Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “The Long Goodbye.” 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.
I’m ready to declare this the best episode of the season so far. The themes here were striking and well developed. “The Long Goodbye” explored an idea we don’t usually get to see, which is “what happens to the people after the NCIS team closes the case?” Along with that, the episode gives us a thoughtful look at how women are treated. This is heavier subject material than we usually deal with, but the execution of it was excellent. Bringing back Jada (and also Talia) was a good decision as well, since it all culminated to make a very hard-hitting episode of television.
In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, CBS switched the order of the episodes by pushing “Defectors” back and airing “The Long Goodbye” earlier. (“Defectors” will apparently air next week I believe?) Surprisingly, watching this episode out of order does not seem to affect any ongoing storylines (Callen’s father, Deeks IA investigation, the mole [does anyone remember the mole??]). This is a standalone episode but I think the lack of connection makes it a stronger one. Yes, I know I complained previously about the lack of serialization between episodes, but I can be wrong sometimes! There are no subplots to distract from this very interesting main story.
From past seasons, there are few stories that stick out more to me than the one with Jada. She has always been an important person for Sam because of what happened. Helping her get out of Sudan and away from her warlord brother was a difficult thing to do for both Sam and for Jada. It’s good to revisit her story because we don’t really know how it ended. At the end of every episode, it feels like the team brushes off their hands, says good job, and goes to grab a drink. Our main characters have always been touted as “the good guys.” But an episode like this reminds us that they’re still human, that they still have to make tough choices, and maybe the consequences of their actions aren’t always good even if they had good intentions.
The episode shows us that Jada hasn’t been happy since they brought her to the US. While I would have liked the episode to show even more of what Jada experienced and was thinking, what they did show us helped reveal her state of mind. Ella Thomas’ performance conveyed the feeling of loneliness that drove her to return willingly to her brother. Even if our team did a good thing by getting her to provide evidence of her brother’s atrocities, it still basically ruined her life in the process. I’m very happy that NCISLA chose to make an episode like this in order to blur the lines between what is good and what is bad. It’s much more realistic that way.
Another very important topic in this episode was the objectification of women. Jada is the most obvious example. There is even one moment where Sam points out that she is essentially considered her brother’s property. This kind of mindset is unfortunately not uncommon in some places. But what the writers did well is to show that it’s not just Jada who gets treated like an object. Kensi and Talia team up for an undercover op to try to meet the head of the Molina cartel. Talia’s been working that job for a month in the guise of a bikini model and Kensi tags along as her sister. Both wear skimpy clothing and are treated like pieces of meat by the men at the party. Before they go in, they commiserate about undercover jobs where men treat them badly. This apparently happens so often that they even have their own specific ways of dealing with the disgusting feelings afterwards. And what’s most disturbing is that even when the party is over, Deeks feels the need to make a big deal about the two of them changing clothes behind a screen. I appreciate that the episode gave us both blatant and subtle examples of the way women are treated poorly because that was the most effective way to make their point.
In good writing, there is a surface level of a story—the main thing you automatically focus on—and then there is usually a deeper level—a more in-depth exploration of the ideas the writer wants to get across to the audience. This episode had a solid surface level which was Jada’s quest to return home and Sam’s plea for her not to. But while that story unfolded, we also were able to explore the deeper level underneath to look at the sometimes messy consequences of the team’s actions and the way women are treated everywhere. It all came together nicely and that’s why I believe this is the best episode of the season so far.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- I always think watching Callen and Deeks team up is fun because they’re such opposite personalities. It’s refreshing to see a shake-up in the partners every now and then, and they provided some levity to a very serious episode. Do you guys think Callen actually stares at the ocean and smolders? LOL
- The reveal that Sam was interrogating the real Alex Molina was probably obvious but I’ll admit I didn’t catch that before it happened. I think I was too distracted because I recognized Manny Montana from when I watched Graceland.
- I like that Kensi and Talia get along so much better when Deeks isn’t around.
- This is a random question but whatever happened to Joelle? Do you think they’ll ever mention her again?
- I would have given this episode an A+ if not for the fact that it ended with a joke. It would have been a bit better to have ended it with the knowledge that NCIS was still able to track the plane and left it ambiguous about whether someone would have stepped in to save her in Sudan. The chat with Callen, Talia, Kensi, and Deeks was cute but it lessened the emotional impact of the end with Sam.
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.