NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Exchange Rate”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “Exchange Rate.” 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.

Let me start off with saying that I didn’t care about the case in this episode at all. I was not invested in the botched prisoner exchange, nor did I really care when he was outed as a Russian spy. But, like many episodes this season, the investigation wasn’t as important as the character dynamics on display. And that’s a good thing. NCIS is just the organization they all work for. It’s just a job and it doesn’t define the entire aspect of their characters. To make them more well developed characters, we need more than just their jobs. “Exchange Rate” delivers just that as it focuses much on the partnerships of the team.

The core of NCISLA has long been three different sets of partners: Callen and Sam, Deeks and Kensi, Eric and Nell. And while a lot of focus is on the first two, Eric and Nell are usually just an afterthought. So it was a surprise to see this episode give then a bit more screentime than usual and a chance to really talk more. (“One talk per year,” Nell says in what feels like a meta joke) But am I the only one who felt like I missed something? Like some sort of progression in their partnership/friendship/pseudo-relationship? It was strange to see Eric compare them to “Densi.” (“Neric” Eric says in what is definitely a meta joke) The biggest issue here is that probably all of this development—whatever it is—has happened offscreen and outside of what the audience gets to see. So that lessens the impact of their storyline.

Despite that though, it was interesting to see how the two of them interact and what their differences are. Nell does not really like to open up, hence the aforementioned one talk a year, and she doesn’t seem as invested as Eric is in contrast. They began the episode talking about preventing rough patches and then Nell ends up annoyed at Eric anyway, causing a brief rough patch. It was nice to see a mini story for them, even if it felt like it came out of nowhere.

In between all the investigating, Kensi and Deeks have some relationship issues of their own but only a minor one really. It’s realistic to see some bumps in the road for them because we all know it can’t always be sunshine and roses. So it makes sense to see them fussing over Kensi’s messy habits and little things like that. I do appreciate how NCISLA has mostly avoided the typical relationship melodrama for them because that can get old and predictable real quick. Although since they are together now, the “Densi” relationship is not as exciting without the “will they, won’t they?” aspect, so perhaps long scenes where Deeks and Kensi have serious discussions in the bathroom should be shorter in the future.

The third partnership is strictly platonic but still lots of fun. Callen and Sam as always find the time to add in some fun banter while working. As always, there are lots of jibes from Sam about Callen being unsociable and single. Unlike the other partnerships, this episode doesn’t really offer any new insights into Sam and Callen’s friendship, but it does factor into another part of the episode: Anna. Her reappearance was the only important part of the case, And by the end of the episode, Sam is already teasing Callen about a potential love match with her. I always think it’s really interesting to see how invested Sam is in Callen’s love life (or lack thereof). It’s a good way to show that Sam care about Callen’s happiness (even if it might not be the key to happiness from Callen’s perspective.)

After a few heavy episodes, “Exchange Rate” felt more like a breather. A mostly uneventful case to get back in the swing of things. But instead of feeling like pointless filler, the partnerships got most of the focus to make it a fun episode to watch.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • It was great to see Arkady again, especially after we didn’t get much of him in Russia. He always adds so much fun to an episode with his flippant attitude. “Hetty, you look good in leather,” he says as he tries to sweet talk his way out of handcuffs.
  • This episode is another example of Hetty making absolutely no sense. Wouldn’t it just be easier to say “hey, Anna is working for me today?” I can’t tell if Hetty’s playing a long game with a hidden purpose or if the writers are just floundering around on her character this season. (Or maybe Linda Hunt just isn’t available to film more scenes?)
  • Speaking of Anna, I didn’t like the implication that she might join the team. While a shakeup of team dynamics could be interesting, I think she’d serve better as a recurring character in a role outside of what the team normally does, like Arkady as an informant or Talia as an ally from another agency.
  • I will say that despite not really caring about this episode’s case, I do always admire that NCISLA takes care to not rely on investigating dead bodies all the time like lots of other procedurals do.
  • I thought it was hilarious how the spy Phantom of the Opera’d his way of the restaurant (He dropped a chandelier, for those of you not familiar with the story. It was a smaller chandelier but still one nonetheless)
  • I give the MVP of this episode to Miguel Ferrer simply for his facial expressions.
  • “Is this about flying home from Brazil in coach?” Callen asks. “I literally cannot fit in those seats, but no,” Sam answers. This was my favorite exchange in the episode (but “I offered you the bean bag” is a close second)
  • From the preview for next week, I really hope it’s an episode where Sam gets to diffuse bombs again. I LOVE THOSE! 🙂

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


4 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Exchange Rate”

  1. Except for Granger, Arkady & Callen, I disliked the rest of the episode. Even Sam wasn’t likeable for me & I like his character! But I LOVED your review! I don’t agree with the relationship stuff (your worded it quite well though) but I do agree with your take on Arkady, Granger’s facial expressions, Anna NOT joining the OSP team & why Hetty didn’t just come out & say she had someone working on the side for her.
    Last but not least, YES! to seeing Sam diffuse bombs again.
    Oh, that wasn’t the last thing – I agree 100% with this -> “I will say that despite not really caring about this episode’s case, I do always admire that NCISLA takes care to not rely on investigating dead bodies all the time like lots of other procedurals do.”

    • I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the episode, but thank you for the kind words about my review. Somehow it was easier to write this week. It certainly wasn’t my favorite episode, but I did find lots of amusing things while watching. And I’m glad we can find some common things to like in this one ;D
      I really really hope the next episode is a bomb squad episode!!
      And yes, isn’t it nice to have the team get to focus on things other than dead bodies? They get to do more interesting things when they investigate (like the undercover stuff) than they would for a murder investigation

  2. Clearly I didn’t comment on your review (but could have sworn I did – sorry). It was good for Nell and Eric to get more screen time but for me their scenes felt forced, I do agree that from this episode, it seems there has been developments in their relationship that has been kept off screen. When they referred to shipping names I literally cringed – it was bad.
    On a second viewing I enjoyed the episode more. Hetty’s secrecy was unnecessary, and I do like Anna but as a recurring character and I have no objections to her and Callen having romantic liaisons. Think of the comedy value in later episodes with Arkady!
    I do wonder if the show is gearing up for a main character to leave (permanent or temporary) with the writers warming the audience up to Anna. Maybe they are anticipating Daniela Ruah falling pregnant again, or maybe something will happen to Sam or a family member in the finale…

  3. Pingback: NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Seoul Man” | Notorious Rambler

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