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NCIS: Los Angeles - Active Measures (Season Premiere) - Review: "A Perfect Start"

What a great way to start the new season! “NCIS: Los Angeles” was at the top of its game with the seventh season premiere, “Active Measures.” The plot was interesting, filled with palpable tension; the interaction between characters was surprising and fun; we saw some unexpected moments throughout the episode; and on top of all that, the episode highlighted the entire team. Plus, I always love it when the main story centers around one of the NCIS agents.

In “Active Measures,” Callen isolates himself and goes undercover on his own authority to find out information on Arkady’s whereabouts. But since he won’t confide in Sam or Hetty, it creates tension within the team. Sam is trying to protect his partner, but Callen makes it very difficult. Eventually the team is ordered to bring in Callen before he does anything rash.

Callen and Sam

It’s always fun seeing a different side of Callen. And he was definitely different in this episode. The scruffy, homeless-looking exterior made Sam say he looked “like Deeks on a bad day.” How funny! But Callen’s attitude had also changed. He was edgy, impatient, annoyed and untrusting. At different points he seemed ticked off to see Hetty and Sam. He truly wanted to work alone, a tendency he demonstrates when he wants something badly and the situation is tricky. I found it interesting that Hetty said part of Callen may always be that young boy lost in the foster system, searching for home. Arkady was an important tie to Callen’s father. Without that connection, he feels desperate and lost. Chris O’Donnell was fun to watch portraying Callen in this light.

I really loved the tension between Callen and Sam. That moment when Sam took his hood off in the beginning – making you wonder what was going on – and then aimed his gun at Callen and shot the man behind him, created some great drama. And it set up a unique tone to the show. We all know how much these two care for and trust one another. But suddenly Callen was no longer relying on that bond. In fact, he was pushing Sam away. But like a true partner, Sam was trying to protect his friend and look after him, even when Callen didn’t want him to. I really loved Sam throughout this episode. He showed so many different emotions and sides to himself. LL Cool J was just fantastic.

Hetty, Callen and Sam

Some of my favorite scenes this week were the ones between Hetty and Callen, and Hetty and Sam. We were treated to some great character dynamics that we don’t usually see. The boys were certainly giving Hetty a lot of attitude! First Callen chooses to ignore Hetty with a brashness I couldn’t believe. It was almost like he had no fear. He was clearly mad at her for keeping all of them in the dark about Arkady. But it didn’t seem like she knew where Arkady was. So his attitude felt pretty insolent. I couldn’t believe he walked away from her, either.

Then I was shocked when Hetty actually tasered Callen. Holy cow! I could not believe she did that! But the unexpected factor made it a great moment. I wouldn’t have thought she’d do that to the man she took under her wing. But, oh yes, she clearly would – and did. And it made it even better that he was able to get up afterward. That was too funny.

The final scene between Hetty and Callen was surprising, too. Callen seems apologetic at first for everything that happened, but then we see their underlying anger and frustration emerge. Hetty is upset with him for not including her, and Callen is upset that she actually tasered him. I couldn’t believe he told her it was a “bit of a bitch move.” Is he really talking to Hetty like that? That is a bold thing to say to Hetty Lange! Then Hetty admits she wasn’t really sorry for doing it. These two are in an unusual place with one another. Hetty still wants to help him, and does by giving him Kirkin’s Russian gang contacts that could lead him to Arkady. But she is also very clear that if Callen uses them without her consent, she will terminate him. Hetty was giving Callen some very tough love. And when Callen tries to smooth things over by suggesting they get a drink together, Hetty does not accept. In this moment she is a stern boss rather than his mentor and friend.

Then there were the scenes between Hetty and Sam. Man, I loved these scenes! They were among my favorites of the episode. First up was the great short scene where Hetty and Sam scream at each other because he let Callen escape. Sam was quite cheeky with her, and she dished it right back. I found myself thinking, “No he didn’t!” when Sam told Hetty, “Why don’t you just slow your roll until you know the facts!” And then I wanted to high-five the writers when Hetty responded with, “Why don’t you just step off – before we do something here that we could live to regret.” Hetty can apparently talk “street.” It was so funny! I learned something new in this scene: I love myself a Sam-and-Hetty-showdown! (And wasn’t it funny how Deeks just stared at them with his eyes going back and forth between them?) But it was also great because they were dead serious. You could cut the tension with a knife, and the fact that these two normally calm people were jumping down one another’s throats just made it all the more clear how crucial the situation was with Callen.

After this exchange, their apology scene was even more poignant. It felt very realistic as they regretted blowing up at each other and wanted to make things right. I loved how each of them was sorry for what happened and wanted to put it behind them. Hetty understood where Sam had been coming from, and Sam took full responsibility for his actions. And both of them talked about wanting to protect Callen. You could tell how much these two respected each other. And it was so cute to see Hetty kiss Sam’s bald head! (Even if Deeks thought it was erotic! Oh my goodness, that was hilarious, too.) This scene was total perfection.

Kensi and Deeks

I was beyond thrilled that the writers and producers have clearly decided to make Kensi and Deeks a full-on couple. This duo suddenly seems to be “all in” with each other, which was really exciting to watch. It feels like the writers have finally listened to fans.

The first Densi scene had me screaming out loud. I actually yelled “What??!!!!” at my television when I heard those “I love you’s.” I couldn’t believe it! Fans have been waiting for this moment a long time. After being teased with deleted scenes (like one from season 6 where Kensi started saying she loved Deeks and then stopped herself, or Deeks saying he was falling in love with Kensi in a deleted flashback from season 5) many people wondered if this was ever going to happen. But it finally did! So I had to rejoice. (I was so ecstatic, I think I watched this scene three times before moving on with the episode.)

Granted, the moment didn’t happen in a romantic setting. So I totally understand how some may have been disappointed by the nature of these declarations. Deeks and Kensi both said it so casually that it was clear this wasn’t the first time they’d said “I love you” to each other. And it’s always fun to get a peek at that first time. In essence, we were denied that, which kind of sucks. But it was still exciting to hear them say it – mostly because it finally happened! It was real and it can’t be taken back. What a great moment to realize the writers have finally advanced this relationship. After last season, when Kensi and Deeks were constantly in a frustrating holding pattern, something has now changed. Deeks and Kensi are finally moving forward. They are a real couple now, with no one holding them back, and they seem to be going strong. And that was extremely satisfying. And if you think about it, in a way it was kind of cute they said it so casually – because it was almost as if they told each other “I love you” all the time. That thought puts a big smile on my face!

That beach scene in general was a lot of fun. I loved how Kensi (in her hot little outfit) was getting a great workout while Deeks strolled next to her easily on his bike, wanting food. It was hilarious to watch all of the girls know Marty’s name, even calling him “Party Marty.” This just lets us know what his life used to be like before Kensi. Yes, Marty likes the girls. But now he is in love with our Kensi. And he isn’t afraid to tell her that. This was all just too cute!

Like other fans, I also loved how Deeks called Kensi “my girl” in front of Nell. It’s adorable that he is so proud of her and likes to show it off. I’m glad these two are finally acknowledging what they have in front of everyone else.

It was also nice to see Kensi and Deeks talking about his internal affairs investigation together. I’m glad the show picked up this storyline in the very beginning of the season. It’s clear Deeks is really worried about what could have sparked the investigation. I was glad to see him telling Kensi what he knew. Could his old-school former partner really have something to do with the investigation? And I’m curious: Did you believe Deeks when he said he just didn’t know what to tell Kensi? I personally did believe him, but not 100-percent. He seemed genuine, but there was also a sliver of doubt left in my mind. The scene seemed to intentionally make us wonder if that was the full truth. It was almost like I believed him but wasn’t positive if I should all the way. So I’m curious to know what other fans thought.

Nell, Eric and Granger

As I mentioned earlier, I was really happy to see all of the characters used in this episode. We got to see Eric and Nell together, and we also saw Eric with Sam. It was cute how Eric wanted Sam to teach him about guns and fighting. Poor Eric. It was sad that Sam thought he should only be allowed to hold a Nerf gun! (But I don’t know that I blame him.) I actually thought Eric’s character came off a little bit cheesy in this episode. But I still enjoyed him. And Granger was his usual intense self as he met with Sabatino and put the pressure on Hetty and the team to find Callen. He is diligent in his mission – you’ve got to give him that.

Other Thoughts

- It was fun that the opening of the show was a little different. That always sets an exciting tone for a new season.

- Did you notice once again how bare Callen’s apartment was? I always find that amusing. I wonder if Joelle does.

- I loved the comments about how Granger always looks serious and annoyed. It’s funny because it’s so true!

- There were so many laugh-inducing Deeks and Kirkin references. From Kirkin calling Deeks his “cute fairy one,” to Kensi referring to Deeks as Kirkin’s “bathhouse buddy,” to Kirkin telling Deeks, “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on,” these touches were really fun!

- Nell’s bangs looked different this year, swept to the side. I thought they were cute on her!

- I loved all Callen’s disguises in this episode. It was funny to see him in all those different costumes.

- It was great to see Sam and Callen side by side after Kirkin’s arrest. The way they stood together making fun of one another felt so familiar and comfortable. (And I love that Granger mentioned how “adorable” they were – because they really are!)

What did you think of "Active Measures?" Are you worried about Callen's relationship with Hetty? What did you think of Deeks and Kensi's "I love you's?" Did you believe Deeks really doesn't know what's behind the internal affairs investigation? Join our discussion 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.

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