NCIS: Los Angeles S09E02 Review

Kyle Harimoto’s “Se Murio El Payaso” focuses on a Secret Service operation to catch a notorious Peruvian counterfeiter, Alfonso Marca.   Sam is sent undercover as a financier to work with the Secret Service Special Agent Nicole DeChamps, who partnered Sam for an investigation in last season’s Old Tricks.  DeChamps has been undercover and requested NCIS helps her tie up the case.  Meanwhile her colleagues have apprehended the counterfeiter’s daughter Lucila.  With the team split, Kensi and Deeks interrogate Lucila in the boatshed whilst Callen partners with Anna Kolcheck to investigate the two marine reservists who are suspected of smuggling the counterfeit notes in to LA.    

The three aspects of the case run side by side and there is an unusual amount of screen time dedicated to the interrogation.  Kensi and Deeks spend the entire episode in the boatshed with a very stubborn Lucila.  This allows them to gradually wear their frustrating suspect down through persistent interrogating. Together they focus on small aspects for her story, with Nell and Eric performing deep dives in to her childhood after Lucila references her family estate.  Piece by piece they unravel her reasons for being in LA, however it takes hours for them to realise that she is not who she says she is.  It is refreshing to see how tiny threads in a suspect’s story can be tugged and eventually unravelled.  Such devotion to one suspect by one set of partners is rarely seen.  It is also a welcome return to see Kensi and Deeks getting back to basics and working so well together as partners for an entire episode although their light hearted banter was missing.

Increased screen time to show this process demonstrates the team have to use their brain as well as brawn, as Deeks commented to a battered and bruised Callen and Anna at the end.  The latter partners have been out and about chasing up sightings of the marine reservists, first visiting a fashion boutique where they feign being the blonde bimbo shopaholic girlfriend and the long suffering boyfriend who wants out.  These were fun roles to see as in reality, Callen would never call Anna “babe”!  This also plays back to their opening scenes where they are anything but a conventional couple.  Anna is revealed as a gamer, playing Halo 5 to unwind in Callen’s bedroom.  His house is still furniture free after his post-Joelle purge, although he has a new bed and 47” TV.  The X-box is Anna’s.  Their easy going banter confirms how comfortable they are with each other’s quirks.

There is little character development in this episode with the exception of Callen and his relationship with Anna. He was clearly disappointed after she said she was expecting a job offer from ATF, however in line with their conversation about the X-box, his unspoken words were - if Anna is happy then why would he change that?  Callen also seems more relaxed and trusting;  Secret Service Counter Assault Team (CAT) had overwatch on Sam and DeChamps, led by Agent Tom Rhee who Callen recognises instantly.  Callen knew Tom when the latter was in the army and Callen saved his life.  A brief mention was made of their shared past when Tom teased Anna with a Callen-story involving a clown, the KGB and a cheetah...Regardless, Callen was more than happy that Tom had Sam’s back.

Running parallel is Sam’s undercover role.  In his initial interactions with DeChamps, he comes across as uncharacteristically happy.  On the surface it seems he has forgotten his recently murdered wife, but when DeChamps offers her condolences Sam instantly sobers.  Later after she has been shot and they are saved at the last minute by CAT, Sam has to learn against a
counter, his face a picture of relief, disbelief and shock at such a close call.   If DeChamps had died maybe Sam would had turned his back on NCIS for good.  He portrayed his alias with an autistic slant; he wasn’t comfortable around people or unfamiliar places, couldn’t look them in the eye, could reel off stats and information, and spoke robotically.  This gave more depth to Sam’s character and the specialist element of their team and their ability create alternative personas that are not the stereotypical tough guy, drug dealer, weapons broker etc.

In a continuation from last week there is progression with Hetty’s story; Nell and Eric are still attempting to track her yacht and she is seen in Vietnam, eventually meeting her unknown man in prison. 

Keane:      You look pretty much the same, except the glasses. I'm sure I look different.
Hetty:        I don't know who you are.
Keane:      Harris Keane. Operation Sunshine. You don't remember the helicopter crash?
Hetty:        I remember that there were no survivors, save myself.
Keane:      I survived. But you left me to die.
Hetty:        I thought you were dead.
Keane:      I would've been better off.
Hetty:        If I'd stayed, I would have been captured by the Viet Cong.
Keane:      Like I was.
Hetty:        They hunted me through the jungle for six days.
Keane:      They tortured me for months.

What does Keane want and how will this tie in with Hetty and NCIS?  The mystery is set to continue as the exchange of dialogue suggests that some retribution is coming and it will be a challenge for the writers to keep Hetty’s story fresh and not have the entire team go rogue to save her. 

“Se Murio El Payaso” was originally scheduled to air next week as S09E03.  Instead CBS has swapped with the original S09E02 entitled Assets which may have contributed to some continuity frustrations. The premier introduced the EAD Mosley who’s vision for the team clashed with Callen’s however there was no mention of her during this episode.  Although the two marine reservists were shot and presumably killed, Mosley might have been pleased at Callen’s tactic to not use guns, resulting in an excellent fist fight with him and Ann against three bad guys.  Interestingly Mosley’s background is Secret Service and their CAT team managed to only wound the counterfeiter’s middle man, Michael Silva...The lack of new character continuity is a reminder that NCIS Los Angeles is a procedural crime drama and therefore standalone episodes are expected and even welcomed.  Unfortunately this does mean the pre-opening credit sequence where Sam and DeChamps are under fire and cornered by Silva, really builds little tension with the “5 hours earlier” caption in the post opening credits.  There was no doubt to their survival - the fun is showing how they arrived in that situation in the first place, and how they were rescued.

What did you think of the episode?  Leave a comment with your thoughts...

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