In this week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode “Alsiyadun,” writer (and show-runner) R. Scott Gemmill and director Dennis Smith teamed up to help us learn more about the newest member of the team, Fatima Namazi, played by new series regular Medalion Rahimi. In the process, we got a fine, if familiar, trip abroad to rescue said team member. And although the action all took place far from Los Angeles, Deeks and Kensi still found time for a few beautifully played scenes.
Welcome to the Team
Fatima, the team’s newest official member starting next week, found herself in a world of trouble this week, first coming under fire and being separated from the group she was working with in Egypt and then captured and held for ransom. She may be new to the opening credits, but we’ve certainly seen her before. In fact, “Alsiyadun” was her tenth appearance! She’s always seemed likeable, but I was really interested to see what aspects of her character Gemmill would focus on- what he’d want to tell us about his newest full-time character.
We already know Fatima is a tough young woman who can take down a slew of bad guys (see “Concours d’Elegance“) and handle intelligence and translation with aplomb. She’s always been more than competent, friendly, intelligent, and a team player. With this week’s episode, it appeared that Gemmill wanted to reinforce those impressions, showing us a confident, fearless woman who stood up to the bad guys, at one point even trying to take down a batch of them on her own. She also improvised a convincing cover story along the way. For me, her boldness, her fearlessness, was the trait that stood out the most.
And I have to say, I have mixed feelings about that. Sure, Fatima is clearly badass enough to join the team and operate in any capacity. I just hope that eventually we see a few flaws work their way up to the surface. Right now she’s pretty darn perfect, and that’s both harder to believe and less interesting than imperfection. It’s one of the main reasons Deeks is such a compelling character: he’s always been the underdog, he’s always been very human and he’s always showed vulnerability. We got a single second of that from Fatima when Callen handed her the phone to call her parents; I need way more. Think about how Deeks would have played the situation if he’d been in her place. With all his years of experience, he’d have been plenty snarky, but somehow Eric Christian Olsen would have found a way to show Deeks’ underlying nervousness and fear. Or think about Deeks’ first appearance on the show, when Sam beats him up and he confronts the team at the boatshed with a combination of cockiness and nervous energy.
Fatima mostly called to mind the period of time when Nell was in the field and seemingly could do no wrong. It doesn’t feel realistic for a young agent to have quite so much confidence (unless it’s misplaced). Fatima also reminds me a little bit of Season 1 Kensi, and to that I say look how much more interesting Kensi became when we learned about what drove her to do her job, and when she began to open up and show humor and vulnerability with Deeks. I don’t want a new team of superheroes. After all, what will Sam, Callen, Deeks and Kensi have to teach them? I’m happy to have young agents who are better and more experienced than Dom, but I think giving us something in between would lead to the best, most compelling stories.
I find myself wondering if this is somehow harder to pull off with a female character. Is there more pressure somehow to portray the female team members as super competent? I’ve always appreciated the amazing, strong female characters on this show- Hetty, Kensi, Michelle, Nell, Nicole, and more. And someone doesn’t get to Fatima’s position without being awesome. I’m just hoping that in time, we’ll get to see more layers to her character that Gemmill didn’t have time to show us in a single episode.
The Voices of Experience
Eric and Nell were busy on the case and Sam and Callen were far away, which unfortunately left Deeks and Kensi to spend most of their time standing around looking worried. During that time, they also tried to comfort Hetty, with each of them getting a scene alone with her, something quite unusual for the show, but so enjoyable to watch. I don’t know how many more opportunities we’ll have to see Linda Hunt work with ECO and Daniela Ruah one-on-one like that, so both scenes were a real treat that provided reminders of so many similar conversations from seasons past. Of course, the other reminders of seasons past were the parallels with the Afghanistan storyline. Not getting a Densi scene where the duo got into the subject seemed like a missed opportunity, but they found other good things to talk about (see below).
Over the years, we’ve had many scenes of Hetty comforting Deeks, like the “monk-cheetah” scene from “Unwritten Rule” or the scene from “Ghost Gun” about Kensi in a coma. I don’t remember a scene where their roles were reversed (there were none on my Top 3 Deeks/Hetty Talks list), although perhaps you all do? Callen usually gets to play the part of Hetty Consoler. This week, Hetty showed a refreshing degree of vulnerability in her worry over Fatima, and it felt genuine rather than the crocodile tears I sometimes see from her. ECO played his lines perfectly, trying to gently joke that Sam and Callen would be “taking selfies from some sort of camel-ride tourist trap” because Fatima was “smart, she’s highly skilled, more than capable of taking care of herself” (yeah, I kind of already picked up on that).
When Deeks assured her that, “This wasn’t your doing,” Hetty’s responsibility for the Afghanistan debacle definitely came to mind. I believe Hetty sent Fatima on her current mission? If so, then at least this time, Fatima’s fate was only due to bad things happening and not because Hetty failed to fill her in on all the relevant details of her assignment. It’s good I suppose that Deeks, unlike myself, has put to rest any ill will he might have once felt towards her over that assignment.
Hetty appreciated his kindness, telling him, “Thank you Martin. I appreciate the gesture even if I don’t share your optimism.” Martin! Martin? The only other time I remember her calling him this is in”Black Market” when he was sleeping in the hospital with a coma-bound Kensi. (Hetty: Martin! Deeks: Did I miss the bus?… Oh! You’re not my mom. Hetty: Oh, hell no!) And that’s exactly what that name brings up for me: Roberta. It’s gotta freak Deeks out a little. She almost always calls him Mr. Deeks or Detective Deeks. I was trying to remember if she’s ever called him Marty (I couldn’t think of a time – you all will have to let me know). I know she’s referred to him as Deeks at least once (in “Personal” when she tells the team “Deeks has been shot”- not to him but about him).
It was somewhat satisfying to see Kensi addressing her own capture in Afghanistan (“You and I know better than anyone else what she’s going through”). Their scene together, if taken on its own, was very sweet and showed how much these two women have matured, but of course I kinda couldn’t help but think Kensi was entirely too charitable with her phrasing. I guess it showed that, even if Kensi held a grudge toward Hetty at some point, like Deeks, she’s long since let it drop. I shall try to do the same (but don’t hold your breath).
Kensi stressed the theme of the evening, that “Fatima is strong and she is smart.” But for me, the most striking part of their scene was how Kensi took Hetty’s hand in an effort to comfort her. Physical contact between Hetty and any of her people is fairly unusual, and it made the gesture all the more powerful. The two women seemed far more than boss and employee, definitely more like family, another of the season’s recurring themes.
Hetty’s refusal to allow Deeks and Kensi to join Sam and Callen on their search was a bit mysterious. Was she being overprotective because her guilt over Afghanistan had been triggered? Was it because she knows they’re trying to start a family and retire? As much as I wanted to think it was because Kensi was already pregnant, that just wouldn’t have made sense because neither Kensi nor Deeks would have been OK with her heading into such a dangerous situation.
In addition, listening to the both Deeks and Kensi being so kind and sensitive with Hetty drove home how mature they’ve both become, how much they’ve grown, or maybe grown up, over the years. This was not the same two people we saw in earlier seasons. It helped me to actually picture them as parents, maybe for the first time. And listening to the sober way both Kensi and Deeks addressed different aspects of the case, the knowing way they approached their work, also emphasized how experienced they both are now, after so many years on the job. Whereas earlier on, Deeks always seemed a bit lost when unfamiliar problems occurred, here he knew just as much as anyone. It made me realize how fun it could be to see him and Kensi as the old hands teaching some younger agents the ropes. What a refreshing turn-around it would be: the Deeks who always struggled to keep up with the fancy agents becoming the voice of experience, having the younger agents look to him for guidance and treat him with respect. I think I would really enjoy that.
I was also struck by similar thoughts about Sam and Callen. Yes, Sam is very relaxed before an ambush. He’s such an old hand, nothing surprises him or Callen. He’s so authoritative. Maybe it is time to pass on all that knowledge and experience to others. Guest actor (and rapper) Offset, who played CIA Agent Kadri Kashan Khan, and whose acting abilities did not impress, also provided a striking contrast with rapper LL Cool J, whose portrayal of Sam Hanna shows us what a great actor he has become.
Will They Won’t They
It seems that instead of waiting to see if and when Deeks and Kensi would finally overcome their communication deficiencies and declare their love for one another, we’re stuck in a new limbo of whether or when they will become parents. This “Lady and the Tramp” as Sabatino referred to them (and others have in the past I believe) had the episode’s most memorable conversation around the subject of their future children’s future career choices.
Kensi: What if it was us?
Deeks: What are you talking about? It has been us. We have both been in that exact same situation.
Kensi: No, Deeks, I’m saying, what if this was our kid?
Deeks: OK, that, I can’t imagine, but you know what? I don’t have to, because it’s never gonna happen.
Kensi: What if our son or daughter wants to follow in our footsteps?
Deeks: That’s not an option. Listen, if they wanna go to medical school and go off and become doctors, that’s fantastic. Teachers? Even better. They wanna open up a boutique dog grooming service? Fantastic. I’m all for that. It’s just going into law enforcement – that’s not an option.
Kensi: Well what if they wanna serve their country?
Deeks: I think that’s great. I think they should serve their country, but there’s other ways to do that that’s not doing what we do, and we do what we do so they don’t have to, that’s the whole point of parenthood.
Kensi: Sweetie, you can’t dictate what our kids wanna do.
Deeks: I’m not dictating. There’s no dictating here. I’m literally just laying down some basic rules. There’s, there’s, there’s no drugs, there’s no porn and there’s no jobs where they’re getting shot at.
Kensi: That’s hypocritical of you.
Deeks: What? I was never in porn.
Kensi: No, but you were an exotic dancer, that’s gateway behavior. I mean one minute you twerking bare chested with a bow tie on-
Deeks: There was no twerking.
Kensi: -And the next thing you know you’re in the Valley shooting a parade of Toy Story.
Deeks: [laughing] Don’t do that to me, I love that. You just ruined it forever.
Kensi: You know we’re gonna be terrible parents.
Deeks: We’re gonna be the worst parents. I hope there’s a guidebook. Some sorta Cliff Notes. But it doesn’t matter, you wanna know why? Cause those kids are gonna have great hair and fantastic teeth. And that’s all that matters. [Kensi pretends to have buck teeth] God, have you seen that?
Kensi: Will you kiss me?
Deek: Is it too late to reconsider?
What a wonderful Densi conversation, filled with Deeks’ desperate drive to keep his future children safe at all costs, Kensi’s more realistic view of how things work, her breaking the tension with jokes about pornography and silly faces, and the two just humorously agreeing they’ll be terrible parents. I loved everything about this, except for the odd edit that jumped us from the two walking out of the mission right into the continuing the conversation in a moving vehicle, as if they stopped talking in near mid-sentence until they got on the road.
- That opening made me feel like I was watching an episode of SEAL Team, or at least what I assume an episode of SEAL Team looks like. It was well done and I felt like I was right there with Fatima in the middle of the action.
- The opening scene with Deeks playing barkeep made me think more about how he sees the place. He says to a quickly disappearing customer, “A bartender – barkeep – is an ancient, honorable tradition. Much more than a mixer of cocktails, I think it’s an equal parts philosopher, psychiatrist, storyteller, comedian, but most of all, Richard, and you know this to be true, I think it’s a comforting friend for anybody there in search of solace…” It matches his original vision of what he wanted the bar to become, and the barkeep roles he listed are a pretty good match to his personal skillset. I always thought he’d be bored or unfulfilled working there, but now I get that he sees it as just another way to help people.
- Um, sorry Nell, but I don’t think the bar is the best place to have a classified briefing.
- Yay, Hetty is back to her real desk! I wonder why? Maybe she’s just experimenting. Or maybe, since she truly seemed upset about Fatima’s disappearance, she felt more comfort surrounded by all her things. (Seriously, I think she’s as much of a hoarder as Kensi, she just has more money and more space for all her stuff.)
- Go Bruins! Medalion Rahimi was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and TV.
- Normally the show does very well to use its Southern California terrain as a stand-in for places all around the world, from Russia to Afghanistan to Sudan. But Egypt seemed like a stretch. I never could suspend my disbelief long enough to think I was anywhere except SoCal.
- Did Hetty swipe up to turn Eric on when he was napping? That was hilarious.
- Whoa, Mr. Gemmill made a joke at President Trump’s expense as well as a comment about the White House wanting to stage a PR event. While I enjoyed them, it seemed like a risk that could anger a good chunk of the audience.
- Loved the Hollywood and Highland call signs they gave Sam and Callen.
- I thought Hetty might pull out one of her bars of gold bullion to pay off the kidnappers. At least here, she would have given vast amounts of money to mere Bedouin smugglers as opposed to actual terrorists in Afghanistan.
- Sabatino was Sabatino, as snarky as ever, and Gemmill is probably the perfect writer to write him given his aptitude for humor.
- I gotta say, the boom was a bit disappointing. It did not look like a cache of explosives going boom so much as a box of fireworks going poof.
- Again this week I’m unsure of the title’s meaning. According to Google, “alsiyadun” means “the anglers” in Arabic. Could it be a reference to the Bedouins who captured her?
That’s it from here! Come back later this week for new installments of Kensi’s Journal and Deeks’ Surf Log. In the meantime, what did you think of “Alsiyadun”? Did Densi’s sweet, dramatic scenes compensate for their complete lack of anything to actually do? What did you think of Fatima? Tell us all about it in the Comments.