Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “An Unlocked Mind.” 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.
This episode reminded me a bit of last season’s “Rage.” Both had undercover operations into a closed group and appeals to rescue someone on the inside. Both felt a bit more dangerous than the usual ops due to the nature of the groups. In “Rage,” it was Callen and Kensi undercover in a white supremacist group with each of them trying to encourage someone in the group to leave. In “An Unlocked Mind,” Deeks and Kensi go undercover in a cult, and Deeks tries to help the husband of the escaped woman. But the difference between “Rage” and this episode is that “Rage” focused on providing a personal story for Callen along with the main story. It helped flesh out his backstory. That episode was very excellent because it delved into Callen as a character. “An Unlocked Mind” doesn’t do that so, while it was a good episode, it doesn’t quite reach its full potential.
After some earlier Callen-centric episodes and last week’s Sam-centered one, the focus revolves back to the Deeks and Kensi relationship. I have really appreciated how the writers have handled them as a couple so far. Most relationship tension on TV fizzles out when the couple finally gets together, but since the “Densi” relationship is more of a background focus most of the time, it’s not too in-your-face to make the audience lost interest (yet). This episode is interesting to watch how Deeks and Kensi interact out in the field undercover. What’s striking is that it hasn’t really changed since they started dating. They’re still professional as can be, especially with Kensi’s emphasis at the beginning of the episode on a separation between home and work.
But in this episode, there are hints that keeping up professional boundaries while working may not be so easy for them. They do their undercover infiltration like usual but problems begin to occur when they’re put into the pool. Kensi almost blows her cover when they dunk Deeks under the water. But to be fair, she’d be concerned about anyone struggling like that, not just her boyfriend. When they are escaping later, Deeks has a bit of an edge when he searches for Kensi and he has to help her walk out of there while she’s drugged. Sure, Deeks is always like that when protecting his partner, but Eric Christian Olsen always seems to play it so that Deeks is more focused on Kensi as a person instead of just being a part of the job, like he does for everyone else. And in the end of the episode, the couple can’t help but steal a kiss at work, putting another crack in their rigid wall of work/personal separation. This seems like a good source of conflict to explore since they’ve settled the “will they/won’t they” question last season. When Deeks’ IA investigation comes back as an important plot point (and it looks like it might be the next episode from the preview), the idea of professional separation introduced here might become an important plot point as well. It’ll be good if the writers can carry that idea over into multiple episodes.
The flaw of this episode is perhaps making the cult too ridiculous. The problem is that I can’t understand why anyone would have joined the group. After a few minutes, it seems like most people would just take a hike instead of subjecting themselves to all the weird things that happen. But I realize the limitations of an hour-long episode. There’s not enough time to develop a truly plausible cult to infiltrate. So we’ll just have to accept the premise of the episode. Along with that, I don’t think the threat of selling state secrets was emphasized enough to make it a credible problem for the audience to be interested in. But otherwise, it was a pretty good episode that allowed them to develop Kensi and Deek’s relationship in an organic way. While it didn’t have the hard hitting parts that made “Rage” excellent, it was still another solid episode for this season which will hopefully continue over to the next episode.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- Chris O’Donnell directed this episode and he did a great job! The only downside when actors direct episodes is that their characters don’t get to appear as often.
- Was Eric even in this episode? I barely remember him. Nell got the opportunity to do a little bit of field work though which was nice for her character even if she was just a replacement since O’Donnell was directing.
- When the whole group started giving reasons to get arrested instead of just Sam (Callen’s “I told him to lie” and Nell’s “I said I’d jack him up” etc), I was just waiting for someone to say “I’m Spartacus!” in reference to the classic ploy they were using.
- Watching Kensi almost get assaulted while she was drugged was very uncomfortable to watch. I sort of wish she hadn’t been put in the damsel-in-distress position, but it was a good demonstration of how reprehensible the group was.
- A surprising amount of people got punched in the face in this episode, which I thought was kind of amusing. So I guess the lesson here is… don’t join a cult because you’ll probably get punched in the face at some point?
- Most ridiculous line of the episode goes to Granger’s supposed-to-be-threatening “Welcome to my reality plane.” Please Granger, work on your comebacks! LOL
So what do you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.