This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode “The Guardian” marked the beginning of the end of Season 10 with an episode penned by showrunner R. Scott Gemmill and directed by long-time NCIS:LA director (and producer) John Peter Kousakis. Largely a set-up for next week’s season finale, “The Guardian” worked hard to set the stage for a two parter that’s likely to leave us in a Frank Military-induced state of worry and limbo for the summer. But before we start worrying about next week, lets’ discuss “The Guardian.”
Thanks for Your Support
Let’s start with some of the key supporting players. First there was Eric Beale. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Field Agent Beale, who always seems over his head and an actual danger to himself and others. But Gemmill seems to be a big proponent. I think it goes along with his tendency to embrace humor over drama, kind of the opposite of Frank Military. But here he used Field Agent Beale well, and seriously (for the most part at least).
One of the reasons Beale can be effective comic relief in the field, for those who enjoy him there, is that he’s a fish out of water, completely out of place in that environment. In “The Guardian” Gemmill channeled that unfamiliarity with fieldwork into Beale’s reaction to the dead body at the crime scene. His sadness reminded us – and Callen – to think about the victim in a way that a hardened agent (and we hardened NCIS:LA viewers) don’t always do.
Another actor who brought a lot of emotion to his role was guest actor Rene Moran, who played widower Calvin Sims, grappling with his wife’s post-deployment problems and their impact on her death. His scene was important in conveying his wife’s backstory, and he accomplished that with heart and believability.
In contrast, we had an oddly uneventful return from the DEA agent many of us love to hate, Talia del Campo, played by Mercedes Mason. Normally Talia is nothing if not full of life and unpredictability. Here she was oddly used merely to provide exposition. It felt almost beneath her character to be underused that way, although it is always nice to have continuing characters reappear.
Finally, we had David James Elliott playing Captain Harm Rabb, Jr. I probably watched three episodes of JAG, so I didn’t get any joy from his appearance. I was pleased though that Rabb didn’t completely take over the episode, like the Red Team did when they descended to waste two hours of Season 4. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for his character to take over, so it’s a definite concern for next week (and the Season 11 premiere).
A Budding Bromance
As I often say, Eric Christian Olsen has great chemistry with everyone, and Peter Jacobson, who plays Special Prosecutor John Rogers, is no exception. He wasn’t even physically present, yet the very mention of him brought a smile to my face. “A waffle stack is cheaper than therapy,” reported Deeks about his new breakfast buddy. I need more of these two together, like, a lot more. Please let that be a thing in Season 11. Or perhaps Rogers can have a recurring role on my long-dreamed about sitcom set at the bar with Roberta.
Even though we didn’t get to witness the budding bromance in action, it did trigger that best Densi banter of the episode:
Deeks: Had my breakfast with Rogers.
Kensi: Oh yeah. When did that become a thing?
Deeks: It’s not a thing. It’s just two men, breaking up a waffle, like Lady and the Tramp.
Kensi: With Rogers?
Deeks: Yeah, he’s like my Yoda.
Kensi: I’m sure he would like you to refrain from calling him that.
Deeks: Why? Yoda’s cool.
Kensi: Is he though? I mean-
Deeks: [in Yoda voice] Judge me by my size, do you?
Kensi: Is that Gollum?
Deeks: Oh my god how dare you.
Kensi: What? The only difference is like the ears and one of them sounds like Grover.
Deeks: Divorce! I want a divorce.
What can we expect from next week’s finale, and did Gemmill provide any clues? The plot was well developed and made sense, but I’m not sure where things will lead (except to something intense). The paranoid among us may worry over lines like Callen’s “It’s not the best time to break up the team.” With Callen and Sam shipping out of the country, we can only hope we didn’t witness the last time the core cast had a moment together.
It’s become such a rarity to see them together as it is, and this episode was no different, with only Beale and Callen around to start things off. It’s become somewhat common to have episodes where Deeks is called away, but here we were missing Kensi and Sam as well, along with Hetty and Nell. Gone seem to be the days when the episode would begin with a banter-filled bullpen. Ah, those were the days.
My other (over-?) reading of the script came from widow Sims. He talked at length about what his wife went through when she left her intense job in the military, and I couldn’t help but think of how applicable his description might be to Kensi:
Ellie had a difficult time adapting back to civilian life… She missed feeling like she was doing something important… PTSD, maybe the rush. I don’t know. It was probably a lot of things. She was a stud over there [in Afghanistan]…. She was a signals expert and spoke three Middle Eastern languages so she was always in the thick of it… front line, everywhere the teams went. I used to tell her that she was my bodyguard… She tried a few different things after she came back but she hated being inside. She even slept on our balcony.
We’ve gotten so little follow up from the apparently life-changing season opener that I can’t really see a lot of change in these two characters’ outlook on their future. They seem to be in about the same place they started. Could Ellie’s experience, or other events in the finale, trigger a significant follow-up conversation between Deeks and Kensi? Or could it actually trigger an actual change in outlook? The main reason to be hopeful here is that Frank Military usually takes good care of Deeks and Densi, providing them with some of their very best, most emotional, scenes. Let’s just hope he’s not too busy giving Harm and Mac a bunch of screen time.
- That park ranger sure needs more training on what to do if being stalked by a mountain lion. Rule #1 – don’t run. Other rules – back away slowly, talk to it, make eye contact, throw things, wave a jacket or stick. She’s lucky she didn’t get eaten!
- Sam telling Callen so bluntly “You’re very damaged” was hilarious in its shocking directness, but you sure can’t argue with the man.
- Even though I expected the shed to explode, if only because it seemed like a recreation of the shed from “Backstopped”, it still shocked me. Nicely done boom and an intriguing plot twist to have Baird apparently kill himself.
- Even though Deeks ought to be able to drive Sam’s Challenger any old time he wants, seeing as how he saved Sam’s and Michelle’s lives and all, I did like his childlike attempt to get dad’s permission. It reminded me of old times.
- “This is some serious hink.” Yes it is, and I love seeing Deeks get to be the smart one who gets to the bottom of said hink. He has often played devil’s advocate on this team, and this was no different as he pointed out holes in the team’s working theories. I’ve always loved how he’s not afraid to question people, authority, or theories. It may be the quality that sometimes makes him open to crazy ideas, but it’s also invaluable for a detective who detects.
While “The Guardian” was a solid set-up episode, I think it would have played better as the first hour of a two-hour finale. What remains for us to see is what Frank Military will bring to hour two next week. The plot is shaping up almost as a Red/Deep Trouble combo, which sounds horrible. Yet I have confidence that Military will manage to give us strong moments for every character, and hopefully a thrilling conclusion that will leave us talking all summer. Fingers crossed everyone!
In the meantime, what did you think of “The Guardian”? Did field Beale work for you? How about there-for-the-exposition Talia? What do you expect – and what do you hope for – next week? Tell us your thoughts in the Comments below?