S07E03 Driving Miss Diaz

Model Catalina Diaz is the suspected survivor of a Peruvian massacre eighteen years ago, and DNA samples are required to confirm that Presidential candidate General Alfredo Silva was responsible. Silva is aware there is a potential witness, and so Diaz’s life is in danger.  Kensi and Deeks go undercover as Catalina’s agent’s assistant and driver respectively, whilst Callen and Sam work with Global War Crimes investigator, Alex Elsmlie, to plug the leak and prevent attempts on Catalina’s life.

The plot summary does not promise or even suggest any movement regarding Deeks and the IA investigation, nor that any tension between Hetty and Callen will be explored.  Instead this is a recipe for a fun, filler episode, which does not disappoint at all.  The gloriously formulaic structure is utilised to the full, from Sam and Callen’s bromance, to Deeks flirting with Catalina. There is the obligatory gun battle and fist fight, and a slight divergence from the norm with Hetty out in the field, directing the photo shoot.

There was a very light feel to the episode that referenced the early seasons, particularly with Callen.  The audience is reminded that he’s a lazy operator who likes bending the rules and wriggling out of tests where possible, and whose one mission in life sometimes seems to be how far he can wind up Sam.

Sam and Callen arrive in the bull pen to find a bi-monthly office security assessment on their desks, which Callen promptly throws on top of the large pile of files accumulating in his ‘in’ tray.  Sam, stickler for the rules, refuses to give Callen the cliff notes again and so he half heartedly gives in and opens the file, only to close it again as unreadable; the copier needs toner.  Sam’s efforts to change the toner is another opportunity for Callen to wind him up, leading to some quite literal toilet humour – and the fact that Nell swapped out the empty toner early.  This is continued later in the episode when the pair go under cover at the LA War Crimes Office.  Callen rips Sam apart as he unnecessarily searches the office for evidence, whilst Callen ‘supervises’ Eric hacking in to the computer’s hard drive.  One day Callen will push Sam too far in the ‘winding up’ stakes and Sam will just blow.  That would be a fun episode to see; both of them at each other’s throats for real!

Catalina Diaz is introduced as the stereotypical model; rude, arrogant and selfish.  Images of her on the screen in Ops cause Callen to say that some days he loves his job, and for Deeks to have pictures of her on his smart phone – which, of course, Kensi finds.  Instead of the jealousy she fought to control with Talia, she is able to see the humorous side.  Clearly she does not view Catalina as a threat.  Both Kensi and Deeks easily break through Catalina’s arrogant exterior after they deliver her to the boatshed where Elmslie is waiting with Sam, Callen and Granger.  She still refuses to speak with Elmslie and so Kensi and Deeks remain undercover and they drive her to the photo shoot, with Deeks remaining uncharacteristically silent.  In fact Deeks has probably never been in a scene for so long without speaking.  He made up for it at the diner, as he and Kensi use their natural personalities and charisma in an attempt to connect with Catalina.

More light heartedness takes place with Catalina bonding with Deeks and Kensi.  Deeks, looking sharp in his suit, is told that he could have been a model, but the homeless look when out in 2008, while Kensi uses the slogan off a face wash bottle to persuade Catalina to be honest about herself and her past, to become a “force” rather than just a “face”, a point which Deeks picks up on later.  The photo shoot itself is conducted by Hetty, who was in her element as director.  Clearly her anecdotes about rubbing shoulders with Hollywood’s golden stars are true.  In typical Hetty style, she deliberately broke cover to be honest with Catalina – or to manipulate her into agreeing to remain under NCIS protection, whilst still starring in the photo shoot.

The re-introduction of Alex Elmslie was unexpected.  He was first seen in the season three episode ‘Betrayal’, where Sam was undercover in Sudan, tricking war criminal Tahir Khaled’s sister Jada, to fall in love with him as part of a CIA mission.  Elmslie returned a few episodes later after his family was kidnapped to blackmail him into delivering Jada to her brother’s cohorts.  The mention of Jada could possibly be a nod to a future story arc involving Sam.  Show runner Shane Brennan has said that someone from Sam’s past returns, providing him with his biggest challenge yet; and Khaled did promise to hunt Sam down.

Elmslie’s appearance may have changed – he is now sporting high hair and a bushy beard – but he is as passionate as ever about bringing war criminals to trial, blindly disregarding the feelings of others to achieve his aim.  His first scenes in the boatshed emphasise how little power or even respect he now commands.  Sam and Callen are both standing, whilst Elmslie is sitting at the table.  He looks small and hunched and somewhat like a hobbit.

Granger’s role in this episode is to stand in for Hetty.  He sanctions Sam and Callen to illegally search the offices of the War Crimes tribunal, threatening them not to get caught and sounding like their father.

“If you get caught, I’m gonna show you what a real crime against humanity is.”

In terms of the plot, it is eventually discovered that Catalina’s adopted brother is her half brother, and their mother was the survivor of the massacre (whom General Silva took to his bed, hence the half brother).  The plot is straight forward, and the twist is still easy to follow, but this episode is all about the characters, cementing their personalities.  The closing scene again emphasises how close they are as a team as they fondly banter with each other (there is still little direct interaction between Callen and Hetty outside of case talk, but no discernible tension).  The team view the Hetty’s photos from Catalina’s shoot with one surprise entry at the end; Hetty is Bond.

Hetty is Bond

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