S08E20 From Havana With Love

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.  Image-1 (3)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 IMG_3747admittedly 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. vlcsnap-2017-04-13-17h22m16s566He 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.  vlcsnap-2017-04-13-17h28m12s678When 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.

Frustrations aside this is another good stand alone episode that focuses on entertaining the audience.  The guest characters are given substance and empathy is built initially with Rebecca and later with her somewhat pathetic, downtrodden husband.  There is humour abound, an interesting case that is not too technical or complex and a chance to see one of the agents show off some hidden talents.
What did you think of the episode?  Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.
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18 thoughts on “S08E20 From Havana With Love

  1. joanne

    As a former dancer, I think Kensi’s skirt should have been shorter, or preferably longer, to do justice to her long legs

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  2. robin1028

    everytime I read the recap of the shows from you I am astounded as to what are you thinking?
    this has been the worst season.. its all over the place with absoluetly no continuation no mention of the previous show,
    as we all agreed here the show is getting more lame every week, so sorry to see this happen to a weekly show that started out so good…..

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    1. skippy

      Robin, I am 100% with you. I am sorry I have to say this (not because of you, but because I really loved this show). This season has been so weak. 2 or three good episodes and the rest fillers with to much pressed into one episode (during Kensis recovery), not really a story arc, no nothing. And I really fear for the finale since it is about Sam again. If the finale is about his daughter I have to say I am glad that he has only two kids. Otherwise the next finale would be about ….
      I just hope next season will be better.

      Though I adore ‘A virtual scrawl’! Being able to write such a brilliant review for such a lame episode without taking sides. Well done.
      I don’t know if the ratings we could use above are for the episodes or the writing, could someone please help me out here?
      Thank you

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      1. EH

        I have to disagree with both of you about the quality of the shows this season. There are weak shows in every season (I don’t think there’s been a worse episode than The Frozen Lake–that was painful to watch–as was An Unlocked Mind, Three Hearts, Tuhon, and The Fifth Man). Yikes! And the episodes about Kensi this season were much better than the silly White Ghost story in Afghanistan (that was a dud; the only good episode was Spoils of War). And the comment that there’s no mention of the previous shows? If mentioning the previous week’s show was what was meant, that rarely happened in previous seasons; if mentioning things from earlier episodes –they’ve mentioned Jennifer and the football jerseys, as well as other instances. When not dealing with the whole mole scenario (which in and of itself was a mess), the episodes have generally been tightly constructed and provided character development. As Gemmill said at PaleyFest, they’ve been tying up story lines from previous seasons (so the audience needs to be able to fill in some of the blanks) because they want to “reset” in next season. Also, the situation with Miguel undoubtedly caused some rewriting. As for the finale, it seems that ECO is off the entire first week of episode 1 in season 9 which is titled The Clown Died. Wouldn’t that be a shocker if they killed off Deeks as part of the “reset”?

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      2. I Am Me Post author

        Thank you! Not really sure if the star rating should be for the review or the episode? Probably the episode….

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      3. I Am Me Post author

        The star ratings are for the episode – I just need to remember that when I see a load of low ratings! And I do try to keep reviews fairly neutral to make them accessible to fans of all characters.
        Thanks for your kind words.

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  3. Bliss

    Once again, I appreciate your review because you go into such detail, but I disagree with a few comments. While I agree that the story itself was lightweight and more clever than dangerous, I think some of you observations were a bit off. First, having been a tomboy as a kid (and still one as an adult), I love dancing and took ballet for over 10 years. In addition, given the fact that the agents might be required to step into several different occupations, it’s not implausible that Kensi may have trained at some point (similar to Sam training to be a sommelier). I’m not a psychiatrist, but I wouldn’t use the word “paranoid” to describe Victor; he is remarkably dense, convinced that his wife is selling government secrets, but that seems due to his remarkable inability to comprehend that her actions more likely indicate a lover and not something as nefarious as treason. I also wonder why so many viewers seem to forget all of Deeks’ other undercover assignments: surfer/journalist, lawyer, federal inspector, railroad inspector, security guard, chauffeur, talent agent, and more. I’m surprised at how many missed the irony of Callen’s question to Sam about “get a life” seeing that a practical recluse is asking, and I did think Callen’s comment about Rebecca and Dr. Raul running away and living happily ever after was sarcastic (and confirmed when Rebecca was found in the trunk). But, their position in the alley was odd and not at all in keeping with good tactics. I loved the “contest” between Kensi and Deeks, and the comments by Sam and Callen. It absolutely seemed like something Deeks would do. I also enjoyed the history lesson and felt as though it was a subtle nod to Hetty’s pals from the “old days” who we’ll meet in the next episode. I’ve noticed that Sam has mentioned family members in several recent episodes, and knowing that the finale will bring major changes to his life, all his talk makes me nervous.
    Contrary to other viewers, I think this season has been one of the best for several years, and I am thoroughly enjoying the development of the regular characters, the wrapping up of several story lines, and the emergence of other characters in the series. I also think the story lines have been particularly strong, and most have revolved around navy and/or national security issues.

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  4. monty

    Episode unnecessary.
    Only four thoughts:
    – Mrs. Ruah has gorgeous legs;
    – Genius & +Genius do not know morse code. Really?
    – Shaggy still has red hair…
    – “Surprisingly, he actually graduated from law school”. “Surprisingly”… Kensi is bad, malignant and unbearable; she has a very bad way to use adverbs.
    Hi from Roma.

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    1. EH

      I’m unsure about who you’re describing as Genius & +Genius, but there was no Morse code used by those sending messages over the ham radio. It was a different code; Morse code would have been easily discernible and there would have been no need for the pad.

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      1. monty

        Genius & + Genius are Eric and Nell. Maybe I figured wrong, but I thought they did not know the morse alphabet. That’s all.
        Look at the enigma solution well: it does not match!

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    2. Bliss

      By the way, Deeks insulted Kensi in 767 during their conversation with the VP at the engineering firm. When the VP told Deeks how sweet he was, he responded that if by sweet she meant he was professional then he was sweet–an obvious dig at Kensi. So, they both make these kinds of comments.

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      1. monty

        Kensi has always been malignant; She always dislikes. You say they have the same attitude but it is not true: look at the episodes from 1×19 onwards. I do not like Densi, but what I say is the truth! I understand that you do not like the truth, but it’s the truth: Kensi has no kind words for Deeks, ever.

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      2. writeisnice

        I just want to add my 2 cents. I realize you might have a different perspective, Monty–and I appreciate that–but I like this Kensi much more than the Kensi in earlier seasons when her “feelings” for Deeks caused her to often be unprofessional. Her behavior toward Talia, the female Mexican police officer, and other women because of Deeks was really annoying (not to mention the idea that every woman would be attracted to Deeks was unbelievable). She let Deeks insult her (“second best”) and disrespect her (reading her journal and more) and just accepted it. Now, she wouldn’t and she seems more than willing to push back–and that seems much more in keeping with her kick ass character. So, I like her new found independence, assertiveness, and no-nonsense attitude. She loves Deeks, but she’s no longer his “girlfriend;” she’s a woman who’s worked hard to get where she is–an NCIS agent–and while she loves Deeks more than any other person, she also knows what she wants. The good thing is, they both seem comfortable in this relationship.

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  5. hoopsdiva

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought the dance thing seemed out of character for Kensi. Not that she could not have gotten some dance training at some point, but I think back to how Kensi used to be – a tomboy who couldn’t wait to take off the high heels after the waltz in season 4, who saw no use for antiques because she couldn’t put her boots on the table. That Kensi was low maintenance, laid back, earthy. Now we have Kensi who has 24 hair products on the floor of the shower, hangs out with a pretty vapid-sounding group of gal pals. More and more, it feels like I’m seeing the actress instead of her character.

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    1. EH

      Loved the description “a pretty vapid-sounding group of gal pals.” I expect Kensi to change a little due to her relationship with Deeks, but I don’t expect her to morph into a sorority sister.Maybe these changes are the result of her character becoming more self-confident about who she is and her abilities (as I recall, she seemed somewhat lacking in self-confidence early in the series–not that she didn’t have the ability). And, now that she’s finally in a serious relationship, maybe she’s comfortable expressing more of her “feminine” side. I do hope, however, that we never meet her gal pals.

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  6. Linda Wigington

    Thanks for your great review. I liked the episode very much and that is because I usually take the episodes at face value. For me, the episode was rather generic and not too taxing. Although, I still have trouble understanding the code. There was plenty of humour. Callen and Sam with the tootsie pop and origami and Deeks and Kensi with the ” who talks more” thing. I have to say that it came out as really silly. The best part of Densi was Kensi in her red dress. She was a very skilled dancer and fighter. Also, who cares where she got her training? It could have been anywhere. Let’s just enjoy it! I felt sorry in the end for Victor, but he was right. It was entertainment and I suspect it will work as that given what is to come in the rest of the season.

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  7. writeisnice

    It was an okay episode–nothing exceptional–and not nearly as good as 767. The word count game was funny and seemed true to Deeks’ character (he fusses about stuff like that). The confusion about who was doing what made the case more complex (because it really wasn’t). Liked the ham radio and code pad (throwback to the “old days”). The Callen-Sam banter was good, as were their comments about the word game. The dancing was just enough–after all, this isn’t DWTS–and for a “bathroom attendant,” Deeks had a pretty nice uniform and was able to cruise the club (not such a bad assignment).
    A couple of asides. For Deeks not to have taken a shot seemed odd given his earlier shooting prowess (evidently the double-tap wasn’t such a remarkable shot–Ferris WAS stationary and there was no obstacle–but when the target’s moving, on a stage, and in a spotlight, it’s another matter?). Anybody else notice that Sam’s been making comments to/about Deeks lately? This episode, when Kensi said Deeks was losing, Sam said, “In more ways than one.” It just seems as though Sam’s been dropping subtle (and not so subtle) comments for the past few episodes. Maybe this is just good-natured ribbing, but it seems to have increased. Also, speaking of the finale, in Sirens, Sam said they were going to find the head of the snake and chop it off. Have they actually found the “head”? Maybe that’s something that happens in the finale.

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  8. monty

    @ writeisnic (01.56)
    I also believe that Kensi grew up over the years; She has improved, of course, but I find her very childish and unprepared to be with a man like MD. Kensi may be the companion of that silly Shaggy, but she is not ready for MD.
    MD has disappeared some time, and now there is this guy, Shaggy, who is “nothing” and is just right for her.
    All this, always always respecting all the ideas. Ciao.

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