NCIS: Los Angeles S11E04 ’Yellow Jack’ - Review

This week the team are faced with a possible Ebola outbreak after Navy Lieutenant Commander Karen Quinn is found dead and infected with the virus in LA. Coincidentally she was last stationed on the USS Allegiance, the navy ship from the season premiere, where Sam and Callen are temporarily based to welcome and hand over the NCIS Special Agent Afloat duties, after the murder of the last agent (again in the finale/premiere). This neatly connects the two locations with a single case and also lines up a further connection when the new Special Agent Afloat is revealed.

Ehsan Navid was introduced in the very first episode written by Andrew Bartels (and co-written by Frank Military) back in season 5. It was aptly titled 'Allegiance' and provided an early insight of how talented Bartels is at forging well developed characters. Ehsan was memorable as the delightfully naive, genuinely optimistic and sincere young man who was seeking American citizenship for himself and his family after assisted the US in the Afghan war. He was the one who danced in the interrogation room, thinking no one was watching, went undercover with Deeks and Callen and talked the boys in to keeping his suit to impress his lady friend. Six years later Ehsan is an NCIS Special Agent, married with three children. He may no longer be dancing like no one is watching but he is still the kind hearted, patriotic and brave man first introduced. Sam and Callen gently rib him and he is encouraged to take the lead on the Ebola outbreak. Later they protect him, insisting he remains locked in with the Captain whilst they remain with the sailors who are falling ill. The fact that he always calls Deeks 'Marty' is endearing - and noticeable!

As is the norm for NCISLA, there is a heavy subplot around family  Ehsan proudly displays photos of his family as he settles into his new digs. There is a touching moment when he tells Callen about his family and the support of his wider family, when Callen comments about how his deployment takes him away from home for extended periods. These are sacrifices he has made in favour of his career, and one that works for him due to the love and support around him. There did seem to be a missed opportunity for the camera to linger on Callen, after his 'adventures' with family last season, but in the context of this episode, Ehsan's position was more relevant to the married partners back in LA.

Kensi and Deeks have never had THAT conversation, the one which caused them to fight and almost split up in the season 9 finale, the one about having children and giving up their careers to raise a family. They've declared their love will survive no matter what and are now married, however when Kensi enters the episode and is immediately acting out of character, it is extremely noticeable and worrying for Deeks. Once Kensi realises they are investigating crimes scenes that may contain the Ebola virus she becomes overly cautious, asserting authority without reason over Deeks, to prevent him from breaching until the USAMRIID (US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases) arrive. It is pretty obvious she has either just found out she's pregnant or her period is late and she pointedly avoids talking to Deeks until there really is no choice. The two are confined in the decontamination chamber, in a beautifully composed scene. There is no talking and the scene is quiet, allowing for Kensi to display her distress and Deeks to show confusion, neither interacting with each other. After, they are still alone whilst dressing and Deeks asks Kensi what is wrong  She finally responds, although she cannot say what she means, just that she's 'late', causing Deeks to question what she's late for!  

There is no question the episode belongs to Kensi. The anguish and conflict is written over her face in almost every scene and this does beg the question, if (when) Kensi does fall pregnant, how soon will she be removed from the field to a desk bound job?  And will she give up her career or return to being a field agent, risking her life on a daily basis? Alternatively, will Deeks hand in his badge to be a stay at home dad? These are questions which were floated for a few seasons and remained unanswered (at least onscreen). The closing scene reveals it was a false alarm and the two promise to talk rather than running scared.

Deeks: We don't have to talk about this. Let's just go home.
Kensi: I want to talk about it. I'm done not talking about it.
Deeks: Okay.

Kensi: In fact, avoiding the issue because we're afraid is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen, 'cause we don't work with fear, right? We work with honesty. And I want to be able to tell you everything. That's why I married you.

Kensi's behaviour was perfectly realistic given the nature of her character and relationship with Deeks. The result of the scare is enlightenment, partially due to the final conversation she had with the USAMRIID colonel, who talked about her new granddaughter and the impact of Ebola on mothers and babies in the Congo. The scene was a touch heavy handed and unnecessary; it would have more progressive if Kensi had reached self-enlightenment.

The trigger for the events is the calculated kidnap and deliberate infection with Ebola of Navy Lieutenant Quinn and she is duped by pandering to her proudness to serve her country. There is also a flashback scene which is unusual for the show and is the result of Deeks reconstructing the escape attempt of Quinn. It worked well and demonstrated that Quinn was quite rightly proud and more than capable of fighting for her life. Onboard the USS Allegiance, Navy Captain Douglas explains the absence of JAG character Captain Harm Rabb, stating he had been summoned to DC, as has Hetty (confirmed by Callen). There is also a link to last season's two parter (part one penned by Bartels), which introduced the Mastriq army who turn out to be the terrorists in 'Yellow Jack', however the threat from the terrorists is very much secondary to character development.

It is the little connections and throwbacks together with the solid narrative, seamlessly blending drama and character, which shows that once again Andrew Bartels is one of the best writers for NCIS: Los Angeles.  

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