Saturday, October 13, 2012


OK, so there are plenty of blogs devoted to reviewing movies. But there aren't nearly as many devoted to reviewing television shows, especially by episode. And there certainly aren't that many that do both. But never fear. I'm here to fill the void.

I'm going to start with the beginning of the season and try to catch up to present day. Meanwhile, I'll intersperse movies as I see them. It should be a fun ride.

Friday, November 25, 2011

NCIS: Los Angeles - The Debt

Network: CBS
Time: Tuesdays, 9:00-10:00pm
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J, Linda Hunt, Daniela Ruah, Eric Christian Olsen, Barrett Foa, Renee Felice Smith


Summary (from A botched assignment forces Hetty to fire Deeks and send him back to the LAPD. Meanwhile, an awkward goodbye between Kensi and Deeks leaves her with unexpected emotions for her old partner.

Review: I have to admit, I was a little worried when I first heard that Deeks was being fired in an episode of NCIS: LA. I always kind of suspected it wouldn't stick, but with this show, you can never quite be certain, since they have a tendency to write off popular characters. Luckily, this was not one of those situations.

In this episode, our favorite NCIS team (in Los Angeles) was investigating stolen explosives alongside the LAPD. They were staking out a deal being brokered by a man named Clarence Fisk, who the LAPD had been trying to put away for a while. While attempting to protect a female civilian, Deeks shot and killed an Aryan thug. As a result, the LAPD dissolved their agreement with NCIS, and Hetty was forced to fire Deeks.

Deeks was then approached by John Quinn, an Internal Affairs agent who said he believed there was a leak who was giving information to Fisk and his organization. They suspected Lieutenant Bates, Deeks' supervisor with the LAPD. The NCIS team was coming to the same conclusion around this time, which is when Kensi found out that the man Deeks had supposedly killed was really an undercover NCIS agent who was alive and well. The whole thing had been a setup so Deeks would be recalled to the LAPD and get close to the investigation.

Bates had originally told Deeks he wanted him nowhere near the Fisk case, but eventually he came around and wanted Deeks' help with a raid, one that was off the books and therefore shouldn't have the opportunity to get leaked. Deeks, along with Kensi, followed Bates, while Callen and Sam followed Fisk and his gang. While Fisk was trying to make a deal to sell the explosives, Callen, Sam and the SWAT team invaded and broke it up, catching Fisk in the act. That's when they discovered three of the explosives were missing.

Deeks realized Bates wasn't the leak, and that Quinn had been playing them off each other. Quinn was the real mole, and he'd wired the car that they were using as a meeting point with explosives. Luckily, Kensi figured it out just in time and they were able to get away safely (and catch Quinn).

As a whole, I liked this episode quite a bit. So often they use Deeks as a fool, but I always appreciate seeing his more serious side. Sure, he still had some of his quippy one-liners, but he was much more the straight man in this episode. It's nice to be reminded every once in awhile that he's both a good cop and a good agent, and that there's obviously a reason why he still has both jobs.

The only thing I didn't understand was why Kensi had to be kept in the dark. They tried to explain it by saying that she needed to truly believe he'd killed an unarmed man so she could sell it to Bates when he called her in, but I don't buy it. Kensi is a trained undercover agent; she's practiced in lying, and especially lying under pressure. If she'd known the whole story, there's no way she wouldn't be able to convince someone else that this was what she truly believed.

That being said, I can't be too upset about the deceit, since it led to some wonderful moments between Kensi and Deeks, as well as between Kensi and Hetty. I'd rather NCIS: LA not go the way of its predecessor and tease the romance so long the opportunity passes (like NCIS did with Tony and Ziva), but I like the fact that they almost addressed their feelings... and that Hetty was quick to point out that it might be a good thing if they were separated for awhile if those feelings existed.

Romance aside, it was nice to see Kensi and Deeks' relationship as partners portrayed in a serious light as well. So much of it is characterized by potshots and jokes, and it's always nice to see the moments where they show just how much they care about each other.

The story was easy to figure out this week, but I don't think it really detracted much from the episode. I was more focused on watching the evolution of Deeks than caring who actually leaked information from the LAPD to Fisk, but I didn't have to work hard to figure it out. Even with this weakness, this episode was still a strong way to end sweeps and begin the coast to the midseason finale.

Rating: 3/5
Favorite line:

Kensi (storming in): You kept me in the dark?
Callen: Please tell me you didn't waterboard Nell.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

How I Met Your Mother - The Rebound Girl

Network: CBS
Time: Mondays, 8:00-8:30pm
Cast: Josh Radnor, Neil Patrick Harris, Cobie Smulders, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan


Summary (from Ted and Barney discuss making a life-changing decision together, and Robin tries to discourage Marshall and Lily from moving to Long Island.

Review: HIMYM is really throwing viewers for a loop with the whole Barney/Robin saga this season. As someone who started watching the show right around the time they started dating (then went back and watched the rest), I love the idea of them as a couple, and this season really seems to be pushing it. But the road there is apparently paved with potholes.

This episode focused on two main stories, aside from the Barney/Robin plot. In one, Marshall and Lily, who were given a house in a previous episode by Lily's grandparents, are having second thoughts about selling the place. After spending a day there and seeing how big it is, they realize just how tiny their apartment is. But when she sees just how seriously they're thinking about moving, Robin has a minor meltdown and tries to dissuade them.

In the second story, Barney and Ted decide, while drunk, to adopt a baby together. When the idea still seems like a good one in the morning, they begin to talk more, until Ted realizes adopting a baby with Barney is a terrible idea. Which is, of course, when Barney shows up with a baby that he may or may not have kidnapped. It turns out she's his niece, whom he was babysitting. This served to highlight both that Barney wasn't ready to take of a child and that his seemingly newfound desire to have one was earnest and sincere.

There were so many things to like about this episode. Let's start with Barney and Ted's drunken proclamation that everything would be easier if they didn't like girls and that they should be in a gay relationship with each other, which was promptly foiled when they both checked out the waitress. Or perhaps when they're holding the baby (whom they named Hurricane Mosby-Stinson) and a gaggle of women surround them. Or maybe Marshall giving Robin food through the bathroom window.

I have to admit, a part of me was ticked by the idea of Barney and Ted as "bro-parents." I know it would ultimately be a terrible idea, but there's a small part of me that would love to see it. At least it would be funny for awhile.

The part of the story I've neglected so far is the very end, when Barney climbed through the bathroom window and explained to Robin what had happened. When he asked if she could see him as a parent, she blurted out, "I'm pregnant." Cut to black.

This part of the story got spoiled for me before I watched the episode, but I might have figured it out anyway. Looking back, it made Barney's desire to have a child seem sudden and a little jarring. To my memory, he's never expressed any interest in a family, and I can't remember him having any positive interactions with kids. But obviously it was no coincidence that the episode where he finally expressed this longing was the same one in which Robin told him she was pregnant. It may not be his child, but you can bet Barney's going to spend at least the next episode getting excited to be a father, and this episode set it up perfectly. It almost makes you wonder if Ted's jokes throughout the episode that things happened at certain times for the sake of the story weren't tongue-in-cheek comments about this impeccable timing as well.

The other issue they left unresolved was whether or not Lily and Marshall are going to move to the suburbs. I can't imagine how they'll manage that and still have them be an integral part of the show, but I trust the writers to find a way if that's the path they choose. It does seem like a logical step for expectant parents, and I like that it's something they're addressing. I don't necessarily think the show would be lacking without this story, but it's a nice addition.

Obviously I'm looking forward to seeing how the pregnant Robin arc resolves itself, but I'm also looking forward to seeing Ted's reaction to this news. He's been in such a bad place in the romance department lately that this latest blow can't possibly help. Hopefully things will turn around for him soon (though with HIMYM's ratings where they are, it'll still be several seasons before we ever get to meet the mother).

Rating: 4/5

Favorite line:

Marshall: Baby, your grandparents gave you this house outright. The way I see it, we have five options: number one, sell it. Number two, year-round haunted house. Three, giant fence around the perimeter. Chimp sanctuary, there's a swing around the backyard. Four, we destroy it with sledgehammers. I like four.
Lily: Or five, we move in, raise our children, make this our family home.
Marshall: 'Till they graduate, and we destroy it with sledgehammers. As a family.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hart of Dixie - Homecoming and Coming Home

Network: CW
Time: Mondays, 8:00-9:00pm
Cast: Rachel Bilson, Jaime King, Cress Williams, Wilson Bethel, Scott Porter, McKaley Miller, Tim Matheson


Review (from Noticing that Zoe is feeling homesick, Lavon suggests that she host his annual pre-game homecoming party to help her feel more connected to Bluebell. Zoe jumps at the opportunity and decides to enlist the help of her friend Gigi from New York, but as it turns out New York and Bluebell have very different ideas of what makes a good party. Meanwhile, George and Wade hatch a plan to get even with their high school nemesis, Jimmy, but when Lemon catches wind of their scheme she wants in on the action, too.

Review: In just a few short episodes, this series has really grown on me. I didn't have high expectations when I first watched it, but I did sympathize with the concept, having been a transplanted New York-Metropolitan-er in the Deep South. But I was pleasantly surprised. It's certainly not the sharpest or deepest show in the metaphorical tool shed, but it's cute, the characters are engaging, and I enjoy watching each episode.

This episode dealt with the theme of growing up. Again, this is something I can relate to, being just a few years removed from college and still trying to figure out exactly what is acceptable behavior for someone my age. And all the characters had a little something to learn.

The episode was about the homecoming game. Anyone who's spent time in the south knows that high school football is more revered than professional and that homecoming is one of the biggest days of the year. But Zoe is still getting used to this concept, and the homecoming game meant little to her, except it emphasized how much she didn't fit in. To help her (and because he was coaching the high school team and didn't have time), Lavon set her to work organizing the pre-game party. This, naturally, backfired.

In her effort to make it good, Zoe enlisted the help of a party-planner friend of hers from New York. Gigi flew in immediately, but it soon became clear she and Zoe had a lot less in common than they had before Zoe had left. Gigi wanted to throw a New York-style party and, when Zoe balked, she said that the reason the people of Bluebell didn't like Zoe was because they hadn't met the real her yet. It was sweet, in its own way, but definitely not the right message.

So they threw a New York-style party, with purple drinks and food that was foamy (at least, I think that's what he said. My mind is having trouble with this concept though, so please correct me if I'm wrong). And, naturally, the people of Bluebell hated it, especially Lavon, who seemed to regret having put Zoe in charge in the first place. Zoe looked so desolate at the thought of having disappointed the one true friend she has in Bluebell that I really felt for her. So she finally told Gigi that she'd ruined the party, apologized profusely to Lavon, and ended the party.

To add insult to injury, Zoe then walked in on Gigi in bed with Judson, the vet that Zoe was interested in. I wouldn't have been nearly so quick to forgive Gigi after this point, but the next morning she and Zoe made up, and Zoe realized she wasn't the same person as she'd been when she left New York. Maybe she didn't fit in in Bluebell just yet, but she didn't fit in in New York anymore either.

Though I still find it absolutely crazy that this girl who looks and acts like she's 16 is a full-fledged doctor, I do like Zoe, and I like the growth she's shown over the eight episodes so far. Obviously she needs to adjust herself so she can eventually assimilate into Bluebell, and I think the gradual process so far hasn't been jarring or unbelievable. I would like to see her win one once in awhile though. In every episode, she's messing something up (the parade, the party) and making the people like her a little less, while occasionally winning over one or two of them. I'd like to see her get something right soon.

And, while I miss Nancy Travis' Emmeline and the relationship she and Zoe had, I love the friendship between Zoe and Lavon. And I never, ever, ever want them to try to push it to something more. Grey's Anatomy did it with George and Izzy, and while I know there are many people who love that couple, I always felt like the attempted shift to romance ruined that relationship. Some television pairs are just meant to stay friends.

While this was going on in Zoe's world, Wade, George and Lemon were engaged in a game of payback. Along with the crowd of alumni coming back for the homecoming game was Jimmy, a high school tormentor of Wade's and George's. Apparently they owed him payback for a particularly nasty prank he played on George, and they enlisted Lemon's help. She devised a scheme to empty a packet of Fun Sip (our world's Fun Dip) into the shower head of Jimmy's hotel room, so he would be stained blue for several days and be humiliated when he went to toss the coin at the game. This backfired when Jimmy tried to run from the room and slipped, bumping his head and knocking him unconscious. That's when Lemon realized she couldn't act like the wild child she'd been in high school and the mature woman she wanted to be now at the same time. She told this to George, who seemed to understand, and to Lavon, telling him not to talk about his feelings for her anymore. He (sort of) agreed, but he said just because they didn't talk about them didn't mean they wouldn't be there.

I love that they made Lemon more than just the "mean girl" who was Zoe's enemy. Sure, they don't get along, but Lemon is more than just that. Her role in each episode is about more than just trying to drive Zoe out of town (in fact, she hasn't actively tried that in awhile). I find myself rooting for her and George to stick it out (really, it's not that I don't like Lavon...). I even find myself hoping that she'll get the things she wants. It's unusual for me to root for the "bad guy," but I don't feel like the identity Lemon had in the first episode is the same as the woman we see in the later episodes, and I have to admit, I like the change.

The third and final part of the story was that the two quarterbacks on the high school team were sick during the week leading up to the game. It turned out that the chemicals they used to make the field greener were making them so, and the quarterbacks were getting sicker than the rest of the team because they licked their fingers a lot to throw the ball. I felt a little like this story was filler, something to remind us that, yes, Zoe is the doctor. Also, it was something to distract Lavon so Zoe had to all the work.

If there was one thing I was disappointed in, it was that there was no Tim Matheson in this episode, and I always like to see more of him. Brick is a character that may have benefited from the grown up theme. Plus, you can't tell me he'd have been out of town for the homecoming game. I don't believe it.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode (and this show) very much. I like the angle they've taken so far, and I like the evolution of the characters. I'm looking forward to more.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite line:

Wade: Lemon, another beer.
Lemon: You snap those fingers at me one more time Wade, and I'll swear to God I will chop them off that dainty little hand of yours.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

NCIS - Engaged, Part II

Network: CBS
Time: Tuesdays, 8:00-9:00pm
Cast: Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Cote de Pablo, Sean Murray, Pauley Perrette, David McCallum, Rocky Carroll

Summary (from As the NCIS team continues its search for a missing Marine, Gibbs and Ziva travel to her last known whereabouts in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Tony reveals his deepest fears and Gibbs is forced to relive events from his past.

Review: I think this was the first NCIS episode I've ever seen where I liked the criminal story more than I liked the character development. This episode was the second in a two-parter. In the last episode, Marine First Lieutenant Gabriela Flores, originally thought dead when the girls' school she taught in was blown up, was kidnapped by terrorists who don't like places where girls think for themselves. Her heartbroken father was pacing the floors of the Navy Yard waiting for news, while Tony and Gibbs each dealt with some personal issues.

This episode began in the middle, with Tony walking into the chapel where Joseph Flores sat with Chaplain Burke, poised to tell them whether or not Gabriela was dead. But before he could get the words out, we flashed back to 48 hour ago, when Gibbs and Ziva landed in Afghanistan. They were barely off the plane when they found out the girls who had fled with Gabriela had been found alive, though both had been tortured. Hot grease had been splashed in one girl's eyes, and the other had cigarette burns all over her.

While questioning a Staff Sergeant, Gibbs found out that the teacher who was pictured with Gabriela hadn't been in school the day of the explosion. Seemed suspicious to Gibbs (and everyone who's ever watched an episode of NCIS), so immediately suspected that the teacher was involved. Luckily, her little brother was in school in DC, so Tony and McGee had something to do.

They chased down the brother, who immediately started running, essentially screaming, "I did something wrong! Arrest me!" Which McGee and Tony promptly did, discovering he had the same tattoo on his finger that his sister had. They took Asa back to the Navy Yard and proceeded to question him, and he tells them they know nothing about his "way of life."
Meanwhile, Gibbs and Ziva meet the girls. They questioned them (in a kid-friendly way, of course) long enough to find out Gabriela was still alive. One girl tells them they were someplace that smelled bad and had a lot of oil. So they take samples from the girls' feet to send back to Abby in the lab. Then Gibbs kissed them adorably on the heads and sent them on their way.

Abby, of course, is able to determine exactly where the oil is from, narrowing down the region to an area near Kabul.

Meanwhile in DC, Tony was doing some soul-searching. He stood in the chapel having a conversation with God, not knowing that the Chaplain was right outside. Did anyone else start to suspect she was somehow involved?

Gibbs and Ziva find Gabriela being held hostage by her fellow teacher, Saroya, who gives her up with surprisingly little fight, and we cut back to the beginning of the episode, where a grim-faced Tony finds Joseph Flores and Chaplain Burke in the chapel. This time the scene continues, and he tells them that they've got Gabriela, and she's alive. Tears all around.

But the story's not over! Turns out, Saroya and Asa have a plan... and an older brother, who is most assuredly not dead, as they believed he was. Instead, about 300 private school girls are taking a well-publicized trip to the capital, and Osman is there, ready to strap a bomb to the bus. At the last second, with one number left, the team shows up to take him down. But instead of shooting him... they jam the signal of his cell phone. No need to traumatize all those schoolgirls.

I thought the terrorism plot was really interesting in this episode. Usually when NCIS does international stories, they tend to be too complex and I find myself not paying attention. Instead, I was engaged and very curious to see what was next, especially since they appeared to catch the bad guy with 15 minutes left to the episode.

I was even intrigued by Gibbs' flashbacks, remembering a girl he'd known in the Marines who'd been killed. I'm not quite sure what the significance of that was however. Were they showing that he loved someone before Shannon? Just that she was a tough, headstrong woman, like Gabriela Flores? Or is she a character who's going to return at some point (which I wouldn't mind in the least, if it means more of Sean Harmon playing young Gibbs)?

The plot that didn't work for me was Tony's, especially at the end. For two episodes, Tony has been thinking about how short life is. He made a bucket list and talked to God. Yet somehow, the whole thing turned into a joke at the end, when Chaplain Burke took him to "confront his worst fear." Apparently, Tony fears children. While this isn't exactly out of line with Tony's characters (he's had some interesting run-ins with kids in the past), it just seemed like such a waste of the story. I guess this might be showing that Tony is maturing enough to want kids of his own, which might lead to a more serious relationship for him, but overall it just seemed so out of place in this episode. It wasn't tied to the story much, except that there was a Chaplain at the Navy Yard, and it didn't even seem to do anything to further Tony's character. Hopefully that's something that will play out more in the future.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite line:
Gibbs: People died because of that teacher, marines. What do you think should happen to her?
Flores: Sir, that's not my decision.
Gibbs: Yeah, but you've thought about it, right?
Flores: She should be held accountable for her crimes.
Gibbs: Oh.
Flores: She should watch those girls change the world in positive ways she never imagined.
Gibbs: That a punishment?
Flores: That's a gift, sir. Punishment is knowing she could have done the same.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Harry's Law - American Girl

Network: NBC
Time: Wednesdays, 9:00-10:00pm
Cast: Kathy Bates, Nate Corddry, Karen Olivo, Christopher McDonald, Mark Valley


Summary (from While Harry is on vacation, her trip takes a frustrating turn when the small town of Langford, Ohio impounds her Mercedes Benz for violating their "Buy American" law. Harry, with Oliver at her side, challenges the town's law and is pit against a young, homespun attorney and the engine behind the law, Langford's mayor, Franklin Chickory. Meanwhile, Adam represents the Chens, a Chinese family whose daughter was stolen because of China's one-child policy and adopted by American parents. With Cassie's help, Adam hopes to win custody for the Chens.

Review: There are still a lot of things wrong with Harry's Law. It's preachy, probably overly so. The characters are all, without fail, long-winded and high-minded. Harry is belligerent and downright unlikeable at times. They got rid of Jenna and Malcolm. It's aimed at an older audience outside the golden demographic, thereby putting its ratings in the toilet.

None of this matters to me.

There were two main plots to this episode. The first was Harry and Oliver's story. Harry, on her way to go quail hunting, was pulled over in Langford, Ohio. They impounded her car because she was in violation of their "Buy American" law. Harry, being Harry, found this law to be ridiculous, and she drafted Ollie to help her fight it.

This is where they tended to get a bit preachy, as both Harry and Mayor Chickory made long speeches from the witness stand extolling the virtues and freedoms of America. I can't imagine this kind of behavior would be permitted in a real court, but no one stopped them here (except for one blundering objection from Doogie Howser, Esq.). Harry believed that part of the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution gave her the right to drive a Mercedes wherever she wanted. Also, that a "Buy American" law would ultimately be catastrophic for the country if other nations decided to retaliate by not buying American-made products. Chickory defended his law by saying that only allowing American cars would create and provide more jobs for Americans. Ultimately, the judge sided with Harry (as well he should, since her name is in the title of the show, and Chickory's name was almost forgotten on IMDb).

Call me a sucker, but I like the preachy stories, especially the deeply political ones that deal as much in ideology as they do practicality. At its most basic level, this story questioned just how deep the right of free expression goes, and whether an individual town or state can infringe upon that right for what they believe to be the common good. There wasn't really a right or wrong answer to the case and, while I was happy with the end result, I was more intrigued by the arguments each side made than what the judge ruled.

The B story began with Adam's ex-girlfriend Chunhua returning with a Chinese couple. Four years ago, their second child had been abducted by the government and sold into adoption. They had finally tracked her down to Ohio, where she was living with a black couple and their other daughter. The Chens wanted to fight for custody of their daughter, and Adam enlisted Cassie's help to try and win her back.

From the moment this story was introduced, I knew it couldn't end well. No matter how you cut it, one set of parents was walking away without their daughter. In this case, the judge--a black woman adopted into a white family when she was a little girl--ruled in favor of the Thomases, under the belief that a six-year-old girl shouldn't be ripped away from the only family she's ever known, though she stipulated detailed visitation instructions.

I had a major problem with this ruling. At one point, early in the episode, we're introduced to the little girl, and we watched as she saw her biological parents for the first time in four years. While they were agonizing that they no longer remembered her or their native language, she turned to them and, in perfect Chinese, told them she remembered who they were. This seems to negate the entire argument (that was made multiple times by multiple people) that the child shouldn't be taken from the only family she's ever known. If she remembers her biological family, then the Thomases aren't the only family she's ever known.

I also feel like this story would have been a little easier for me if the show could possibly have cast some less talented actresses. Even the little girl was great, ranging in emotion from stoic and scared to bubbly and singing at the top of her lungs. The judge was phenomenal, playing just the right mix of heartbroken by her job and professional. And the gut-wrenching sobs from Mrs. Chen when she was told her daughter was to stay with the Thomases made me feel like my insides were being ripped out. If just one of the guest stars had been a little less good, maybe I wouldn't have bawled like a baby at the end of the episode.

I know Harry's Law has struggled to find ratings this season, but I can't help hoping for a miracle. Maybe NBC's anemic line-up will continue to bleed so much that Harry's Law won't look bad in comparison. Maybe ratings will begin to spike. Maybe they'll suddenly decide they care about the over 50 demographic. Because no matter its faults, Harry's Law is a good show that makes us think each week a little harder than we did the week before.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite line:

Harry: "I'm white, I'm rich and I'm Republican. That makes it legal for me to mistake you for a quail."

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

NCIS: Los Angeles - Greed

Network: CBS
Time: Tuesdays, 9:00-10:00pm
Cast: Chris O'Donnell, LL Cool J, Linda Hunt, Daniela Ruah, Eric Christian Olsen, Barrett Foa, Renee Felice Smith


Summary (from When a Navy ID is found on a dead body tied to a hazardous material smuggling case, NCIS is granted permission to investigate in Mexico and asked to help locate the missing materials.

Review: It's been a long time since I've reviewed an episode of NCIS: LA. I love this show; it's one of my most highly anticipated each week. But I rarely have anything to say about each individual episode. This season has been strong so far, particularly as we learned more about Callen's backstory (and Hetty's). This episode didn't stand out much from the others, but it had some wonderful moments.

Both NCIS: LA and its predecessor NCIS are very formulaic shows. In LA, each episode begins with some cute character interaction before diving into the case. This often becomes a recurring joke/theme in the episode, and it's often one of my favorite parts. I love these little moments, where the characters aren't super special agents; they're just normal co-workers. Well, okay, normal co-workers who are wittier and pithier than most. In this case, the episode began with Hetty teaching Deeks and Kensi how to waltz. This scene completely tickled me, and I have to admit I was disappointed that we didn't get to see Sam and Callen's turn.

The main plot of the episode began with a double murder south of the border in Mexico. The NCIS team was dispatched because one of the the bodies had a Navy ID on him. Through a cell phone video, they found out that there was a box missing, one that they believed was smuggled into Mexico from the Sudan.

Kensi and Deeks traced the box back into the U.S., while Sam and Callen met with the dead sailor's wife, who admitted she knew about the box. Her husband had planned to steal it because, as she claimed, it contained $8.5 million in gold.

Meanwhile, Eric traced the tire tracks they found to a truck owned by a Mexican drug cartel in the United States. Sam and Callen went to the garage, got into a shootout (because this is NCIS: LA and therefore there has to be gunfire every 15 minutes or so), and saved the life of one of the less-than-brilliant cartel members who'd gotten himself stuck under a car. He spilled his guts to the men who'd saved him, telling them that there was never any gold in the box. It was brown heroin. Obviously, since they were a drug cartel. Also, Jaime tells them that the guy who has the box wears red cowboy boots and has a wristband with a monkey on it.

Well, that's all Eric and Nell need, and they trace the wristband to its owner in downtown Los Angeles. Unfortunately, when our team arrives, he's already dead and the box is gone. However, they do meet up with Sam's buddy, Michael. Apparently, Sam's been working on an undercover operation for the CIA, and Michael is the CIA operative he's working with. Michael tells them that, nope, it's not brown heroin, it's uranium.

This is where I started to lose the story a bit, and I blame two reasons. For one, it got awfully complicated by this point. Somehow they narrowed it down to three men who were going to use the uranium to attack a convention center. Sam, Callen and Michael rushed in while the center was being evacuated and saved the day, but not before Michael got covered in uranium. He now has only a few months to live, so he returned to the Sudan to continue his work.

The other reason I lost the main story was because I was much more focused on the Eric and Nell subplot. Nell had received mysterious flowers, and Eric was feeling... competitive, so he sent a flower to himself as well (which Nell, not having fallen off the turnip truck yesterday, saw right through). However, it turned out that Nell had sent the flowers to herself as well, since she loves flowers and no one had sent her any in awhile. At some point, between wanting to give Nell a hug and smack Eric in the back of the head, I stopped paying attention to some silly terrorism story and completely lost myself in the geek love plot. Which is because I'm admittedly a 13-year-old girl on the inside. But come on. It was cute!

That aside, I do appreciate that NCIS: LA can tell a compelling, serious story without feeling the need to be too melodramatic. I mean, terrorism in and of itself is a dramatic plot, but the storytelling is simple. The characters move from one theory to another without much fanfare. They rarely break the rules if they can work within them, so when they do go rogue, the situation is made all the more intense for it. This episode set up the next, in which Sam will return to the Sudan to find Michael. I imagine this means eventually Callen (and maybe Kensi and Deeks) will wind up there as well, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the story will hold.

And the 13-year-old girl in me is looking forward to seeing what the Eric and Nell story will hold.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite line:
Nell: You took a flower from Hetty's desk?
Eric: She cuts them herself. It's a big bunch. She'll never miss it.
Nell: Hmmm.
Eric: I'm doomed, aren't I?
Nell: You sacrificed yourself to compete with me.

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