NCIS: Los Angeles S09E07 Review

He has done it again.  The man who pens the most intensely dramatic episodes, who takes the characters to the darkest of places and manipulates emotion - Frank Military.  His last outing as writer meant the end for Sam’s wife Michelle and his first episode of season nine  once again places a character in a life or death situation and is character driven, focusing on Special Agent Kensi Blye.

Kensi had some incredible storylines last season as she struggled to recover from a potentially career threatening injury and had a dramatic return to the field, where she struggled to escape the evil clutches of Sullivan.  Deeks and the team were able to save her last time, despite her strength in adversity.  This week Kensi is sent away from the team on a top secret mission.  She arrives at a missile silo to find she is not there for her particular skill set as an elite federal agent, but as one of two people the FBI could find that know Air Force Captain Kevin Miller - Kensi dated him for three months, ten years ago.  Miller is one of three officers who’ve taken over two nuclear missile launch centres and are reprogramming a number of nukes to launch at non-predetermined targets.

At first it seems that yet again Kensi is being defined by her love life.  Twice now her former lover Jack (who abandoned with PTSD years ago) has come back in to her life, both in very dramatic ways.  She is one part of “Densi”, the romantic ship of the show although that rarely gets in the way of her independence and self assertiveness.  Quickly though, Kensi demonstrates that her tactical and strategic skills may not be required but she can employ manipulation skills to build empathy with Miller’s sister Tiffany, to calm her down and get her talking with her brother.  Those ‘manipulation’ skills are essentially lies.  Kensi tells his sister that she loved Miller, implying she still has fond feelings for him.  When Tiffany says she has a two month old baby Kensi says she has a four month old.  Later she guides her in into manipulating Miller to reminisce over their childhood and to talk about his nephew.  Finally there are the empty words she says to Tiffany about getting Miller out alive.

The other important element in this episode is how Deeks reacts emotionally to Kensi being placed in a life threatening situation, and it also demonstrates that he is not ready to become an agent.  Kensi was able to force herself to separate mentally from Deeks once she had made her goodbye call.  She proves that being a federal agent is more than her job, it’s her life.  It defines her.  Deeks is fragile emotionally and fraught with anger issues.  not understand.  Later in the closing scene, he admits to Kensi that he can’t go through what Sam went through, he couldn’t cope if he lost Kensi.  As has been seen in the past, when a female he cares about is in danger, he reacts with violence.  In this case he throws a chair in the armoury after Kensi ends her farewell call.  In earlier scenes he seems to be the only one who does not realise that Kensi is potentially sacrificing herself.  Other characters share looks that Deeks just does not get - although maybe he is choosing to deliberately ignore them.

The writing of the episode is tight and quick paced and tension is build from the near five minute exposition.  The sense of urgency around the case is exemplified with the use of ‘shaky’ handheld camera shot which is jarring, giving scenes a sense of immediacy and slight panic as characters try to build a picture of what is happening.  The camera technique is very noticeable as it is out of the norm for NCISLA which is not always to the liking of some.  The tension continually builds as the episode progresses and Kensi’s efforts are interspersed with the team’s efforts to track down any common denominators between the three traitorous Air Force Officers.  The height of the tension arrives with Kensi’s journey through an eighteen inch pipe, the claustrophobia enhanced by the camera angle and tight fit which shows Kensi’s elbow crawl to the end.  Her resolute determination to succeed results in the death of both Miller and his partner in crime with Kensi not hesitating to throw the grenade that kills them.  The tension is edge of the sofa stuff!

With the exception of Deeks, the rest of the team are pretty much surplus to requirements as no matter what action they take, they had no influence at all over the immediate threat.  If this is a story arc which continues then there is significant relevance to the team uncovering a college professors psychology tests which identifies potential military personnel with radical right wing beliefs.  These men and women are recruited in to the Patten Project,  a “military within the military” who believe in violent and aggressive action. This includes the destruction of all Muslims including the innocent, ably exemplified when Sam stating his religion.  Radical far right beliefs and home grown domestic terrorism make a refreshing if not frightening change from the usual Middle Eastern or Far Eastern villain.

There is not much in the way of light relief even in the opening - albeit short - lived bullpen scene.  Kensi and Deeks have had an argument over grilled cheese and neither is happy, in fact Kensi seems furious, prompting Callen to take great pleasure in observing that the row seems to be about so much more than grilled cheese.  The only other moment when Sam chuckled after their suspect (professor) ran from him, Callen and Deeks.  They remained still as the professor ran straight in to Hidoko, who took him out by hitting him in the throat.  Hidoko has proven to be a great asset in the field and hopefully this means Nell (who looks least convincing), can remain the Intelligence Analyst in Ops. 

Mosely too showed another facet to her character - her more human side.  She admitted it was SECNAVs decision, not hers to withhold case information from the team.  Callen once again started to challenge her authority and to her credit, Mosely let enough slip through ‘hypothetical’ scenarios for Callen to understand the severity and necessity of secrecy.  Crucially, she could see Deeks’ turmoil and admitting that he had a better chance of persuading Kensi to leave than she did through her official contacts.  Is that a move Hetty would have made?  And in keeping with his stoic support of the team, Callen tells Deeks to stay in Ops to persevere in trying to speak with Kensi.

The final scene is a revelation.  Firstly that the Mission has a roof top.  Secondly because of how Military explores the reunion and emotions of Kensi and Deeks.  And even here tension is created.  Deeks is leaning over the rails, looking out.  Kensi is leaning against the rails looking in.  There are times when Deeks cannot even look at Kensi - even here tension is created.  There were times during their open and frank conversation that Deeks might have called time on their relationship.  How many more times can he cope with witnessing Kensi go through life threatening scenarios because of her career? Deeks admits he cannot fathom how Sam gets out of bed every day, having lost his wife.  Deeks literally asks “What are we doing?”  Their romantic relationship will continue to be a struggle to survive all the while they are both in life threatening roles.  It remains to be seen whether there will be a defining or decision making moment for them.  Kensi has proven just how good she is. 

The Silo is undoubtedly the best episode of season nine so far.  The writing, character development, constant building of tension is a lesson to many others in how to write and direct a procedural.  NCIS Los Angeles knows how to create immensely strong female characters, with male counterparts that are more than comfortable with this.  Kensi deserves such an episode to be centred around her and Daniela Ruah has continued to rise to the occasion with whatever the script throws at her - just like Kensi.

What did you think of the episode?  Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

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