“G-Bacon? Something to clean out that seven pounds of undigested red meat that’s putrefying in your intestines?”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service based out of Los Angeles has seen its share of brutal crimes they need to investigate, both foreign and domestic. This fifth season adds a new layer to that mission statement as the relationship between two of the members causes a splintering which has far-reaching consequences.
NCIS: Los Angeles once again returns us to the world of NCIS’ top West Coast team and their trials and tribulations. By this, their fifth season, we have three well-established duos within a larger team of seven, though this season it becomes eight. Duo number one is the leaders: Sam (LL Cool J, Any Given Sunday) and Callen (Chris O’Donnell, Grey’s Anatomy). Duo number two is comprised of fan favorites and resident will-they-or-won’t-they couple Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen, Community) and Kensi (Daniela Ruah, Hawaii Five-0). Lending support is our third established duo of techies Eric (Barrett Foa, Entourage) and Nell (Renée Felice Smith, Detachment). The last duo actually has a relationship going farther back than any of the other characters’, and that is Hetty (Linda Hunt, The Year of Living Dangerously) and Assistant Director Owen Granger (Miguel Ferrer, Mulan). The addition of Granger as a series regular opens up these established characters’ worlds, as his interactions with each of them brings a different energy to the team and the show overall.
One of the most interesting things about this fifth season is what we got wasn’t what was planned. Fate intervened in the form of star Daniela Ruah’s pregnancy, which threw off plans for the season and perhaps seasons yet to come, as the show runners are known for looking ahead at least two seasons. But in the tradition of people who get paid to deal with this kind of thing, the writers turned Ruah’s news into an opportunity. Some would say an opportunity to screw with fans of the show’s long-running will-they-or-won’t-they couple, Ruah’s Kensi and Olsen’s Deeks. But whatever your position on that, the decision was made to focus on the duo getting together as a negative thing with real world consequences. Namely Kensi getting shipped off to Afghanistan to work with Granger for a hefty portion of the season.
As I mentioned above, including Granger changes the show’s energy as well as allows for different pairings of characters than we’ve seen before. The result is Season Five feels a bit uneven, but intentionally so, as this well-established world has its foundations shaken.
I give the production team credit for handling the shake-up as well as they did, but more than any other season, this fifth season feels like a placeholder for things to come. While there’s tons of action, banter, and interesting cases which have become staples of the series, I can’t help but wonder how much of Season Five is going to resonate later.
NCIS: Los Angeles: The Fifth Season contains 24 episodes split over six discs.
* “Ascension” — The season starts where we left off, as Deeks and Sam both deal with the aftermath of their kidnapping ordeal.
* “Impact” — Nate (Peter Cambor, Notes from the Underbelly) returns (yay!) and offers his assistance to Sam and Deeks as they continue to deal with their trauma.
* “Omni” — Deeks returns to the field though he’s still more emotional than anyone would like.
* “Reznikov, N.” — Callen finds out his father may have finally arrived on the scene.
* “Unwritten Rule” — Nell goes into the field when a kidnap and ransom situation requires the acquisition of intelligence information.
* “Big Brother” — When a hacker affects the outcome of a terrorist mission the team is surprised to learn the perpetrator is actually a teenager.
* “The Livelong Day” — The team pairs up with Homeland Security when it’s revealed a terrorist attack may take place on a train.
* “Fallout” — There’s a stolen nuclear detection device and the team must find it when news of an impending nuclear attack is revealed. The case takes a personal turn when Hetty realizes a blast from her past is involved.
* “Recovery” — Deeks goes undercover in rehab to find out the truth behind a naval officer’s death.
* “The Frozen Lake” — Callen and Sam team up with an unexpected ally when a flash drive goes missing and the relationship between Kensi and Deeks is on shaky ground.
* “Iron Curtain Rising” — It looks like a war criminal is living in the City of Angels under an assumed name.
* “Merry Evasion” — When a senator’s daughter is attacked, the team must figure out a possible motive. Deeks and Nell partner up when Sam and Callen must provide a security detail for the daughter.
* “Allegiance” — Kensi and Granger team up with everyone when a federal agent in Los Angeles is murdered and it’s discovered that the crime might link to a terrorist attack.
* “War Cries” — Callen agrees to meet with Sam and his wife for dinner, unaware of the duplicity awaiting him.
* “Tuhon” — It’s time for a trip down memory lane when Callen and Sam once again cross paths with a suspect from the first case they ever worked together.
* “Fish Out of Water” — When a bomb goes off at a fish market, it’s unclear at first whether this is an act of terrorism or a drug deal gone wrong.
* “Between the Lines” — An ATF agent’s execution is recorded and it’s up to the team to discover how this undercover agent was compromised.
* “Zero Days” — During a gaming session, Eric overhears his friend falling under attack. But what at first seems like a home invasion is revealed to be far more sinister.
* “Spoils of War” — When the team learns that Kenzie is missing and the Taliban may be responsible they head to Afghanistan.
* “Windfall” — Eric is assigned a new partner when Nell and Deeks once again team up to go into the field together.
* “Three Hearts” — Kenzie returns to the field in time to join the team for the case of an undercover NCIS agent who may be a double agent.
* “One More Chance” — Sam’s past plays into the case when a girl he once provided protection for is kidnapped.
* “Exposure” — When an explosion at a charity event occurs, a news reporter leaks intel about who is responsible.
* “Deep Trouble” — A submarine seems to be missing, but then things take a turn when the team finds out that submarine might be used by a Colombian cartel who wants to transport cocaine to the US.
Concerning the technical specs, there was more compression artefacting than I’ve noticed before, with digital noise occasionally cropping up when characters walk through a wide shot. Aside from those issues, the 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is the same as with other currently produced television shows. The white levels continue to approach blow-out ranges, but at this point it’s clearly a stylized choice and not something which will be remedied. The audio does well, the dual offerings of Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 giving you the choice how loud you want those gun shots to ring out.
As far as special features go, yet another year without a commentary track featuring Linda Hunt, Chris O’Donnell or LL Cool J. But hope springs eternal and the commentary tracks offered by the teams of Olsen and Ruah and Foa and Smith, respectively, are entertaining as always. There are a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes. This go around, we focus on the writing staff, the 100th episode, how the crew transformed California into Afghanistan, and the season overall. Also included is LL Cool J’s music video for “No Crew is Superior” and some deleted scenes. All in all, a decent amount of extras to be had.
While I certainly appreciate the efforts taken to continue to infuse NCIS: Los Angeles with the wit, action, and intriguing cases we’ve come to expect, I feel like I will not fully appreciate Season Five until later seasons. By now if you’re a fan you’re probably a set collector as well. If you are, there are plenty of things to compel a purchase, but the casual viewer will do well to wait until it’s clear how much knowledge of Season Five’s events is necessary to continue to invest in the series.