(24 hours after NCIS:LA S10E16 aired)
Unsuspecting fan site reviewer turns on TV to write episode review, having successfully avoided all previews, promos, spoilers and social media until now. The kindly (ha!) middle-aged (what were you expecting?!) woman presses “play” on DVR.
Episode title flashes across screen: “Into the Breach.”
Life flashes before her eyes (OK, so not her whole life, but selected memories of bitter disappointment from her favorite scripted series)
Are you kidding me?!!
They did not. They wouldn’t.
Maybe I’m remembering wrong.
Presses “Pause” on DVR.
Google. Nope, not wrong. Gilmore Girls Season 7, Episode 21 “Unto the Breach” the one where Rory says “no” to Logan’s dramatic marriage proposal leaving me broken-hearted and in tears forever (or something like that).
Is it a coincidence? A cruel joke? Why is the episode that is supposedly the one before the Densi wedding nearly identical in name to the worst episode EVER (yeah, yeah Dean and Jess fans – not listening to you) of one of my other most favourite shows ever?!?
One letter difference? “Into the breach” vs. “Unto the breach” – is that enough, or am I in for the disappointment I have been bracing for since the Densi wedding was announced.
This is why I am jaded and have trust issues!!!!
Bravely presses “play” again as theatrical smoke curls around the TV screen, suggesting the possibility that Densi is about to crash and burn – or that the reviewer has an over-active imagination and a melodramatic side entirely at odds with her real-life, super-analytical, lab-coat-wearing, clinician and medical researcher extraordinaire alter ego. [Yup, this is why I do not write under my real name folks!]
Case of the Week
So, with that melodramatic context going on inside my head, I was intrigued by the apparent criminals who knew words like “semantics.” Call me judgmental, but it didn’t seem like usual gangster talk. They looked sketchy enough to be the bad guys and they were on some kind of a stake-out, and I’m keyed up on adrenaline and angst, so I bought it. But they were – bird-watchers? Seriously, I’m on edge waiting for a Densi break-up and the first scene gives me bird-watchers?! Well, that’s how you get to 10 seasons, isn’t it? Keeping even ardent fans who know entire episodes by heart guessing because of the fantastic writing and always having unique twists on the unveiling of the case of the week. I love writer Lee A. Carlisle’s work, and this week was no exception from the first scene right to the last.
I will confess that I wasn’t persuaded that Odell Ikande was the villain – it always seemed more likely that the contractor was shady than that a marine had turned, but I’d be curious to know what others thought. I did appreciate the background on the reason for the op in Afghanistan and the reference to the multiple layers of collateral damage: the villagers hit by the drone strike, the marines who died, Ikande who was left with survivor’s guilt, Ruya (Alexandra El Kahwagi), and all those who are impacted by the drugs brought to the US by the corrupt contractor. The case itself wasn’t complicated, but the ramifications of the actions of the corrupt contractor were sobering, especially since he was so remorseless. It was also a departure from some of their cases in that the driving force was not ideology, but pure, unadulterated greed. A good reminder that there are many forces that lead people to unspeakable actions, and self-interest is certainly one of them. The juxtaposition of that greed with Ikande’s final words to Beckett (Colby French): “You are not mine to judge.” Wow. That was more intense than a sucker punch, in both the writing and the delivery of the words by guest cast member Cedric Sanders. I’m always amazed at how they find guests who can fit right in and hold their own alongside a well-established team.
I’m still waiting for Hetty’s return, but it is interesting that the special prosecutor seems to be defrosting a little in his views on the team.
John Rogers: It still amazes me how people can pull something like that out of a hat and still be so…you.
Could that mean he’ll be sticking around? I mean, he’s not Mosley, but he’s also not Hetty.
Sam, Callen and Dechamps
I really enjoyed the banter between Sam and Callen this week, and the focus on Sam’s interactions with Agent Dechamps were funny and intriguing. Callen guessing at possible reasons for Sam cancelling on their Lakers tickets (going full LA with goat yoga – LOL) was funny enough, never mind the looks on Sam’s face and Callen’s jazz hands. Sam looked like a teenager getting teased by his college-aged brother! I also enjoyed the line where Sam told Callen they were going to just stay good friends. Another actual LOL, which I needed, because I was still tense because of the title of the episode and still waiting for disaster to strike. Their scenes this week were the perfect mixture of great writing and great acting, moving effortlessly between funny and serious as they solved the case. And while the lines were priceless, the facial expressions said as much as the words, and if you’ve read my prior reviews you know I love when faces tell as much of the story as the words do. I also thought it was really sweet that Callen’s ultimate purpose seemed to be encouraging Sam to feel like it was OK to love again. It’s a touching sentiment, a great thing for a friend to do, and really significant growth from the kind of person Callen was in the earlier seasons of the show. Compared with some of the prior possible love interests for Sam, I really liked Agent Dechamps and I’m giving her my blessing. What do the rest of you think? Are you yes or no on Sam and Dechamps?
The Wedding and the Bar
I’m not going to nit-pick much because there was too much to love about this episode, but how are RSVPs 3 months late? When did we send them out? Weren’t we still deciding on a wedding location just recently?
The health inspection, on the other hand, filled me with dread (see my opening drama above). I was convinced that Kensi being in the field and Deeks being at the bar was going to be the source of the end of Densi. For this reason, it didn’t really occur to me until later that Deeks was taking the day off work to do bar stuff. I’ve come to like the bar, but it does concern me a little that it’s bleeding into his work hours. I don’t like that we don’t have a clear sense of where the bar fits in his life and whether there is still a possibility that he might leave the team.
The Final Scene
I was waiting the whole dang episode for the other shoe to drop. For there to be some connection to the GG episode that I feared because of the similar title. As the end was nearing I was starting to feel relief. And then the final scene and that dance. Oh. My. Heart. That was straight-up awesome any day of the week and is destined for top 10 lists in the Deeks canon. Incredible writing that made me fall in love with Lee A. Carlisle’s work all over again. I always love director James Hanlon’s work and the way those scenes were shot were just beautiful. (And listen to the beautiful lyrics of the song Deeks played.) Add a stunning performance by both ECO and Paula Reed and WOW! It was so memorable and so sweet considering the hardships they have faced together. I had visions of Karen’s series on Bringing Up Brandel floating around in the back of my head as I watched them dance. It was a beautiful testament to their love that has endured despite the abuse and heartbreak they faced. We’ve never heard how, or even if, Roberta tried to protect little Marty from his abusive stepfather, but in that scene we heard what is truly important about their life together: that she did the best she could for him, and he knows it and loves her for it, and he wants to be sure she knows.
After waiting all episode for the shoe to drop, for Densi to be over, what I got instead was pure beauty and love. It was already a great scene, but given I was expecting the worst – the best was even better. I’m sure we were all affected by that particular scene, but it left me breathless and in tears. You see, the reason I was watching this episode a day late and writing the review late Monday evening was that my Mom was dying as the episode originally aired and I’m booked with funeral planning on Tuesday. So I wrote this review hours after my Mom died, sleep-deprived from keeping a bedside vigil for nearly 48 hours. I was determined to write the review because I love doing these and my painful reminder of the brevity of life was also a reminder to embrace the pursuits that bring joy. And oh what I would have missed had I asked one of the other contributors here to take this review. (Though you should know my collaborators are awesome people and offered to do this review when they heard about my Mom. Nuh-uh. This one is mine.)
That end scene was not just perfect, it’s like it was written for me and perfectly timed for me to watch today. It is precisely why I make time to watch and read fiction – why I refuse to acquiesce to the dominant perspective in my professional world that elevates reason and rationality over art and emotion, where measurable facts are the holy grail and writing is deliberately and unapologetically emotionless. I just don’t believe that is the only way to access truth, and I’m not persuaded that metrics alone are sufficient for improving the human condition. Sometimes, reading and watching things that make us feel deeply, see things from other perspectives, and even break our hearts, allows us to connect to truths that aren’t quantifiable – but are universal and essential nonetheless. And that final scene with Roberta and Marty was exactly what I needed to see right before I went to bed for the first time as a motherless child. Those words were heart-breaking in their honesty and almost eery as they echoed what I had been thinking about all weekend. Deep, raw, truth about the love between parent and child.
Deeks: It doesn’t matter who’s watching, it doesn’t matter what dress you’re wearing, it doesn’t matter what song we’re dancing to, because the only thing that matters is you did a great job with me Mama. And I want everybody to know that. More importantly, I wanted you to know that. You know that, right?
Fade to black.