As we near the end of NCIS: Los Angeles‘ eleventh season amidst a world in turmoil, it feels like some of that turmoil has managed to worm its way into the show. With “Murder of Crows,” written by Chad Mazero and directed by Suzanne Salz, we got a team out of balance, focused more on their futures than the current case. Full disclosure, a lack of time had me debating about turning this post into a non-review discussion, so I’m keeping things on the abbreviated side this week. Think of it as the first comment in our discussion thread.
We continued from last week with a budding Fatima-Kensi partnership. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about that, and about Fatima, but she’s yet to win me over. In this week’s episode, she came off almost as a whiny teenager. I do want to see flaws, and yes, she’s been through a lot, but feeling tired and poo pooing all Kensi’s suggestions didn’t help me warm up to her. She did attempt a few jokes, but when Kensi told her “You’re funny. You’re very funny,” I found myself disagreeing.
Their scenes together felt forced. Kensi was so perky and positive – not necessarily out of character but heading in that direction – that it seemed as if she (or Daniela Ruah) was overcompensating in an effort to increase the scenes’ collective energy level. In a way, it was sweet that she was almost channeling her absent husband, but it didn’t save the scenes from falling flat.
The big confrontation with the bad guys at the end also demonstrated a real physical difference between Fatima and Kensi. Fatima seems so slight that, like Nell, it’s hard to believe she could take down a bad guy twice her size. In this episode, she couldn’t. Kensi, on the other hand, has a couple extra inches and a significant amount of muscle that lets us believe it when she tackles bad guys without breaking a sweat.
The other newbie last night was guest actress Anna Akana, who played an ex-NCIS tech-slash-undercover operator named Rhea Moretti. Rhea provided us with almost the exact opposite vibe of Fatima. While I didn’t find either of them funny, Akana did bring a ton of energy to her scenes. I never for a minute believed she was actually any kind of undercover operator, although I suppose she might be believable as a tech operator. I found myself wondering if she’s yet another potential new recruit. While I enjoyed her energy, she reminded me of so many past snarky, young, mostly Asian female guest actors who – with the exception of Jennifer Kim – have never felt like real people. If she could demonstrate more maturity, maybe there’d be some potential there, but for now, she felt too over the top to fit in.
Densi Deeks Deale?
Because Akana brought so much energy, her scenes with Deeks at least held my interest. They should have been better than that given the wonderful set-up that Deeks did in fact invent the art of deflection with comedy, but Rhea just wasn’t believable enough for me. As for the rest of the Deeks scenes, well, we may have been missing the Densi banter, but Eric Christian Olsen didn’t lose a beat (he may have picked up an extra gear, actually) with his banter-filled interactions with Deeks’ tender lover Eric Beale. Eric even patted him on the chest at the end just like Kensi might have. The ending scene was even better. Overall, I felt like I got my standard dose of Deeks banter and both scenes put a smile on my face.
Obviously this was another week where ECO was largely unavailable for filming except for a few quick scenes shot on the Paramount lot. While I felt happy with the amount and quality of the Deeksness, there were three missed opportunities that emphasized how unfortunate it is for NCIS:LA fans that ECO has such a successful production company. First, Deeks interviewing the abused wife would have added a whole other layer of emotion to the scene, and to an episode largely devoid of such emotion. Second, the same could be said for the scene where Sam and Callen found the tortured man bound to a chair. And lastly, the fact that Deeks had to let Kensi and Fatima race off to save the woman in jeopardy while he hung out at the boatshed felt so wrong because he’d always want to have Kensi’s back in a dangerous situation if he could, and because he’s hard-wired to protect any woman in jeopardy, particularly an abused woman. Again, missed opportunities that we may just need to accept given that ECO’s involvement in the show is likely to continue to include these regularly ECO-minimized eps.
The DVD Cover Boys
The interactions between Sam and Callen continued to feel off this week. Again, what is going on with Sam? He wasn’t cruel like last week, but he seemed downright depressed. Was the rainy weather getting him down? It set his interactions with Callen off-balance, even though Callen was his consistent, normal self. He even seemed OK with Anna’s desire to pursue the American dream, even if to me it felt out of character. Maybe they should just move into Arkady’s giant mansion? They could have a whole wing to themselves.
- I’m sorry, does Deeks have something against church that I can’t remember hearing about? Or is it Presbyterians specifically? What exactly would make him “burst into flames”?
- That was a cool transition from the ops big screen photo of the house to the live shot of Callen and Sam pulling up in front of it, but it felt a little distracting since they only managed to use the technique that single time. Perhaps they should make it a regular occurrence.
- It’s nice to hear Kensi tell Fatima that she could use a cooking class. Deeks would have enjoyed her admission.
- I wasn’t thrilled to hear Deeks say that “Marriages are hard work.” What’s that about? Should we read anything into it? Maybe he did overhear Kensi dissing him last week. (No, I still haven’t gotten over that.)
- I didn’t enjoy the ditzy church lady. That whole scene felt like it played out in slow motion, and the woman, again, didn’t feel like a real person.
For me the biggest flaw with this week and last, as with much of Season 11, has been a sense of imbalance. Something is disrupting the force. The core partnerships that have made this show the success it is have been tampered with. The reasons may be valid, but the result is disorienting. Fingers crossed that Frank Military can restore the balance in next week’s season finale.
What did you think of “Murder of Crows”? Tell us all your thoughts in the Comments below!