NCIS: Los Angeles S09E19 Review

In keeping with trend of season nine, Outside The Lines follows on from last season’s Queen Pin, both penned by veteran writer Joey Wilson.  When codes to obtaining millions in bitcoin are stolen from a crypocurrency farm, key players in the Barris Stone drug organisation are identified and Sam needs to confirm if Switch is still a viable alias to enable the team to take them down.  The only link to the previous case is ‘King’ whose real name is Dana.  She survived the shooting at the end of Queen Pin and in return for detailing the Barris Stone operation has recovered from blood loss, a stroke, medically induced coma and has learned to walk again (an experience that sounds similar to Kensi’ during the first half of last season) - and is living alone on a remote guarded ranch.

Sam has always been presented as an honest, straight down the line character. As has been pointed out countless times by Callen, Sam sees the good in everyone, leading to the assumption that Sam’s almost blind faith in humanity means by extension, he is intrinsically good and honest.  Questions were asked after his series of episodes featuring Jada Kaled and the impression was that although Sam had feelings for Jada, he never actually acted on them.  When his former partner and recovering drug addict appeared in season seven’s Unspoken, the team began to doubt Sam’s judgement.  His reaction to his wife’s murder was intense yet did it turn in to the type of absolute revenge Deeks or even Callen might have sought.  And so the first half of season nine covered Sam’s grief after Michelle’s death and now some of his unseen coping mechanisms come to the fore and demonstrate he is much more complex than the show has so far revealed. 

Sam:      As much as we'd like to believe it everything isn't black and white.  Nobody's all good or all bad.  We all have flaws.  We all have virtues.  Comes down to choices.

In Queen Pin, Switch hooked up with Dana before she was shot and arrested; Michelle died six episodes later.  Sam continued to visit Dana during her recovery, revealed his real name and confided in her about his wife’s death.  There is a physical closeness and attraction which was apparent last season and has since developed.  It is not clear how deep Sam’s feelings really are yet they seem to genuinely care for each other - surprising as Sam has kept this to himself. He is partnered with Hidoko which allows for some fresh and honest conversations about grief and moving on.  Sam reveals more to her than he has done with Callen and Hidoko, for the first time shares her own story of grief which has been touched on by Hetty. 

Hidoko:                You know, I may be out of line, but I think it's okay to feel.  You perform like a superhero, but you cannot forget that you're human.

Sam often comes across as a bit of a superhero and this episode explores those grey areas that have not been quite so obvious in Sam previously.  Kensi, Deeks and Callen witness how close Sam and Dana are when she’s arrested, with lingering shots confirming his partner had no idea and might even have been a bit shocked. There is no doubt that he is only human after all. 

The partner shake-ups this week saw Callen and Deeks paired up for the episode, and their one on one interactions were unusual due to the lack of interaction with other characters.  There was no reference to Deeks’ reaction to Callen’s efforts to trade Kirkin for his father and instead Deeks offers himself as sounding board for Callen to open up about Anna and the ATF investigation.  Callen keeps his comments short and Deeks offers advice from differing perspectives as a cop, lawyer and friend, topping it off by placing a reassuring hand on Callen’s shoulder.  This of course is not how Callen operates with Sam (or anyone) and his saying so kills the moment.  The difference in their characters is underlined when Deeks is impulsively investing his money in Ethercoin, much like he has talked about house-flipping with Kensi in the past.  Deeks does things on a whim whereby Callen is reserved and cautious.  This difference is almost reversed when Deeks later opens up to Callen about his desire to move away from a life of constant danger and instead open a bar.  Deeks wants to be more cautious with his life whereas Callen wants to live - presumably on the edge (maybe that’s why he hasn’t moved despite his house being repeatedly broken in to).  For Deeks this is a continuation to conversations he has started and not finished with Kensi.  He is concerned about their future family and the dangers they encounter which may lead to little Deeks growing up without one or both parents.  Again, the dialogue underlines their difference perspectives on life, careers and the future.

Callen:  Living our lives by playing it safe?  That’s not living.

Deeks:   I’m just saying there’s a lot of miles between safe and terrorists trying to kill you with automatic weapons every single day.

There are no such honest conversations with the remaining characters.  Nell took Deeks’ place with her homeless act or ‘dumpster diving with Deeks’ as Nell said to Kensi over comms.  The pair worked well together although at one point Nell did revert to her season two bad habit of finishing other people’s sentences during the interrogation scene.  With Nell and Hidoko in the field, Eric is running ops alone and feels the pressure when Sam is captured.  Surprisingly it is Mosley who offers him the encouragement required.  Since Hetty’s return and confiding in Callen, Mosley has significantly mellowed and is giving the team the space they require to complete missions successfully.  She does point out to Sam that he placed Hidoko’s life in danger and acknowledges that you have to sometimes play outside the lines, which somewhat contradicts her desire to play by the book.

The episode has a slower pace than usual and has a slight disparate feel, mainly due to the partner splits and focus on the case’s three separate elements.  The guest cast (Dana excepted) are all rather subdued with some line mumbling and questionable accents which does not lend itself to any sense of urgency.  The revelation that Sam is flawed and is not a superhero federal agent is actually disappointing, even though there is no evidence of anything more than reciprocated feelings.  Maybe the thought of Sam’s grief, the treasuring of Michelle’s memory and his love of family jars against how and when he moves on with his life.  The decision is his alone and the feelings are generated as this has never previously been mentioned.  Life goes on as demonstrated by episode writer and producer Joey Wilson, who bows out of the show to pursue other opportunities. 

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