NCIS: Los Angeles S13E06: Sundown (Review)


 How far would a father go to seek justice for his child? That is the ultimate question posed in Sundown, written by one of the newer writers, Lee A. Carlisle, when a father takes a busload of hostages, threatening to blow it up unless his daughter's war crimes are posthumously cleared and her death by suicide investigated. The father, Gary DeMayo gives the team until sundown to discover the truth, or he carries out his threat. His daughter, Corporal Kyra DeMayo was asleep on guard duty during an incursion which saw a cache of weapons stolen. Opioids were found in her system and she was other than honourably discharged. Kyra suffered a brain injury during the attack and committed suicide, shooting herself in a park. 

Before this is revealed in Ops, getting shot is discussed by Fatima and Rountree in the bullpen. In a call out to the last episode, Fatima is still on crutches after being shot in the leg. She reveals it's not like the movies and wonders how Callen came back after being shot five times in one go. Rountree suggests it might be why he is sometimes cranky. Making light of such injuries and events is a coping mechanism, and Callen's shooting (in the backdoor pilot via NCIS 'Legend - part 2' S06E23) is hauled out every so often for black humour.

The theme of parenthood is frequently explored in NCIS: Los Angeles, often through the main characters in relation to their personal experiences and how they interact with guest characters and the case in question. In Sundown, this is brought to the fore, not only through DeMayo but also through Kensi and Deeks. At the start, the pair are waiting in the car apparently on a stakeout. Kensi is observing a couple entering a building, describing them as 'trouble' and 'over-achievers'. It quickly becomes apparent they are not on an NCIS mission; Kensi is plucking up the courage to attend an information meeting with Deeks to understand more about the journey to adoption. Of course an alert comes through from Ops, causing the couple to 'divide and conquer', with Kensi left to the meeting and Deeks to work the case. This circles back to questions originally raised by Deeks a number of seasons ago about how they would cope with parenthood if they were both working. Kensi continues to receive text updates from Ops which distract her and lead her to tell little white lies about a sick aunt who takes a turn for the worse. In the end she has to excuse herself to assist the team in the final showdown. Even at the end when Kensi and Deeks are together in the bull pen, they still have no answers of how they will cope. There is no discussion of one or the other giving up their career. Deeks simply says they'll figure it out, as that's what parents do. Once again though, Kensi changes the parameters by suggesting fostering, something Deeks had also been considering. There is a very 'matter of fact' scene between Callen and Deeks (who partner up to interview Corporal DeMayo's mother). They are driving to find a suspect and Callen asks Deeks how the adoption process is going. Deeks is also finding it tough. Callen's response is: 'Talking as a foster kid, I'll say one thing. I'd have killed to have parents like you and Kens.' It's the highest compliment Callen could pay the couple and his choice of the word 'kill' reveals the pain and depth of feeling associated with growing up in the system. There would have been minimal impact if he'd said that he'd loved to have had parents like Deeks and Kensi. 

When the tasks are allocated at the start, Sam volunteers to go to the scene, citing his experience with grieving military families. Rountree is selected to accompany him, due to having taken a hostage negotiating course with the FBI. This sets up expectations that Rountree would take a leading role, however it is Sam who predictably takes the lead. There is slight tension between the pair and LAPD SWAT on the scene and of course the NCIS calls all turn out to be the right moves. Sam also has direct experience of parenthood, yet his attempts to connect with Gary DeMayo fail as the man is on a one track mission to clear his daughter's name. Their conversations via walkie talkie reveal more about DeMayo and his daughter. These are interspersed with Callen and Deeks talking with Mrs DeMayo. She touches on how therapy proved too expensive and comments on the VA backlogs. Yet it is the notebook suggested by her therapist which provides the clue which leads to the team exonerating her, even if it was not conducive to saving her life. 

Fatima has currently assumed the role of both Nell and Eric in ops, and helps move the narrative along. For example she has concrete information that Corporal DeMayo's death was in fact suicide and talks this through with Kilbride who has to tease the information out of her. There is an inference that he is familiar with suicides, citing she most likely shot herself in the park to spare her parents dealing with finding her and the clear-up. She was first introduced as a specialist analyst and is most suited to Ops.

There are limited guest characters in Sundown even though there are several hostages on the bus. This lack of focus means no empathy is built with them. Their fear of being shot or blown up is not shown. Instead the focus remains solely on Gary and to a lesser extent, his wife. Rountree may not be called on for his FBI negotiating skills (a slight on the FBI?) but Sam does give him the chance to shine as a journalist sent onto the bus to hear Gary's side. For a former FBI undercover agent he is rather nervous yet listens to Gary, giving him false hope that his story will be revealed to the world. There are also interactions between husband and wife when Mrs DeMayo is brought to the scene. The bottom line is of such conversations underlines that Gary is not a bad man, the failings of the military and judicial systems has triggered this extreme reaction. He eventually lets the prisoners go, and is willing to only take his own life when it seems time has run out. 

The closing scene takes place in the boatshed, which apparently has wide doors which open to reveal a balcony overlooking the marina. Kilbride aptly voices viewers thoughts that he didn't even know this (balcony) was out there. He ties up the case by confirming Corporal DeMayo has been cleared, posthumously promoted, awarded a medal, given a funeral with full honours with backpay reinstated. Sam, Callen and Kilbride reflect on the question of how far a parent would go if someone hurt their child. Sam admits he can't stop thinking about that dilemma, although past experience (Talion, S7E24) shows restraint when he had the chance to kill Tahir Kaled after taking his son Aiden hostage. Sam is an honourable man and also eventually saw reason when he hunted down Kaled after he murdered his wife. Sam is a trained SEAL with high morals and self control. Gary is an ordinary man who admitted if he had to, he would do it all over again. 

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