Sometimes it is not always appropriate to view a TV show as nothing more than pure entertainment, and some episodes are specifically designed for the enjoyment of the audience on a ‘pop corn’ level. This is exactly how ‘From Havana With Love’ should be viewed. There is nothing particularly taxing about the case of the week, doesn’t rely on continuing previous storylines and does little to progress characters journeys. Instead the pure entertainment value is garnered by character affirmation, oodles of fun and an engaging plot.
The team investigate after a patron of a Cuban bar is shot, days after barman Victor Larmont contacted the NCIS tip line as he suspects his estranged wife Rebecca is selling Navy secrets to a foreign government. Rebecca is a graphics designer at a defense contractor that designs nuclear attack submarines and an interesting picture is built up for both soon to be ex-husband and wife. Sam and Callen initially speak with Victor at the club. The cause of his suspicions is a stray text. He is paranoid and seemingly out to get his wife and the agents try to hide their amusement at his accusations. Kensi and Deeks talk to Rebecca at her place of work. She seems level headed, sensible and accuses Victor of being an idiot, out for revenge after failing to secure expected monthly payments during the course of their drawn out divorce proceedings. The fact that Victor immediately shows up in disguise at the office, having breached security, to serve her papers as he cannot afford a lawyer supports her belief that he is out to get her. Accusations and counter accusations ensue and for a while it is not clear who is telling the truth. Rebecca has a Cuban boyfriend Dr Alonzo Raul, Victor is in debt to club owner/dancer Perez, Rebecca is money oriented. To ascertain who’s telling the truth, Kensi and Deeks go undercover at the club as a dancer and bathroom attendant respectively, while Sam and Callen investigate Rebecca and her lover.
There is a mini history lesson after Kensi discovers an old ham radio and Deeks finds a ‘one time pad’ imprinted with codes from the most recent transmission. Hetty explains the ingenuity of using a ham radio and morse code and its advantages over digitised technology, which is easily and constantly monitored. There is something to be said about the ‘good old days’. She also provides high level explanations of the cold war relationship between Cuba and Russian spies in America. Dr Raul details the political conditions which dictated his career doctor; in exchange for doctors, Venezuela gives Cuba one hundred thousand barrels of oil a day. Old school spy games are reflected in the episode title which clearly pays hommage to Ian Flemming’s James Bond spy thriller, ‘From Russia With Love’ and the throwbacks are a reminder of how Cuban’s newly found freedom may manifest itself, whilst adding context to the case.
The highlight of the episode is witnessing Daniela Ruah showing off her dancing skills, as she Mambo’s and Lambada’s her way through routines that culminate in overpowering her dance partner Perez in typical Kensi style. Although Deeks is once again undercover in a janitor/bathroom attendant type of role (which admittedly is starting to become weary), it must be remembered that after all that Kensi has experienced and overcome during this season, she certainly deserves her chance to shine.
Undercover operations have been rather scarce during this season…Running alongside the case is the amusing competition Deeks sets up in the opening bullpen scene. In front of Sam and Callen, he reckons that during one day, he will not speak as many words as Kensi. Deeks has obviously opened himself up for a fall as no one believes he will win. For a while he tries not to speak but soon returns to his usual ways with verbal diarrhea. He even has a running commentary as he breaks in to the lockers at the club and assesses the contents.
A tiny amount of jealously is seen as Deeks witnesses Kensi dance closely with Perez which ultimately results in his asking Victor to teach him how to dance. Sam and Callen’s banter prevails with the return of Sam’s origami of an obscure animal and Callen’s sarcasm, and the wonder twins are re-assuredly focused on the case rather than any oddness.
The frustrations come with closer inspection, which is why some shows and episodes need to be viewed as pure entertainment, rather than analysed in any depth. Every character is portrayed as expected with the exception of Kensi. She has always been a tomboy and to portray a professional dancer suggests that at some point in her life Kensi had a number of lessons. This is not past the realms of possibility but not quite as her past (as per previous seasons) would suggest. When Kensi and Deeks show up at the club to go undercover, it took a minute to catch on as there had been no previous talk of such an operation, which is unusual for the show. Just prior to the gun fight at the end, Callen suggests that Dr Raul and Rebecca may actually be in love, will run off and live happily ever after. A cynical outlook would be more in character, considering the issues Callen is still working through after Joelle’s betrayal. Additionally, their position for the gun fight seems tactically peculiar, with both Sam and Callen at the same end of the alley rather than blocking it from both ends.