NCIS: Los Angeles Season 9 Episode 21 Review

The basic premise for the case of the week sees NCIS join forces with the FBI after a former Marine is killed due to exposure to a highly toxic drug.   As the team investigate further, the unidentified Marine is named and revealed as homeless and without any friends or family.  Unfortunately the actual case, the investigation in to the drugs and the Marine (Squad Leader Gabe Schroeder), become somewhat forgettable in light of the number of character moments - good and bad - that occur during the episode.  The bad reason to remember this episode is the ridiculously over the top character of FBI Agent Zoe Morris, which is a shame when Schroeder is a war hero who was in and out of rehab after injury, and was eventually revealed as a hero to the end, sitting on drugs so they didn’t make it to the streets, which ended up killing him.

It seems to be a trait of episode co-writer Jordanna Lewis Jaffe to create larger than life, over the top and totally unbelievable characters such as the financiers in Mountebank & it’s counterpart Vendetta.  FBI Agent Morris was first seen in season 8 episode Battle Scars (also co-written by Jaffe) and in all fairness was just as annoying.  This time instead of being a jobsworth and sticking to the rules, she has gone rogue on the QT and roped in Callen, Sam and NCIS as unsuspecting participants. In her defence she is pursuing a case no one else believed in, and luckily was proven right, although not before her lies were caught. Her presence allows for a modicum of humour, although much of this comes from the incredulous expressions on the faces of Sam and Callen, who are so gobsmacked they resort to repeating back her lazy/trendy word abbreviations such as “perf”.  It beggars believe how she could even have graduated as an agent.  Just as unbelievable is the Medical Examiner in the morgue, who's over the top character makes Agent Morris seem normal. 

Later Callen approaches Hetty's desk and sits down for one of their more serious conversations that have been seriously lacking this season (mainly due to Hetty's absence).  When Hetty compares Agent Morris to Callen, his reaction is the same as the viewers. What? Has Hetty lost her mind?  Rather than referring to her personality and quirkiness, she is referring to her actions and behaviour. Morris essentially lied to pursue a case, and went rogue for a cause which is of course, something which Callen has more than a habit of doing particularly in relation to his family. The now rare Hetty-Callen conversation turns to Anna and implies that he is either treating her harshly or is not showing empathy or understanding for her actions or situation.  As is the want of Nell during Callen and Hetty's serious conversations, she once again shows impeccably poor timing when she interrupts the pair and it turns into another unfinished conversation.  It is also a little preparation for progressing this further in next week's episode.  Hetty later returns the ‘favour’, walking into Ops just as Eric leans in to kiss Nell. Yes, this is the episode that confirms the kiss from season 8 was not a one off. In fact one of the opening scenes features the pair waking up (albeit fully clothed) in Eric’s bed.

All the opening partner sequences give the episode a feel of the seasons of old. Kensi and Deeks are exercising outside and discussing wedding plans, the easy dialogue allowing their banter to flow and Deeks to reveal his plans of opening his own bar. Kensi of course (as do the rest of the team later), believe it is just one of his many passing fads. Callen arrives with Sam in the mission complaining about how coffee shops are changing for the worse, a sentiment echoed by Mosley. In an uncharacteristic moment, Mosley is relaxed and comedic, bidding the boys to ‘be well’ as they leave to meet Agent Morris.

The humour continues throughout, some hitting the mark, other proving to be somewhat cringe-worthy. Their suspect Victor was one of the successes and great fun to watch. A compulsive liar, his excuse for running when Kensi and Deeks shouted Federal Agent, was that he’s always ran to his car since he could drive. All his early lines were highly amusing, as was the team’s reactions. Hidoko was also not left out, calling a nice ‘shot-gun’ and beating Deeks to the coveted front passenger seat.

The heightened characters mean the serious aspects of the case in the dead Marine are underplayed by comparison. Kensi finds reasons to defend his initially unidentified corpse, and later Callen and Sam realise his heroics. It is only fitting that he received a heroes send off, and a small military funeral is held with the OSP team as his surrogate family.  Sam and Hidoko in their military uniforms, the rest suited up. Deeks is LAPD which raises the question of why he doesn’t have a dress uniform.

The piece de resistance is the closing scene which takes place in the condemned bar Deeks is taking for a trial run before buying. Deeks was so sincere with his reasoning to give former marines like Schroeder a place /sense of community that a fair amount of tension was created, particularly with Kensi's reaction.  She took her own sweet time in revealing her thoughts to Deeks. His comment that he invited everyone in case she tried to stab him was priceless. Needless to say all was well. Hopefully this will become a new central location for the team to gather and relax next season. The other delight at the final scene is that the team (sans Mosley and Hetty) are all together.

Although the case was underplayed, the character moments and the sense of the ‘old’ feel of an NCISLA episode made this very enjoyable-even with FBI Agent Zoe Morris. Hopefully she’ll be redeployed East Coast, now she has learnt from the best federal agency.

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

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