NCIS: Los Angeles S10E11 Review

In recent years the Christmas episodes of NCISLA have focused on large doses of fun, with a tiny element of the serious.  This year, the team are once again together in LA and working an actual Navy crime. NCIS Special Agent Nicole DeChamps has travelled from the San Diego office to investigate what should be a straightforward crime committed by Marine personnel and asks the Office of Special Projects Team for assistance. Active Marine Staff Sergeant Brad Hawkins and former Marine (now reservist) Ernie Garza took a drunken drive through a Christmas tree lot with Garza discharging his weapon.  With Garza now missing, his history of PTSD and drug addiction make him the priority for the team to locate.

The presence of recurring character DeChamps can only mean one thing; that Callen will be separated from his partner and the rest of the team. DeChamps was last seen partnering Sam when Callen was recovering from a broken back, ribs and internal bleeding, post Mexico and really only makes an appearance to pair up with Sam. The two have an easy and professional relationship, their friendship allowing them to explore each other’s personal plans over Christmas, with DeChamps getting Sam’s daughter’s name slightly wrong. Hopefully this remains plutonic; as much as though Sam deserves to be happy and in love again, it is a frustration when the show feels the need to pair up all the main cast in relationships.

In fact that is prevalent throughout Joyride as the different stages of various character’s relationships are explored. Kensi and Deeks’ relationship remains solid (although they still haven’t addressed the elephant in the room - the argument) but even more so, their relationship is shown as having matured. The pair are making last minute arrangements to hold the office party as Deeks’ as yet unnamed bar, after Special Prosecutor Rogers banned the party from the office, citing the poor mixture of guns and alcohol. Sure there is the expected banter and fun between them and in a welcomed change, Kensi makes Deeks laugh and even manages to get in the last word! Nell and Eric are still in the cute stage of their now open relationship, while Sam is coming to terms with the changing dynamics with his family as his son now has his own love life.

Quite momentous this week was how Callen has taken a huge step forward in his emotional development and his own precarious relationship with Anna Kolcheck. Callen is separated from the team when Rogers advises that Anna is in hospital after sustaining an injury in prison. Upon visiting her there is tension between him and Arkady who blames him for his daughter’s predicament. It is this tension which causes Callen to admit his feelings for Anna, albeit he is not declaring his undying love at this stage - still, baby steps...Later, his tender actions with Anna, witnessed by her father, causes Arkady to ease up a little.

There have been fan conspiracies on social media about Anna’s incarceration for shooting an unarmed man not being real, and Joyride has the first firm inklings there could be more than meets the eye. Anna has been moved from a Federal to a state prison which is questioned by Callen at the start and later by Arkady later. Both men can at least agree this doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately there is no time for the conversation to be developed further but on the plus side, this should be picked up in the second half of the season. 

There is a lot of focus on main characters which is always welcomed in a Christmas episode and a good job as there is little substance to the case of the week. There was no explanation as to why DeChamps was at the LA office and required the help of a team of highly specialised field agents, when LAPD had previously been on the scene. It has to be the first time in NCIS that the perpetrator of a crime (in this case Hawkins), was greeted by his NCIS interrogators with a friendly greeting and handshake. DeChamps is always a straight-talking, serious and focused agent who seems tightly wound yet here, something seemed a little less engaging in her character, but regardless, she works well with Sam and always very grounded.

Likewise, there was no reason for special prosecutor Rogers to be present - again. It feels as though the powers that be think the team must have a superior, when the team is clearly self-sufficient enough to manage themselves and their own cases. It would give the main cast more screen time and allow for better developed and meaningful cases as well as character progression. It could also show the team running themselves in to trouble which would at least give cause for Rogers to be present in real time, rather than be in LA to reactively review their cases. And having originally been sent to the LA office to investigate the Mexico mission and dig up dirt on other cases (and by proxy, the team), it was rather curious that when Rogers took the message about Anna in hospital, he stated to Callen that he passed the message on as at the time he was unaware of her relationship to the team. A case of sloppy investigating by Rogers or merely leaving the door open for further trouble later in the season?
One of the highlights of the episode is Deeks’ speech at the NCIS Christmas party to his fellow colleagues. It was an unexpected and poignant moment as he and the team (sans Callen who was still at the hospital) remembered the fallen family members of the NCIS team and the absence of one Henrietta Lange. Overall an episode full of character development and moments, progression (albeit subtle in some instances) for all, with the expected healthy dose of humour.

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