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.