NCIS: Los Angeles 13×18 “Hard for the Money” and NCIS: Los Angeles 13×19 “Live Free or Die Standing” have one thing in common: they both feature returning guest stars that step in to fill the Callen void, as the show gears up for a season finale that will, hopefully, tackle the deep fakes, the Katya business and Hetty’s absences head on. And though both episodes are entertaining in the NCIS: Los Angeles way, one works much better than the other.
It might be because NCIS: Los Angeles 13×19 “Live Free or Die Standing” has the added advantage of bringing Eric Christian Olsen — our very own Marty Deeks — to the forefront as the writer, and Daniela Ruah — our very own Kensi Blye — to guide the ship as director, and they’re both fantastic. It might be that Talia is ten times better than Sabatino. Or it might just be that the second episode in this double-header is hammers in the theme of hope in a much more convincing fashion. Either way, the end result is that by the time the screen faded to black, the first hour had pretty much disappeared from our collective consciousness.
A few things remained, though — notably, Deeks’ conversation with Killbride at the end of NCIS: Los Angeles 13×18 “Hard for the Money.” Killbride has had some moments with other characters, not with Deeks, and the show always plays off Deeks as the guy the Killbride types have more trouble with, so to see Killbride approach him to try to offer advice, only for Deeks to end up being the one to give advice — all while bringing up his father, something he rarely does, was a beautiful bit of writing.
The real standout hour was the second one, and it was a standout for many reasons. First, though not nearly the most important thing, we got a tiny moment with Deeks and Kensi that feels important enough to mention. It happens while they’re in the car, discussing what they’ll do with the money Beale has gifted them. Deeks says something very thoughtful and Deeks, and the show — as always — recognizes it and just …accepts it. Deeks is often thoughtful, and the show has never really treated that as something out of the ordinary. That’s just who he is, and it’s not celebrated as an accomplishment, but treated as normal. It’s a small thing, but I will say it feels nice to live in a world where that’s normal.
Of course, the rest of NCIS: Los Angeles 13×19 “Live Free or Die Standing” centers on Killbride, and tries to show that — as much as he is the man who would vote red (which, like …we gotta talk about how that, at this point in the game, feels like it cannot be separated from the good people argument the show is trying to make), he will never be the man who puts profit over people. It’s a good storyline for Killbride, and it tracks with what we’ve seen of him, it’s just a little shallow because …*points at the general state of politics.*
The show can’t really help that part, and it shouldn’t stop trying to send the right message, no matter what happens in the world, but it’s often hard to separate the reality of who these characters are and the system we know they participate in, for better or worse. It’s particularly hard during episode where reality bleeds into the show — which is why I truly hope the last two episodes of the season go back to the Callen of it all, and to Hetty. Where is Hetty? Are we ever going to see her? Please, let the answer not be next season or never.
Things I think I think:
- Deeks still has surf buddies! And they work for burritos — something I would do, too.
- I will never not love the nicknames for Kensi that Deeks has.
- Callen was literally like “I can’t work this case, BUT …let me work this case.”
- Who missed Sabatino? Not me.
- A SHIRT THAT FITS. HA.
- Never, please. We like your shirts the way they are, Sam.
- Sometimes Fatima and Roundtree get a win.
- General Callen mood lately: Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?
- The Deeks/Sam convo about being early felt supremely in character.
- Sam just smiling at the Densi banter will never not be good to see. We’ve come a long way.
- Well, THAT’S A PRESENT, Eric.
- Yeah, Fatima, what DID happen to waiting for everyone?
- Talia is better than Sabatino, I guess.
- I enjoy when Deeks get to drive, okay? Sign of trust.
- The talk about the money. Deeks being thoughtful. I love Densi.
- Killbride is so by the book sometimes I think he wrote the book.
- LOOK, thank you writer Eric for making the point that every time they announce themselves, someone runs.
- Roundtree makes me feel old sometimes.
- “This is about people who choose financial gain over human decency.” So, like …basically most people in power?
- A JOHN WICK JOKE!
- Talia is still Talia. Thankfully, that’s Roundtree’s problem now.
- I find the idea of Deeks sneaking off to watch home repair shows hilarious.
- Why they gotta hurt Sam’s car?
- The ending was brutal — and kind of great.
NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.