NCIS: Los Angeles S09E18 Review

Vendetta is the sequel to the earlier season nine episode Montebank, which saw the team investigate Russian Oligarch and notorious weapons dealer Abram Sokolov and his money laundering activities.  Assisted by Arkady, Sokolov's sister Vladlena and Leigha Winters (the investment company's CEO), evidence against Sokolov was collected.  A staged gun fight with the NCIS team forced Sokolov to flee the country but not before Hidoko sprayed him with overwatch.  Now Sokolov has returned to complete another transaction and NCIS find themselves teaming up with ATF to stop him.

A case involving ATF conveniently allows for the return of Anna Kolcheck and although this is not an episode where the characters are personally invested, it does mean the relationship between her and Callen is explored further.  Anna was last seen in one of the season's earlier episodes and mentioned in Warriors of Peace, when Callen told his sister that Anna's been busy with her work.  Clearly their relationship has ground to a halt as both seem too busy to communicate at all, even though both work and live in LA.  Looks like Kensi and Deeks have nothing on these two!  This meant a high degree of tension particularly during their early scenes together. Callen is naturally distrustful of Anna and her new ATF partner Gary, and Anna in turn is stunned to see him.  It doesn’t help when she clearly hasn’t told Gary that she has a boyfriend.  Gary’s ever present smile and enthusiasm is a pleasure to see as opposed to washed out feds, which doesn’t endear him to Arkady or Callen, the latter later asking Anna if Gary was a game show host. 

Also returning are the staff at the investment bank, who were rather kooky before and this time are just as peculiar.  They beg the question as to how Leigha’s company is so successful.  The abundance of characters means there is very limited screen time this week for Kensi and Deeks.  Most of the episode they were babysitting Leigha in the boatshed.  Their key scene was at the restaurant, searching for clues to Vladlena’s whereabouts and generated some humour, especially with Kensi’s reaction that Deeks has scoped the restaurant out of a wedding venue.  Kensi is shocked and Deeks believes her stunned silence means he’s broken her brain. 

The return of Arkady means numerous comedic opportunities are generated and as always, much welcomed.  Unlike last time there is no gaudy jewellery, only a rather interesting bath towel which together with the story Callen and Arkady regale to Mosley, probably saw her permit the investigation because the whole scenario was rather bizarre.  Arkady brings a smile to most of his scenes, whether it be annoying Callen early in the morning, annoying Sam by just existing or recounting a drunken rendition outside the boatshed of 'Hetty-Davis Eyes'...The snippet shown was hilarious.  Arkady also presented a more serious side to his character with his concern for Vladlena and earned a new level of respect from his daughter.

Vendetta is also an opportunity for Eric to shine as Hetty suggests he is suitable to go undercover in the investment firm as the 'IT guy' to covertly protect Leigha Winters.  Eric is really not ready to go undercover and Hidoko provided the necessary support to guide Eric successfully through his mission.  Whereas he’s extremely capable in Ops, he is portrayed as more than incompetent in the field and is generally played for laughs.  Eric is so much better than that.  It could be excused as panic, but why didn’t he set off the fire alarm to evacuate the building?  This resulted in an interesting scene between Mosley and Hetty, with the former arriving in the latter's office to understand how she knew Eric was ready.  This reversal falls in line with the development of Mosley.  After opening up to Callen about her missing son, this week she is much more amenable towards the team.  She permitted Callen to investigate Arkady's claim that Vladlena's text was cause for concern that her brother was back in the country, although Deeks' comment about Mosley and Callen playing nice, and Callen's subsequent facial expression and the 'hmm' suggests he is still not one hundred percent convinced.  Mosley also praised Nell after seemingly about to challenge her as to why NCIS tipped ATF about a lead on the cigarettes Sokolov was shipping.  The mellowing of Mosley will cause relations to ease, however it still looks like she's biting her tongue to avoid unnecessary comments.

For the fourth episode in a row the ending was very striking, not due to an innate sadness or disgust at a horrific murder. Anna shot Sokolov who was unarmed. His shooting was heard but not seen by Callen, the viewer only saw Anna order him to his knees, Sokolov’s refusal and a slight twist of his body. Was this enough to suggest he was going for a weapon? Anna’s reaction suggests it was not cold blooded murder. She is shocked, Callen too when he realises what has happened. The seriousness is written all over the faces of the pair and evident to all up on their return to the team. It can’t be covered up but how far will Callen go to protect her? He’s crossed the line a few times over recent seasons and it would be an interesting character development to understand what happens to Anna, and by proxy, him. It was an emotional ending, in a stunned, shocked way and hopefully it will be followed up in some manner.

Overall, Vendetta was another very solid episode.  It was curious as to the lack of Deeks and Kensi (maybe the actors had time off) and disappointing that Eric can’t just tone down his incompetence in the field - if he has to leave ops.  There was an overuse of the wide angle lense, in the hotel room with Callen, Anna and co., and also outside the investment firm, the angles capturing the wonderfully colourful buildings but just coming across as - noticeable.  On the plus side, one loose thread from earlier in the season has now been tied and it was wonderful to see Arkady again.  His interactions with other characters light up each scene he is in.  It was a surprise to see that Callen does now sleep in his bed and reassuring that he has reverted to type in terms of his relationship with Anna, with a suitable amount of attitude throughout.  It also remains to be seen as to how big a part Anna’s impending internal investigation will have on Callen.  Will the ending of the next episode be just as striking as the last four?

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

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