NCIS: Los Angeles S11E16 Review

Alsiyadun is written by the NCISLA showrunner Scott Gemmill and features the return of both NCIS Special Agent Fatima Namazi and CIA Officer Sabatino.  Thrown in to the mix is the return of SEAL Chief Wallace and the acting debut of US rapper (?) 'Offset'.  And for an extra special treat, Hetty Lange makes an appearance.  The episode opens with a SEAL team breaching a property in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula,  only to be ambushed.  Amidst the chaos of explosions and gunfire, Fatima, accompanying the joint task force as an intelligence and cryptology expert, is separated and goes missing.  The team's mission is to locate and extract Fatima.

In week that ended with International Women's Day (8th March), much is made about how strong and resourceful Fatima is.  It is well established that Kensi - aka 'kick-ass Blye' - can hold her own with any guy, and has the sense to get shot whilst wearing a vest.  Nell has demonstrated her strength of character and resolve through her forays in to the field and lately, in coping with her mother's illness as well as her relationship with Eric, her lack of faith in Hetty, and her professional role in Ops.  Fatima was introduced last season in a boxing ring and has since taken down her share of bad guys in support of the team.  In Alsiyadun, the message about Fatima's character is drilled home.  Deeks reassures Hetty and himself, that Fatima is 'smart', 'highly skilled' and 'more than capable of taking care of herself'.  When Sabatino asks if she's tough, Callen replies with 'I think so'.  Kensi has a similar conversation with Hetty, stating she is strong and smart and references her own time in captivity.  Hetty is displaying a much more vulnerable side with her appearances this season, questioning whether her actions and live choices for others (e.g. in Mother) are right, and maybe that is why Kensi and Deeks independently have mini heart to hearts with her.  She almost feels a physical pain with Fatima's disappearance 'Oh God, why does it feel like a knife in my gut?'

Character affirmation comes from Fatima during captivity, where she is fearless.  With the exception of the opening and the confusion of the ambush, she is composed and resourceful (although it's unclear why she moved from her hiding place after the bad guys ran past her).  She is bold and defiant when captured, earning a few bruises, and she thinks on her feet to provide a civilian alias, rather than reveal her more valuable status as a federal agent.  It is t sill the men, the experienced field agents, Sam and Callen, alongside the CIA in the shape of Sabatino and undercover operative Kadri Kashan Khan (Offset), who rescue her.  Her super-human status takes a slight backseat as Fatima reveals a touch of vulnerability at the very end, when she calls her parents and the screen fades to black.

There is much to enjoy about the episode as the team race to find Fatima.  Sabatino is on fine form and sassy as hell with Sam and Callen, the banter flowing very naturally between them all.  In fact it seems that Sabatino has not had much contact with anyone, the amount he talks.  Also returning is SEAL Chief Wallace. He's in LA briefing Kensi and Deeks about the disastrous op in Egypt.  Their scenes are similar to the early scenes with Sabatino, discussing what went wrong and the validity of the intel.  The upshot is that trickles of information was received from varying sources that led to the ambush, with an operational leak.  At this point the show allows a small element of politics in, with Deeks commenting whether they have checked the president's Twitter feed.  Callen also mentions the op went ahead without verifying the intel as the White House wanted to stage another strongman PR event.  It is questionable whether such seemingly throw away comments on politics should be in an entertainment show.  In reality, it is a reflection of the current climate and fits with the scenarios and characters and in actuality, it may isolate a portion of the show's viewers.  At the end of the day, NCIS: Los Angeles is an entertainment show aimed at the masses, and everyone will have their own opinion.

The episode does not focus on the bad intelligence, the leak or the elusive high value target and these are quickly forgotten about.  While there is plenty of action in Egypt, in LA, Kensi and Deeks are limited in how they can assist. This allows for a  personal conversation between them about their future kids and the careers they would allow them to have, driven by Nell having to tell Fatima's parents about her kidnap and ransom demand.  The seriousness is tempered with a realisation they will be the worst parents, but at least their kids will have great hair and teeth!

There are some questionable elements to the episode. For example in what world does Nell think it's acceptable to take her federal laptop with highly classified material and brief Deeks in his public bar?  The same with Callen accessing his laptop and reviewing files in coach class on the plane. There is a sudden jump from Kensi and Deeks walking out of the Mission to them driving and continuing their conversation from Ops in the car, which has unusually noticeable fake backdrop.  For a newly recurring cast member, Fatima's parents were also introduced, filming a video about paying the ransom which Eric sent to various terrorist websites, and this level of visibility could potentially undermine any undercover work she may do. Her parents are presented as level headed, rather than hysterical with worry, cementing why Fatima is such a solid character. Her mother though, was not wearing hajib unlike her daughter who is clearly more devout in her faith. On a side note, Sabatino wears a wedding band...

Alsiyadun continues the mid-season trend of strong episodes and serves to forge more of a bond between the team and Fatima.  The banter in the field is great with some amusing one liners, mixed in with serious dialogue back in LA, the expected gun fight and explosions that result in the bad guys dying and the good guys saving the girl and all living to fight another day.

A Virtual Scrawl

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