NCIS: Los Angeles S10E09 Review

A Diamond in the Rough sees the team investigate the home invasion of Navy Captain Dean Hadlow and his wife Luanne, who are entertaining house guests and old friends General Omer Abidi and Sahar, his wife.  The robbers steal money, jewellery and a laptop containing highly classified documents and shoot Captain Hadlow when he attempts to defend Luanne. 

There is a peculiarity to this episode which is established right from the start. The pre-opening credit sequence has a very odd feel, with an overly apparent awkwardness between the four adults having dinner. Luanne talks non-stop and seems a touch intoxicated, admitting she always drinks for two. Sahar Abidi and the General are quite staid and the Captain is not exactly relaxed. This continues to the house invasion, where the characters are unable to act until Luanne cracks one over the head with a wine bottle and is hit in return. This prompts her husband to rather laboriously move around the dining table to try and rescue her.  This lack of motion and emotion feeds through to subsequent scenes. Sam and Callen speak with Sahar at the crime scene as the General has fled. Her first question is whether they’ve found her necklace, not if they have found her husband. Kensi and Deeks speak with Luanne in the hospital and again there is a lack of emotion or concern, even when she reveals her daughter declined an invite to dinner and now cannot be reached. Luanne is not concerned about her daughter or overly upset about her husband.  In turn, Kensi and Deeks are not bothered about the daughter. The lack of empathy with the guest cast and the two agents means there is no urgency to the situation, no tension is created and the case becomes unimportant. 

The introduction of daughter Emily adds another layer to the emotionless adults. Emily is superficial, living her life through social media and surrounding herself with like-minded young men and women, aspiring to a lifestyle she cannot afford.  This is deliberate leading to some scathingly amusing comments from Nell and Eric back in Ops, that Emily conveniently broadcasts everything about herself online and no warrant is required as her life is out for public consumption.  At least Kensi and Deeks have fun by infiltrating Emily’s pool party especially with Deeks ripping into a dim and self-obsessed young man.

The episode is bracketed with Kensi and Deeks in their bar. At the start they interview some crazies for the position of bar manager.  At the end, the couple are back in the bar and Mama Deeks makes a surprise appearance, stealing the scene with her dry and slightly inappropriate sense of humour. It seems very fitting that Roberta will be the bar manager. It allows for future ad hoc fun scenes, especially how she might interact with the lodger, Callen. He will either indulge Mama Deeks and squeeze every bit of juicy gossip and wind up material possible about her son, or she will just annoy him! The episode really centered around Kensi and Deeks and their banter but didn’t serve any purpose to further their development as individuals or as a couple.  There was a lot of fun, for example with Kensi’s pursuit driving causing Deeks to panic yell they needed to get married right then! The interrogation scene where Kensi and Deeks reference different boybands was again fun and as a counter to the lightheartedness, during another scene, the camera followed Kensi and Deeks as they breach a house (which is a nice change from focusing on Sam and Callen), and the noticeable lack of background music enhanced the natural sounds of the partners breathing. Without any tension or drama the scene and sound direction seemed very misplaced.

It is great the show has such flexibility, focusing different partner at various points, however the character banter and interactions needs to remain on point.  This was not the case with Callen and Sam. Certain elements were great, such as Callen’s obsession with a neighbourhood  app allowing him to effectively spy on his soon-to-be neighbours, and the subsequent wind-ups with Sam. At other times their words seemed a little forced and not quite in line with how they usually speak. When the Pakistan officials arrive and usurp their authority, the pair just look at each other.  Again they have very little come back during their interactions with the official from the State Department. The foot chase of the General and his wanna-be assassin results in Callen tumbling down concrete steps with the General - not great for someone recently recovered from a broken back, and a missed opportunity for Callen to complain and Sam to rip him apart.  
For probably the first time this season, Eric and Nell were given a fair amount of screen time, although their relationship is following the same path as Kensi and Deeks. The latter constantly talk about their wedding plans without even setting a date, and the former (well Eric) is constantly talking about furniture he's ordered for their first place together - a place which they have not even found.  Their absurdness is not out of the ball park which is a relief, although Eric was getting quite close.

​This was a very light episode with plenty of banter but there was nothing of substance with either the case or the characters.  The poor guest character development means the plot twist holds little interest and Callen shooting the Pakistan agent with diplomatic immunity has no repercussions. The General's secrets were placed on the dark net in an auction won by the US yet it is unclear who or how this happened. At best, A Diamond in the Rough provided a lot of banter with the three sets of partners as well as progression with the bar. Most of season ten has so far delivered episodes with a bit of oomph, with some guts and gumption. Light-hearted episodes can be a tonic but this one fell a touch short of the mark.

A Virtual Scrawl

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