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Review: NCISLA “The Circle” (S11E15)

“The Circle,” this week’s episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, gave us a Callen-centric case that involved Reznikovs, Comescus, and Kolchecks. Written by Andrew Bartels and directed by Diana C. Valentine, its strength lay in the way Bartels incorporated elements from Callen’s past while also looking toward his, and the team’s, future.

Previously On NCIS: Los Angeles

Callen’s past provided an emotional backdrop for the reappearance of his would-be brother/enemy Darius Reznikov/Comescu, first introduced in last season’s “No More Secrets.” Darius arrived in Los Angeles after a recent killing spree throughout Europe. Had he arrived to continue a decades-old blood feud and add Callen to his victim list, or could there be something else at play?

It turned out he was there to rescue his fiancée from human traffickers and didn’t bear any ill will toward Callen. Bartels wove the sad history of Callen’s mother’s death at the hands of the Comescus into the story in the form of a drug-induced flashback and stressed that Callen’s life had been made tragically hard by the loss of his mother and disappearance of his father, who’d raised Darius. Callen points out their diverging fates to Darius when he tells him, “You had the childhood that I never had. My life was supposed to be different.” His line summed up the pain of a life lived without a true family, and the longing he still feels for what might have been, what should have been. It moved me.

Bartels also seemed to be drawing some parallels with “Mother,” or at least building on some of that episode’s themes. Listening to Hetty talk about Darius fighting “the age-old struggle” between nature and nurture, “torn between the man he was born to be and the man your father raised him to be,” reminded me of how Ahkos had been raised to kill but turned against the pseudo-parents who’d placed him into a life of killing. Here Darius temporarily co-opts that life of killing by taking the Comescu name and their murderous methods so he can find Mina, but otherwise appears to have rejected it completely.

Another face from the past (most recently from the same “No More Secrets” as Darius) returned this week, none other than Anastasia Kolcheck. She sure does love Callen, first tracking down his father in Cuba and then risking apprehension by the U.S. Marshals for returning the U.S. despite her fugitive status, mostly so she could warn Callen he might be in danger. It seemed a little odd to me that the two didn’t even discuss their relationship and focused only on the case, but perhaps that happened off-camera.

I don’t know what to say about Anna. She’s never been a favorite of mine, although I’ve grown to accept her and it would appear the showrunners see her as Callen’s destiny. And while “Hi, Callen” is a pretty disappointing opening line, at least she mostly followed instructions once she arrived by staying out of the field, a refreshing change of pace for this group of (regularly rogue) agents.

There were a couple of other callbacks to the past worth mentioning. One was Beale’s excitement that his favorite element might be used on Hetty’s new shaded windows. That goes all the way back to Season 4 Episode 2, “Recruit”: My favorite element– it’s tungsten. Number 74 on the periodic table, and formerly known as wolfram. It’s got the highest melting point and tensile strength of any metal.

The other reference to the past was much more subtle and maybe unintentional, but when Deeks went into overdrive to encourage Beale to find the kidnapped women’s location, I couldn’t help but think back to “Human Traffic,” to how much Deeks risked to stop those traffickers, and how any time women are in danger, he appears almost triggered to do everything he can to save them, a trait no doubt borne of his tumultuous childhood and that pivotal moment when he saved his own mother in dramatic fashion. Yeah, the scene was most likely written to give us more Deeks/Beale silliness – they are “tender lovers” after all – but I took it for much more.

Next Time on NCIS: Los Angeles

Since apparently Interpol isn’t too worried about the whole killing spree thing, Darius appears to be another character who could make an occasional appearance on the show. Is it possible that he could actually evolve into a real brother to Callen? Callen dismissed the idea when Darius used the term, but perhaps there’s room for a larger reconciliation with his past that would come in the form of a friendship with the last Comescu standing.

Anna too, appears destined to return. I’m sure Hetty can get her fugitive status overturned. I mean, she’s probably killed fewer people than Darius, right? And speaking of future significant others, this episode also showed us evidence that Sam is working his way forward with his possible future, Katherine.

We also saw the whole team having more significant discussions about the future. The show opened with Sam and Callen reviewing possible applicants (please give me Ehsan!) for the 2.0 team they seem determined to develop. If they’re looking at new hires, then is it safe to assume their plan has received approval from Hetty? Does this mean she will retire, or does her new office space simply mean she’s moving upstairs to make room for Callen at her old desk. (I do wish she’d bring all her belongings up there with her – that space is so cold right now. But at least she got rid of that weird lamp/sculpture thing Mosley had. We also got a great scene at the bar (can they hang out there every week?) with Callen, Deeks and Kensi where Callen filled them in and discussed the possibility of scaling back the fieldwork.

Now I hate the idea of reducing these four characters’ screen time as much as anyone, but after so many years, I’m trying to be grateful that the show might continue in any form, and thankful that these four actors might consider continuing, even in a reduced capacity. Other long-running shows like NCIS or even ER (on which R. Scott Gemmill worked), seem to have had fairly regular turnovers in their casts throughout their long runs. NCIS:LA has had a remarkably stable cast, which unfortunately can only make such inevitable changes all the more jarring. Still, it was bound to happen, and I’m glad the showrunners have spent so much time (what, maybe two seasons now?) preparing us.

Memorable Moments

Deeks and Kensi didn’t get a whole lot of scenes together, and largely played supporting roles. Still there were quite a few memorable moments from the duo…

  • It’s nice to see that business at the bar seems to have picked up. And it’s always refreshing to have an episode start during the team’s off hours.
  • I love hearing from Marty Deeks, Esq.: “As your lawyer I’d advise you to answer the question, otherwise she’s gonna hold you in contempt.” OK, it wasn’t real lawyer talk, but the little reminder that Deeks has a whole other area of expertise none of the fancy federal agents do always makes me happy.
  • I also love hearing these two refer to each other as husband and wife. This week Kensi referred to “my husband” – awww – except she inserted the word “idiot” in the middle. It was a cute moment when Deeks gave away their knowledge of the video of Anna.
  • Eric Christian Olsen himself worked in a nice callback to “Mother” when he described Hetty’s current idea of fieldwork as “clandestine meetings in cemeteries with sociopathic poets.” Do we think Bartels wrote that line for him or did ECO perhaps take the liberty of inserting it?
  • At first I was annoyed that Deeks was assigned babysitting duties, figuring it was the best way they could come up with to give ECO some extra time off during shooting. But then I decided Callen was paying him a compliment by trusting him with his nephew’s life.
  • Still, Deeks splitting off from the team gave parts of the episode an odd flow, such as when they started the boatshed scene with Callen, Kensi and Anna but then Sam was there at the end without explanation (unless I missed it).
  • Even if Callen and Anna didn’t laugh, I found Kensi joking about Joelle’s wig very funny and appreciated her filling in the humor gap caused by her husband’s absence.
  • Whoa, didn’t see that moment with the flames coming. Seeing Deeks’ worry over his ladybird is always compelling. (And – spoiler alert – did any of her long tresses get singed, leading to Kensi’s new do? I’m not sure if that’s happening next episode or later…)

All in all, this was a satisfying episode that seemed to tie up more loose ends than it started, which this show doesn’t always do. I guess now we’ll all just have to be patient and wait to see what the future holds for the characters we love.

What did you think of “The Circle”? What do you think the title refers to? The Comescu’s wheel-shaped tattoo? The inevitable circle of life that causes agents to retire and new agents to begin their careers? And speaking of new agents, who would you pick for the new recruits?

About Karen (287 Articles)
wikiDeeks Writer & Assistant Editor. I never wrote for fun before... until my ECO-obsession. Now I love to analyze any and all aspects of the best character on television.

15 Comments on Review: NCISLA “The Circle” (S11E15)

  1. michelle mcnally // February 25, 2020 at 1:12 PM // Reply

    karen, this is more of a question. so darius killed callen’s mother? so darius is callen’s half brother. ? why did he kill her and how does darius fit in with the comescus ? did callen not kill darius because he wanted to end the blood fued? i just wasn’t too sure about some of these things. thank you,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Darius did not kill Callen’s mother. He was having a drug induced hallucination. Callen and Darius are about the same age, and Callen was just a boy when his mother was murdered. Darius was raised by Callen’s father, but they are not related, so they are not half-brothers.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Nina Lindsay // February 25, 2020 at 1:31 PM // Reply

    Good review. I will never get used to Anna. Callen was right about CIA not having jurisdiction on US soil. But how did she become CIA, she’s a convicted felon and a fugitive. If the show sticks to the rules like they have for the most part, Hetty can’t fix it. Only one person has that authority and that’s the president. So it makes character Anna a bit unbelievable. Loved Kensi about the wig. And Callen knew Anna was waiting for him in the apartment. Now, Anna being a fugitive and CIA, she’s not gonna be in the US much. And I bet something will happen where the feds watch Callen in case Anna returns. And arrests her. Just wish the show would find someone else, Anna reminds me of a Barbie doll
    Great to see Hetty again and Sam is now dating, Densi always a pleasure.
    Other than Anna’s return, loved the show.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a great review! You made a “meh” episode be meaningful! I appreciate that very much.

    I did like the throw back comments. I did like that Hetty was actually there in person and the new office glass function. For Callen fans, this was probably a great episode.

    As many know, I don’t care for Anna. This episode didn’t change my mind. 🙂 D, A, d.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved this episode!! Since i’m a Callanna shipper, this was a real treat for me and other shippers. Plus, also a good episode to be a Hetty supporter! (Did ya’ll laugh when she turned the blinds on Neric??!!🤣🤣) As for this dumb 2.0 plan, I doubt Callen really wants to do it, it looks like he’s only going along with it because Sam asked him to, therefore, he dosn’t really want it. Plus, I highly doubt he could make HALF the tough decisions Hetty has had to make!!!
    As for Hetty, she really wasn’t giving off much of a ‘wanting to leave’ vibe, so that’s a good sign. (plus, she’s in next week’s episode).
    Next week, we get to welcom our new series regular! will she be included in the opening credits??

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Bluenet13 (Jess) // February 25, 2020 at 3:23 PM // Reply

    I have never cared a whole lot about Anna so I didn’t expect much from this episode but I was pleasantly surprised to actually enjoy it, even if Deeks was absent for a while. But at least he had a good reason to be on his own and not the usual, boring LAPD excuse.

    I loved both moments at the bar, with Densi and Callen, and then at the end of the episode and was glad to see the bar with more guests than just the team and even having another employee, even if I’d rather just see Roberta every episode. I chuckled at Deeks’ sociopathic poet comment, enjoyed his scene with Eric and loved seeing Hetty again, she might frustrate me sometimes but I’ll always love and miss her. One thing that did bother me is Darius facing no consequences for his killing spree while Anna is still a fugitive in US soil.

    As for new recruits. I don’t want anyone lol. I don’t do well with change but yeah, I know it’s bound to happen. I 100% support Ehsan as one of the recruits, but please no Lance Hamilton or Steve Evans. Hopefully they’re both too established in their own jobs to ever become NCIS recruits and part of our team. This also makes me think about Fatima and whether she’s meant to be a substitute (or maybe complement) to Eric/Nell or, eventually, another field agent. Guess we will know more about her next week. I’d rather have an episode involving one of the core team members but at least a personal case should be better than another boring case of the week.

    As usual, Karen, thanks a lot for the review. I really enjoy reading your thoughts about the show and appreciate all your reminders of past scenes and episodes.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. LOL wow, yeah you pretty much covered everything I was thinking! As far as Callen’s trust in Deeks, I loved how he admitted Alex almost busted him watching! I realize this is only two episodes off the break, but like how it has started off and hope that an upward trend continues. Seeing Sabatino in this weeks episode gives me the impression that this ain’t gonna be easy, never has been when he’s around. Keep up the great work!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Karen thank you for a really good review of this episode. I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. It was a compelling story , and for an episode which seemed a little Deeks lite for me still held my interest. They did a good job on Darius, and a good job on Callen callbacks.. As others have mentioned on social media , I would have liked to have seen a direct call back to Deeks and his role in “Human Traffic”.

    I am not an Anna fan but I thought the actress has really gotten better. My biggest complaint about Anna, apologizes to all the fans that like her with Callen, I just see the scenes between Callen and Anna as being so flat, Callen has so much more chemistry/energy with Sam than he does with Anna .

    As far as new agents . I think since the show is based in LA , it really needs a Latino agent. So my vote is to steal Torres from NCIS. He is a very seasoned actor , very charismatic and he is the only reason I watch NCIS so he should come over to LA.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bluenet13 (Jess) // February 25, 2020 at 4:31 PM // Reply

      I would love to see a latino character in LA. I’m hispanic and I cringe every time any of our characters try to speak spanish. No disrespect meant to any of them tho, I have an accent when I speak English and don’t speak it super well, so I get languages are hard. But for a show set in LA, they should really have a fluent Spanish speaker. I also only watch NCIS for Torres, and I’ve been a Wilmer Valderrama fan for a long time as we share Hispanic heritage from the same country. Another actor that would work very well for this is Adam Rodriguez who was in CSI Miami and more recently played Luke Alvez in Criminal Minds.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Review is spot on. Enjoyed Darius. Not an Anna fan either. If they want to have Callen with her, I don’t really care. I do believe there is better character/actress for him.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think what I have missed most in season 11 is good writing and a strong story line arch.I don’t like anyone who takes away air time for my 4 major core actors which to me are Deeks,Kensi,Sam and of course Callen.If Deeks isn’t in ep I don’t watch.And yse I miss Hetty/Linda when she not there.Don’t care about Sam love life or new jr agents or pro wrestlers who can act.Sorry to be so blunt jmho.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Once again a great review, thank you Karen.
    I enjoyed Darius more than I expected, even though I am not a huge fan of the Comescu storyline.
    I really liked he balance between humor and professionalism in this episode (and I, too, really liked that Callen trusted and thanked Deeks, wish we could see more of that and Deeks being treated as a professional that he is in the future).
    I am not a fan of Anna (and probably never will be), but at least she was mostly cooperating with the team in this episode.
    I really hope that introducing new character won’t change the team chemistry too much, the chemistry between the team members was on e of the biggest reasons why I fell in love with this show in the first place. (The writers play a really important part when introducing a new character and his/her storyline to the show and I hope they plan a great character and storyline ).

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the review. I love that Callen always recognizes when others are going through painful situations, too. That’s one of the things I love most about his character, his empathy. This came out in his interrogation of Darius when he acknowledged that Darius’ life was supposed to be different, too, and understood how important Mina was to him. That interrogation, and Hetty’s expression, was heartbreaking. The scenes between Callen and Anna were amazing. I loved the way they gradually became closer as the episode progressed. Anna is such a strong character; she’s perfect for Callen. I’ve always been an Anna fan, and this episode just made me more of one! She’s risked so much for Callen, it’s impossible not to see how much she loves him. The episode flowed really well and the actions of the characters made sense and weren’t too “flashy.” All the scenes in the bar were really well done (loved Callen’s “Soooo, what?” in response to Deeks, “Soooo?” This team is so much fun!) And the ending was the best one this season. Honestly, I can’t wait to see more of Anna. ( I LOVE Kensi and Anna together, and that comment about the wig was funny and awkward!)

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Debra Gillespie // February 27, 2020 at 2:24 AM // Reply

    Thanks for the fine review, Karen. I liked this episode the best of the ones we’ve had this year so far. Loved both bar scenes, although I’m nostalgic and hope they’ll have a bullpen session or two before the season’s end. In the first bar scene I’m three quarters convinced that ECO inserted that “sociopathic poet” line himself, seeing the wry look on Daniela’s face when he said it. And I thought there might have been a callback in the last bar scene, when Kensi playfully punched Callen in the shoulder. Has she ever done that before? In any case, I was reminded how she used to punch Deeks in the shoulder sometimes in the early seasons.
    I regret a little on watching the season 6 marathon on ION TV on Sunday, which ended just before this new episode. I couldn’t help but compare how Hetty had a more open door policy in her office on the ground floor in that season, to virtually “drawing the curtains” in Mosley’s old office and close off team members except Callen. (Didn’t she last season talk about how Mosley’s old office reminded her of a terrarium/aquarium?) Beale’s callback reference to tungsten was humorous, but Hetty slowly but surely distancing herself from most of the team since “Mother” has just saddened me. Definitely feeling that retirement for Hetty is in the horizon. I was glad of your suggestion, Karen, that perhaps she moved into that office to give Callen her old one; it made me feel a little bit better.
    As for new agents, it definitely looks like Fatima will be a regular part of the team, and I wouldn’t mind Ehsan, either – he’s such a likeable character. I was really hoping for Agent DeChamps, but her telling Sam and Callen in the episode before last that she prefers San Diego seemingly takes her out of the running. I still prefer her for Sam instead of Katherine, but it looks like Katherine will be the one in Sam’s future. For his sake I hope she doesn’t turn out to be an undercover agent for one of the alphabet agencies. Not enthralled with Callen and Anna together, but I can handle it I guess; I’m just wondering how long Anna can stay under the radar and not get caught.
    I actually thought that the Darius/Callen story arc might go a little longer, but it did stop at a good point, and I agree that like Jennifer Kim, Darius will be an asset that we might see from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

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