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Review: NCISLA “The Bear” (S12E1)

This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles episode, “The Bear,” ushered Season 12 in with (most of) the characters we love, some new recruits, and everyone’s favorite guest actor. Writer R. Scott Gemmill and director Dennis Smith managed to retain the show’s key elements – banter and booms – even as they made adjustments to keep cast and crew safe amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Year Unlike Any Other

2020 has been a year unlike any other, and I hope you and your loved ones have all been staying safe. The COVID-19 pandemic shortened filming at the end of Season 11, and it’s already shortened the planned length of the new season. In addition, the showrunners are making efforts to keep their actors socially distanced as much as possible. What a challenge for the writers and directors! It may be some time before we get the whole team hanging out in the bullpen together, and indoor hand to hand fights with bad guys may be few and far between.

For me, the biggest missing character last night wasn’t Hetty or Beale, but the city of Los Angeles. You all know by now how much I love all the location shooting the show does, whether it’s famous landmarks from the Hollywood Bowl to Venice Beach, or grittier spots like the port. The show celebrates the city in a way I’ve rarely seen on television.

So although the team finally escaped the mission, boathouse and bar to get out in the field, a lot of the filming was likely still done on the Paramount Lot. I’m talking about Sam and Callen in their green screen helicopter and Rountree on his surveillance outing (his targets did look to be out on the streets, we just never established that Caleb Castille was there with them). It gave the episode a quieter feel (was the music quieter than usual too?) and the first third actually reminded me of “Answers” in its focus on small groups of characters filmed on the show’s sets.

The show’s on location shooting has always provided a certain amount of extra energy that I missed here. It wasn’t the showrunners’ fault. In fact, I think they handled the whole situation with creativity and resourcefulness. And it’s a challenge that most shows that are filmed almost completely on studio lots don’t even have to contend with.

I also appreciated the deftness with which they handled a large time jump (although sadly, not large enough to produce a Densi baby). We learned a lot about what’s been going on with the team during this time. How sad that Nell and Eric have been so apart, although that will no doubt lead to lots of adorably awkward conversations once Beale returns.

The Banter and the Booms

The BearThe episode still managed to give us some action, even if it was largely confined to the last half. They kept the main duos together, rather than breaking them up to keep an eye on the junior agents, which provided a reassuring familiarity to most scenes. Listening to Sam and Callen banter/bicker over their respective roles in managing the plane situation brought a smile to my face. And hearing them declaring their love for one another, even if said in jest, still carried the weight of 11 years of having each others’ back.

We also got some nice Deeks and Densi moments, including a cute opening conversation about counterfeit bills. Again I was grateful that these two seem to be filming together. The highlights involved appearances from three of our favorite recurring characters: Arkady Kolcheck, Homeless Deeks and Artie. Let’s start with Arkady. The second he walked through the door of the Squid and Dagger, the energy level rose, and silliness followed. Vyto Ruginis brings such charm to his role that I wish they could find a way to make him a series regular. It’s a promising sign that he clearly knows the way to the boathouse and the bar (and has he been to the mission too?), so he can pop up any time.

The second nice surprise was an appearance by Homeless Deeks and Artie. Eric Christian Olsen played his undercover role perfectly, managing to generate a lot of humor (“Kelly Clarkson!” “Randy Travis!”). Seeing the grin on Kensi’s face as she listened in to Deeks’ antics from her car took me right back to “The Job,” when he cheered her up by pretending to be a soccer player hit by a car.

Seeing Deeks harass Rountree was also very funny, although a little pot calling the kettle when it comes to fancy coffees. I do love the way Rountree so easily laughs at Deeks’ jokes. He did so last season and it’s great to see that dynamic continuing. The others are always so reluctant to give Deeks credit for his humor and are more likely to feign annoyance and roll their eyes. These two are developing an easygoing relationship and I look forward to seeing how it evolves. I’d love to see Deeks becoming Rountree’s principal mentor, especially given their initial outing together last season where Deeks blamed himself for Rountree’s near-death (but opening credits-worthy) experience.

As funny as ECO was, we here at wikiDeeks are using his appearance for serious purposes. We’ve pledged $150 to support Pets of the Homeless each time Homeless Deeks appears on the show, and $100 to support Every Day Action, an organization that distributes leftover food from film sets, restaurants and grocery stores to underprivileged and homeless communities. Our latest donations have been made and we invite you, if you’re able, to join us in supporting these wonderful causes.

We also got a very large boom, although it appeared to be the product of the CGI department, not the explosives experts. Still, all in all I enjoyed seeing the gang back in action. They maintained a great balance between the respective team members, and the characters thankfully are not in a pandemic world where everyone has to wear masks.

Memorable Moments

  • I wasn’t a fan of the effects in the opening sequence, but then again, the COVID budget is probably sucking funds away from the special effects folks.
  • I tried really hard not to count the number of times Rountree appears in the opening credits and I will try to be magnanimous about the fact that it’s more than Kensi and Deeks get. I do like the way the images fade to slightly altered, more comic-book style versions. It emphasizes the show’s superhero sensibilities. Also, the shot of Deeks escaping the “Mother” warehouse is a perfect choice and an improvement over the last few seasons’ selection.
  • To quote Deeks, I have all the fashion sense of a street urchin, but I have to question Nell’s very pink, very polka-dotted wardrobe choice.
  • How wonderful that they went to Linda Hunt’s home to film her scene. They could have so easily just had Nell read an email from Hetty. I love thinking about Linda’s elegant home being turned into a mini war zone. I wonder what her neighbors thought.
  • The scene where Kensi and Nell catch up was very sweet, although it seemed odd to me that Kensi hadn’t seemed to have spoken with her much since her mom’s passing.

The season may be shorter than normal, but there’s still plenty to come, and for that, I’m grateful. Let us know what you thought of “The Bear” in the Comments below.

About Karen P (273 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.

34 Comments on Review: NCISLA “The Bear” (S12E1)

  1. Thank you for the review. I’m having a quandary. I didn’t watch the episode and I don’t think I’ll be watching the show in the future. Perhaps it will be more likely that I keep tabs via wikideeks. Why?

    1) The writing for the past few seasons has been deteriorating. And from what I’ve been reading of the upcoming season, I don’t really care the direction/changes that are coming – different characters coming in, less Deeks, etc. It’s time for me to keep the memories of great seasons past, ignore the not-so-great ones, and not wind up not even having good memories if the disappointment continues. For me, it’s time.

    2) This one is difficult because the character of Deeks is one of my favorites but I suppose the price of seeing the private life of the actors comes around eventually. ECO earlier this year posted that he supported Defund the Police and I just can’t ignore that. I have friends who are LEOs and for other reasons. ECO makes his very comfortable living playing a LEO on TV. I wish I hadn’t seen the post … but I did. I am by no means saying that he doesn’t have his right to his own opinion. However, he uses his personal social media to promote the show so I think there is a professionalism that should be respected even though the show itself leans a little too hard left sometimes which risks alienating viewers who do not. Again,it’s my opinion which I also have a right to. This is solely my choice and I have no intention of influencing anyone in any direction.

    I suppose if they ever do have a Deeks, M. episode I’d most definitely be watching that. 🙂

    I’ve loved this site and everyone associated with it. Thank you for sharing your perspectives and analysis on something we both cared about.

    Much love to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree 100% Peakae. I debated for a long time about watching the show-and chose not to for the same reasons. I was already having a hard time justifing watching the show but over the summer-and that comment you mentioned sealed my answer to a “no.” I too have LEO family and friends.

      I do appreciate your review Karen and I’m glad that the newbies didn’t seem to be front and center at the rest of the cast’s expense.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I get where you’re coming from. I am a retired police sergeant. However disappointing it was to learn that he supports defunding the police, it is not enough to turn me off the show or character. I truly believe ECO will do a 180 when he comes face to face with what defunding means. Right now, it’s a concept, a concept that will lead to failure and chaos, a concept for some reasons popular with Hollywood liberals. In my city they are talking about defunding 11% which may not seem like much but it would mean the closing of two district stations. Manpower is already low thanks to COVID quarantines and officers quitting or retiring after the summer riots. It’s not a pretty picture. There have been times (thankfully only a few) when no officers were available in the south part of the city and officers north of the river had to respond. The distance can easily be 40 miles so that tells you if it’s a serious call it may take more than 30 minutes for response time. Unless cooler heads prevail this could be a nightmare waiting to happen.

      I was once a flaming liberal. My father used to tease me about it and quoting Winston Churchill, he said ” When you’re young and not a liberal, you have no heart; when you’re old and not conservative you have no brain.” He was right. I’m now a moderate leaning toward the right. It is what it is. I don’t block people because of their views, political or otherwise. If I stopped watching actors because of their politics I’d probably watch no television or movies. I can let it be and hope they come back to planet earth but that’s just me. You have to be you and I respect your decision.

      If I stepped on any toes, I’ll apologize in advance. It’s my opinion and we all have them.

      That said, I more or less enjoyed the show. I’m not crazy about either newcomer, not because of their characters, but because they take screen time away from the core group. I thought the cast and crew did a great job considering the restrictions put on them by the California government. Thank you, Karen, for your review.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I too have problems with ECO’s comments. I also have relatives in all areas of law enforcement. If anything we need to fund them more not less . In the past ECO has supported the police in his earlier days as an actor so I am not sure what is going on. It does put a damper on my viewing the show but I will continue to watch . I enjoyed this episode. This is their first time dealing with restrictions so I think it will get better. I am not a fan of the new characters but I do realize they are there to give the other actors a break.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi PK,
      When all of the problems started I unfollowed all the celebrities in Instagram Facebook Twitter and so on because I knew one of my favorites would probably make a stupid statement and jump the gun before all the facts were in.I was saddened buy your post that ECO would actually say something like that. It seems ironic after playing a cop for 11 years he would blurt something like that out. I read R Scott said that Deeks is losing his job with LA.PD I wonder if Eric asked him to do that because of his feelings. If he feels that strongly I would suggest he opt out of his contract. Sadly I can no longer watch my favorite showUnless he retracts his comments I realize everyone has the right to their opinion however celebrities have thousands and thousands of followers and their words sometimes Taken more seriously then fans of the show.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will keep watching the show because I enjoy it, regardless of anybody’s opinion. If I stop enjoying it I will stop watching. It is very sad that you wont be watching unless Eric retracts an opinion he is entitled to. It is your choice. Did you actually read his comment ? I didn’t so I don’t have an opinion.


  2. 1st off, welcome back! It feels great to finally be able to enjoy a new episode! (havn’t enjoyed 1 since Aleysidiun)

    On to the episode: I like what Nell was wearing here. (I’m not really picky when it comes to how they look).
    As short as it was, it was incredible to see Hetty again after so many months. (they still could’ve revealed where she really was though.)
    From all the spoilers I’ve read in the past 2 months, this actually sounds like a planned out 1st half instead of filler episode after filler episode jumbled together, which I like.
    I love Homeless Deeks.
    My eyes lit up when Hetty said ‘bugger’ for the 1st time in WHO KNOWS how long!! (also very pleased to see her in the final opening credit shot again for the 1st time since Season 8.)

    So far, this was a good start. (just don’t completely blow it in the 2nd episode again!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi karen, thank you again for taking the time , to keep up Wikideeks, I enjoy seeing your thoughts on the episodes..I really enjoyed seeing Sam, callen, Deeks, kensi, Neil and Hetty..I am still not sure of the two new characters yet, I guess I was surprised they were in the opening credits already..but that’s me…it was great seeing Sam and callen paired together, and kensi and Deeks..I do know this year will be different…but even though I enjoy the older episodes , I am glad to see the team back together., and hoping this season will be a great one …thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with Peakea who commented on the writing for the last 2 years deteriorating. This first episode was anticlimactic. It was as if the writers felt the necessity to get all the characters in the story line whether or not it was effective. The characters are aging and the clever interaction of the past is missing. Deeks has evolved as much more brazen, cocky, and loud. I miss the softer spoken and lower keyed sexy Deeks of the past. I miss those quieter moments when he was more timid and tearful. Realizing character development is important is one thing but forcing the characters to constantly talk instead of interact with each other makes for a boring story line. I think we need to get Mr. Military back to writing more of his wonderful scripts. He is so very talented and without his insight into these characters and their unique personalities, the show will not survive. There must be a feeling and insight for these characters and their uniqueness and not just a weak storyline that they are forced to follow. It is bot working!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Debra Gillespie // November 18, 2020 at 1:46 PM // Reply

      Christine, you might get your wish, partially anyway. The latest TV Guide shows that the fifth episode on Dec. 6 is called “Raising the Dead” and is a Frank Military (and acted!) episode. From the plotline that the magazine article indicated (Kensi in danger from a very bad character from her past) ,there’s going to be plenty of angst and it looks like it will be pretty good. I haven’t been anticipating an episode like this since last season’s “Mother”.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Frank Military had that connection with characters as far back as Miami Vice (where he sadly only wrote two episodes…both early in the show’s run). He has a knack, and this show is based so firmly on characters they need to capitalize on that instead of what they seem to do now. I worry any time a show based on characters starts adding too many…it does bad things to the dynamics.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Seems like we’ve been waiting forever for this season. What a difficult time to be filming. I can only imagine how many adjustments they all had to make to put out such a pleasing episode. I love the team and I missed them all, but especially Deeks, my favorite. I was not disappointed. I loved the new haircut, but the highlight has to be his turn as LA’s most famous homeless guy. Arty never smelled so sweet, and I’m glad I only have to imagine that. He was quirky and funny and it felt good to laugh. Roundtree’s reactions to his homeless undercover persona was right on, and as wary of the new character as I was initially, I could see the two of them clicking, especially over a latte. I thought it was a solid effort, my only criticism would be that pink dress Nell was wearing. I found it very distracting and considering her mom just died, it just seemed too bright and cheery. That said, I thought by the end I wouldn’t be surprised if Nell took Hetty’s place as Operations Manager. Bravo NCISLA and ECO.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Catherine Betham // November 10, 2020 at 5:28 PM // Reply

    Yay! Season 12!! Thank you for your review Karen and more importantly thank you WikiDeeks for your donation. I know how hard filming has been due to Covid for everyone but some good has come out of it with the formation of Every Day Action. I know everyone looks forward to the end of this crisis. Until then everyone PLEASE wear your mask 😷 wash your hands 🙌 and be kind 💖

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Welcome back Karen and season 12! I was missing you both this last long summer. I must admit that I haven’t got big expectations from this first episode as I was sure ECO would not appear or would appear only shortly. So I was almost jumping for joy when I saw that we got to see homeless Deeks and Deeks in the bar and Deeks in the field and Densi.
    Not the best but also far from the bad 45 minutes of NCIS LA. Homeless Deeks was a highlight for me and ECO was truly exceptional these 2 minutes. I also loved how Kensi was enjoying listening to him. Like yourself, I was also reminded of a much younger Kensi listening to Deeks’ unbelievable undercover skills.
    Looking forward to the next episode.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Thank you for your review Karen, it is good to have your thoughts again. It is good to have Season 12. I saw the clips and I was pleased to see Artie, he is far and away my favourite of Deeks’ undercover aliases. Like Maria I didn’t think Deeks would feature, as ECO was on expectant father duty when they started filming.

    People have commented on poor writing in recent seasons. For me I think Season 8 was so good, arguably the only way was down. We like it when Deeks features, well I do anyway, and he’s been a bit of an also ran in recent episodes/seasons, perhaps due to reduced availability. Season 8 was shot with the constraints of Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy and it was excellent. Am I being over-optimistic hoping for a good season as they work with the constraints of Covid? The similarity is that everything needs more planning. ECO also had a daughter during Season 8, but that’s taking the similarity too far. It seems Deeks does have a storyline this season, and I hope the team are as supportive as they were in Season 8. Yeah, I’m hoping for a good season.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To me, the writing didn’t actually take a sharp turn down until Season 10. (not having Hetty around leaves the episode feeling like there’s something big missing from it.) She is what holds this show together. (and yeah, I know you’re talking about the other Maria, but I just thought I’d ring in as well.)


      • Not going to argue about Hetty, she always makes an episode better, and she has been missing a lot lately, not necessarily because of the writers. Hopefully she has fully recovered from her car accident. It’s always been the case that some episodes are more enjoyable than others. That’s how it is. You just realise episodes you don’t like so much are coming round a bit more often. To me Season 8 had a purpose about it, a completeness, that subsequent seasons have lacked. That said there have been some cracking episodes since Season 8, and I’m looking forward to more.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Becky Shugart // November 12, 2020 at 12:25 PM // Reply

    The ep was okay.I like that they are actually filming.ECO was excellent as always.The ending was kid of weak.Writing has been hit and miss since Shane left as showruner.Don’t like the newbies still.To me they just take important airtime from the core group.I understand Hetty not being on the show much,love Hettie but Linda in that age group where u better be extra careful of exposing yourself to this virus. Love Linda and she makes the show better.I wonder if they will let Eric write an ep this season?Hope so he and his pal wrote better than alot of the show’s writers.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Welcome back Karen, wikiDeeks, NCIS: LA, and ECO and the entire cast and production team!

    After watching so many returning shows this week and last that have incorporated COVID into their storylines (some more than others), I have to say I am relieved TPTB have decided to fast-forward past it or just plain ignore it. I need the hour of escapism, and I’ll take mine with a side of big booms, even if they are CGI for the moment. Loved me some Homeless Deeks/Artie, and yes, Kensi holding back that smile definitely reminded me of “The Job.” I too hope/think that Deeks seems to have found someone in Rountree who will play verbal games with him and can appreciate all that he brings to the team. How much will I laugh when Rountree seeks Deeks out for mentorship when it was Sam and Callen’s big idea to find the perfect agents to mold to their liking? (A LOT!)

    I’m thinking it was Nell who wasn’t keeping in contact much, since both Hetty and Kensi offered their condolences as if this was the first time they’d spoken to her since hearing of her mother’s death. That and the fact that she had no idea where Beale was makes me wonder if our Ms. Jones just hunkered down with her family wherever they were and helped each other grieve for a while.

    Was it me or was Arkady difficult to understand in this ep (even before he downed most of a bottle of top-shelf wodka I had to keep rewinding to make out what he said)?. I also think the background music was a bit too loud in those scenes, so that didn’t help (though you’re right Karen, elsewhere in the ep things seemed too quiet in the background).

    And finally, here’s a question that’s been nagging at me.
    1) I read/saw (?) something in which RSG said Hetty might be faking what she’s up to in order to try to get Nell back into the game.
    2) Nobody seems to know where Hetty is.
    3) We know LH’s scene was shot in her driveway.
    4) Do we think HETTY is still in LA and filmed that mock war zone with some of her old movie buddies to get Nell back in the game?
    5) Did all of you already figure this out and do I need to give myself a big DUH?!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. almartin1999 // November 14, 2020 at 2:30 PM // Reply

    I love this show. I have all 11 seasons on DVD. I have watched them twice. I really liked season 12 EP:1. Although it was kind of hard to understand Arkady.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Dave Smiesko // December 1, 2020 at 3:44 PM // Reply

    I just saw the promo description for “If the Fates Allow” Season 12 Episode 6.
    It includes this description “Also, Deeks is struggling with losing his job at NCIS”

    So after 1/3 of the 18 episodes scheduled, still no Deeks and Kensi?
    Densi is really missed!

    Link is here although it is not a secure one, so beware!

    Liked by 2 people

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