There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of NCIS: Los Angeles this season: shooting limitations due to COVID, Eric Christian Olsen taking some time off to bond with his new baby girl, and overall changes in the cast. This week’s episode, “Angry Karen,” written by R. Scott Gemmill and directed by Dennis Smith, continued Season 12’s rather unique vibe. And since it was relatively short on the Deeksness, this review will be on the short side too.
Present Day Challenges
I’ve settled into the very different shooting approach, and have accepted the heavier reliance on the Paramount lot and the plethora of scenes of agents working solo. One element that seems to be helping these scenes feel more normal is the frequent inclusion of phone conversations. Having Nell keeping such a close eye on the team, almost as if she’s still in Ops, works to give these solo operators someone to talk to when they’re not touching base with one another. These scenes must be difficult to film, since I think each actor may only be filming his or her side of the conversation without the other person to play off of, but it’s all being pulled together seamlessly by the editors.
In keeping with the NCIS:LA‘s long tradition of action, the showrunners have also managed to give us several chase scenes that ended with the suspect apprehended, all while maintaining some level of social distance. We had Rountree last episode chasing his man into a pool, and here we got the gnome taking the brunt of the impact so Kensi could keep her distance, plus Rountree using a hospital bed to maintain six full feet of space. Very creative use of found objects on the part of the writers and directors.
So far this season, every character has managed to get enough screen time to keep me somewhat satisfied. However, a concern that’s bubbled up to the surface is the fact that we have been missing two, and in this episode, really three, main characters. What happens when everyone’s back? How will there be enough screen time to keep each characters’ fans happy? It seems to pose a big challenge for the showrunners, although hopefully if they’re able to reduce the solo time and go back to more pairings, that will help give each character a bit more time on screen.
A Future in Doubt
There appear to be big changes in the works for Deeks. The exact change discussed this week confused me a bit. I took it that the LAPD temporarily canceled all liaison positions during their public safety review. But I didn’t take it that Deeks is out of a job entirely. I’d have expected him to spend the day with Bates at LAPD. At any rate, the couple’s conversation went in a different direction than I’d have expected given the last few years of discussions about getting out of law enforcement. Kensi blithely suggesting that Deeks could just join NCIS – something many of us have wanted for years – seemed to completely ignore any possibility that the duo might use this event as an impetus for larger changes in their lives. It felt puzzling coming from Kensi but even more so from Deeks, who appeared fine with the idea save for the lack of control he might have in his assignment location. Are we to assume that Deeks has resigned himself to a life of crime-fighting unless Kensi someday becomes pregnant?
Of course, coming events may change Deeks’ motivations, as he may realize how difficult it is to not be able to watch Kensi’s back every day. We got a little taste of his angst in his request to her to “Be careful,” with its faint echo of Kensi asking Deeks to promise not to get himself killed in “Wanted.”
Bringing the Funny
So Kensi spent the bulk of the episode working solo, and just like last season, we got to see her compensate for Deeks’ absence by making more than her usual share of the (bad) jokes. “Bed Bath & Burglary”? “The gnome violence solution,” really? It reminded me of the scene from “Empty Quiver” where the bartender tells Deeks that, “She’s cute, but her sense of humor needs work.” And while Deeks still clearly needs to continue his efforts to improve Kensi’s humor, it’s wonderful to see the influence he has had on her. Season 1 Kensi never approached her work with such a carefree attitude, and certainly never made so many jokes, let alone showed so much pride in her own efforts. Her character has grown so much over the years and with Deeks’ influence.
- We seem to have a trend this year of episodes being named after a piece of military hardware. Kind of odd but sure, why not? However, as a pretty Mellow Karen myself, I have to profess my fatigue with the Angry Karen meme. Most of us Karens are a pretty nice lot so it’s tiresome to see our name used with such a negative connotation.
- Have we ever heard Sam Hanna curse like he did in the opening sequence? “Son of a bitch tried to run me over.” “Are you OK?” “No, I’m pissed.” Salty!
- Didn’t Deeks also tell Kensi to tell someone (Nell I think) that he said hi when Kensi took a call in the season opener? Is this a new Eric Christian Olsen bit?
- I liked the big brother aspects of Sam and Callen providing Nell with some positive reinforcement, even if I found her lack of confidence a bit disappointing.
- The newbies sure do seem whiny at times. This time it was Rountree bored and hungry at the hospital, and then annoyed at being asked to drive to Oxnard (yes, it’s far, but it’s a lovely drive if you take PCH). I’d like to see them whine at the hazing by the senior agents, but since they’re all separated most of the time, we aren’t getting a lot of that.
- The episode’s highlight for me was Callen and Sam reuniting to take down lizard guy – I mean human directional. Their humor was, well, so much funnier than Kensi’s, and they seemed to be having so much fun with the job. Their jokes sounded like classic R. Scott Gemmill.
Like I said, short and sweet this week. I’m looking forward to some more Deeks-centered content soon. In the meantime, tell us what you thought of “Angry Karen” in the Comments below. And if you’re in the U.S., have a lovely – and safe – Thanksgiving.