NCIS Los Angeles review: “This is what we do”

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photo credit: CBS.com

Here’s my review of NCIS Los Angeles season nine episode “This is what we do.” 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.

“This is what we do” marks NCISLA’s 200th episode, a milestone which few television shows ever reach. The occasion wasn’t marked with a hard-hitting story like last week’s “The Silo” and they didn’t load up on the other end of the spectrum with an entirely silly episode either. Instead, the episode lived up to its title. It was simply an episode where the team went through their typical kind of case, complete with shootouts and car explosions as usual. It was a fitting tribute to the series so far.

The case they were saddled with this week was a little more original than a run-of-the-mill murder, but it doesn’t compare to more interesting cases of the past such as when they have to race against time to stop a bomb or recover stolen weapons. But the case of the week has almost always been secondary to the team itself and their lives. And this week’s case was just bland enough to make screentime for each character’s ongoing stories.

I’d like to commend the writers for continuing to let Sam’s grief play out as a storyline instead of brushing it away and never mentioning it. All too often on tv, characters who’ve suffered loss are never given enough time to grieve. Or the story simply skips ahead over until the character is in a better mental place. For Sam, it’s been several months, but as he admits to Callen: the pain is still there and it never gets better. He’s put on a brave face so far in order to do his work, but the hangover Callen rouses him from is Sam at a low we don’t usually get to see. Just like Kensi’s injury storyline from last season gave Daniela Ruah a chance to show a different side of her character, this storyline gives LL Cool J a chance to show a more vulnerable side to the guy who is arguably the toughest of the team.

Callen’s storyline this season has been focused on providing support. He had a lot of spotlight last season on discovering more about his past and developing a (better) romance, and Sam continued to be his supportive best friend through all of it. So now it’s Callen’s turn to do the same. All throughout season nine we’ve been given short scenes where Callen is there to be a pillar of support for Sam, whether that’s offering to help fix the boat or offering to share a beer. This time we see Callen doesn’t even hesitate to pull Sam off the couch, helping him through his hangover with a helpful punch to the stomach. This friendship is the core of the series, so it’s fitting to see it demonstrated so clearly here. Callen will help out however necessary, and with some banter along the way, as always.

Kensi too gets a brief chance for character growth, even if it’s a struggle for her. The return of Asakeem, the man responsible for her severe injuries last year, is certainly not a pleasant experience for her. But she’s given an opportunity to face him in the Boat Shed, and he offers apologies (which seem sincere actually). Forgiveness, however, is not easy, as noted. But as she watches Asakeem pray on the beach at the end of the episode, even Deeks notes that she has to let it go eventually. Kensi isn’t there yet, but this encounter can certainly be one she’ll look back on later.

As for Deeks, there’s not a lot of time for his own character, but they do squeeze in a scene with his mother. Their dysfunctional relationship on full display for a few minutes at least. It’s not much, but it does remind the viewers that he and Kensi have yet to pick a wedding date. With the conversation from last week still weighing on the audience’s minds, it’s easy to wonder if the wedding will continue to remain dateless for a while longer.

While poor Eric doesn’t get any time for character development here, both Nell and Mosley get their own small moments. Nell’s older sister makes an appearance to help out the team, and while it doesn’t really have much bearing on the plot, it does shed a bit of light on why Nell always seems like she’s trying to prove herself. And Mosley’s family is also mentioned in a brief scene that humanizes her character in a way that hasn’t happened before. She tells Sam about her son, but admits she doesn’t know where he and his father are. Nia Long’s facial expressions do a lot in the scene to convey her emotions without having to say much of anything. It’s a mystery that leaves viewers interested in knowing how that situation came to be.

Lastly, we have a brief few scenes with Hetty, still away in Vietnam. Even when things are awful for her, she maintains her sense of power and confidence like the seasoned veteran she is. Though the situation isn’t pleasant for her, it is nice to see her able to struggle too instead of just always being mysterious in the office. And now that she’s declared the team has all the tools they need to find and rescue her, I’m finally getting a little interested in this storyline.

“This is what we do” was packed with a ton of excellent scenes and storylines. It’s a fitting tribute to showcase what the team actually does in and out each week. Congratulations on 200 episodes!

Notes from the Boat Shed

  • The episode might have been too full actually, because I forgot about the poor kid until Mosley and Sam had that conversation at the end of the episode. Surprised they didn’t focus on him more in the episode.
  • Did Nell’s sister actually do anything useful while she was there??
  • Also, hello Admiral Chegwidden cameo! Nice to see you again!
  • Funniest moment of the episode to me was 2 seconds of Mama Deeks stuffing sugar packets in her shirt to take home later.
  • It’s so fitting that the team only had this case because it was near a Navy base. After 9 seasons, there are so many ways to connect to their namesake. (The ridiculous stretches to give the team jurisdiction is one of my favorite parts of the show, to be honest)
  • I think they blew up at least 3 vehicles in this episode. How many vehicles do you think have been sacrificed over the past 200 episodes? 😀

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

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6 thoughts on “NCIS Los Angeles review: “This is what we do”

  1. Thanks for your review. I always like to read what other people think of an episode. I admit I was expecting something better than a “typical” case for the milestone episode. For me, the episode was too crammed, and the basic plot was just boring, far-fetched, kind of silly, and completely lacking in tension. I liked the Hetty scenes and the Callen and Sam scenes, but would have liked the scenes where Sam talked about missing Michelle and the scene between Callen and AJ to have lasted longer. I also wouldn’t have introduced a new character–Nell’s sister–into this mess; she served no purpose in moving the action forward. I liked the way the writers treated Asakeem–he’s an interesting character–but their reactions seemed odd since Callen and Anna brought Asakeem to L.A. last season (Queen Pin). The undercover operation seemed like an excuse to let the characters dress up (as kidnappers, a gangster, lifeguards) and blow things up. (As an aside, I also disagree that there was much of a “spotlight” on Callen last season; his relationships–family and romantic–were in, I think, 4 out of 24 episodes while the Kensi-Deeks relationship was developed in almost every episode.) For me, this episode was almost a throwaway episode–which is not what I would expect for a 200th.

    • Thank you. I couldn’t have said it better. I have the very same thoughts about this episode and everything you said. Good to know I am not alone.

    • I was waiting for Callen to remind them that he and Anna brought Asakeem to LA. 😉 I thought it was a very good episode overall but you do make some good points.
      I just ignored scene with Deeks’ mom as I find that whole story line absurd. Nell’s sister was annoying.

  2. Great review. I thought Deeks’ mom put the money he gave her in her shirt–I still find scenes with Deeks and his mom absurd and NOT funny. I had forgotten about the boy as well. At end of episode I thought that was a lot of explosions for one episode. Nell’s sister didn’t add anything positive to the episode–she was annoying. LOVED Callen taking care of Sam. And *gasp*, I liked the “Densi” scene at the end.

  3. Thanks for your review, but I agree with the earlier comments. One of my pet peeves with this show–which is one of my favorites–is that the writers can’t seem to keep track of what happened in previous seasons–even last season. Good grief, I read Dune more than 15 years ago–and hundreds of books since–but I could still give a summary of the main characters and plot. The whole thing with Asakeem just blew it for me. I also didn’t buy Kensi’s angst (or maybe I’m just tired of it). I don’t mind characters who are conflicted, but sometimes these characters seem bipolar (and I’m not making fun of people who are bipolar). As for the rest of the story–boring. The Hetty scenes were good, and I liked the quiet scene between Callen and Sam in the boatshed more than the scene on his boat. What was the point of introducing Nell’s sister? And the operation did seem like an excuse to dress up and blow things up. I like undercover ops, but prefer something like Ambush, The Bank Job, Rage, or even Mountebank. There was no finesse to this op. All in all, a disappointing episode.

  4. Thanks for your review. You have summed up everything well. I loved the episode for all the things that you have already mentioned. I loved the humour whether coming from Callen and Sam or Deeks and his mom. I felt so sorry for Sam and for Kensi but at least they are moving forward. Callen will always take care of Sam as will Deeks always look after Kensi. Great to see more of Hetty’s story and to see AJ back. We got to meet Nell’s sister and to see the family dynamics there. Mosley became more human in this episode when we found out she had a child. I hope her character opens up more as the season moves on. The plot did truly reflect what they do and the team proved it’s flexibility by again working with different partners. Happy 200!

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