This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode “A Bloody Brilliant Plan” gave us a solid team outing in the guise of a Guy Ritchie film. The look of the show, directed by Terence Nightingall, played well off of the Brit-heavy script, with the teleplay by Frank Military and story by Nightingall, Kate D. Martin, and Military.
An Homage to Its Guests
The episode’s standout element was its deliberate shift from the show’s usual style. We saw quick panning combined with slow motion, and lots of split screens. Partnered with the British underworld element, how could we not think of movies like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that featured the same elements? The relatively light tone throughout, and the fabulous dress-up scene at the house/casino, also called to mind the Ocean’s 11 franchise.
Given that the episode’s guest star was Vinnie Jones, who starred in those two Ritchie films, it was clear the showrunners had set out to make an episode different from all others. While I could see how some might find this disconcerting, for me it largely worked. I enjoyed the tone, the British-American on-screen translations, and especially seeing the team try to their hands at their own British accents. The tone was set right from the start and Nightingall maintained it well throughout, with an assist from editor Eric J. Lucas. Deeks’ efforts at a Cockney accent took me straight back to the rooftop bar scene in “Lone Wolf” where he described his accent as a cross between Mary Poppins and Jack Sparrow. I’d credit the writers for the continuity here but I kinda suspect the Poppins reference is all Eric Christian Olsen’s doing. Either way it made me laugh.
Fathers and Children
Jones and his guest co-star Steve Valentine, who played Frankie, were quite effective, with Jones providing some of the episode’s heart as he worried about his daughter, and Valentine providing no end of comic relief with his happy-go-lucky take on, well, everything. I enjoyed them both and wouldn’t mind seeing them again, although I’m not sure it would make sense to do another full-on Guy Ritchie style episode.
The other touching moments came courtesy of everyone’s favorite ex-North Korean spy, Jennifer Kim, AKA Own Granger’s daughter. Just seeing Miguel Ferrer in the “previously on” made me wistful, and the scene at the end with Callen worked well. For a moment I thought we were heading into uncomfortable territory with Callen chatting up his latest love interest, which wouldn’t have worked for me primarily because of their age difference. But instead I think we got a big brother little sister talk and it was a lovely way to keep Granger’s (and Miguel’s) memory alive. And unlike in “Yellow Jack“, where Kensi’s talk with the USAMRIID lady about her grandchild felt a little forced, a little too convenient, here the parallels between Jennifer and Ricky and his daughter reinforced the episode’s theme in a natural way.
While this wasn’t a Densi-heavy episode, it did feature the duo looking spectacular in their undercover garments. I also liked the moment during the final confrontation where Deeks expressed doubt about his ability to shoot from long range. I appreciate that he’s not afraid to show weakness. And then I was proud of him when he took down two of the baddies. His technique did seem to leave a lot to be desired, as he moved around quite a bit compared to completely still Kensi, but then again, he’s always said that he aims better when he’s on the move.
I also enjoyed the whole gang getting into the fun of taunting poor Sam about his coulrophobia. I can totally picture Callen dressing up as a clown for Halloween just to annoy his partner. He and Deeks were pretty adorable sitting together in their red noses.
The only moment that struck a sour note for me was the suggestion of using a dentist’s drill to get a bad guy to talk. At the time, I said out loud, “Really, Frank Military?” I couldn’t believe that the man who wrote “Descent” and “Ascension” would throw the idea out there almost as a joke. ‘Cause it wasn’t a good one, and it detracted from the lighthearted tone.
Still, overall it was a great episode in terms of seeing the team working together. I can’t remember the last time we had an episode with quite so many scenes involving all four of the field agents, all having a pretty good time mocking Sam, faking accents, looking hot, and taking down the bad guys.
- By the way, according to Wikipedia, the term “teleplay” is used in situations where one person writes the actual “shooting” script, and someone else writes the “story.” Typically both are done by the same person, who is credited as the “writer.” And “Story by” doesn’t just mean you had a general idea for the story. It involves some actual writing “representing a contribution distinct from screenplay and consisting of basic narrative, idea, theme or outline indicating character development.”
- While I appreciated the light tone throughout, it didn’t work for me in the opening shots of the coffins they were using to smuggle the gold. It was the only other false note besides the drilling comment.
- I loved Sam sharing his hatred of rhyming, of all things. That’s gotta rank up there in terms of meta remarks with Sam’s offer to Callen (ex-Robin Chris O’Donnell) in “Plan B” to get him a sidecar.
Who would have guessed Frank Military’s first two writing efforts this season would be about as far from his signature dark style as “Hail Mary” and “A Bloody Brilliant Plan”? I enjoyed both, but I wouldn’t mind a return to some of that darkness as well. While we wait, tell us what you thought of this week’s episode. Did the style shift work for you?