Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “Unspoken.” 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.
As a general rule of thumb, episodes tend to work better when they’re focused on the main characters. It’s a lot more interesting to focus on them instead of a random person for only one episode. So focusing this case in “Unspoken” around Sam was definitely a good decision. He hasn’t had a whole lot of attention yet this season. This episode is a good way to learn more about his character in ways we don’t usually get to see.
The case this week is sort of complicated. It’s not just the usual find a killer or track down a terrorist. They have to find the possibly murderous ATF agent (Sam’s ex-partner Mark Ruiz), recover some seriously bad explosive substances, while also taking out an arms dear/terrorist in disguise along the way. A lot of things are going on in this episode, but the focus on Sam and Mark keep it easy to follow. It’s personal for Sam and that adds a certain sort of attachment that we don’t usually have to the guest stars. (Compare this with Miss Diaz from earlier this season. None of our main characters had any connection with her personally so the audience’s investment in her story is limited.)
I liked that this episode gave us a chance to explore Sam’s character more without the usual context of the team. Mark’s drug-addict past adds another facet to the story to keep it interesting. We know Sam is fiercely loyal to people, so it makes sense to see him try to defend and clear his old partner’s name. We also know that Sam is a family man, so of course, one of his first priorities is to make sure Mark’s family is okay (and of course, he bristles with anger when Mark accuses him, falsely, of sleeping with his wife.) We can easily see all these character traits through interactions with Callen in any given episode. But seeing it also with Mark just cements our view of Sam. We now know he’s a fiercely loyal family man when anyone needs help. It’s good to view our main characters through a different lens every once and a while, and Mark is the one who provides that in this episode. It brings Sam out of his team bubble, so to speak.
The theme for this episode, as established by the opening office banter, is “boundaries.” It’s a nice theme to explore since they are such a tightly knit group. Kensi and Deeks often blur the boundaries of home and work, while Sam and Callen keep their boundaries firmly in place. (Remember that it took a few seasons before we even know Sam was married.) The tie-in to the case is not very obvious, but we do see that Sam still keeps his boundaries fully in place during the episode. With the exception of Callen (of course), no one really knew Sam used to have a different partner. And he doesn’t share the knowledge of Mark’s past drug addiction, or about the time he saved Mark’ life at the cost of two of his SEAL teammates. I enjoy when the theme of a personal plot line connects to the thread of the main plot line. By the end of the episode, I’m not sure whether they’re saying boundaries are good or not, but it’s still an interesting look at the topic.
If future episodes focus more on our characters like this one and less like filler episodes with no substance, then we’re on track to continue this very good season.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- My biggest complaint for this episode was the scene where Sam and Callen find Mark. His acting just seemed really off compared to the rest of the episode. And it seems unbelievable that anyone could knock Sam to the ground like that. (But watching Sam clothesline him was amusing)
- “Mom, there’s a ginormous man out here.” LOL
- I thought it was kind of cool to hear a few bits of Filipino spoken on TV, even if the dudes were still evil criminals this time.
- Let’s not let LL Cool J do that accent ever again. Please and thank you.
- Eventually I’m just gonna start saying “Eric? Nell? Who are they? Are they on this show?” Seriously writers, figure out how to use their characters in better ways.
- Another week and no mention of G’s father, Deeks’ IA investigation, or the supposed mole in the organization. Come on, writers, learn how to lightly serialize something.
- Who is right about proper places to hang-dry clothes? Kensi or Deeks 😛
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.