S08E16 Old Tricks

Season 8 has been fairly serious.  Kensi has fought her way back to full fitness, Deeks has struggled at times to support her, Callen was forced to confront the reality of his father’s abandonment and Granger’s deterioration has been heartbreaking.  It was only fitting that after the intensity of the three episode mole arc, that Old Tricks should be heavy with amusement.  It’s such a shame that this fails to live up to its potential, a rarity for writer Andrew Bartels who has created gems such as Allegiance (S5), The Grey Man, Humbug (S6), Angels & Daemon (S7) and this season’s Glasnost, which reunited Callen with his newly found father.  It has frequently been proven that the case becomes irrelevant when the focus is on character development.  But here the case is not particularly interesting, and on the surface at least, is in no way connected to the development of Callen or the exploration of Nell and Eric’s relationship, or even the psychological impact their work.

The narrative is a little disjointed, opening with Kensi briefing Operational Psychologist Nate Getz about the ‘mole’ escapades, serving to remind the audience of the facts, namely that Sabatino is still at large.  Kensi switches up to reverse psychology, calling Nate out as another CIA mole when he loosely threatened that none of the team should really be in the field considering their experiences.  The lines will make viewers think there is a hidden meaning that may later return to haunt the team…The scene switches to Sam and Callen’s briefing in ops and then straight to the pair in the field, with Sam on doctor duty whilst Callen hot wires the ambulance in which they find the missing Lieutenant.  Only then comes the familiar opening bullpen scene, with Sam and Callen arriving to find Kensi’s been cleared field duty.  Deeks is absent for the opening scenes (already in attendance at the old people’s home for veterans).  Kensi and Deeks are once again partners, but this time Sam and Callen are separated when Sam is sent to meet a Secret Service Agent regarding the missing Lieutenant’s father (retired Master Sergeant) and the episode suffers with the loss of their banter.

Hetty requests Callen’s company in her office and their opening conversation is reminiscent of Kensi and Nate’s, as Callen re-affirms that the moles are known or caught and that Hetty still has her job.  He also brings up Joelle, with Hetty referring to her as “that bitch” which seems to surprise Callen.  Clearly sawing her table in half is great therapy and neither want to talk about her.  vlcsnap-2017-03-06-21h27m50s611Callen’s half sister’s ex, Pacey Smith (father of her child) is a convicted criminal whom Callen is keeping tabs on and Hetty informs him that Garrison also has him under surveillance.  Once again fathers and family’s come to the forefront of a Bartels penned episode.  Callen is still keeping himself at a distance from his family; when Hetty calls Alex his sister, Callen corrects her by saying half sister.  He is resentful that Hetty is monitoring his father’s movements (even though Garrison is under NCIS authority in the USA) and is not overly pleased with her advice that not telling Alex about her family soon would be a mistake.

“Don’t let a temporary solution become a permanent mistake.”

Episodes subsequent to Glasnost have suggested that Callen is apathetic towards his father now he finally has answers, and the scene is set for a confrontation.  Garrison is still not a constant (or law abiding) figure in his son’s life and Callen has clearly run out of patience.  For once Callen does all the talking, the son treating the father like a child.  He chastises his father and challenges his motives and behaviour, even though he may not like the answers.  vlcsnap-2017-03-06-21h50m11s928There is distrust and a certain amount of dislike on his face at various times during these scenes.   He is ready to walk away from Garrison, saying this (the two of them) isn’t working, and he questions who their secrets and lies are really protecting.  The words clearly resonate with Garrison and later the pair arrive on Alex’s doorstep.  Callen leaves his father to lead the conversation and he opens by asking Alexandra if she knows the meaning of her name, allowing Garrison to reveal his real name, Nikita Alexander Reznikov.

It has been Callen’s life long journey to discover his name and it was perfect to use the significance of a name as the first steps in revealing the truth to Alex.  Callen’s body language illustrates his uncertainty and when Alex’s son runs out, he seizes the opportunity to delay and he offers to return another time.  Luckily his sister wants answers.  Garrison turns on the charm with a smile to his daughter (who seems to have connected the dots) and with a magic trick for his grandson, causing Callen to flashback to the film clip of him as a baby in his father’s arms, with his sister Amy.  It is a poignant moment, knowing he may not have the memories of his father’s love but has proof his father loved (loves?) him.

The comedic elements of Old Tricks naturally come from the newly reunited partners, their undercover mission at the Vets home and the subsequent interview of the two elderly con artists, Edward and Ginger.  The latter were light relief and displayed the same type of repartee and mirrored the chemistry of Kensi & Deeks.  109662_0403bIt was light hearted entertainment and immensely satisfying to see Edward tell Deeks he talks too much, Deeks revealing the card game hustle, the over the top scene of Edward attacking Deeks with his cane, the running Ginger (at Kensi’s walking pace) and her explanation of the cloud and dark web to Edward, with Kensi and Deeks looking on amused.  Even these two demonstrated some morals when Ginger refused to pursue or reveal the location of the missing coin.

Four threads run throughout the episode; Sam and the Secret Service agent, Kensi and Deeks with the con artists, Callen and his father, and the wonder twins. These threads were fine on there own, particularly Callen’s story and Kensi and Deeks’ sections, but they were not successfully interwoven.  Sam’s investigations provided the obligatory gunfights and action but failed to ignite any passion for either the case or his temporary partner.  Kensi and Deeks together again was admittedly fun but vlcsnap-2017-03-07-22h17m05s633Eric’s secretive meetings with Nate and Nell’s curiosity were a little distracting.  Nate seemed to drift in and out of scenes and only made sense when Nell and Eric finally spoke about how they both struggle with the psychological aftermath of their cases.  They admit and acknowledge that it’svlcsnap-2017-03-07-22h17m15s121 OK to have these feelings and to seek help which serves as a great balance to the field agents who never want to talk and view Nate as a threat to their careers.  Callen’s story was the one that pulled together with the case of the week, using the symbolism of the coin.  The Lenin coin was the lead Callen needed to find his father, that Garrison gave to Alex’s mother, and that he made magically appear from behind his grandson’s ear.  A stolen and very valuable coin was at the centre of the case and no matter its origins, was kept in the family and safely buried many years ago with the deceased son of the missing Master Sergeant.  The different narrative threads, coupled with the shake-up of the procedural’s filmic structure at the start made the episode feel somewhat disjointed, which is a shame considering the pedigree of writer Andrew Bartels.

Fans of Kensi and Deeks, and of Callen will each take something positive from this episode (maybe using the fast forward button) but importantly, the episode leaves a sense of hope, of fresh starts.  ‘Densi’ is back together,  Callen can move forward with his new family, the secret service agent is not pursuing the Master Sergeant and the stolen coin, and Granger…IMG_3594Several times, Hetty has advised that Granger would recover and it was perfect that he left the show alive, not dead.  His disappearance from the hospital bed left hope that he would recover and maybe spend time with his daughter (before succumbing to Agent Orange).  The farewell letter read by Hetty and the closing track of Knocking On Heaven’s Door, sung by Ferrer was extremely sad, his departure cemented with the lift doors closing on Hetty.  A fitting tribute to a character who eventually won over the hearts of the fans.

I’ve had my say, so now please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on this episode (whilst respecting each other’s opinions)…


4 thoughts on “S08E16 Old Tricks

  1. Bliss

    Thank you for another wonderful review. Before anything else, I have to say that the ending was the most emotionally honest dedication I’ve seen on a TV show. The entire scene was almost ethereal and Linda was amazing.

    I agree that Bartels is one of the better writers, and in watching it again, I think he did an excellent job with this transitional episode (I wasn’t expecting much action; in fact, I wouldn’t have cared if there had been no actual case). As you mentioned, with everything that’s happened, everyone needed a break just to catch their breath. I loved the sprinkling of humor throughout (Kensi and Nate, Hetty’s comment about Joelle, the name butchering, the retirement home). I liked that Kensi and Deeks’ relationship was affectionate but not silly; it suggested that they’ve both been changed by the experience. The scenes between Callen and his dad were overdue, and as you mentioned, it was nice to see Callen tell his dad to step up and not hide behind lies and secrets anymore. I loved the flashback bringing everything full circle for him. I liked the scene between Eric and Nell at the end. For me it showed the toll this type of work takes on everyone, even the “secret squirrels.” And it was just enough to perhaps lead to a deeper examination. I would like to see Nate talk with other team members (especially Callen and Deeks), and your observation about Kensi’s comment that Nate is a CIA mole and Nate’s that none of them should be in the field could prove fateful.


  2. robin1028

    This was the best show of the season, it finally had meaning and a story plot, it was so great to watch Callen deal with all he had on his plate without Sam trying to tell what to do, Sams self inflicted echo thinking he knows everything and he truly is the fartherist thing from smart
    many of us are so over Sam,So great to see Kensi back to herself she is so great as is Deeks
    Callen of course no matter what the writer’s give him he is tremendous… his acting is so refreshing compared to so many of todays actors, Its about time Callen’s father made a appearence and was a great addition , we waited for 7 seasons for Callen to finally meet his Dad then another season until something actually transpired with that, well done ,well played by the actors …. Hetty played the part of Granger’s departure beautifully, her emotions showed through making it very beleivable which in reality is true ,we all know we lost Granger to a better place,No one could have played the closing as well as Hetty did
    So glad to see Nell back in opps as well as Erik, they play that roll fantastic, Out in the field not so much,,, they just don’t fit in to that roll at all, they are like children trying to be grown up out in the field, Sorry does not work!!!
    NCIS L.A. is my very favorite TV show, and I was to A point where I kind of was not looking forward seeing another dissapointing Hour of this show so no big deal if I missed it, But this one was great and I will definetly not miss anymore,
    Will Anna and Chedwigg be brought back, how great if the Admiral would step into Grangers shoes???? and if Anna and Callen would become closer there a perfect couple, one of my very favorite scene was when Callen finally shut Sams mouth about Joelle, Sams is always breaking his arm by patting himself on the back about how he brought Callen and Joelle together, now when she was brought to light as a CIA agent Slimmy Sam wanted to reverse his involment and Callen stopped him short by reminding him that Sam brought them together in the 1st place
    Great week please keep up the good work and keep NCIS LA on as long the original ncis
    Thank You


  3. Linda Wigington

    Thank you for a great review. NCISLA is my favourite show and I think that this episode was what we needed after the story of the mole. I thought we had great team work, action and humour. It was wonderful to have Kensi back as it was with Nate. I felt that she was teasing Nate with the reference to the CIA just as Callen has done in the past. However, we shall see. I don’t feel the mole story is over yet. I also liked the story line of Eric and Nell for all the reasons that you talked about. I do prefer them in the lab. I didn’t find the scenes in the retirement home particularly funny but Deeks was Deeks. I loved the last two scenes the best. It is always good to see Callen and his father together. It really was about time. I was glad to see that they can move forward together by telling Alexandra the truth. It was a start and it is always going to be an on going project for them to build their family. This scene and the tribute to Granger ( Miguel Ferrer) brought tears to my eyes as I am sure it did to many others. Hetty handled it beautifully and we were left with hope and the idea that he wasn’t really gone. Great episode!


  4. monty

    Great review as always.
    Mrs. Hunt inspired and excited.
    “Knockin’ on heaven’s door” is beautiful, magnificent. Very well as closure.
    Intelligent the “wonder twins”: psychological help is very important. Sam and Kensi should be like them.
    The Reznikov-Cullen family is dysfunctional, but they will learn, I I’m sure.
    Grisha should evolve: there is no difference between “sister” and “half-sister”. I have tried very annoyed that he has pointed out. Wake up, G, there are no sisters A and B; brotherly love has no differences.
    Wow, miracle! When he will present to the Westbrook Captain, he says his name: Martin. No Marty, no Shaggy, just Martin. Hallelujah! After seven seasons…
    Sam and Nicole very cool!
    Nate Getz: if he did not exist, it would be fine. As if he were not there; Mr. Cambor is very incisive…
    I have a question because seems that now the problem is solved although is not true: where is the Mole?

    Goodbye, Owen, it was nice to meet you.



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