“Active Measures”, the season seven opener was a busy episode and without a cliff hanger from season six to build on, the initial few scenes were reminders of previous plot threads; most importantly that Arkady Kolcheck had been left for dead in Russia, and Deeks was under investigation by LAPDs Internal Affairs.
A new side to Callen was revealed in this episode; a shady version, one who had no qualms about flying under the radar, brokering unsanctioned deals with Russian mafia, deliberately breaking the law – and all in an attempt to find his ex-KGB friend and last connection to his father, Arkady Kolchek. Not only was he the ‘lone wolf’, but he was also a rogue agent. He deliberately distanced himself from Sam and Hetty, was downright insubordinate to Hetty, turning his back and walking away from her twice.
The opening night scene had Callen comfortably blending in to the homeless side of LA and obtaining illicit information from the CIA (in the form of recurring character Sabatino). His paranoia was rife and he ducked between bins and pulled his weapon, before coming face to face with his stalker – Sam – who promptly shot the man behind Callen, who had also been following him.
Sam demonstrated incredible patience and concern with his partner, so much so that he searched his house, caught his partner, let him go, disobeyed and disrespected Hetty, yet still placed a tracker on his errant partner to make sure he and the NCIS team could bring him in.
The panic and sheer desperation Callen displayed when Sam had him in a choke hold demonstrated how low he had sunk emotionally and physically. The man’s a mess! Gone is the buzz cut and short stubble in favour of a messy mop of hair and a beard. He may not have been quite ready to sell his soul to Russian mafia Anatoli Kirkin, but he was prepared to break the law and steal a painting in exchange for information on Arkady. With team orders to apprehend Callen, it was strange and somewhat disappointing that when Kirkin was arrested, Callen was left free. Not a single comment was made regarding his actions. A small piece of banter between Sam and Callen indicated their partnership could be repaired and Granger’s dry remark that they were “just adorable”, partially raised a brief thought as to whether the theft was a ruse to merely to arrest Kirkin…
The closing scenes with Sam and Hetty were very touching, and illustrate just how honourable Sam is. He knows he disobeyed Hetty and offered to accept any punishment she thought he deserved. Callen, in stark contrast, tries to use his relationship with Hetty. They both offered fake apologies and called each other out on them. Callen reasoned to Hetty that he wanted to protect her and NCIS, and as Granger said earlier, his extracting Arkady could cause an international incident and ruin everyone’s career. But it was his personal reasons and feelings about Arkady that drove him to acting as he did, and so draws similarities to the S2 finale and S3 premiere, where Callen (and team) resigned to travel to the Czech Repulic and then Romania, to rescue Hetty. There were no repercussions then either.
Callen knew he’d gone too far when he thought Hetty was serving him his termination papers. Instead it was the type of information from Kirkin that he was after, however if he used that without Hetty’s prior consent, she overtly threatened to terminate him with “extreme prejudice”. (Interpreted as ending his career and ensuring he would never work in law enforcement again, until a Google search confirmed that in Military/spook speak, it means to be assassinated.) Callen seemed to accept that threat almost light-heartedly, but still tried to play on their relationship by suggesting they talk about things over a drink, which Hetty refuses.
The tough love Hetty is now showing her ‘favourite agent’, and the boundaries Callen has crossed, particularly in this opener, hopefully means the dynamics of their relationship have changed, and it will be very exciting if this is developed throughout the season. The repercussions may be far reaching, especially as we know Arkady’s daughter Anna is returning at some point, and this premiere plays out around mid season (as per showrunner, Shane Brennan).
Light comic relief came in the form of the remaining central characters. Deeks was forced to explain to Kensi why he had a plethora of sexy woman greeting him on the beach. The “I love you” from both of them seemed natural and it is great to see their relationship progressing without having to see repeated scenes of them kissing or in bed. The running joke of Kirkin’s attraction to Deeks, which commenced in S4 in the bath-house, was maintained with all the main characters – even Callen, who Kirkin propositioned when advised Deeks was already taken. Eric’s impending weapons training with Sam will be amusing to see, but his theory that Callen had just snapped, egged on by Sam suggesting that Callen may have been cloned, bordered on Eric being a little too goofy. Granger was the surprise package; he showed concern for Callen, understanding with Hetty and acted as an intermediary when diminutive Hetty faced off against the giant form of Sam, with some classic one liners.
Overall this was an enjoyable team episode, however it did feel a little disjointed. The Kensi / Deeks stakeout conversation about the IA investigation felt a little out of the blue, probably as it hadn’t been mentioned for a few episodes. The LAPD were suddenly in a car chase with a highly trained Federal Agent – Callen would not allow himself to be caught like that – and it felt like there was a cut scene somewhere. Most surprisingly, Callen now has a bed! Towards the end of last season, Sam comments that Callen is a grown man who still sleeps on mattress on the floor. The famous CALLEN. G bedroll was still evident in the corner of his room.
“Active Measures”, a team episode, with one of their own as the ‘case of the week’, some predictable scenarios, questionable character progression or maybe regression for Callen, the opportunity to build on the seeds of the IA for Deeks, and a chance to witness the changing dynamics between Hetty and Callen.
What did you think about the episode and/or the review?