NCIS: Los Angeles S09E22 Review

It seems to be the style of show runner Scott Gemmill to leave some episodes open ended and then pick up these up later in the season.  These earlier episodes may be unfinished but rarely to the point for the audience to realise there will be a conclusion.  This has seen S09E18 Vendetta pick up the story from S09E05 Mountebank, S09E19 Outside The Lines continue from S08E17 Queen Pin, S09E06 Can I Get  Witness continues Deeks IA investigation from S08E22 Golden Days.  And then there is Joelle and the rogue CIA group getting another airing.  Interestingly the same writers are usually involved with both episodes, keeping character and narrative continuity.  These past cases are not mentioned from week to week (as defined by the genre of a law enforcement procedural) and sometimes the ‘previously on NCIS: Los Angeles’ does not fully assist.  Episode guests and loose threads are easily forgotten unless they form part of the season’s story arc, which has really been missing this season.  There was Hetty’s Vietnam story which was seen in some episodes, mentioned in others and at times, completely ignored.  This frustration is frequently viewed as a lack of continuity - however procedurals usually have a high number of standalone episodes that enable anyone to tune in without the need to watch hundreds of back episodes.

Venganza links back to Se Murio El Payaso (S09E02) when Sam was undercover with Secret Service Agent DeChamps.  Kensi and Deeks interrogated Lucila Marca, who turned out to be impersonating the daughter of Afonsa Marca, a Peruvian drug lord.  Lucila - real name Claudia Diaz - is murdered by two fellow Peruvian cell mates while in a Federal prison and the team investigate.  DeChamp, now an undercover NCIS agent, is attacked when Sam and Callen try to warn her, leading Hetty and Mosley to believe the team may also be targeted in revenge.  Note Callen is not deemed to be at risk as in Se Murio El Payaso, he and Anna investigated the involvement of two marines.  DeChamp returns to Ops and partners up with Sam for the third time which allows Callen to meet with Anna to discuss her shooting of Sokolov (Vendetta S09E18), and his imminent AFT interview.  It is notable here that Anna’s shooting and Callen’s involvements has been mentioned each week since, even if it is one sentence by Hetty to Callen.

There is a real focus this week on partnerships, romantic and professional. Callen clearly needs no help in inadvertently destroying his own relationship with Anna, by not calling or visiting to support her through the Sokolov shooting or the impending  Internal Affairs investigation.  It is down to Hetty to pull him aside from the case and send him to meet Anna and to sort his own head out before he goes before the ATF IA panel that evening.  This leads to some extremely awkward conversations between them with Anna questioning whether Callen’s appearance now is just to salvage his conscience before the IA board. Callen’s offers to lie are shot down before he can utter them, with Anna insisting he tells the truth before bidding him goodbye.  It seems their relationship is over.  Callen’s actions remain unknown when the episode closes with the IA board insisting he answers the question of whether he saw Sokolov reaching for a weapon before he was shot.  The answer (if he gave any) is not heard.  The seriousness of the scene made clear with dim lighting and almost a spotlight on Callen.  Another thread to be picked up either in the finale or next season.     

Kensi and Deeks, after random wedding talks during various episodes this season, seem to have gotten no further than being engaged.  Despite talks of table clothes and venues, it is revealed they actually have no plans are in place and they have very different ideas of what they want.  So all their previous chats this season have pretty much led, well nowhere.  Their opening scene of the choreographed shooting practice demonstrates how perfectly in sync they are as partners yet when Kensi neatly turns the conversation to choreographing a wedding dance, there is a mismatch.  This conversation continues later when they are in Deeks’ car (he for once asserted himself in the driving stakes), observing a person of  interest.  This break in the investigation allows them to actually talk and listen to each other.  Another step in the right direction for them both. 

There are equally great partner scenes with Sam and Callen, also taking place in a car, with Callen ribbing Sam about having his own specialist for every aspect of his life.  The cobbler mending soles was very apt and a great analogy for the pair.  Their earlier boatshed scene with Callen stating he’s just mastered meditation in two minutes was just as amusing although it does beg the question of when Callen actually became a good sleeper...On another note, the Challenger was seriously shot up yet will probably be as good as new next week!

There are some great set pieces, starting with the very violent but brief fight in the women’s federal prison.  Sam and Callen chase a murder suspect from the hospital who leaps and misses on a roof, resulting in a frighteningly realistic fall.  Kensi and Deeks literally tumble down a steep hill to escape the bad guys and are holed up in a ranch with bullets penetrating the walls (but not them), until the rest of the team rescues them.  It was also curious that none of the bullets making severe holes in the bins DeChamps was hiding behind, actually reached and injure her? 

There was little in the way of undercover activity, although Hidoko appeared from nowhere as a chef, advising a suspect he’d just eaten a dish full of parasites to isolate him for Kensi and Deeks.  Sam did however reveal that his autistic persona in Se Murio El Payaso was designed to draw empathy from Michael Silva (the LA arm of the Peruvian drug lord), as his brother has severe learning disabilities and was bullied. It is a type of manipulation that is rarely explored in the show, but very interesting to understand.

There was a lot of case information disseminated during the episode alongside the action.  The partnerships are back at their best with some great scenes, full of banter which again is a feel of the episodes of old. The partners are comfortable, the viewers are comfortable and essentially that is what makes this a great episode.  With the exception of Callen, the characters are content with their situations and leading in to the double episode season finale the risk is it will all be ripped from under them.

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

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