I hope it will be worth it and conclusion will be at least as good as this first part 🙂
Karen, you did a remarkable job on the review, and reminded me of a few things I had forgotten that were good in this ep. But, I am still wondering why they didn’t run these two Hetty Being Rescued episodes back to back? The recall will be tough after all the time between them, but maybe we won’t need to remember that much, and there is a lot in this episode I would sooner forget. Mosley mainly. She knows they don’t like her, and she surely knows the team tends to operate on its own, and she also must know how they feel about Hetty. She just seemed petty here, and jealous of their loyalty to Hetty. She also came off as having hurt feelings, and that doesn’t seem like someone who has climb the corporate ladder and is so full of herself.
Linda Hunt is remarkable and her part was well written, but a tiger? Really? That was definitely a surprise. I do agree that a good Frank Military ep is needed, and at least some hint that a wedding is forthcoming. Does anyone know who is writing the second part of the rescue arc? Hopefully it’s Military.
I was just wondering something and found something …. interesting.
So I was wondering, you know, having Hetty bite off an ear is pretty extreme. Like, an outrageous big blowout kind of action for a character about to leave the show.
So then I got curious and went to the IMDB.com website to see if Linda Hunt’s number of episodes was less than the others, as if she had left. I found something interesting.
COD, Dani, and Barrett’s number of episodes as at 205. Linda Hunts and LL’s number of episodes is at 204.
Even if they’re not in an episode, they are still a member of the cast so they have the same number of shows since they signed on. They should both be at 205 like the other three. BUT THEY’RE NOT. Something is up.
I’m saying, it isn’t an accident they hired an extra agent and an extra director at the beginning of this season … because we’re losing an agent and a director. Soon. It didn’t make sense to me to have Hidoko. Yes, Moseley because of Granger/Hetty vacuum. But an extra agent? They had Nell to go out in the field as needed — there was no need. Unless they knew there was going to be a vacuum there too.
I think we are losing both of them, Hetty and Sam.
I truly hope you are wrong about both of them. I would be surprised if LL left, but I think it’s a real possibility we will lose Hetty.
Unfortunately, IMDB isn’t always the best indicator of that, as it can be updated by anyone (especially before episodes air). I often see guest stars listed for episodes (presumably updated by those actors/their team trying to get themselves out there more) before the main cast is listed for an episode, so I’m not 100% sure it’s accurate. Though usually if a member of the cast is absent for an episode (ie MF at the end of last season, ECO during “Gold Standard”), imdb will list them as “credit only”. LL for some reason is currently not listed on the site for “The Silo”, but he was definitely in it. Linda’s missing credit appears to be for “The Silo” as well, though her other episodes without her are listed as “credit only”.
Sorry to shoot down your theory. But I totally get where you’re coming from (I’ve totally done the same in the past, which is how I know all these little ins and outs… lol – used to edit stuff WAYYYY back in the day – like 2000 – before most people knew about the site).
I”m hoping that is so. All we can do is watch. Fun to speculate … funner than watching the episodes currently. 🙂
I definitely enjoy the speculating myself! Though I seem to guess badly! haha! And, just for the heck of it, I did go to imdb.com and add those credits for “The Silo”, cuz now that it was brought up, it bugged me! Haha. =D
Hmm. I just read that NCIS LA. is casting a new character, one of the first women to become a Green Beret. Working in South America to fight the war on drugs and terrorism, Cassie is described as being “maybe too smart for her own good” and someone who “bristles at chain of command” Hmm, sounds like a prospective new team member. (TV Line)
I just read this also. It was also stated it was a recurring character , so it is not clear whether they mean recurring , like a Sabatino or Bates character which would be fine or recurring like Hidoko who basically has a bigger part than some of the series regulars which will not be fine at all.
She sounds like the female “Fez”. Maybe R. Scott’s reset is copying the NCIS mothership and adding useless characters
Thanks for the great review! I thought Linda Hunt was exceptional in this episode. I also really loved all of Daniela Ruah’s scenes. She was emotional and honest in her scenes with Deeks and Nell. She was the perfect amount of annoyed yet respectful when she was called into Mosley’s office. I thought Deeks trying to cheer Kensi up was so cute and sweet. I am starting to like Hidoko. She is starting to be more of a team player and she has started to give them some sass and joke around with them. I think Mosley is a good boss character, but of course I miss Hetty and her eccentricity. I can’t wait to see the adventure ahead of saving Hetty. Too bad we have to wait so long!
Thanks for your review, Karen.
Due to a very serious and tragic circumstance of real life, I have nothing more to add this week, I enjoyed this episode and thought that Linda was terrific, her presence was everything the show had been lacking these past months.
I hope the second part is worth the wait and I do hope Hetty is really coming back, not just for brief scenes. I live for the day we can finally see Hetty and Mosley in the same scene!
I stopped giving 2 shits about this show, it supposed to be LA not vietnam, did really writers forgot how to write the show, lets go back to season 2 and see how they downgraded, action, villain, a theme, conclusion, new season starts with new conclusion, instead of doing series finales more important they should get their shit together cause last few years been really boring, I could rate the episodes 10 scale radios to 2. Characters lost their incentives , story doesn’t belong where it belongs and chemistry seems buyest, main actors taking down time so much more, is it time to say good bye because every show needs to end at some point.