It seems to be a common trend that whilst Sam is always present and quite often a force to be reckoned with in each episode, he rarely gets a chance to shine. When he has, his integrity has been called in to question. Think of the episodes involving Jada Khaled, his former NCIS partner (pre-Callen) and even when he was framed for murder. Queen Pin is Sam’s turn to demonstrate his undercover skills and importantly, he gets to do that without Callen present and without doubting his honour.
The case of the week has an extremely tenuous link to the navy and relates to a case which has not formed part of an episode. Sam’s drug dealing alias ‘Switch’ was first introduced when investigating rogue undercover NCIS Agent Angelo, who assisted Tyler Brunsen in smuggling the drug Crocodile from Russia using navy ships (S5 Three Hearts). Here, it is revealed that Switch was created to try and catch upcoming drug dealer King, who was importing drugs using a civilian navy contractor. There was no character named King in Three of Hearts, so was this a case previously unseen by the viewer or creative licence?
The issue of continuity and the reason for the team’s involvement disappears in to the ether as the case evolves. Sam ingratiates himself in to the inner circle of the drug world, which is made easier as he has kept his alias current and in circulation amongst underworld, meaning it is quicker and easier for Switch to make appearances. There are fake murders and real gunfights with Sam playing his role to perfection. However as is his want, he allows himself to become personally involved and seems to genuinely enjoy King’s company. The pair share identity / name stories after King is revealed to be Queen. This ties in directly with Callen’s personal battle when Sam’s alias says he decided to no longer be a solo act.
I realized you can’t get where you want to be alone. No man’s an island.
Sam has an inherent desire to save everyone and tries to persuade King to give herself up, but she would rather die fighting.
Setting aside the main case of the week, the episode made some interesting comparisons between Callen and Anna’s relationship and that of Kensi and Deeks. Callen initially pulls away from Anna when they start to become too intimate and Anna realises he still has trust issues, stopping Callen when he tries to explain and offering him as much time as he needs, as she will wait for him. His hesitation is trust related but lust quickly takes over, with the pair passionately kissing and removing each other’s tops before Hetty interrupts them with her impeccable timing. The contradiction in Callen’s actions continue when he tells Hetty he threw out his bed as he wants to return to his old self (he and Anna were getting down and dirty on a blanket and his bedroll, on the floor). His old self is the lone wolf Sam referred to, yet he is not the Callen of early seasons. Whilst he and Anna are on prisoner escort duty, they are both belting out songs from Grease. Callen clearly feels comfortable with Anna is a way that could never be imagined with Joelle. He is struggling with his desire to let Anna in, over the hurt caused by allowing someone to get that close. There is an underlying feeling that with women, he desperately wants that closeness and allows himself to go ‘all in’ (think Tracy Rossetti in S2 Standoff as well as Joelle).
In contrast, Kensi and Deeks are an established couple, living together and in a mature relationship. They spent many seasons flirting and dealing with their own trust issues before jumping all in, and since then have developed in to a stable couple who fully trust each other. Their love is demonstrated through subtle touches and actions. They have honest and frank discussions about their feelings towards Ahmed Han Asakeem, the terrorist from the season eight premier who indirectly caused Kensi’s injuries, and the prisoner whom Callen and Anna are escorting. Deeks repeats in several scenes about how he would like to exact his revenge. Kensi is accepting and philosophical about him and her injury. Deeks doesn’t seem able to let go and yet again there is a peek in to the violence that lives deep inside. The return of Asakeem in the seventeenth episode suggests that he will feature heavily in the finale, with the implication of a possible confrontation between him and Deeks. Will Deeks cross the line again ? Will he suffer the consequences? Another plot line which will return, maybe next season is the internal affairs investigation in to Deeks. Hetty informs Deeks that Whiting is recovering from her gunshot wounds and he confessed his sins to a possibly dying adversary. Interesting times ahead for the detective, and something he hasn’t yet told Kensi.
Queen Pin was a much more satisfying episode than last week’s. The narrative was fluid, the characters solid, and continued to use partner changes to forward the storyline. Callen can’t explore his private journey with his father or his trust issues with Anna if Sam is in tow, and so for a consecutive episode, they have been separated. In fact the partners shared no screen time at all. With two simultaneous cases on the go, the team were short-staffed. Where Granger had previously accompanied Nell in the field, this time she was temporarily partnered with Kensi, which left Deeks to back up Sam. There was some predictability, with King turning out to be a Queen (in her first scene, her fellow drug dealer deferred to her), with the real bad guy being the District Attorney who was successfully arresting (and this removing) the competition.
Episode long undercover missions have been severely lacking and it was great to get back to the show’s roots and also to see Sam shine in his own right. Hopefully season nine will enable all the field agents to showcase their talents with undercover missions – missions that last more than five minutes. This may be a crucial episode for Callen and his trust issues (has he allowed himself to trust Anna, or is it more lust? Is Anna genuine or manipulating him?) And upon further review, Queen Pin is definitely pivotal in the run up to the season’s end, particularly in light of the return of Asakeem and the strength of Deeks’ feelings towards him.
What did you think of the episode? Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.