Here’s my first review of NCIS Los Angeles starting with the season six episode “Black Wind.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.
With about 10 minutes or so left in the episode “Black Wind,” Callen rhetorically asks “why are we always Plan A?” to which I replied “because you’re in a TV show” to my screen. This, I believe, sums up basically everything that is both wonderful and flawed about NCIS LA.
Since this is my first review for this show, let me start off with saying that I’m much younger than the usual demographic for this series and I’m well aware of that fact. There are days when I watch this show solely because it stars LL Cool J and that guy who played Robin in Batman & Robin. (His name is Chris O’Donnell by the way). This fact amuses me. And honestly, I understand the appeal of this show. The NCIS franchise is flashy and face-paced and perfect background noise while you clean the house (particularly if you enjoy the sounds of gunfights while you scrub the toilet.)
This show is certainly not a work of art meant to be contemplated and pondered well after the episode ends, but it is most definitely entertaining on good weeks. Sometimes this is because of the crazy plots, but mostly it’s because of the characters who have had time to become very well-developed by now.
This episode was a pretty great example of both things. We begin with Deeks’ weird crusade to conserve energy/the environment and it somehow involves a cactus. Things only get weirder from here as Eric brings out his rain stick, Sam and Callen argue over veggie burgers in their undercover food truck, Deeks and Kensi play rock-paper-scissors in a drug tunnel, and Hetty ends the episode with tequila.
All in all, it’s ridiculous, but they have fun with it. And, like I said, the characters are established enough already that the interactions make sense. Of course Deeks and Kensi are going to play a game to decide who risks their life to investigate the anthrax lab. We’ve seen over the years that the two of them both avoid serious moments by deflecting with humor. This happens all the time. So instead of falling flat from the absurdity of the situation, that scene actually makes sense in terms of character motivations. How else are they going to react? Yeah, sure, I may have written “won’t the terrorists hear you??” in my notes, but the ridiculousness doesn’t really matter to me as long as it’s something the characters would believably do. And, of course, they’re the “good guys” so they can pretty much do whatever they want.
Speaking of “good guys,” this is actually what hurts the episode and show in general. The problem with procedurals is that they are routine: crime occurs, investigation ensues, gunfight happens, the day is saved. While LA may try to shake things up with much more undercover work than their other NCIS counterparts, the writers of the show usually still stay well within the box. They may reinvent themselves undercover, but that must take up too much effort to reinvent the storyline.
I have to admit that, despite the wackiness, I wasn’t very interested in the first half of this episode. It’s just not always riveting television to watch the investigation part. It’s not until they find the drug tunnel and dead bodies start turning up that the plot kicks itself into high gear. Sure it’s predictable, but at least it’s more fascinating to watch than another rundown of the case in ops and an interrogation in the Boat Shed.
So this brings me back to Callen’s question. “Why are we always Plan A?” The answer, of course, is that they’re characters stuck in an NCIS procedural cop drama on CBS. It’s just what they do. Why would we be watching the show if not to see them in action, trying to solve the problem? The question felt like a wink to the audience and an acknowledgement of the sometimes absurdity of the show. It’s like the writers were using Callen’s mouth to say “yes, our protagonists are Plan A because, if they were anything else, they wouldn’t be the stars of the show.”
I like that acknowledgment. A little self-awareness makes the wacky things (like cacti and rain sticks) work. We know it’s a TV show, and they know it’s a TV show. So why not go all out and have fun with it?
Confidential Notes from the Boat Shed
- I admit that I was briefly fooled there at the end when it looked like Alejandro and his family weren’t going to get their happy ending. But in usual fashion, Granger made some phone calls and worked it out because, let’s be real, we all know Granger is a big ol’ teddy bear.
- That scene intercut with clips of Mighty Mouse was super cheesy (pun intended). Please never do that again.
- If Deeks & Kensi and Eric & Nell ran an undercover food truck, what would they specialize in and would you eat it? Also, would you buy a veggie burger from LL Cool J in a food truck in Mexico? Be honest.
- This episode’s wackiness was almost as good as Sam throwing Irish terrorists down an elevator shaft while he was hanging upside down a few weeks ago. I want more stuff like that!
- The best part of the entire episode was this exchange between Deeks and Granger: “Oh my God, I’m going to hug you,” Deeks says. “No you’re not,” Granger replies. “Yes I am,” Deeks says, determined. And then they hug. LOL
So what are YOUR thoughts on the episode? Was it silly enough for you? Not silly enough? Somewhere in between? Feel free to discuss it in the comments!