NCIS: Los Angeles S11E11 'Answers' Review




In an episode entitled "Answers", there is a natural assumption that there will be, well, lots of  answers.  That is certainly how the CBS promotional clips presented this week's show, that many fans questions will be answered.  Trouble is there are a lot of fans and so many questions about each of the characters.  So how to decide which are the most important?  Veteran NCISLA writer Kyle Harimoto had the audacious task of deciding just that...which questions do the majority of fans care about?  How do you fit so much in-depth dialogue in to an episode, and just how much of an answer will be given?  Remember there is still the second half of the season to come, and of course the inevitable season 11 cliffhanger next May.  If all the answers are given now, there would be nothing left to tease or reveal later.

The first point is how the narrative structure of the episode will change to allow the necessary time and space for the characters to have such conversations.  The answer is to use a formula which was touched season in 'Searching', when Callen was shot in the leg during the opening, and the team then had the day off. That also allowed for some interesting conversations between Kensi and Deeks in their bar, Callen trying to bond with his nephew whilst Sam and Fatima assisted DOJ Agent Lance Hamilton on an op. 'Answers' also uses a cold open to conclude an unknown case. The team are undercover in the field, after some minor action the case is over and the team relax with breakfast at the Squid and Dagger, they are called back to work when Army CID Special Agent Evans has a strong lead on an impending large scale terror attack on either LA or Chicago. The team are on alert, ready go tactical, and are left hanging around the mission, waiting for the call to arms. This provides ample opportunity to pass the time by talking about their personal feelings, issues and concerns, conversations not usually seen onscreen (Kensi/Deeks excepted). The episode has a very different pacing than usual, particularly after the frenetic tempo of last week's 'Mother'.

The tone too changes with move to the Squid and Dagger, becoming much more sombre. Kensi asks the first and probably most important question that has been thought of by many fans. Is Hetty going to retire from NCIS? Hetty has not been consistently present for several seasons now, sometimes that has been covered through an underlying story arc, for example with her in Vietnam (S9), but frequently she is just absent, and referenced occasionally. Kensi also asks if Sam or Callen would step in to Hetty's role. Sam instantly states he has no interest and Callen deflects. He is adamant she is not going anywhere and is clearly in denial, in fact rather than discuss the matter further he excuses himself to the kitchen to get more breakfast.

From here on, the characters really branch off in to their pairs, the closeness allowing for frank conversations.  Kensi and Deeks' talk is a further development from Kensi's concern about possibly being pregnant earlier in the season.  These two have had countless conversations about marriage, children and careers, most of which have built on previous ones.  In S11E04 Yellow Jack, Kensi realised how much she does want a baby with Deeks. This is developed further here when for the third month Kensi has failed to fall pregnant. She verbalises her feelings and emotions, which are so true and valid and experienced by many women. Three months is not really that long but feels like an eternity. In a very telling line, Kensi reveals how frustrated she is about not being able to control her body, when her professional life is all about control and protocol. Deeks too opens up, admitting that he is terrified of everything involving children because of how he was brought up. They share the fear that they may have left it too late to have a baby together. The big news is that Kensi really is all in, and has grown tremendously over the seasons. However there is one big elephant in the room that was not addressed at all: what will Kensi and Deeks do when she falls pregnant and has the baby? Will Kensi be desk-bound? Will she leave NCIS or continue working? Will Deeks give up his career in law enforcement? The outcome would have a tremendous impact on the show as they are an integral part of the show's success and continuing attraction. On the plus side, Kensi is not yet having a baby so they remain on screen.

Callen and Sam's in-depth talk is something that is rarely seen, mainly as Callen has a tendency to shut Sam down as soon as it becomes personal. The entire team is suffering from lack of sleep which triggers some barbed words between Callen and Sam, leading to worrying talks about their future. Sam pushes Callen about why he doesn't want Hetty's job, with him admitting if he did, it would be permanent. Remember Callen has been harking back to his lone wolf days recently and now Sam has the key, that Callen can't handle permanency in his life, citing his relationship with Anna when Callen pushes back.  The pair come to verbal blows when Callen bites back that not everyone can be perfect like Sam, the heartbreaking moment comes when Sam says if he was perfect, his wife would still be alive. The guilt is written across Callen's face and he cannot apologise enough, and it is probably this guilt which allows Callen to open up a bit more to Sam.

Sam too opens up, talking about the future and the opportunities he has now he's on his own for the first time in many years.  He talks of his future, his vision as well as talking about Michelle and their kids. Just because he doesn't mention her doesn't mean he's not thinking of her or hurting. Sam admits he overcame the darkness he felt after her murder - he is not that kind of person at heart. Conversely if that was Callen or Deeks, the story would play out very differently. His revelation that he had considered leaving NCIS for the DOJ shook Callen, who even asked if Sam was the kind of person who would up and leave in the middle of the night. A true bromance!

Sam's talk of the future involves NCIS and it involves Callen, and he lays out his plans of finding raw young agents with potential, that he could mould and mentor out in the field, with Callen running the Operations by assuming Hetty's role, so they could make their team the best it could ever be. It is an interesting seed to plant, setting up the possibilities for several more seasons, taking into account Hetty's (impending) departure, the possibility of Kensi and/or Deeks becoming (temporarily absent) if/when they have children. It also lays the groundwork for the introduction of new team members, even if it is one every week until Sam finds the perfect recruit. The one person who springs to mind is Finn, the teenage boy Callen told he had 'potential', in a throwback to Hetty's words to a fifteen year old Callen.  It would be most fitting and delightfully completing a generational cycle, if this were to happen. What is worrying about this, is that Callen will take Hetty's job for Sam but not because he wants it for himself.

Both Kensi and Sam raise the point of promotion from within which makes perfect sense. How many times have outsiders come in and failed? Hunter, Granger (for a few seasons), Rogers and Mosley have all butted heads with the team and Callen in particular. However Callen is a great field agent and undercover operative and it would be a struggle for him not to be in the thick of the action and thinking on his feet.

Sam has a kind of tough love for Callen and often tries to force him to voice his thoughts although it seldom works. This time it does, twice! Callen is never seen with a shrink although Granger once underlined that he'd seen Callen's psych evaluations and confirmed he has issues! Repeatedly during the episode, Sam puts Callen in uncomfortable situations, particularly pressing him to discuss whether he wishes to have a relationship with Anna Kolcheck.

Callen: I just don't know what kind of relationship I would be even capable of having. I-I think a shrink could spend a year trying to unpack all the... 
Sam: That's because you don't know who you are.
Callen: What?
Sam: You spent your entire adult life trying to find your father and uncover your identity. You've done those things. Now you don't know who you are without that weight on your shoulders.

The original premise of NCIS: Los Angeles centred  around Callen and the search for his identity. Over the seasons he has found out about his family history and found living relatives so it is natural the show needs to develop his character in other ways. The above lines expand on the season 7 episode 'Head of the Snake', when Nate kidnaps Callen and challenges Callen that even though he knows his name, he does not know who he is. It certainly makes a change for Callen to reveal so much and 'Answers' manages this is a perfectly credible manner.

Finally Eric and Nell also experience their own heart to heart and basically, their relationship is a mess.  A lot is revealed here. Eric has moved out of their apartment as Nell's sister Sydney has temporarily moved in, and her mother is still extremely ill. Further to that Nell admits it was her idea for her sister to move in and Eric to move out. And Eric is fine with it. On the plus side, the pair are happy, but hopefully there will be no more appearances by Sydney, that would really be a negative. 

'Answers' was excellently directed by Frank Military. The transition between scenes and partners, all talking in different areas of the Mission, showed how connected yet disconnected they are their worries are. The case of the week is negligible and may go down in history as the quickest case ever. They still managed a quick action gunfight and the obligatory explosion, showing how quickly the team focus after their respective conversations. While some questions were answered, many were just verbalised and more questions generated, ranging from why Kensi remained in his stunning red dress for so long when cooking, and did she really cook the loco moto breakfast? On a serious note, there is now so much potential for the future which will start to play out as the second part of the season progresses early next year.


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