NCIS: Los Angeles S12E03 Review


There are effectively three permanent cast members missing at the moment, with reminders of two covered in the ‘previously on NCIS: Los Angeles’. Hetty is AWOL with Nell covering her position as Acting Operations Manager, and Eric is on an extended vacation.  Deeks too is out of action as LAPD is undertaking an internal review to avoid public defunding, resulting in the suspension of all liaison positions. This was his opening scene with Kensi, who suggested he attends FLETC and becomes an NCIS agent. But Deeks is on a downer and believes he’d be shipped off to the other side of the world.  His return to LAPD manages the viewers expectations for minimal appearances over coming episodes (note in real life this allowed actor Eric Christian Olsen to spend time with his newly born daughter).

‘Angry Karen’ opens with Nell talking Sam in as he waits to meet a whistle blower with information vital to national security. Unfortunately the whistle blower, Donald Harris attempts to run Sam down, propelling himself through the windscreen of his car in the process.  The team proceed to investigate why he tried to kill Sam, and what information he was due to divulge. 

This is a busy episode with numerous settings covered by the various team members, clearly a luxury now afforded with a large team.  Rountree is stationed at the hospital, Sam and Callen team up at certain points but split to interview Harris’ roommate and the missing accountant’s Captain respectively. Kensi also relishes working solo for once, although she later partners with Fatima.   Despite this constant movement, the plot is not complex and the investigations are easy to follow, which makes Nell’s purpose in this episode rather perplexing. She repeatedly recaps and summarises information from previous scenes to characters such as Kensi and Callen. This is an unnecessary break in the storytelling only serves as padding - although maybe the team were having trouble with their earwigs as they were using their cells more than usual! 

There was some great character moments as expected from writer/showrunner R. Scott Gemmill. Rountree spent most of the episode bored during his hospital duty and, with his burgeoning kinship with other newbie Fatima, he called her to say he was bored and hungry! His shining moment came when he challenged a nurse with a face mask, stating “I’m a federal agent big dawg” and chased him into an elevator with a trolley.  Likewise Callen’s best moment - which also happened to be the funniest - was his greeting to the ‘human directionalist’ (AKA man twirling a sign dressed as a lizard), and whose tail came off when Callen stood on it.  He also raised his hackles to Sam, before the big guy landed a punch. Kensi’s ‘gnome violence’ joke was retold to Deeks in the bar and her laughing at her own jokes and Deeks’ reaction was perfect and so natural.

Running alongside the case is the theme of development.  Callen shows Fatima how to connect IT equipment to a car and extract information from the car, a task Eric would usually undertake and certainly a skill Callen rarely has a chance to demonstrate.  Nell is experiencing a crisis of confidence and repeatedly doubts herself.  She babbles away to Sam who really just states the obvious to her, that she is capable and doing a fine job. There is no questioning why she sent Sam to a meet without Callen as back up and at no point is it referenced that the team were pressuring Callen to take Hetty’s job.  This is very different to the overly self-assured Nell who was introduced in season 2 however the potential which Hetty originally saw is clearly still present - and Nell is proving her right even if she questions her own abilities. The closing scene sees Callen approaching Nell’s (aka Hetty’s) desk, just as he has done with Hetty in the past. There is no animosity, just a gentle rebuke that she hasn’t offered him a drink.   

‘Angry Karen’ suffers from a lack of cohesion, despite Nell’s attempt at being the glue which holds them together. The separation of the team results in an unusual lack of energy in certain scenes, for example Sam’s interview with the housemate suffers with him unable to play off Callen. Likewise there is no bullpen banter or post-case drinks for the field agents at The Squid & Dagger. The main action of a car chase and gunfight is reserved for the climax, with Callen throwing himself out of the Charger to come up behind the Navy Commander to point a gun at the back of his head. There is a notably low body count in season 12, most likely linked to both budget constraints and the tempering down of the use of violence by law enforcement. This has resulted in a shift in the style of storytelling. Gone is the frenetically  paced, action packed episodes and instead there a pedestrian feel with a focus on the investigation. In the past, slower episodes have been character focused (not present here) and this new version of NCIS: Los Angeles will take some getting used to.


Note: ‘Angry Karen’ is pejorative slang for an angry, demanding white woman and was the name given to the fictional weapon which was duping the navy out of millions.

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