NCIS: Los Angeles S12E08 Review


In ‘Love Kills’, the team is dragged into an investigation involving a counterfeiting operation, which features the return of a female antagonist from season 9, and also sees recurring character Sabatino makes another appearance. DOJ Agent Lance Hamilton, mentioned only in name, asks the NCIS team to assist when a star witness shows up dead in a safe house.  Sabatino contacts Kensi about the same situation, and meets with Sam and Callen in the boatshed. While the team is investigating, Deeks is at FLETC, undergoing physical training and crime scene assessments.

This is a confusing episode on a number of levels. On the one hand the number of minor characters involved makes the case of the week a little hard to follow, )which admittedly improved with a second viewing).  On the other hand, the return of Sabatino with his witty one liners and interactions with multiple characters, really lifted the episode to a purely enjoyable level.  There is some great banter as expected between the partners, and Kensi provides an excuse about why Pietra beat her in a fight back in season 9.  Cramps and her period, which she took delight in telling Rountree. And then there is Deeks.

The biggest frustration of this episode is the ongoing subplot involving Deeks. The Deeks of recent seasons has questioned his career choice in law enforcement and challenged Kensi’s desire to remain honest to herself and remain an NCIS agent. They’ve had fiery debates about their future and parenthood.  Now they’ve moved past this and are ‘all in’ for starting a family and buying a family home, Deeks has had the choice of whether to leave law enforcement taken away. As per last week’s episode, this made him realise what he’s lost and cemented his desire to attend FLETC and becoming an NCIS agent. This week he is shown struggling with the physical aspect of the training, unable to keep up with the twenty-somethings on the run and struggling to tackle ‘gigantor’.  He is even caught snoozing in the back of a car when he and the other recruits are on a crime assessment.
He later comments in a call to Kensi that he’s struggling, he’s tired - of almost everything. He’s in a depressive state and Kensi’s fails to lift his spirits, even when referring to him as ‘Party Marty’. Deeks calls a reality check by stating Party Marty’s been dead for twenty years...

There is so much here which is contradictory to the established character of Deeks. Of course, he has verbal diarrhoea with the FLETC trainers, but Deeks is fit and healthy. He’s always shown working out and so the age difference between raw recruits and Deeks should really be negligible. He may always have a carefree and casual attitude towards training but would he really catch forty-winks instead of collecting forensic evidence from the back of a car? He certainly kicks himself after, yet the power is in his hands. Think of his early seasons where he had to choose a training course and at the end he shot a cut-out of Hetty, and how he failed the bomb defusing course in S6 Spiral.  Neither jeopardised his LAPD liaison position at NCIS, and Deeks always comes through, shoots the bad guys and with a spot of luck, did defuse that bomb.  This is different. He wanted this so much last week, yet now he’s sleeping on the job, knowing it will most likely affect his future.  

At the episode’s start, Fatima asks Kensi how Deeks is getting on at FLETC, and she admits he hates it. The reason why Deeks works so well in the show is down to his carefree, relaxed and jovial attitude and how he wears his heart on his sleeve (maybe excusing his earlier communication issues with Kensi). This contrasts sharply with the emotionally controlled NCIS agents and that is one of the team dynamics which has lifted the show. It is also the reason why Deeks is not agent material. Deeks is flunking FLETC and it will be very interesting to see what role Hetty has for him next week.

The theme of age which is so prevalent this season continues with Rountree and Fatima in their opening scenes. Rountree talks about his younger sister and her friends at UCLA and their conversations on racial bias and policing. Rather than labouring on the points of injustice he is once again progressive, as he was with Sam in S12E02 War Crimes. He sees young law enforcement officers as needing to set high standards and being the solution, not the problem. Fatima listens but seems more concerned about continuing her practice of film one-liners to be uttered when apprehending a suspect. Maybe it was felt that her perspective on racism and by extension religious persecution, would be too much for the episode (or maybe the show). Failing that, it did nothing to further her character development and made her seem shallow. The serious topic of racism and policing is not raised again, which unfortunately makes it seem like a bit of a moot point, there because it’s a tick in the box.

There was no apparent loose end from Pietra Rey’s first appearance in S09E10 Forasteira and her reappearance here allows for a little fight scene with Sam, a reconnection with Kensi and conversations in Portuguese and of course a scene with Sabatino.  It is the latter who steals the show, as expected. Sabatino works well with all characters and in this era of COVID precautions, he has the privilege of scenes with Sam and Callen, Rountree and Kensi, and Pietra.  The team never question why a CIA agent is operating on US soil and certainly he never announces himself as such to the DOJ jobsworths.  Sabatino is on fine form, throwing one liners, quick repartees and sarcastic comments with all characters. He refers to Sam and Callen as Laverne and Shirley, and asks if anyone likes them, when Callen comments that Pietra tried to blow them up twice.  He also has a ‘man-bun’ which becomes a running joke. Even in the closing scene with him and Kensi under severe fire, Sabatino quips that debris is bad for the bun.

Although not a bad episode, it is a tad confusing with Deeks and the number of minor characters connected to the week’s case.  At one point Sam even channels Deeks, answering a question from ops with ‘Jean-Claude van Damme’ - most unusual for him.  There is also a lack of characters with Nell, Hetty and Eric absent, noticeable with Fatima running the ops centre and leaving the place unmanned to join Rountree in the field.  Sabatino is on overdrive and an absolute delight and there are call backs to ongoing subplots when Sam asks Callen where he’s going to live when Deeks sells the bar. ‘Love Kills’ concluded with Kensi and Sabatino under fire and the team five minutes out. Next week’s episode has different writers and the difference between part one and part two - if any - will be interesting to understand.   

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