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NCISLA Review: “Smokescreen Part II” (S10E15)

Hello everyone and welcome to the review for the second part of Smokescreen that first aired back on 27th of January, leaving us a few weeks to dream up worst-case-scenarios for our favorite team of operators and the residents of the City of Angels. We knew that there were already victims from the explosions in the theater but what would the next threat turn out to be? A mass shooting as families and first responders descend on the theater? Was there an unknown target that would turn out to be much worse than the incident that had already claimed so many innocent victims? And with Sam and Callen trapped inside, how long would it take for them to be rescued and what carnage could occur during that time? What would the Masriq Army target next? When would the city escape the siege?

Well, now that we know, let’s see how the second part stacked up against its predecessor.

Let me be honest and say that I was disappointed overall with the second part of Smokescreen. I felt that all of the tension and drama from the first partwas wasted and this episode was a weak follow-up to one of the best episode this season. Basically, after the huge build-up, I was seriously let down by the simple distraction operation) the entire ‘terrorist’ attack that this turned out to be (hence the title of Smokescreen). Talk about a waste of potential! This had the ear marks of the beginning of a serious story arc that could have run over the course of several episodes and maybe even span a couple of seasons. They got us with the ole ‘bait-n-switch’ method of story-telling – make you think the case is about this but it’s really all just fake and the plot is not as involved or dangerous as you were made to believe.

While the first part was written by Andrew Barteland directed by Dennis Smith, this one was penned by Matt Klafter and Kyle Harimoto and directed by Sherwin Shilati. I’m no expert on how TV shows/films are made but why in the world were the two parts of a two part episode both written and directed by a different set of people? That makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine!

I haven’t had the time to do this but I challenge someone out there to watch these two episodes back-to-back and let us know if they feel the same or if they are noticeably different in mood and feel. If I was a betting man, I would almost guarantee that the differences are obvious. If you’ve been on this site for very long, you may have read some of the roundabout stories that we’ve posted where each chapter is written by a different person. While each chapter is good and gives you a cohesive story, the writing styles are very different; from tone, focus, or even grammar styles. That’s what this felt like and while the story remained the same between the two episodes, the style and mood changed too much to feel like it was still the same story.

I was hoping that we had witnessed the intro of a new terrorist/bad guy/gal or some evil doer that would be on par with some of the baddies we’ve seen over the years. The Masriq Army was seemingly unstoppable and operating freely; they were well financed and killing civilians at will while staying ahead of the best that NCIS has to offer. Wow, what a season this was turning out to be! But … surprise, surprise … no! This was all a fake-out! And just like usual, the real bad guy turns out to be someone who was presented as one of the good guys. TPTB played the same tired old playbook of “writing a weekly show” formula that I am frankly growing tired of. Let me explain:

Usually, in crime procedural shows such as NCIS:LA, somewhere in the first two segments, you are introduced to the characters that are not part of the regular cast. At this stage, you do not know who the real baddies are while they play a major/minor role until the big reveal toward the end of the show. Sometimes the revelation comes out of nowhere and catches you by surprise but too often, the viewer figured it out before too long. Sometimes it’s because the show gives up the clues and the viewer is paying attention. Other times it is just because out of all the new characters that have been introduced, there are no other possibilities because there are only a few characters left alive. Whichever the case, this time when FBI Agent Ross stepped out during the gun battle, I barely even noticed because I already knew it was coming and it held no surprise whatsoever. I’d had my suspicions about Ross (How did the bad guys know the route, travel time or the make of the vehicle that the doomed agents would be in?), so I was not truly surprised when he turned out to be the traitor.

Now, what would have surprised me is if up in Operations, as the final chase unfolds, Nell discovers a vital clue that had eluded all of them up until this point but before she could warn anyone, Agent Namazi whips out her sidearm and starts shooting up the place. A few analysts are killed/wounded, Eric is slightly injured but before the turncoat can finish her evil monologue to a stricken Ochoa, who was one of the main targets, Nell recovers and has to shoot the woman who had become a trusted ally and friend (if TPTB could create a fake terrorist threat to get LAX to shut down, then why not do this to get the powers that be at NCIS to call in a unused and unknown agent, who has been a sleeper for this group, just waiting for the chance to get ‘invited’ to join a task force to hunt down the very cell she helped create). This would have fallen within the Masriq Army’s stated purpose of attacking the military as NCIS falls under the Department of the Navy. I don’t know about you, but that would have been a lot more surprising than the regular ‘feel’ that this second part had for me.

If you had left out all the references to the theater and those victims, this particular show could have stood all by itself and it would have felt like a single episode instead of the conclusion to a two-parter that should have been a nail-biter. The first installment had me on the edge of my seat the entire running time, then I was holding my breath over the weeks until the next one aired … then I watch it all turn right back into a basic jailbreak with very few bullets flying and even less tension than when Sam and Callen were trapped on the sinking submarine. I mean, I suffered more anxiety when back in Better Angels where Deeks was out of ammo and pinned down after Turk abandoned him in that alley (even when I KNEW nothing serious would happen to the detective)!

I will say that the opening scene with the two brothers trying to sneak out of the movie house so they won’t get into trouble with mom was pretty good and held some tension as Callen came to the rescue. It was also a relief when Sam was able to save Dan, the husband with the dislocated collar bone (Ouch! Is that even a thing? I’ve taken a lot of tumbles in my day and seen LOTS of musculoskeletal injuries but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard of that one). Was it just me or did Dan look a lot like Jeremy Renner? Then at the closing, the candlelight ceremony that the team participated in at the make-shift memorial was actually very beautiful and touching.

And the only real banter we get is between Callen and Sam discussing G’s aversion to tools and how little G knows about Aquaman? Really. Ugh. Then we have the bomb threat at the airport which was the hinge of the whole operation to get LAX to shut down. So, while the two South-African mercs are standing around not doing any work, the rest of the ground crew is running around like busy bees and not one of the others said anything to the two slackers? I don’t know about you, but where I work, if part of the crew is busting out the work and a few folks are just standing around doing nothing … there’s about to be a problem that would not require NCIS agents to rectify.

And that brings me to another pet peeve of mine regarding this show.

We already had the explosion at the theater which killed/wounded several people and cause severe damage to the building. The explosion from the bomb in the gym bag was fairly decent except for one thing … it apparently had no effect on bullet proof Sam Hannah. Comparing the two incidents, we have Callen and Sam thrown to the ground, dazed and confused from the relatively small suicide vest (which are built on the premise of causing as much carnage as possible) but the one at the airport destroys the cart, the tow vehicle and all the luggage … and Sam dusts himself off like he fell off the jungle gym at the playground. Explosions not only kill from shrapnel or the impact from airborne objects but also the pressure wave caused by the explosive itself and there was enough plastic explosive in that bag to put a dent in the earth. A large enough charge can kill without any thing solid actually striking the victim and based on the timing given to us by the scene, Sam was well within the explosions kill zone, about ten to fifteen yards away when we saw him on his feet.

Realism goes a long way in selling the threat and I feel like we got very little in that particular scene. Yes … I know this is a make-believe TV show and we have to have to have a good helping of the suspension of disbelief, but sometimes it simply becomes a bit too much and distracts from the realism that the story is attempting to convey.

On a side note: while this is going on, Kensi spots the secondary shooter in the terminal posing as a janitor who had a gun out in plain view on his cart? Are you serious? The point of being the sleeper is that you do not do anything that would indicate that you are one of the bad guys! You don’t stand there with your firearm in plain view! And he was supposed to be trained soldier on top of that! And I know Kensi is fast but how did she run back out through the entrance, around the front of the building and cut off the perp before Deeks even gets through the door when he was only about eight to ten steps behind the guy? That stood out to me as well.

I’m not saying you have to kill off a main character on each episode but what makes a character believable is their humanity … their weaknesses. We get a lot of the emotional side of that aspect but far too often, when the bullets start to fly and things go ‘BOOM’ … we have to watch people survive things on screen while we know deep inside that there was no way on earth that they would have lived, much less walk away unscathed. At the very least, in the aforementioned scene, have Sam appeared stunned and disoriented … have him favoring an arm or attempt to hide a slight limp … anything that would show us a human being and not a superhero that is impervious to anything. I mean, they had to give Superman a weakness so that we as mere mortals could relate to the Man of Steel … and unless the team members are hiding their capes, we should expect to see a little more frailty from the heroes.

And where was the DENSI?

After the pillow talk in the first installment, the lack of any DENSI whatsoever stood out like a sore thumb. No meaningful discussions about the brevity of life, that there is no guarantee of tomorrow, or that you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it … we got nada. After watching this for the second time, it looked like Eric and Dani were simply told “Stand here and say these lines”; they did their best but they really were not given much to work with. After Better Angels and the first part of Smokescreen, I was hoping for a Kensi revelation about how she saw their future at NCIS but I guess that’s going to come in a later episode this season. Right? This season, not next year? Hey, I can dream right?

I know we are building to the mysterious wedding episode, but I am afraid that they may have these two tie the knot without resolving some of the major issues that popped up before the trip to Mexico. I know Deeks loves Kensi and will follow her anywhere and I know that Kensi loves Deeks and wants a life with him … but ignoring a sticky issue doesn’t not make the issue go away. It only pops up later at the worst possible moment and sometimes the damage is irreparable. I hope that I am wrong and that Kensi and Deeks will find a solution that will only make them stronger together and this will all be forgotten, kinda like the box. Box? What box?

It was a refreshing surprise to see that Deeks was not just the comic relief this time around. He had at least two moments where he was able to display his detective’s sharp mind in making a couple of logic jumps to fill in some unanswered questions about some of the case particulars. I like the times when he is treated with respect, not only by the other characters but the show writers as well.

Unlike some of the staff at WikiDeeks, I do not watch the show to see how Eric Christian Olsen has styled his hair this week or if he might appear shirtless in a particular episode. I watch because this is my favorite show that airs on television and the characters are intriguing and fun to see get into and out of trouble, week in and week out. Good or bad, I’m a fan of this show and the people who work so hard to make it happen, even when I rake them over the coals sometimes.

I do apologize … it feels like all I did was complain and give you a list of gripes but as a fan, I want this show to be the best that it can be. There have been episodes that made make my heart hurt and those that made me seriously think about the sacrifices that are made on our behalf. Then there are the ones that make me scratch my head and ask myself, “Was I supposed to believe that they would survive?” or “I can’t believe they expect me to think that this was even probable, much less possible.” And “Was that supposed to be funny or serious … humorous or sad … poignant or pointless?”

Let us know how you feel about the Smokescreen duology. Did the second part live up to your expectations or were you disappointed? If you enjoyed it, let us know what you liked about it and if you didn’t, tell us about that as well. What is going on with Ochoa? It seems like he’s going to be around and hopefully we can get more info from the new addition that has taken to the team a lot better than Mosley ever did. We are nearing the end of season number 10, so what are you hoping for before summer arrives? Will the wedding bells finally ring for DENSI or are they simply giving us another smokescreen? (See what I did there … pretty cool, huh? Well, at least I thought it was. Never mind.)

And, of course,

Semper Fidelis

About Jericho Steele (32 Articles)
I'm just me. I served proudly in the United States Marine Corps for four years after graduating from high school. For the past twenty-six years, I've been married to the most wonderful woman in the world. Our daughter is still at home but our son just moved to Russia to study at Moscow State University. We also live with four cats and one dog in south Georgia where I spend my time loving my family, writing stories, working, and shooting my bow.

19 Comments on NCISLA Review: “Smokescreen Part II” (S10E15)

  1. Thanks for the review. Spot on.

    I’ll start with a positive. What stood out for me was the shootout in the street scene. I knew someone new or different was at the helm. If I remember correctly, the way it was filmed has not been done before on this show: moving camera in the middle of it all rather than an overview (third person kind of shot). I liked it. It lent immediacy to the action and we see up close and personal the communication going on with the team. Nice. One way to keep it fresh for us and I’m sure for the actors/crew.

    Having the scene with Mimi Rogers at the very end was … interesting. That she was there and we’ve not seen her before. Interesting. That she was relieving Ochoa and getting the report from him and then the recommendation to keep the team together. Interesting. That they brought up the loyalty to Hetty. Interesting. THIS was the set up for a bigger story. It has to be. Why else?

    Otherwise? Meh squared. Sam and the exploding baggage cart … seriously? And the “debris” of it afterward looked practically like a campfire not something that they were freaking out about and had to save the people on the plane being too close.

    And once again while it’s touching to have the candlelight memorial scene (and nice team walk — excellent intense look, ECO), it not only took up valuable story time but it was once again virtue signalling that is becoming NCISLA’s habit lately.

    I want stories not formula. Your fantasizing about Agent Namazi being the surprise would have been so fabulous but that would never happen because the show wants diversity for the sake of diversity. Come on, show. They’ve got talent abounding and it is sometimes so blah. What a waste of opportunity. Makes me sad and angry. (end of another rant) (not sorry).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Peakae, thanks for reminding about the way that shootout at the end was shot. Every time they went into slo-mo I thought something bad was about to happen, so it definitely ramped up the energy for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. C’mon, Jericho, don’t be shy. Tell us how you really feel! I have to admit I wasn’t as frustrated with the episode as you appeared to be, though I agree that it wasn’t nearly as exciting as part 1. Keeping the title in mind, I was pretty sure from the get-go that it wasn’t the Mashriq Army behind the bombings, and/or that the attacks were never about terrorism. But wow did I love your idea of a plot twist that would have Fatima as part of the Mashriq Army! Because yeah, my hubby and I picked Agent Ross out as a baddie from the very first scene he was in in part 1 (he was definitely too nice and didn’t pull any of the inter-agency rivalry we usually see). I’m still not sure how they figured out he was involved in the end–other than he was shooting at Sam and Callen–was that it?

    The Ochoa scene with whoever the big boss-lady was leads me to believe that this isn’t really the last we’ll see of him, no matter what the big boss-lady seemed to be indiciating. And I’m cool with that. I much prefer Ochoa to Mosley and I already care more about his daughter than I did about Mosley’s son (let’s just hope that when the team is called on to rescue said daughter from a druglord or someone who wants to hold sway over Ochoa, they’re all in agreement about how best to handle the task).

    As for the Densi, Deeks should have at least had his arm around Kensi’s waist at the candlelight vigil and she should have leaned her head on his shoulder. During such a stressful day, there might have been a few more “You okay?” check-ins too. I did enjoy seeing them figure important things out together, though. We need to see more of that too.

    Thanks for your great review, Jericho!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Oh, and since I never got to leave a comment for the review of Part 1, here’s my burning question from that episode: what was the new thing (I assume it’s a car part) on Kensi’s nightstand? The bigger object in the back we’ve seen before (both on her nightstand in her last apartment and this house and in the livingroom of the this house as well) and I think it’s a car’s alternator. But the smaller, cube-shaped thing with the black tube-like thing coming out of it has me stumped. Anyone got any ideas?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. No one writes a review was well as you Jericho. As a fan I don’y examine these episodes as closely as you. I agree the second part was not as good as the first. As you pointed out I too don’t understand why they use different writers for two parter. I kinds wish they wouldn’t. Do you think they might take our advice? Probably not. When Sam walked away from that explosion I think we were all not surprised.. It all makes for good TV. Thanks again Jericho.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jericho, thank you for such a thoughtful and interesting review. Although I think I enjoyed this episode a lot more than you did , I really enjoyed reading your review and certainly agree with parts of it. I thought your idea of having Agent Fatima Namazi be an agent who is really Mashriq was great and definitely would have made for a much more interesting story.

    I did enjoy this episode. It was a solid team episode, and everyone had an important, relevant part to play. There were good transitions between ops and the field and everyone was on point. I also thought it was fine how they portrayed Kensi and Deeks. I think it is good for them to showcase them as a good working pair and that being a couple romantically does not get in the way of that working relationship.

    I actually did rewatch the episodes back to back. I definitely felt there was a different look , feel, and rhythm to part 2. I did not particularly enjoy Fatima in part 2. I thought she was a good actress, and in part 1 , her part was well defined , she was an expert they brought in , and she kept telling them this was not characteristic of the Mashriq army. Pretty much they were not listening. In part 2, I was not sure what she was doing in the show, one minute she is in ops, next she is in the field with Deeks and Kensi , she seems unsure of herself in one scene, sure of herself in another. For me it was a negative vibe from season 9, which is where TPTB want this character and want you to you to like her as opposed to her part is critical to this story and well developed. I think it would have been more powerful, if she stayed in ops and became more adamant about the fact that this was not the Mashriq army and she became the driving force to uncovering the truth.

    I did enjoy Mimi Rogers, I hope she returns for a bigger part. She is a good actress, and played the part well. The undersecretary was totally professional even though she was asking tough questions about the team. Her demeanor and dress conveyed confidence and she showed respect for the team she was assessing.

    So overall, I enjoyed this episode

    Liked by 2 people

  6. While I wasn’t disappointed with the second part of Smokescreen but it definitely wasn’t the nail-biter the first episode was. I do agree that a two part episode should be written and directed by the same team.

    The explosion at the airport reminded me “bulletproof” is implied as Sam’s middle name. But what do you expect from the show that has Hetty jumping from open windows into dumpsters without a scratch?

    As for the lack of Densi in this episode we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that ECO has multiple jobs now that his production company has taken off, not to mention mandatory family vacation written into his contract.

    I really enjoyed the slow-motion gun battle near the end. It felt like a movie quality scene, and yeah, it made Deeks look really good!

    The final scene was unexpected. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think we’ve had a clip of the team walking down a busy LA street at night before. It was a nice way to wrap up the episode, even though it momentarily felt like an ad for Burlington, and could of used some affectionate gestures from Densi.

    Oh Jericho, that crack about watching the show to check out Eric’s hairstyle and possible shirtless scenes made me laugh. Thank you for that!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Never apologize for a well defended opinion! I wasn’t as down on the episode as you were but this is an excellent analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I too was disappointed with the lack of Densi. Personally, I got bored while watching it. The scene where Sam almost got blown up seemed WAY to scripted and very fake. I was very disappointed with this episode. Probably the worst of the season sofar😕.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It was a bit of a let down after part one which I thought was amazing. It was boring and out of sync with the first part. I agree they should have had the same writing and directing team without a doubt! Thanks Jerich for the great review!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Good review, Mr. Jericho Steele. Then you had to go and insult your fellow wikiDeeks staffers, and probably a ginormous section of the fan base by accusing us of lovin us some Deeks. I’m not ashamed to say I do love Deeks’ Viking mane and an occasional glimpse of ECO’s obvious assets sans shirt. I’m also pretty sure you and the multitude of male viewers out there don’t mind checking out his lovely partner every week. Every member of the team is pretty damn easy on the eyes, but just like for you that’s not the only draw. That said, their good looks and charm can sometimes get one through a weak script or unbelievable scenario, and maybe even a plot twist that was telegraphed by the title of the episode. I’ll forgive you this time. After your review of these two episodes we know we have a winner on our wikiDeeks team. Just don’t be trying to shame us about lovin us some Deeks. 🤪

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Thank you for your great review, Jericho. I, too, felt a little bit disappointed, after the previous episode this episode did feel a bit boring. Fatima’s character was very interesting in part one and I was expecting more from her character’s storyline and that was one of my biggest disappointments with this episode.
    My favorite NCIS LA episode is “The Seventh Child” and maybe that is one of the reasons why I felt a bit bored and disappointed with this episode, some scenes in this episode reminded me (maybe too much?) of “The Seventh Child” (for example the scene with Callen and the two boys). Maybe it was just me and I have been watching “The Seventh Child” too much 🙂
    I really like Ochoa, I hope that this episode wasn’t a hint that there will some Ochoa family drama coming up, in my personal opinion there has been enough family drama in the show already (Granger and her daughter, Mosley and her son, Callen and his father..). Even though I have a love/hate relationship with Hetty’s character I really miss her and I hope we will see her back soon.
    My favorite part was the slow-motion scene, that was interesting and different from typical NCIS LA scenes and ECO did an amazing job as always, I, too, wish Deeks and Kensi had more scenes in this episode.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for this very good review. I didn’t like this second part as much as I had enjoyed the first, just like many of you here, but I think that this two-parter was of a very good quality anyway and I’m so glad this season has been (so far) so so much better than season 9, both in the team dynamics and in the plots. Naturally, not every single episode can be THE episode of the season, but I’m ok with that, as long as the majority of them are enjoyable, well-scripted, well-directed and well-acted as I think most have been these past months since the beginning of the season.
    Thanks again for the great job you do, all WikiDeeks staff, it’s truly appreciated.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Mr. Steele, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was sorely disappointed in Smokescreen, Part II. What a let down after the exciting first part, especially after making us wait three weeks between episodes. I imagined all sorts of scenarios in my head, all of which were more exciting than what we got. It was so disjointed that I wonder if the writers of part two even watched part one! I was suspicious of Ross pretty much right off the bat, but I didn’t know why. I was also suspicious of Fatima, and I think she would have made an excellent bad guy, but I think that would have been too sensitive to portray in these trying times. I would have lived seeing her shoot up OPs as you described in your review.

    Bait and switch is a totally apt description of part II. It totally didn’t make sense to me when the story switched gears mid stream. I also agree with you on Sam and the airport bomb, with Sam walking away totally unscathed. Another thing, how is Sam always able to diagnose incredibly odd medical/surgical injuries so quickly, and repair them with a penknife and a bobby pin? He is a regular medical McGyver!

    As for Densi, I wasn’t really expecting much after the writers gave us that charming bedroom scene in part one. I think they felt we would be satisfied for a while, but it just left me craving more. I miss the flirtyness that was once Densi. I miss the sexual tension, the funny banter, the longing looks; I miss what I always called their ‘eye sex.’ They are so serious, almost tense, together this season. I want to see them smile a little more. Don’t get me wrong, I also want to see some serious discussion about the problems that nearly caused them to break up, but I fear this will not be addressed before the wedding solely due to the lack of time. There are only two shows left before the wedding episode. I also agree that ECO and DR really weren’t given much to do but stand around. Such a waste of their superior acting skills.

    I know that I am probably in the minority, but I thought the ending scene was as cloying, but that is just my personal opinion. I see that many of you thought that they are setting up a storyline for Ochoa, and I hope you are right. I thought for a minute that they might be writing him out, sending him home to deal with a personal family problem. I hope he continues on the show, as I really like Esai Morales. He would be a good foil for Hetty, if she ever comes back. Fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great review Jericho! I agree with much of what you and the others have already said. Throughout the episode I kept thinking of something the wise Tess DiCorsi says from time to time, that you should show and not tell. It just felt like there were so many scenes where one or more characters were explaining things verbally. I’m a visual learner, so I pretty quickly lost complete track of the plot, and therefore complete interest in the story.

    I did love the shoot-out and how it was shot with the slo-mo and also with almost no cuts. It was attention grabbing without feeling gimmicky. Very very cool.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Guys guys guys! The BOX!!

    “We were so relieved. We wanted to reward our viewers for sticking with us so long. It was a very special day, and there are nice surprises for fans,” Gemmill says.

    One is so huge, we’ve been sworn to secrecy. Another is the reveal of what is inside the infamous box that Kensi gave Deeks back in Season 4. She cryptically told him it contained something he’d always wanted. He put off opening it — until now. To heighten the moment, Gemmill played a practical joke on Olsen by booby-trapping the box with an additional object, so the initial surprise you see on Deeks’s face is real, not acting. “We left it in the cut,” Gemmill reveals. “And he improvised why Kensi had put it in there.”

    Liked by 1 person

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