NCIS: Los Angeles S11E21 Review

Once again the run of solid episodes for the mid to second half of the season has been interrupted. Last week was the odd characterisation of Sam and over-the-top FBI guest character.  This week, although the case is actually relevant, the characters are still a little off, as are the partnerships.

The biggest issue with A Murder of Crows is the splitting up of the Kensi / Deeks partnership for the second week running.  Kensi is again paired with Fatima and unlike last week where Deeks broke his toe (which has miraculously healed in record time), there is no reason given as to why he is not partnering his wife in the field.  The chain of command is very hazy. No one is running ops as both Hetty and Nell are absent and Callen has not given any orders about a partner switch. In reality actor Eric Christian Olsen is taking temporary leaves of absence to work on TV shows with his production company. The compromise is that Deeks is still in (most episodes) but his availability and the filming schedule dictates his scenes are limited, whether in time or in location. Sometimes this is an opportunity to freshen up an episode, to change the dynamics (Deeks and Callen have partnered successfully several times in recent seasons).  Unfortunately A Murder of Crows is the second episode in a row where there is a the lack of Kensi/Deeks scenes due to them not partnering up in the field.

Instead, Kensi is with Fatima and naturally their relationship and chemistry is very different.  Ignoring the fact Kensi and Deeks are husband and wife, the pair share a very easy-going relationship, their banter bounces seamlessly off each other, much like Sam and Callen (more of that later).  Kensi’s partnership with Fatima involves a lot of sensible talking and mentoring.  It is reassuring to see Kensi impart her knowledge and experience to a junior agent and it will be an interesting comparison to how Sam will train his protégé (presumably Devin Rountree). It is also refreshing to see that Fatima readily admits she’s struggling with work/life balance and that she is not ashamed or embarrassed about the issues. She is not bottling up emotions which makes her positively normal  in comparison to the rest of the team. Countering Fatima’s seriousness is Kensi’s jovial demeanour. It is almost as though she compensating for the lack of Deeks in her scenes.  Deeks of course has plenty of opportunity to be his normal, talkative and quick-witted self.  His scenes are bookended with him and Eric, in what is now a truly blossoming bromance. Sometimes Deeks’ advice on Eric’s speech came across as patronising - but then sometimes Eric comes across as an idiot!  On the whole they always end up in a good place, like their hug last week, and Deeks’ encouragement to Eric on his speech this week.

The case of the week was actually naval related. Not only that but it involved staff from other NCIS branches.  The team investigate missing NCIS Special Agent  after a attempt is made on the life of his former partner, ex-NCIS Technical Operator Rhea Moretti. The team explore the possibility he’s been selling classified information or whether he has been kidnapped or killed. The team flip back and forth in their opinions and overall the episode is a positive reinforcement of NCIS. It is a straight forward case with little tension and certainly no dark tones which makes it rather bland. The team certainly have more respect for their own then when working with any other alphabet agency. That being said, Moretti is an awful character. The former agent is now a wanna-be comedian, dying badly on stage. Her bullish, blunt attitude is downright rude, something realised by Kensi/Deeks whereas Fatima said she like her. Maybe it’s generational?  She was relentless in her quick comments, always having an answer and it seems she was there to work as a foil for Deeks, as they shared the most scenes. Her know-it-all attitude did not work and it was an absolute delight to see Deeks make verbal comebacks that shut her up. The question of why a tech operator was sent undercover is an unknown and at least this serves to normalises Eric’s occasional foray in the field.  As a former NCIS Tech Operator, she makes Eric look positively normal. The is a general move to portray young female characters as sassy, mouthy and with attitude. This does not make them strong women. It makes them rude and obnoxious and Eric normally suffers the brunt of this in Ops.

Dotted throughout the team’s investigation and various interactions with Moretti, there is still some curious behaviour from Sam towards Callen. This is not as pronounced as last week; Sam is not overly rude and is still not interested in Callen’s personal life.  If certain comments were said with a cheeky smile or a wicked glint in Sam’s eyes, it would give their scenes a different slant. Callen seems to almost be in the honeymoon phase of his relationship with Anna Kolcheck, looking to buy property together although there might be some rumblings of discord; he was not enthused when he recounted to Sam that Anna, the tough, independent former ATF agent wants the all American apple-pie life. It is not a stretch that Anna wants the white picket fence idyllic home or that Callen feels ready to put down roots. The question is how will Anna occupy her days? Back with a Federal Agency or baking cakes and hosting dinner parties  The latter is certainly not in character for either Anna or Callen. Interestingly it was a nice call-back to the fact Kensi can’t cook, when she suggested cooking classes to Fatima.

This was an improvement on last week’s episode, which admittedly didn’t take much. There was potential in the plot that wasn’t realised and instead focused on humour from Moretti that was not to the taste of many.  The biggest disappointment came from the lack of energy injected when Kensi and Deeks are together replaced by the pedestrian conversations between Fatima and Kensi. Fatima, whilst she is capable in the field, she is better suited to Ops, replacing Nell as an analyst and supporting Eric. The highlight of A Murder of Crows were two particularly sweet scene transitions, the first being from a picture of a house on the screen in Ops, which becomes the house Sam and Callen pull up outside. The second is much later, when Callen peeks through a broken window pane and spies the missing NCIS agent unconscious and the camera moves through the crack and into the scene. The next episode is Code of Conduct, the earlier than planned season finale (due to COVID-19) written and directed by Frank Military. His episodes rarely disappoint.

A Virtual Scrawl

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