NCIS: Los Angeles S12E06 Review

If The Fates Allow is NCISLA’s Christmas episode and in keeping with seasonal episodes of recent years, it dispenses with the sickly saccharine and instead offers a multitude of bitter-sweet moments. The episode is written by Andrew Bartels who has carved a niche in Callen-centred storylines, but also drives all characters forward, and so expectations are set. The opening sees an African-American husband and wife, Raymond and Paula Lewis, merrily driving at night until they’re stopped by a white border patrol officer. There is immediate concern for their safety, (given recent tensions in America following the death of George Floyd), that the scene will degenerate into an unprovoked shooting, and indeed the officer does pull his weapon. Thankfully Bartels does not venture down this route, instead focusing on the drugs hidden in Paula’s oxygen tanks. Post opening credits and the subplots are set up for the main characters. Kensi and Deeks’ dream of buying a house is at risk now Deeks’ position at NCIS has been terminated. Sam’s teenage daughter Kamran returns from military academy and Nell is preparing for Eric’s first appearance this season. The case forms the backdrop for all this after Hetty wrangles the it away from the DEA and assigns it to Callen, as he and Raymond were once foster brothers.

Callen’s family history has been thoroughly explored, from his inner turmoil of identity issues, to the fleshing out of his parents, finding his name and his father and discovering he has a half sister and nephew. His professional past has briefly been touched on, and his childhood in foster care is occasionally referenced. The snippets of his childhood, coupled with the key flashback to a fifteen year old Callen in Rage (S6) do not paint a happy picture. He blames himself for Raymond’s arrest when they were foster brothers and Callen’s guilt is palpable as he waits in dreaded anticipation for Ray to recognise him. When he does, confusion reigns as Ray is genuinely happy to see him.

Their story unfolds in several flashbacks dotted throughout the episode. A young Callen is bullied by a school kid and Ray pays the bully a night time visit, beats him up and is arrested. Callen believes he is responsible and that Ray holds him accountable. It is an unnecessary guilt which he has carried with him all these years. The Callen shown in flashback here (who cannot be any younger than ten), does not know how to look after himself and is presented as a normal child. It is difficult to reconcile this young Callen with the teen version from Rage, based on information give in previous seasons.

Callen witnessed a foster father beat his foster brother to death whilst he did nothing (Keepin’ it Real, S1). When he was ten he took the broom handle another foster dad was using to beat him, and broke it over his back (Reznikov, N. S5). Hetty admitted he was a challenging child (Deadline, S3) as she sought to find him a family, and life calmed for the three months he spent at the Rostoff’s as a twelve/thirteen year old (Pushback, S1). By his mid-teens, he rarely attended class (Reign Fall, S6), culminating in him running away from his last foster family and robbing a storage locker. He was sent to a juvenile detention centre, where he later escaped, stole a car and deliberately crashed it into two police cruisers (Rage, S7).

Presumably at some point following Ray’s arrest, Callen was placed in an abusive home which became the catalyst for change, forcing him to stand up to bullies and abusers, to help others and to take care of himself.

Ray and Callen may share a similar past however their characters contrast greatly. Ray spent time in an adult prison and was released with no prospects. He went to church, heard the voice of an angel, fell in love and is happily married. Callen was saved from prison by Hetty, moulded into a career as a spy and federal agent. He still has trust issues, cannot open up emotionally and doesn’t fall in love easily. Ray has come to terms with and accepted his past. He has moved on which has allowed him to fall in love and be open with his emotions. He even made contact with their foster parents and asked about Callen. In contrast Callen is still defined by his past, always wary of opening up as it makes him vulnerable. Even though Callen is at ease in Ray’s company he remains somewhat guarded, for example he never tells Ray his first name, just lets him continue to call him G. He admits thinking about Ray but never made an effort to look him up. But Ray's words about relationships seem to hit home and Callen can finally see what his future could hold. Any such commitments will have to wait though, as Anna is not coming home for Christmas as the volunteers are behind in their work.

There really is something for fans of all characters as this is not just about Callen. Kensi and Deeks are still discussing house buying and Deeks is once again on a downer, only this time he is more of a realist, which makes Kensi listen. Last week Kensi was ‘all in’ with buying a house and starting fertility treatment, however since then Deeks has lost his liaison position and is furloughed, and of course Kensi now has her psychopathic stalker Kessler on the loose. The comedic moments are sweet as Kensi gently mocks Deeks for doing the maths which confirms they cannot afford the house, morphing into sadness as the truth of their finances start to hit home. Deeks says what pretty much the whole world has been thinking. “2020 sucks”.

Sam has his own personal dilemma with the return of Kamram who is now a teenager and a chip off the old block. She swims from Venice to her father’s boat to surprise him. Their conversations show how independent and driven she is, just like her father and brother, asking only for her father to support on an application to Annapolis and nothing more. The real issues materialise when Sam wants Kam to meet Katherine which instantly changes the mood. Sam may be ready to move on but his daughter is not. Sam’s concerns are probably not helped by Katherine’s response when he calls to tell her the news, candidly recounting - with none of her previous arrogance or flamboyancy - that she once cut the brake lines on her mother’s boyfriend’s car...

Amongst the personal angst is the return of Eric Beale. He has been MIA, working in the far east on the technology he was developing last season in San Francisco. Nell orders Fatima to undertake some seemingly random audits and stock checks which are actually in preparation for Eric, whose grandiose entrance so just so...typically Eric. His eccentricity has grown tenfold (at least) and it turns out his technology has made him a billionaire! This of course feeds into Kensi and Deeks’ lack of money and in a scene which is so typically Deeks, who’s doing press ups whilst Kensi talks him into tapping up Eric. Eric may be rich but he still has a social conscience and has selflessly created a not for profit, using his money to solve the state’s homeless problem. This of course means Deeks cannot and does not ask for his money back, or for a loan. There is a question mark over both Eric’s relationship with Nell and his position at NCIS. Nell and Eric are amiable and there is no suggestion of romance. Interesting, Eric has returned wearing a visitor’s badge. Has he left his position as Technical Operator? Will he return as a consultant?

The episode draws to conclusion on a number of bittersweet notes. Callen is visibly moved by the love between Ray and Paula, and how he has taken ownership of his life decisions and put his past behind him. The next obvious step for Callen is to declare his love for Anna with a marriage proposal. This contrasts with Sam, alone in the boatshed calling his daughter and hanging up when she fails to answer. Deeks is next seen, also alone and clearly thinking about the future. Career-wise there is a huge question mark over Deeks. Last week Nell told him he was too old to attend FLETC and train to be a federal agent, and now Deeks is prepared to sell the bar to ensure they have enough money to fund their new home. Finally, Hetty appears on screen like the fairy Godmother and tells Deeks he shall go to FLETC - although he still has to actually pass the training!

If The Fates Allow references threads from previous episodes and it is encouraging to end the year and the first part of the season on a positive note for Deeks, and with bittersweet moments for the others . This continuity allows the season to flow in one direction and with a purpose which seemed to be lacking last season. The dive into the characters personal lives, against a backdrop of a case that drives forward Callen’s journey means this episode should please everyone. It also sets up new threads to be explored in the new year; Deeks’ training at FLETC, Callen’s relationship commitments and the possibility he and Anna will be searching for a new home if Deeks sells the bar. Sam’s faces parenting dilemmas with Kamran’s reluctance to accept Katherine, and what is Eric’s status as the Office of Special Projects?

2020 sucks, bring on 2021.

Oh, and on a side note, it was great to see Otis the sea-lion make an appearance!

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