This week we had the pleasure of an NCIS: Los Angeles double feature that began with “Bonafides,” written by Kyle Harimoto and directed by Terrence O’Hara. The episode split the cast into multiple places and cases, but still managed to deliver some strong emotions, with Densi providing a dose of powerful sunshine to nicely balance Sam and Callenʻs more somber experiences.
The episode’s highlight has to be the car sing-along. We do need to acknowledge the oddness of Kensi being a country music fan after a history that includes primarily techno but also a little emo, listening to one of my personal favorites, My Chemical Romance, when she’s in a bad mood. Also odd would be Deeks only just discovering this fact about a woman he’s spent nearly 24 hours a day with for more than a decade.
But still, the scene had such great energy and a wonderful sense of fun. I felt actual joy from these two characters (and the actors who play them). I also enjoyed watching them maintain their sense of fun throughout the episode, with Deeks in particular seeming excited that they had their own case. There was a gleeful glint in his eye as he urged, “Tell me more, what type of schematics” and then actually proclaimed, “This’ll be fun.” More fun was had with the chatty ex-Omni member when Deeks observed, “This guy never stops talking,” followed by Kensi replying, “Oh that’s a big statement coming from you,” and Deeks agreeing, telling her, “That’s my point.” And the fun continued with a short exchange that called to mind the scene with Star in “Imposters” hitting on Deeks as a jealous Kensi snatched his business card away. Here we had an Eastern European person of interest asking for Kensi’s card, with Deeks stepping in to head off his attempts. All very fun indeed.
Seeing them happy is soooo satisfying at this point not just because it reminds us of early Densi banter, but because we’ve gotten so little of this in the past many years. Heck, between not finding the box and fighting off kidnappers, they couldn’t even have a totally happy wedding day. I’m a huge fan of angst and these two actors excel at conveying emotional pain, but at the end of the day the reason I enjoy watching characters suffer is so that they (and I) can enjoy their eventual happy ending all the more because it’s so well earned. These two deserve the happiest of happy endings after all they’ve suffered. That’s why the delightfully silly sing-along scene brought such satisfaction. I’d love to think they’re both finally at peace with their lives and ready to welcome a new family member sometime soon, to finally get to enjoy some truly happy times.
Mentors Good and Bad
Harimoto deftly handled the shifting tones of the various storylines, with the lighthearted Densi scenes providing a perfect counterbalance to the storylines for Sam and Callen. Harimoto also did a good job of clearly setting out some personal stakes for Sam: would he be able to handle his apparently close relationship with bad guy Vander, who had mentored his undercover “persona,” Switch? This question may not be a new one for this team, but it invested me in the story much more than just seeing Lance Hamilton express his desire for revenge/justice. LL Cool J brought real gravitas to his scenes with Vander, showing us just how much Sam did care for the man and how painful it was to be unable to protect him. The scene where Vander’s body was hauled away was somehow made all the more somber by the way O’Hara shot it against the beautiful dusky backdrop.
Sam’s usual partner spent the episode lying about his vacation activities and undertaking a personal reconnaissance mission, following a (bizarrely wigged) woman who apparently had provided one of his few (only?) happy foster home experiences. We learned about the happy foster home through brief but effective flashbacks. I feel the need to pause here and – you know what’s coming – briefly rant about how many different episodes we’ve seen that included flashbacks to a young Callen. We’ve even seen at least one flashback to a pivotal experience in Sam’s life (being buried alive) before he came to work for NCIS. But I can’t recall a single flashback to anything in Deeks or Kensi’s lives pre-NCIS, and we all know how many things there are for which flashbacks would be most informative.
But OK, but let’s focus on Callen for now. It was quite a reveal to let us know that Hetty tore Callen away from the one place he had found happiness, only to drop him into a horrific program that turned children into agents of the state. It made Hetty out to be even more sinister than we’ve maybe ever seen her. Her previous transgressions with “saving” young children have depicted her as at least well-meaning if sometimes completely misguided, but it’s hard to give her the benefit of the doubt knowing how much little Callen suffered here.
Of course, to even accept this as the truth, we’re apparently being asked to forget two previous backstories about how Hetty re-entered Callen’s life after his mother was killed. The first of course is that he popped up on her radar when he was working for (I think) the CIA (see “Fame”). The second would be the scary de-aged Hetty of “Rage,” who turned up to rescue juvenile delinquent Callen. The best story I can come up with to make this make sense is that since Callen apparently repressed the entire experience only to have it come back to him at the end of this episode, perhaps after his stint as a child spy-in-training, he was returned to foster care only for Hetty to turn back up in his teen years and pretend that they’d never met. Sigh. At least we didn’t have another terrifying CGI version of Linda Hunt.
- Have they shot other scenes at the same parking garage used in the opening scene? Or do all parking garages just look alike?
- The only other thing that would have made the car sing-along even happier would have been letting Deeks do more singing. I love Eric Christian Olsen’s singing voice and would love to see him show it off more.
- Rountree continues to be kind of sweet and adorable. Here I enjoyed his rejoinder to Ryan Logue, “I’m feeling pretty good about my state university right now.”
- In this episode, I was finally losing patience with Kilbride’s constant insults about my hometown. I was pleased to see in “Pandora’s Box” that his assistant called him out for denying that he might actually be liking the place after all.
Come back soon for Jericho Steeleʻs review of “Pandoraʻs Box,” along with new editions of Deeksʻ Surf Log and Kensiʻs Journal. And donʻt forget about our raffle! For every $5 you donate to support the great charity Every Day Action, youʻll receive a raffle ticket to win a Season 10 DVD (the wedding ep!) signed by the cast, and an autographed photo of ECO, Daniela, or Chris OʻDonnell.
Thanks to Lyssa for her speedy fact-checking, and thanks to everyone whoʻs reached out to make sure my limited appearances here werenʻt a sign that something was wrong. Iʻm fine, just busy, but I really appreciate the support!
In the meantime, what did you think of “Bonafides”? Did you enjoy the sing-along? Were you distracted by seemingly new versions of our favorite charactersʻ histories? And do you think these two will get a happy ending before the series finale? Tell us all about it in the comments below.