NCIS: Los Angeles S11E08 Review

Until recent episodes, season 11 has been a little hit and miss. The first few episodes were fine, but suffered from the distraction of the JAG characters and a fragmented team with missing characters. Several have featured some peculiar humour and the remaining ones have been of a notably higher standard. Human Resources continues the trend and is an excellent episode, featuring the whole team working on the same case and sharing scenes. The case itself is clever with plenty of action as the team investigates the disappearance of a Navy Lieutenant after a car crash, whose missing laptop is accessed and confidential files of retired Navy SEALS stolen. There is also a healthy dose of humour and some interesting reflections from an unlikely source - all key ingredients for a great episode of NCIS: Los Angeles.

It's been a while since there has been an opening bull-pen scene that features both sets of partners and it made a very welcome return this week. Deeks was in fine form with another craze, a twenty day challenge of not complaining, which of course became a running joke throughout with all characters getting in on the act.  

Kensi: You know what, I have an idea?
Deeks: Yeah?
Kensi: Why don't you try the 20-Day No Annoying challenge?
Deeks: 20 days? Sweetheart, we ain't gonna make it 20 minutes!

Deeks continued his thread of crazy fun in the next scene, swinging his legs wildly on outside gym equipment and throwing 'out of the box' scenarios to explain what may have happened to the missing Navy Lieutenant. The other stand-out humorous scene took place in a car rental office, between Kensi, Deeks and the owner who was delightfully oblivious to, well, everything.
Callen: I mean, part of the reason we do this is to protect those we care about, the very people that make us vulnerable.
Sam: Easier when you're operating solo.
Callen: Hell yeah. Nobody could hold anything over me 'cause I had nothing. Now..
Sam: Having people you love makes it all the more worth fighting for. What brought this on?
Callen: Hold on... 

There was little if anything in the way of humour from Sam or Callen, no pithy or sarcastic comments from Callen for Sam to play off against. Instead there was a very serious and reflective tone, particularly from Callen. Conversations about suspect Zachary Vale frequently revolved around his lone wolf status and coupled with Callen's sudden introspection, it is possible this is foreshadowing events to come (maybe in 'Mother' due to air on 1st December where Hetty's life is in danger)? Even Sam questioned Callen's sudden one-man-army plan to avoid the risk of both of them being blown up. The episode's closure provides a lovely bookend to the opening bullpen scene with the team all together again, this time in Deeks' bar, the Squid and Dagger. Callen seems to be the only one who likes his Oyster based stout and is in a decidedly reflective mood, stating that he's thankful for his very talented co-workers, an out of character comment which is acknowledged verbally by Sam and through the facial expressions of Kensi and Deeks. 

Callen: I'm grateful that we took care of business today. I am grateful for luxurious accommodations upstairs and then I am grateful for my very talented coworkers.
Sam: Never heard you say that.
Callen: Well, I don't have to say it, 'cause I think it.
Kensi: Well, here is to the thoughts of G. Callen.

The case of the week was extremely well thought out and featured a twist where the Navy Lieutenant's diabetes app was hacked to control his insulin levels and leave him pliable to accessing the confidential data on his laptop. It certainly was a fresh take on hacking and manipulation techniques.  There was also plenty of action, including the explosion of the pick-up truck belonging to former SEAL Tom Olsen (Daniela Ruah's real life husband and brother of Eric Christian Olsen) and a terrific fight scene with Kensi, who aptly stated, (once she had successfully won the fight and was cuffing the bad guy), 'that's why you don't fight girls'. The fight scene took place whilst Sam and Callen were painstakingly clearing rooms in the abandoned school of bombs, looking for Vale which was quiet and intense, reflecting the real fear both field agents felt against an unstable and clever opponent. For once there was no clear motivation for the villain's crimes, with misdirections on both a Christian slant and his connections to Al Qaeda. In a further twist, Vale was playing Al Qaeda - he was purely motivated by greed. He was simply after the money he could collect by assassinating former SEALs. It was also notable that the homeless witness was actually a young man with autism and it was reassuring the misconceptions and stereotypes associated with both autism and diabetes, were not played to with either portrayal.

The key characters of Hetty and Eric are still absent, yet with the rest of the main cast used to their full potential in this episode, they were barely missed. Both were referenced by Nell during conversations with the field agents although there was no explanation as to where Hetty is, or a reminder of Eric's 'freelancing' at a tech firm in San Francisco. It is this lack of information which underlines that there is no over-arching storyline yet running through season 11. There may be some recurring characters but there is no sense of purpose for the team, no long term focus. The stand alone episodes have improved dramatically over recent weeks and hopefully a longer term subplot will be revealed soon to help push the season along so it reaches its full potential.  Having said that, Human Resources was a really fantastic stand-alone episode, with high quality writing by Joe Sachs and direction from James Hanlon.

A Virtual Scrawl

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