NCISLA S11E06 Review

Every once in a while an episode comes along which breaks with convention. Procedural shows are very formulaic (as are many others, for example soap operas). There are familiar locations, sentences uttered by characters that are warmly predictable and a visual style specific to the show. Here and there, a few episodes of NCISLA turn this on its head, usually due to an extremely bleak, dramatic or intense episode. In this instance, 'A Bloody Brilliant Plan' is filmed and written in such a manner that is reflective of the extremely English slant. Coupled with this is a great British cast, particularly the main guest stars, hard-nut ex-footballer turned actor Vinnie Jones, and Steve Valentine.  

The cold opening is always appealing as it immediately jumps to the action and mystery, usually without revealing too much, and as it does here, sets the tone for the episode. The English are coming, stereo-typically portrayed as the bad guys a la gangster style, resplendent with East End accents, stealing gold bars from a fellow villain and transporting it to a military air base in California. This gives it the first military connection that justifies the involvement of the NCIS team, and low and behold, at the end of the following scene, the team had ambushed and arrested some of the men - which luckily doesn't mean they've solved the case in around five minutes.

The opening's punchy and no-nonsense robbery contradicts nicely with the team on their stakeout. Sam for once, is the butt of their jokes when he reveals that Callen turned up to a Halloweed party they both attended, dressed as a clown. He was banished from the Dodge Hellcat and made to partner Deeks as punishment. The pair later appeared in a video call with clown noses, Kensi (next to Sam in the car) also donned a red nose. And so the tone is re-set with a light-hearted, in LA.  

The first half contains most of the humour, with a pithy filmic style that accompanies dialogue.  Ricky Dorsey (Jones) and Frankie Bolton (Valentine) are reformed criminals who are forced to use their connections to the underworld to obtain the Mayhem naval weapons system, in exchange for Ricky's daughter, who has been kidnapped. To help introduce other characters, hurry the plot along and to accompany the characters dialogue, there is a use of split screens and captioning, jovially providing a translation for the Cockney rhyming slang. The style is reminiscent of English filmmaker Guy Ritchie's films, such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and RocknRolla.  

Ricky: We're waiting in the street, and was gonna do the exchange of my daughter, and you boys turned up and jaspered the whole thing.
Sam: Hey. Translate.
Frankie: Yeah, you screwed it all up.
Sam: Oh. Thank you for that.
Frankie: You're welcome.
Ricky: They spotted the old bill.
Callen: English?
Frankie: We invented English. It's our language. We can do with it what we want.
Ricky: They made you. They done a runner. I didn't get me daughter back thanks to you boys. 

The style and dialogue flow perfectly, as the main cast and guest stars play well off each other. Ricky and Frankie are charismatic with a roguish charm. What isn't so great is that a British cast inevitably allow Kensi and Deeks off the leash to break into their version of a Cockney accent. What is even worse is that even though the wonder twins are absent, Fatima has to take up the mantel! As Callen quite rightly asks, why does everybody in Ops still have an accent? Thankfully he is the only main cast member not to attempt one. It was also a relief that the undercover scene that the casino featured no talking by the field agents! The other frustration of the episode is why Deeks is placed on overwatch with Kensi especially as he voices doubts about the long range and his accuracy. Callen would have been better placed here, instead of with Sam, around the corner and in the Hellcat (clearly he'd been forgiven by this point).
The casino scene was smooth, featuring more split screens to show the action and characters at different tables and of course featured a fight, after former criminal Frankie couldn't resist cheating and was caught - another delightfully light-hearted moment. The arrest of two possible suspects signals a turning point as the episode becomes more serious. Evening falls in the boatshed and there is a notable change in lighting and style as the stakes are raised. The investigation reveals the North Koreans have the Mayhem weapon and are holding Ricky's daughter. The reintroduction of Jennifer Kim, Granger's daughter and former North Korean sply was insightful. It allowed a terrorist element with the North Koreans, as well as bringing back a recurring guest and paying homage to the late, great Assistant Director. SLXL

The retrieval of the weapon is very much secondary to the characters and their journey to saving Ricky's daughter. The quick repartee and banter endears the English ex-crims as solid characters and the team work well with them.  There are several moments which linger, such as when Sam (AKA rapper LL Cool J) says "Enough of the rhyming, all right? I hate rhyming," triggering some curious looks from his team. Jennifer Kim probably has the most interesting lines. She spectacularly misreads Ricky, challenging him by not believing he even raised his daughter, about which he proves her wrong. This is followed up in the final scene with her and Callen at a British bar. Their conversation turns to family and of course her father, and Jennifer states that you know who you are through knowing your parents. It was touching and bittersweet, knowing their similar family histories.

The 'Guy Ritchie' style lent the episode a feature film feel. Unfortunately, NCISLA episodes last 42 minutes and the plot was compacted, ably assisted with the split screens and use of the voice-over (for example prepping for and the arrival at the casino). This also created an element of fun, which is not to the detriment of the episode, unlike last week. Character was of utmost importance even though the focus was not on the development of any of the main cast, and the stolen weapon was of no real interest at all. In fact Callen only mentioned in passing to Jennifer at the end, that it had been retrieved. Overall, this was a blood marvellous episode, co-written by Frank Military, Kate D Martin & Englishman Terence Nightingall, who was also director.  And coincidentally, actor Steve Valentine (Frankie) runs a company called Bloody Brilliant Productions...

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