NCIS: Los Angeles S10E04 Review

So far the fallout from the off-the-books Mexico mission has been minimal. Injuries have healed and the team has continued solving cases. The visible impact has been the lack of leadership due to the absence of Hetty and Mosley, both of whom are under investigation, and the warning from Admiral Kilbride that the rest of the team would follow. This becomes reality with the arrival of Special Prosecutor John Rogers from the Department of Justice, alongside Deputy Director Louis Ochoa who’s there to protect the team’s interests. At the same time the team discover Mosley, her son Derrick and Arlo Turk are named on a cartel hit list together with photographs of her unidentified accomplices; Callen, Sam, Kensi and Deeks.  The hit list provides the case of the week as the team follow leads to track down the hit man with a focus on Mosley and the investigation into Mexico. 

What will Mosley do to keep her son safe and herself out of jail? How far will she go? It’s a question discussed by the team in the bullpen opener and a prevalent question throughout. Surprisingly Callen believes she’ll do the right thing whereas Sam is less sure. Kilbride, who is developing into quite the character, openly displays his hostility for Rogers in front of the team and encourages Kensi to lip read events as they unfold in Mosley’s office. Crucially though, Kilbride divulges that Rogers is gunning for Hetty and Mosley’s lawyer firmly suggests she throws Hetty under the bus. The most worrying scene is the final ‘off the record’ meeting between Mosley and Rogers in his car. She asks what she needs to do to make this all go away.  Rogers is after Hetty and the inference is he will ask Mosley to lay the blame at Hetty’s door. This scene is directly after a serious and heartfelt conversation between Mosley and Sam, who has volunteered to take Derrick out on his boat. The EAD speaks about her worries in choosing between motherhood and her career, and is scared she has forgotten how to be a mother.  As usual Sam gives sensible and ‘to the point’ advice, concluding with him telling Mosley she has to fix the situation for Derrick, herself and the team.  Will she look out for the team after everything they have endured and achieved for her? It is not clear which way she will turn and this heightens the tension as the storyline continues to play out.    

Effectively, the rest of the team are already under investigation. Eric is interviewed by Rogers, who focuses on his Hetty-assigned undercover operation in 2017 where he killed two people. Callen is cautioned by Ochoa that Rogers will dig deep into the entire team and will not limit his investigations to Mexico. Rather ominously, he warns Callen about his associations with Anna Kolcheck and Joelle Taylor. Curiously, there is no mention of his close friendship with former KGB officer, Arkady Kolcheck (which Mosley voiced concerns about last season), or of his father, ex-KGB Major Nikita Reznikov. Even with Ochoa on his side, Callen flirts with insubordination when he sarcastically asks for advice.  The comeback is deserved and humorous when Ochoa states Callen might want to consider celibacy! 

As usual the comedy is delivered by Eric, Deeks and Kensi.  Eric’s awkwardness around Kilbride continues and his nervousness while being interviewed is predictable yet amusing, particularly his 360 degree turn on his chair. Special Prosecutor Rogers’ weasily-like demeanour makes him rather stereotyped as a petty jobsworth. Kilbride allows him to set up in the gym, with the instruction that it remains in full use, cue noisy wrestling, weight lifting plus the sounds from the adjacent firing range. Witnessing how this winds up Rogers through his body language, facial expressions and speech are definitely a source of delight. Sam and Callen also get some laughs, particularly their banter about knowing or not knowing Thai. Much like last season, Kensi is throwing herself into the wedding planning without having set a date, with Deeks as a reluctant participant. Kensi seems to be on overdrive, literally shoving wedding cake samples in Deeks’ mouth. There really is a feeling of déjà vu as this scene takes place when they arrive at work, much like last season’s wedding table cloth conversation. It would be good to actually see these two move past this stage, despite the humour it brings. CIA officer Sabatino re-appeared for the first time since Sam left him unconscious and handcuffed in the season 8 finale. He has great chemistry with the cast, and there was some rather sardonic banter between him and the agents, although ironically, he did seem surprised about Callen’s interrogation technique of lying to make a suspect talk. 

There is a high degree of familiarity with the team being under investigation.  In season six Hetty was in Washington due to the White Ghost mission, with the team under interrogation by the DOJ in LA.  In season eight, the mole debacle again saw the Hetty in Washington and the team under scrutiny and Mosley’s arrival last season had to sole purpose of disbanding the team.  Her comments to Hetty in the finale, that she knows where the bodies are buried and she could end careers and send some team members to prison, confirms the agents may get results but clearly their methods are rather dubious.  The absence of Hetty is again repetitive (Linda Hunt was in a car accident as filming commenced although it is unclear whether Hetty’s absence is pre-planned). At least this time Callen is taking early steps to try and find her, talking with Harris Keane and discovering she was at the hospital in Mexico and remained in the country. Has he told Sam and the rest of the team? He also hears from her at the episode’s close. Hetty is using pre-agreed codes and a voice changer, warning Callen it’ll get worse for both of them before it gets better. 

There were some excellent scenes throughout starting with the freaky opening sequence where a decidedly evil looking man is floating on an inflatable in a pool and steps over a dead body upon exit.  A chilled out song with lyrics about thunder and lightning play over this scene and quickly fade as the man leaves the gated house and passes a young girl selling lemonade - a witness.  Only when his car is T-boned does the music pick up again.  The other great scene is Sam and Callen at the hit man’s house. The interior is filmed from a low angle making the house, which is dimly lit and full of junk, feel claustrophobic. The background music is quiet and eerie allowing the creaking stairs and the soft tones of a black and white cartoon to be heard. This builds tension before the sudden noise of an automatic weapon marks the start of a cleverly choreographed gun fight, which culminates with Callen shooting through the floorboards to force the bad guy into a position where Sam can kill him. Ironically, Callen and Sam finding their hit man oblivious and watching TV in the bath with headphones.

There were some interesting decisions and lines of dialogue in Hit List.  For example it seems Nell is no longer being groomed as Hetty’s replacement as Ochoa appoints Callen as acting supervisor. Deeks comments while on comms, suggests he is fed up with Sam and Callen having the easier roles of breaching houses from the front when he and Kensi are relegated to the back alleys, causing Callen to tell them to shut up. There is subsequent dialogue from one of the occupants about racial profiling by law enforcement officers, which is very topical. True to stereotype, the crew in the front garden are of course part of the hit man’s posse. Ochoa places a hand on Callen’s shoulder for reassurance but drew a questioning look; he really is a man that is uncomfortable with such gestures, particularly from new acquaintances. Remember the Deeks/Callen talk from Outside The Lines in S9? On the fun side, Sam’s sea lion Otis made a guest appearance. The important conversations between Mosley and Ochoa and Rogers, Sam, and her lawyer are all setting up her future actions which will dictate how the team react in future episodes. Her selfish attitude is still bubbling below the surface and even with her self-doubt about motherhood, there is little that makes her endearing. 

It is rather apt that there is a recurring theme of an approaching storm, referenced in the lyrics of the opening song and the seemingly innocent cut shot of the carton on TV (in the middle of Sam checking a dead body). Sam says to Mosley and Derrick there is a storm front approaching, which has arrived by the time Mosley speaks with Rogers in his car, and sparks the lights flickering in Ops just before Ochoa warns Callen about the future and his ominous conversation with Hetty. It could even be argued the reference to Storm Troopers is part of the same trope. Hit List packs a lot of narrative in to the episode and the two points to take away is the storm will bring other hit men, and the investigation will mean the team are in for a rocky ride with Rogers.

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