NCIS: Los Angeles S09E10 Review

Forasteira opens with an excellently orchestrated and highly stylised scene in a dive bar which very much sets the tone of the episode in exploring strong, independent women. At closing time a drunk woman is escorted by the owner to the restroom as the remaining customers prepare to leave.  Returning alone, the woman kills the two men and then the third when he returns from outside.  Leaving her bag with the dead bodies, the bar explodes, destroying the evidence. 

A number of episodes ago Mosley confirmed to Hidoko of her intention to split up the partners, yet once again the team manage to do this themselves.  This time Hidoko partners up with Kensi as Deeks is playing hooky to help Guy, his mothers trainer-come-lover.  Guy had his laptop and sketchpad stolen when he was mugged and the ‘sensitive’ material contained within needs to be recovered.  This of course is a prompt for a number of scenes where Deeks is uncomfortable in Guy’s company, bordering on rude.  It looks like Roberts ‘Bertie’ Deeks has given Guy a few lessons in how to wind Martin up and there exchanges are somewhat amusing.  Crucially Guy admits he loves Deeks’ mother which Deeks’ acknowledges before reverting to a wise crack as he walks away.

The episode is very firmly about women and while it breaks some stereotypes it also plays to type.  Female assassin Pietra may pretend to be drunk at the bar but she kills the men in an almost feminine way, in choreographed moves, wearing a bright red dress.  Mosley continues to demonstrate her authority with connections to equally powerful men such as the Brazilian Consul General Enzo Souza.  Once again she amusingly reduces Sam and Callen to her ‘sidekicks’, ordering them to suit up as her protection detail.  It makes a refreshing change from shows which constantly have beautiful women draped on the arms of the men.  Sam and Callen were less than impressed which made the scene even more fun.

The parallels between Pietra and Kensi are made obvious to those not familiar with the agent’s past. Peitra is set on avenging her father’s murder by killing Souza and Kensi is determined to be the one to bring her down, defying Callen several times. She was earlier bested by Pietra in a fist fight and is angry at herself, feeling the need to prove she is not weak. Kensi verbalises that she should have come out of the fight in a body bag. During the climatic and pivotal scene between Kensi and Pietra, Callen threatens to shoot Pietra if Kensi doesn’t pull the trigger.  If Callen had, it would have undermined Kensi’s every action, here and in the future. In this way the show doesn’t break any stereotypes.  Female killers wanting revenge are often redeemed as they are unable to follow through with the taking of another life. Kensi refrained from killing the man who murdered her father (after seriously injuring him).  For NCIS: Los Angeles this is more an affirmation of character - even Sam did not take Tahir Khaled’s life in revenge for Michelle’s murder in the end.  Contrast that with Callen who, with the team in season 3 attacked the Comescu compound.  Every man he shot was met with a flashback of his mother being murdered. Rage and revenge.    

Hidoko was given a tiny piece of backstory.  Her partnership with Kensi saw her reveal some personal details.  Before she took the job of assisting Mosley, Hidoko was part of a female engagement team, presumably for the Marines or US Army in the Middle East.  It certainly explains her toughness in the field and how she has ably supported and backed up both Sam and Callen respectively.  In an uncharacteristic moment of self-doubt (more akin to Nell’s conversations with Granger), Hidoko asks Kensi for advice.  And that advice is to ‘learn to have your team’s back’. Kensi should be aware of Hidoko’s abilities - the team must talk to each other and debrief whether officially or unofficially (in a bar) after a tough day.  Ironically this of course precedes the first time Hidoko fails to have a team member’s back and Kensi gets her ass kicked by Pietra, who deliberately spares her life.

The suspension of disbelief is required several times during the episode, particularly during Sam and Callen’s crime scene examination, where they conclude the burnt bodies of the three victims are all men and they accurately talk through how the assassinations took place, knife wounds, gun shots and the order of which man died first. They are literally in the still smouldering shell of the building...The second occasion also involves them.  They approach the house belonging to one of the murdered men, pause and the occupants then open fire, miraculously missing them and then pegging them down behind a car.  The next scene has a REACT team, and Sam and Callen in vests with assault rifles.  Is there a deleted scene here?  At what point where they able to secure their own NCIS badged vests and weapons?  For eagle eyed viewers, there was a case of location recycling.  The Brazilian Embassy was formerly the home of the “Gargoyle”, a Russian villain from S7 “Active Measures”, when Callen last went rogue.

Despite the negatives, there were plenty of enjoyable elements to the episode.  Sam and Callen barely bat an eye lid when they are told the killer is a woman, such is their awareness of the strength and skills of the women who surround them. There is an intriguing thread started by Callen which continues throughout about a woman he once met in a dive bar in Georgia.  According to Sam he meets lots of women in bars.  Turns out this one was in Georgia the country, full of Chechens, wine and caves.  With Callen’s colourful past there is clearly more to the story however the only reveal is that the woman was trying to kill him.  As Sam says “most do sooner or later.”  Callen certainly attracts a certain type of woman! 

NCIS Los Angeles has always featured strong female characters and so it was fitting that Kensi was once again showcased, pitting herself physically against another independent and driven woman.  Her skills are highlighted in a very different way to another season nine episode The Silo, which demonstrated her professional skills were every bit equal to, if not surpassing those of the men, particularly psychologically. The principle behind Forasteira was sound but the execution was a little disjointed and certain scenes did not flow.  There were plenty of enjoyable elements, particularly when Mosley broke the heel on her shoe and lost balance in front of the team.  There was also a much needed return to the banter between Sam and Callen which has been missing from various episodes due to changing partnerships. Hopefully the Christmas episode next week will see the team in their usual pairings, doing what they do best.

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

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