NCIS: Los Angeles S08E11 Review

This year's festive offering centres around the search for a missing Navy Lieutenant who's been working with the NSA on cyber threats.  The team discover her boyfriend is also missing and make the connection that she has been kidnapped due to his journalistic activities.
e case itself is not particularly memorable; what does make this episode is the discussion of Christmas traditions between the characters, and they are each given their chance to shine.  The notable exception is Assistant Director Granger who is absent throughout. Hetty puts in an appearance at the start and close, bracketing the episode as she and Callen discuss the thirty day countdown to D-day in the mole investigation, and finally by wishing everyone a merry Christmas.  There were some excellent moments with Anna smacking a bad guy round the head ‘home alone ‘ style as Deeks pointed out.  Once again the wonder twins are allowed out of ops, this time taking their partnership into the field as they persuade two rather inept criminals to reveal the location of the missing Navy Lieutenant. Eric’s methods are a touch amusing but essentially reckless.  He will end up getting killed or getting someone else killed. It is great to see character development with the op guys but preferably not in the field – it is becoming a bit too far-fetched.
The initial briefing in ops provides a heavy handed clue this episode will not quite follow the normal conventions of this procedural show.  Sam has pointed out to Callen that Anna can cook, and then invites her to assist them in their latest case.  Next he is orchestrating the pairs so Callen is with Anna and he is with Deeks. vlcsnap-2016-12-22-21h41m17s439At this point the pair debate as to who will pair up, and Callen does all he can to avoid partnering with Anna, which basically leaves Sam and Callen arguing over who will have Deeks.  There seems no reason for Callen’s slightly bratty behaviour except that he wants to avoid working with Anna.  The amusing scenes causes Deeks to ask ‘What is happening?’, but is quite in keeping with how bloody minded Callen can be.  The natural assumption follows that Sam would quiz Anna about her relationship with Callen. The pair have ample opportunity to do so, especially when they are sat in the Challenger.  Instead talk turns to family, and Sam’s words help Anna mend a minor rift that has developed between her and her father Arkady. vlcsnap-2016-12-23-20h01m59s605There is no explanation for Callen’s earlier avoidance of Anna and subsequent scenes show the pair being quite amicable.  By the close, Callen says to Anna that he’s thinking about cooking a meal next week.  Again it is typical Callen style not to actually say what he means, certainly with women, and so Anna has clarify that he is asking her to Christmas dinner.  This has it’s own issues as two seasons ago Callen couldn’t even fry an egg . Maybe that is the reason he’s asked Anna over.  They are clearly friends but are they lovers?
Family and traditions are explored throughout, especially with Callen and Deeks.  This in itself is a Christmas present to some fans, as the two rarely share screen time together alone.  For two men who are very different on the outside they share certain childhood experiences of abuse.  For Deeks Christmas decorations were the one constant on which his mother insisted throughout the chaos of their family life.  vlcsnap-2016-12-23-19h53m25s240But Callen finds that Christmas is reflective of his childhood; it is a fleeting moment of each year and the decorations are a wasted effort for something that is not permanent. It was interesting that Callen said he could picture Deeks as a kid, running round to select a tree, and then to witness his slight reaction to Deeks’ comment about his childhood home.  It implies that Callen doesn’t really know much about the man at all; he doesn’t open up about his private life and therefore doesn’t ask about anyone else’s.  The long overdue bonding between Callen and Deeks culminates with Deeks gifting Callen with Christmas lights so he can start his own traditions – maybe in return for Callen’s suggestion that he and Kensi start their own new traditions and opening Deeks’ mind to possible alternatives.
Sensible Sam has a Christmas crisis again, this time in finding tickets for his wife to the musical stage show Hamilton, which seem scarcer than the Parker Pony of season 3. Panic buying seems to be his tradition.  This year, the wonder twins are rehearsing for a Dickens fair which is fine in a few short bursts, but the repeated scenes soon lost its impact (and the English accents soon became cringe-worthy).  vlcsnap-2016-12-22-21h44m36s114Patient fans of Nell and Eric are well rewarded in this episode as their relationship is explored, however it is still not clear whether they are romantically involved.  Eric is insecure that he doesn’t know everything about Nell, who eventually hands him a gift of a pendulum clock to demonstrate they swing together, in time and in sync.  Both characters spend time alone with Kensi who is still desperate to prove herself.  Nell gives her a Joan of Arc toy (somewhat reminiscent of Callen’s toy soldier), as she was her first heroine.  Eric’s present is scarf embedded with Kevlar filaments to assist with garroting.
With the exception of no explanation of Callen’s early behaviour, there are two other factors that detract from this episode reaching the height of previous Christmas outings. Firstly, Deeks and Kensi share minimal screen time and secondly, it seems that Kensi (as well as Callen) has suddenly developed cooking skills.  Maybe they took lessons together – they do make a great pair!  Both Deeks and Kensi are characters and individuals in their own right and neither should be defined by the other.  vlcsnap-2016-12-23-19h56m04s956It would have been great to have a proper Christmas proposal but instead the focus is on Kensi’s fear of not being able to return.  Her subconscious anger and frustration manifests itself in a brief day-dream sequence where she has been usurped by Anna. Kensi loses her temper and starts a fight. When she snaps out of her imaginative fears, she is welcomed with love from everyone. At the end of the day, NCIS Los Angeles is a crime procedural and so Kensi has to return to the field and be able to work cases.  It is the characters and their relationships, romantic or bromantic, that keep the viewers tuning in each week.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this season’s Christmas offering.  
And wishing you all a Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2017.

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