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NCIS: Los Angeles - Beacon - Review: "Long Pauses & Awkward Conversations"

In “Beacon,” the NCIS team must investigate the apparent death of Callen’s Russian “friend” Arkady Kolcheck after a body turns up in a car explosion. But it turns out Arkady wasn’t the dead man – he killed a man who came after him. As the NCIS team looks into why someone wanted Arkady dead, they learn he had been brokering a shipping deal between the Russians and the Americans. When the American shippers tried to pull out, Arkady wouldn’t give them their ship back, so they sent a hit man after him. By the end of the episode, everyone is safe, but the ship still hasn’t turned up – and it has more than 100 million dollars in oil on board, enough to “finance a war,” as Hetty says.

I found the plot of this episode convoluted. But that wasn’t my main problem with “Beacon.” The tone and the pacing were off, making the episode feel slow and awkward. Long pauses in between important moments occurred all throughout the episode, lending to confusion. The slow-motion shooting at the end made me realize the whole episode had resembled that dawdling, stilted motion. It often felt like things weren’t going anywhere, and the episode lacked energy. Even the music score held back the action. As for the tone, the characters exhibited an unusual lack of emotion that left me detached. I didn’t know how to feel about many things because the characters weren’t reacting themselves. And many of the conversations felt strange and unnatural. I hate to say this was a weird episode for me – definitely not one of my favorites.

Callen and Sam

The first time we see Callen, he is dropping off Joelle at work. It was nice to see Joelle once again. I really like the two of them together and was eager to see where things would go in this scene. But unfortunately it left me baffled. This was one of those scenes that held many weird pauses, beginning with Joelle’s exaggerated hesitation after Callen asks if he’ll see her that night. She seems to still be dealing with what he does for a living and the fact that he’s in constant danger. But the strained flow of the dialogue made the scene feel awkward. Even after Joelle got out of the car, the way Callen stared after her made me wonder what he was thinking. I couldn’t read him.

The topic of their talk also felt unnatural. It felt like a conversation that should have happened months ago, not now. I understand she is still learning to trust him, but it felt like she hadn’t made much headway in that department. After all this time, it was surprising to hear her say she was still getting used to the real him. They haven’t seemed to progress much further than when we last saw them on camera. I was happy, though, to see Callen being more open with Joelle. He mentions being in prison (undercover, the case from last week), so it’s nice to know he’s sharing information about work with her. And I liked all the mentions of how Joelle is influencing Callen to eat healthy. It proves G likes her a lot if he’s eating tofu and vegetarian Chinese food.

Something else I found strange in this episode was Callen’s ambivalence to Arkady’s death. When G found out the news, he hardly reacted at all. I know he claims Arkady is not his friend, but he has always seemed to feel a connection to the Russian. Callen and Sam may constantly be frustrated with Arkady and the fact that he is never forthcoming with information, but they have also grown to value him and look out for him. Callen even mentioned that he had been to Arkady’s house numerous times, a fact that surprised Sam. Callen says it’s because Arkady has a nice pool, but if G is close enough with him to hang out at his house, why does he have no reaction to the man being dead? Especially when he knows Arkady could have information about his father. The only theory I could come up with is that Callen might be upset with Arkady for withholding information about his dad. That would explain G’s lack of emotions. But it was never alluded to in the episode.

On the positive side, I did like the interactions between Sam and Callen. First Sam keeps checking on his partner to see if he’s okay. Then he calls his partner “Super G,” which made me laugh. And the topper was the amusing scene of them arguing over who went to the biggest extremes. As Callen eats his tofu, Sam points out that soy converts to estrogen. Callen remarks that he can’t win with Sam, and Sam says it’s because G takes things to extremes. His example is the fact that Callen sleeps on a mattress on the floor. But Callen points out that Sam also goes to extremes in his training. However, Sam says it's all for work, while Callen's extremism is personal. Before they resolve the debate, Callen says the conversation is getting more personal than he’d prefer at a “work lunch.”

Finally we see them in the shooting scene at the pool. It was entertaining to watch Callen undercover as a waiter, dressed all in white. When he and Sam can’t hear the message from Kensi and Deeks about what is happening, they both become hyper-sensitive to what is going on around them. As usual, these are the guys you want watching out for you. They are on their toes observing everything. They notice the shooter as he pulls out a gun, and they move into action. Sam goes after the shooter while Callen saves Arkady – “just doing his job,” he claims. (Again, pretending he doesn’t care.)

Kensi and Deeks

Kensi and Deeks had a couple enjoyable scenes this week. The first was Deeks going into detective mode at Arkady’s house. After he points out why he knows the fingerprints on a photograph are the intruder’s, Deeks gives a rundown of his analysis. He was so proud at solving a mystery, it was hilarious to watch. And his reasonings impress Kensi. “I do love when you talk detective,” she tells him. So he continues breaking out the police jargon, mentioning search warrants, the chain of custody and forensic DNA evidence. All of this brings Kensi into his arms – until he mentions severed pinky fingers. I don’t know where in the world he came up with that – it was totally random and gross. Deeks is often random but that was so out there, it felt contrived. Regardless, their nice moment has passed and they return to work.

Their other interesting scene was the conversation about the LAPD internal investigation. But like the Callen and Joelle scene, this one also had some long pauses and awkward moments (mostly before they start talking). Kensi notices something is off with Deeks and asks if he is okay. After saying he’s fantastic, we then watch a long, overdrawn silence that made me wonder what was happening. Deeks doesn’t look at Kensi but stares off into space, acting strangely. He eventually tells Kensi he is thinking about stakeouts, and how they are not fun when the cat becomes the mouse. In this investigation, he has become the mouse. I was happy to hear Kensi ask the question that we all want to know: If the LAPD detective keeps digging, is she going to find anything? To that Deeks emphatically tells Kensi not to ask him that. When she questions why, he says, “Because I honestly don’t know how to answer.” He then looks directly in her eyes before turning away.

Does he not know how to answer because the answer is a bad one? Are the circumstances too complicated to detail? Does he know what they are after? This conversation left me eager to know more as the case moves forward. But I was happy they had the talk. It proved the story is still on the backburner. And I enjoyed seeing the couple address something a little uncomfortable. Kensi knew he doesn’t want to talk about it but still decided to ask. We see Deeks’ nervousness and Kensi’s concern for him. And it showed us that Kensi doesn’t know what’s going on. Though Deeks doesn’t give her any information, he still answered her honestly.

Eric and Nell

Like our other pairs, Eric and Nell have some fun moments and some awkward moments this week. It was amusing to see Eric making fun of Deeks, mimicking Deeks brushing his hair off his forehead. It seems he doesn’t think too highly of Deeks’ intelligence. He was also funny as he ran to tell Hetty that Arkady was still alive, with a dramatic flair that Granger notices.

But my favorite Neric moment was when Eric accidentally told Nell he loved her. After realizing what he just said, he tries to backtrack by adding extra words to his meaning: “And by you, I mean your mind – your beautiful, gorgeous mind.” But then things turned weird, which bummed me out because the moment started off so fun. The whole I-want-to-take-your-brain-home-like-a-lobotomy conversation was bizarre. And again, we saw another long, silent, awkward pause as Eric pictured her brain. What? Add Eric to the growing list of characters acting strangely in this episode.

Other Thoughts

- It seemed cruel to make Callen watch a video of Arkady dying instead of just telling him his friend may be dead.

- I enjoyed Granger and Hetty’s conversation about keeping Deeks and Kensi together in the field. Hetty’s response was hilarious: that their “extracurricular activities” hadn’t caused any problems yet. Nice to know what Hetty really thinks about them working together.

- Callen’s reference to Eric teaching him about comic books was amusing.

- The blonde girl on Arkady’s phone, Anna, must have had a purpose. I am sure she is going to come up in future episodes as this case continues. Could she somehow be related to Callen or know something about his family? Arkady said she had nothing to do with the boat. But her name and photo were dropped for a reason.

- Callen’s exchange with Arkady about the stopwatch was interesting at the end of the episode. As he repeated the Russian phrase on the watch (“loyalty to party, loyalty to motherland”), he points out that loyalty to family trumps them both. And Arkady agrees. This seemed to be a foreshadowing of Callen’s search for his father. Arkady likely knows more than he’s saying. If he doesn’t have information himself, he knows people who do. So Callen mentioning family to Arkady was almost reminding him that his family and his father are important to him, and he’s not going to drop the issue.

- Hetty had some funny lines in this episode. I had to laugh when Hetty refused to tell Arkady it was a pleasure to see him, saying her mother didn’t raise her to be a liar. I was especially amused when she sarcastically said her parents almost named her Pollyanna.

How did you like "Beacon?" Did you notice the tone or pacing problems? How much do you think Arkady knows about Callen's past? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author - Tonya Papanikolas
Tonya Papanikolas is an online, print and broadcast journalist who loves covering entertainment and television. She spent more than 10 years as a broadcast news anchor/reporter and now does everything from hosting to writing. She loves covering NCIS: Los Angeles for SpoilerTV. (She's a big fan of Kensi and Deeks!) She also writes SpoilerTV articles on other great shows.