NCIS: Los Angeles S11E17 Review

Watch Over Me continues the trend of recent seasons to feature recurring - and new - guest stars who have found fame in other walks of life. This week ex-boxing legend Evander Holyfield makes a cameo and pro wrestler Bill Goldberg's recurring character of DOJ Agent Lance Hamilton returns.  The case of the week is fairly run of the mill. An FBI officer is shot dead while attempting to locate missing FBI Agent Devin Rountree, who's undercover as a body guard for people smuggler Brendan Spitz. When a connection is established between Spitz and NCIS person of interest Ryan Usman, (suspected of recruiting for terrorist group Al Shabaab),  the team are called in to assist the search.   

Immediately noticeable is the rather long 'previously on NCIS: Los Angeles', recapping on Anna Kolcheck and Callen, last week's case involving Fatima and the team's rescue mission, and reminding the audience of Lance Hamilton. The purpose is revealed very early on. Callen is in Ops early, viewing Anna's Most Wanted page on the FBI website. When Nell enters and questions Callen, she is clearly aware that Callen knows exactly where Anna is, even though he lies to her about this. Fatima is in Ops after Hetty has requested she be permanently moved to the team, and with Deeks called back to LAPD, Kensi partners up with Lance as the DOJ are taking an active interest in the case. If the show had a more serialised approach rather than episodic the longish reminders would become less necessary (even NCIS adopts a more serialised approach). 

Callen and Fatima work well together, canvassing the crime scene whilst Kensi and Lance work with FBI Special Agent Cejudo, whose partner was shot dead. It is no surprise when Cejudo turns out to be a corrupt agent, particularly after shooting a suspect when clearing a house. The question is then asked of whether Rountree is too, when he is identified as the shooter after escaping from Fatima and Callen. Rountree is only properly introduced at the episode's closure as prior to that he is just a missing FBI agent. Eric empathises with him, referencing his own experience in San Francisco but this doesn't serve to build empathy with an unknown character. This leads in to a lack of urgency about locating the missing agent and more of a concern in locating Spitz as the (then) suspected murderer. The situation changes with the gun fight in the vacant supermarket, where Rountree is holed up and injured. The scene is dark and confusing, with the team trying to save him, while Cejudo's fellow rogue agents try to kill him. It adds to the sudden intensity and mirrors Rountree's confusion about who to trust. The first glimpse of his personality comes when Sam and Callen see him before he leaves for the hospital. He has an easy going manner which the NCIS agents build on and jest with him. There is a look from Sam to Callen, inferring that he is an agent with potential, which of course is part of Sam's master plan for change.

Both Fatima and Lance fit in well with the established cast which is useful as Fatima is now a regular cast member. The absence left by Deeks is felt in the lack of natural banter that makes him and Kensi perfect partners. Lance is growing as a character; for example there are jokes about his yoga mat, but at the end of the day - he is just not Deeks. Sam is also absent for part of the episode as his son Aiden is in town. The best scene in the episode is the pair of them walking and talking on the beach about Aiden's acceptance in to pre-flight school. The calmness of the beach makes Sam's words to Aiden, that his mother would have been proud, even more poignant.   

Callen naturally takes on a mentoring role in his partnership with Fatima and he allows her the space to voice her thoughts and make her own decisions. He is concerned over her recovery from being held in captivity, evidently playing on her mind when she touches the healing scar on her face. This nod to continuity in terms of injuries is not always consistent in NCISLA and is a welcome change here. A discussion over whether fast food can even qualify as food is reminiscent of conversations Callen has with Sam, with Fatima pointing out that disliking fast food is not connected to being wealthy (she's from Beverly Hills), rather a desire to be healthy. Callen is also left out in the cold when only Fatima is invited on to the boat of a man with CCTV footage, who doesn't trust 'the man' and lives off the grid. Humorous and ironic, given Callen's own stance on social media and his sometimes paranoia.

Eric is once again a contradiction. He is a bumbling fool in the early boxing scene (has he previously had all his intelligence knocked out of him?). It is genuinely funny when Sam throws a punch that misses the mitt entirely when Eric leans down to answer his phone (which is on the the floor), causing Sam to almost fall over him. Thankfully, he reverts back to his old, sensible self whilst working with Nell from ops for the remainder of the episode. 

Despite the lack of Deeks and Hetty - the latter is now expected - the episode is still solid and enjoyable. The temporary pairings work well and there is the wonderful scene between Sam and his son. Yet again, there is a nod to the future and to coming changes with Fatima joining the team, and the possibility that Rountree is the young agent Sam has been looking for.

A Virtual Scrawl

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