This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode “Kill Beale Vol. 1” brought us the return of two long absent stars, Linda Hunt and Barrett Foa, although the star we at wikiDeeks care most about, Eric Christian Olsen, was completely absent. Written by showrunner R. Scott Gemmill and Samantha Chasse with her first NCIS:LA script, it reminded us what we love – and maybe don’t – about both Beale and Hetty. It also likely works as a set-up to next week’s 250th episode, “Mother.”
Bulletproof Is Back
Of all the show’s main characters, for me Eric Beale has had the least satisfying arc from Season 1 until now. The best part of that arc has been the growth of his relationship with Nell, which has by and large progressed with great fidelity to both characters. I truly believe they belong together. The aspect of Eric’s character development that’s always confused me is the way he’s morphed from confident geek, to over the top silly, to competent enough to be a field agent, to whatever we got with this episode. Oftentimes his silliness does provide a welcome dose of levity to the show, much as the humor provided by Deeks brings. But whereas Deeks becomes super serious and super competent the second bullets start flying, Beale has never been able to rise to the occasion quite so gracefully. It would be fine if the show kept him in Ops, but having him try to become an agent, and then take on a dangerous undercover assignment, hasn’t felt believable (I know, nothing on the show is believable, but you know what I mean, right?). At times it’s even felt out and out negligible to put him at risk in the field.
In this week’s return, we got a silly Beale addled by tranquilizer darts, caffeine, and truth serum. R. Scott Gemmill has always seemed to enjoy portraying Beale for comic effect, so the fact that we got him faking vomit and running around a playground in an effort to escape the bad guys felt, unfortunately for me, about what we’d expect. While I admire the way Nell values Eric’s childlike outlook on the world, I just wish it was only his outlook, and not his behavior, that was quite so childlike.
The Duchess of Deception Returns
The part of the episode that worked best for me happened on the Nell side. She was appropriately worried, even before she knew what had happened. Her vulnerability when telling Kensi about the Neric lack of communication felt very real, and Kensi provided excellent support. Kensi’s vague reference to her time in Afghanistan provided a perfect backdrop for Nell’s anger at Hetty later, a reference to another time when she failed to give her team useful, potential life-saving intel.
The highlight of the episode though was Nell confronting Hetty. I’ve always loved scenes where characters challenge Hetty. For example, there was Kensi yelling at her to get Deeks out of jail in “Internal Affairs,” and my favorite to date, Deeks taking her on in “Payback,” shortly after he memorably hurled a chair across the interrogation room and tried to break Sabatino’s face. Here, Nell was perfectly justified in everything she said. I’m sure it was my imagination, but it felt almost as if Gemmill was deflecting fan criticism about turning Beale into an agent by blaming it all on Hetty. And you know what? She totally deserves it. Her willingness to put agents’ lives in danger is part of her job, but her consistent refusal to share pertinent case details with them, and with the rest of the team, has frequently led to trouble that might otherwise have been avoided. (Don’t even get me started on the whole White Ghost debacle.) While it’s always frustrated me about her character, I credit the showrunners for keeping her bad judgment such a consistent flaw throughout the years.
Even if we didn’t get clear indications about Eric’s and Nell’s futures, they were discussed (and it sounds like we will hear more in the upcoming “Answers”). The references to Beale trying to become an agent made it sound like perhaps that idea is in the past? (I hate seeing him in the opening credits every week with a gun instead of a computer, sigh.) And Nell has come to the conclusion that she wants nothing more to do with becoming the new Hetty. I can’t be you and I don’t think I wanna be! While I think Nell could do Hetty’s job, potentially better than Hetty, I don’t see it making her happy. Hopefully these two will retreat back up to Ops and go back to their adorable meerkat ways. They seemed off to the perfect start with that final shot of Nell watching Eric dance around, back where he belongs.
Stay Tuned for Next Week’s Episode
The episode as a whole had a weird vibe, as if the nighttime shooting somehow drained everyone of their energy. I didn’t feel the usual sense of urgency from Sam or Callen, or Kensi either. Sam and Callen even seemed to be walking slowly as they approached the think tank office. It made for a bit of a jarring contrast when juxtaposed against Beale’s over the top energy in his scenes. And it also really made me miss Deeks. He provides the show with much needed energy and lightness, and an episode without him just reminded us all of what this show would have been like if he’d never run into them on that MMA assignment.
It also made me appreciate how most of the time, when Eric Christian Olsen has taken an episode off, they’ve at least managed to work in a single opening or closing scene with him. But it would appear that this time, he was too busy getting ready to shoot episode 250, “Mother,” which he co-wrote. “Kill Beale Vol. 1” sure felt like it was setting up a number of themes we might see continue in “Mother.”
For example, there’s idea that Callen is growing into a “real boy.” His growing closer to people, having a family, has been touched on several times this season already. His thinking that it’s time to move on, to return to his lone wolf roots, is one way to deal with his feelings. Another might be to take on Hetty’s role as puppetmaster. Is it something he could do, now that he cares about these people so much? Is it something he’d want to do? He has grown from early season Callen, and I liked the way the episode ended with him seemingly pondering these questions.
And what exactly does Hetty’s future hold? We’ve seen so little of Linda Hunt this season that it wouldn’t seem like she’s destined to stick around NCIS for much longer. She sure was quick to write off Nell and turn to Callen, wasn’t she? That turn showed Hetty’s cold and calculating side. I can’t wait to see what develops next week.
- I do love the show’s long-running gag of Eric’s pajama selections. Always good for a laugh.
- Aww, how adorable is Kensi’s wedding photo on Deeks’ phone image? I so wanted her to call him, just to hear his voice for a few minutes.
- How could Eric Beale of all people allow his technology to monitor him? I hope Sam gives him a strong lecture about spycraft.
- The whole Beale undercover operation was so thinly developed that it felt like an afterthought to tell us at the end what the Chinese were up to. Will we find out next week how the fake agents knew so much about Hetty? And why did they ask such odd, general questions about her to someone who’d been in San Francisco and out of touch for months? Wouldn’t they have been better off kidnapping Nell?
What did you think of “Kill Beale Vol. 1”? How much did you miss Deeks? Did you enjoy Nell giving Hetty a piece of her mind? Tell us what you thought in the Comments below. And to everyone celebrating, have a Happy Thanksgiving!