S07E18 Exchange Rate

vlcsnap-2016-03-16-18h02m38s998The case of the week began with a simple premise; a prisoner exchange goes wrong.  Cuban prisoner Ricardo Pena held in America was to be exchanged for an former US Naval Officer held in Cuba.  When Pena escapes the team are called in to investigate and quickly discover that it was Anna Kolchek who sprung him.  The case then becomes increasingly complex, with the team challenging why Pena escaped rather than head home to Cuba, why the Department of Justice had two separate records with Pena’s details and why it was imperative that Pena be imprisoned.  Eventually Callen and Anna realise Pena is actually a Russian spy who was keen to complete his mission and return to Russia. 

The case is barely noticeable as Exchange Rate predominantly focuses on relationships, both the romantic type and team-wise.  Kensi and Deeks, and Nell and Eric were the pairs at the forefront of this exploration, and the burgeoning relationship between Callen and Anna Kolchek is tentatively examined.

Early on it is realised that Hetty is missing, yet no one (bar Callen initially) seemed overly concerned.  Granger took on the challenge of finding her, leaving Callen and team to locate the missing prisoner and Anna.  If only they could recall previous cases – when Hetty goes missing, it usually means she is involved – and so proved to be the case here.  Hetty employed Anna Kolchek to spring Pena as she suspected he was really a Russian spy.  Hetty must have known her team would easily crack Anna’s backstopped alias and identify her, meaning that her end game was to force Anna to work with the team, as part of a team.

The comparisons drawn between Anna and Callen in previous episodes continue to be made and not in a subtle way.  Granger has a one on one conversation with Callen who himself bemoans the fact that Anna is not a team player.  Granger calls him on this and again it is Callen who doesn’t quite complete his sentence about Granger comparing him and Anna.  vlcsnap-2016-03-16-17h44m42s480In one of the closing scenes, Hetty apologises to Anna for believing she could manage the case alone.  Hetty wants Anna to be part of a team (the LA team?), leaving the door open for Anna as a recurring character, or possibly as a temporary replacement should there suddenly be a Kensi (read Daniela Ruah pregnancy), another Afghanistan mission, or if another character takes a leave of absence.

Of course the reappearance of Anna means Arkady also graces the episode, playing games with Sam and Callen, and generally enjoying being the focus of their attention.  At one point he even causes Hetty to call him a drama queen.  His scenes bring a light hearted element to the show and even when his name is mentioned in the closing dialogue with Sam and Callen, it is for light comedic effect.

An equal amount of screen time is given to the main pairings to focus on relationships.  Kensi is suspicious about why Deeks is showering at the boatshed and deliberately flushes the toilet to change the water temperature to cold.  Deeks honestly tells Kensi it is due to the number of shampoo and conditioner bottles in their shower.  The bickering continues during the episode and eases, particularly when they are undercover in the restaurant talking about their bedroom antics, even though Sam can hear them.  Is the honeymoon period finally over?  Are they now back in the realms of reality, learning about the give and take of a normal relationship?

Nell and Eric have had little focus this season and are given their moments to shine in Exchange Rate.  Their first big scene entails a conversation where they refer to shipping names for Kensi and Deeks, with Eric calling them ‘Densi’ and Nell ‘Keeks’.  The scene felt uncomfortable and forced, especially when they also referred to their own shipping name ‘Neric’, all of which is very popular on social media.  vlcsnap-2016-03-16-17h41m47s433But the use of shipping names is where fans of TV shows want to hook up characters romantically and so merge the names together.  This does not happen in real life and came across as awkward.  Unfortunately this contrasts with the DiNozzo episode Blame it on Rio, where he and Deeks have a conversation about ships.  That writing and acting provided a comedic element that was self-referential to both NCIS and NCISLA, and turned the scene in to an enjoyably clever parody.  It is also inferred in this same ‘ship’ scene that Nell and Eric are a couple – clearly with an off screen relationship.  Nell seems to be the one to not let the personal overflow to the professional, chastising Eric a little cruelly, when he attempts to defend Nell’s honour and integrity to Granger.

Sam and Callen’s bromance continues in much the same vein as usual.  The closing scene has Sam admitting that he has finally figured Callen out, which causes the lead agent some confusion.  Almost lost in their exchange of dialogue is Callen questioning if Sam is calling him out over meeting his father; confirmation that Callen has told Sam about Russia.  But that conversation is one that did not happen and did not need to happen on screen.  It is a reminder that events and conversations take place off screen and may subsequently be alluded to briefly in Ops or during stakeouts.

Finally, the relationship between Callen and Anna is danced around as they try and solve the case.  It’s an interesting relationship as it is still developing, both characters have trust issues and are natural loners.  Apart from the undercover kiss that left Callen stunned, Callen called her once since Russia and she ignored his call.  vlcsnap-2016-03-16-17h36m57s647Anna knows he doesn’t trust her and Callen openly admits to Granger that he doesn’t trust her.  However there is chemistry between them and Callen is concerned when he finds Anna tied up and beaten.  This is what Sam finally gets about Callen; that he is a glutton for punishment – by choosing a woman like Anna over a nice girl like Joelle.  And then like a dog with a bone, Sam can’t let the it go, ribbing Callen that he would have Arkady as a father-in-law, visiting him for Christmas dinner, fly fishing etc.

On a couple of side notes to the episode, it was peculiar that even after Deeks dental torture, he still likes dentists.  Secondly, the audience always know when something shady is going on with a character, as the wardrobe department get out the black leather jackets (Hetty, in this instance).   Kensi’s discrete cough, when Callen tells Anna that there team is highly specialised was amusing, especially after her and Deeks’ bedroom talk, heard via earwigs.  Lastly, anyone would have thought Chris O’Donnell was directing this episode, as he likes to feature a naked Deeks…vlcsnap-2016-03-16-17h25m04s000

The show usually has the right balance between the team’s personal lives versus cases, and that includes the romance.  NCIS: Los Angeles is not a soap opera, although this episode was leaning towards that genre.  The case would have been more fun with the ‘Cuban spy, no he’s been set up a spy, oh – he’s really a Russian spy’ scenario if there had not been so much focus on relationships.  Next week there should be a lot less focus on romantic relationships, with the third episode written and directed by Frank Military.  After season five’s Spoils of War and season six’s Rage, there should be some intensity and a darker mood to the narrative in The Seventh Child.

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10 thoughts on “S07E18 Exchange Rate

  1. snoopgirlz

    I liked your review 100X more than the episode. I do disagree though that the conversation about Callen meeting his father be off screen. That was a HUGE revelation for Callen and deserved more than 1 fleeting sentence from Sam. That would have been a more interesting scene (hearing from Callen how he is doing) than the ones shown us: Nell & Eric babbling on about whatever & Kensi being a total bitch after Deeks brought up her messiness. Was that even resolved? Will Kensi instantaneously become neat & tidy? Has she ever told anyone WHY she is messy and keeps so much stuff? Maybe the answer is “in the box”. 😉

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    1. skippy

      Please, don’t mention the BOX, never ever again. Will you? Please! ;-))) Some fans get nuts about it and never understood that it is not about what is in it but about the tags ‘handle with care, fragile…’.
      The rest of you comments to the review are nice. But the B…x please never again.

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    2. I Am Me Post author

      The only box that matters is the one containing information on Callen!!! I think the box has had its day, especially now Kensi and Deeks are together. I still don’t think that Callen and Sam needed to have the conversation about him meeting his father on screen. I think Sam knew something was up and probably persuaded Callen to tell him. What I think is important to see is when Callen finally meets his father again and has THAT conversation with him, the one that will dispel the mystery of how and why he left Romania and why he was abandoned in America.

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  2. skippy

    Yes I finally watched it and regretted it instantly. This was boring, even more than that. I still don’t know why this writer is still a writer for this TV show but I don’t have a saying in this.

    Your review was great, I agree with snoopgirlz. 100% better that this episode.
    Some of my thoughts about this episode. I don’t see Callen have any romantic feelings for Ana. Not that I want them together (STOP the ROMANCE on this show will become a soapy home story), but I don’t see any sparks fly or any connection between them at all. The idea of the character Ana was a great one, but the actress not so much. I also think since Eric and Nell seems to be together there are more than enough couples on this show (no couple at all would better). And if they keep it up with the romance they should handle it like they did it with Nell and Erics’. One or two sentences every 5 or 6 episodes and not going into details. I could handle this but the homestories… please no.

    The case itself was boring and predictable and I am with you regarding Hetty. In cases like this I always wonder if Hetty trusts her team?

    Sam should be concerned that the safehouse was compromized since he and his family are staying in one right now (Khaled is on the still run).

    So many other things to comment but I better top here.

    Just one question. Your rating (the 5 stars) at the end of your review is it for your review or the episode?

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    1. I Am Me Post author

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree with most of your thoughts, there is no need to pair off everyone in a show and certainly not romantically. Off screen with a few moments on screen here and there is fine. I watch for the character interactions and development, not romance. Again I like the idea of Anna (her acting is improving) but I believe there is chemistry between her and Callen. She should not become a main character but like Arkady and Talia, just dip in to the show every now and again.
      I’ve tried a new star rating for the episode and a “like” for my review for The Seventh Child. So far everyone likes the episode but no one has liked my review! Funny 😉

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  3. jeffersonmunroe

    I almost opened my review with “is this a Valentine’s day episode?” because of all the focus on romance/relationships here in this episode. I agree with your statement about NCISLA not being a soap opera. I enjoy character focused stories, but not to the soap opera level.

    Do you think Hetty has been acting strange this season? Or am I just forgetting about things from previous seasons? She has seemed to be unnecessarily cryptic a lot the past couple episodes.

    An interesting point about Deeks’ dental torture. I had forgotten about that, but it does seem like something that he wouldn’t just easily get over. Perhaps the writers need to hire a continuity fact-checker? ^_^

    Excellent and thorough review as always! I always enjoy your insights. And I’m really looking forward to the next episode even more now that I know who wrote it!

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    1. I Am Me Post author

      Some of the continuity has been excellent this season, with lots of references to other cases etc., but some have been painful (e.g. Deeks suddenly having a next of kin).
      Hetty always acts strange so I don’t think there’s too much difference from other seasons – but I would like another Hetty focused episode to reveal more about her (background, her ‘orphans’ and how she trained them – how do you train them to become professional killers)?

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  4. Linda W

    Thanks again for your review. I always enjoy reading them. I have read several reviews and comments and it is fun to see that so many thoughts differ from person to person. I will say that I liked this episode but to me it was a one off. What made this episode for me was the characters and the humour. It was nice to see the whole team involved but in several instances it could have been less instead of more. I like Eric and Nell very much but their conversation was a bit too much. I don’t know if there is any romance in their private lives and I don’t really care. We have enough with Deeks and Kensi and that could be toned down a bit. A few comments here and there about their home life is quite enough. As has been said before, this is not a soap opera. I enjoyed Granger in this episode. He was smiling more and is more a team player. As for Hetty, I am getting really tired of her secrets and her manipulation. She could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if she had told them about the Cuban/Russian spy and Anna’s involvement in the investigation. The best part of the episode for me was the humour. Arkady is always a joy to see and hear. Then again there is the relationship between Sam and Callen. It is. The thing I look for most in every episode. The beanbag scene was funny as was the teasing about Anna. I like Anna and I hope she appears again but for now she should just be a recurring character as opposed to a team member. She and Callen deserve time to develop their relationship and I for one do see chemistry between them. We now know as well that Sam knows about Callen’s father. Perhaps that will come up for a longer discussion later. I am looking forward to the next episode which will probably be more to everyone’s taste.

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    1. I Am Me Post author

      Thank you as always for reading and commenting. I did actually enjoy this episode more on a second viewing – but Nell and Eric’s odd conversation was still – odd! And I agree, it’s great to have the whole team working together.

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