S07E08 The Long Goodbye

The atrocious terror attacks in Paris on Friday meant the scheduled episode of NCISLA (“Defectors” – teenage girls recruited by ISIS), was withheld.  The teasers had shown Deeks being arrested by LAPD, which led into the following episode “Internal Affairs”, and the re-jigging means both episodes have been pushed back by a week.  Instead is “The Long Goodbye”, written by Dave Kalstein and originally scheduled to air after Internal Affairs at the start of December.  The beauty of NCISLA being a procedural is there is a mixture of standalone episodes, two-parters, and those which contribute to an overall season arc.  “The Long Goodbye” can be viewed on its own, but may well contribute to the Sam-centric finale (as teased by Shane Brennan).

This episode is reminiscent of one of Kalstein’s early season one episodes, “Past Lives”.  Both deal with the aftermath of long term undercover operations.  Past Lives dealt with Callen sleeping with (using or falling for?) the sister of one of his marks, to the extent that her four year old child may have been his.  Callen felt guilt and confusion around the web of lies he spun, questioning which truth he should reveal, if any.  This time, Kalstein has revisited Sam and Jada, a character the audience was briefly reminded of earlier in season seven (Driving Miss Diaz).

Four years ago when Sam was undercover in Sudan with war criminal Tahir Khaled, he convinced Tahir’s sister Jada to fall in love with him.  Sam’s cover was blown but he escaped with Jada back to the States, where he destroyed her hopes and dreams;  she would have to testify against her brother and enter witness protection or be sent back to Sudan, where her brother would kill her.  Either way, she would never see Sam again.  vlcsnap-2015-11-21-17h24m57s983Now, Jada is on her way to witness protection when the van is attacked and in the confusion, she escapes.  The attackers are from the Molina drug cartel and due to NCIS connections with Jada, the team must investigate and find her.  As Sam is personally involved, he’s sent to the boatshed, tasked with interrogating an injured cartel member.  The drug angle means working with DEA Agent Talia Del Campo, and this time round, Kensi is paired with Talia to infiltrate the cartel’s playboy style mansion, leaving Callen and Deeks to work the crime scene.

Shaking up the established partnerships is always a joy as it changes the team dynamics.  The rather strained relationship between Kensi and Talia from earlier in the season, has been put to one side now Deeks is not around to turn Talia’s head.  Talia & KenisWithout him, she has no reason to wind Kensi up and the two quickly realise they have more in common than they thought; namely being revolted at the sexism they have to endure for the greater good.  They work the cartel’s pool party and are a force to be reckoned with when they fight the security guys.

Surprisingly, Callen and Deeks have only paired up occasionally and rarely for more than a few scenes – even then, Callen manages to ditch Deeks.  It has taken six seasons for them to be together for the best part of an episode.  Their bonding commences in the bullpen where they present a solution to Kensi’s Parking Space Bitch (PSB).  Later, as they stakeout a meet with Jada’s US Marshall Drew Groller, Deeks challenges Callen’s social behaviour.  Deeks & CallenThey are words that Sam could easily have uttered, and Callen of course states he’s social, just picky, leading Deeks to suggest they hang out.  The suggestion is met with resistance; Callen fails to commit; he has to check his plans.  Finally, he refuses outright in favour of hanging with Talia, presumably just as mates, as there has been no mention of his splitting with Joelle.  Although it could just be that both Talia and Callen have seized an opportunity to wind up Deeks, who is somewhat vocal about no longer being the object of Talia’s desires…

The banter throughout the episode is of girls versus guys.  Callen & Deeks against Kensi and her PSB, Kensi & Talia versus the cartel guys.  Deeks trying and failing to get Callen to side with him against both girls and the PSB.   The girls are bonding, Talia and Callen are bonding, Callen and Deeks – well it’s an excellent start to a very interesting pairing.

The light-hearted moments contrast with the seriousness of the main narrative theme; the consequences of the team’s undercover operations and the lies they tell themselves and others.  This is discussed throughout and is a question the US Marshall asks directly to Callen and Deeks; do they ever think about what happens to people after the cases wrap?  Both admit they do and Sam later reveals his own feelings to Hetty; it is Sam who has the most difficult challenge.  Sam and HettyOn the one hand, he can justify his actions as he saved Jada from Tahir.  But he lied and tricked her into leaving her homeland, effectively blackmailing her in to testifying.  It was not Jada’s choice to betray her brother.  For her, entering into witness protection would mean losing the last piece of her identity, familial connection and her freedom.  When Jada realises Tahir wants her to return home, she acquiesces and seeks out the cartel herself.  The lies told by Sam, mean she refuses to believe her brother will kill her.  The team has no choice but to allow her to leave the US.  As Hetty stated, forcing her to stay would be akin to imprisonment.

Sam’s scenes focused on interrogating cartel member Diego Salazar and served to slow down the episode’s pace to reveal Sam’s inner thoughts and his conscience.  The questions and answers from both sides of the table were clever, each debunking the others lies and deceit.  Salazar provides a foil with which Sam attempts to justify his past with Jada, both men controlling their emotions as they circle each other to uncover the truth, leading to several  twists and turns in the plot.  Characters are not as they first seem and their motivations are not straight forward, causing the viewer to think a little more than usual, (a common trend in episodes written by Dave Kalstein).  In addition to Sam’s unhurried scenes, the lack of car chases and fights continue to slow the narrative, allowing the team to actually investigate and so creating a different feel from the usual fast pace.

There is some smooth storytelling and editing, particularly when Nell and Eric brief the team in Ops.  Questions asked by the team are answered with a cut to the scenes in the gym, where Granger is updating Sam.  Information continues to be released in this manner, with each cut between Ops and the gym revealing more.  The most frustrating element though, is the over-use of music, particularly in the airport shoot out where it is extremely noticeable.  Music in procedurals should be used to enhance the moment, not to stand out and be overbearing.  In fact some scenes are better without any background music; images can speak for themselves, as can words.

The Long Goodbye is a reference to the hard-boiled detective novels by Raymond Chandler and in a literal sense, this may not actually be goodbye.  Before Jada left, Callen confirmed a cartel member was still tagged.  They will know when and where Jada lands and therefore, will also have Tahir’s location.  Sam may possibly encounter them both again in the season seven finale; after all, her brother still needs to exact his revenge on Sam.

This is another excellent episode for season seven, which is continuing to focus on different characters and bringing variety with the storytelling and episode style.

A smoldering Callen

Deeks & Talia agree that Callen gives a good smolder!

 

 

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3 thoughts on “S07E08 The Long Goodbye

  1. jeffersonmunroe

    Very well-thought out review. I always enjoy that you incorporate information about who the head writer is for each episode, and that you connect the episode in question to previous episodes as well. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Past Lives, but it sounds like an interesting comparison. I’ll have to see if I can catch a rerun sometime.

    I always love watching Deeks and Callen pair up, and it was especially fun to watch in this episode. You’re right that Sam could have easily said the things Deeks was saying in the car, and I think he would have been siding with Deeks if he’d been there too. (I wonder how Sam would feel about agreeing with Deeks for once :P)

    Excellent point about Sam’s interrogation scenes slowing down the pacing. I think that was good for the episode. And it gave LL Cool J the opportunity to show off his acting skills.

    I’m looking forward to seeing if this storyline will pop up again later in the season.

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  2. I Am Me Post author

    Thanks for the comments. I love the Deeks/Callen pairing, and the best thing about season five was to see all three guys actually bonding. I really hope they explore that a bit more. They’re very different characters but do have shared experiences of abusive childhoods.

    Past Lives is an excellent episode. Season one tends to be overlooked by Deeks fans as most of it was pre-Deeks, but it sets up a lot of characterisation with Callen in particular. Callen & Kensi also pair up a fair bit. They kill of a ‘main’ character too (good decision).

    And readers should make sure to check out your review, as it comes at The Long Goodbye from a different angle!

    notoriousrambler.wordpress.com/tag/the-long-goodbye/

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  3. Linda W

    This is an excellent review. As I have mentioned before, you have talked about ideas that I have not thought about before. It always makes me think. I don’t have very much to add except that I really enjoyed the episode. I loved the change up of partners. Deeks and Callen were quite funny while talking about being social and Kensi and Talia brought a new seriousness to their relationship. It was nice to not have to watch Talia behave inappropriately with Deeks. She is not my favourite character for that reason. I always found her behaviour to be quite juvenile. This time they both felt the same about something more relevant. The scenes with Sam were very intense. It definitely was worth the trouble of exploring his feelings about Jada. How could he not feel guilt? I always liked her as a character and could well identity with her feelings of loss and betrayal. It will be interesting to see what happens when they are reunited later in the season. Again it was nice to see all the team work of the other characters too. One final thing. I really think that Callen and Talia were trying to wind up Deeks at the end. I really don’t see a relationship between those two either. In fact. Why does someone always have to be in a relationship at all never mind the character of Joelle? Well, I guess I said more than I thought I would. Thanks for all your hard work.

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