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Review: NCISLA “Choke Point” (S10E20)


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

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!!

Densi Moments

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.

Memorable Moments

  • 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!

27 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Choke Point” (S10E20)

  1. The rain scenes reminded me of some Instagram videos from four or five weeks ago. I don’t think they chose a rainy day, I think they just worked with it. I too was surprised to see Fatima again. Is she going to be the Muslim addition to the show? I know I’m going to get some comments on that because it’s not ‘PC’.I loved Deeks and his Scottish brogue on the roof and it really worked. Kensi certainly was ‘on fire’ in this episode and they worked really well as a team. By the way Nell knew about the job offer from a couple of past episodes. Thank you Brenda for a wonderful review.

    Like

    • Not to go there, but isn’t Sam supposedly muslim, or was that an alias? :shrugs: I get them wanting diversity, but if he is, they could have picked a different religion for Fatima (and don’t get me wrong, I like the character, I’m simply trying to respond to the above comment), to make it even more diverse. Anyway thanks again Brenda for your in-depth review 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the review, I missed Sunday’s episode and I know I can erase it from my dvr. I detest it when they go to the tired trite of “conservatives =evil” An exaggeration to be sure, but it certainly feels that way at times (we’ve had what, three such episodes this season alone). Anyway, I’m glad you liked it but it sounds like it’s not my cup of tea.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well the writers are most likely Hollywood liberals so they write to their ‘base’.I don’t especially like it, but I love the show so I grin and bear it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I get it it’s their base, but it gets so tiresome , I echo peakae about the balance or rather lack of balance. Anyway, I’ll continue to watch the show and simply not watch this episode, I just hope it doesn’t get to the point where it’s more often than not (such as SVU, which I eventually quit watching).

        Liked by 1 person

    • I would say it’s a PERCEIVED base. The country is half and half ideologically. More and more shows are doing this and I always ask why. Why are they choosing to alienate and potentially lose half of their audience? There is no good answer, sadly. It’s accepted discrimination no matter how you try to pretty it up and here I was thinking and constantly hoping we humans are better than this in 2019. But it is a conscious choice on their parts. I hope someone from NCISLA reads wikideeks and actually does something about it but after 10 seasons, they haven’t cared yet and in fact do it even more, as r2d2c2 mentioned, about three times in one season so far.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t agree it’s 50/50. I think it’s more like 40/40 and the other 20 per cent that may be independent are the ones that actually elect a president. But I doubt we will see any changes from these writers and as I said earlier I will watch anyway because I love the show.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the review. You put a lot of good considerations in it.

    I thank you for your thoughts on the political angle and that was my biggest issue with this episode. I don’t support white supremacist ideologies. I am Caucasian — that’s just the birthday suit I came in with. My complaint about this episode isn’t that they have white supremacists as the bad guys or “alt-right” whatever the hell that is … it’s the preponderance of it. I’m struggling with my words here because I don’t want to get into a political discussion. I’ll just ask when was the last time there was an episode featuring Antifa, BLM, or the Black Panthers as the wrong-doers? I’m saying balance it out. THEIR politics are showing too much.

    I felt sorry for Sam. Seems like he and Special Agent Namazi.were the only serious ones in this episode. Though I’m questioning Sam’s huge response. In past seasons it seems he’s risen above the pettiness/stupidity of such motivations. He has usually been more zen-like than lacking control.

    Eric with Hetty … I’m over with his bumbling which is supposed to be funny. He’s an adult; he’s a professional in the employ of NCIS; he wasn’t this way in the first couple seasons. I want that version back. Nell and Hetty … very nice. No mention from the rest of the team that she was back or did I miss that? Very strange.

    Deeks’ Scottish accent was funny the first time. On the roof, not. I enjoyed the Densi banter at the choke point and in the bullpen when they were sounding out the info.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Valentina Vella // April 17, 2019 at 9:09 AM // Reply

    Thanks for this wonderful review! I really appreciate it and I enjoyed the episode. Thanks for your work on wikideeks!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Cheryl Molnar // April 17, 2019 at 10:20 AM // Reply

    Nell knows about Eric’s job offer! She went to San Francisco with him! He told her he could make “made money” doing it and she wouldn’t have to get a job right away and could take care of her sick mom!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brenda (@BP_NP) // April 17, 2019 at 11:20 AM // Reply

      That must be on one of the episodes I haven’t watched – I missed a couple after my mom died and haven’t caught up yet. Now I have a reason to see what I missed!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry about your mom. Thank you for taking the time to do this review (even though this episode isn’t something I’d enjoy) when I’m sure your heart and mind wanted to be elsewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for your review, Brenda.
    To be honest, this wasn’t my favorite episode, even if I enjoyed some scenes, like Hetty and Nell together (for me the highlight of the episode).
    I think Deeks and Kensi weren’t at their best this week and in some moments they seemed to act quite out of character, something that it hadn’t happened for a long time now. I wonder how much was scripted and how much was improvised and worked only in part.
    I can’t believe we are almost at the end of Season 10 and there hasn’t been any official confirmation of Season 11. I hope that filming two more episodes means the show is going to be renewed, but the more we have to wait for the news to become official, the more I’m getting nervous. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. sassyzazzi // April 17, 2019 at 3:30 PM // Reply

    Thanks for the review Brenda. There were parts of this episode , I did enjoy ,mostly the action parts and Kensi and Deeks. Overall though I thought the storyline just did not work for me, it seemed forced . The basis of the story was good, a Navy SEAL has an off duty job where he gets hurt and so NCIS gets involved. It also was interesting that it involved the cannabis business since I live in California and there really are issues associated with legalization. Then the story went off the rails for me , somehow a white supremacist organization is involved, to me it made absolutely no sense. It would have made more sense if somehow organized crime/gangs was involved, sort of a plot like “Between the Lines” from season 5, which I thought was a great episode, and a group like the Yakuza were behind it.

    As far as Fatima, you did not miss anything, she appeared as an agent who would help the team in Smokescreen, then at the wedding episode, somehow she seemed like she is on the team. The show seems to be disconnected from the viewers at least as far as letting the viewers know what is going on.

    I guess, I am worried about the finale and the episodes being shot for next season. I understand there are many people who are excited at the return of the “JAG” characters so no offense to them. Although I have watched NCIS LA since season 2, I have never watched “JAG”, so I hope they explain who everybody is but more than that, I hope the finale is about our team , heavy on Deeks and Kensi and not about a couple I do not know or care about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hear you on the JAG angle. I watched the show and wanted them together, but I don’t want them to eat up NCISLA.
      Regarding this episode I thought it was a waste of my time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m glad you spoke up Sassy. I never watched Jag, but I am happy for those who are over the moon about the appearance of the two characters, However, I also am concerned that it will take a lot away from the regular characters in the finale. I remember it was during some of this filming time that ECO and DR took vacation trips to Idaho, so I hope that doesn’t mean they are barely in the finale (like they were almost left out completely a couple of seasons ago when they went to Russia with Anna).

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kim, exactly, that was what I was thinking as I wrote my comment. I recall the episode had hardly any Deeks or Kensi , and I was so disappointed with that finale. It was made worse when they released the DVD, and they had actually deleted a Deeks and Kensi scene so they could have more of a non core team character.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I generally liked the episode, but a couple of times I was taken out of it by how off the characters felt to me, especially Sam. There wasn’t enough of a trajectory set up there for me to fully appreciate why he was reacting so strongly to THIS particular case when he hasn’t in the past.

    This is a little nitpicky but I was hoping the show was going to cool it with their perpetuation of the negative stigmatisation of hoarding/being a ‘pack rat’. There’s no functional purpose for it and it doesn’t add anything to the story, plus there’s a faint self-righteous ‘well if you do this then clearly you are not a good purpose’ tone to it. So, stop it show.

    And I could definitely be reading into this but Kensi being so gleefully ‘on fire’ and proficient, running circles around the boys did sort of make me think that they are going to hold off on her getting pregnant, which I would prefer honestly, as much as I want that for the two of them. But if she’s going to stay in for a while, it makes wonder if we’re ever going to confront Deeks initial concern for them staying in. I know he’s now saying he wants to be respectful, and that he will wait until she’s ready but if the shit hits the fan again will he still be able to retain that mindset? I feel like we’re not entirely addressing the elephant in the room on that one.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Debra Gillespie // April 18, 2019 at 3:47 AM // Reply

    Have some random (rambling) thoughts from this episode…
    I couldn’t believe how Eric’s bumbling conversation with Hetty irritated me, but Nell’s emotional talk with her was for me the highlight of the episode, like Cladini mentioned. And having less diverging storylines in this episode compared to the last one sure helped. As for Agent Fatima, I’ve seen talk on other fan sites that Renee Smith was taking maternity leave, and if so Fatima’s continuing presence in ops might mean she’s subbing for Nell while she’s in San Francisco.
    I live in Oregon, where pot is also legal and there’s cannabis shops aplenty; also I’ve been involved in the banking industry for several years, and so the CEO of the cannabis franchise talking about the problems/money logistics of the marijuana industry was spot on.Our state legislature is supposedly working on a bill or bills to solve the problem, but of course the machinery of government can move awfully slow.
    Deek’s Scottish brogue in this episode was quite amusing, but I liked his pseudo-British accent from several seasons ago better for some reason. And I couldn’t help get a flashback when he wrapped that blanket around him…I thought of the “Jesus robe:” he put on, in the season 8 finale.
    Speaking of season 8, when retired Admiral Clegwidden ( I probably massacred the name) showed up, I went and watched some old JAG episodes to get reacquainted with his character…it looks like I’ll need to do the same for Harm and Mac now.
    Excellent review, Brenda.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Why, why, why is CBS taking so long to make a decision on the fate of our favorite show?

    Liked by 1 person

    • They do this at the end of every season reebelle to keep us fans guessing, but I have learned that if the ratings are good it will return for an 11th season. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went to 15 seasons. Stop worrying.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hope you are right! I read somewhere that they have taped 26 episodes instead of the usual 24. If the show is renewed, then they will have the first two episodes on tap. If they are canceled, the last two episodes will be presented as a two hour ‘movie ‘ to wrap up the loose ends of the series.

        Liked by 1 person

        • yeah I saw that too. TPTB always like to screw with us at the end of the season. The last two episodes are the JAG people on the May 12th and the finale on May 19th. Stop worrying.

          Like

  12. Brenda, thank you for your excellent review. “Choke Point” wasn’t great, but was much better than episode 19, “Searching.” We are of the same mind on many points. I found the cannabis company storyline mildly interesting, only because I know nothing about the logistics of running such a business. I didn’t particularly get the white supremacy end of it. Or the hoarding story.
    I won’t get into politics, except to say that pretty much all of Hollywood is left leaning, so I am never surprised at how the heroes vs. bad guys are depicted. I am squarely in the middle of the road here, so I just try enjoy the actors and not obsess over the storylines.

    As a retired Emergency Room and ICU nurse, I did appreciate the medical aspect of the show, and how capable and professional the nursing staff was represented. My only complaint here was when the mother told her child to ‘go have a snack’ with the nurse. This makes my blood boil! I can’t tell you how many times a patient’s relative told their kid to ‘go play with the nurse, while I visit with so and so.’ Nurses, who are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid, are there to administer excellent medical care, not to babysit! Rant over.

    Random thoughts. If Beale’s unfunny stammering silliness continues, I won’t mind if he moves to San Francisco. Please make it stop. I thought the scenes between Nell and Hetty were sweet. Deeks’ Scottish burr was amusing the first time, the second time, not so much. I was happy to see Densi working together, but I still miss their flirty-ness, if that is even a word. Is Agent Namazi now a permanent employee of OSP, and why? Ms. Rahimi is a capable actor, but do we really need her? The Callen/Hanna scenes were enjoyable. What is happening to Callen? Last episode he was longing to spend time with his sister and nephew, and now he is considering owning a pet. Has he finally grown a heart? Last but not least, and I think I am in the minority here, I really wish both Kensi and Deeks would trim the hair out of their eyes, lol.

    Many thanks to Wikideeks for the continued excellent content, and for their appreciation of all things Deeks. I got a little handwritten note from ECO the other day. I have been smiling ever since. sigh

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brenda (@BP_NP) // April 19, 2019 at 9:49 AM // Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the review!

      Yes, I had the same thought about sending the child with the nurse. Usually in situations like that we would have the child briefly stay with one of the support staff (clerk, HCA), so I decided to be generous and assume the nurse was taking the child elsewhere for temporary supervision. But totally agree – babysitting is not something you can safely incorporate in your day.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thank you so much for your review Brenda, I really enjoyed reading your review and especially reading your comments about medical scenes was very interesting. Thank you for taking time to write this review.
    For me maybe the most memorable part of this episode was seeing Hetty back in the office, I loved seeing her back, finally. Perhaps this episode wasn’t one of the most memorable ones, but I enjoyed this episode and can’t wait to see the final episodes of this season.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you so much for this review.
    I Loved this episode so much and the Densi scenes were on point as were Sam and callen’s. I love when Derek’s made the quote from A League of Their own. I am glad that Eric talked to Hetty about Nell’s mom and Hetty was willing to go with Nell and talk her mom into having the surgery she needs. I sure hope Hetty can talk Eric into staying with Ncis and Nell staying with Ncis as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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