Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “Matryoshka.” 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.
After leaving Callen’s Russian plotline behind (and basically forgetting about Arkady) for several episodes, we finally return to it all in “Matryoshka,” the first part of a two-episode story. And I’m glad we came back because personal cases are always more interesting than the usual ones. While there seemed to be a few out of place moments that didn’t seem to fit with anything important, overall this episode broke away from routine and turned out well.
It was interesting to see how the beginning of the case was presented to the audience. It’s only Callen and Sam in the office, just a moment of banter, and then they are off to investigate. Deeks and Kensi don’t show up in the episode until after the commercial break, having been briefed off-screen. Also absent (for the entire episode) is Granger who’s off doing other things which will probably end up being important in future episodes. Nell also doesn’t appear until the episode is well underway. This allows more screentime for Callen, Sam, and Hetty, showing that the true focus of the episode is on them. More time with just these three characters is a good way to showcase their relationships and interactions. Callen talks to Hetty almost like a teenager asking to get a longer curfew and expecting to receive it. “It’s not a deal,” Hetty reminds him, “it’s a directive.” Hetty has let Callen get away with many things over the years, but she’s quick to remind him that she’s still in charge. It will be interesting to see whether Callen can follow Hetty’s rules in the next episode.
But even more fascinating than Callen and Hetty is Callen and Sam. There have been a few moments throughout the season so far where Sam has seemed concerned about Callen keeping secrets and possibly going rogue. It seems like his trust was shaken a tiny bit after the events of the season opener “Active Measures.” This episode’s scene after the bar fight was particularly striking. Sam seems a bit annoyed that Callen didn’t let him in on the plan ahead of time, but he’s still got Callen’s back despite all that. Again, this will be interesting to see how this plays out in the second episode of this two-parter.
The weakness of this episode was that it was mostly set-up for the next one. Once the team finds Kirkin, the episode shifts back to its usual routine: interrogations, undercover work, etc. But the pacing seemed to slow the story down a bit in my opinion. The other problem was that some scenes felt out of place and unconnected. Particularly Eric’s kilt which was the subject of two different conversations, neither of which felt necessary. I’m all for more screentime for Eric and Nell, but at least give them relevant discussions or something.
While I thought the set-up was a little tedious, it left me definitely excited to see the next episode by the time we got to the end of this one. Until we get to see “Matryoshka Part 2,” this episode might feel a bit incomplete. But part one was still a very good beginning.
Notes from the Boat Shed
- It was kind of frustrating to see the sort of sexist reaction to figuring out Kirkin’s kidnapper was a woman, particulary because they shouldn’t be surprised that a woman is capable of these things. They know all sorts of strong women: Kensi, Talia, Anna, that North Korean spy Granger disappeared to escort, HETTY, etc etc. Dealing with sexism has been a theme in previous episodes (see “The Long Goodbye“) so this feels like a step backwards.
- On the subject of poor reactions, I personally was a tiny bit offended by Callen and Sam making fun of Eric’s kilt. A kilt is traditional Scottish clothing for men, so telling Eric he was wearing a skirt just makes Sam and Callen look dumb. And that feels out of character because they aren’t dumb. Am I the only one who felt this way?
- The title of this episode is “Matryoshka” which is the name of those Russian nesting dolls. Discussion question: do you think episode titles are important? Especially if you have to google what they mean later?
- I enjoyed Sam and Callen’s discussion about social media and global connectivity at the beginning of the episode. Shoutout to all my twitter friends who live around the world ^_^
- Favorite moment of the episode was definitely Callen becoming a human flamethrower! That was epic! That’s going on my list of great NCISLA moments next to that one time Sam threw a terrorist down an empty elevator shaft and he exploded.
- The Grammys are on next Monday, so it’s the week after before we get to see part two. But if you still need your NCISLA fix, LL Cool J is hosting!
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.