“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.
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?