After the excellent three episodes which opened season 8, the fourth episode Black Market was rather disappointing. The case of the week was not particularly memorable and did not really allow for any character development, with the possible exception of Nell who ventured in to the field as Deeks’ partner again. Instead there were questionable moments with various team members that luckily were balanced out with the B plot of Kensi’s coma and the reactions of different characters.
The opening bullpen scene between Sam and Callen was very amusing but highly unbelievable. Callen had apparently competed in a triathalon (nope, he lied there it was actually an iron man event), on the spur of the moment. And apparently, he completed it. Sam of course ripped him to shreds over this, with Callen barely able to get out of his chair, and later the Challenger (although he did forget his stiff muscles the last time when he leapt from the car ready to assault the warehouse with the team). But true to their partnership Callen saved Sam in a knife fight by almost breaking his assailant’s arm – it was lucky Callen could still move fluidly in the field!
In a show of getting back to form, Deeks had the most comedic moments such as where he explains to Nell that Kensi can do good cop/ bad cop all by herself using her good eye and her weird eye. The moment was tinged with sadness as he realised how much he misses his partner. This shared moment was better than the earlier scene where Nell is driving and she remarks about Kensi being a perfect driver and soon she and Deeks will be living happily ever after. She immediately apologised for how the words came across but this seemed indicative of Nell throughout this episode. Is this jealously or thoughtlessness from a woman with an insanely high IQ? Is Nell just confused about her role within NCIS? And there is clearly irony the scene as Kensi is almost as bad a driver as she is messy.
The banter between Deeks and Nell swung between being sweet, to a touch condescending, with Deeks making Nell aware that she was playing into a stereotype – tiny Nell drives a mini and had to sit on the first aid box to see over the steering wheel (but why wasn’t Deeks driving)? Shortly after, Nell displayed her knowledge of spotting fake designer handbags and pre-empted Deeks’ comments by saying it’s not sexist, she just knows the details. This is also a nod towards some of Deeks’ past remarks over the course of the show in general, to which Kensi previously took offence but has become much more tolerant since they’ve become a couple.
Last week Nell was overly confident, so much so that this week Sam asked her not to indulge in fisticuffs. And this week Nell was hesitant, understandably so before the team infiltrated a warehouse. She did not know how to act when Deeks was fighting the female assassin, but later placed one Triad member in a textbook choke hold. When she saw their suspect (also a victim of the Triad) escape with a gun she failed to warn the team the woman was now armed and luckily there were no consequences. This could be down poor writing or editing, or to how Nell feels about wanting to step up, but not wanting to replace Kensi. These are feelings she admits to Granger who is naturally looking to replace Kensi and is called out on this by Eric. He is being logical and sensible as team is stretched and he has no idea of Kensi’s long term prognosis. To his credit, he embraces the personal side of him and visits her in hospital. It was also great to see Callen asking after her, showing he cares even though Deeks has discouraged him and Sam from visiting.
In the midst of the forgettable case involving Triads and poisonings, where ironically the NCIS team discover a traitor within the Department of Homeland Security, Hetty is quietly searching for their own mole. Already the excitement of the first three episodes has evaporated and the show is veering back to season seven territory with the odd reference and no defined actions to discover or entrap the mole. This C plot is almost irrelevant to the B plot of Kensi and the question of her future. The closing scenes take place in her hospital room where Hetty wakes Deeks by sternly saying “Martin”, mistaking Hetty for his mother in an amusing exchange. Kensi in her comatose state, also responds to Hetty’s order to squeeze her hand which is the first signal that she is on the slow road to recovery.
There are only so many episodes where a main character can be comatose and still hold the viewers hope the character will remain in the show. The road to recovery will be long and painful – both to Kensi and Deeks, who will have to propose to her when she’s conscious (as the nurses removed the engagement ring for safety). These coming episodes of recovery and the trauma it will produce will be of much more satisfaction to the viewer if the show tackles the mole storyline head-on in each episode. But as NCIS Los Angeles is a procedural, by its very nature this is unlikely to happen so patience again is in order.