NCIS: Los Angeles Review S10E18

After such an amazing wedding episode last week, NCISLA returns for a mediocre outing at best, which focuses on Nell Jones and her sister Sydney, who has turned to Nell for help after her high school crush becomes mixed up in a Russian plot to steal DOD intelligence. It's been a while since Nell was in the field and it is good that Eric and Nell, as support staff (and cast), get their moments to shine each season. These should be chances for them to showcase their skills and talents outside of the confines of ops, or to show them overcoming a personal obstacle which is still NCIS / case related. Either way, the essence of their character must remain true, lest the audience is alienated.

Unfortunately, the latter has occurred in ‘Born to Run’. Nell is a very intelligent woman, in fact one episode made repeated references to her extremely high IQ. She is a resourceful intelligence analyst and has demonstrated her capabilities on occasion, to embark on undercover operations as well as handling herself competently in the field as a fully-fledged NCIS agent. There have been moments where Nell’s confidence has failed professionally and she experienced self-doubt in the field and then personally, when her sister Sydney was introduced. Sydney works for the Department of Homeland Security in their Field Intelligence Group, generally bullies her younger sister and is small-minded and petty. A very negative person. And here lies the rub of this episode. These two intelligent women spend most of the episode behaving like dumb teenagers, not trained agents. In addition, Sydney has no redeeming features and pouts, sulks and is jealous of Nell throughout. The lack of intelligence seems to be catching. At no point does anyone on the team seem to consider investigating the link between suspect Andre Martinez and Sydney and Nell Jones. Also curious was that Martinez’s employee, Commodore Cindy Kang, only knew him from his resume as a naval engineer prior to meeting him the previous week when he started worked for the DOD.

This could have been a much better episode if Nell had ignored her sister and contacted the team from the start. She showed a distinct and uncharacteristic lack of trust, which was something of a theme this week as there was also a lack of trust between the team and Rogers. This is nothing new, particular with Deeks’ comments and Callen’s behaviour; neither react well to authority figures, the latter in particular. The team deliberately kept Rogers in the dark about Neil's absence and Commodore Kang's involvement, causing Rogers to inadvertently relay information to Kang that puts Nell and co in danger. In scenes reminiscent of Mosley at the end of S9, Rogers yells at Kensi and Deeks about their actions however Rogers is concerned about Nell’s safety whereas Mosley was purely self-serving. The message clearly gets through to the team and he is invited to Deeks’ bar and welcomed to the team - although Callen at least has ulterior motives. Rogers is growing as a character, developing idiosyncrasies and quirks and it will be interesting to see if he leaves at the end of the season (he did say his audit would finish in June). There was a missed opportunity with his mandatory reviews.  As always, Deeks took the fall with the team and kicked off the talks before escaping.  It must be noted that Callen is an expert at avoiding such events and it would be a twist and potentially very humorous to see Rogers interviewing Callen for a performance review.  Rogers is no longer there to split up the team but seemingly there to understand and keep a bit of a leash on them - good luck with that!

There is an innate amount of weirdness from the outset which is characteristic of episode writer Jordanna Lewis Jaffe. The pre-credit opener features a bizarre rich LA lady who is ridiculously over the top, later is an odd male receptionist.  Kensi’s Malibu honeymoon clearly addled her brain with her peculiar reaction to Rogers call for mandatory review, not to mention Eric calling Callen ‘Grisha Callen’ (although he’s the only other team member to ever call him ‘G’ - back in the first season). Throw into the mix the juvenile behaviour of Nell and Sydney, the unspoken question of why Nell and Eric travel separately to work and the obviously suspicious Commodore...Kensi is also overly enthusiastic and merciless in shooting the Russian motorcyclist (without shouting a warning - Anna Kolcheck was jailed for a similar action), and gutted Sam and Callen beat her to taking out the second guy.

Deeks made a comment that Nell could be channelling her inner Kyser Soze in a reference to 90s film The Usual Suspects, and even a five minute dive into the possibility, examining her life, would have lifted the episode. There were some good elements such as continuity from last week’s wedding, with conversations between Kensi and Deeks, and Callen’s ongoing teasing of Sam and his dancing, which lead to Eric bravely dancing behind Sam’s back. Countering this was painfully notable discontinuity about Hetty. After her spectacular return, she is once again absent and even worse - she is not even mentioned. Not once. Overall this was a disappointing episode, primarily due to an inferior level of writing for the characters, and an over the top dose of weirdness, which does not equal funny.  Let’s hope the only way is up for the remaining six episodes.

Loved it, loathed it or indifferent?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on Born To Run.

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