Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “Cancel Christmas.” 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.
Holiday episodes are usually a whole lot of fun, and personally, I don’t think I’ve laughed so much during an NCISLA episode in a long time. I enjoyed the light-hearted fun of “Cancel Christmas” after the previous episodes with a more weightier subject matter this weekend. This was one of those episodes where the b-story, the character’s stories, is more important than the case. And that’s perfectly fine.
At first I thought the pacing was really off for this episode. The opening scene showed us the murder like usual, but it seemed to take a long time before the team actually got to working on the case. We had scenes of Eric and Nell dancing, Sam taking Callen to work, and Deeks and Kensi fretting over family Christmas celebrations. Normally, I would say that dragging out the action is a detriment to the episode, but these scenes were more interesting and more fun than the case of the poisoned North Korean spy.
The opening with Eric and Nell established that Granger does not like the holiday season at all as he admonishes both of them for dancing at work. With this attitude in mind, it sets up for some fascinating scenes with Granger later in the episode when some information about his past comes to light. Could his dislike of the holidays be related? The question isn’t answered in this episode, but this seems like something that will be important in future episodes. It will be nice to see some more focus on the team’s grumpiest member for a change.
One of the best scenes in the episode was when Sam stops by Callen’s house so that they can carpool to work together. The scene is full of their trademark banter which is always fun to watch, but it also shows us more about Callen’s personal life. As always, his place is sparsely decorated and it’s devoid of Christmas decorations because Callen is “too lazy” as Sam says. Family is important during the holiday season, but Callen’s only family is his coworkers and I suppose his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend Joelle, so that could be the real reason why Callen doesn’t put as much effort into holiday celebrations. As Sam is always pointing out, Callen isn’t that good with people and relationships, and we as the audience know that that’s probably a product of his upbringing. Scenes like this one help create the picture of a more well-rounded character. The case investigation scenes can tell us a lot about Callen as a character too, but the scenes outside of work give us another perspective.
Meanwhile, Deeks and Kensi worry about how to work around spending Christmas with themselves AND their families. Their distress at the situation is cute, but the best part of their interactions come when they take brief breaks from the case investigation. The question about Christmas presents functions as a good segue to allow Deeks to open up to Kensi. We’ve seen through several seasons that the two of them don’t always have the easiest time communicating with each other (if they did, they would have confessed their feelings and started dating sooner) and after last week’s “Internal Affairs” we know that Deeks is still hiding a very important secret from Kensi. So while Kensi’s answer about raising a baby tiger was really funny and cute, the more important answer, “forgiveness,” comes from Deeks. I was not expecting them to address the murder of Frank Boyle again so soon, but I like how they handled it. Kensi isn’t dumb so it makes sense that she would have already guessed the truth anyway and had time to consider how she feels about it. It was a good serious moment to balance out the light-hearted parts of the rest of the episode.
In my reviews for Elementary, I often talk about how the characters’ side stories are usually more important and entertaining than the mystery being solved as the main focus of the episode. “Cancel Christmas” felt a bit like that. The case of the murdered North Korean spy seemed incidental. There were no bombs, no threats to national security, and actually no real shoot-out this time, so the urgency was a bit lacking. Normally, that wouldn’t be a good thing, but since the scenes outside of the case add to character development, they add the tension and interest that the case lacks. I would like to see more episodes like this in the future. The procedural aspect of this show is the backbone of it, but that doesn’t mean that the show can’t branch out with episodes like this every now and then. Now that NCISLA is in its seventh season, the audience knows the main characters very well, and so we enjoy watching them have fun during work and outside of it. The first half of this season has been really great, so I have high hopes for the rest of the season.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- Hands down, the best part of the episode was the reveal that Janvier, the “one-armed psychopath who wants to kill” Callen, actually sends him Christmas cards from jail. LOL
- Other hilarious moments were Kensi’s baby tiger monologue, Eric smuggling cookies into Ops like they were drugs, and Sam’s reaction to the reindeer antlers for his car.
- Who thought it was a good idea to put Deeks undercover as the Santa?? It was so funny to watch him reassure the children after he tackled the bad guy, but really y’all, that was not a very practical idea!
- At this point, Eric and Nell are just functioning as comic relief. Not sure how I feel about that.
- Do you think Michelle is really okay with Sam inviting over a bunch of extra people to their house at the very last minute? Because I know what kind of reaction that would get in my house and it would not be pretty! What about in your family?
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.