This week’s NCIS: Los Angeles, written by Kyle Harimoto and directed by Diana C. Valentine, brought us a solid case of the week with some exciting action. It did so in the midst of ongoing partner swaps and an exploration of the theme of identity… What do we do if we’re struggling with our current identity- should we change it if we can? What if we make the wrong choice? And what happens if that identity changes against our will?
The Case of the Week
This week’s case kept my attention throughout and offered high stakes both theoretical, with the kidnapped architects, the Sandhagens, having information that could impact national security, and tangible, with Kensi and Fatima taking on the bad guys with little information and no back-up. Repeatedly bringing up the architects’ children also helped us care more about their fate, although the most effective way Harimoto added suspense was putting Kensi and Fatima in danger.
The final sequences where the women took on the bad guys were well shot. It felt like a mini-Die Hard, with the two not necessarily trapped in the building, but alone there without contact with the outside world, needing to improvise and save the Sandhagens. It may not be quite so easy to choke someone out as these two made it look, but their desire to avoid gunfire did make their scenes more interesting. Kensi’s big fight scene offered the most excitement. That ladder landing on her looked like it had to hurt and made the shot feel more real. Was that planned? Was it a lightweight plastic prop ladder? Poor stuntwoman. Daniela Ruah’s height and apparent physical strength always makes her fight scenes feel more realistic than someone the size of Fatima or Nell. Valentine made the most of this one, a gritty back and forth struggle as we watched to see whether Kensi would dispatch the bad guy without help.
Harimoto successfully managed to wind his theme about identity all the way through the episode, showing how many characters are dealing with their own dilemmas on the topic. It reminded me a little of his “Answers” episode where he did a deep dive into each character’s hopes and plans for the future, but this episode offered a more traditional balance of case and personal.
The episode opened with Callen and Anna strolling through their new neighborhood and talking about Anna’s job hunt. She’s unsure whether she wants an office job outside of law enforcement. After all, she’s a Noble Maiden raised to be a woman of action. She seems to want to go in a different direction, but will it really make her happy, or is she merely trying to convince herself it will?
Kensi and Fatima, too, talked about their changing identities. Kensi is now a mother, a very new identity that she didn’t even get nine months to grow into. She’s happy with this role and happy that Rosa seems to be thriving. Fatima was a party girl actress until her friend was killed in an accident. Her new identity, one she chose of a devout, serious woman working to protect others, is still something she’s exploring. In this case, she’s unsure what a relationship looks like for the new her. (I thought Akhil was sweet but probably not exciting enough to be the best match.) Fatima’s evolving identity is one of the things that makes her interesting, so it’s great to see her getting a chance to talk about it.
Callen himself is grappling with a new identity- that of an engaged man. Deeks asks him directly how this new role is going and he (surprisingly) volunteers how Anna’s career search is something they’re working through. Deeks references his own shared identity being a somewhat “reluctant” member of a “two-badge family,” which we know brings him his own share of concerns. He makes another veiled reference to that later in the boatshed with the architects’ partner when he agrees about the benefits of leaving room to live life just being “human being” outside of his dangerous job.
The episode ends with Anna ever so gently bringing up Callen’s obsession with his past. She doesn’t want to push him to give it up, knowing that for a man whose very identity has been THE driving force behind the show for fourteen seasons, his search is as much a part of his identity as his actual name and background. That obsession was beautifully raised in the opening scene when Callen’s memory of Pembroke was triggered by a gardener neighbor, but this closing scene was the episode’s strongest- thoughtful, adult, and wistful.
The only aspect of this exploration that felt forced was Kilbride’s efforts to locate and help Colonel Jackson Ladd (played by real-life former Army colonel Gregory D. Gadson), who had lost his legs during his military service. Kilbride laid out the colonel’s identity crisis in a way I found a little heavy-handed. Perhaps it was the Admiral’s need to explain everything with so much grumpiness. I thought his rant about whiskey and beer might cause a stroke. It’s nice that he wants to help, but Rountree didn’t deserve to spend the episode getting yelled at. Or maybe it was because we’d never heard about the colonel before so he came in out of left field. I hope his introduction wasn’t solely to give Kilbride a way to participate in the episode’s theme, but that he gets tied into more of the show’s ongoing stories in the future.
As Eric Christian Olsen previewed in the video he was kind enough to send us this week, each cast member will be taking four episodes off this season, up from two episodes the last few years, and this will produce more partner swaps. Eric promised it would also lead to, “…some really interesting dynamics, whether that be Deeks and Callen, Deeks and Sam, Deeks and Rountree, some really funny and entertaining moments to come.”
This episode was filled with different duos, starting with Callen and Fatima with a quiet bullpen opener conversing about her family. It was a nice continuation of the friendliness we saw last week, but I’m having a little trouble picturing Callen inserting himself into brunch with the Namazi family. Fatima also got to mix things up with Kensi. They were fine together and worked well to take down the bad guys. Hopefully their mentor/mentee relationship will continue to deepen.
The episode’s most successful pairing should come as no surprise, for Eric Christian Olsen has great chemistry with every single person he acts with. Here it was Chris O’Donnell, and while their scenes were brief, they really demonstrated why it’s a crime that the Deeks-Callen relationship has been so unexplored over so many years. The fun began with a discussion of architecture. Callen apparently wanted to be an architect when he was young, and when he told Deeks he wanted to design hotels, train stations, and airports, Deeks responded perfectly: “Lots to unpack with that statement.” Structures that help people travel away from home (or toward home?), places into which one can disappear. Yep, that sounds exactly right for a boy with no real home.
But Deeks didn’t push. He seemed tempted, but instead he just gave Callen an opening to share about his engagement. And he actually got Callen to share, if only just a little. It’s more than he’d have gotten in the past though. Later he tried to bond over a shared love of architecture, for we know Deeks is an HGTV aficionado, and Callen replied with classic sarcasm.
Callen: I think I miss Sam.
Deeks: You definitely don’t mean that. It’s hurtful, and I don’t receive it… You don’t really miss Sam, do you?
Yes, this is an old joke, but it was well told. Deeks’ delayed double take, and Callen’s deadpan expression, were perfect. I didn’t feel any real venom from Callen. In fact, there was a wonderful relaxed quality to their all their exchanges. And there should be at this point, what with working together for thirteen years and Callen living in Deeks’ bar for so long. They were short, but as Deeks said, good talks.
Their teamwork in interrogation also showed how underutilized they are. They played the nanny perfectly until she cracked. I really hope that these two get paired up in every episode LL Cool J misses. (And then I want Deeks and Sam paired up in every episode COD misses, for they are my favorite couple on the show.)
We can’t have a wikiDeeks review without touching on our official favorite couple. They were barely on screen together, but we did get a nice short conversation by phone to discuss Rosa’s progress in school, complete with a touché and a sugar bear reference. I don’t buy Deeks’ excuse for missing the conference (range hours, really?), but I was very pleased to see that his marksmanship was excellent. Thanks to Harimoto and Valentine for giving us a glimpse of Competent Deeks.
It’s always nice to see how much Deeks and Kensi have rubbed off on each other, and I saw evidence of this in Kensi calling Fatima “sister.” I think she’s done so before, but it feels like she adapted it from Deeks’ regular use of “brother” with his co-workers. I also saw Deeks in Kensi’s “OK, oh my gosh what is happening, what is happening with all of this right now?” as she gestured in Fatima’s direction over her indecision about her current boyfriend. And Kensi’s quip to Fatima about “What could possibly go wrong?” with their plan to take down the bad guys was absolutely a Deeks line. The gleam in her eye when she said it may have been her enjoying the opportunity to quote her husband, or it just might have been Dani happy to get to say the line without ECO there to steal it from her.
I hope some of this fandom’s talented fanfic writers are hard at work to give me what I really missed from this episode, which is Deeks checking in on Kensi’s status when he first arrived to back up her and Fatima. She had an obvious gash on her forehead and no doubt quite a few other bruises, and after spending part of the episode with some kids who might be made orphans by the same bad guys, Deeks had to have been feeling a lot of anxiety. I need a discussion of being a “two-badge family.” Of course, there’s no way Harimoto could have squeezed this in, and I have no quibbles over how he doled out the screen time. That’s what fanfic is for, to address just such gaps.
- This episode was shot before last week’s, but I’m assuming it was always meant to air second what with Rosa already in school. In fact, given all of Rosa’s fine progress in school, there must have been a pretty fair time jump between the two.
- I’m not sure what qualifies Anna for a job at the Surfrider Foundation, but it’s nice that the show keeps giving them shout-outs because they’re a great charity.
- Callen’s mention that he’d always wanted to be an architect triggered memories of Seinfeld’s George Costanza, who at least “always wanted to pretend to be an architect.” Coincidently, on at least one occasion he told someone that he designed railroads. Check out this fun compilation.
- Does anyone know what happened to poor Pilar? We’ve gotten thorough updates on everything else going on these characters’ lives. It sure would be nice to know where she is and if she’s OK.
- Those awkward stools in the boatshed made another appearance and I cringed, but this time the boys leaned forward in a more natural way, allowing me to focus on the conversation with the nanny.
- Deeks noting that the nanny “made herself a bad decision” called to mind an exchange between Eric and his son Wyatt in another of our videos. When Bear gets snow in his boots, Eric asks him, “Good decision, bad decision?” and Bear wisely responds, “Bad decision.” Utterly adorable.
- Two more age jokes this week as the streak (sigh) continues. This time we had Fatima making it clear that Kensi is too old to be her sister, and Kilbride ranting about the kids of Rountree’s generation needing mindfulness and meditation to accomplish what his generation did with whiskey and beer.
That’s all for “Of Value.” Next week the creepy Frankenstein killers are back so buckle your seatbelts. In the meantime, check back in later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week. And this weekend we’ll get a preview of the next episode and another video from Eric. That’s a lot for a single week! While we wait, check out the promo pics for next week, and tell us what you thought of “Of Value.” Did the theme running through the episode work for you? How did you enjoy the Callen-Deeks interactions? Tell us all about it in the Comments.