Review: NCISLA “The Body Stitchers” (S14E03)
NCIS: Los Angeles writers Frank Military and Adam G. Key are back this week, and they’ve brought the darkness that’s always been a signature element of Military’s work. Ably directed by Suzanne Saltz, the episode provided a ton of gore and even more suspense as the team tried (again) to take down a team of serial killers. Happy Halloween everyone!
What could possibly go wrong?
I hadn’t had a chance to rewatch “The Monster,” part one of this storyline, but the “previously on” clips were more than enough to bring the creepy story back into my head, and enough to make the opening, as the camera slowly wove around a series of hanging curtains, much scarier than a typical cold open where we just wait to see who’s going to get killed to set our story in motion. I did not want to keep moving forward to find out what was happening, to “bear witness” to what was sure to be a horrific crime.
Military is never afraid to go dark, and Key certainly wasn’t afraid to go with him on the “The Monster,” which he also co-wrote. Here, they and Saltz provided a lot of gore, with fleeting close-ups of the Frankenstein bodies and perhaps even more shockingly, poor deceased Mrs. Jeffries slowly dissolving in her bathtub. That shot actually called to mind one of Breaking Bad’s most memorable early sequences and for some reason, made me think of the half-body of “Mother.” It’s amazing I didn’t have nightmares from all this, but I tried to embrace it as Military and Key going all in on the horror genre. It really is too bad it didn’t run next Sunday, the night before Halloween.
What surprised about the episode was the incredible sense of suspense it evoked right from those opening clips of “The Monster.” Particularly effective was the sequence at the theater. By finding a way to plausibly separate the team, Military and Key made them more vulnerable to falling victim to the killers. The seemingly huge complex, with all its random dark rooms and hallways and places to hide, just made the whole thing feel like a classic horror movie, as we waited to see who the bad guys would hurt next. Don’t they know that rule #1 of horror movies is to not split up?
Among the brilliant notes I took while watching were, “Be careful Deeks!” and “Kensi be careful!” I found myself holding my breath watching Kensi arrest Cindy Ferguson, and watching Deeks off conducting his own search. It was the most scared I’ve been for Deeks since the bomb room of “Mother,” and before that, the incredible cliffhanger of “Descent.” That he was on his own, without working comms, with the criminal mastermind and one of his henchmen nearby, was highly disturbing. They could have so easily decided to kill or kidnap him (and yes, the latter would have made for an even more exciting turn of events). I’d imagine Deeks would be quite shaken by that thought and only wish we’d have had time to see him and Kensi discuss it. Any fan fic writers out there want to help us out?
I did fall for the big twist of FBI Forensic Psychologist Collins being Vincent, the “master” killer. In my defense, he was definitely hinky, but I chalked it up to bad acting. Ironically, I made the same mistake in “The Monster,” where I said: “There was definitely something off about the auto shop owners and employees. They were overly cheery, which I just chalked up to bad acting. I should have known there was more going on than met the eye.” Note to self: remember this if and when we get part three of this story.
The whole episode to this point had me so creeped out that when we transitioned to Sam at home piecing together the clues, I was still terrified the killers were going to show up and hurt him or his dad. These people had definitely gotten into my head. It’s a credit to the script and direction for getting me on the edge of my seat.
While Military has never been afraid to go dark, he has often done so to bring attention to the light. We talked with him about it when we were lucky enough to interview him. Here’s how Eric Christian Olsen summarized Military’s approach in one of the videos he was kind enough to share with us:
He has an inclination of writing dark material, and his rationale for that is that the light is the brightest when coming from the dark. That we find our humanity and the best version of ourselves sometimes in the darkest of times for characters. Which I think is true.
I think what has been missing from this storyline to date is that balancing sense of emerging humanity. We’ve seen our team react in horror at the acts of these depraved individuals, but we haven’t yet seen them pushed to overcome the challenge of bringing them to justice. We haven’t seen them come away from the darkness having gained something or saved something. “Spoils of War” was great because Deeks went to a very dark place but then saw the error of his ways and retreated from the darkness. “Descent” was great because Deeks was pushed into an incredibly dark place but then overcame it to save his team, and over the course of many episodes, overcame the consequences of his trauma. “The Seventh Child” was great because in saving the boy and the other would-be suicide bomber children from villains capable of such dark acts, Deeks and Kensi emerged with a clear desire to move their relationship forward. I’d love to think that in part three of this storyline, Military and Key might provide that element of our team (of course I’d vote for it to be Deeks) triumphing in some way through the darkness.
- It was a tough transition from creepy cold open to the hilarious Raymond Hanna (played by Richard Gant). Still, his sarcasm was laugh out loud funny, pretending to call G Callen to “start an investigation” over the cigar butts in the backyard and mocking the pleasantness of his early morning conversation with his son. These two together are enjoyable for the same reason Sam and Deeks together are- their differing sensibilities and senses of humor make for interesting friction. Also, can we please get a scene with Arkady, Raymond and Roberta together? Better yet, how about a spin-off?
- Speaking of Callen, he is going to be very happy to have missed this case. (Did they ever say what he was up to?)
- Once again, Kilbride came off as more of a jerk than he needed to, uncharacteristically unwilling to help the FBI solve the case and bring to justice people who’d murdered a Navy officer. His demand that the team be available if something more important came up did provide a reason to give LL Cool J more time off, but it was unnecessary- they could have simply reacted when the other case popped up and kept Sam out of the field. But way to go Deeks and Kensi for standing up for the dead officer.
- Deeks helped me prove a point from last week – that he’s rubbed off on Kensi – by repeating his signature line (uttered by her last week): “What could possibly go wrong?”
- Deeks and Sam working together to interrogate Michael Jeffries was another episode highlight. They played off one another so beautifully. What a great bookend with Deeks’ similar scene with Callen last episode. Both showed how truly part of the team Deeks is, even if sometimes he and the others joke about his status. I’m hoping for more of Deeks with either one of these two.
- Even though Callen was missing, the fluid mixing of team members during the theater sequence showed them all working together like a well-oiled machine.
- I appreciated the conviction Teya Patt brought to her role as Cindy Ferguson, a role played by a different actress in “The Monster.” But yes, Cindy, I kinda think you are in a cult, evidenced by your fellow member slitting his own throat rather than be captured, and your buying into such crazy lines about art transcending death as an excuse to commit murder.
Come back later this week for new editions of Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week. This weekend we’ll have the preview for “Dead Stick” along with a new video from Eric Christian Olsen. In the meantime, tell us what you thought of “The Body Stitchers.” Were you turned off by the gore, or did the horror aspect intrigue you? Were you as on the edge of your seat as I was? What do you want to see in a conclusion to this story? (Or are you done with all things body stitching-related?) Let us know in the Comments!
It wasn’t as scary as the first time, because we knew what to expect. It was the theater scene that brought the horror for the reasons you expressed. All those separate small spaces that caused the teams to have to split up. Why is it these places never have any lights? But it wouldn’t be scary if it had been well lit. It was a horror story after all.
I’m afraid I suspected early on that Collins was the Master. That’s the problem when a new actor/person shows up that no one has met before. Plus he looked like a mad professor. That and a couple of other things bothered me. The idea that these mutilations were presented as art was disturbing to me. It just didn’t ring true for me. Also not sure we needed that explanation to make it creepy. Just being sick bastards would have been enough for me. Maybe it just hit too close to home because I’m a part of the art community here as is my husband and most of my friends. The other thing that bothered me was the guy whose mother was found in the bathtub. They knew he was involved, so I was surprised when they let him go. I thought he was too calm when they told him how his mother had been found. Nothing. No response. Red flag they normally would have picked up on.
All in all, it was a solid episode. I like dark episodes, and thought it would have been scarier if Kensi or Deeks had been targeted. I was scared for Deeks when he was alone with Collins, since he was my prime suspect. Maybe they’ll catch them next time.
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I usually don’t like episodes that are dark, but for some reason I was totally okay with this one. Maybe it was because I already knew for the most part what was coming and was prepared for the horror. Maybe it was just the right time of year. I thought it was well written and directed, and I actually enjoyed all the spookiness. I, like Karen, did not catch on to Collins being Vincent and have to say was a little disappointed in myself:) I thought the guy they were questioning (can’t remember his name) was going to turn out be Vincent. Toward the end when the scene switched to Sam’s house and his father was going out it felt like something terrible was going to happen, but they fooled me again. Glad I was wrong. I look forward to the continuation of this case, and oh, by the way, I noticed Sam is now back to being Samuel (per his father) and not Osama as stated in a previous episode. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.
Great review, Karen. A lot of my thoughts watching this episode were the same as yours. Several fans on other social media sites claimed that they knew quickly that Collins was one of the Body Stitchers, but I was rather slow in piecing that (no pun intended) together. The warning flag that something was off, was how rapidly they located the site for the second body stitching. It took almost the entire “Monster” episode to discover the culprits, but here it was less than half the time to find them.
After seeing the promos and previews of the early episodes for this season, this one was by far the one I was looking forward to seeing. I’d been hoping for a resolution of “Monster” for quite a while, especially with the same writers. Plenty of fans I’ve read were pretty grossed out from the creepiness and gore of this episode, but I guess watching plenty of old episodes lately of the mothership and seeing the various condition of the bodies in autopsy from that show helped me out in handling all the darkness of “The Body Stitchers”. And I agree about the tenseness of the action scenes in the closed multiplex; it was the first time I can remember being on the edge of my sofa since “Mother”….with its small share of a body torso and cut off limbs.
A few random thoughts.
When Collins was introduced as working for the BAU, it brought back wistful thoughts from a few years ago that “Monster” would be resolved with the BAU team from Criminal Minds in a crossover. What could have been….
In “Monster”, Deeks was partnered with Hidoko when they discovered the first stitched up body. When they were briefly going over the case history with the rookies, I was hoping that Hidoko would be mentioned, at least in passing.
It was great to see Alicia Coppola again as Agent Rand. In “The Seventh Child” she said she had a 11 year old son; he would be 18 years old by now. It would be really nice if Rand makes an appearance not too far in the future and if we get an “Unholy Trilogy” from this storyline, that she could have a talk with Kensi and Deeks in the joys and pitfalls in raising a teenager.
The reviews for this episode were excellent. I personally wish they would have resolved this and moved on to Kessler who is still out there waiting to strike. Another theme would be Kilbride reuniting with his son. It would also be nice to see Kensi and Deeks showing more affection towards each other as the responsibilities of marriage and Rosa have made them so “business like” – for want of a different word! They should balance the romance with everyday life and get back to their loving moments. We watch to see this special couple interact and it has dried up quite a bit! 🥰😍
And Densi kisses, please….
Thank you Karen for always making me think.
1. The scenes between Sam and his dad are a joy to watch, but I hope they have not completely replaced the bullpen scenes we all miss.
2. I agree that Kilbride was a little too surly about taking on the case, since the previous week he had Roundtree looking for a missing vet, that had nothing to do with a case. You would think he wouldn’t have an issue with a continuing this investigation. Unless(as Karen mentioned), it gave the writers away to excuse Sam for part of the case.
3. I liked Guerrero with FBI agent Rand and Kensi. As a witness, he added a slight bit of quirkiness.
4. As others have said, the gore also didn’t bother me because we were already acquainted with it from the Monster episode.
5. The interrogation scenes with Sam and Deeks, Kensi and Cindy, and Sam and Cindy were good. My favorite line was “Because your stupid”.
6. I figured Collins was Vincent when Deeks found him and was waiting for Barrington and Collins to follow Deeks deeper into the building. I sort of wanted Deeks to realize that Collins was in on it and have all mayhem to break loose. But, then Deeks didn’t know there was a Vincent at that time.
I like Frank Military because he respects Deeks. I don’t remember Deeks ever being a silly fool in a Military episode. One of my favorites is “Line in the Sand”. Deeks becomes an action hero in the opening sequence and a moral hero when he is the only one to confront Mosley. If there ever is a Deeks backstory episode, Military and ECO should write it.