I generally manage to do a good job of avoiding previews, spoilers, and such, even here on this site! I don’t even like to know who wrote or directed an episode prior to watching it and I’m usually so engrossed in the show that I don’t pay attention to the credits on the screen the first time I watch. This is partly because I like to see if I can guess whose style seems to be showing through and partly because I just like to have an open mind about the episode when I watch – especially when I am reviewing. While watching this week’s episode I kept wondering who wrote and directed it because I really, really enjoyed it. When I went back to look at the credits – well, as the names rolled by – Sachs, Gemmill, Bartels, Sachs, Jaffe, Harimoto, Kousakis, Military – not so surprising how much I enjoyed it because one or more of them are credited on my all-time favourite episodes throughout the series. What a dream team for this ep!
The case itself was quite interesting as it wasn’t obviously a typical terrorism case at the outset. The team was involved initially because of the victim was Navy SEAL Chief PO Alonzo Perez (portrayed by Nicholas Hayner), even though it was an off-duty job he was working on. I found the explanation of the legal status of cannabis and the logistical complexities it creates for business was interesting. We’ve seen lots of cartel cases before, but this had a different angle on the reason for bad actors to be involved in something that has a quasi-legal status. I also liked the slow unfolding of the potential financial connection to the eventual white supremacist villains, with some entertaining brainstorming by the team, especially Kensi, in figuring that out. As far as suspect, the cannabis company CEO seemed quite legit, which made me a little suspicious of her in a “is she too good to be true” kind of way. I will confess that it also took me a while to decide if Jason Reed (Tommy Brown) was part of the set-up or also a victim. Medalion Rahimi returned as Special Agent Fatima Namazi. It wasn’t clear to me why she was back this time. Did I miss something in a previous episode that explains why she’s returning? Having her call Jason Reed (Tommy Brown) was a perfect distraction to allow the team time to set up. Her final response to him when he was apprehended “As-Salaamu-Alaikum” and Kensi’s response “nice” was a powerful ending to that situation.
A couple of things I had questions about were the weather and the hoarding. I don’t recall seeing rainy days too often in the years I’ve been watching and Google tells me it doesn’t rain often in LA. Was that a work-around because it was raining on the day they were shooting? Or was the rain part of the plan and they had to shoot when it was raining (that seems like quite the logistical challenge). Either way, I loved the way the weather added to the ambiance of the episode, both in the darkness of the sky and the sound of the rain in the background as they were moving around outside.
Now about the hoarding. I wish I had the kind of brain that could just watch and enjoy a show, but that whole hoarding situation made my brain itchy (as my good friend Sheldon Cooper likes to say). If you’re shooting scenes in a house where there’s a fictional hoarder do you find a hoarding house (because shudder and eewww) or do you make a house looked hoarded-in (is that a word)? I watch a lot of HGTV, and if Tarek and Christina are to be believed there are a lot of hoarders in California. But would you want to be the location scout for that? And would you take a cast and crew of a scripted drama into one of those houses to film?? Yuck. On the other hand, I just kept thinking of how much time and effort it would take to stage a house with that level of hoarding for an episode. Add to that the junky, narrow back and side yards they were running through and, like the weather, it really was an interesting and visually impactful setting for the case.
The Bad Guys
I feel like every time I get a review there is something that makes me scratch my head and wonder how to approach it. Sometimes it’s cringy (like Anna & Callen in front of the fireplace in “Queen Pin“) and this week it was the white supremacist angle. I know there have been comments on previous episode reviews from some wikiDeeks readers who feel the show is, at times, too political in their portrayal of some of the villains. I have responded to that by saying I have never perceived that, but I acknowledge that I am coming from a different standpoint because I am Canadian. That reality also makes it a little tougher for me to know what to say about Eric Morrison (Steve Fisher), particularly the takedown scene in the bedroom. His final words and the cadence in which they were spoken “You will not replace us” seemed fairly clearly intended to evoke a parallel to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was “too soon” or “too real” to reference a very emotional recent event. I’ll be honest, it made me uncomfortable – and I’m not entirely sure why, because I would consider myself quite strongly opposed to Morrison’s and Reed’s political stance and the resulting actions they took. But even in saying that much, I feel the need to tread lightly, because I am aware of my “outsider” status as a Canadian. It’s a little like commenting on someone else’s marriage – kinda risky. However, as I said in my last review, the value of fiction is to make us feel deeply and consider other perspectives, and that means that sometimes we laugh, other times we cry, and other times we are disturbed, restless and uncomfortable. And I think that’s OK. I don’t think any content needs to be viewed as the writers/producers “getting political,” as much as a decision to be unconstrained about their topics in that quest to provoke us to think and feel. Some of us have jobs where following the rules is really important and others have jobs where they push the boundaries, and I think artists (whether actors, writers, directors, etc.) are supposed to push boundaries. So I’m hopeful that the discussion about this episode can bear that in mind, so even if we have different views, we can reflect on how the episode made us think and feel in our usual friendly fashion.
The ICU Scenes
I have these feeling that there are at least a couple of readers of this blog that will have the urge to shout “Duck – Brenda’s reviewing medical content” upon seeing that heading because you know I am one of those profs who grades hard and never on the curve. Well, this week I am being totally serious when I say it actually looks to me like they hired a nurse to consult on this episode. First, the nurse actually has a credited first and last name (Nurse Steven Hong, portrayed by David Chan, according to IMDb) instead of being a nebulous, nameless background figure. This may not seem like a big thing to non-nurses, however, the invisibility of nurses in media and the inappropriate portrayal of their work/attire/actions/etc. is standard Year 1 nursing curriculum content. Nurse Hong is an example of how easy it is portray nurses accurately. Good job!
Next, while men are the minority in nursing, areas such as ICU and emergency have a higher proportion of men, so a male ICU nurse is very appropriate. Beyond that – the breathing tube was realistically positioned and secured, the line on the right side of the neck looked appropriately positioned and taped, the cast was very nicely formed, the response to the seizure was appropriate and even the white board content (from what I could see) was legit. Again, good work!
The seizure was also one of the most realistic fictional portrayals I have ever seen, so kudos to Nicholas Hayner (Perez) for that. Again, it might not seem like a big deal, but seizure disorders are feared and misunderstood. According to epilepsy.com, epilepsy is also more common than autism spectrum, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined, affecting millions of Americans. Although Perez was having a post-traumatic seizure that maybe related to brain trauma and not necessarily an epilepsy diagnosis. Still, an accurate portrayal of the seizure itself avoids further perpetuating stigmatizing myths and fears about people with seizures.
All in all, the medical content in this episode was very well done. It’s not hard, but it is rare to see. So my thanks and kudos to whomever was responsible!!
Sometimes I transcribe a lot of my favorite dialogue, but this review is already getting a little long, so I won’t do that today. But I really enjoyed the many fun moments between Deeks and Kensi this week. From Deeks replying to Kensi calling him an idiot by saying “I’m your idiot,” him calling her “Nancy Drew,” the weird Braveheart Scottish accent thing Deeks had going on (did someone just re-watch the movie?), to the banter between them while they were problem-solving various aspects of the case and arguing about the definition of “choke point,” they seemed to be having fun together as they went about their work. While I know there are always calls for more overtly romantic scenes between them, I love days like this where they are working as partners, loving what they do and having fun in the middle of very serious work. I think that speaks to a relationship that is solid and happy. And I’m so glad their wedding wasn’t immediately followed by episodes that returned to the angsty “how long are we going to risk our lives?” conversations. Those are important too – but we need a little honeymoon of happiness for them and their interactions had that this week.
- Deeks was just full of witty remarks this week. My favourite was “Hoardy McPackrat from the brotherhood of xenophobia, or maybe Xena the Warrior Princess”. Did somebody write that in the script or is that just the kind of stuff that sometimes flows from his brain when the red light on the camera is blinking? Either way, I was chuckling.
- Hetty and the meerkats (sorry – that Granger nickname has always stuck for me): I wasn’t initially sure what Eric was getting at with his bumbling words, but it was nice to see how both Eric and Nell acknowledged in their own way that they really had missed Hetty. Among the many things she does, acting as a mother hen to the group is an important function. I’m glad she’s back and by the looks of the scene between Nell and Hetty, there seemed to be a very genuine moment of emotion on the part of Renée Felice Smith.
- While we’re on Hetty – I loved that her response to Eric likening the upstairs office to a terrarium was to suggest they get a rock and a lamp for Rogers to sun himself. Totally agree!
- Callen wants a pet? Hedgehogs are not legal to keep as pets in California? I have so many questions.
- The last scene – Eric has a new job offer? Nell obviously doesn’t know. Is the job with NCIS, as in will he actually be a field agent? Or is he leaving to do something else and is Special Agent Namazi his replacement? What do you all think?
There was a lot to like in this episode and although this review is a bit long I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Can’t wait to hear what you all thought – looking forward to reading the comments!