Season 10 of NCIS: Los Angeles came to an end this week with “False Flag,” written by Frank Military and directed by Dennis Smith. The second of three parts, it followed last week’s “The Guardian,” written by showrunner R. Scott Gemmill. Given that the Military/Gemmill duo is the same pairing that gave us Season 9’s emotional, conflict-filled finale, hopes were high for a repeat performance. Unfortunately, this finale felt a bit too plot-heavy to be able to provide the stars of the show with much time to talk about their feelings, giving the episode more of a solid case of the week vibe than something we’ll obsess about all summer.
But First (and Mostly), the Plot
While the story for these last two episodes was interesting, I couldn’t help but see lots of missed opportunities for emotional moments for the four leads, particularly Densi. Sam and Callen actually got stuck with the least interesting part of the story, spending the hour trapped on the aircraft carrier chasing suspects through narrow hallways. These two didn’t have time for a single chat about the honor of the SEALs, the disturbingly tight confines of the ship for claustrophic Sam, or what was at stake if they failed. Surprisingly, their lives weren’t even in imminent danger at the end. Heck, they didn’t even have much chance for snarky banter. It was as if their roles could have been played by anyone.
For Deeks and Kensi, the missed opportunities felt even more clear. First there was the parallel between this season ender and last season’s finale of the dangers inherent in a foreign mission. The previous mission to retrieve Mosley’s son generated huge conflict among the entire team; here everyone appeared to be gung ho about the mission to avert international disaster. Unfortunately the lack of a personal angle or any team conflict made this case less interesting than Mosley’s.
Then when you also think about the number of times Kensi’s gone abroad to this part of the world and had brushes with death, you’d really think her safety would have been on hers and Deeks’ minds. Instead, we get Deeks saying “Love it” to Jasmine when she’s ordered to book their flights. (On the other hand, how wonderful was it to see how Sam and Callen didn’t hesitate to ask for both Kensi and Deeks to head out of the county? We’ve come a long way from Granger scoffing at the idea of Deeks going to Afghanistan to back up his partner, or from Sam questioning Deeks’ ability and character.)
Yet wouldn’t this couple have taken a moment’s pause to think about how they were following a similar path to the one at the end of last season that led Deeks to nearly die, and Kensi to re-examine her priorities? I assume this happened in the long flight to their destination, but there was simply no time to squeeze in a scene that showed it. Here’s hoping for a slew of deleted scenes on the DVD!
Then there was Deeks in his local Iraqi garb that bore a striking resemblance to his attire when he flew to Afghanistan to find Kensi. When I saw him, I immediately flashed back to the events of “Spoils of War.” Even Sabatino’s (Erik Palladino) presence must have served as a reminder of that same time for Kensi. I know they were in a different country here, but surely Deeks and Kensi both thought about their respective past experiences. How did that impact them? I guess we won’t get a chance to find out unless they have more time to discuss it in next season’s premiere.
The episode’s main cliffhanger actually landed on Deeks and Kensi (and Sabatino) taking heavy fire. We got this quick but intense exchange:
Kensi: Deeks! I love you.
Deeks: I love you too.
Be still my heart. This wasn’t the most surprising exchange they’ve ever had, but it sure felt real – and real intense, exactly what these two would be thinking with their lives on the line. Bring on the post-ep fan fics please!
Classic Hetty, and Neric on Repeat
Perhaps my disappointment at the lack of emotion wasn’t so much because there wasn’t any, but rather because it was concentrated with characters I don’t care about as much (sorry Neric!). I did feel sorry for Eric, having to deal with that obnoxious and over the top new tech operator (agent?) Jasmine Garcia (Alyssa Diaz). She was just a little too competent to be believable, and a little too rude to be funny.
The most emotional scene of the night was Nell’s tearful recounting of her mother’s deteriorating condition. Renée Felice Smith was great, as was Barrett Foa. And yet I couldn’t help but feel like I’d already seen this scene play out, like maybe three or four other times. The repetitiveness just made me think, “Again?” I’d love to hear from any Neric fans out there – did you enjoy this scene? I hope so!
Easily the best part, and one of the highlights of the entire episode, was Hetty’s advice to Nell about her mom: “Tell her something that I tell myself every morning: Keep punching.” Linda Hunt delivered that line with such emotion that I immediately teared up even though I hadn’t really engaged with the scene to that point. Hetty was great throughout, such as when she commented that she likes her filet mignon burned on the outside and bloody on the inside, like her enemies. Classic, Hetty, just classic.
And of course I guess we were supposed to feel some emotion for Mac (Catherine Bell) and Harm (David James Elliott). The scene at the restaurant surprised me with its deliberate pacing; I didn’t think Mac and Hetty would have time to catch up, with the bad guys on the verge of launching their false flag attack. Still, the actresses were quite good together. Again though, when Mac and Harm had their stiff exchange via video conference, I didn’t really feel much emotion. How about you JAG fans- was this satisfying for you? Again, I hope so!
- I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a character’s American cover blown, only for them to slip into more accented English. Is that really how things work?
- It was such a pleasure to watch Hetty physically standing in Ops with Eric, Kensi and Deeks. Seeing more than half of the team together, especially with Hetty, made me smile.
- I appreciate the usefulness of the Iraqi clothing, but blonde boy Deeks, female Kensi, and black Navy SEAL Wallace are really going to struggle to blend into the Iraqi countryside no matter what they’re wearing.
- Hah! I loved Sabatino complaining that he didn’t get invited to the wedding.
- I appreciated that Military seemed to be paying attention to the time differences involved, with events happening in daytime in one location and nighttime on the other side of the globe. I remember many times in Season 5 when Kensi’s Afghanistan exploits appeared to play out with the same amount of daylight as the team’s in L.A.
- I did find myself trying to will into existence a promo for the next episode, so I think it’s safe to say that the Densi cliff-hanger got to me.
On to Season 11
I gotta be honest, folks. I was a little let down by this episode, which lacked Frank Military’s usual dark and dramatic signature. I think I read that he’s writing the premiere, but can’t recall for sure. If so, hopefully he’ll bring more of the angst I love so much to the Season 11 opener.
The good news is that Harm and Mac didn’t take over the show. It just felt like maybe Gemmill didn’t squeeze quite enough plot into his deliberately paced (not in a bad way) “The Guardian,” leaving Military with too much story to tell to get the characters to the cliff-hanger. Not bad at all, just not as satisfying as last season.
Thanks to you all for what was a truly amazing year for wikiDeeks. We appreciated every view, like and comment, and loved talking to you all about our favorite character. We’re not sure exactly what Season 11 will hold for wikiDeeks, but we’ll keep you posted. Here’s hoping for a “Deeks, M.” episode and lots more fabulous material for Eric Christian Olsen to play, and for us to discuss.
But we’re not done with Season 10! Come back later this week for the final S10 editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal, and let us know what you thought about “False Flag” – and all of Season 10 if you are so inclined – in the Comments below.