With “Fortune Favors the Brave,” writer R. Scott Gemmill and director Eric A. Pot gave NCIS: Los Angeles viewers an introduction to a new team member and a team in the midst of transitions, with all the turmoil transition can bring.
Introducing the New Guy
FBI Special Agent Devin Roundtree, played by Caleb Castille, made a return appearance this week, only this time he joined the team instead of running away from them. He may be regretting that decision. Sam and Callen appeared to be trying him on for size, assessing whether he would make a good addition to the team, and he was no doubt assessing whether he’d even want to join a team that doesn’t even blink in the face of bullets and booms. As a viewer, I found myself conducting a similar assessment, trying to determine if I could envision Devin sticking around as a permanent addition.
He did have an easy chemistry with Eric Christian Olsen, but let’s keep in mind that ECO has amazing chemistry with literally everyone. Seeing Devin holding himself back from laughing at Deeks’ handyman joke made me like him, and the distress it clearly caused Sam made me laugh out loud. LL Cool J plays Sam as the straight man so well. It reminded me of when he was undercover with Sven in “Allegiance“, and how serious he managed to stay through Deeks’ whole ridiculous charade. It’s what made that scene work, and it was the highlight here too. It happened again at episode’s end with Deeks’ and Devin’s cute wordplay. Devin has potential, but he’ll have to prove himself.
His 20-word answer to Deeks’ question would have provided a clever way to introduce some details about him, but unfortunately we didn’t get to hear it. (But Deeks, seriously? Cop, Surfer, Lawyer, California Native and The Dude? How about Husband? Or maybe the most perfect word for him, Partner?)
Fun fact: Caleb Castille won two NCAA football championships at cornerback for the Alabama Crimson Tide before pursuing acting. No wonder he was so good at all the running in “Watch Over Me.” He looks small for a football player but I see he’s listed as 5’11”, an inch taller than Chris O’Donnell. The big question for me is whether Castille has the acting chops, the gravitas, the range, to bring depth to his roll. Devin was supposedly overwhelmed by the situation, which could bring an interesting and fresh dynamic to the show that we haven’t seen since Dom. I’m good with Devin being overwhelmed, I just don’t want Castille to be. Can he hold the screen opposite Linda Hunt? It remains to be seen.
Change is Hard
Besides introducing Devin, this episode was very much focused on transitions and mentors. All the characters seem to be struggling with, or at least focusing on, transitions. Hetty worried that a recent transition, Anna’s exoneration, was done for dubious reasons, setting up what feels like the subject of the season finale. Callen struggled with finally being able to enjoy his relationship with Anna, seemingly hesitant to move forward. Sam encouraged him though, pushing him out the door while he spent the episode focused on the the next new addition to the team.
Of course the episode’s largest transition was Nell’s apparent decision to leave NCIS. She’s been struggling with her role there for quite awhile, so it wasn’t a surprise to hear her express it. Of course, she seemed to fall for Hetty’s vacation gambit, which makes me think she’ll take some time off and then reconsider her decision. If she were really leaving, I would hope for a better send-off than a vague will-she-won’t-she return situation. Only time will tell.
Surprisingly, the person having the most trouble with Nell’s decision wasn’t Hetty but Kensi. I suppose we need to keep in mind that Kensi hasn’t been privy to all Nell’s soul-searching moments that we viewers have witnessed for so long. She seemed to have a hard time relating to Nell’s feelings that the job was just too hard. It felt a bit over-reactive, and if I were Nell I might have felt less support than I would have hoped from my friend, but I guess I’ll chalk it up to how much Kensi loves her job – so much that she still doesn’t really seem capable of imagining a different job for herself, or I guess anyone else – even as she’s apparently trying for her own transition to motherhood.
Mentoring Is Hard
The other theme that ran throughout the episode was mentoring. Kensi’s never really been a mentor to Nell, more of a supportive friend, only here she was more combative. When Nell told her, “Some days now I don’t even want to get out of bed” and Kensi replied, “None of us do,” it didn’t feel super supportive (although it did sum up how I think a lot of us feel at the moment). She wasn’t really selling the job all that well. But then she tried to make up for it by offering up her mentoring/big sister/experienced agent advice to Fatima. That’s gotta be helpful to Fatima and hopefully we’ll see her take Kensi up on the offer in the future. It would let us see more vulnerability from her character, and show us how much Kensi has grown and learned over the years.
Devin was also the recipient of some mentoring, first with Hetty advising him “Don’t get yourself or anyone else killed.” Can’t argue with that, I suppose. I loved Linda Hunt’s delivery. Classic Hetty.
Deeks has always done a great job as mentor, whether it was with Nell when she first went into the field, or Hidoko, whom he tried to get to know, or even with Ehsan in “Allegiance.” Sadly for Deeks, he seemed to take more blame than I think he deserved for his mentee Devin nearly getting blown up. He did try to warn him, after all. I hated seeing Sam (and even Kensi) apparently holding him responsible, and even worse was seeing how hard he took what happened. But of course he would beat himself up over it. It’s what he’s good at, right? It reminded me not just of that line from “Personal,” but of his supposed failing to keep an eye on the Ghurka in “The Frozen Lake,” where things also didn’t really seem like his fault.
Deeks took his failed mentoring so hard that I couldn’t tell if he was shaken simply because he almost got the new guy killed, or because he almost got himself killed too. His conversation with Kensi almost started to take on a bit of the same tone as the end of “The Silo,” where Deeks’ desire to stop putting his life in danger was made very apparent (and think how long ago that was (November 2017)- this poor guy has been ready to retire for more than two and half years! Again here, Kensi’s reaction felt less supportive than I’d have liked, less understanding, like she really doesn’t get how Deeks can’t just “shake it off” like she always has and seems able to continue to do. It was like she was thinking, “What’s wrong with all these people I work with? Why can’t they just buck up and deal with things?” Of course, I often struggle to understand Kensi, so I’m really looking forward to hearing how you all interpreted her actions and words in this scene.
Kensi: How you doing?
Deeks: Well, I almost got that kid killed, so… that’s not great.
Kensi: Well first of all, he’s not a kid. Second of all, you almost got both of you killed.
Deeks: Yeah, that is exactly my point. It doesn’t matter how much training you have, it doesn’t matter if you do it by the book, ’cause you can always get your ass handed to you.
Kensi: Yeah but you didn’t. You both survived that, so… Unfortunately, this is not over so just do me a favor?
Kensi: Keep your head in the game – for you, for him… for me… Yeah?
Deeks: Yeah, no, I’m in it.
Kensi: Now shake it off, dude, shake it off. You don’t want those firemen to see you cry. Love ya.
While I still don’t understand why people would put a bomb like that in an abandoned car, the explosion involved a very cool stunt where both actors appeared to do the bulk of their own stuntwork. Including that shot of Deeks in the foreground of the boom, and the poor bomb guy (was that David Paul Olsen?) taking the brunt of the explosion made it even more interesting. It may not have been at all realistic, but it was very nicely filmed with touches of slow motion so we could enjoy all the details and really see the actors themselves, and all those different shots were nicely edited together. One of the more interesting booms we’ve had in awhile.
Then we got that amazing solo shoot-out where Deeks took down two bad guys. That was thrilling because he was alone without back-up and outnumbered. He didn’t let that stop him from charging into danger to protect the women in the other car (women in danger are his trigger for superhero tendencies). He may want out ASAP and he may be tired of nearly dying, but I love how he’s not going to let that stop him from keeping the bad guys from hurting people. As he once said, he is at his best when moving and shooting (and yelling “LAPD!”), and that was some very impressive moving and shooting. Again, the use of slow motion was employed well to capture the action and make us feel like we were right there on scene with him. Afterwards though, when I realized how scary the situation had been, I felt anger at Sam for leaving him alone without a partner.
- Anna may be less than a hundred pounds, Sam, but she can still kick ass. (I can’t believe I’m defending her!)
- It’s never a good sign when Deeks doesn’t make his first appearance until after the first commercial break.
- I do like it when Sam gets a chance to be in charge when Callen’s away.
- What was Hetty burning?
- “Yo Beale you blonde bombshell,” says Deeks. The tender loving continues and it’s glorious.
- Ouch, Devin’s too young to have seen The Big Lebowski. Kids these days have so many entertainment options, I fear they aren’t taking the time to watch the classics.
- The episode’s plot was barely there. We hardly even saw the bad guys. But I guess that gave us time for all these new team members.
For me the big question is, to what extent was this a glimpse of the show’s future? Will we continue to see episodes where major characters disappear for time away and we get random pairings and temporary partnerships, with the older agents mentoring the newer ones? I think there’s a learning curve to this mentoring thing, which could be interesting to explore. It could all work, but it’ll take some getting used to. I think the biggest hurdle is the shifting partnerships. This show is what it is because of the three special pairings (four if you count Hetty-Granger) that have stayed so consistent for so long. If they’re all thrown away in favor of a larger team effort each week, the show may lose what made it special. Whether it gains something new to compensate remains to be seen.
OK, that’s all I have time for. Tell us what you thought of “Fortune Favors the Brave” in the Comments below. Did you like Devin? How did you interpret Kensi’s reactions throughout? And how are you feeling about all the potential transitions looming ahead?