NCIS Los Angeles Review: “Home is Where the Heart Is”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season eight episode “Home is Where the Heart Is.” 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.

NCISLA has really hit its stride early on this season with a lot of focus on shaking things up to help our main characters grow. Just like last week’s “Ghost Gun,” this week’s episode, “Home is Where the Heart Is,” is very well-written and well-acted and keeps the audience invested in all the storylines. Both the case and the characters come together to make an entertaining episode.

Setting aside the character for a moment, let’s look at the episode’s case. It’s more unusual than we expect, so that automatically makes it more interesting. The opening is the typical set up seen in many procedural shows. Unfamiliar characters are shown to either discover a dead body or become murder victims themselves. But instead, this time the random characters are just victims of a routine home invasion and the focus of the case swings to the mysterious guy who saved them. This is a welcome break from hunting terrorists all over LA. The guy turns out to be ex-Mossad and he’s just trying to keep his daughter out of danger. This isn’t the kind of case the team usually takes, so it’s nice to see something different. Especially because they really don’t need to be involved and they’re helping just because they want to do the right thing.

Even the team’s investigation methods are shaken up due to Kensi still being out of commission. Anna is back to fill in again, but she’s partnered up with Nell instead of Callen this time. Putting Anna with different characters keeps the dynamic from getting repetitive. She makes a nice substitute who doesn’t draw attention away from the main team. I don’t want her to stick around permanently, but I don’t mind her occasional contributions as a recurring guest star. Although I do wonder why they chose to film the explosion scene from Anna’s point of view instead of Nell’s. The camerawork was excellent to convey what it feels like to be that close and that made the scene more exciting. But it could have easily been Nell in that position too.

Outside of the case, there’s still the story of Kensi’s recovery. This is the most we’ve seen of her since the accident and Ruah really sells the frustration. The doctors say Kensi is recovering but it’s moving too slowly for her to be satisfied. Kensi has always prided herself on being strong and taking care of herself. So, of course, the partial paralysis is devastating for her, and it shows in her interactions with Deeks. She lashes out while he’s trying to cheer her up. I really appreciate that the moment outside the hospital is not portrayed as either one of them being “right” in their reactions. Kensi may be treating Deeks harshly but with her diagnosis, it’s understandable that she won’t accept it right away. And Deeks is just trying to be supportive, but perhaps his optimism is not the reassurance that Kensi needs yet. It is really fascinating to see how this puts a strain on their relationship. Like Deeks tells Granger, he thinks he would go to the ends of the earth but he doesn’t know what to do now that he’s actually there. There’s a very compelling storyline here and I think it’s playing out well so far.

And it’s not just those two who have strong character work this week. Surprisingly, Eric gets some which builds from previous episodes. We’ve seen since before that the events of the season premiere have shaken Eric enough for him to practice shooting his gun. And we see Eric shaken and upset again in this episode after Nell gets hurt. Eric usually doesn’t have much impact on the plot, but at least these little moments flesh out his character more. It’s nice to see Eric’s reaction to the extra danger grow from week to week. This is a benefit of serialized storytelling that NCISLA has been doing the past few seasons.

Another person that benefits from seasons of character building is Callen. Since the beginning of the series, we’ve known about his complicated family history. Over time, we’ve learned more and more about his family as he too learns about them. Last season, he finally met his father and uncovered his real name. Because of that past, we understand why Callen gives advice about fatherhood to Tobin, the ex-Mossad agent, at the end of the episode. It’s a small moment, but it’s so important for his character. Without the previous episodes, that moment wouldn’t mean as much.

Overall, “Home is Where the Heart Is” is an episode that builds on the episodes that came before it. NCISLA is shaking up the status quo just enough to be more interesting, but not too much that we’re watching a completely different show now. Next week should hopefully be just as good.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • I guess Hetty was mole hunting during this episode again?
  • “But the house is so clean” was my favorite Deeks joke of the episode. It was teasing but not too much.
  • Hey, LA has a professional football team again. Thanks for the random promo I guess?
  • Best unintentionally funny moment of the episode: the camera angle right after Eric and Nell’s quiet moment in Ops showed that there were other people in the room just casually working in the background.

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


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