Review: NCISLA “A Farewell to Arms” (S14E13)
“Bless his heart” – what an opening!
Our mystery blond certainly sold her sweet, Southern, soap-opera-watching charm, but she did not have sweet tea in her veins when it came to disabling her opponent and tossing him over the rail, that was just pure ice-cold mercenary. I was pretty sure we were looking at a murder case, but there was more intrigue than just that. And Baker survived that fall – wow.
I suppose I’m not the only one who is feeling a little nostalgic watching these last few episodes before the series ends, but fair warning, I am nostalgic about the countdown to the end of the series and there was a lot in this episode that I connected to personally, so bear with me. The subtitle on this post could certainly be “A Farewell to NCIS:LA Reviewing.” After that dramatic opening, with my nostalgia about an end to wikiDeeks reviewing going full-bore, and then Sam and Callen bickering over wills and estates, I just wanted to send out a memo to the writers: you’re just cancelled, no main cast members are dying. Got that? No wills and estates needed!! Okay?! No ominous foreshadowing – let them bicker about math, please. Thank you.
Then we switch to the car with Deeks and Kensi discussing cows, curfews and their younger selves (what?!):
Kensi: Deeks cut to the chase, what happened with the cows?
Deeks: I don’t remember what happened with the cows, I was 15. What I do remember is that I came home way, way past curfew.
Kensi: Wait, how much past curfew?
Deeks: Two days.
Kensi: Ugh. OK you know what, it doesn’t matter. Teenage boys are a different breed, Rosa will never do that to us.
Deeks: How dare you gender profile pubescent indiscretions. What are you telling me here, that you never broke curfew?
Kensi: Uh, considering that I was homeless for a good part of my teenage years, no I didn’t.
Deeks: Ouch, you’re gonna hit me with the real real.
As much as some of that seemed silly and irrelevant to the case at the outset, I like when they throw in several potentially tangential scenes right at the beginning because I enjoy trying to figure out which (if any) of them have connections to the case. This turned out to just be great banter between the partners, but you never know with this crew. And viewing this with the end in sight, that scene made me think of how far Kensi has come from that homeless teen to the young agent and woman who was searching for answers about her father, to now looking at the future as the co-parent of a teenager together with Deeks. What a character arc!
I was intrigued by the technology being developed by Sean Baker’s company. Search and rescue is dangerous work and automation might save lives. (Full disclosure: I work in a setting where SAR technicians do some of their medical training and one of the folks that trained at our site a few years ago died about a year later on a mission.) However, rogue SAR robots commandeered by hostile forces is just a downright scary concept! National security riding on microchips and the honesty of private contractors? Yikes. Baker, Green and Kaminska all had plausible reasons to be in on the theft, individually and/or together. Add in that Kaminska was a shadowy professional mercenary who has never been caught and the excessively “helpful” waiter bro and our team certainly had their work cut out for them. The path to a resolution seemed winding at times, but only because there were multiple plausible ways this could end, and all of those four people seemed like they could have had a hand in the case individually or together.
Ukraine Invasion Anniversary
As someone with family connections to Poland and Ukraine, I appreciated the timely acknowledgement of the first anniversary of the invasion, which happened two days prior to this episode airing.
The connection between the Ukraine invasion and the case was plausible, as was the reality that military counter-terrorism folks like OSP would be keeping a close eye on the ramifications of the war.
Mr. Green: …but that all changed about a year ago.
Kensi: What happened a year ago?
Mr. Green: Suddenly everyone wanted to get their hands on AI.
Deeks: That tracks, same timeline as the invasion of Ukraine.
Kensi: That was a wakeup call for militaries all over the world.
Mr. Green: Tech companies too.
In the end, we learn that our cold-blooded mercenary had some noble motives in addition to her financial self-interest for stealing the microchips, as she saw and was affected by the stream of displaced persons across the border around her home in Poland. Her personal connection to the war was an effective way of commemorating a terrible anniversary and spotlighting the human impact of war that touches all but the coldest hearts. It’s also an important reminder that the actions of criminals around the world, whether engaging in illicit technology deals or starting illegal wars, have ripple effects and often are felt across oceans right to our shores.
Intimacy and Love are Ageless
I have to give a huge hand to writer Chad Mazero for the subplot with Kilbride and his ex-wife, Elizabeth (Marilu Henner). This was actually a fairly significant side story throughout the episode. I was surprised to see it got multiple scenes.
I don’t know if we know how old Kilbride is in the show, but Gerald McRaney is 75 and Marilu Henner is 70. While the content of their scenes was not unusual, having older actors who are playing older characters portray the reality and complexity of emotional and physical intimacy in later life is not the norm in scripted dramas. And Gerald McRaney and Marilu Henner played these scenes perfectly.
There was nothing exceptional about this scene per se – a guy and his ex-wife hook up, years after their divorce because they still obviously share a connection and some heat, despite whatever went wrong between them years ago, and then reminisce about similar rendezvous in the past. Variations of this scene, usually with younger actors, are standard fare in rom-coms and dramas. But it’s still rare to see this played in a very natural way between adults who are both in their 70s:
Elizabeth: Hollace, I’m worried about your heart.
Kilbride: There’s a first time for everything.
Elizabeth: You know I hate to admit it, but I’ve missed our fights.
Kilbride: This wouldn’t even make the top twenty. [smiles fondly]
Elizabeth: Remember that time in Atlantic City, the Tropicana?
Kilbride: Oh, how could I forget? You stabbed me in the thigh with a king crab leg. But we did manage to make up before the elevator got to the lobby.
Elizabeth [smirking]: Yeah, two times if I remember correctly.
Kilbride [slightly flustered]: Yeah, I’ve got to go I’ve got a case to solve.
Elizabeth: And I have dinner to prepare, see you later.
Though their private moments happened off-screen, the dialogue across multiple scenes was not subtle and the implication of physical intimacy the night prior was very clear, as was their reminiscence about their past love life in the scene above.
The glimpse into other aspects of their past was very interesting and suggests it was not a lack of love or connection that caused their split. It’s too bad there won’t be more seasons to see where that goes. If there were more seasons in store, I would wonder if this was foreshadowing her joining the cast and this part of Kilbride’s life being explored further.
Though those conversations were just between the two of them, we see that Kilbride was affected by having her there and even Rountree noticed something was up him in Ops:
Rountree: Is there something different about you today?
Kilbride: I got highlights.
So often on TV/movies, the sexuality of older characters is either caricatured, over-exaggerated or ignored. A significant part of my clinical practice is reproductive health care for adults, and I can tell you for certain that, contrary to typical portrayals, folks are having sex after the age of 60 and it is a normal part of their lives. In fact, my conversations with older adults are often much more honest than with younger folks. Older adults are quite often exactly as comfortable with their sexuality as was portrayed here. It’s nice to see writers, directors, producers, etc., developing that comfort too. I appreciated the inclusion of this storyline in a way that was just as normal as if the characters had been half their age, especially the inclusion of an older woman playing an older woman as a love interest. Well-done to all involved!
Representation and Inclusivity in the NCIS:LA Universe
The Kilbride/Elizabeth subplot reminded me of one of the things I have always appreciated about the show, namely the admirable balance they have achieved in showing the reality of how things are in the world (both good and bad) and aspirational portrayals of both how the world could be and, as they did in this case, how TV/movies could (or should) be: with diverse representation of the many facets and faces of love and life that mirrors what exists out there in the world.
There is no doubt a balancing act in writing both reality and aspiration because the former can be quite dismal, and the latter can veer towards being implausible if poorly written. I have always appreciated how the many NCIS:LA writers have achieved this balance over the course of the series, delivering interesting storylines, and prompting us to think about some of the difficult realities out there in the crimes/criminals portrayed. The stories have included strong women (both main characters and guest cast), characters that are loveable and beloved despite their quirks, wounds and flaws (both main characters and guest cast), a broad range of criminals that don’t play to any particular stereotype (including some we loved to hate and a couple we just plain loved, like Arkady), and diversity in the lived experience (age, racial, cultural, linguistic, socioeconomic, family situation, etc.) of the characters and actors who portray them. This subplot of intimacy in older adulthood between people who share a complex past was one more addition to this broad repertoire of representation and inclusivity that I have noted and appreciated since the beginning.
The creepy microchip-containing doll discovery in the art gallery. How weird were those dolls? If I were a criminal smuggling microchips, I’d hide them in normal dolls that wouldn’t attract attention. Just saying.
Kensi [waving doll, speaking creepy voice]: Daddy I love you.
Deeks: Now I know what I’m going to be talking about in therapy this week.
Kensi: You don’t go to therapy.
Deeks: I do now.
Kensi: Why do I feel guilty about what we just did?
Deeks: Why do I feel like their eyes are still watching me?
Fatima: And why do I feel like I’m listening to a reboot of Child’s Play?
I think I was probably just getting sappy by the end because I know we’re counting down on the series, but Deeks breaching the club was one of those moments that we’ve seen hundreds of times by this point, but the movements are so practiced and deliberate and authentic and then I was thinking “how many more times will see this??” and I might have been a little misty-eyed there.
Did not love:
I enjoyed most of the episode, but there were a couple of things that I was not fond of.
Rountree and his storm – it just seemed dumb, unnecessary, and tangential. I like the guy, but he didn’t have much useful contribution to this episode, and I wish he wasn’t given all those cringy lines. It seemed like what sometimes happened with Deeks early on, unnecessary clownishness that doesn’t really serve any purpose.
Fatima and Rountree walking out of Ops – NOPE! That’s a Kensi and Deeks move. We need them doing that every episode before the end!
And that’s all I’ve got for this one folks. I’m happy to be able to get a couple of reviews in before the end of the series. Thanks to Karen and the rest of the wikiDeeks crew for the opportunity. And thank you to all of you for reading!
I look forward to your comments and don’t forget to check out Deeks’ Surf Log, Kensi’s Journal, and the Drabble of the Week later this week, along with a preview of next Sunday’s Daniela Ruah-directed “Shame.”
Brilliant review, Brenda. As much as I loved seeing Deeks, I felt the end in sight and it made me sad. So few episodes left. And I’m with you on that it should have been Deeks and Kensi walking out together. It makes no sense to focus on the new people now that the show is in its final season. We will not see their future. So I hope the writers go back to the core team. Get Hetty back and do a happily ever after ending for them all.
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I agree and definitely would like Hetty back for the end! I hope they will be able to make that happen!
I enjoyed your review BRENDA, of course, I would love to see our fab 4, kensi, Deeks, Sam and callen in the bull pen, one last time and hetty walking through, like a reminder of what it used to be….I thought the same thing Brenda, that it should of been kensi and Deeks walking out the door with their arms around each other.., not Fatima and roundtree..to me they haven’t earned that right…I think if your ending the series, 🥺give us who we have known from the beginning, callen and Sam, and kensi and Deeks, give the fans what they want if they are taking NCIS la away from us…thanks for listening.
Thanks Kathy! Glad you enjoyed the review and appreciate the comment!
You have an excellent review. My take on this whole scenario is that the series is ending and thus the writers should be focused on the fabulous four because those are the characters we have loved and followed for the last 14 years. Introducing new relationships seems out of text when we are winding down. It is sad that the interaction of the original four is not foremost in the final scripts. It should be all about them and their lives as the major theme. So sad to see it end. So sad to see the characters disappear!
Thanks Jane. I’m king of wondering (like Patricia) if this was written and filmed before it was cancelled. I’m hoping things get more focused as we get to episodes that are written after the cancellation.
Keeping up the tradition of excellent wikiDeeks reviews, thank you Brenda. The news of the NCIS:LA cancellation was made public in January. I can only assume the showrunners etc. knew about it before that. I would love to know which episodes were written/filmed before the axe was raised and which ones were written with the end in sight.
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Thanks Patricia! I was thinking the same thing and wondering if the Kilbride story might have been meant as an intro to something for next season (before it was cancelled).
What is wrong with ECO and Dani? I am worried about Eric. He looks so sad and withdrawn.
A loved your review, Brenda and will be sad when there are no more reviews to read.
Representation and inclusivity are great takeaways from NCIS-LA
1. Strong women – they were equals in brains and brawn with the men but still women.
2. Competent elders – Hetty and Kilbride are no slouches.
3. Great relationships – Densi: the best courtship and love story. Sam and Callan the best manly relationship. I rather see Sam and Callen sail off into the sunset than Callan and Anna getting married.
4. Good and bad on all sides. The world is no longer black and white, only shades of gray.
5. Pertinent story lines that may cause you to lose fans.
6. Inclusion of humor. Humor got me to watch. Deeks got me to stay.
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Great review, Brenda. The only thing I will add is about JT Neal, who played the bartender. The character looked so much like Callen, had such similar vocal inflection, facial expression and movement, that I thought the actor must either must be related to Chris O’Donnell or was purposely mimicking him. Which, given the bemused expression on Callen’s face while they interacted, might be the case. He could easily play a young Callen, a long lost Callen son, or some other relative.