NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Seoul Man”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season seven episode “Seoul Man.” 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 last week’s very excellent episode “The Seventh Child,” anything was probably going to be a bit of a disappointment. But despite the stakes not being as high, “Seoul Man” turned out pretty okay. The investigation was a little different than usual and connections to previous storylines made it feel more developed and real. Maybe it wasn’t the most riveting episode of the series, but it was a good episode that made the characters seem like real people.

Let’s be honest, NCISLA isn’t always committed to realism. Sometimes our favorite characters get away with the most ridiculous things, like Sam throwing terrorists down an elevator shaft (never forget!), a lot of Hetty’s stories (remember that she once ruled Nicaragua for 72 hours?), and everyone’s ability to speak any foreign language fluently when necessary (seriously, how many do they know??). But now that we’re seven seasons into the show, the characters are well-established and the show benefits from this. Take, for example, Kensi and Deeks’ ongoing argument over her lack of cleanliness. Kensi’s things are always in a state of disarray. Regular viewers of the show know that this has been a point of contention for a while, such as in “Exchange Rate” and “Defectors” and well before that. But even for a first-time viewer, the argument is understandable and relatable. It doesn’t really add much to their relationship—the end is a cute moment, but that’s it—but it does, however, help flesh out their characters and help the viewers connect to them. And that’s what’s important: caring about the characters. Otherwise, why would we tune in each week?

Another thing that made the episode feel more realistic were the mentions and connections to previous and ongoing storylines. Since “Revenge Deferred” Sam’s family has been in protective custody because of the threat against them. It hasn’t been mentioned since (unless I missed it), but this episode gives Sam and Callen an opportunity to discuss the situation. It’s a reminder that Sam has a family and a life outside of work even if we hardly ever see it. It’s also a reminder that actions from previous episodes have ongoing effects on current ones. It destroys the illusion of a self-contained hour of TV and that’s a good thing. In real life, we don’t always have the luxury to deal with something for a day and then forget about it forever, so why should our TV shows be any different?

But all of these parts I’ve mentioned so far were just parts of the b-story. The main focus of the episode was on finding the North Korean spy. That’s not unusual for the team, but they started out the episode simply as protection detail which was a nice change of pace. I’ve said this so many times before, but it’s really nice that the team does more than just murder investigations. Assignments like this are a nice break in routine and keep things dynamic so the show doesn’t fall into procedural fatigue. Plus, this season has done an excellent job of providing the team threats from all around the world, not just from the Middle East this time.

“Seoul Man” was not the high-intensity gripping tale from last week, but it didn’t need to be and it was still a good episode of television. The season is getting nearer to the end, and I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • I like callbacks to previous episodes but I admit I don’t understand how they decide when to reference things again. Should they have mentioned protective custody earlier? And there was no reference to last week’s proposal which felt like it should have been at least mentioned, right?
  • It’s so like Hetty to put secret poisonous substances in their hotel rooms and only tell them about it later.
  • LL Cool J’s Korean sounded rather stiff but not too terrible. I will admit that I can’t say much in Korean myself, so who am I to judge? 😀
  • Hey, it’s James Kyson as the defector! I used to watch him in Heroes.
  • Best visual moment of the episode goes to Granger sitting alone at the karaoke club bar, a drink with a little umbrella sitting in front of him.
  • We don’t often get punny titles for NCISLA so I enjoyed “Seoul Man.” Speaking of Seoul always reminds me of a great moment from high school. My friend was studying world capitals but he couldn’t remember South Korea’s was Seoul. My hint to him was “it’s on your shoe” and he looked down and said “…Nike?”

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


2 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Seoul Man”

  1. I agree that the best bits were the call backs to other episodes. It was always going to be difficult when following such a great episode as last week’s. And I totally forgot about the sort of proposal!

  2. Thanks very much for your review. I enjoyed the episode but of course it wasn’t as exciting as last week’s. I found the plot rather convoluted and it took me awhile to figure out what they were actually doing. The best parts for me were the guys in suits and the humour. It seemed to be equally distributed among Sam and Callen and Kensi and Deeks. It was a pleasure to see Granger so involved with the team as well. My pet peeve is Hetty. How can she keep so much from the team? How can they be expected to do their job without all the facts? I am really tired of her manipulation.

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