NCIS: Los Angeles S11E20 Review

The first part of season 11 was rather hit and miss, with a episodes that were excruciatingly painful, in particular Provenance and Concours d’Elegance which introduced Sam’s new love interest Katherine Casillas.  Both were written by Jordana Lewis Jaffe, who’s episodes are easily recognisable due to unrealistic plots, outlandish and unfunny humour and over-the-top guest characters.   Jaffe also penned Knock Down, which not only features the aforementioned trademarks but also has the misfortune of presenting some of the main cast as out-of-character.  Remember that NCIS: Los Angeles can boast of minimal cast changes over their eleven seasons. Suffice to say long term fans have a pretty solid handle on how these characters behave, both psychologically and physically.

Special Agent Sam Hanna is the victim of Jaffe’s pen on this occasion.  Since the series started, Sam has always been worried about Callen; his (lack of) love life, his mental well-being, his sense of self and identity, lone-wolf tendencies and his inability to open up and talk about his feelings.  Sam actually managed to get Callen to tackle all of these subjects in the Christmas episode Answers (brilliantly written by Kyle Harimoto).  Now all of that has been undone with no explanation as to why Sam has gone from caring about his partner and his well-being, to refusing to enter into a conversation initiated by Callen, who wants to talk about his enlightening holiday with Anna Kolcheck.

Much as Callen can be aloof and distant, he is also playful and mischievous with a love of winding up Sam.  The bullpen is long established as a setting where the team gently banter with each other and so Callen teasing his partner about wanting to know all the details, and Sam refusing to take the bait was at first amusing.  The feeling quickly changed when it became apparent that Sam was really not interested. Why? Who knows - their interaction was disrupted with a case.  Other opportunities were later presented, particularly when in Sam’s car where again Sam shuts Callen down.  He does not want to know what Anna said to Callen that has enlightened him and does not appear happy that Callen is genuinely happy with his life. Maybe Sam is thinking that Callen has been here before. Once he was happy with Joelle, telling Sam about going to certain restaurants and trying different foods.  Maybe Sam now thinks the other shoe will drop?  This is highly unlikely, taking into account the lengths Sam went to make Callen realise how much he feels for Anna.  The same occurs in the Squid and Dagger where the team gather after the case.  Sam still scorns Callen’s need to tell someone about his holiday (has he ever even had a holiday before?), rolling his eyes and saying he’s bailing, as Callen begins to tell Kensi. What has changed?  Nothing - explicitly at least.  Sam bailed to visit his Katherine which is fair enough (he did not share this with the team, but Callen is aware they’re dating).  Even trying to read between the lines, this is no reason why Sam should behave as he did towards Callen.

Kensi is another character who had a very unusual line which stood out. When exercising in the gym with Fatima, she comments that they [Deeks]  never change it up and she likes working out with Fatima. Initially this comment related to their exercises which in itself is odd as over the years Kensi and Deeks have engaged in a wide variety of workouts.  She then continues to say that away from the action of their day job, they are CPAs (certified public accountants) by night, meaning boring. It is really not clear if this is a complaint or merely a passing comment?  The couple seem as happy as ever even if Kensi did leave a box in the hallway which caused Deeks to break his toe!

This of course meant that Deeks was not in the field and instead had the run of the mission, spending most of his time harassing Eric.  Again, this was amusing at first, trying to get Eric to open up about missing Nell who has taken a leave of absence.  The problem was that Eric was coping very well and focused on his job. Deeks was relentless in his task, disrupting Eric and being a little too much in his face. It was a welcomed respite when Eric put Deeks in his place by asking about his broken toe. When they eventually had an honest talk, Deeks was surprised to hear Eric was actually envious that Nell may be leaving and revealed his own job offers. Deeks has been voicing his thoughts on leaving NCIS and law enforcement on and off for years now, does he really think no one else has similar thoughts, albeit for different reasons? Once again the episode is reinforcing the potential for change but there is nothing new. Eric has said these things before, Nell has only temporarily left. Maybe this is purely to tie up loose ends in case the show is not renewed for a twelfth season (note with steady viewing stats, it is considered a safe bet for renewal).  

The plot of Knock Down is a non-starter.  The DOJ asked the DOD to ask NCIS to investigate after an FBI safe house is set on fire whilst hosting a Venezuelan political activist seeking asylum in the US.  Over-the-top guest character FBI Agent Audrey Rush is reintroduced (originally seen heavily pregnant in High Society, the first episode of 2020). She’s had her baby and is back at work in a constant fluster and pumping breast milk in front of Kensi and Fatima. This could be considered progressive in such a liberal age, however it is somewhat unprofessional when in a meeting (albeit a casual briefing).. Of course the moment allows Kensi to be genuinely curious about aspects of motherhood, which Rush portrays as a rather unpleasant event. She names her child Cash as a constant reminder of how much money will be spent, mentions her lack of bladder control and there an inexplicable scene where in the background she exaggeratedly attempts and fails to fit and tighten a girdle. Why? Is that a Hollywood thing? Rush has clearly rushed back to work too soon and is not coping, unless she is really inept. Adapting to motherhood would have been a great sub plot for Kensi to latch on to; instead Rush is portrayed as ridiculous and incompetent. At least the female fire chief demonstrated that a woman can actually be normal and achieve a career (whether she has a family or not is unknown).  She is strong, sarcastic and has Sam’s number, much to Callen’s amusement.  She is also portrayed as extremely proficient.

Returning to character curiosities and continuing with plot concerns, FBI Agent Rush’s boss breezes in and assumes authority, spiriting the political activist away from under the noses of Kensi and Fatima in the boatshed (they were distracted by a call). Would an experienced agent really have allowed that to happen? At one point a subplot about an FBI mole was touted by various characters, even considering the FBI boss.  This was conveniently forgotten shortly after his exit. Likewise the arson angle, which Sam and Callen were pursuing was brushed under the carpet as the fires had been set by a fire fighter from the department sent to extinguish them.  The plot was incohesive and overall there were too many frustrations with the characters and plot for this to be considered a good episode.  If it is setting the seeds for a rift in the partnership between Sam and Callen then whilst it may have done that, it currently seems like Sam has received a bump on the head causing a personality change. Hopefully, normal service will be resumed in the next episode.

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