With “A Tale of Two Igors,” NCIS: Los Angeles closed the books on Season 12. How time flies! The season finale script, written by Kyle Harimoto and showrunner R. Scott Gemmill, was likely completed before the show received its renewal notice, and its air of possible finality provided a bittersweet quality even as the laugh out loud jokes flew fast and furiously.
One of the episode’s strengths was its light tone, chosen by the showrunners to “do a fun, feel-good episode that leaves everyone happy and hopeful for what is coming down the line.” A major character was kidnapped, yet we never feared that he or anyone else was truly in danger. This carefree approach was very much in keeping with R. Scott Gemmill’s work, particularly over the last few seasons, as he embraced a wackier version of Beale and wrote (or co-wrote) a number of episodes that more closely resembled a single-camera comedy than they did a weekly procedural. For examples, see “Kill Beale Vol. 1,” “Till Death Do Us Part,” “Hail Mary,” “Love Kills,” and “Russia, Russia, Russia.”
The bulk of the humor was driven by Admiral Kilbride’s curmudgeonliness (nope I don’t think that’s a word either) and by Deeks’ newly inherited Russian crime syndicate. Kilbride had my second favorite line of the night in that hilarious scene where Nell got caught shaving off Beale’s stache: “Please don’t. You’ll only make it more disturbing.”
While I’d pay money for an angsty Deeks kidnapping storyline, it was hard to argue with the hilarity that ensued when Kirkin’s former staff nabbed him in search of a new trustworthy leader. Before the credits had even rolled, the jaunty background music told us that we shouldn’t worry about his fate, and the tone let us know that Gemmill had contributed to the writing.
Kirkin’s gang would have made him proud, taking care of Deeks’ nutritional needs and succeeding (mostly anyway) in freeing the Russian military dolphins. What a ridiculous storyline that I fully embraced right down to the final shot of the dolphins enjoying their newfound freedom. It served as a wonderful final(?) tribute to a beloved character. (It would be great to see more Kirkin-generated “gifts” in future episodes- the possibilities are endless.)
The bad guys were also quite amusing. I’d like to think that Igor 1 got his job because of his blond locks (or else it was a job requirement for him to dye his hair). The way all the guest actors, but particularly Igor 1’s Sandi Todorovic, delivered their lines with total seriousness and sincerity made them all the funnier. Henry crying over the dolphins, and then admitting to accidently shooting one, was a great touch too.
Eric Christian Olsen held up his end of this fun storyline. He perfectly delivered Deeks’ exasperation with being kidnapped. We didn’t even need to see his face under that hood to know his exact expression when he uttered a frustrated “Kirkin!” at the drive through. Deeks’ ability to do his job while embracing the craziness (telling a caller “Dasvidaniya”, for example) added to the fun. My favorite exchange of the entire episode was his quick delivery of “No one is over this Russian thing more than I am, no offense to you Grisha,” followed by Callen’s immediate “No offense Martin.” I hope that put a smile on every viewer’s face like it did on mine.
While I’m not sure if it was really him surfing (why can’t we get a clear shot of ECO in action on the waves?), Surfer Deeks will always be my favorite Deeks. This storyline also gave us a few seconds of Worried Kensi; seeing her protectiveness towards her husband is always welcome. We also got a relaxed and happy Densi at the end. Hearing Kensi joke and laugh out loud lets us go off to hiatus knowing they’re in as good a place as they can be. Plus, how adorable is it that she thinks of Deeks as her “little mermaid”? (I believe the term is merman, Kensi.)
The Grumpy (and Gruff and Crusty)
The episode was filled with grumpy characters. Ironically all the “crustiness” contributed to some of the funny one-liners, most courtesy of Kilbride as usual. Still, it was a lot of grumpiness to deal with. Kilbride’s gruffness had a harder edge than usual, with his ultimatum to Nell and his attitude toward Callen adding a nastier than usual tone to their conversations.
Kilbride’s telling Callen that Hetty “created” him brought up echoes from “Mother,” with its story of Hetty’s attempts to “help” orphans by molding them into agents and spies. Was this a clue that Kilbride knows something about Callen’s history with Hetty? Is that what Callen was searching for amidst the paper files? The whole conversation came out of the blue but might lead to some interesting places next season (spoiler alert: perhaps it will lead to learning more about Callen’s childhood, as Gemmill mentioned in a TVLine article).
Also in the Mr. Grumpypants category was Sam, who barely listened to anything Rountree had to offer on the case because of his preoccupation with Aiden’s flight test. At least Callen was able to pry his worries out of him and then offer appropriate support.
And then there was Fatima. Lashing out at others because you’re upset is not an attractive quality (see Kensi and Sam at various times, including the previous paragraph). Here, Fatima was giving off more attitude than a teenager. Kensi had the perfect reaction, a combination of hurt and anger, when she tried to get Fatima to open up and Fatima attacked her. I hope she can develop more maturity over time to enable her to handle her feelings better.
When Fatima did finally share the reason behind her poor attitude, it at least gave us an understanding of why she’d been so unpleasant all day. More important, it provided us with a key element of her backstory, the reason she changed from acting to fighting for the good guys. I can admire her for that change, although it doesn’t yet make me want to spend more time with her. (And no, I’m not bitter that we now know why a first-year team member made a career change when we still don’t know why Deeks shifted from attorney to cop. It’s all good.)
The lead duo of Callen and Sam got some nice scenes together, with Callen getting his partner to open up about his worries, with them reminiscing over the last trying year, and finally with Sam letting Callen know that he’d be a great dad. Chris O’Donnell beautifully played out the subtle emotions Callen experienced on hearing that compliment. And is that another breadcrumb about possible directions for this character to take next season? I can only hope that Densi has a child first to spare them the additional angst of watching their friends become parents before they do.
The episode’s big news, and the source of much of its emotion, was the apparently official departure of both Renée Felice Smith and Barrett Foa. Having Beale return provided a lovely way to usher Nell away, with a promise of new challenges and perhaps a rekindling of their romantic relationship. Their scenes here provided a reminder of how well they worked together, and how integral they’ve been to the cast. The two got a literal happy ending, riding off into the sunset, singing along to the music as they sped up the coast in a crazy expensive Lamborghini.
Yet even though we know Nell was never happy with her new job as Acting Operations Manager, her decision to depart NCIS and her subsequent good-bye scenes held multiple layers because we knew they were also our good-byes to the actress, and by extension, to Barrett. Seeing Kensi say farewell to the one person besides Deeks that she’s been able to open up to was a definite bittersweet scene, and knowing how emotional it must have been for Daniela Ruah and Renée made it doubly so. I only wished we’d have had time to let Nell and Deeks have a similar moment, but instead we got to enjoy a couple final doses of Beale-Deeks silliness. In lieu of a Shaggy-Velma scene, be sure to check out ECO’s description posted on twitter of working with her on that amazing scene from “Raising the Dead” where Deeks is fired.
The big reveal of the night, at least to viewers who hadn’t seen any spoilers, was Linda Hunt’s return. Just like with the fictional Densi wedding, I’d have to assume that Linda was determined to make an appearance to be part of a big milestone for the show, in this case Renée and Barrett’s real-life departures. Her scenes with Nell carried so much emotion for the characters, who’ve had a rocky but close relationship for so many years, but we know they must have involved even more emotion for Renée and Linda. What an incredible experience for Renée to have worked so closely with such a legend. It was also a reminder to viewers of how lucky we’ve been to enjoy both their work for so long.
- How disorienting to see ECO apparently supplying Deeks’ wardrobe with what looked like his own Faherty sweatshirt.
- Surfer Deeks and the whole gang filmed at my little neighborhood beach in San Pedro. Too bad I’ve been away or I would definitely have
stalked themwalked over to play paparazzo.
- Nelverine, Nellosaurus, Martin Atticus Deeks, Martin and Grisha, Eric’s Ununoctium, the WonderTwins. Harimoto and Gemmill were definitely out to set a record for nicknames. It added another delightful layer to the episode, as each one carried the history of its origin and felt particularly intended for us long-time fans.
- Sam: no texting while driving! You need to set a better example.
- I so wanted Beale to finally acknowledge that he owes Deeks a share of his business. Even a miniscule fraction of a percent of equity would be worth a fortune and would be incredibly helpful to our struggling couple. A missed opportunity to save the bar. I mean, the guy is driving a car with a base price of $393,000!
Things to Come
That’s a wrap for Season 12. Let’s take a moment to celebrate that we will be gifted with a Season 13, and then we can dive into conjecture about what it will bring. Will Linda Hunt come back full time now that COVID seems to be coming under control? Will she at least appear more regularly? Is Kilbride her new foil, taking the place that Granger held for so long? He was issuing orders to change out the fancy frosted windows in Mosley’s old office, so it sounds like he’s planning to be there more often. And she was making sure her antique weapons were returned to their proper storage, so it looked promising. (See this TVLine interview with Gemmill for more about the finale and next season.)
What will Nell and Eric’s official departures mean to the team dynamic? A natural shift would be to move Fatima to Ops, which I’d welcome, but it would leave Rountree without a partner. Giving him and Fatima that nice scene in this episode really made it feel like they’re intended to continue as partners, so perhaps we’ll have a fresh face in Ops instead. Either way, we’ll have one less character overall which moves us closer to our old dynamic of a core four plus Ops and management. (I do think they should give Rountree- and if she continues in the field, Fatima- desks in the bullpen.) I also hope to learn more about what drives Rountree. He’s a good guy and I want to know him better.
And who knows? Since neither Nell nor Eric were killed off, we may very well see them again in the future, perhaps for episode #300. I will also continue to remain optimistic, like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, that we’ll finally get a “Deeks, M.” to learn more about our favorite character’s backstory. (It will only have been about six years since Shane Brennan promised us a “Deeks, M.” episode for Season 8.) Who knows, maybe that’s the episode ECO is writing (a girl can dream). (Of course, the only backstory Gemmill mentioned was about Callen’s childhood. Sigh.)
This episode overall felt like a dry run for an eventual series finale. Learning how it would feel to say good-bye to characters we’ve loved for such a long time can only help us prepare for that eventual good-bye to the show. But since that’s not going to happen for another decade or so, let’s not worry about it quite yet. Instead, let’s congratulate them on completing Season 12 under incredibly difficult circumstances.
Thank you so much for all your support and great comments all season long. I’m sorry I had limited time this year so couldn’t participate in your fantastic discussions, but I always enjoyed hearing your thoughts. Keep them coming one last time in the Comments below. Did you enjoy this light-hearted episode? How did you feel about the big returns and departures? How do you feel about Season 12, and what do you hope for in Season 13? Also be sure to come back later this week for one last entry from Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. I can’t wait to see you back here in the fall. Have a happy and safe summer!