This week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, written by Kyle Harimoto and directed by Frank Military, gave us almost the polar opposite from last week’s “Mother.” Where “Mother” was filled with action, drama, and non-stop suspense, “Answers,” was quiet and contemplative, and unlike any NCIS:LA episode I can remember. It served as the perfect follow-up to “Mother,” and did indeed answer lots of questions about these characters’ futures, even as it opened up a whole new set of questions.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen an episode like this, where the case was so completely secondary to the characters and their individual journeys. I have to admit that its quietness threw me a little at first. It felt like going to a rock concert with your favorite band, only when they finish, a harpist comes out for the encore. But the longer the episode went, the more I appreciated seeing all our favorite duos in lengthy conversations about important stuff. It really did feel like a Christmas gift to us obsessed fans, maybe even at the expense of the casual fans who might not know or care about these characters’ life choices. That possible cost to the show made the gift even more valuable than, say, the “Deliverance” call-back in “Mother,” which wouldn’t have interfered with a casual fan’s enjoyment. So thank you Kyle Harimoto, R. Scott Gemmill, and all the other showrunners. And happy holidays to you too!
Hetty was absent from the episode, but that didn’t stop her from being the subject of a lot of conversation. Namely, will she retire soon, and who might take her place? It made sad sense that the team is thinking about this, given Hetty’s age and recent events on the show. And sadly for us fans, it may be inevitable that Linda Hunt may wish to depart. Perhaps she’ll continue making the occasional appearance, although if Hetty is no longer in charge, it may become increasingly difficult to find ways to include her in the storyline. I do hope that if Hetty/Linda ever retires, we’ll get a really spectacular send-off, some kind of dramatic and exciting, or sad and bittersweet, final story for her to play.
It’s always a good sign when the cold open involves one or more team members, and this week we got all of ’em working together to locate stolen intelligence. Deeks was adorably “Malibu chic” and “cute with a touch of moron,” and I’m a little sad we didn’t see more of T.J. undercover. He even earned a compliment from Callen. Do you think he named his alias after T.J. Hooker, one of the supposed reasons he became a cop? But seriously, I’d love to see them explore more of what happens when one of this pair has to go undercover in a romantic relationship. We’ve only caught glimpses but it would be super interesting to see how married Densi handles this. I also thought it was a nice parallel to “Command & Control,” also written by Harimoto, with its opening involving Kensi wearing an incredibly expensive dress after seducing and arresting a rich criminal.
While I’m making comparisons to old episodes, was it just me, or did Densi’s cover kiss look exactly like the one from “Neighborhood Watch,” except here neither one hesitated, and they both seemed plenty happy about it. Ah, how things have changed. By the end of the scene, though, Kensi looked like she wanted to hit someone. I’m not sure if it was Mara, or her hubby for calling her an “older lady.” Not cool, Deeks.
Once we found out about Kensi’s frustrations over failing to get pregnant, it was easy to see why that comment might have hit her hard. Sure, he was teasing, but she’s now genuinely concerned that she’s waited too long, so his timing was terrible. Speaking of timing, these two have apparently been trying to make a baby for three months! Not sure how that works into the last few episodes. Was there a big time jump we weren’t aware of?
Deeks: And that’s when I started dating Helen Mirren. [silence] Wow. OK, I fully digest the fact that I’m never gonna be the guy that can buy you the dream ranch in Montana or get you into the Soho House, but there is one thing that I do better than anybody else on the planet and that’s make you laugh. And for whatever reason today, I can’t even get you to crack a smile. You wanna talk about that?…
Kensi: Look yes, it’s only been three months and yes, what I’m feeling is not necessarily rational at this point. But the thing is, when I got my period this morning it just kind of like planted a seed in my head and I’m having so much trouble shaking it.
Deeks: Baby, it’s OK. Hey, hey, hey…
Kensi: I can’t shake it, you know? And we’re always used to technique and protocol, and control and I don’t know how to do that with my body.
Deeks: It’s OK. No matter what happens, we’re OK…
Deeks: I was thinking about our path and maybe we should consider adoption. [Kensi stares at him.] Just, hold on. There are so many kids out there that could use an amazing mother like you.
Kensi: And I appreciate the sentiment, but I am definitely not there yet.
Deeks: Yeah, I’m not there yet either. I don’t know why I said that, I’m just trying to figure out what to do.
At this point, Kensi is certainly All In on having a baby. She is intense and focused on her new goal. It’s a little shocking, but I guess since we weren’t privy to the initial baby-making attempts, she’s likely gotten more and more used to the idea over time. It was very in character for her to want to control the process, and their conversation about how it was beyond their control was beautifully written. I also loved that they broached the subject of adoption, my personal hope for them. I’m afraid, though, that I must quibble with Kensi, who seemed to blame them both equally for waiting so long to try to get pregnant. That decision was all you, Kensi.
Then Deeks shared his own worries, and as usual, his vulnerability was the most compelling part of the whole episode. Worrying that he won’t be able to provide everything his child needs reminded me of his different talks with Granger and Hetty after the helicopter crash, when he worried he wouldn’t be able to give Kensi all the support she needed. And just the acknowledgment that he had poor parental role models makes me so sad for him. I was intrigued by his description of Roberta as “non-existent.” Does that mean she was there but acted more like the child than the parent in their relationship, much as we’ve seen on the show? Or were they separated after Gordon went to prison? Their previous conversations seemed to have indicated that they were together. Again, these are questions a good “Brandel, M.” episode could answer.
Deeks: I’m scared to death.
Deeks: I’m terrified that… I’m terrified something’s gonna go wrong, I’m terrified that he or she’s not gonna be healthy, I’m terrified that something’s going to happen in this baby’s life that I can’t solve or can’t fix and I’m terrified because I have no blueprint, I was raised by wolves. My mom was non-existent, and all of a sudden I’m trying to make a path-
Kensi: OK. I’m sorry. [kisses him]
Deeks: And I think that’s so ridiculous too because that’s if we have a baby because part of me just goes, you know, we’re not 30 anymore so maybe we waited too long.
Kensi: That is exactly what I was thinking. I think all we do is think about is this the right time for us, for our careers, for us financially.
Deeks: That’s just us being selfish and arrogant.
Kensi: Kinda like Babe Ruth?
Kensi: Calling the shot?
Deeks: Right. We’re not Babe Ruth.
Kensi: This year, this day, you know, the sun’s going to be shining and we’re just gonna get pregnant.
Deeks: And then god just laughs at us.
Kensi: The good news is this.
Deeks: What’s the good news?
Kensi: That I’m ready now. In spite of all these things that we’re talking about. I know that I wanna have a baby with you… We’re ready to have a baby.
Kensi: Little baby wolves.
Deeks: [laughs] Yes on all that.
As for what this all means for Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah, it’s hard to say. Kensi and Deeks have both indicated that they wouldn’t do this job if they had a baby. What if they adopted an older child? Might they reconsider? As much as things seem to be left open for the other characters to stick around beyond this season, it feels like Densi has painted themselves into the biggest corner.
The Densi discussion wasn’t the episode’s only heart to heart talk. We also heard Nell and Beale trying to sort out their thing. I think it would be funny, and not inappropriate, for them to start referring to it as exactly that. While I’m not particularly invested in their relationship status, I do think it’s a shame that Nell seems to want to pull things back, and I wasn’t really sold on the reasons. It felt more like the show just doesn’t want another engagement and wedding.
I related to Nell’s heartbreak over her dad’s changing responsibilities. And wow, when Beale said he “kinda fell in love with it,” I thought he meant undercover work, and I may have uttered some unprintable words, thinking that maybe the showrunners hadn’t given up on turning him into an agent. But then he talked about how much he had enjoyed being a civilian, and “not having the weight of the world” on his shoulders. To me, that’s way more in character.
The talk between Sam and Callen was the most shocking because Sam has tried countless times to get Callen to open up, despite how much we know he hates to share his feelings. And while I found the whole thing very much in character, it made me a little uncomfortable to watch, just knowing how uncomfortable it made Callen to be having the conversation. They covered a lot of ground, and the whole thing felt very organic, nicely staged over time and as they moved from the bullpen to the gym.
That Callen has come to a place in his life where he wants to put down roots, and that he’d talk about that, and talk about looking for Anna, seemed like a big step for him. Again, it didn’t feel out of character because Sam’s been after him, bringing up these topics for so long, and we’ve seen him taking small steps in that direction over time. The best observation Sam made was how Callen doesn’t know who he is without the weight of his search for his father and his identity hanging over his head. I’ve never felt like I knew who he was either, which made him less interesting to me. Seeing him take over the reigns and start to plant those roots might, somewhat ironically, actually make him a more intriguing character than the searcher Shane Brennan structured the entire series around.
Sam has been doing a lot of thinking. When Callen got a bit testy about Sam being perfect, his retort about Michelle was exactly what I’d have expected him to say, and it was incredibly sad. But his words about wanting to reject the darkness because Michelle wouldn’t want it for him were beautiful, and full of hope. Callen’s heartfelt regret over not knowing how to support Sam surprised me by its honesty, but like Sam told him, Callen has actually been a great support since Michelle’s death.
Ever since Lance Hamilton showed up in their world, I’ve worried that he was LL Cool J’s exit strategy from the show. When Sam brought him up here, I thought, oh no, there it is. But Sam surprised me with his new plan to be a mentor to young agents. I didn’t quite buy that this would make the team better than ever, but I think many fan fiction writers have long thought the most logical next step for him was to teach somewhere. It also feels right that he wouldn’t really want to abandon his brother, who obviously still needs his guidance.
Sam’s plan to have Callen be in charge while he provides some sort of mentorship to new team members seems like a perfect way to allow both actors to take a step back from the show without leaving entirely. I found it very encouraging, and am hopeful we wouldn’t lose either actor altogether if the show gets another season.
I’m curious though how the bringing on of new team members plan has worked for NCIS and NCIS:NOLA. I don’t watch either, but my impression is that they’ve had principal actors leave the show over time in a more staggered fashion, allowing them to bring on and integrate new team members slowly. With NCIS:LA, the main cast has been together forever, so this feels more like they’re setting up for a total reboot. Only time will tell. Can I put my vote in now to bring back Ehsan as their first selection?
- I couldn’t help but think about how this was exactly the kind of episode I’d wished for post-“Ascension.”
- It wasn’t the most Christmas-y of holiday episodes, but I liked the fun Rudolph music at the beginning.
- Kensi sure took her time getting out of that dress. I can’t believe she kept it on while cooking and eating loco mocos. (Who am I kidding? While she watched Deeks cook loco mocos.)
- I’m not a fan of Shane McMahon as an actor. He makes the other wrestler who plays Lance Hamilton look really good.
- I liked Frank Military’s elegant device of slicing through windows and video screens to move back and forth between conversations at the mission.
- Egon! Deeks’ reference to Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters, played by Harold Ramos, was perfect. That bad guy looked exactly like him. I wonder if that was improvised once ECO saw the guest actor.
I went into this episode expecting that we might get answers to questions we have about these characters’ pasts, but we actually got a lot of hints about their possible futures. Again I have to thank Kyle Harimoto, Frank Military, and R. Scott Gemmill for giving us such a special episode where we got to see so much honest conversation. It left me hopeful for the future in that if the show gets another season, we might not have to say good-bye to all our favorite characters.
Be sure to come back later this week for new editions of Kensi’s Journal and Deeks’ Surf Log, plus a different look at “Mother.” (I told you in that review that if I rewatched it, I’d have another 1000 words on the topic. I might have a little more than that…) In the meantime, what did you think of “Answers”? How did the format work for you? Were the conversations satisfying? What do you think the future holds in store? Tell us all about it in the Comments below.