I cannot remember the last time I watched a fictional TV show, but it may have been “Into the Breach,” which was almost two years ago. I was on a much longer than expected hiatus from wikiDeeks as I was finishing my dissertation, which was then interrupted by the pandemic. I’ve now graduated with my PhD and am so excited to be back with you again doing an episode review! So with that context of all-work/no-play for too long – the TL;DR on this review is that I missed NCIS: Los Angeles, I missed all the characters, I missed the gorgeous city views of L.A., I missed the writers, producers, directors, etc., I missed writing for fun, I missed you all, and I’m a huge sap and loved everything about this episode. You may get diabetes from reading this review 😉
Lee A. Carlisle wrote this episode, which made me smile. I love his work and he was the writer on the last episode I reviewed (“Into the Breach”) before my long hiatus. It seemed fitting to step back into reviewing with another wonderful episode written by him.
I’m assuming you’re all aware but allow me a moment to note that they changed the opening credits and music while I was away. I normally don’t like change, but I loved it! (That was my first clue that I was about to get quite gushy about this).
Next, I’m assuming you’re also all in the know on the backstory of Katya’s safety deposit box that Callen was rifling through at the opening. I’ve obviously got some catching up to do, but feel free to discuss or enlighten me in the comments.
What hasn’t changed is Callen and Sam’s banter: “You never know when you need good leverage on a Russian,” with Sam’s grin and Callen’s smirk was exactly where the happy tears started, and I realized how much I had missed this!! (Yup! Time for your first blood sugar check). Seriously though, it has been rough at times for those of us working in ERs and seeing that my favorite characters are still out there and still the same in the ways that matter was something I didn’t know I needed. Their good-natured teasing coupled with the facial expressions that say as much as their words is one of my favorite things about this show.
Kensi and Deeks in the car is another thing I have loved throughout the series and yup, more tears seeing their banter and knowing they are still their usual selves, irrespective of what they’ve gone through in the past couple of years. I watched that “flat-earther” comment about the “trouble-makers” going into the adoption information session several times and I’m convinced both Eric Christian Olsen and Daniela Ruah were surprised he said that. That did not seem scripted. Or he did something else off camera that made her chuckle. She just seemed a little taken off guard there. I loved it!
I definitely need to catch up on the episodes I missed and see this journey to parenthood they’ve been on. It can be very stressful, sad, and hard on relationships. I was so glad to see in both the opening and closing scenes that Kensi and Deeks are focused on tackling this together, hard parts, fears, and all. Having Callen tell Deeks he would have killed for parents like him and Kensi when he was a foster kid – did I mention there were tears involved in watching this episode?!?! Seriously loved that heartfelt moment, especially since Callen has not always been Deeks’ biggest fan.
Deeks’ comment about having a kid being like having your heart outside your body was so heartfelt. Both ECO and DR are quite clear on social media about how much they love being parents and you could feel that coming through in these scenes. Their final scene where they’re leaving to get food reminds me of so many similar scenes throughout the series. Back before they were together this was exactly the sort of thing I was hoping for. I just loved that scene: simple togetherness, facing the challenges of their work and their lives together.
I particularly appreciated that their family planning was so sensitively addressed, as this can be so immensely difficult for couples. One of the things I regularly do at work is inform people that they are experiencing a pregnancy loss; it’s such a common, and deep, pain that we often hide or ignore because we don’t know how to address it. I obviously missed Kensi and Deeks’ journey until now, so I don’t know how they got here. But, acknowledging that there are many paths to becoming parents and they are all good, though maybe some are harder than others, is a very important message.
Now, it turns out, amidst all the things that had me teary-eyed and oozing maple syrup from my pores (I’m Canadian, maple syrup really does ooze from our pores, it’s a thing!) about this episode, there was actually a case to discuss as well!
I don’t normally watch the previews and sneak peeks but I did this week because I’d been away for a while. So, I knew that instead of a terrorist or criminal organization, the case of the week focused on a parent who was at the point of desperation in a quest for justice for his daughter. Cases like this are always so hard because the parents obviously don’t want to believe their child did the terrible things that Corporal DeMayo was accused of, but people do change amidst the trying conditions they face while deployed, and sometimes just make bad decisions. The accusations of her being framed and murdered were a bit over the top, and her father was clearly not thinking totally logically in his desperation. Guest actor Charles Malik Whitfield (Gary DeMayo) walked that fine line of portraying impulsivity born of desperation without crossing into behavior that hinted at psychosis or intoxication. Gary was at his wit’s end and trying to change a reality he could not accept, but he was still in touch with reality. That nuance is what convinced me that maybe his allegations were plausible. His demands, on the other hand, were totally unreasonable. Six hours to solve a case like this?!
Jacqueline Obradors did a great job as LAPD Captain Maya Lopez. She was tough and no-nonsense in dealing with the very unreasonable demands. She was ready to act decisively and seemed willing to accept Gary’s death as collateral damage in neutralizing the threat. Between trying to effectively collaborate with her and trying to meet the very short timeline, both Sam and Rountree at the scene, Deeks and Callen in the boatshed, and Fatima in Ops had their work cut out for them. I was pretty pessimistic and figured that something was bound to go BOOM before they cleared Cpl. DeMayo’s name.
When we meet Mrs. DeMayo (Deidre Henry), we learn that Gary lost his business due to the pandemic, so this is a man who really had very little left to lose. She didn’t share all of Gary’s ideas about what happened, but she was clear that Cpl. DeMayo’s alleged actions were very out of character for her. The lack of effective and timely access to the therapy she needed added to the tragedy of the situation. I always feel like if we send people into combat or a conflict zone, part of the cost of that action is caring for whatever the physical or mental health needs are that result from that service. It just shouldn’t be hard to access support needs after serving; it’s not a surprise that people struggle. We knew about “shell-shock” after WWII. Deeks’ response to Mrs. DeMayo’s story was sad but so sensitive.
Sam’s decision to send Rountree into the bus undercover as a reporter seemed pretty risky. We knew that was going to end with a BOOM with that dead man switch. Not being up to date on the series, I don’t know how long Agent Rountree has been with the team, but I was getting a little “unknown crewperson with the red shirt” vibes (Star Trek reference for the non-nerds) there for a bit with the leaking liquid explosive and the sniper fire. They got out just in time and the BOOM I’d been expecting finally happened. Thankfully, everyone is safe and it looks like Rountree’s not expendable and we’re keeping him a little longer. (Add him to my list of things to catch up on).
By the time the bus blew up, Gary knew that his daughter’s death was a suicide, not a homicide. That scene where Sam told him he was right about her being framed was really heart-wrenching. He got some of the answers he wanted to hear, but it cost him greatly. And yet, he said he would have done it all again. It seems kind of extreme, but Sam couldn’t answer the question of what he would do if it were Aidan or Kam. This took us back to the underlying theme of the episode where your kids are such a piece of your heart that whether it’s the path to having them or the lengths you’ll go to for them once you do have them, the intensity of the love can push people to drastic actions that others might not understand.
The episode doesn’t answer the question, but it does ask us to consider what you would do for your kids: the ones you have and the ones you don’t have yet, or don’t have anymore. The artful weaving of that kind of a thread through an episode of a law enforcement procedural is part of what always sets the writing of this series apart from others for me. If you look closely, there is much depth and meaning in this episode beyond the case itself. The way it is presented challenges us to consider how narrow the gap sometimes is between villains and heroes. Though some make choices that go outside the bounds of what we accept in society, we have some common motivations – like love for family – that can be a weakness leading to life-altering decisions in the wrong circumstances.
The deck on the boatshed is an exceptional (new-to-me) addition. The beauty of the final scene between Sam, Callen and Kilbride is yet another example of the artistry inherent in this series. We got a satisfying resolution for Cpl. DeMayo against a background of a gorgeous night sky over the marina. I also love the original NCIS, but so often those scenes happen in their offices, and I just don’t feel like it has the same impact as this scene with the calm sky and calm waters that hint that she can now rest in peace.
There are several things I didn’t have space to touch on in this review, so I would love to hear your thoughts about things I might not have addressed or comments about what I did. No worries if you’re not on the same sugar rush I’m on!