NCIS: Los Angeles S11E07 Review

Concours D'Elegance was thoroughly enjoyable, containing all the ingredients that makes an entertaining episode of NCIS: Los Angeles.  It was very much a team episode, featuring banter between both sets of partners, throwbacks to previous episodes, car chases and even a touch of undercover work.  The case itself has a tentative connection to the navy, as engineer Andre Vizquel is shot and left in a critical condition outside a famous video game streamer's house.  Vizquel was working on a prototype underwater drone for a Navy contractor and he last accessed the lab the night he was shot. The following day, it materialises that key electronics with an encrypted memory in the circuitry has been stolen.

First indications are this is another run of the mill case of the week, and it is. There is nothing particularly special about the case itself - a few minor twists and turns, but it is the journey and the interactions of the characters which allow this episode to shine. Last week's A Bloody Brilliant Plan had snappy dialogue and charismatic characters and was filmed in a particularly stylised manner. It was fun and humorous but not in the over the top and ridiculous way of Provenance (two week's ago). Concours D'Elegance showcases the humour and banter between the main cast, whilst remaining grounded in the guest cast - even with the returning character of insurance broker Katherine Casillas (introduced in Provenance). She still swans in but now she is less supercilious, has more of a fun glint in her eye - and continues to flirt with Sam, who reciprocates.  How much of this is merely the fact he's enjoying the attention (and can see it winds up Callen), is unclear. His wife was murdered two and a half years ago and Sam was shown to be struggling in the early days. There is no prescribed time for grief and it's good to see Sam enjoying the attentions of another woman, whether it remains flirting or develops in to something more. Last time they had a short yet serious conversation about art, eventually finding common ground. They now share an appreciation of wine and there is a fantastic call out back to season two episode two 'Black Widow', where Callen teases Sam for posing as a sommelier for a year.  Later, Sam and Katherine talk about their car-dreams, leading Katherine to regale Sam with a story about watching her father work on an old Pontiac, similar to the references to Sam restoring his old Challenger Charlene back in season three.

Callen meanwhile spends most of the episode bantering with Sam,  particularly about cars after Sam revealed he has a special red key which gives the Dodge Hellcat an additional few hundred horsepower.  He conveniently remembers rules when it suits him, in an attempt to dissuade Sam from allowing civilian Katherine to drive the Hellcat with the coveted red key. The highlight of the banter of course comes from Kensi and Deeks. Their partnership has reverted back to that of a few seasons ago, where they tease each other. After Andre Vizquel's boyfriend discovers his lover is keeping secrets from him it triggers a conversation about secrets between Kensi and Deeks. The temptation would be to sway into the serious, but instead Kensi brings up the fact Deeks has kept his stripper a secret that she wants to know.  This becomes an ongoing talking point that almost becomes serious with the revelation, before turning back to the fun-factor with Kensi's reaction when the stripper name is revealed. 

The throwbacks are scattered throughout the episode, which make it that little bit extra special for the hardcore fans who get every reference, and generally making it feel richer for all concerned, a reminder these characters have a past and are not two dimensional.  Fatima for example, demonstrates her physical expertise in the field which is a subtle reminder that she was first introduced in the boxing ring.  The bittersweet reference to Granger was touching and unexpected, with Nell reassuring Fatima she's ready for a Hetty-off-the-books-mission, by quoting words Granger spoke to her when she experienced a crisis of confidence (back in season seven) "Never belittle yourself", of course preceded with Nell describing him as an "old, somewhat cranky, but always wise friend", without actually naming him.

The case itself is fine, with the pesky Russians revealed as the villains, followed by a fight and of course the obligatory car chase (a must when the stolen technology is placed in a Ferrari, and much is made of cars and horsepower generally).  The guest characters are believable, albeit it not as engaging as the Brits were last week, but with the team focus and banter at a season 11 high, this was a genuinely fun and light-hearted episode.

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