NCIS Los Angeles review: “Mountebank”

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Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season nine episode “Mountebank.” 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.

“Mountebank” was a pretty typical but enjoyable NCISLA episode. It had all the things we love like the usual fun banter, some undercover scenes, and a few bits and pieces relating to ongoing storylines and character development.

Oh, and it also had Arkady.

Because I feel talking about the episode like I usually do would end up being repetitive, instead I’m going to focus on Arkady and the importance of a good recurring character. The shady Russian, played by Vyto Ruginis, with “questionable ties” to Callen is the show’s longest-running recurring character, having popped up various times since season one.

Firstly, Arkady is a fun character. He’s a scoundrel, but never makes any apology for his actions. Ruginis plays him with a neverending supply of confidence that makes him entertaining whenever on screen. In “Mountebank,” he doesn’t think twice about making Deeks and Kensi wait while he “does his best thinking in the shower” and he has no qualms about walking around with only a towel wrapped around his waist. There’s no doubt that he’s a well-developed and well-defined character by now.

Any good recurring character will be someone who helps drive the plot forward, and can also serve as an interesting comparison to the main characters. In this week’s episode, as usual, he helps the team with information. This is generally what he always does. Some might argue that this sole purpose of providing exposition is a bit cliché, but that’s generally what Eric and Nell do most of the time too. Giving Arkady the chance to provide info is at least a fresh perspective than the usual update from Ops.

Arkady also serves as an excellent comparison to the team, who are (99% of the time) always portrayed as heroes doing the right thing. Arkady, in contrast, is shady. He “knows a lot of bad guys” as described in this episode. Whose methods of getting work done is better? Is it worth using him to get information? These are questions to think about while watching any episode where he appears. Good recurring characters will get the audience thinking about things like these.

Over the years, Arkady has even had the opportunity for character development just like any major character in the series. The introduction of his estanged daughter Anna a few seasons ago provided a new depth to his character, and now going forward, it’s something to keep in mind in subsequent appearances. While we didn’t see anything new about his character in “Mountebank” we have seasons of past appearances to help us understand his actions. Though he’s not on the show often, he’s a very clearly defined character who adds excitement and entertainment whenever he appears.

“Mountebank” had all the makings of a fun NCISLA episode, but the addition of an excellent recurring character like Arkady really elevated it to a higher level.

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • If Mosley’s goal is to split the team up, I wonder why she hasn’t gone ahead and done it yet. Other than sending Deeks back to LAPD in the first episode, she really hasn’t done much against them yet. I do, however, enjoy the subtle cold war struggle for power between her and Callen. We got a snippet of it in this episode.
  • I feel like Eric had a joke set up to go with the random oboe he had during the “we’ve got a case” scene, but the Dexter alias talk derailed him. WHY DID YOU HAVE AN OBOE ERIC? I WANT TO KNOW
  • The visual gag of Deeks wearing all that jewelry he won in the poker game was great. Especially after he’d joked about it earlier. (Side note: I’d watch a whole episode devoted to Deeks, Kensi, and Arkady playing illegal poker)
  • Nell clotheslining the runaway teen with a pool stick reminded me of my favorite scene last season when Granger smacked someone with a tire. She learned from the best.
  • I did not care for the sappy storyline with the teen played by Uriah Shelton. But that’s mostly because I don’t like Uriah Shelton.
  • Anytime Sam gets to use his mathlete skills is great!
  • How does Hidoko get all the best jackets? I like her better than Mosley purely based on style so far 😛
  • Fave recurring character of the series? Outside of Arkady, I’d probably pick Talia.

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


10 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles review: “Mountebank”

  1. Just like Arkady Kolcheck — that review was freaking awesome! The identity theft story line was odd in that Callen didn’t seem to take it as serious as (I thought) he should given all that happened in Season 8. I love Callen scenes with kids even though actor playing Finn is 20. It was a great episode but not the caliber of Seasons 1-3.

    • Thank you! (and sorry for the late reply) You make a good point about the identify theft thing, especially after season 8’s events. I guess that was an oversight on the writers’ part, but overall not too big of a deal. As for Finn, I think I would have liked that storyline better with a different actor. Oh well, I wonder if he’ll show up again this season.

      Probably nothing will ever be the caliber of season 1-3 again, but maybe sometimes we can get close 😀

  2. I really enjoyed the episode. Every time Arkady graces the screen he elevates the episode to a higher, more fun level. I think Mosley was right to question Callen and I too am enjoying their subtle power struggle – which Callen is so far losing. I hope she keeps her promise and splits the team up soon – so we can witness their fight to regroup.

    Deeks was so at home playing poker with Arkady that yes – an entire episode watching that would be great fun.

    Lastly I love snippets of Callen’s past and enjoyed his connection to the kid. I had to Google Uriah Shelton – and wonder if CBS will actually ask him back now?

    Oh and another lastly – I share your curiousity on Eric’s oboe. Great review!

    • Arkady really is just a delightful character on the screen 😀 And I agree with you in that I hope Mosley makes her move soon. It feels like stretching it out too long will be boring.

      I’m curious to know whether they intended for Finn to be a recurring character, and whether Shelton’s legal troubles will have any bearing on that. (But personally I wouldn’t mind if they recast the character…….)

      Maybe the oboe will make another appearance this season to answer our questions 😛

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Sorry for the late reply

  3. Thanks for your review. I enjoyed the episode, but for me the least enjoyable part was Arkady–a character I love. This incarnation was so far removed from Arkady he was almost unrecognizable. Arkady is a scoundrel, but he’s smart, charming, and devious, a former KGB operative. This Arkady was silly, stupid, and boring. I didn’t find those scenes humorous; I found them tedious. I did, however, enjoy both Sam’s undercover assignment and the subplot of Callen and Finn and would enjoy seeing that develop. I also like the tension between Callen and Mosley; he’s not insubordinate enough to be written up, but he annoys her and yet will work with her when necessary.

    • Ah well, I suppose Arkady has changed a lot over the years (maybe because of his continual work with the team?). I do think the writers relied heavily on him being comic relief in this episode, which I enjoyed, but I recognize that not everyone will.

      I didn’t mention Sam’s undercover assignment in my review, but I thought it was enjoyable as well. And the tension between Callen and Mosley has been developing nicely. I’m just waiting for the fuse to blow because eventually one of them will get tired of playing nice, right? ^_^

      Thanks for reading and commenting! (and I’m sorry for the late reply)

  4. Great review! I loved your take on Arkady! For me it is always a plus to have him back. The scenes with Kensi and Deeks and Arkady were quite funny and thoroughly enjoyable. I really liked this episode and was pleased to see the team all working together even though they weren’t necessarily working with their regular partners. I am still not sure about Mosley. She says that she wants the team to be the best they can be, but it is her idea of what is best. I also like the scenes between herself and Callen. Some of her concerns are valid, I admit, but does she really want them to be better or does she just want some excuse to break them up? I love Callen and kids. His scene with Finn was touching at the end. It was very reminiscent of Hetty. I didn’t recognize the Dexter alias at all. Always good to see Nell and Eric and Sam was wonderful in his undercover role. Hope we get a resolution of the case and see Finn again in the future.

    • Thank you! It was a fun episode even when they switch up their partners sometimes 🙂

      Mosley is a wild card which makes her interesting. You make a good point: perhaps what Mosley thinks is best for the team really isn’t actually best for the team. We’ll find out (hopefully sooner rather than later)!

      Callen acting like Hetty was kind of sweet, even though I didn’t like Finn’s actor. I’m really curious to see if the character will appear again later this season or not.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! (and sorry for my late reply)

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