NCIS: Los Angeles Season 11 Episode 14 Review

In ‘Commitment Issues’, the team investigates the murder of a former Naval warfare officer, now working for a start-up tech company in LA. The company is building an internet search engine for China, full of censorship and funded by the same shell company that backed the tech firm Eric Beale was working for in San Francisco. Written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe (who has a tendency towards the ridiculous - and not in a good way), hopes were not high.  The low expectations were met with the embarrassing portrayal of Eric and the smarmy recurring character of high-end insurance broker, Katherine Casillas. 

Eric has been the Technical Operator since the backdoor pilot. He was a great character, intelligent with a slightly whacky sense of humour, however as the seasons progressed, he has developed into a neurotic and over the top caricature.  His immaturity is set up at the start with his awkward and babbling encounter with Nell and Callen.  As soon as he learns the case is connected to the same Chinese faction who tried to kill him in San Francisco, he has a meltdown. To a certain extent this is understandable as he is not a field agent, however he was presumably psychologically assessed post-mission and deemed fit to work.  Except he is not.  He channels his emotions into excessive exercise and wantonly neglects his duties, potentially putting the team at risk.  It takes Kensi, talking to Eric as if he were a child, to get him to refocus on the case and from this point forward, Eric has a personality transplant and reverts to normality.

Thankfully, there is no exaggeratedly ridiculous guest character although once again, Katherine features in the case.  She was first introduced by Lewis Jaffe earlier this season in Provenance and this is now her fourth appearance with more to come.  She is omnipresent and has her fingers in many pies: modern art insurance, high-end sports cars insurance and auctions, fashion show and is now on the board of directors for the start-up company.  She is deliberately obstructive, causing all to be suspicious of her secret-keeping.  At one point the latter is arrested and interrogated and still withholds information from the team.  No reason or explanation is given, which strongly suggests she has a superiority complex and withholding knowledge is the power she can and does exert over NCIS.  Katherine is seen to have redeemed herself when Miguel (manager of start-up) reveals it was her idea to build defective code so from Chinese government IP addresses, internet searches would be censored, but not for the Chinese public.  There is no thought to the repercussions once the Chinese would discover the deception, and no empathy or emotion from Katherine that her involvement helped cause a man to be murdered.  The so-called redemption of Katherine allows Sam (who throughout the episode had been in conflict with her), the opportunity to move forward with their relationship.  

Another recurring guest is NCIS Special Agent Nicole DeChamps who takes an instant dislike to Katherine. Her presence has previously seen her paired up with Sam and there had been hints of a chemistry between the two.  The close bond is still present, yet there is no jealousy when she realises Sam’s interest in Katherine.  DeChamps effectively gives Sam the green light to press ahead, and Katherine again uses words as a powerful tool to get Sam what he wants - a dinner date with her.  It is a big step forward for Sam, although his rebound from his wife’s death (she was a loyal, moral, honest, genuine and brave woman) is extreme!  Sam is an honourable man whose ability to empathise is key to his success as an agent.  Katherine needs to soften so she can be seen as a worthy and believable love interest for Sam.

DeChamps has always been portrayed as serious and by-the-books, yet here she shows a looser side to her character. She banters well with the boys and is unusually jovial.   The ‘pinky-promise’ with Nell in Ops though was a step too far outside of her established personality.  She is also used to prompt Callen into revealing his challenge with commitment issues (albeit Sam verbalises this for him). There are humorous moments when Callen states there’s nothing layered about him or Sam. Is he merely presenting himself as ‘normal’ to DeChamps to avoid further questions or is he just fooling himself?  This is somewhat reminiscent of his conversation in the season opener with former JAG character Captain Harmon Rabb, where Callen claimed to be completely emotionally available at all times.  As always, such statements are open to interpretation and discussion.

Arguable the best bits of the episode focused around Kensi and Deeks.  Firstly their encounter with the owner of the book store where the murder took place was so much fun. Carla is a middle aged woman who is ‘super-salty’ as described by Deeks. She speaks her mind, has firm and misguided views about hippies and the youth who took to the stage for a poetry event.  Deeks coaxed her to detail her reading habits, revealing the link between the number of books she reads and her moods/life situations.  And as mentioned earlier, Kensi verbally whipping Eric into returning to his workstation, and Deeks’ reaction to Kensi’s assertiveness was another highlight.

Overall this will not go down as one of the best episodes of NCIS: Los Angeles, however it was by no means the worst, despite various plot holes and questionable characterisations.  It was good to see a link back to Eric's big episode (but not his reaction) and there was plenty of foreshadowing for next week's episode which features the return of Anna Kolcheck.

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