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Review: NCISLA “Pandora’s Box” (S13E14)


Hello everyone! I hope that all of you are doing well as we are now entering spring… well, at least, that’s what the calendar says. The flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the grass is starting to grow again. It is a beautiful time of year and all the college kids are headed to the beach while the rest of us get ready to mow the yard and get the pool up and running. It also means that we are on the downward slope toward the end of this season of NCIS: Los Angeles. I know we still have a lot of episodes left but these last few have had a common theme that I think is what will give us an exciting wrap-up sometime in May.

This episode was written by Lee A. Carlisle and Chad Mazero and the director’s chair was filled by none other than our very own Daniela Ruah. The regular cast was joined by Adam Lustick (Hieronymus), David Will No (Wen), Czarina Mada (Elena), Gildart Jackson (Dupont), Nicky Endres (Kim) and Kavi Ladnier (Shyla Dahr).

We jump right into the case with a “Trojan horse” robbery where one bad guy becomes three and while two of them cover cameras and grab random crates, the leader accesses a coded locked vault and grabs the one item that seems to be the primary objective. We soon find ourselves immersed in a world of stolen artwork and artifacts that are being sold to possibly fund terrorist operations. It is not long before the Callen-Katya connection once again rears its ugly head and the real reason for the break-in is revealed to be something the Russian spy does not want anyone to see.

While there was not a lot of gunplay (a little at the conclusion) or explosions in this episode, we did get to meet some really interesting characters throughout the 43-minute run time. Although we were missing Sam as he was off tending to his father (hopefully, all is well on that front) the other team members gave us some pretty good scenes.

During the opening in the bullpen, I almost felt sorry for poor agent Roundtree trying in vain to have some sort of small talk conversation with grumpy ole goat Kilbride. I think it would be better to just play the silent game around the Admiral. This scene did introduce us to Shyla Dahr, Admiral Killjoy’s extremely friendly assistant but her time with us was very brief. I enjoyed the character and do hope that we will have another visit this season. I did not think there was anyone on the planet who could stand to be around him for more than a few seconds, but Shyla is either a glutton for punishment or she has somehow become immune to the gruffness-hides-my-inner-turmoil Admiral who seems to enjoy acting like getting transferred to L.A. was the worst thing to ever happen to him. Gerald McRaney plays the old curmudgeon perfectly without even cracking a grin… which just makes the character that much scarier. I dealt with officers like him in the Marines and there were some that could turn boiling water to ice with just a look. Gerald plays it perfectly and I always enjoy watching him tear up any scene he’s in.

We shift quickly from Fatima briefing Callen about the break-in over to Kensi and Deeks trying to find out about the status of Rosa, the young woman we met back in this season’s episode number eight, “A Land of Wolves”. Deeks and Kensi are disappointed to find that Rosa is not at the refugee center as they had hoped, but they are relieved that she is apparently with a distant aunt out in Barstow. We can plainly see the concern on their faces as Elliot Reynolds (Christine Horn) explains that these kids relive their trauma every night and every morning when they wake. It’s a hard reality that this world we live in preys on those who cannot defend themselves, and the ones who always suffer the most are the children. I’ve worked with teenagers most of my adult life and sometimes the stories they relate would simply leave me speechless. In many cases, the mental trauma is so much more profound than the physical. The physical is often visible and can then be addressed; the mental sometimes remains dormant and buried for years and will eventually work its way to the surface, usually in painful and destructive ways. Sometimes these kids just need to know that there are good people in this world, people they can trust and rely on, and people who will be on their side when the nightmares return. Stay strong Rosa, we can’t wait to see how your story continues to play out.

Back to the case, it is soon discovered that the heist had some help from the registrar who set up the timing of the plumbing company’s arrival so the thieves would be alone. Kensi and Deeks travel to the boatshed to meet up with Kim Cho (Nicky Endres), a contact Kensi made in another case involving rare artwork. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is why, even after all the disappointments over the years, I still like this show. In Kim, we get a character that simply steals the scene. Without any real effort, this character kept me riveted, simply to see what they would do or say next. Kim was unique and so compelling that even though they were (technically) a side character, they captured my attention and left me wanting more. The way they played cat and mouse with both Kensi and Deeks was fun to watch and gave us another character the regulars could banter with in the middle of a case. Kudos to the writers and to Daniela, who brought this fun person to us in this episode and gave them layers upon layers of personality.

As the different skins of the onion are peeled away, we find Katya at the center once again, using Callen’s deepfake to delay the warrant for the vault so she would have time to steal whatever was inside. Callen and Fatima squeeze the vault registrar until she gives up a mysterious Frenchman and Kim provides them with the name Dupont. This brings us to Gerald Dupont (Gildart Jackson) who gives some forewarning “there’s always an escape” that these highly trained agents miss later on when he disappears during the brief shootout at the end. I loved the way he continually slipped out of Fatima’s attempts to cuff and zip tie him, which reinforces the axiom that you “always watch their hands.” But, like many before him, he found that generic duct tape was his kryptonite. Sorry, Dupont, maybe next time!

Meanwhile, Kensi and Deeks find enough to give them a bargaining chip to force him to help with the case. Well, it least that was the plan. It turns out that Dupont double-crossed Katya and was going to sell all of the stolen artworks through an unscrupulous dealer with the pseudonym Hieronymous (Adam Lustick). Callen goes under as a potential buyer to claim whatever Katya is trying to hide. Things go south quickly when the art is revealed to be cheap fakes that Dupont presented as originals. Then the guns come out, a few shots are fired as Fatima and Roundtree disarm the goons while Callen grabs Hieronymous but for some reason, and doesn’t keep tabs on Dupont, who is now in the wind. When questioned, the black-market dealer reveals that there was nothing valuable in the crate Katya had stolen but when Callen investigates, he finds a film canister labeled “Pembroke” in Russian.

At the conclusion, we get another tender moment with Deeks and Kensi meeting with Pilar (Josie Nivar), another young woman from the same village in Guatemala as Rosa. This sweet meeting shows us a “worry doll”, a small talisman designed to take your worries away. It was intended for Kensi, but she intuitively knew it would serve the younger woman more. Then Deeks gets to brag on his Wonder Woman, describing her superpowers with pride even as Kensi blushed. With casual easiness, both Kensi and Deeks decide to stay and spend some time just talking to Pilar. All the watching vampire movies pays off as Deeks easily breaks the ice with his comment about “the dude’s a werewolf and never wears a shirt.” That’s a slam about a popular love triangle book/movie series about vampires, humans, and werewolves where one character always seems to be missing his shirt.

And the vampires all sparkle.

Yes … s … p … a … r … k … l … e. Ugh. Don’t get me started on that one.

The last scene gives us Callen and Kilbride watching part of the film Katya was after, and we see one young girl getting brutally beaten by other young girls under the direction of someone speaking Russian. Callen has a brief flashback where the same technique was used on him as a child. Not as brutal but maybe just as effective. Nothing much more is revealed, so we are left with even more questions than answers. A good thing because that’s what helps keep the season rocking along.

Why would Katya want to keep this hidden? Or does she? Was this all a ploy to reveal something to Callen? How was Dupont able to slip away so easily? When and where will he pop up next? How much more damage will the deepfake do before it’s stopped?

I have to say, the deepfake part really freaked me out. My son is a computer science major and he says this stuff is pretty scary and is only going to get worse as the technology evolves. Imagine someone being able to mimic you so perfectly that even with the best security protocols, they could make everyone think they are you. It would be bad enough for most of us regular folks, but imagine the damage on a national security level, foreign relations, government agencies, etc. When a lot of areas of our country were on virtual communications… it’s easy to see how this could be used as a devastating weapon. Eventually, it will be undetectable and untraceable, leaving destruction in its wake. Freaky stuff, and we are just barely scratching the surface.

So, what did you think of Daniela’s directing? What other questions do you have? I know… where’s Hetty? is always at the top, but where is all of this leading? Why so much effort to deepfake everyone? Are we going to find out more about Callen’s past through Katya? Is there a connection between them and how does Hetty fit into it all? Will Kilbride decide to finally suck it up and admit that L.A. isn’t really all that bad, or will his I-just-sucked-a-lemon expression become permanent? How will Kensi and Deeks’ plans to foster-adopt play out this season?

I’ve missed a lot of episodes this season so I have some catching up to do to make some of this make sense.

So many question… so few answers. Only a few more weeks until May rolls around.

What to do… what to do…

Semper Fi

JS

P.S. Come back soon for 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.

About Jericho Steele (32 Articles)
I'm just me. I served proudly in the United States Marine Corps for four years after graduating from high school. For the past twenty-six years, I've been married to the most wonderful woman in the world. Our daughter is still at home but our son just moved to Russia to study at Moscow State University. We also live with four cats and one dog in south Georgia where I spend my time loving my family, writing stories, working, and shooting my bow.

3 Comments on Review: NCISLA “Pandora’s Box” (S13E14)

  1. Jericho,
    I along with Deeks and Kensi was disappointed to find that Rosa
    not at the refugee center as they had hoped.

    It’s my opinion that these ARCs that have gone on for way too long:
    First, the pregnancy/adoption/foster ARC. It has been heartbreaking and also boring.
    Second, the Kessler (non-arc) ARC has not been resolved. Is he no longer a threat?
    Third, Callen and his obsession about his past and Katya. It’s been at least 7 years or more of him looking for answers.
    Maybe he should just look around and see what he has in his life now and accept that?

    I can’t relate to his quest because I grew up in a big family: 15 Aunts/Uncles plus their significant others, 43 first cousins and their significant others and my siblings (5 others).

    Side notes about Daniela’s directing, her episodes have been some of the lowest watched this season. Probably not her fault but more a writing and showrunners issue?
    Episode Air Date Rating Viewers (millions)
    “Pandora’s Box” March 27, 2022 0.5 4.91
    “Lost Soldier Down” January 2, 2022 0.5 5.17

    Like

  2. I do not like the fact that the plots are overtaking the characters. ECO once said in an interview back in 2012 that early in the NCIS LA shows it was action for actions sake but what made the show successful is the characters and their relationship to one another. “ Without those relationships it is nothing more than action for actions sake. If you don’t care about the characters then why are you watching.” We have learned to love the characters but what is missing is their connection to one another. When one of them was injured they all felt the pain. When one of them was missing they all worried about the outcome. When one of them was in a relationship they all rallied around . The interpersonal relationships and caring is gone because the multi- plots have taken over. There should have been an acknowledgement when Deeks finally got his badge. There should have been the annual Christmas get together. There just seems to be so many lost opportunities for interaction. Acknowledging Covid as a setback is understandable, but working as they have in close contact should have allowed for their relationships and bantering to continue as the fabulous four. I really miss that personal touch!

    Like

  3. Debra Gillespie // March 31, 2022 at 11:47 PM // Reply

    Very nice review, Jericho. It’s always great to hear your thoughts on this site. The scene with Kensi and Deeks with Pilar, and the return of Kim Cho plus three new characters were the highlights of the episode for me.
    In a previous episode, Deeks was worried about a foster child possibly might not liking him…I thought that was a strange thought, as he’s consistently shown how great he is with kids, starting with season 2’s “Black Widow”. And how naturally Pilar, Rosa’s friend opened up to both him and Kensi confirmed it. I liked Pilar at once, and who knows, Rosa might be back in the picture later in the season. The chances of Densi actually fostering a kid soon definitely went up.
    I was glad to see Kim Cho again, last seen with an undercover Kensi (in that swan/jellyfish dress) from “Provenance”. Kim was a hoot here! Hope they find a way to use this actor again. I liked Kilbride’s assistant Shyla Dahr immediately; she seemed quite capable and unflappable to Kilbride’s grumpiness (I bet the show writers enjoy making up the dialogue for him), like the proverbial water off a duck’s back. In a way she reminded me of Hidoko, who’s been gone for four seasons now and I still miss. The art thief Dupont was a wonderful rogue – the type of shady character that makes things much more interesting and I sometimes cheer for, even though he’s on the wrong side of the law. Here’s hoping he survives double crossing Katya and maybe resurfaces – since the show has been renewed, perhaps season 14?
    Kilbride’s cantankerous moods seem excessive at times, and frankly it starts to get irritating to me. But then he opens up about his son’s fear of monsters as a youngster and shows empathy to Katya after seeing how she was brutalized when she was young, and I remember how I first got interested in the Kilbride character from way back in season 6, and how I’ve enjoyed Gerald McRaney as an actor since the ’80’s.

    Like

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