Review: NCISLA “A Land of Wolves” (S13E08)
A belated happy new year to everyone! This week began with only the eighth Season 13 episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. “A Land of Wolves,” written by Justin Kohlas and Adam George Key and directed by Tawnia McKiernan, provided another entertaining episode with a big Densi focus and nicely balanced storylines that moved quickly while still allowing for some good conversations.
No Chair Throwing
In the past we’ve seen Deeks react, shall we say, poorly to knowing that the love of his life is in jeopardy. Those reactions have always been very much in character and always interesting. But in this episode we saw a Deeks who’s gotten better at tamping down his emotions. (Of course, it could also be that the repeated trauma has worn down his reactions.) In reality, I think we were seeing a Deeks who knew he could take action to find his wife so long as he stayed focused enough to keep from being thrown off the case. Well done, Investigator.
Watching Deeks navigate the situation, even if he kept his emotions relatively under control, was still compelling. Eric Christian Olsen still managed to convey the pain and panic Deeks was feeling. This is a man who’s always waiting for the other shoe to drop and for his happiness to be taken away from him. With the specter of Kessler clearly hanging over him, he’s got to feel like it’s only a matter of time. That he stayed as calm as he did was impressive. ECO delivered Deeks’ line to Kilbride, “I’m calm. Send me the location,” with a perfect mix of 90% calm and 10% near panic. Ultra Serious Deeks had an ultra intensity that would have made me afraid to try to stop him.
The most highly anticipated part of the episode, for me, was seeing Sam and Deeks together in a high-stress situation. I’ve always loved watching these two characters interact. Their different ways of looking at the world, their very different backgrounds and extremely different personalities always results in entertaining scenes. Yet here we saw more harmony and support than odd couple banter, and it felt right. Despite Kilbride’s reminder to Sam about the team’s last outing to Mexico, Sam volunteering to Kilbride, “I know. I got him,” actually conjured memories of “Spoils of War,” when Hetty had given Sam explicit orders to cut Deeks out of the loop in order to successfully rescue Kensi.
But this time, Deeks kept himself in the loop and Sam worked hard to keep him as calm and positive as possible. In Deeks’ defense, I don’t think he was “spiralling” when he brought up the possibility that Kessler was involved. It should be the first thing anyone thinks about if either he or Kensi go missing. (Why aren’t these two regularly getting sprayed with Overwatch?)
The most supportive thing Sam said to Deeks was remind him that Kensi was no ordinary civilian lost in the woods, assuring him that she’d no doubt have already built a house with a zen garden (a lovely callback to Deeks’ project in the previous episode). However, the unspoken memory that hung in the air between the two men any time Sam tried to be supportive was, of course, Michelle’s death, and Sam’s inability to find her in time to save her. It likely took away a lot of the comfort Deeks might have otherwise taken from Sam’s words. And while I would have enjoyed a more in depth conversation between these two men who, despite their differences, share so many important life experiences between them, there wasn’t quite the time, and a larger heart to heart might have detracted from the urgency of the situation.
In Her Element
Meanwhile, as Deeks and Sam focused on the search and rescue, “Bear Grylls Survivalist Ninja” Kensi was very much in her element. Sure, she was in pain and worried about protecting Rosa, but it almost looked like she was enjoying herself when the militiawoman called Ghost threatened her in the cave. She was more than ready to take the woman on one-handed, and I’d have enjoyed watching her do it. (That cave setting gave me more Afghanistan memories, although I’m guessing the parallels were coincidental.)
From starting a signal fire with a discarded cigarette to breaking windows with her head and then pulling shards of glass out with her teeth (!), the woman was fearless, resourceful, and everything else her father raised her to be. It was fun to see her doing the kinds of thing she was raised to do, and we got more of that here than maybe any episode before. The episode also touched on one of my Season 13 wish list items- more undercover work from this team that specializes in it. Sadly, we never really got to see Kensi doing that undercover work, but it’s nice to know the team is still engaging in the work they’re meant to be doing.
Sometimes Things Don’t Work Out and Sometimes They Do
Kensi also bonded quickly and resolutely with young migrant Rosa. Their conversation in the cave was particularly well done. It felt unforced, both in the time they took to share more about themselves, and in the fact that Rosa is without family when Kensi is seeking the same. Daniela Ruah played the scene beautifully, showing all the emotions Kensi was experiencing, and Natalia del Riego matched her all the way as Rosa. Every time Deeks or Kensi has encountered a child, my mind has immediately gone to fostering or adoption. Here, Rosa appeared closer to twenty than to childhood, but apparently she’s under eighteen. More than her physical appearance, it was the maturity evident in her conversation with Kensi that made her feel grown up. The episode really gave Kensi a chance to start off in protective Special Agent mode but then we could see her feelings expand toward Rosa to the point where she provided comfort in an almost maternal way.
While Rosa’s apparently advanced age is a little disappointing in a prospective foster child (who doesn’t want to see Deeks interact with younger kids?), it does have its advantages. There’d be no need to arrange child care or change long working hours, allowing the duo to have the best of both worlds- keeping their jobs (and their roles on the show) but allowing them to experience caring for a child. And it highlights a huge need, with thousands of older foster children failing to be adopted, leaving the system when they turn eighteen with no one to call family. Aww, I’m getting all choked up at the very thought of Deeks and Kensi bringing Rosa into their family.
I could have used more physical contact when they were finally reunited, but I loved the action portion, with that quick slo-mo of Deeks tossing a weapon to Kensi and them taking out the bad guys together. Deeks’ line to Kensi, “We’re always gonna find our way back to each other one way or another,” was quite romantic and I need it to always be true. The final scene was also enjoyable, with Densi spooning, and Deeks’ romantic words about how lucky he is:
Kensi: You know how lucky we are?
Deeks: I think about that every single day… And if I forget, you know what I do to remind myself? I wake up. And I open my eyes. And I look at you. I love you.
I do take slight exception to Kensi’s mumbled reply, falling asleep without really returning Deeks’ “I love you,” but I can chalk it up to her exhaustion, and as evidence that Deeks brings her as much peace as she brings him. It’s the second time this season where she’s fallen asleep to his comforting words.
The earlier part of their conversation also felt a little off to me when Deeks said Rosa might need foster parents and Kensi didn’t immediately connect the dots to explicitly jump on the idea that they could take her in. It wasn’t clear if that’s what she meant with her, “we can’t let her get sent back,” or if the idea had sailed right past her. It did seem clear that Deeks was already there.
And the final line, Deeks’ “I’m so excited you’re not dead,” also felt off a little. It was another reminder of “Spoils of War,” where Deeks told Kensi, “I’m really glad you’re alive,” yet the delivery sounded almost like Deeks wanted Kensi to wake back up so he could share his stress and worries. Perhaps if the editors had chosen a softer version, it would have felt more like Deeks talking to himself, trying to make himself feel better about the never-ending danger in their lives.
Elsewhere at O.S.P.
It looks like we have yet another new NCIS agent, one Supervisory Special Agent Aliyah de León, played by Briana Marin. She’s a daughter of an old friend of Sam, she’s apparently “a hero,” and she’s temporarily with OSP. She was deferential to the team if a bit low energy. Still, perhaps she can evolve into another DeChamps, who also started out a little stiff and developed more of a sense of humor and personality over time. And hey, at least she’s experienced and not another newbie.
We also saw the continuation of Fatima’s problems returning to fieldwork after her traumatic experience, handled really well by Kohlas and Key. Kilbride has shown himself to be a patient mentor, and I appreciated his continued efforts to get Fatima to talk about what she’s going through. It would seem that they’re providing us with Granger-Nell 2.0. Seeing Fatima share her insecurities compared to the rest of the team increased her likeability quite a lot (at least for the duration of the episode). That vulnerability is appealing, particularly from a character who’s been so self-centered and super competent. Those doubts provided her with a nice dose of humanity.
- Wasn’t Kensi working with a team? I didn’t follow the plot particuarly well, so I don’t quite understand what happened to them.
- Deeks’ truck is far from subtle, but Fatima’s (gorgeous) Porsche is a ridiculous work vehicle. Save it for high society undercover operations.
- Kilbride can work the controls in Ops? Hi-lar-i-ous. Hasn’t he railed about technology ever since we’ve known him?
- Yes! Another reference to Martin Atticus Deeks. Do we think the writers are including the middle name, or is ECO just having fun saying it?
- Now we know at least one place where Kensi’s been shot.
That’s it from me. Come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log and Kensi’s Journal. You’ll have to wait an extra week to get two (2!) previews of the upcoming double-feature. In the meantime, what did you think of “A Land of Wolves”? Did you enjoy the Deeks/Sam and Deeks/Kensi interactions? What are the odds that Rosa will soon become a member of the Deeks-Blye household? Tell us all about it in the Comments below.
When the time comes to bring Hetty home, I hope it’s similar to how this episode ended: Hugs, cuddling, cheesy lines that sound like they’re from a fluffy fanfic, all the fluffiness! And I hope it involves the entire team.
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Sorry everyone- I had mistakenly copied a post that had comments turned off. Feel free to share your thoughts on the episode!
I look forward to your reviews and as always, a great review.
I agree about Kensi’s mumbled reply and not returning Deeks’ “I love you” with “I love you, too!” I was the second time she fell asleep this season, (Indentured – which all the undercover work was a total waste of time, as nothing was helpful in solving the case)
This is my take on this episode and Season 13:
There are not enough DENSI dynamics especially the final scene at home.
It was missing something, the whole season 13 has been a disappointment on the
Deeks, Kensi and Densi front.
Kensi goes through some very scary times being on her own in Mexico and after the shoot out after Deeks had given her a weapon, they don’t even embrace one another?
Then, at home after the discussion about Rosa and that they should do something and make sure she is taken care of which Deeks assures her that they will, still no embrace?
They have had, as a married couple, minimal contact all season. Is there a reason for this? Does anybody know if it’s something personal going on at NCIS LA?
I hope that at some point Densi will get back the earlier seasons and that they will start showing more scenes as how a married couple would normally act.
As far as story lines or entertainment value for Season 13, they need to work on it, BIG time.
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Season 13 is a huge disappointment for me as well, not just on the ‘leaving out Hetty’ part either.
I used to really love Densi, but now, they’re just not that great to me anymore.
The whole ‘minimal contact’ thing, I have no idea on that front. They’ve played a romantic couple for years with no issue, so I still doubt it’s the whole ‘related IRL’ guess.
I have more thoughts on this episode at the top of my blog, if you’re curious.
Remind me of the link to your blog?
Never mind, I FOUND IT!
FANS NEED DENSI KISSES!!!!!!!
I miss their kisses as well
Your review was superb, Karen. You brought up so many of the things I thought while watching.
ECO and DR were really wonderful in scenes apart from each other as well as their scenes together.
It is good that they choose to create a story and to follow up with it to cover her absence and not just send her away with no reasonable explanation as they did with Deeks before. (Wish they keep that with all the characters), but Why does Kensi always get the most heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching jobs?
Unlike you Karen unfortunately I didn’t like the confrontation scene between Kensi & the Ghost in the cave as seemed OOC & an uncalculated move from her side. All I’m saying is what if the ghost really carried on her threat & killed her on the spot, she wouldn’t be able to protect Rosa & she didn’t have a weapon or anything to use to attack the other woman. But it could be an irrational decision in the heat of the moment.
I felt like Deeks was more in control of his emotions this time and didn’t lose his timber as before and it may be could come from that he made peace with the idea that maybe one or both of them could get hurt/die in the field and its consistency with what he had said earlier this season in “Divided we fall” and it doesn’t have nothing to do with Killbride authority or Sam’s support as we already know Deeks does not fair to speak his mind or face any authority figures.
As you said, I found it very reasonable for Deeks to think about Kessler in this position, as it’d be the same for us as viewers if we didn’t know the whereabouts of the case.
I had the same thought about the team that was supposed to have her back especially after Callen appraised them last week, also I liked that team was aware of her mission & where she was not like the white ghost mission.
I liked the last scene as I found that their connection and ability to calm and comfort each other in stressful and intense, and sad situations is one of the things I enjoy about the couple.
Deeks has always been there to get Kensi out of her dark spots (Physically or mentally). He worries about her and he keeps his worries to himself and she may be strong and independent, but everyone needs someone at one point or another in their lives. At the end of a long day, Deeks’s there for Kensi to lean on.
Despite I’m not a Callen’s fan but I missed him and it really felt weird that he wasn’t around & involved in the rescue mission as I always thought they care about each other as family members.
I liked Aliyah I think she had the potential to grow, as for Fatima’s PTSD is not credible (at least for me) as she is still young & she was in more dangerous situations before that, as for Roundtree I didn’t actually felt his absence (IMHO).
We definitely don’t know what the future holds. But My only wish is to see the roles reversed among the two and see Kensi’s fear and love for her husband as they constantly go with the same pattern of hurting her.
Now that Kensi got hurt on the job, I believe it would be redundant & brutal to hurt her again or put her in danger to complete the Kessler arch. Do you think that TPTB could go and solve that plot off-screen as one day he turns out dead and the team or specifically Densi would be accused of being the killers especially with Deeks history?(I hope not)
Overall I enjoyed the episode.
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I thought this was one of the best episodes in a long time. The writers did a good job in toning down Deeks emotions over Kensi’s disappearance and pulling together an action packed plot. The final scenes with Deeks and Kensi were touching. He is really a great actor and has a knack for just giving his lines a sweet twist! I truly hope this series comtinues. Like I said before, if they cut down the number of episodes( which are often preempted by football and specials) it might be something they can handle as they age. 18-19 episodes would work. There is still a strong fan base. I can only hope!
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Thank you for the review Karen. I enjoyed this week’s episode. I too enjoy Deeks and Sam working together. I thought ECO did a good job of letting us know he was worried, frustrated, and terrified with Kensi’s situation but had to tamp down his emotions so he could work the case and concentrate his efforts on finding her. I did think the scene where they were reunited seemed almost awkward. I know ECO has said they usually tape several versions of scenes. I would have liked to see the other choices. I was okay with the final scene. I thought it harkened back to the scene where Deeks was having trouble sleeping and it was only when he was finally in the presence of Kensi, hearing her voice was able to sleep. I think having his arm around her and hearing his voice is what she needed to sleep.
I agree with the comment about the scene in the cave. I would have thought Kensi would have at least had a rock to hit the woman over the head. They still could have had her get knocked out and captured, but at least she would have entered the cave prepared for a fight which is more Kensi’s style.
I guess I was thinking Rosa was a little older than she turned out to be. I didn’t think she was a teenager. My immediate reaction was to be disappointed that they would foster an older child, but I think you were right in saying it would solve the problem of child care while they were at work. I also think with their line of work it could be hard for them to be approved, so maybe this a reasonable solution.
I do find it unusual that OPS went from something that needed two geniuses to operate to whoever might be available. If Barrett and Renee were the ones that wanted to leave the show and move on then I wish them the best of luck and am happy for them. However, if TPTB decided they were no longer needed I think it was a mistake. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
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As expected another great review, thank you Karen. Another episode I am looking forward to watching. I can’t discuss the whole episode but I did see the scene with Deeks and Sam in the helicopter. Did I see the same desperate but focussed and almost calm Deeks that was able to help Kensi when she was stuck under the helicopter in the Season 8 opener? Not the chair throwing Deeks that was helpless to keep Kensi from putting herself at risk in ‘The Silo’. He held it together going out to Afghanistan to rescue Kensi, but lost it when he couldn’t help. What I’m getting at, is much is made of Deeks anger when Kensi is in danger, but when he can do something to help he is calm, when he is helpless he tends to lose control. Perhaps I’ll think differently when I see the whole episode.
We have a week to wait for the next episode, so making conversation. Pick (the TV channel) is currently showing NCIS:LA Season 11. Last night ‘Kill Beale Vol 1’ aired, so I did the decent thing and watched it. I was struck by the similarities with ‘A Land of Wolves’, main character kidnapped, main character absent. Deeks was on assignment to LAPD, ECO was presumably prepping for ‘Mother’, we should be used to these absences by now, I guess we don’t have to like them. Probably more differences than I am aware of, but Kensi did seem pretty happy with Deeks absence, or was she overloading on caffeine or sugar, whatever it was, because she missed him? I think the two episodes had very different vibes and of course Hetty was, shall we say, not unaware of the circumstances surrounding Beales kidnapping. Yes I remember Hetty.
As other people have said, when the Kessler affair re-emerges I wouldn’t want to see Kensi harmed any more, not that I particularly like her but it’s happened enough that the novelty has worn off. On the other hand I would like to see how the team react if Deeks was in danger, they had to be pushed into action to save him in ‘Human Traffic’. Also I’d like to see how Kensi copes if Deeks is hurt or in danger and she can’t get to him. We know she would fight for him, but what if she couldn’t? That said, as long as NCIS:LA keeps airing and Deeks gets plenty of screen time, I guess I’ll be happy.
To anybody that got to the end of this ramble, thank you for reading. I hope you all have a great weekend.
I agree with all your thoughts and findings.
About Kensi being hurt & the Kessler Arch. I know It’s a TV show. And what goes on that show isn’t ours to control, but as you said I want the Kessler story to be played differently & want to see roles reversed between the two & want to see the aftermath and the impact of the event on them and how they deal with it like this episode or like after her injury in S08.
Maybe Deeks will suffer some sort of injury or near-death experience in the job or due to Kessler & then he flashes his old life through his brain while in surgery or till the team find him, and with that, we kill two birds with one stone. So we get Deeks’s background & the whump and angst and the team reaction & caring to his injury in the same story.
Sometimes I just wish there was a magical way to transform all those thoughts/ideas that are trapped in my head to the writers and play it into the show. But one can only hope.
I know what you mean Jessie, I have all sorts of plots rattling around in my head. They’re great inside my head, not so good if they happen to find their way out. I think what we would like to see, and what we will actually see, will always be different. As you say, one can only hope.
The thing is I’m only interested in Deeks. For me he is an intriguing character with great depth. He is also easy on the eye and if he happens to take he shirt off I wouldn’t complain. Unfortunately NCIS: LA isn’t about Deeks and many people really don’t like him. The writers are on a hiding to nothing with all these characters. There is no way they will please us all, sometimes they don’t please us at all. As long as I see the occasional Deeks-centric episode and can watch Deeks strutting his stuff, I’ll be okay. Now if he was kidnapped by the gang from ‘The Monster’……….
Same here Patricia, and I like where you’re going with your ideas.
Thanks for your review. This episode had some good elements, but the bad outweighed the good for me. The absence of the team Densi was working with pointed out a huge flaw in the writing for NCISLA lately which is a lack of communication between the writers. What other show does that? It’s like the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Didn’t these writers read the script from the week before? The absence of Callen was another BIG problem. There’s not way he wouldn’t have been called back in, but the excuse–taking time off to see his sister–was super stupid. And Rountree doing the same thing on the same day? OMG, such unimaginative writing. It doesn’t matter if Callen was seeing Alex or not, the fact that Kilbride didn’t call him in for a missing team member shows maybe Kilbride shouldn’t be in charge of OSP. And that conversation between Kilbride and Sam was terrible. (Kilbride asking where Callen was, Sam telling him, and then Kilbride saying he gave him time off. Was that short term memory loss?)
Dani did a terrific job, but she always does and there wasn’t anything new about Kensi in this episode. We’ve all seen her survive horrible conditions before. And breaking the window was dramatic but so unbelievable it was almost funny. We’re supposed to believe she used the broken glass to cut the rope on their wrists? Not without massive cuts to both of them, but there wasn’t a drop of blood. (And if she didn’t use the broken window for that, how did they get the rope off their wrists?) The starting the fire and the knife writing were nice touches.
We’ve also seen Sam and Deeks before, so there wasn’t much new there. Yes, Deeks didn’t behave like a frenzied husband, and Sam helped him calm down, but it wasn’t that big a deal. I always thought Deeks’ reactions earlier were overly dramatic, so this seemed normal.
I found the episode boring and poorly written, and never had any doubts that Kensi and Rosa would be found alive. This season is a disappointment.
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You make so many good points here.
I watch quite a few other shows throughout the week (if they’re new), and this is the only show that I know of that appears to have a major difference in writing and quality. And not for the best of reasons.
I didn’t buy the so called excuse for Callen being absent for 1 minute, mainly because of everything else he’s dealing with right now.
You’re completely right, Kilbride needs to go. Hetty would’ve most certainly have called Callen in if she was around for this mission. (speaking of, how did no one even think of trying to let her in the loop on this mission?! Boy, she and Kilbride are going to have a LOT of words about this when she returns!)
Am i the only that thought Rosa was as old as Kensi or at least an adult not a teenager.Don’t really want them to adopt her rather it be kid that actually looks like a kid.And bring back the moms of Deeks and Kensi to help out.
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Rosa looked like she was in her 20’s.
I agree. I said in my comment I was surprised to find out she was a teenager. Actually I thought she was much older.
Totally agree, as I’ve the same thoughts & wishes. So finger crossed.
In answer to becca – There would be more responsibility of raising a younger child. Rosa is probably a well developed 15-17 year old. She could be nurtured but left on her own. I think they are planning ahead to bring the adoption issue to an end.
Lets face it. If Rosa goes to live with Kensi and Deeks as a not quite grown woman, she could have Roberta and Kensi as role models. What could possibly go wrong?
I truly respect your opinions Maria but do not plan on Hetty coming back except for a cameo appearance here and there so – it is best to just accept it and move on. As far as the cast being afraid of touching each other – the fabulous four are all solid family people who go home to their wives and children ( some of the children still very young) so it is understandable that they remain cautious about Covid. My husband is an ER physician and I have listened to far too many stories where people felt safe with having the vaccines yet fail to recognize that their close interactions with others can lead them to bring Covid home to their loved ones. Touche’!
I’ve worked in the medical field, so I understand and appreciate the concerns. But other shows have navigated this by acknowledging the existence of COVID (NCIS NO dedicated almost an entire season to COVID-centric plots, and Chicago Fire factored it into many plot lines as well…and neither show created emotional distance between characters) and structuring things accordingly. Our show, on the other hand, made what seems to be a studious effort to ignore it while creating a palpable physical and emotional distance between characters.
This part of the reply’s more to Maria’s concern about Frank Military. If you look at the bulk of his work he specializes in episodes with emotional impact. He also tends to write Deeks better than just about anyone else in the writer pool. If the show is tapering down, I’d rather see Competent Deeks and Driven Deeks as opposed to the bumbling version so many other writers leave us with. It all comes down to what TPTB see as the future of the show. If it’s fading out, give the fans some solid plots with real closure like Five-0 did. If they’re trying to switch out old for new, please do something better than just having them drive off into the sunset in a fancy car (Eric and Nell). And if it’s going to continue with the existing characters, wrap up some of the floating oddities (the whole child thing, Callen’s pack of repeating mysteries, and so on) and have them move forward with newfound unity and purpose.
I get it. I’m just really skeptical about him, especially since it’s a bit obvious of where his episodes tend to go now compared to what they used to be before Densi became a big factor.
I’m also looking at his work prior to NCIS LA as well. And I can’t think of anyone else in the current writers’ pool who could wrap up something like this.
Broadhurst has written some very good episodes and her episodes usually don’t focus so much on one or two characters (like Military) and there isn’t as much melodrama. There’s always the chance he become melodramatic even in his early episodes (The shootout on the rooftop was classic melodrama.) And he doesn’t write Callen well and hasn’t for a long time.
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I really never watched NCIS New Orleans all that much since I didn’t care for the characters, but I remember watching an episode where two of the team members were going to someone’s office to speak to them about a case. They had masks on when they were outside, but when they entered the office which was very small they took the masks off. So I basically missed whatever was said in that scene because I couldn’t understand their thinking. I honestly thought the shows that decided to just not include the pandemic were better off because it seemed like the ones that chose to acknowledge it did a poor job.
You make a lot of good points about the writing and the characters becoming caricatures, and COVID really can’t be used as an excuse when other shows haven’t suffered any noticeable decline in their writing. But Military isn’t the writer I’d bring in to “fix” anything at this point. He used to write really good episodes, but his recent episodes are as bad as some of the worst ones. Is there any episode dumber than “Through the Looking Glass”? “Raising the Dead” wasn’t much better, either. That story had so many plot holes in it, it was like a kid wrote it (Helicopters? What helicopters?). He almost always focuses his attention on Kensi, Sam, and Deeks and makes them “super” heroes, but he’s helped make a mess of Callen’s story (he made the first revision to it in “Rage”). As for the Joelle infatuation the writers have, it’s way past ridiculous. I’m not sure there IS a current NCISLA writer who can help straighten things out. Maybe they need to bring in someone new–and who wasn’t on the staff.
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