And now, for a change of pace, how about being topical and thought-provoking?
Hate crimes against Asians were at the heart of NCIS: Los Angeles Season 13 Episode 2.
This topic remains timely as the pandemic drags on and senseless attacks resulting from opportunistic politicians and their media mouthpieces calling Covid-19 “the China virus” continue unabated.
If the message that such behavior is un-American appears on a non-cutting edge show such as NCIS: Los Angeles, maybe, just maybe, it will be received in the flyover states.
Was the preaching subtle? Not at all. But neither have been the assaults against Asians over the past couple of years. So it was appropriate.
The overriding emotion throughout was disbelief, although it shouldn’t have been. All of the team members have rubbed up against some amount of prejudice.
The assault on Craig Tanaka forced everyone to take stock.
Sam and Fatima debated whether it was truly a hate crime. Sam, who had to have run up against racial preconceptions during his long military career, tried to treat it as just another horrific incident. Fatima reflected how she had become a more fervent Muslim as her religion also came under fire in recent years.
The most surprising storyline was that that crusty old bastard Kilbride, the most conservative of the bunch, was the one who brought the Tanaka case to OPS and that young Roundtree called him on it.
(Roundtree hasn’t been there long enough to figure out that any case of interest to someone on the squad gets investigated by them, no matter how tangential it might be to OSP’s mission.)
Kilbride was old enough to remember how Japanese-American citizens got railroaded into internment camps during World War II. His story about how his father protected their Japanese neighbors’ property while they were sent away was touching.
The admiral had lived long enough to see innocent people bullied in the name of geopolitics again and he wasn’t willing to let that happen on his watch.
Deeks was effective for once in expressing his disgust that such a hate crime could happen in the America that he knew and loved. (Was anyone surprised that Deeks rode around the country trying to find himself after he quit the law?)
Kensi again had to get him to see that what happened to Tanaka was an aberration and that the majority didn’t feel that way.
Unfortunately, this conversation soon devolved into the neverending family debate, with the pair discussing whether they were equipped to rear children of another race.
Yes, it’s good they’re asking the big questions, but does it have to be a topic in every single episode going on two seasons now?
I mean, it would be more interesting to hear about Hetty’s potentially dangerous mission to Syria but that didn’t even come up.
Shockingly, ultimate immigrant Callen, who was late to the party, had little to offer to this debate about hate in America.
It’s rapidly becoming clear that Fatima and the overmatched Roundtree are taking over Ops for the departed Eric and Nell. (What, you expected it would be Kilbride?)
As the youngest remaining team members, it’s likely that they’re the most technologically savvy, so that makes sense.
It also appears that they’re being set up to become a bigger part of the office rather than just being shunted off in a corner.
When Kilbride overheard them grousing about their lack of any personal space, he mock orders them to find a new home for Hetty’s costume shop so that they can have room for their own desks.
Granted, that scene was meant to provide a little (very little) comic relief in a very serious episode. But it didn’t fit in very well (much like the young pair. Maybe that’s the point.).
It seems like Roundtree might eventually get a backstory of his very own. Hopefully, it won’t come out in dribs and drabs like Fatima’s has.
Unfortunately, rather than holding on to its message until the end, the TPTB settled for just another case of the week. And to solve it meant bringing down an Asian cop.
Instead of the assault on Craig being random, it was the result of two bigots blaming him for the failure of the family business. Blame the economy taken down by the pandemic, not the innocent carpenter who’s just trying to fix up the diner for its new owners.
Maybe that’s the message of the episode: It’s become too American to blame “others” for things that go wrong in your own life. That aberrant mindset even got a conman elected President.
Does that make the attack on Craig a hate crime? More likely it was just a copout. It’s easier to blame someone else than to own up to your own failure.
The other letdown was Jack being made into a villain because he didn’t trust the system to provide justice for his father.
That wrinkle wasn’t even necessary since the team had already identified the culprits and were on their way to pick them up.
There was no need for him to go vigilante and sacrifice his career.
Would that social-media confession really change hearts and minds?
To find other message episodes, watch NCIS: Los Angeles online.
How effective did you find this episode?
Were you surprised by Kilbride’s role?
Why did Jack make the choices he did?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.