Review: NCISLA “Warrior of Peace” (S9E16)
Written by one of my favorite NCIS: Los Angeles writers Andrew Bartels and directed by Terence Nightingall, “Warrior of Peace” brought us several returning cast members, and a week with no “case,” a rather challenging circumstance that affects all members of the team in some way.
The last episode I reviewed opened with Anna and Callen in front of the fireplace – and I laughed out loud at my terrible luck in having to review that. This time, I was drawn in by the depth of story, the great Deeks and Densi scenes and then – the ending. Oh how I despised that ending. I wrestled with it and decided I can’t fake it or sugarcoat it so I’m going to get my beef with the ending off my chest first and then go on to the many things I liked about this episode.
I suspected something was up because I saw some tweets complaining about the ending before I started up my DVR. However, I really was not expecting it to be as bad as it was. Really?! (Read that in Deeks-voice). After all the things this team has pulled off, we are to believe that they are unable to prevent Callen from losing his father again? The entire premise of the series and the focus of the first few seasons was on Callen’s search for clues about his past and his father. This is the resolve for that relationship? Yes, on the one hand, his father was noble in wanting another family to be reunited, having known the pain of separation from his own family. Great – all the props and brownie points to Garrison (returning guest cast Daniel J. Travanti), and yay that Callen gets to live with knowing his father is a good and noble man. I am no Callen fan (no offense to those who are), but come on, give the guy a break! His life has been one horrible tragedy after another and now he has to watch his father be surrendered by the State Department for likely torture and death?!
Dramatic license notwithstanding, I find it troubling to believe that the State Department can negotiate what is effectively a “prisoner exchange” with someone who is not a prisoner, but living freely in the US on a legitimate, if conditional, visa. The State Department can just show up at your door with a warrant to swap you for someone they want to get back home from a hostile country? It would make sense to me if he was in custody – that would be a legitimate prisoner swap. But to take a visitor to the US and trade them for Americans, knowing that they will likely be tortured and murdered? If they were going to do a swap, why not find Kirkin and swap him – as Callen points out, he is a fugitive who has had people killed!.The team thought of it but the State Department didn’t?? I don’t get it. Help me out folks – do I just need to relax and allow them some dramatic license? Is it because I’m Canadian and there are some Americanism nuances here that I’m missing? Am I looking for a Callen/Garrison happy ending that is unrealistic for the genre of the show?
OK. Cleansing breath – I’m better now. On to the good stuff!
Despite the final scene, this episode delivered what felt a lot like the “old” NCIS:LA that I first came to love, which is not surprising considering it was written by Andrew Bartels.
Neurotic Deeks: It was silly and slightly corny, but I loved his grey hair freakout at the start of the episode. I don’t like when they overdo his neurotic side that because it makes him seem less tough as an agent. But he does have a history of odd ideas and over-reactions (“Mercury in retrograde” anyone?). So mistaking Monty’s hair for his own is perfect and totally in character. It was also nice to hear a reference to Monty, who has long been absent from the show. When he started in on Grandpappy Clifford Jeremiah Deeks with his floppy earlobes I could not help but wonder if that was Eric Christian Olsen ad libbing. Kensi’s response, unlike in their earlier days, was kind and humoring of his freakout, with the caveat that should his earlobes suddenly start flopping around the wedding would be off. That response suggested that perhaps this was more scripted than ad libbed, but either way it was sweet and funny and seemed to echo previous similar Deeks’ neuroses but with a softer, warmer response from Kensi.
Speaking of Monty: You have to give him credit, the dog is no spring chicken anymore (he’s in his 7th season on the show), but he’s still looking really good! And, we at wikiDeeks love to see Monty! wikiDeeks has committed to donating $150 to Pets of the Homeless whenever Monty appears on the show. So “Yay Monty” for your appearance– the donation to this very important organization has already happened.
Hetty: As long-time readers of wikiDeeks know, Hetty and I have had a tumultuous relationship. However, I have come around to enjoying her again. I absolutely loved that Hetty was sitting in Mosley’s office when she arrived. You can build a glass palace and click around on your high heels above her desk, but Hetty’s going to make sure you know this is her turf! Pointing out that Mosley was in a bit of hot water and might need help with SecNav – bonus. Defending her team and telling Mosley to her face that she was “more dangerous that I anticipated” – priceless! Leave the team alone Mosley (and writers)!
Ethical Deeks: I’ve never been a fan of Deeks’ Max Gentry persona, or the ease with which he seems able to go to the dark side and be Max, the way he tortured the cleric in “Spoils of War,” or his off-camera history of killing his old partner at LAPD. This dark side to his past is, in part, why I appreciated his reaction in the boatshed when the plan to offer up Kirkin was being conceived and in the execution of the plan when they found Kirkin. I would never have described him as ethically challenged in general, rather he has sometimes been overtaken in the heat of the moment and not made the best choices in pursuit of a good objective. In this situation, he was the conscience of the group, the voice of reason, which is a perfect counterpoint to the neurotic grey-hair-fearing opening and a welcome development for the character.
Despite the very good objective of saving Callen’s father, he was not willing to pursue it at any cost – reminding them of the consequences of the initial options discussed and again when Callen was cuffing Kirkin. I’m not convinced it was out of any affection for Kirkin (wink), but simply out of his own moral compass, asking his colleagues to carefully consider what they were planning to do. The situation truly was an ethical bind, as someone (apparently) needed to be the sacrificial lamb in this exchange, so why should it be Callen’s father and not Kirkin? Does it matter who is sacrificed? Is it better for a known criminal to be sent back to Russia than someone who had redeemed himself from whatever his past actions were with the KGB by helping many people escape? They both had people who loved them, and the choice of Kirkin as an alternative offering was brilliant because he is a more sympathetic villain than some who have been on the show.
The Star Trek reference to Kobayashi Maru made it even more interesting:
Eric: Kobayashi Maru, no win scenario.
Sam: I don’t accept that, we’ll find a way to make one.
Eric: That’s very Captain Kirk of you.
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’re familiar with the Kobayashi Maru training simulation that was a no-win situation where the choices are between a) entering Klingon territory to rescue a ship that has hit a mine and is failing fast, an action likely to trigger war with the Klingons and b) abandoning the ship, averting war but leaving the ship and crew to almost certain death. No matter what actions they take, the trainees face a downward spiral of events without a solution. The point is not for the cadet in training to solve the problem, but for the trainers to observe how the cadet responds when faced with a no-win situation. Captain Kirk secretly reprogrammed the training program to allow rescue of the Kobayashi Maru ship, which he achieves on his subsequent round in the simulation.
I thought this part of the storyline was so well-written in terms of the complexity of the issues and the way they were succinctly brought to the fore, discussed and resolved. It wasn’t belabored, but the ethical issues were addressed, which we rarely see. They kill a lot of villains each episode without qualms. Adding the ethical quandary really filled out the richness of the story. The Kobayashu Maru reference highlights that this situation will reveal how each member of the team responds when faced with an impossible situation. Although Deeks reminds them of the importance of ethical action, it is not played in a way that suggests the rest of the team are less ethical, just more driven by the desire to help Callen’s dad. This is so often the case in ethically challenging situations, as Sam articulated, not that there is clear right and wrong, but that there are multiple competing, and sometimes mutually exclusive options on either side.
The scenes involving Deeks’ objections also allowed ECO to display his talent in communicating with facial expressions, something that seems to happen much less than it did the first few years he was on the show. I love how he played those scenes and was so glad to see that side of the actor and character again.
Deeks and Kirkin:
Kirkin: (in a deep and breathless voice voice) Marty!
Followed by perfect and perfectly time facial expressions from Deeks, Kensi and Dan Henricks.
Kirkin: “I can explain…”
Followed by another round of awesome facial expressions, especially between Deeks and “my creepy doppelganger.” I laughed out loud at all the Deeks/Kirkin (?Deerkin) exchanges. Both Ravil Isyanov and ECO do a masterful job of playing those scenes. “Comical villain attempting to seduce cop” is not a shtick that is easy to play without coming across as implausible or cringy. The actors both do a great job depicting their “relationship” in a way that provides some plausible comic relief. And Kensi’s delight at it is always over the top,
Deeks: You know, when I imagined Kirkin on the run it never really looked like this.
Kensi: (suggestively and with faux jealousy) Oh, you imagine Kirkin? You imagine Kirkin, do you?
Deeks: No, I mean like when he would pop into my head.
Kensi: How often does that happen? At night? When you’re alone? When you’re with me?
Deeks: OK, I just, I meant that it’s a, it’s a nice house. It’s an ornate, nice…
This reminded me of the type of Densi banter that was characteristic of the early seasons, which seems to not be as common of late. Always great to have a little friendly ribbing to defuse some of the seriousness of the situation they are in.
Hidoko (and Sam?):
I’m of the opinion that Mosley and Hidoko were unnecessary additions to the cast, and Mosley adds nothing to the show as far as I’m concerned. I’m still uncertain about Hidoko, but she’s growing on me. I was sure Nell and Eric were busted when she came striding up to their stakeout van, but what a timely appearance! And her casual entrance to the barbershop – “Hey, you guys do fades here?” – at exactly the right moment was very useful in the resolution of that barber shop situation. Too often it does seem implausible how many people the team can subdue without backup. Having an additional person in that situation made it more believable, and she certainly demonstrated her loyalty and usefulness to the team.
However, the fist bump with Sam as that segment was wrapping up seemed a little too… I want to say chummy, but I feel like that’s revealing my age, so let’s just say his look of admiration at her risking Mosley’s anger to help the team was pretty obvious. Which made me wonder, did they let us know last week that Hidoko is widowed as some sort of foreshadowing of a relationship with Sam? Are they planning to have them connect over their shared experience of loss of a partner? What do you all think? Was I reading too much into it?
· Kirkin’s back!
Hetty’s voice: Previously on NCIS: Los Angeles
Eric: Who is Anatoli Kirkin again?
Kensi: Deeks’ bathhouse buddy. (With a wicked grin)
Deeks: (deep breath and grimace)
Callen: Rather sell out his own gangs than join them in prison.
Deeks: Anatoli Kirkin you have won a 30-day head start from the Russian mob.
Kirkin: (With seductive eyes) Marty, when I get set up, I will send for you.
· Heartwarming family time: Jake and Grandpa playing on the sofa while Alex and Callen watch was so sweet. Interesting to know Alex likes Anna and vice versa. All of them having breakfast before school/work was truly a lovely family moment. I appreciate knowing that they had some great times together. Unfortunately knowing this made the final scene of the show even more excruciating.
· Deeks’ detective skills
Deeks: So no stolen weapons then?
Hetty: I’m glad to see you’ve that you’ve retained your detective skills in my absence, Mr. Deeks.
Deeks: What, no I knew that the whole time, I was just talking about Sam over here. You should have seen the look of surprise on his face, it was priceless. It was so funny.
Sam: (priceless stare) Who do you think set this up?
Usually it’s Deeks making the point about his detective skills. Very nice for Hetty to get in a little teasing dig there.
Despite my already described dislike of the final scene, the eternal optimist in me can’t help but think that this might not be the last we see of Garrison. Eric’s Captain Kirk reference in the Kobayashi Maru segment suggested it might be possible to change the situation by rigging the “game,” a possibility that is hinted at again in the final scene by Garrison himself. He is careful to point out that he has escaped from the Russians before, albeit as a younger man. But he was former KGB and lived successfully in Russia without detection for years. He also lets Callen know what name he would choose if he had to construct another life – Igor, Warrior of Peace. Is this a breadcrumb so Callen will know how to locate him should he find a way to survive? Will Garrison pull a Captain Kirk and reprogram the situation to allow for a different outcome? For Callen’s sake I hope so.
That’s it from me. What did you think of “Warrior of Peace?”
Don’t forget to come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week. Meanwhile, tell us your thoughts in the Comments below.
Thank you very much Brenda for your review. I was so disappointed with “Goodbye Vietnam” that I was not able to left my comment on the previous episode that, by the way, was excellent through and through.
This one is the same! Excellent storytelling, excellent execution. Everything about this episode was just right – humour/seriousness ratio, action/drama sequences ratio, Mosley/Hetty appearances ratio (just to be sure we understand one another well here, I mean less Mosley/more Hetty and the rest of original team ratio).
I have enjoyed ECO and his portrayal of Deeks so much. He was great from the very beginning to the very end of the episode. I loved Kensi’s support to neurotic Deeks, the warmth you simply feel flaws through their every and each randezvous on screen in the last seasons (even when they appear to be annoyed with each other or when they tease each other). Both ECO and DR are great in every scene together.
As you I am not Callen’s fan, but my heart was with him all the time and I truly wanted and hoped that the team and Hetty would find some way to help Callen’s father to stay in US. Like Deeks I was not happy with Callen’s solution to send Kirkin to Russia (but then so wasn’t Callen either, and one’s got to do what one’s got to do to help to the ones he/she loves) but if I can live with Deeks’ torture of the blind cleric and killing Boyle (which I honestly can without problem) then I can live with Callen’s decision too.
And when I had come to the terms with that, the show made a turn in the completely other direction which I haven’t expected but which, nevertheless, just made zillion points in my books – Callen’s father is going to be sent to Russia and there is no happy end this time.
And that is ok, life is unfair, life is hard, life is full of ups and downs, and life does not always bring a happy ending, but it is our life, the only one that we have and we deal (better or worse) with all the cards we got. So must Callen. Honestly, I am rather impressed with the courage of the producers and writers to pursue this storytelling and the ending that you despise I appreciate and respect big time.
My, by far, the most favourite show of all the times returned ahead of the game on TV.
(Seeing sneak peak no. 2 of the next episode, I expect nothing less from it too).
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Thank you for a great review!
My impression overall of this *season* is that they are setting things up for this to possibly be the last because so many episodes are featuring past guest stars which seems to me like a last hoorah kind of thing. I know I saw Arkady and Anna coming up soon. (die, Anna, die) Who wants to put money down that they’ll be having Talia on soon? I think this is another sign of weak writing — they can’t seem to come up with fresh, dynamic story lines but, hey, let’s bring back some of our favorite characters so they can take a bow before we leave! Bah.
I also think we should have a drinking game for this season for how much they’re mentioning Sabatino lately. Have you noticed?
The episode. Loved loved loved the interaction with Kirkin and Densi. I love that Kirkin bought the Russian gang via siphoning off the money from his boy toy. (though he resembled Thor more than Deeks but I get it). I, too, am not a huge fan of Callen (just my personal taste) and particularly his past. It just went on too long over the years and while I love Daniel J Travanti from Hill Street Blues days, I don’t really care how it’s going to turn out.
Please, writers, give me a scene where Hetty kicks Mosley’s butt out of the Mission. Please. I was afraid they were going to be setting Mosley with Sam. THANK GOD that isn’t happening. Sam and Hidoko? She’s a little young for him but that would be interesting next season if they come back.
This was episode 16. There is still time to save the season from oblivion. Fingers crossed.
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Just saw this: “he entire NCIS franchise also appears a lock to return.” from http://tvline.com/2018/03/27/cbs-2018-renewed-cancellation-tv-show-list-criminal-minds/.
Thank you Brenda for your great review. I have really loved the way these last episodes have focused on one case and the pace in these episodes, they haven’t felt too rushed or too slow and boring. I loved that scene where Hetty used her old alias and it kind of felt like she is getting ready to take her team back (and I really really hope she does, even if I, too, have an tumultuous relationship with Hetty like Brenda 🙂 ).
It was nice to see Callen and his family, but if this storyline continues later (and the team rescues Callen’s father) I hope that storyline is something totally different than the storyline where they rescued Arkady from Russia and I kind of hope that the rescue isn’t the season finale storyline, I would love to see something completely new and surprising storylines in season finale. Kirkin is funny, and the scenes with Deeks are always funny (great acting by Eric in this episode as always), but I wish they had added something different or something more to Kirkin’s character (in addition to Kirkin’s crush on Deeks storyline ). I love Monty, maybe I was expecting Monty to have a bigger role in the storyline, but it was still great to see Monty. Densi-scenes are always great, I hope we get to see also a deeper/more serious side of Densi soon (I loved that scene on the roof in “Silo” , amazing acting).
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Brenda, thanks for a great review. I really enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed this episode because at least for me it feels like the show is back. I loved Deeks in this episode , as you said, neurotic and ethical. At least to me it felt like Deeks and Densi were back. We got some good banter , and some great acting from Eco in both the ethical scenes and also in the lighter scenes with Ravil Isyanov. It felt like a balanced episode for the show and also for Deeks and for Densi. Monty was back so I was glad for that . I totally enjoyed Hetty confronting Mosley. Linda Hunt is incredible, she really makes a difference in this show.
As for the story, I did not feel there was any possibility the US state department would make that trade , so the storyline did not seem real, but I guess I have been watching too much television, I am not sure I have seen a real storyline on many shows recently. It did feel like they were setting up a future episode.
Again I really feel like the rhythm of the show is back and they are allowing the core cast back into the plot and making the stories about the core cast not making the stories up as an excuse to showcase the new people. As far as Hidoko and Sam, I do not think you are reading too much into it. We learned from Mosley that Hidoko was not the most qualified person for the job, so I assume then that Hidoko got picked because Mosley believed she could control her and use her to basically spy on the team. I have a real disconnect with the portrayal of this character. I would think that the seasoned agent/ Navy Seal ,Sam, would understand she is not the most qualified and as result be very suspicious of her, but apparently he is not. Certainly Callen is not sure of Hidoko’s allegiance and I think that is very appropriate. All of these agents have connections in agencies and I am sure they would do their homework and find out that Hidoko was not the most qualified for the job and as a result be suspicious. Additionally , as a Deeks fan , I am really offended by the fact that Deeks was there for the team for seasons , backed up Sam, Callen and Kensi yet we still got “Descent” and Sam’s disrespect of Deeks. But we have this new young agent, and Sam repeatedly touts how good she is. I am really hoping the show did not kill Michelle so Sam could have a girlfriend.
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I’m so glad I didn’t give up on NCIS:LA some time ago, in more than one moment of disappointment and frustration with the show, if we still get to watch episodes like this week’s.
I think it was a really good one, with a remarkable balance of parts and characters’ contributions, an almost perfect pace (except for a couple of moments), a well-written script, amazing performances by all the actors/actresses (I think India was terrific in this episode, and Daniel was impressive too), the core team working together for a very serious reason, Kirkin and his crush on Marty (hilarious!), Hetty as Hetty, very nice Densi scenes (how much I have missed them this season!) and Monty as the icing on the cake.
Well done, well done. This week the show really seemed to go back to its more genuine essence and peculiarity, just the ones that made me choose it among many others from the very beginning and stick with it for all these years.
Now, to be totally satisfied, I only hope the remaining episodes will be like this one, solid, entertaining and moving, and the show will be renewed for Season 10! I think I’m not asking too much, am I?
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Thanks to everyone for your feedback on the review and your additional insights on the episode. It’s so nice when we can connect around an “old-style” NCIS:LA episode. Hoping the next one is the same! Have a great weekend!
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Monty!!!!! I truly thought the doggy actor (real name also Monty, I believe) must have died and that’s why they never show him, so I was delighted to see him return.
Brenda thanks for a fantastic review. I especially appreciated your explanation of Kobayashi Maru, as I was not familiar with the story.
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